Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers & Book Lovers

It’s Cyber Monday 2018 and let’s not forget about the writers and book lovers on your lists! Check out a few holiday gift ideas for writers and book lovers that capture the imagination, offer inspiration, and add another touch of whimsy during a magical season while providing joy throughout the upcoming new year.

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NOTE: I receive no compensation for any of these items. I am not connected to any of these artisans, sellers, companies, and so forth. They’re items I personally like and wanted to share as ideas.

Something Wearable

Let’s start with a few gems from Storiarts. A couple of years ago, my wonderful husband gave me this pair of Pride and Prejudice writing gloves. I love them! Seriously, love them and wear them throughout the cold months as I work. As a writer, I totally recommend adding these to your gift list for anyone who spends long hours at the keyboard.

Storiarts also has a several other fun items, and I want to point out the book totes. Personally, I love the Matilda one, but there are many choices and you can’t go wrong with a book-themed tote bag for any writer or book lover.

From the Mareshop on Etsy, discover another type of fingerless glove perfect for a fantasy writer, dragon lover, or anyone who might love these colorful, handmade gems. I’m partial to this pink pair, but there are several colors plus two length styles to suit personal tastes.

Moonglow jewelry ads have appeared recently in my social media feeds and I’ll confess, I think they’re beautiful. Here’s the deal, you pick a significant date and the mini moon on your jewelry will feature the phase of moon from that time. Cool, right?

Why not choose a significant date for the author on your list? It could be the release date of their debut novel or the date they officially signed a contract with their agent or publisher. You can choose from pedants to earrings and bracelets, but I’m partial to this particular bangle bracelet.

Something Wordy

You can’t go wrong with 200 themed magnetic word tiles: Magnetic Poetry Kit—Moist and Other Awful Words. It’s fun, sassy, and can be mixed-and-matched with other magnetic poetry tile kits.

Found at Uncommon Goods, definitely take a look at the literature charts. I loved the Literary Insults chart and the Wine in Literature chart.

Next up is Scapple, a program available through Literature & Latte. It’s a way for writers to brainstorm ideas and connect ideas even when things seem at their most scattered. If the writer(s) on your list love Scrivener, there’s a good chance they’ll enjoy Scapple.

How about a waterproof notepad? Never forget a great story idea when in the shower or bath again. Add AquaNotes to your gift list.

There are so many different literary, book-inspired, and writerly-styled mugs and drinkware available, I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m sharing something I hadn’t seen before until today. These are so much fun! And great for English teachers, too! Check out this set of eight plates from Grammar Stuff.  

Something for the Home

Whimsical bookends, beautiful bookends, unique bookends! Head over to Etsy for a huge selection of bookends, truly something for every book lover.

And just fun for, why not a Writer’s Block? It’s the perfect paperweight and desk accessory for any writer.

 

Book Review: Villain by Michael Grant

“People could be amazingly blind to what was right in front of their faces.”

(“Villain”, chapter 8, page 84)

A year ago, almost to the day, I posted my review of Monster by Michael Grant, the long-awaited continuation of the GONE series that originally released in June 2008. Ten years later, readers like me are still caught in the FAYZ and soaking up every word of Villain, the latest installation in this gripping series.

Villain

Shade Darby was there the day the Perdido Beach dome came down. She witnessed the horror that was Gaia, the monster of the FAYZ as well as the death of her mother. When the alien virus-infected rock crashed into the earth, Shade was there to retrieve a piece. Along with her friends Cruz and Malik, she’s ingested a portion of the rock and now they’re part of the Rockborn and able to morph into something more, beings of incredible power. Unfortunately, Shade and friends aren’t the only ones that are Rockborn, and some of the others are using their morphs for more evil agendas.

Villain brings back previous foes, from Knightmare to Peaks, Vu, and the sadistic Drake Merwin—Whip Hand. Adding to the mix is a new villain, Dillon Poe. When morphed as the Charmer, Dillon is unstoppable. His ability to command anyone to do anything with just his words makes him a dangerous, deadly villain. Add to it his lust for power and our heroes have their hands full.

Also returning for Villain are GONE series fan favorite Dekka and brief but critical appearances by Sam and Astrid. Personally, I love the new dynamic that’s developed between Dekka and Armo as well as Dekka and Shade. Author Grant also gives us a new hero in the form of Francis, a young girl who can walk through any solid object and who also possesses a very special trait that may be key when it comes to the final take-down of the Watchers.

Villain took me on a heart-stopping ride, twisting my insides and pushing all the buttons. There are brutal moments, turns, and Chapter 30 that even brought a tear + a very loud “hell yeah!”

“‘What are we going to do? Cruz repeated. She shrugged. ‘I guess we’re going to try and save the world.’”

The GONE series has never shied away from harsh, gory, terrifying imagery and Michael Grant certainly paints a picture. There are scenes in Villain that may be difficult to read, but it’s well done and a complete page-turner.

It’s no secret I am a long-time fan and faithful reader of Michael Grant and the GONE series ranks in my top all-time favorites. For me, Villain continued to deliver the story, characters, and thrills I’ve come to expect and love from this author and series.

If you’ve not stepped into the FAYZ yet, pick up book one: GONE and dive right in. Read ‘em all and be sure to grab a copy of Villain.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Book-Inspired Parties!

Book-inspired parties! That’s what is on my mind today. This morning I was working on a project for a client—unfortunately not a plan for a book-inspired party, but it was New Year’s Eve related, so fairly festive. Along the trail of research I had the good fortune to stumble upon the InLiterature.net website. This site has fabulous ideas and information for planning a book-inspired party, everything from recipes to decorations plus crafts and activities for kids’ parties.

The books range from classic literature to favorite children’s stories and everything in between.

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A few of my copies, some a bit more tattered than others. I’m looking at you, HP. 

Just a few of the books included are:

  • A Christmas Carol
  • Coraline
  • Anna Karenina
  • Divergent
  • Dracula
  • Julie & Julia
  • Jurassic Park
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Practical Magic
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hobbit

And of course you can find pages on the site for Harry Potter party ideas.

Do you want to learn how to make a paper mache mandrake? Here you go. InLiterature.net has step-by-step directions.

How about whipping up a batch of Fizzing Whizbees to enjoy at your Harry Potter party? They have a three-ingredient recipe for that too. It looks so easy!

Several years ago I worked at a library and hosted the weekly reading programs for kids. It was a blast! For the preschoolers each week, it was always a program theme relating to our book of the week. I would have loved to have had access to a site like this. Now I’m actually considering a theme party somewhere down the road. But which book to choose?

So how about it? Do you have any good ideas for book-inspired parties? Share your ideas or links to cool sites in the comments below.

Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

“And why can’t you understand. . . I don’t get what’s so wrong with being happy where you are.”

(Alba, Chapter 8, page 138)

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Melissa Keil brings incredible fun and laughter to the end of the world with The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl. It’s a book that pulled me in from the prologue and kept me engaged until the very sweet end. This is the third book by Keil that I’ve read and I’m hungry for more, along with a piece of apple strudel from Albany’s.

Sarah Jane Albany, known as Alba, calls the small town of Eden Valley home. Alba and her mom live in the residence behind their bakery named Albany’s. She’s a comic-book loving artist and the creator of Cinnamon Girl, her newest character who’s being slightly troublesome, almost as much as the events that quickly begin to unfold in Alba’s once even-paced life.

For Alba, tradition and routine are just fine. Why mess it all up with with changes like leaving Eden Valley and going to college? She loves her corner of the world that includes the bakery, her friends, and especially her best friend Domenic Grady, known simply as Grady.

Pals since the playpen because their mothers are best friends, Alba and Grady haven’t really spent a day apart in their lives. But, with Grady’s plans to go off and study law, Alba is in a bit of funk, especially because she’s really not sure what she wants or where she’ll fit in once her best friend leaves for his own adventure. And then there’s this pesky little issue of the world ending. Literally.

So what happens when the end of high school also coincides with the end of the world?

Alba struggles to make sense of her place in the world and the changes that are about to befall her, Grady, and their group of friends. When an obscure television personality predicts the planet’s demise and names Eden Valley as the only place that will survive, their tiny Australian town quickly becomes the center of global attention, filling with end-of-the-world zealots, personalities, and a particular hunky teen actor who also happens to be a former friend of Alba’s and Grady’s.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the quirky characters, including Alba’s entire gang of friends. Author Keil creates a great cast of supporting characters that developed and contributed perfectly to the main story, while at the same time drawing you in—I’d totally read a book that focused on Tia and Petey. The dialogue is witty yet easy to read and believable. Keil paints a picture with her words, giving readers a clear view of Eden Valley and the chaos that an end-of-the-world prediction would bring to a small town.

The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter were awesome! Loved them as artwork and how they connected seamlessly with the story.

Go grab yourself a copy of The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil. It’s a romance spiced with a quirky-sweet main character plus banter, universal truths, and laugh-out-loud moments.

You can check out Melissa Keil’s other books at her website. Also, my review of her book The Secret Science of Magic is here.

Book Series: When Covers Don’t Match

When you own a complete book series, do you care if the books are mixed-and-matched? Does it make you twitchy to own book one of a series as a paperback and books three through six (soon to be seven) as hardbacks?

Yes, I’m looking at you GONE series.

And how about different cover art?

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Currently I own three series, three of my all-time favorite book series, that are not matched. It doesn’t usually bother me until it’s time to clean and re-organize my bookshelves, then it makes me twitchy because they don’t fit in nice and neat.

This brings me to the next question:

Do I treat myself to a new set of each?

 

 

 

Here is the series that stimulated this train of thought:

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The first three books are paperback and the last two are hardback. The first one has different artwork—which I do like.

However, the white really doesn’t go with the darker palette of the other four. Now in reality, does all this make a huge difference?

Of course not.

But it’s my bookshelf and since I gaze at it while working daily, I like a certain aesthetic.

 

 

 

I have no issues owning multiple copies of books or series that I reread regularly and Percy Jackson & the Olympians falls into that category.

I think I just talked myself into new, matching volumes of this Rick Riordan series. Christmas is just 85 days away, so maybe it’s perfect for my wish list.

So who’s going to talk to Santa for me?

Book Review: “The Lies They Tell” by Gillian French

“Whatever you heard ain’t likely to be the truth. I don’t think anybody left alive knows the truth, except that boy.”

(Marilyn, The Lies They Tell, page 212)

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French offers a dark, twisting mystery amid family drama and the socio-economic divide of Tenney’s Harbor, Maine. This was the first Gillian French novel I’ve read, and it was a page-turner!

I love a good mystery and The Lies They Tell delivered.

LiesTheyTell

Told from the eighteen-year old Pearl’s perspective, the story opens with an introduction to the Garrison family. They are wealthy and one of the prestigious families at the country club where Pearl works as a waitress. When four of the five Garrison family members die in a horrific fire, we learn that the surviving son Tristan may be a suspect. Unfortunately, Pearl’s father also is suspect as he was the watchman on duty the night of the fire.

The bulk of the story takes place six months after the fire. It’s summer and Tristan and the other summer rich boys are in Tenney’s Harbor. As Pearl waits on Tristan and his friends at the club, she’s drawn into their group. While, she’s not a fan of the affluent summer boys, she has hopes that getting close to them may help her clear her dad’s name. Since the fire, her dad has lost work and buried himself in the bottle. They are barely scraping by.

Author Gillian French provides an immersive experience, creating a rich atmosphere with her settings in this book. It’s very easy to “see” Tenney’s Harbor, the country club, and Pearl’s world.

Personally, I enjoyed following Pearl and her discoveries into the truths behind the closed doors of the Garrison household and the family life that only Tristan knew. There was ample drama, suspense, and the weaving of the lies and betrayal worked. I also really liked the final setting for the ending, just enough creep factor but not too over-the-top.

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French was the perfect book to curl up with on a stormy afternoon and I recommend it to any YA mystery fan.

Book Review: The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

“I believe she will shortly describe me as

‘that dipshit who’s always smiling at himself.’”

(Joshua, page 3)

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil is smart, funny, and one of my favorite reads of 2018.

secret science of magic

Its blurb via author Melissa Keil’s website:

Sophia is smart. Like, genius-calculator-brain smart. But there are some things no amount of genius can prepare you for, and the messiness of real life is one of them. When everything she knows is falling apart, how can she crack the puzzle of what to do with her life?

Joshua spends his time honing magic tricks and planning how to win Sophia’s heart. But when your best trick is making schoolwork disappear, how do you possibly romance a genius? In life and love, timing is everything.

It was pure chance I stumbled on this book and I’m so happy it happened. While at my local library to pick up a few books for research purposes, I couldn’t help but make a detour into the Young Adult section. Big surprise, right?

The Secret Science of Magic caught my eye from its place on the “new” shelves, just by its title. After reading the jacket blurb, I knew it was coming home with me. Then I opened the book and it began with with a quote from Harry Houdini. I was all in.

How could I not want to know what would happen when a young magician attempts to win the heart of a genius?

This is not your typical high school romance novel. Set in Melbourne, Australia, author Melissa Keil gives readers alternating POV from Sophia and Joshua. Sophia is a genius, particularly skilled in mathematics, while Joshua does well in history class, his overall interest in studying and homework is minimal. His passion is magic. Neither are part of the popular social circles at school.

There were many elements about this book that I loved. Normally, I’m not a fan of first person POV but I really liked it here as it kept me close to the characters. From the first pages, I became invested in Sophia and Joshua. I laughed out loud more than once before finishing chapter one. Keil’s writing style is sharp and witty. She has created characters that you want to know inside and out, and then shows us all their messy truths but in ways that are completely relatable.

I also enjoyed the numerous pop culture references, in particular the Doctor Who tidbits. As a fan of Eleven, I swooned and giggled with the tiny fez hats that “magically” appear on Sophia’s pencils when she opens her pencilcase.

As we all know, the course of teenage romance rarely runs smooth, and in the case of Sophia and Joshua the odds are stacked against them. However, it was a joy to be able to tag along for their journey. The Secret Science of Magic kept me entertained from start to finish and I’m still chuckling over several moments. I highly recommend it.

Melissa Keil is the author of The Secret Science of Magic, Life in Outer Space, and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl.

I already have Life in Outer Space on reserve at my library, so keep an eye out for my thoughts on that one.

Book Review: Echoes by Alice Reeds

“I already hated everything about this plan,

even if it was the only one that made sense.”

Fiona. Chapter Eleven, page 102

I rarely do this, but I’m going to begin this post with the book’s blurb from the author’s website, which you can access here: www.alicereeds.com.

Blurb:

They wake on a deserted island. Fiona and Miles, high school enemies now stranded together. No memory of how they got there. No plan to follow, no hope to hold on to.

Each step forward reveals the mystery behind the forces that brought them here. And soon, the most startling discovery: something else is on the island with them. Something that won’t let them leave alive.

Echoes by Alice Reeds had a lot of elements I really liked, including the alternating chapters that went back and forth between two “realities”: the island and Berlin.

Echoes

As a fan of shows like “Lost” I was excited to read a story about two teens stranded on a mysterious island. While there wasn’t a smoke monster, there were ample life-threatening situations for Fiona and Miles. Personally, I preferred their story on the island versus the city-setting of Berlin. I had a few issues with city chapters, and I may have actually yelled at them to just go to the American Embassy. But, I did keep turning pages and although I felt the ending was a bit rushed (lots crammed in), I mostly was satisfied.

Character-wise, I did struggle to connect with Fiona, and at times, Miles seemed cliche, but I ended up liking him. However, overall there was enough action and questions (important with this type of story) to keep me engaged.

Book Review: Until the End by Christopher Pike

Until the End by Christopher Pike is his original trilogy titled Final Friends. Until the End contains the three books: The Party, The Dance, and The Graduation.

The Party and The Dance were both originally released in 1988 and The Graduation came out in 1989. I wish they would have kept the original Final Friends title, because it’s an actual line in the book and I think it ties the trilogy together a bit better.

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When I found Until the End at a bookstore during some travel, I squealed. No lie. Squealed loudly and most likely frightened the couple browsing in the next aisle over. The squeal came from stumbling upon the “Pike” name on the book’s spine. As a teenager and into my early twenties, I bought and devoured every Christopher Pike book available. I was obsessed. When I picked up Until the End and discovered that it was the entire Final Friends trilogy in one, super-thick book—I knew it was coming home with me. It took all I had not to plop down in the aisle and begin reading right there.

The Final Friends trilogy or Until the End is a YA mystery/thriller that’s contemporary. Because it was written in the late 1980’s, the pop culture references reflect that time, ie: mention of the “big TV movie The Day After” and of course, no cell phones plus what now would be considered archaic computer technology. Set in California, the story follows a group of friends and acquaintances attending the same high school. Most of the story is told from the perspective of Jessica Hart and Michael Olson.

Book One: The Party introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the tragedy that will bring them all together and tear many of them apart. Like many good mysteries, The Party ends with a dead body and a lot of questions.

Book Two: The Dance is the aftermath of that tragic party. Author Pike takes readers on a ride exploring the various reactions/coping mechanisms each character employs while also attempting to deal with daily teenage life. There’s ample witty dialogue, teen crushes, and general high school drama woven in as well, but the main thread continues to be the mystery. The Dance concludes with Homecoming and another tragedy.

Book Three: The Graduation picks up on the last day of high school for this band of seniors. They’ve all experienced many ups and down during their last year of high school. Their all-night senior party aboard a cruise ship to Catalina is to be a great celebration, but someone has other plans. Everyone who had been present during the party when a life was lost, will be on that boat. More than one person has an agenda, and everyone is shocked by the revelations.

All three books of the trilogy are fast-paced and offer enough clues that an observant reader can begin to put together a theory or two on the who, what, and why. The characters, although a bit cliche at times, are overall likable and Pike does give them growth, as well as redemption for those in need of it.

Even after 30 years, the Final Friends trilogy by Christopher Pike still delights and entertains me. My inner teenage was transported back in time and that was just plain fun!

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Want to know what drew me to One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus?OOUIL front cover

This:

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

This blurb called to me. Not quietly. It SHOUTED.

How the hell did I miss this when it released?

So anyway…

Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars. Um, yeah. I’m reading it. And I did. And I couldn’t put the book down. Mysteries have always been and always will be my favorite stories. And when they’re YA, it just doesn’t get any better for me.

For a quick breakdown, One of Us Is Lying gives readers the brain, beauty/princess, criminal, athlete, and the outcast. These five find themselves stuck in detention on a Monday afternoon. One of them dies. They all have something to hide and they’re all lying.OOUIL page

Author Karen M. McManus gives readers a fast-paced, contemporary mystery filled with red herrings, teen drama, and relatable characters. The dialogue is witty and believable, the integration of technology contemporizes the themes from the classic Breakfast Club movie and Pretty Little Liars books/tv show. As a huge fan of the latter, it was fun to read all the twists and turns in One of Us Is Lying, and of course I was totally suspicious of every character.

I gave the book a 5-star rating on GoodReads and I do highly recommend it. She has another YA mystery coming out January 8, 2019: Two Can Keep a Secret. I’m very much looking forward to reading that.

Please stop by Karen M. McManus’ website and check out more information about her and her books. And don’t forget to add One of Us Is Lying to your TBR List!