Archive | July 2012

July Reviews – Week 4

Books in the Spotlight reviews KARMA by Cathy Ostlere

Achuka reviews THE WEIGHT OF WATER by Sarah Crossen

Siris reviews EUGENE ONIGEN by Alexander Pushkin

YA Love reviews YOUR OWN , SYLVIA by Stephanie Hemphill


Devour Books reviews EXPOSED by Kimberly Marcus


July Reviews – Week 3

Crafting Magic plugs WICKED GIRLS by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls

The Minuteman News Center reviews THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf

The Librarian of Snark looks at RINGSIDE 1925 by Jen Bryant

Totally Bookalicious reviews LOVE AND LEFTOVERS by Sarah Tregay

Love and Leftovers

Pass the Chiclits reviews MAY B by Caroline Starr Rose

Devour Books reviews FAR FROM YOU by Lisa Schroeder


File:Beowulf and the dragon.jpgI don’t remember the first time I heard about such a thing as a novel in verse, I suspect it was sometime in my teens, perhaps hearing about Dante’s INFERNO or Milton’s PARADISE LOST. Both of course are classified as “epic poems” among others such as Homer’s ODYSSEY or BEOWULF. I dabbled in reading epic poems in my late teens and twenties. I’m sure I thought I was a literary genius but to be honest, I’m pretty sure I never really “got” them.

I eventually wrote for film and television, then novels for kids. I kind of forgot all about reading “literature” and therefore any classic that hadn’t captured my fancy as a pretentious undergrad was now unlikely to ever make it back onto my TBR pile. The classic epic poems were relegated to the SRBPW (should read but probably won’t) pile.

Then a few years ago I read an article about Sonya Sones and her then latest book ONE OF THOSE HIDEOUS BOOKS WHERE THE MOTHER DIES. Quite apart from having a deliciously ironic title I was surprised to learn this book was in verse. A novel in verse? Like BEOWULF? For teens? I was intrigued and a few days later Amazon kindly delivered this book to my door. I breezed through it, enjoying it very much but was fascinated to discover that it was essentially a collection of narratively linked poems rather than an epic verse. I was amazed how well it worked.

Since then I have read dozens of novels in verse and written one of my own, AUDACIOUS which will be published in 2013. My verse novel reading coordinates with all my other reading in that I mostly read YA and MG. However I AM branching more adult material lately (I read the whole Games of Thrones series for example) so in the next few weeks I’ll be reading a couple of verse novels written for adults too: Ellen Hopkins’s TRIANGLES  and THE MARLOWE PAPERS by Ros Barber both slated for publication in the next few months.

What was YOUR first verse novel?

Leave a comment to win an ARC of TRIANGLES by Ellen Hopkins.

TrianglesFrom Goodreads:

THREE FEMALE FRIENDS FACE MIDLIFE CRISES IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED EXPLORATION OF SEX, MARRIAGE, AND THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE.Holly: Filled with regret for being a stay-athome mom, she sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Will it bring the fulfillment she is searching for?Andrea: A single mom and avowed celibate, she watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband?Marissa: She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay, rebellious teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts.As one woman’s marriage unravels, another’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s reconfigures into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.Unflinchingly honest, emotionally powerful, surprisingly erotic, Triangles is the ultimate page-turner. Hopkins’s gorgeous, expertly honed poetic verse perfectly captures the inner lives of her characters. Sometimes it happens like that. Sometimes you just get lost.Get lost in the world of Triangles, where the lives of three unforgettable women intersect, and where there are no easy answers.

This entry was posted on July 20, 2012. 3 Comments

Verse Novels for Middle Grade Readers

Not long ago Katie Dekoster from Book Love speculated that Novels in Verse (NIVs) were becoming the new vampires. I certainly hope so, since I have one coming out next year and another (the sequel)  in 2014.

People are becoming more familiar with this form. While most of the well-known novels in verses are aimed at YA audiences, there is a good selection of NIVs for middle grade readers too.  I’d like to highlight three of my favorites.

All of these middle grade NIVS cleverly combine premise and form. Shakespeare Bats Clean-Up by Ron Koertge and Love That Dog by Sharon Creech both feature young male narrators who are reluctantly learning about poetry, while having an archetypal middle grade coming of age. Not that these books are derivative or banal. They are both not only great stories but great learning tools. Shakespeare Bat Clean-Up would be a great book in particular for reluctant boy readers, while if Love That Dog doesn’t make you cry, you have a heart of stone.

Excerpt from Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

Another of my favorite NIVs for middle graders is Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. This is a sweet, tug on your heart strings story about a foster kid searching for capital F Family. The titular narrator is also learning about poetry, but this book tends to be less about poetics and more about the power of writing to heal.

Verse novels tend to be a bit dark and are mostly contemporary or historical realism. I’d love to see humor or even some genre novels in verse, both for middle graders and YA readers. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing this development very soon with paranormal, fantasy or even sci-fi verse novels.

This entry was posted on July 16, 2012. 1 Comment

July Reviews – Week 2 – Verse Novels for All Ages

Two Girls and Ten Million Books review FAMILY by Micol Ostow

A Reader’s Pensieve reviews CRANK by Ellen Hopkins

YA Love reviews GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams

YAkety Yaks, Becky’s Book Reviews, Books4FunPass the Crickets and Books We Love review THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

YA Bliss reviews THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY by David Levithan

Children’s Book-A–Day Almanac reviews THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Alan Wolf

Carol’s Corner reviews Little Dog Lost by Marion Dane Bauer

Ghost of the Still reviews THE WOLF by Steven Herrick

Writing through Rose Tinted Glasses reviews THE GOOD BRAIDER by Terry Farish


KARMA by Cathy Ostlere. I really adored this verse novel about a young indo-Canadian girl getting caught up in the unrest in India after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. This is both everything that a verse novel should be – poetic, visual, emotional and lyrical – as well as everything that a novel about a non-white/mainstream culture CAN be; it feels very universal. The protagonist and narrator, 16 year old Maya, starts out naïve and innocent but when thrust into unimaginable danger doesn’t suddenly become Katniss Everdeen. Her reactions and struggles are realistic and not idealized. I loved how romantic this book is too. Buy KARMA here.

ALL THE BROKEN PIECES by Ann E Burg. This verse novel made me cry, which rarely happens. The story of Matt Pin,  a Vietnamese boy who is airlifted after the fall of Saigon the story deals with his coming to terms with all that he lost in the family and life he left behind in Vietnam.  This is an emotionally impactful book that uses baseball as a kind panacea, a typically American idea, but one that works superbly well in this instance. A quick but far from easy read, but also another great one for mature younger readers. Buy ALL THE BROKEN PIECES here.

MAY B  by Caroline Starr Rose is everything a verse novel should be. Beautiful verse, a dramatic and captivating story line, a richly drawn setting and a strong lovable protagonist. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and I was not disappointed. This would appeal to readers of all ages but is especially suited to younger readers, particularly fans of historical books such as LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE but also survival books such as HATCHET. Buy MAY B here.

THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER by Jaime Adoff. Took me a few pages but then I got very caught up in this desolate and sad story. Jayson felt very real as did his friends and family. Maybe the villains are a bit stereotyped but we are seeing them through Jayson’s eyes so it makes sense. Although this book is classified as a verse novel its form varies from more prose-ish parts to very spare verse. It’s a dark, dark, book that would appeal to angsty teens and would be a great introduction to verse novels for boys. Buy THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER here.

UNDER THE MESQUITE by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Some beautiful poetry in this rather bleak book. To me, the references to Mexican culture and language felt a little jarring, but I’m sure this would be appealing and seem more integral to readers more familiar with that culture (I’m Canadian!). A quick read I knocked off in about two hours. Certainly to be recommended for those interested in exploring this cultural milieu and those who appreciate carefully honed verse. Buy UNDER THE MESQUITE here.

This entry was posted on July 13, 2012. 2 Comments