This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 264 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart has the slow build-up of a weather front across thousands of miles of ocean, and when it hits, you are still unprepared because you’re in denial that you’ll be blown away and that your life could be upended by one wisp of wind, let alone a hurricane.  Invincibility is something many of us have in common at one point or another in our lives, whether it is in our teen years or later in life.  Eventually, that illusion is shattered — by a death in the family, a near miss, an unexpected circumstance.

Mira Banul and her friends are from those families that live on Haven year-round, and they are not like the tourists who visit for the beach and sun in the summer months.  Although their livelihoods can be dependent upon those summer tourists, their lives are more than just them.  Mira is an observer, while her friends Deni and Eva are the fixer and optimist, respectively.  Their personalities are big on the page as Kephart fully fleshes out these young ladies in description and in terms of their passions and quirks.  Mira and her skates, Deni and her aviators (“walked around with two pools of reflected sky on her head”), and Eva and her stories about lost civilizations.

“‘Weather’s bigger than the rest of us.’
‘I wanted to stop it.’
‘No, Deni.  All of us. None of us could stop it.'” (pg. 145)

As graduation nears for these ladies, it is hard for them to see past the current moment or the current projects.  When Shift comes to town and breaks up their merry threesome, Mira and Deni are left wondering what the draw is to this mysterious boy who comes to Haven in the middle of the school year.  Has Eva allowed herself to fall head-over-heels as she has done in the past, or is she merely being overly generous to the new kid in town?  Deni wants to protect her, Mira wants to see how it all shakes out.  In the background another storm is brewing, as nature decides its time to shake the trees.

If you’ve read other books by Kephart, you’ll see the birds in the trees and skies, and you may even perceive a nod to her previous work (at least, I thought of the one where the Schuylkill River is personified when Mira and her classmates talk about their Project Flows — or perhaps I read too many Kephart books, though I doubt that).  Her prose is poetic and requires attention, but it is worth the extra time, falling into the worlds she creates and the realistic characters she crafts, though I suspect they guide her hand.

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart will astonish you with the resilience of young people, their drive to make things right, and their ability to withstand more than expected, but it is in the final pages that the true mystery is resolved.  I will say this, I’m not often surprised by book endings or mysteries, but Kephart exceeded my detective skills for the first time in a long while.  (I had suspicions, but not a fully formed conclusion.)  Readers who love to immerse themselves in realistic places and explore humanity won’t be disappointed.  Kephart is a talent at creating places that come alive and characters that grab hold of us emotionally.

**You’ve probably already suspected this is a contender for the best of 2016 list at the end of the year!**

RATING: Cinquain

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.

Other Books Reviewed:

Mailbox Monday #372

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:

The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner’s Guide to Book Promotion by Paula Margulies for review from Paula Margulies Communications.

In The Tao of Book Publicity, publicist Paula Margulies outlines the basics of book promotion and explains how the business of publicizing a book works. Designed for beginning authors but also useful for those with some experience in book publishing, The Tao of Book Publicity provides information on the importance of writing a good book and the need for developing a platform, as well as how-to explanations for developing publicity material, including front and back cover text, press releases, Q&As, media and blog tour queries, and newsletter and media lists.

The Tao of Book Publicity also covers social media, book pricing and sales, book tours and media interviews, and author websites. In addition to explaining how book publicity works, this valuable handbook explores practical topics such as publicity costs, timing, and considerations when hiring a publicist.

Simple, straightforward, and informative, The Tao of Book Publicity includes expert advice on all aspects of book promotion and is a go-to reference guide for beginning and experienced authors alike.

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart, which is my pre-order and finally arrived.

On Haven, a six-mile long, half-mile-wide stretch of barrier island, Mira Banul and her Year-Rounder friends have proudly risen to every challenge. But then a superstorm defies all predictions and devastates the island, upending all logic and stranding Mira’s mother and brother on the mainland. Nothing will ever be the same. A stranger appears in the wreck of Mira’s home. A friend obsessed with vanishing disappears. As the mysteries deepen, Mira must find the strength to carry on—to somehow hold her memories in place while learning to trust a radically reinvented future. Gripping and poetic, This Is the Story of You is about the beauty of nature and the power of family, about finding hope in the wake of tragedy and recovery in the face of overwhelming loss.

The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton for review from NetGalley.

The collected works of Anne Sexton showcase the astonishing career of one of the twentieth century’s most influential poets

For Anne Sexton, writing served as both a means of expressing the inner turmoil she experienced for most of her life and as a therapeutic force through which she exorcised her demons. Some of the richest poetic descriptions of depression, anxiety, and desperate hope can be found within Sexton’s work. The Complete Poems, which includes the eight collections published during her life, two posthumously published books, and other poems collected after her death, brings together her remarkable body of work with all of its range of emotion.

With her first collection, the haunting To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Sexton stunned critics with her frank treatment of subjects like masturbation, incest, and abortion, blazing a trail for representations of the body, particularly the female body, in poetry. She documented four years of mental illness in her moving Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Live or Die, and reimagined classic fairy tales as macabre and sardonic poems in Transformations. The Awful Rowing Toward God, the last book finished in her lifetime, is an earnest and affecting meditation on the existence of God. As a whole, The Complete Poems reveals a brilliant yet tormented poet who bared her deepest urges, fears, and desires in order to create extraordinarily striking and enduring art.

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-McKenna for review with TLC Book Tours in May.

With the threat of the First World War looming, tension simmers under the surface of Ireland.

Growing up in the privileged confines of Dublin’s leafy Rathmines, the bright, beautiful Gifford sisters Grace, Muriel and Nellie kick against the conventions of their wealthy Anglo-Irish background and their mother Isabella’s expectations. Soon, as war erupts across Europe, the spirited sisters find themselves caught up in their country’s struggle for freedom.

Muriel falls deeply in love with writer Thomas MacDonagh, artist Grace meets the enigmatic Joe Plunkett – both leaders of ‘The Rising’ – while Nellie joins the Citizen Army and bravely takes up arms, fighting alongside Countess Constance Markievicz in the rebellion.

What did you receive?

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.


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!

You must have a U.S. or Canadian address to enter. Leave your comment by April 5, 2014, 11:59 PM EST

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young

Source:  Purchased from Novel Books
Hardcover, 44 pages
I’m an Amazon Affiliate

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a collection of poems and illustrations about animals that live in harsh environments and have adapted to their conditions.  The poetry forms include free verse, cinquain, haiku, villanelle, sonnet, and others that give young readers a brief look at the animals in their habitats from the Humboldt penguins that live in the warmer climates of Chile and Peru to the blind cave fish that live in the dark deep.  Included in the poetry book are at times abstract looking pictures of the animals or their habitats, though the images resemble collage techniques that incorporate various mediums.  The book also includes a break down of what poems exemplify which form and end notes that give a little more information about each animal.

Dry as Dust

They can deal solo
with dryness, but give them rain
and then: toads explode.

For my little girl, who is age 2, this book was a little too old for her.  She couldn’t pay attention long enough to get through the entire book, but she loved the pages with the snow monkeys in “Think Heat.”  There are a lot more questions than answers, and kids who are older are likely to want more information about each animal and habitat.  For younger kids, there’s just enough in each poem to mirror their own wonder, including them in the wider questioning of these animals’ lives.

A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated Ed Young, is a little too old for my little one, but if she retains her love of animals, she’ll likely enjoy this more as she gets older.  I found the poems a little too simple, and some did not have enough information about the animals or their habitats, but the end notes did offer a bit more information.  As a jumping off point, the book will spark questions from younger readers, and it could inspire a mother- or father-child exploration of these harsh habitats and adaptable animals.  Singer offers a special thanks at the beginning of the book to several people and museums, which seems to be where she obtained some of the information for her poems.

About the Poet:

Marilyn Singer was born in the Bronx (New York City) and lived most of her early life in N. Massapequa (Long Island), NY. She attended Queens College, City University of New York, and for her junior year, Reading University, England. She holds a B.A. in English from Queens and an M.A. in Communications from New York University.  Visit her Website.

About the Illustrator:

Caldecott Medalist Ed Young is the illustrator of over eighty books for children, seventeen of which he has also written. He finds inspiration for his work in the philosophy of Chinese painting.

Young began his career as a commercial artist in advertising and found himself looking for something more expansive, expressive, and timeless. He discovered all this, and more, in children’s books.  Visit his Website.


This is my 38th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.



This is my 24th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Chronicle Books Haul-idays

Chronicle Books has the best holiday giveaway I’ve ever seen going on — $500 in books for 1 blogger and $500 for 1 blogger’s reader for a total of $1,000.

As a blogger, you know I love books, but you also know I love to give away books.  Chronicle Books is giving these books away to a blogger or blog reader who lives in the United States and is 18 years or older.

All you have to do is check out the publisher’s Web site and make a list of books up to $500.  Check out their listWinners will be announced Dec. 13, 2010. Also check out this video:

Here’s my selections:

1. Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton which will help you make greens tasty; I’m always looking for new ways to make vegetables since I find them tough to eat.

2. Cupcake Kit by Elinor Klivans provides you with the tools necessary to make great cupcakes and decorate them like professionals.

3. Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss is just the book for me because working early morning hours and waiting for a husband to come home from work, slow cookers save my life and allow me more time to read. While I have a number of soup recipes, this book can provide me with much more.

4. New Vegetarian by Robin Asbell would make a great gift for my vegetarian cousin and her girls. I’m sure she’s looking for new recipes. I’d love to get this one for her.

5. A Simple Plan by Gary Soto is a collection of poems by a poet I have not heard of before, but I’m always looking for new poets. I’m in luck because they have two other books by this author, though I’ll save those for after reading this one.

6. Werewolves by Paul Jessup for my husband who loves these illustrated comic-type books.

7. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition by David Borgenicht, Nathaniel Marunas, and Robin Epstein, which The Girl would adore!

8. The Ivy and Bean Secret Treasure Box by Annie Barrows for my niece.

9. Ivy and Bean Boxed Set 2 by Annie Barrows for my niece.

10. Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea? by Annie Barrows also for my niece.

11. Ivy and Bean Mini Notes by Annie Barrows for The Girl.

12. The Little Books Boxed Set by Amy Krouse Rosenthal for the young learners. I’ve got a nephew in mind for this one.

13. Creature: ABC by Andrew Zuckerman, another one for young learners.

14. Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls: How to Start a Band, Write Songs, Record an Album, and Rock Out! for The Girl.

15. Haikubes by Forrest-Pruzan Creative.

16. The Ultimate Metallica by Ross Halfin, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett.

17. Michael Jackson: Before He Was King by Todd Gray.

18. Wine Wars: A Trivia Game for Wine Geeks and Wannabes by Joyce Lock for a friend’s husband who loves trivia.

19. Foodie Fight: A Trivia Game for Serious Food Lovers by Joyce Lock for that same friend’s husband.

20. Subway Art: 25th Anniversary Edition by Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant.

21. Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Photopoetry.

Interested in winning the books (total of $499.34) I’ve selected, please leave a valid email address and let me know whether you would keep all of the books or give some away. You can read all the official rules here!