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The Best Books of 2015

Bestof2015

I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:


  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD


What were your favorites in 2015?

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 176 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart (this has a gorgeous cover) is a collection of essays, many of which were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that read not like essays but mini-memoirs. It has been a pleasure to read about Philadelphia — a city I was fortunate to visit briefly and not spend enough time in — through the eyes of someone who loves it dearly. All of its nooks and crannies, its alleys, its rivers, its art, its history — it is all laid bare with Kephart’s fondest memories and recollections. The city comes alive in her hands — it breathes.

The graffiti, the artisans, the food markets, and the University of Pennsylvania are moving through these pages like the Schuylkill River, leaving its gleaming beauty behind in its wake.  She says in the preface, “Love: A Philadelphia Affair is about the intersection of memory and place.  It’s about how I’ve seen and what I’ve hoped for, what ‘home’ has come to mean to me.  It’s about train rides, rough stones, brave birds, rule breakers, resurrectionists, unguided and mostly solo meanderings.  It is experiential, not encyclopedic.  Reflective, not comprehensive.” (pg. x)  In this way, Kephart has enabled readers to ruminate on their own memories, which may or may not be of Philadelphia and only tangentially related to her own.  I’ve remembered train journeys to NYC, ice cream I loved as a kid made in a small Massachusetts town, and a journey to Valley Forge that was at once solemn and beautiful.

“There’s something about standing on the platform watching the curve for the Silverliner.  Something about feeling the rumble in the sole’s of one’s feet.  Something about the rituals of travel.  Leaving and returning — that’s where I’ve lived.  I’m sympathetic to the crossties of the tracks.” (pg. 7-8; “Time In, Time Out”)

Kephart establishes the tone for these essays in these lines, telling her readers that she will straddle the past and present, the before and the after, and the moment and the remembering of the moment.  Many of us do this as our minds wander between where we are and where we have been, noting the connections that are only apparent to us until we voice them aloud.  And in “Psychylustro,” we, like the train, become museums — a collection of our own artifacts, memories, and temporal importance.

One minor thing readers may notice, there are only a few photos at the start of each essay, and more photos would have been a lovely addition.  However, LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart is a love story involving a city, but it’s also a testament to the love we hold and can freely give through art and action — so long as we can check our ego and greed at the door.  We all want recognition and love, but we need to also realize that these do not come without our own generosity.  It is not just the generosity that we show toward others, but also to ourselves and the world around us.

About the author:

Following the publication of five memoirs and FLOW, the autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, I’ve had the great pleasure of turning my attention to young adult fiction. UNDERCOVER and HOUSE OF DANCE were both named a best of the year by Kirkus and Bank Street. NOTHING BUT GHOSTS, A HEART IS NOT A SIZE, and DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS were critically acclaimed. In October YOU ARE MY ONLY will be released by Egmont USA. Next summer, Philomel will release SMALL DAMAGES. I am at work on a prequel to DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS, a novel for adults, and a memoir about teaching.

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 240 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch is carnal and grotesque in ways that are vastly unsettling and may be tough to read for many.  Told from a variety of artistic points of view, the story begins with a young girl whose world is literally atomized in war-torn Eastern Europe and the photograph of her that makes the career of one narrator.  While the girl and the photo play a major role in the story, they are not the crux of Yuknavitch’s story.  They are merely a vehicle through which she explores the selfish need for artistic expression and the distortions that emerge.

“We are who we imagine we are.
Every self is a novel in progress.
Every novel a lie that hides the self.
This, reader, is a mother-daughter story.” (pg. 11)

The narration is urgent, like a slapshot in the gut at nearly every turn. While the writer’s friends and family seek to save the girl from the life she has been thrown into after the death of her family, it is clear that a birth has happened. It is the birth of art within the gruesome world the girl inhabits, and it is the birth of connection beyond art and family ties.  The girl reaches from within and from without to recreate her life to be reborn — not as a victim, but as a warrior.

Pity the small backs of children, he heard her saying.  They carry death for us the second they are born.” (pg. 59)

The stories that begin at the heart of this girl, like the spokes in a wheel, turn and turn, spiraling out of control on a wagon that is hurtling toward a cliff, unless someone can stop it or redirect it. Will these players be destroyed? Will they be saved? Can this “blast particle … looking for form” endure the weight of these stories and their implications?

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch pushed the envelope repeatedly, searching for the edge and spilling over it with its haunting images, desperate characters, and narcissistic art-making. It is the crucible of pain and suffering that molds us and pushes us to become, to move beyond the child of mere potential into something more tangible that can be criticized and critical. This crucible does not define us, however, unless we allow it to, and Yuknavitch is shoving readers toward a greater understanding of art and themselves.

**Beth Kephart reviewed this book, and I just had to get it from the library.***

About the Author:

Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water and the novel Dora: A Headcase. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Iowa Review, Mother Jones, Ms., the Sun, the Rumpus, PANK, Zyzzyva, Fiction International, and other publications. She writes, teaches and lives in Portland, Oregon with the filmmaker Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son Miles. She is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award – Reader’s Choice, a PNBA award, and was a finalist for the 2012 Pen Center creative nonfiction award. She is a very good swimmer.

 

 

 

 

Mailbox Monday #339

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. The Witch’s Market by Mingmei Yip for review from the author.

Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.

When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. Gradually Eileen immerses herself in her exotic surroundings, finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.

2. LOVE by Beth Kephart, which I purchased.

This volume of personal essays and photographs celebrates the intersection of memory and place. Kephart writes lovingly, reflectively about what Philadelphia means to her. She muses about meandering on SEPTA trains, spending hours among the armor in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and taking shelter at Independence Mall during a downpour.

In Love, Kephart shares her loveof Reading Terminal Market at Thanksgiving: “This abundant, bristling market is, in November, the most unlonesome place around.” She waxes poetic about the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, the mustard in a Salumeria sandwich, and the “coins slipped between the lips of Philbert the pig.”

3. The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris for review from the author.

On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

What did you receive?

 

Mailbox Monday #319

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou from the author for review.

What was Jane Austen like as a child? What were her formative influences and experiences, her challenges and obstacles, that together set her on the path toward becoming a writer?

Drawing upon a wide array of sources, including Austen’s own books and correspondence, Lisa Pliscou has created a “speculative biography” that, along with 20 charming black-and-white illustrations, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of young Jane Austen. Also included is a richly detailed, annotated version of the narrative and an overview of Austen’s life, legacy, and the era in which she lived, as well as a timeline of her key childhood events.

YOUNG JANE AUSTEN is sure to intrigue anyone interested in Jane Austen, in writing and the creative process, and in the triumph of the artistic spirit.

2.  Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke from the publisher for review.

Poetry by Joe Wenke. Joe has written several books including: Human Agenda: Conversations about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (January 2015), The Talk Show: a Novel, Free Air: poems, Papal Bull: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church, You Got Be Kidding! A Radical Satire of The Bible and Mailer’s America.

 

3.  The Sound of Glass by Karen White for review from the publisher.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

4.  The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy for a TLC Book Tour.

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.  Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

5.  One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart, my pre-ordered hardcover finally arrived!

Set in Florence, Italy, One Thing Stolen follows Nadia Cara as she mysteriously begins to change. She’s become a thief, she has secrets she can’t tell, and when she tries to speak, the words seem far away.

What did you receive this week?

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart

Source: A gift
Hardcover, 272 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart, which will be published in April, has crafted a testament to artistry and the adaptability of the human mind.  Set in Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Kephart transports readers across the ocean from Philadelphia, Pa., to the cobbled streets of Italy.  Nadia Cara is a young teen who builds nests by weaving seemingly incongruous materials together, making things of beauty.  She’s an artist on overdrive as other parts of her life disappear and flounder amidst the detritus of memory.  She knows that she’s struggling, she knows that she is becoming someone she does not want to be, but she also knows that she is powerless to stop it.

“On the bridge a pigeon flutters.  The pinked sky is fatter now, and the birds are awake, and I remember something Dad read to me once about the flooded River Arno.  How when it filled with broken thingstrees, bridges, mirrors, paintings, wagons, housesit looked like it had been nested over by a giant flock of herons.”  (pg 10 ARC)

“Every nest is a miracle.  It is something whole. A place to hide. A rescue.”  (pg 76 ARC)

Her father, a professor, and her mother, who works with at-risk kids, have brought the family to Italy, hoping that things will improve, that her father can finally write his book about the flood of the River Arno, and her brother earns credits for his cooking-related independent study.  Nadia has little to cling to beyond her family and her nests of stolen things, but she soon is bowled over by a young man, Benedetto, on a Vespa with a pink duffel.  Like the birds flying, Nadia longs to be free — not free from her family — but free from the confines of her damaged mind.  She struggles with her memories and drifts among them when she least expects it, and her nests are the fruit of her labors, helping her to be at ease with her situation and her loss.

Kephart has the ability to transport readers into her settings, showing them the corners of the cities her characters live in and visit like a tour guide.  She is careful to keep her descriptions informative and beautiful to ensure readers are not bogged down by a list and are seeing these locations for the first time — absorbed in the painting created.  Her affinity for birds is multiplied in this novel as Nadia has an affinity for creating beautiful nests out of found and stolen things.  These birds and these nests represent the beauty of Nadia’s life but also the precarious nature she faces and strives to overcome through artistry and building new connections with Benedetto, her family, and Katherine, a mud angel who came to Florence to help it recover from the 1966 flood.

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart is the best of what it means to be a poetic novelist, and her young adult novels are challenging in word choice, theme, and symbols, but she never speaks down to her readers.  Her novels transcend age boundaries and foster contemplation among her readers, urging them subtlety to look past the surface into the heart of her characters and their stories.  Another Kephart novel bound for the Best of List!

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is a National Book Award finalist and winner of several grants and prizes, is the author of One Thing Stolen, Going Over, Handling the Truth, Small Damages, Flow, and numerous other novels, memoirs, and young adult novels.

 

Mailbox Monday #304

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Revival by Stephen King for Christmas from my parents.

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs — including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

2.  One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart, a happy surprise!

Set in Florence, Italy, One Thing Stolen follows Nadia Cara as she mysteriously begins to change. She’s become a thief, she has secrets she can’t tell, and when she tries to speak, the words seem far away.

 

3.  Wet by Toni Stern from Saichek Publicity for review.

Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with the singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs, most notably “It’s Too Late” for the album Tapestry. Now, through the expansive medium of poetry, she continues her spirited exploration of contemporary life.

4.  Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust from the author for review.

5.  River House by Sally Keith from Milkweed Editions for review.

These are poems of absence. Written in the wake of the loss of her mother, River House follows Sally Keith as she makes her way through the depths of grief, navigating a world newly transfigured. Incorporating her travels abroad, her experience studying the neutral mask technique developed by Jacques Lecoq, and her return to the river house she and her mother often visited, the poet assembles a guide to survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable pain. Even in the dark, Keith finds the ways we can be “filled with this unexpected feeling of living.”

6. The Red List by Stephen Cushman from Louisiana State University Press for review.

The “red list” of Stephen Cushman’s new volume of poetry is the endangered species register, and the book begins and ends with the bald eagle, a bird that bounded back from the verge of extinction. The volume marks the inevitability of such changes, from danger to safety, from certainty to uncertainty, from joy to sadness and back again. In a single poem that advances through wordplay and association, Cushman meditates on subjects as vast as the earth’s fragile ecosystem and as small as the poet’s own deflated fantasy of self-importance: “There aren’t any jobs for more Jeremiahs.” Simultaneously teasing the present and eulogizing what has been lost, Cushman speaks like a Shakespearean jester, freely and foolishly, but with penetrating insight.

7.  The Heroes’ Welcome by Louisa Young from Harper for review.

The Heroes’ Welcome is the incandescent sequel to the bestselling R&J pick My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You. Its evocation of a time deeply wounded by the pain of WW1 will capture and beguile readers fresh to Louisa Young’s wonderful writing, and those previously enthralled by the stories of Nadine and Riley, Rose, Peter and Julia.

 

 

8.  Intermezzo: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds from the author.

“Intermezzo” is a short story and is available in an expanded version along with 4 other short stories in A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds.

 

 

9. A Sudden Light by Garth Stein from Anna and her family.

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

What did you receive?

Savvy’s Best of 2014 List

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I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

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Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Guest Poet: Beth Kephart

National Poetry Month is the perfect month for an author like Beth Kephart to launch her next book.  Her poetic prose reads like poetry, with each carefully selected word pregnant with meaning.  Readers of Kephart know that her writing is deep and meaningful, and that they must read her words with reverence.  This month, Beth Kephart and Chronicle Books launched Going Over, a young adult novel about 1983 Berlin and two families separated by the Berlin Wall, about taking risks, about love, and about inner strength.  Feel free to check out my review.

Today, Beth Kephart has come to celebrate National Poetry Month with us, and she’s going to share with us a never before seen or published poem about writing.

Portrait Gallery

My mind off its leash, I wander
The streets at night, after a storm.
Riffling scenes from ambered windows,
Incidents you could name paintings by:
Old Man in Plaid
Cat on Sill
Woman Loosening Auburn Braids
Boy Lit Blue by Fluorescence
And somewhere a catastrophe with a trash can
And a dog dragging its chain,
A guzzle in the drains,
While overhead the squirrels humiliate themselves
Among greasy limbs and leaves.  Save me
From my thoughts, I think.
Keep me innocent as a thief in the dark
Part of these washed-up streets.
Where it’s only the deer and the squirrels
And me, a dog dragging its chain.
You’re a little whacky, he’d said,
And I might have been exuberant
With the praise, might have stressed,
Myself to myself, that in the game
Of being me, I’d won, but who
Are we to measure our sanity by,
And who walks the streets in the dark
After a storm, looking for life
Through the lit-up glass
Of other people’s stories?

I want to thank Beth for sharing this poem with everyone this month, and I’d love to hear from you about what you think about the poem and what it means to you?

Mailbox Monday #265

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. Going Over by Beth Kephart, which I purchased because I wanted the finished copy.  I’ll pass along my ARC to my mom.  Please read my review.

In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall–Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.

 

2. The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose for a Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour in May.

A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.

Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead.

Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality.

What did you receive?

For today’s 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour stop, click the image below:

Going Over by Beth Kephart

You must start with the toe-tapping video for Going Over by Beth Kephart. The music, the quotes from respected authors, the story summarized in the most eye-catching video about 1980s Berlin, at the height of punk rock and in a city fiercely divided arbitrarily by a literal wall and its politics, with Germans caught in the middle.

Source: Chronicle Books
Hardcover, 264 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Going Over by Beth Kephart, which reaches stores in April, examines the division of a country and how it effects its people who are separated from their loved ones by a wall and barbed wire. Ada Piekarz, a professor of escapes and a graffiti artist, and her mother, Mutti, and grandmother, Omi, live in Kreuzberg, West Berlin, while Omi’s sister Grossmutter and Stefan live in Friedrichshain, East Berlin. Ada and her family can cross into East Berlin for visits occasionally, but the distance in time and space is too far for love to grow uninterrupted between Ada and Stefan, though it does remain strong in absence. Amidst this love story between Ada and Stefan is the love of a family, Omi and Grossmutter, who hold onto their pasts tightly, even the painful events when the Soviets and then the Stasi came.

“Omi is hiding. The shelter is dark, but Omi will be found, and her mother, and her best friend, Katja, too, who can trade cigarettes for flour, a used pair of boots for a wool jacket, a tulip bulb for a bird in a cage, and who will grow up and be old, who will become Stefan’s Grossmutter.” (page 111 ARC)

Kephart balances the points of view of Stefan and Ada beautifully, and the tension is built page after page as Ada says she can no longer wait for Stefan to decide whether to escape to West Berlin or not. Stefan is unsure if he should leave his grandmother who has lost so much, but he’s also feeling the guilt that comes with leaving her and being part of the reason she has already lost so much. Grossmutter is a woman who was talented and strong, but with the erection of a wall and the loss of her family, she’s become frail — at least on the outside — but she still has the power to surprise even her grandson.

Ada fronts strength, but even she has her limits as a punk painter of walls. She loves Stefan so much that it hurts, but she also loves the kids she cares for at the daycare where she works, including Savas. Savas’ story is here to remind us that Germans were not the only ones harmed by the wall and the separation of the country, but so too were the Turks who were called in to fulfill jobs that remained vacant. His family lives in the Turkish section of Germany, run by its own rules and rarely subject to German authority. It is this separation that leads to tragedy. Kephart demonstrates that differences make us stronger, that love can bind us together, and improve our lives despite the obstacles.

Kephart’s Going Over is stunning, and like the punk rock of the 80s, it strives to stir the pot, make readers think, and evoke togetherness, love, and even heartbreak — there are lessons in each.

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Undercover and House of Dance. A third YA novel, Nothing but Ghosts, published in June 2009. And a fourth young adult novel, The Heart Is Not a Size, released in March 2010. “The Longest Distance,” a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize, among other honors. Kephart’s essays are frequently anthologized, she has judged numerous competitions, and she has taught workshops at many institutions, to all ages. In the fall of 2009, Kephart will teach the advanced nonfiction workshop at the University of Pennsylvania.

Click here for the discussion questions for Going Over.

Also, a free sampler for Kindle.

5th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in Germany.

 

 

11th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

To win 1 copy of Going Over by Beth Kephart, leave a comment about your favorite 80s band!

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