Friday, March 31, 2017

Best Books of March

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to tell you all about the great books I read this month.

First up is a book with a seriously eye-catching cover. I feel like I know the author, Trudi Trueitin person, thanks to Facebook! So when I'm reading her books, I want to cheer her on the whole way. Her latest book has a young girl fighting hard to save a family business.

My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts features Kestrel, a 12-year-old who's a big fan of lists. Currently, she's keeping a "top secret" list of things she wants to do and things she doesn't want to do. When she finds herself spending the summer before seventh grade at her grandmother's ski lodge, that list is put to the test. The good news is, that means we get to watch her take on one adventure after another. Kestrel is a strong, spunky heroine that readers will definitely root for as she tries to save the lodge after a bunch of nasty online reviews.

Next comes another M!x book with another cover that just jumps off the shelf at you. This one is by Allison Gutknecht, the successful author of the Mandy Berr series. This is her latest:

In Spring Break Mistake, a tween gets to spend spring break in New York City thanks to her mad social media photography skills. During her adventure, she makes a couple of new friends and even has a crush. Young readers love social media and this one pulls in a great lesson about friendship and venturing out of your comfort zone. A fun read with lovable characters!

I always get excited when I see a new book from Cindy Callaghan. Why? Because I know it's going to be great! This time, her cover calls out to my love for all things spooky.

Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead is full of surprises. You start off with a fun story about a California girl who learns she has to move away from her great live in a house overlooking a cemetery. Then she gets to her new home and things get spooky. I was sure we were headed for "ghost story" territory. But just when you're all into the seances and such, the book kicks into "Underground Railroad" territory. I love surprises and I really love Cindy's writing, so I can't recommend this one enough!

I've read a lot of middle-grade books. More than I can count. And I can say I've never seen same-sex crushes tackled in a middle grade before. But that's exactly what you have in this awe-inspiring book from MG queen goddess Barbara Dee:

Last December, Barbara Dee's daughter wrote a post on Tumblr about coming out to her mom. On the day she said the words, she learned her mother had been writing Star-Crossed the whole time. The book means so much more when you know that! Star-Crossed tackles territory that few middle-grade books ever have--same-sex crushes. And the way Barbara handles Mattie's gradually developing feelings for a female classmate makes it a must-read for adults and kids.

One interesting thing about the next book is that it's actually the SECOND book with this name written by a friend of mine. My writer friend Carole Bellacera wrote the other one--random, especially when you consider the uniqueness of the title:

I never got to experience the 60s, but I'm old enough to remember bell bottoms! In Incense and Peppermints, we get to relive those times through the eyes of Mary Monroe (named for Marilyn, of course!), a high schooler dealing with some serious peer pressure. The gritty realism of the many struggles she deals with makes this book so compelling. Plus, just when you think you might be reading a romance, the author takes a completely surprising turn. This book is more of a coming-of-age story that keeps you guessing until the end!

My Audible read this month was a research project of sorts. I wanted to watch the show on HBO and when I heard it was a book, it was my duty to read the book first. It's surreal, watching the show after reading, since I now know what the big secret ending is!

Big Little Lies kicks off with a death at an elementary school trivia night. We know from the start that someone's dead...and nobody knows who the murderer is. But we spend the next 450 pages or so getting to know Madeline, Celeste, and Jane...women with very dark secrets. The book felt slow in parts (or maybe I'm just used to reading SHORTER books!), but the last hour or two of the audiobook will make it all so worth it.

What are you reading this month?


  1. Sadly I don't just remember bell bottoms, I owned a pair or two...

  2. Star Crossed sounds like a good book, as does Incense and Peppermints--I like the idea of reading about other decades. I just started working on a diary novel set in the 1980s. And I absolutely loved Big Little Lies--it's one of the books for my book club this year, and now I'm trying to decide if I'm going to re-read it.

    BTW, I miss your comments on my blog :)

  3. I don't recall storylines being this enticing when I was anguishing over books in middle school and high school. I believe I would have read more back in the day!

    Thanks for sharing these, Stephanie. I will share with my writing group!

    1. I agree; I wish I could be a kid in this era of awesome books! (Then again, maybe there were really exciting books and I just stayed in my little Babysitters Club corner of the library...)

  4. I love the back story to Star Crossed. What a wonderful thing to write about.

    I'm a huge fan of Liane Moriarty. I've read all her books and while the last two to be released are my favorites, they are all good. Can't wait to see the TV show.

  5. I was middle school late 60s and had bell bottoms. Not a great look
    Excellent batch of books listed. I wish all the authors good luck and all kids happy reading

  6. Wonderful set of books, Stephanie. I can't thank you enough for your fabulous review of Incense and Peppermints!!!! And, for having it on your blog today!! I'm so glad that you liked it.

  7. What great books for middle grade readers. The covers just invite you to see what's happening. It's encouraging to see books like these that likely will appeal to young readers facing some of the same problems as the characters. Congratulations to all.

  8. Those sound like some great books. Thanks for shaing. It's so cool that someone wrote a "diverse" book with MG same-sex crushing.

  9. What a great collection. A little bit of everything. I love seeing youth figure out life, as several of these stories show them doing.

  10. Great month of reading for you!!! Thanks for the reviews!