Review: Dead and Breakfast by Kimberly G. Giarratano

Dead and Breakfast Book Cover Dead and Breakfast
Kimberly G. Giarratano

Despite living in Key West his whole life, 18-year-old Liam Breyer is a skeptic of the supernatural until a vengeful spirit, murdered fifty years ago, nearly drowns him in a swimming pool. Luckily help arrives in the form of pretty — albeit homesick — ghost whisperer Autumn Abernathy, whose newly-divorced mom has dragged her to the island to live and work at the Cayo Hueso, a haunted bed and breakfast.

Although they initially mistrust each other, Autumn and Liam team up to solve the decades-old mystery. But on an island where every third resident is a ghost, dealing with an unstable spirit has deadly consequences. If Liam and Autumn don’t unmask the killer soon, they’re likely to become Key West’s latest haunted attraction.

Review:

(Actual rating: 2.5 stars)

A free ARC of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

After finishing Dead and Breakfast, I confess to feeling a little underwhelmed. The novel started off strong, with intergenerational drama and a vengeful, violent ghost, but it was ultimately undermined by instalove, lackluster characters, and a way too convenient ending.

For the first several chapters, Dead and Breakfast does well. The action begins when Autumn Abernathy, one of the novel’s two protagonists, relocates to Key West with her divorcee mother to manage the Cayo Hueso Bed and Breakfast. Autumn, who has always been able to see and communicate with ghosts, soon discovers that the Cayo is inhabited by the spirit of a young Hispanic girl murdered in the 1950s.

The Cayo’s spooky resident isn’t your friendly Caspar-like ghost – she’s out for blood, and she’s fixated on Liam Breyer, the cute young handyman who does odd jobs around the bed and breakfast. Autumn and Liam join forces to try to resolve the ghost’s unfinished business before she ends up harming them and/or destroying the Cayo.

Dead and Breakfast will feel pretty familiar to those who’ve read Giarratano’s other works to date, which also focus on girls who can speak to ghosts and must try to discover how they died. One thing that differentiates this book from the others, though, is that the ghost in question is a badass. She’s not content to sit back and wait while Autumn investigates; she takes matters into her own hands in whatever ways she can, and she isn’t afraid to possess people or cause them harm. An aggressive, pissed off, violent ghost was a nice way for Giarratano to change things up.

Another thing I enjoyed about Dead and Breakfast was the setting. After reading this book, I’m dying to take a trip to Key West. The atmosphere, food, music, and culture seem like a lot of fun, and I’d love to attend a street festival, take a midnight ghost tour, or eat seafood from a roadside stand. I will say, though – for a book that’s set in one of the most haunted cities in America, featuring a B&B whose main attraction is supposed to be its spooky tenants, I expected to see a lot more ghosts than I did. There were only two, and that was kind of disappointing.

One of my biggest complaints about Dead and Breakfast was the romance. I didn’t mind the attraction that formed between Autumn and Liam, but the depth of it wasn’t realistic. I found it hard to believe that they’d developed such an all-consuming relationship in such a short time, falling so deeply in love that they were willing to sacrifice their goals and drastically alter their life plans. It felt out of character and majorly detracted from the book. Certain interactions felt melodramatic, too, like [START SPOILER]Liam’s drinking and his temper tantrum about Autumn leaving for college[END SPOILER].

This, plus the fact that the book wrapped up far too neatly (it was super unrealistic and didn’t do justice to the story or the characters) prevented me from being able to give Dead and Breakfast as high a rating as I originally anticipated. That said, I still have high hopes for the next Cayo Hueso Mystery book. Maybe I’ll get more of those ghosts I wanted as the series continues!

2016 End of Year Book Survey

2016 End of Year Book SurveyHappy 2017, my friends! It’s the start of a brand new year, and you know what that means – it’s time for the End of Year Book Survey! Founded by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner, the survey is a fun way to take one last, fond look at the previous year. Everyone is welcome to participate, so feel free to link up on Jamie’s blog!

2016 Reading Stats

Number of books you read? I read 83 books and listened to 24 audiobooks.

Number of re-reads? I reread ALL the time; 20 of the books I mentioned above were rereads.

Genre you read the most from? I don’t really keep track of genres much, but I suspect fantasy.

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2016? Kings Rising, the final book in C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy

The Raven King on a bench at Ladew Topiary GardensBook you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t? The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (though it pains me to admit it)

Most surprising book you read in 2016? The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen; I didn’t see that ending coming.

Book you “pushed” the most people to read in 2016? The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown (read my review of the first book here)

Best series you started in 2016? C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy

Best sequel in 2016? A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Best series ender of 2016? Morning Star by Pierce Brown – it was everything I wanted and more!

Favorite new author(s) you discovered in 2016? Jennifer Niven – I read All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe and LOVED them.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward; I don’t typically read adult fiction, especially vampire erotica, and I wasn’t a fan of the rest of Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but this particular book was surprisingly good.

FavoriteTimekeeper by Tara Sim cover of a book you read in 2016? Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Book you read in 2016 that you are most likely to re-read next year? Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Most memorable character of 2016? Laurent from C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2016? If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – it was amazing and deserved all of the hype.

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2016? Only the people you love can scare you witless enough for true courage.” – The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (read my review here)

Shortest and longest book you read in 2016? American Ballerina by Nancy Lorenz (shortest) and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (longest)

Book that shocked you the most? The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater almost got thrown across the room at one point, which is a pretty good indication of how surprised I was by one of the plot twists.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski with bouquet of lilies and rosesMost beautifully written book read in 2016? The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

One true pairing of the year? I will ship Laurent and Damen, from the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat, until the day I die.

Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year? Temeraire and Laurence from His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novak

Favorite book you read in 2016 from an author you’ve read previously? Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Best book you read in 2016 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure? This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016? The Fetch from Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling trilogy

Best 2016 debut you read? Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read last year? The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (read my review here)

Book cover for Why We Came To The City by Kristopher JansmaBook that made you cry or nearly cry in 2016? Shifter by Alma Alexander (read my review here) and Why We Came To The City by Kristopher Jansma (read my review here)

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read? The whimsy and nonsense in Heartless by Marissa Meyer were delightful – and so were the delicious food descriptions.

Hidden gem of the year? The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis

Book that crushed your soul? Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Book that made you the most mad? I wouldn’t say it made me mad, necessarily, but I lost patience with Gena Showalter’s Firstlife pretty quickly.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016? I participated in the Book Blogger Love-a-Thon this year and discovered a ton of great blogs, including Reader Rayna, Alexa Loves Books, and Book Scents. Tashapolis is another great blog I found outside of the Love-a-Thon.

Favorite review that you wrote in 2016? So, uh…I just looked at my stats and realized I only wrote nine reviews in 2016. (Oops. Gotta do better than that in 2017!) Of those nine, I’d say my favorite was of The Lonesome Young by Lucy Connors (read my review here).

Angela's photo with Pierce Brown and Morning StarBest event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? I got to meet Pierce Brown and it was amazing!!! My husband and I drove to New York last January for Brown’s Morning Star signing/Q&A session at Barnes & Noble. It was a surprisingly intimate gathering – not overly crowded – and was a fantastic experience.

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016? I started receiving solicitations for book reviews/promotions from major publishers in 2016, which was super exciting!

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life in 2016? I got promoted to Sr. Analyst at work in 2016, and as proud as I am of this accomplishment, it’s definitely required me to dig deeper professionally. The work is harder, the expectations are higher, and I’ve been putting more hours and energy into my job. This has made it really difficult to find an appropriate balance for work and my personal life, and my blogging has taken a hit. I’m hoping I’ll learn to juggle everything better as 2017 progresses.

Most popular post in 2016 on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)? My review of The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall (read my review here) was my most popular post, even though I wrote it in 2015. The most popular post that I wrote in 2016 was my review of Why We Came to the City (read my review here).

Post you wished got a little more love? I was really excited about my Valentine’s Day post on 10 Messy, Unconventional, Thought-Provoking Romances, but it didn’t get as many views as I expected/hoped.

Cold As Ice: A Snowmageddon Book ListBest discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? I’m actually quite proud of all the non-review posts I did in 2016! I tried really hard to be creative and original, and I came up with a lot of ideas that I thought were pretty good. Here are my top three:

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? I finally started watching the Outlander TV series on Starz, which is based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, and I am ADDICTED. I follow the actors on Twitter, have watched/read countless interviews, and started reading the books that inspired the show. I am ravenously awaiting Season 3, which should come out this year!

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? I participated in the Retelling Challenge hosted by Mel at The Daily Prophecy. I read nine retellings, not as many as I originally anticipated, but still not too shabby.

Looking Ahead

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer with sleeping coonhoundOne book you didn’t get to in 2016 but will be your number 1 priority in 2017? I received a review copy of David Dyer’s The Midnight Watch from St. Martin’s Press, but I haven’t finished reading it yet. It’s about the sinking of The Titanic, and it’s going to be my top priority this year.

Book you are most anticipating for 2017 (non-debut, non-sequel)? The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

2017 debut you are most anticipating? Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2017? The Gauntlet by Megan Shepherd

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2017? I’m way behind on writing reviews for ARCs that I received in 2016 and need to catch up. I’d also like to be able to dedicate more time to blogging in general.

2017 release you’ve already read and recommend to everyone? I haven’t started it yet, but I’m excited to read my ARC of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, which will be published in March 2017.

10 Fictional Relatives to Spend Thanksgiving With

10 Fictional Relatives to Spend Thanksgiving WithHappy Thanksgiving, everybody! For those of us living in the U.S., today’s the day we take time to reflect on the things we’re grateful for. This usually involves gathering together with our family members and gorging ourselves on turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole until we came barely move.

In my experience, the pleasantness of Thanksgiving has a lot to do with how you get along with your family. Given the amount of time you’ll likely be spending with them around the dinner table, the holiday can either be a lot of fun, or a lot of trouble. I’m blessed with great relatives, including awesome in-laws, but I’ve heard stories of holidays where drama, awkwardness, and family feuds reign. If you’re one of those folks whose family feasts leave something to be desired, don’t despair! I’ve put together a list of superior new relatives you can spend Thanksgiving with, at least in the pages of a book.

The Parents

Book cover for What You Left Behind by Jessica VerdiMom: As far as parents go, Ryden’s mother in What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is pretty fantastic. Ryden’s a teen dad who’s grieving for his late girlfriend and trying to raise a baby on his own, and his mom is the pillar of strength that keeps him together. She’s a strong woman who’s super loving and supportive, and even though she helps Ryden she also sets clear boundaries for what she will and won’t do so he learns to take responsibility for his own life. .

Book cover for Unspoken by Sarah Rees BrennanDad: Jon Glass, Kami’s dad in The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan, is my favorite fictional father. Jon is just your regular guy, but he bravely steps up to protect his family and defend his town when needed. Not only is Jon courageous, he’s absolutely hilarious as well. He’s got a ton of humorously snappy one-liners, and his banter with Kami and her friends is funny enough to make me giggle-snort.

The Siblings

Book cover for How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten MillerBrother: I always thought it’d be neat to have a cool older brother to alternately tease and look after me. If I had to choose the ultimate big bro, it would be Flick from Kristen Miller’s novel How to Lead a Life of Crime. At heart he’s a good guy, one who’s willing to stick his neck out to help people, but he’s also a big, tough hard-ass who has no problem beating the crap out of people if they deserve it. I’m pretty sure he’d be a lot of fun as a sibling, with the added benefit of being able to scare the hell out of bullies or douchey exes if need be.

Book cover for Bloody Jack by L. A. MeyerSister: As my all-time favorite literary heroine, Jacky Faber, from L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, is my obvious pick for fictional sister. No one knows how to have a good time like Jacky – she’s adventurous and daring, always making friends and getting into trouble. I can imagine her deflecting potential familial tension by performing one of her song-and-dance routines (probably on top of the table) or telling tales of her exploits at sea .

The Grandparents

Book cover for The One Thing by Marci Lyn CurtisGrandpa: Gramps from The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis is a marvelously grouchy, cantankerous, but ultimately loving grandfather, and I think he’d make a great addition to any Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, he’d probably grumble about “kids today” and make comments under his breath about the new cranberry sauce recipe your mother experimented with this year, but you’d know that underneath all the grouchiness, he still loves his family very much.

Book cover for A Long Way From Chicago by Richard PeckGrandma: Grandma Dowdel, from A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck, is tough, gruff, and not afraid to play tricks on people in order to get her way or teach someone a lesson. She stretches the truth, wields a shotgun…and is ultimately a big softie, though she’d never admit it. She’s always doing her best to help people, even if it means employing stealth and bending the law to do so. She’s definitely someone I’d want by my side on Thanksgiving.

The Extended Family

Book cover for The Trolls by Polly HorvathAunt: As a kid I loved reading The Trolls by Polly Horvath, mostly due to the character of Aunt Sally. Eccentric, magnanimous, and sporting a magnificent beehive hairdo, there’s never a dull moment when Aunt Sally’s around. She has a way of making of making the ordinary extraordinary, and best of all, she tells the most exceptional stories.

Book cover for The Princess Bride by William GoldmanUncle: We’ve all got that one uncle who has a little too much to drink at family gatherings and starts reminiscing about his glory days. What better than for that uncle to be Inigo Montoya from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride? I feel like he’d be a blast, recounting stories from the good old days to his nieces and nephews for the millionth time (“And then I said to the six-fingered man, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!’”) and knocking over lamps in the family room while re-enacting one of his epic sword fights.

Book cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. RowlingCousins: What family dinner wouldn’t be improved with two pranksters like Fred and George Weasley, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, as your cousins? Think of all the hilarity they could cause, slipping Fainting Fancies into the turkey, setting off Wildfire Whiz-Bangs during dessert, or releasing magical creatures into the dining room. Sure, the rest of the family might get a little peeved by their antics, but at least you’d know your holidays would never be dull.

There you have it – my hand-picked list of relatives to share Thanksgiving with! Which literary relatives do you wish you could invite over for the holidays? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale by Danielle E. Shipley

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale Book Cover The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale
Danielle E. Shipley

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

Review:

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Because I’m on a life-long quest to find and devour books about Robin Hood and his Merry Men, I was delighted to stumble upon The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale. A Renaissance Faire populated by living legends like King Arthur, Merlin, and the dashing Robin Hood? Count me in!

At the start of the story, newly orphaned minstrel Allyn-a-Dale is brought, rather unexpectedly, to the mystical Avalon. Avalon is a “place of magical renewal,” a refuge where legendary beings are kept alive and well by the magic of the fey. In order to keep the modern-day people who don’t live in Avalon (known as “Outsiders”) from discovering their secret, the legends hide in plain sight, operating Avalon as a Renaissance Faire and pretending to be actors portraying their real selves.

“While you’re in Avalon, you are employed by the Faire. Do room, board, and conditionally eternal youth sound like fair wages to you?”

Allyn is graciously permitted to join the Faire’s residents as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men. All goes smoothly until someone steals the magical artifact that concentrates the faeries’ power and keeps Avalon’s residents alive. Robin and his crew vow to recover the artifact, and they venture into the modern world in pursuit.

Legendary characters and modern ways of life clash in this book; in many ways, it’s quite jarring. For example, I found it disconcerting that the wizard Merlin owns a computer. Likewise, there’s something vaguely horrifying about hearing one of the Merry Men utter the words “chillax, you pedant,” or seeing Queen Guinevere “grooving along to the Rock Minstrel’s ‘Round Table Rhapsody’” while playing a Dance-Dance-Avalon video game.

That said, there are times when it’s amusing to see the Merry Men try to assimilate to contemporary culture. Will Scarlet, Robin’s cousin and fellow outlaw, is an Outside/pop culture enthusiast, and he serves as the Merry Men’s sometimes-bumbling-yet-always-energetic guide during the jaunt through the “real” world. There’s a great scene when the group is initiated into the mysteries of placing an order in a fast-food drive-through, and I enjoyed the irony of Robin shopping for clothes at Target. (Archery…targets…get it?) Best of all, though, is when Will tries to engage the Merry Men in a “traditional road-trip game,” at which time his companions totally fail to grasp the nuances of the Alphabet Name Game.

There’s a great deal of goofy humor in The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, some of it hitting its mark and some of it not. A few of the cheesier lines had me wincing, like when Merlin learns Allyn’s name and asks, “How do you spell that?” Allyn promptly supplies, “T,H,A,T,” which made me groan out loud.

“His gaze incredulous, Allyn whispered, ‘Do you really rob people?’
‘Unless you count the outrageous price of an ice cream cone around here, not so much nowadays,’ Will said, with a matter-of-fact shrug.”

My main complaint about this novel is that it’s simple and one-dimensional. While I found it to be a very pleasant book, I would have liked greater complexity and depth. It was much lighter and fluffier than I expected, and the characters’ lack of substance left me unsatisfied.

Ultimately, while I enjoyed adding this new Robin Hood story to my quiver (see what I did there?), the overall tone wasn’t exactly what I’d bargained for. I find I prefer more complex Robin Hood tales, with conflict and an edgy tone, to the light-hearted versions like this one. That said, The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale boasts a fun premise and great writing, so if you’ve an interest in merry outlaws, it’s still worth giving this book a shot.

And now, I’ll leave you with a few amusing quotes from the book:

“There’s a lot of overlap, I’ve found, between the truth and the impossible.”

*****

“…Merlin paused between the chairs of Gawain and Lancelot, turned to face those assembled, and announced, ‘Just so everybody knows, we are all thoroughly screwed.’”

*****

“‘Thank you,’ said Allyn, lovingly embracing his guitar-lute as a mother would her ugly baby.”

Back to School: Books for Every Subject

Back To School: Books for Every Subject

Labor Day has come and gone, which means it’s back-to-school time for kids in the United States! To celebrate the new school year, I’ve put together a list of books inspired by the various subjects studied in American schools. Load up your backpacks, pack those lunch boxes, and let’s get ready to read!

Math

Book cover for Flatland by Edwin A. AbbotBook cover for Little Brother by Cory DoctorowBook cover for Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot: Who would have guessed that a fictional tale of geometric shapes, written as a satire of Victorian society, could be entertaining? Certainly not me, but this little book, narrated by “A. Square,” is actually quite clever.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Little Brother is a computer nerd’s dream and a civic student’s nightmare. It’s about teen hackers using technology to protest governmental oppression, and it explains a ton of cool facts about information technology and the mathematics behind it.

Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School by Louis Sachar: I loved the wacky Wayside School stories as a kid, and this particular book is a lot of fun, even though I still can’t wrap my head around the majority of its quirky math puzzles. Here’s a typically goofy quote from the book: “Everyone take out your spelling books,” said Mrs. Jewls. “It’s time for arithmetic.”

Science

Book cover for Catalyst by Laurie Halse AndersonBook cover for Kissing Frogs by Alisha SevignyBook cover for The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson: I don’t remember a ton of details about the plot and characters in Catalyst – it’s been many years since I read it – but many of the science-y facts from the book fortunately stuck with me. In fact, I recall getting really excited in ninth-grade Chemistry because I got the question “What is a catalyst?” on an exam. The only reason I knew the answer was because of this book.

Kissing Frogs by Alisha Sevigny: When Jess Scott starts failing her high school Biology class, her only shot at saving her grade is extra credit – namely, spending her Spring Break in Panama with the school’s Conservation Club, working to protect an endangered species of frog. This novel is light and fun and shares the importance of ecosystems and conservation. (Read my review here.)

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett: Bennett’s book introduced me to a career I never knew existed: medical illustrator. (For some reason I thought medical journals just used photos nowadays.) The book’s protagonist, Bex, spends much of her time drawing careful diagrams of muscles, organs, bones, and more. It’s not a job that I could do – too squeamish – but it’s definitely a cool idea.

Literature

Book cover for The Fall by Bethany GriffinBook cover for For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundBook cover for This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

The Fall by Bethany Griffin: This novel-length retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” is deliciously Gothic and creepy. Griffin fleshes out the story and makes it, in my opinion, even better than the original. (Read my review here.)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: Persuasion has always been my least favorite of Jane Austen’s books, but this futuristic, quasi-dystopian reimagining brought the tale alive for me in a whole new way.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel: I’ve never read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but this prequel makes me want to do so quite badly. It introduces a teenage Viktor Frankenstein and shows him taking the first steps on his path to knowledge and power. (Read my review here.)

History

Book cover for Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear ShecterBook cover for Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse AndersonGone With The Wind

Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shectar: A love story set in Pompeii, this book includes great historical details about what life would have been like in the days leading up to the infamous eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson: This fictional account of a true event – a mass breakout of yellow fever in Philadelphia that left more than 5,000 dead – was the first plague book I ever read. It made me supremely grateful for modern medicine!

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Mitchell’s tale is a classic not only for its iconic characters and volatile romance, but also for its portrayal of the American Civil War and the profound transformation that war had on the Southern way of life.

Physical Education

Book cover for Whale Talk by Chris CrutcherBook cover for Winger by Andrew SmithBook cover for Summerland by Michael Chabon

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher: An unlikely group of outcasts form a swim team and confront racism, bullying, and injustice in this short but super-special novel.

Winger by Andrew Smith: Although Winger is about so much more than just sports (like first love, friendship, and tolerance, for example), rugby does play a big role in the story, as you might guess from the title. The school rugby team’s camaraderie and pranks are part of what makes this book so much fun to read. (Read my review here.)

Summerland by Michael Chabon: I don’t know much about baseball, but Summerland makes me wish I did. The great “American pastime” lies at the center of this magical tale, which is also full of adventure and faeries and a battle of good vs. evil.

Art

Book cover for David by Mary HoffmanBook cover for I'll GIve You the Sun by Jandy NelsonBook cover for From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler

David by Mary Hoffman: Hoffman’s book tells the fictional story of the man who supposedly modeled for Michelangelo’s statue of “David.” I love the insight it gives into the relationship between model and artist and the way it showcases the political climate of Italy at the time of the statue’s creation.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Twins Jude and Noah are best friends turned bitter rivals, bound by their shared love of art yet constantly striving to outdo one another in a bid for their mother’s attention. Art is the lifeblood of this story, from paintings to sketches to sculptures, and as a decidedly non-artistic person I really enjoyed seeing the world from an artist’s point of view.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg: In this story, two kids run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eleven-year-old me thought this was the coolest idea ever, and I still entertain fantasies of sleeping in Marie Antoinette’s bed, wandering through the Egyptian galleries, and diving for spare change in the fountains after hours like Claudia and Jamie in the book.

Music

Book cover for Just Listen by Sarah DessenderBook cover for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenBook cover for Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen: Music aficionados will find a kindred spirit in Owen, the music-obsessed love interest in Just Listen. Music is Owen’s life, and he’s constantly trying to induce Annabel, the book’s protagonist, to explore new musical genres: “Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen: Tyri is a teenage girl torn between her passion for music and her family’s expectations. Quinn is a run-away companion droid who yearns to be human and move people with his music. When the two musicians’ paths intersect at a prestigious orchestra, neither realizes just how big an impact they will have on each other’s lives and on the fight for robot autonomy. (Read my review here.)

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater: When it comes to literary bad boys, musician Cole St. Clair is one of my favorites. He’s one half of the romance in Sinner and the front man of the wildly popular band NARKOTIKA. Brilliant, troubled, and self-destructive, Cole strives to find an outlet for his love of music and performing without giving in to his addictive personality.

What books you would add to the lists for each school subject above? Let me know in the comments section!