All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven


Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

I’m still walking around in a daze since turning the last page on this one. My emotions are just wrecked. I used to shy away from YA books because I felt they were all bubble gum, angsty teenage love stories. But man, some of them dive headfirst into some heavy topics and take your heart with them. 

Theodore Finch, Finch or Freak, as many of his classmates call him, is standing on the high school’s bell tower. He is contemplating whether today is a good day to die. It’s something he does quite regularly. Then he realizes he is not alone on his ledge. Violet Markey is, or was, one of the popular girls. She was a cheerleader, she was dating “Mr. Handsome,” and she was running her own website. But life changed for Violet a year ago, and now she doesn’t know how to live. Today she’s standing on the ledge with the Freak, Finch.

Finch helps Violet down from the ledge that day, although the world sees it differently. Surely Violet must be the one helping messed up Finch. Finch in all his “finchness,” (which will just endear him to you) coerces Violet to do a school project with him. In their wanderings, Finch helps Violet see life differently. As Violet begins to realize she wants to live, and experience life with Finch; Finch is going under. 

This book deals with the very serious issue of suicide. It deals with how kids can be cruel with their bullying, how families can be oblivious to their own children’s pain, and how an individual can disguise their anguish and torment from the world. Finch’s character is written so well. He’s smart, funny, and creative. He’s the one the jocks beat up, the one his dad hits, and yet Finch thinks about how to make Violet feel special, to give her spring in winter. 

Finch is just trying to stay awake, to stay alive. We get to hear his inner dark, drowning thoughts. This project seems to give Finch something to focus on, and Violet gives him something to stay for – but will it be enough?

✨Make sure you read the author’s notes and acknowledgments as she gives very good information on suicide, bullying, and abuse.

Under the Dust Cover

Under the Dust Cover

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

There is just something about a hardcover book. It has class and prestige. And it sure looks great sitting on a bookshelf or stacked on a coffee table.

I recently participated in a #barebookstack challenge on Instagram where we were encouraged to strip off the dust covers of our hardcover books and take a peek underneath.

The dust cover, or dust jacket, has been around since the 1800s. Although, some book historians say there are records that date farther back.  In the printing industry, it became the practice to use a dust cover because books were not printed with a formal hard binding. Then, as the hard binding became the custom, the dust cover was used as almost a gift wrapping in the store. Once the book was purchased, the dust cover was discarded. ¹

Today, the dust cover is used as a billboard, shall we say. It has artwork and images to capture a potential reader’s eye, as well as, a brief synopsis of the book. Maybe even blurbs from other authors or book reviews giving it high marks.

Let’s return to the challenge mentioned above, what if we remove the dust cover. All the eye-popping art and accolades from others are stripped away. We find the bare binding. Some of the colors, although usually muted and dark, are beautiful. The title and author’s name are many times printed in a gorgeous script or bold lettering, even with gold or silver inlay.

I like to thrift shop for books, and I admit, many times when I see a hardcover book without its dust cover I tend to pass it over. Why? I’m not sure,  maybe because I’ve been trained to think of it as damaged goods. This challenge has helped me to see the beauty of a book in its bare and natural state.

Question: When you read a hardcover book, do you remove the dust cover? Do you keep your dust covers?

¹ Taken from the Wikipedia page on Dust jackets

Happy International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” — Frederick Douglass

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller

“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” – Roald Dahl

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff

In celebration of International Literacy Day, I thought I’d share a few books that had a huge impact on me as a young reader. I loved books that told stories of animals and their escapades, especially ones that made them out to be heroes and true companions.

In elementary school, my favorite period was library hour. Many times the Librarian would read us a new book, or as we got older it was a free hour of reading time. Each week I checked out the maximum number of books allowed, stuffing my backpack full of new adventures and friends.

I’ve never lost my love for reading and that need for the next book, in fact, I think it has grown. My home has always been filled with books. And when I had kids of my own, teaching them to read and reading with them was truly the icing on the cake.

The ability to read opens up the world to a child, allowing them to experience different places, cultures, and people. With strong themes such as friendship, grief, belonging, and family, books can help a child realize they aren’t alone. Every child should have the opportunity to learn to read with easy access to books. Let’s make literacy a priority in our communities today.

What was your favorite childhood book? 

Twenty-one Truths About Love

Twenty-one Truths About Love

By Matthew Dicks

3.5 / 5 ⭐

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakk.bookstuff

This book caught my attention when I discovered it was written entirely in the form of lists. At first I thought – so how does that make a story? I just didn’t see how a book full of lists would allow for an engaging and fulfilling read. But when I entered into Daniel Mayrock’s world and his compulsion for making lists about anything and everything, I was pleasantly surprised.

Through lists such as:

  • Shopping List
  • Texts from Jill
  • 5 Problems with lying
  • Facts about marriage
  • Proof I’m stupid
  • Ways to keep Jill from getting pregnant
  • Reasons I opened a bookstore
  • 15 Truths about Peter
  • Dinner with Mom

I learned all about Dan, his marriage and all his insecurities.

Dan is a teacher but quits the security of his job to open a bookstore called A New Chapter. Things aren’t going so well for Dan. Now he stresses over finances, and he still competes with Jill’s first husband, Peter, who is dead. Jill wants to get pregnant, but Dan is worried. See, his dad wasn’t around for him so what kind of father will he be? And he hasn’t told Jill about their financial woes. 

Even though Dan is insecure and doesn’t always make the best decisions, he will do just about anything for the family he loves. But first he must make a list of pros and cons.

Honestly, this isn’t the type of format I would choose to read, but it did work. Some of his lists were just silly, like “places I urinated today,” but others truly made me LOL. As the story unfolded, I was utterly amazed at how invested I was. I needed to know how this turned out. Would Jill and the baby be okay? Is Dan going to pull off his crazy idea to bring in some money?

And for me the best part was the lists of books. Dan owns a bookstore and he loves books. Therefore, he makes lists about books to read, what not to read, and things said by bookish people. One of my favorite comments was: “It’s hard to hate a person with a book in their hand.”

Thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for this ARC for review.

Publish Date: 11/19/19

A Stack of Books is a Thing of Beauty

A Stack of Books is a Thing of Beauty

I love a big stack of books. It means I have plenty of reading to do. But thanks to the popularity of Bookstagramming, a stack of books has become a thing of beauty – an aesthetic. You can find book challenges such as the #ombrestack, #bumblebeestack, #stackblackandwhite, and many more.

Books have long graced people’s homes on their shelves and coffee tables. Classic books with gold inlay swirled upon their covers were used as decorations, making one appear well-read. The old family Bible may have been displayed with its grand illuminated letters, (dusting required occasionally).

I’m not usually one that likes piles of things around the house – clean freak here. That being said, a pile or stack of books is beautiful. I love full bookshelves, books on nightstands, books in the bathroom, in fact, there is a book in every room of my house.

I struggle getting rid of my books after I have read them. Will I read them again? Maybe. But I like having them around. Does that make me a book hoarder? That’s a whole different blog post for another time. Ok, back to the subject at hand. Another thing I love about this book stack challenge phenomena is that it gives a big tip of the hat to book cover design. When I was going through my books for my #stackblackandwhite challenge, it made me stop and give thought as to why the designer, publisher, and author chose this color for the cover. As a writer, I want to have an appreciation for the book and the writing process as a whole. I found I get more out of the story, as well.

I’d love to hear and see how you display your books. Have they become part of the decor of your home? Do you have stacks and piles of books surrounding you? And have you found you like to pile them in certain themes and color schemes?

Photo taken with Focos
Photo by Subakka.bookstuff


One word can change the course of history or maybe a single life. With words, we can choose to speak of peace and build others up, or with the same letters simply strung together differently we tear each other down and teach of hate.
Our stories are our own – no one can take them from us, but our experiences are meant to reach beyond ourselves – to touch another life.

I believe every book is a conversation waiting to happen. I want to offer insights, and start a discussion with those who love the written word.