distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

Beyond the Buzz: Reading Recommendations from Wendy Darling (+Giveaway)

Beyond the Buzz: Reading Recommendations from Wendy Darling (+Giveaway)


Welcome to the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series, where I’m asking YA & kidlit librarians as well as book bloggers to share books they think deserve more attention. Read on to see what titles blogger Wendy Darling from The Midnight Garden wants to share with us today… 

Scroll down for an announcement of the giveaway winner!

Guest post by Wendy Darling

It’s easy to catch someone’s attention with a gorgeous cover, a bestseller stamp of approval, or a splashy marketing campaign. But some of the books I’ve loved best over the past few years have been hidden gems, so I was pleased when Nova invited me to write about books that I felt deserved to find a wider audience.

The following books, both YA and beyond, are ones that have surprised me and moved me in unexpected ways. They all feature young women at a crucial point in self-discovery, so they’re titles that I am constantly recommending to open-minded YA readers who want to try something a little different.

UltravioletUltraviolet by R. J. Anderson (Carolrhoda Lab)

What if you were locked in a mental institute because you were accused of murdering your classmate? That is where Alison Jeffries’ story begins, but the mystery behind her friend’s missing body takes you to unimaginable places as you get to know the remarkable heroine. Written in gorgeous prose, this book is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and might even remind you of beloved speculative authors such as Madeleine L’Engle.

a-certain-slant-of-light-book-coverA Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (Graphia)

Helen is a ghost who has inhabited different human bodies for over a hundred years. This unusual story is slow, sad, and involves questionable ethics that often makes it a fairly polarizing read. I love the originality of the concept and the keenness of the emotion, however, as well as the complex, literary style of the author’s writing.

the reapers are the angelsThe Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell (Holt Paperbacks)

In a post-apocalyptic world, survivors wander the earth in search of food…and doing their best to avoid zombies. The interesting thing is, this isn’t your typical genre thriller—it’s certainly gruesome in parts, with tricky dialect and violent imagery–but it’s also touched with unexpected beauty and deep feeling.

There’s a thrill of discovery that comes with every book that moves us as readers, but when the stars align for a book that hasn’t gotten as much attention, it’s especially satisfying to be able to share them with friends. Thanks so much to Nova for giving us the opportunity to spread the love!

Have you read and loved these books? Chime in and tell us what you think in the comments! 


One commenter on this post won a Hidden Gem!

a-certain-slant-of-light-book-coverthe reapers are the angelsUltraviolet 

Wendy hand-picked one lucky winner from the comments below, and the winner is…

Courtney Leigh!

Who said: 

As many have said, these all look like books I’d severely enjoy, but your description of A Certain Slant of Light snagged my attention above the other two. “This story…involves questionable ethics that often makes it a fairly polarizing read.”

I will read any and all YA, but the ones that tend to stick with me and force me to think about them long after I finish the last sentence are the ones where there is no hero or heroine. Where the main character makes bad, misguided, even cruel choices. I want to find out if they change or learn or regret. I want to know how they come to terms with themselves, if they ever do. I want to see all the inescapable repercussions.

But wait! Then you throw in a ghost and a “complex, literary style”? I am absolutely sold. Even if I don’t receive the giveaway, I will be purchasing this book. Thanks for all the recs!

Congrats, Courtney! You won a copy of A Certain Slant of Light! Thank you to Wendy for offering up the giveaway—and to everyone who entered!

Wendy Darling never stopped reading children’s and young adult books, and believes you shouldn’t either. If you’re a kindred spirit, please feel free to connect with her on her blog The Midnight Garden, GoodReads, Twitter, and Facebook.


Want more in the Beyond the (Latest) Buzz series?

Here are the posts in the series so far:

  • YA/middle-school librarian Jennifer Hubert Swan recommends Better Than Running at Night and Every Time a Rainbow Dies
  • YA librarian Kelly Jensen recommends a whole host of books including Sorta Like a Rock StarFirst Day on EarthFrost, and more
  • Youth services librarian Liz Burns recommends The President’s Daughter, Flora Segunda, and All Unquiet Things
  • YA librarian Angie Manfredi recommends Rats Saw God
  • YA librarian Abby Johnson recommends the top five books she read this year: The Berlin Boxing Club; Blizzard of Glass; Dogtag Summer; Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have; and A Girl Named Faithful Plum 
  • Book blogger Kari Olson from A Good Addiction recommends books including Freefall, I Swear, Like Mandarin, and more
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33 responses to “Beyond the Buzz: Reading Recommendations from Wendy Darling (+Giveaway)”

  1. Ultraviolet sounds very intriguing. What I like is that the narrator has to deal with uncertainty about herself and what others think of her, and she has to overcome a lot on a personal level to find out the true perpetrator behind her friend’s murder – and a lot depends on her doing so. Her self-worth, her reputation and knowing for certain nothing’s wrong with her mental state.

    Thank you:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  2. This takes me back! I read A Certain Slant of Light in college, and I remember really liking it. My memory is such that I don’t really remember it, but I would probably choose it, because I want to reread and check out the sequel. A noble enterprise, yes?

    Also, I just read Ultraviolet, finished it on Tuesday. It was…very much not what I was expecting. Very good, certainly, and I’ll be reading more, but it’s one of those things where I don’t think I’ll know how I feel about it until I finish the series. I’m not sure about that twist yet, and need to be convinced.

  3. I’m really interested in A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb since I saw that my cousin borrowed it in their library when she was in high school. Because the first time that I read the synopsis, I’ve never been more interested about ghost since then. There is something captivating within the protagonist. She seems so mysterious. And I’m very curious if anyone can see her.

  4. I do believe I read each and every one of these books because of recommendations from Wendy! (She always picks the good ones) A Certain Slant of Light was my most recent read and favorite out of the 3. 🙂

  5. Ahh, Ultraviolet! It has been on my TBR list for a really long time since I’ve seen many book bloggers rave about it, Wendy included of course.

    I still remember when I first read the synopsis, the fact that the protagonist supposedly killed someone and is locked up in a mental institute had me intrigued and wondering. Is she really insane? Or is this going down a more paranormal road?
    Not to mention that the cover looks pretty awesome and kickass too.

    Now that the sequel is out as well, I will definitely have to read this book ASAP ❤

  6. I had read Ultraviolet right after I saw that its one of Wendy Darling’s goodreads favorite book. And I couldn’t believe that I didnt read it sooner.
    Alison is an incredible narrator, and she took me on an amazing of self-discovery journey. I love how RJ Anderson described the world through the eyes of a synesthesia, and even though I have no any knowledge with such condition to rely for its accuracy, I found it a very beautiful to read.

  7. I’d love to read ULTRAVIOLET. It seems like something my students would really enjoy, but I’m also intrigued by the fact that you say it might remind readers of Madeleine L’Engle. I read (and reread) her books constantly in my youth, and even read every adult work of hers I could get my hands on in college.

  8. Oh wow, those books sounds absolutely amazing. I’m adding all of them to my to read list, so I’d be happy winning any. My love of post-apocalyptic fiction will probably make me choose The Reapers Are The Angels, though. Thanks for hosting an awesome giveaway!

  9. I’ve read a Certain Slant of Light…..and you are right this book needs more buzz. Also read Ultraviolet….and again it’s one of my favorites! So I guess that leaves The Reapers are the Angels? Would love to get my hands on this……=) Nice giveaway Wendy!

  10. They are all very intriguing but I have to say Ultraviolet is the one I’m most interested in. First saw it on Goodreads and the blurb was catchy: “Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her. ” <– O__O

    Lovely prose is definitely a plus and the fact that it comes recommended by Wendy, Maja, Blythe and several other reviewers I follow is reason enough to check it out.

  11. UltraViolet sounds amazing but the story scared me off.. The Reapers Are the Angels, on the other hand is more to my taste, I love books about the post-apocalyptic world and I can’t keep my hands away form books with zombies. That bit about it touched with unexpected beauty and deep feeling really intrigued me. Plus the cover is a killer!!

  12. My choice is definitely The Reapers Are the Angels. Yes all of them sound great, yes they are all officially on my Goodreads TBR shelf, but The Reapers are the Angels just sounds like my kind of read. I am such a sucker for zombies and post-apocalyptic novels and while this is very shallow, I love the cover.
    Catching blurb, Wendy’s stamp of approval, and a awesome cover. What more can I ask for?

  13. As many have said, these all look like books I’d severely enjoy, but your description of A Certain Slant of Light snagged my attention above the other two. “This story…involves questionable ethics that often makes it a fairly polarizing read.”

    I will read any and all YA, but the ones that tend to stick with me and force me to think about them long after I finish the last sentence are the ones where there is no hero or heroine. Where the main character makes bad, misguided, even cruel choices. I want to find out if they change or learn or regret. I want to know how they come to terms with themselves, if they ever do. I want to see all the inescapable repercussions.

    But wait! Then you throw in a ghost and a “complex, literary style”? I am absolutely sold. Even if I don’t receive the giveaway, I will be purchasing this book. Thanks for all the recs!

  14. I’d probably choose Ultraviolet! It sounds very exciting and I’m a sucker for gorgeous prose, so I think I’d really like it. All these books sound great, though!

  15. I think the Reapers are the Angels would be my pick. From what I’ve heard and read it’s a more thoughtful, psychological take on the zombie novel. Not just about the run-hide-terror-blood route others can take, but one that will make the reader think about human nature a bit more. I like my zombie books to be contemplative – like Courtney Summers’ outstanding This Is Not a Test.

    That, plus a blurb mentioning deep feeling and unexpected beauty? This seems like a novel that will be better than most in its genre; not willing to cash in on sheer gore or suspense factor.

  16. I have been meaning to read THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS forever but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I love zombie novels and films; I think you can say some really interesting things about society when you present it as a horror story.

  17. It’s so hard to pick just one of these books but if I had to choose, I’d pick Ultraviolet. One because of the cover, it’s so beautiful. Two because of the plot description, it sounds very intriguing. And three because it’s written in prose. I’ve only ever read a few books in prose before & I would love to add another to my list. Thanks for the giveaway!

  18. I’ve read A Certain Slant of Light and really enjoyed it! I don’t typically read/enjoy ghost stories. But I’ve heard WONDERFUL things about Ultraviolet. After Wendy’s recommendation, I’ll definitely have to check it out.

  19. A Certain Slant of Light sounds very interesting. It’s right up my alley. The premise is unique and it seems like a character book. Plus I love it when the book raises questionable ethics. I like my views to be challenged.

  20. wow! I looooved Ultraviolet (but I have my very own signed copy – seriously so stoked, RJ Anderson was at my local library this week giving a talk – I MET HER! Gahhhh!!!!) but I would most love to win a copy of The Reapers are the Angels -> one of my Goodreads friends recommended it to me forever ago and I have yet to track down a copy 🙂

    Thanks for the giveaway! xo leanna

  21. I would love the copy of The Reapers are the Angels. I love great imagery and anything that has to do with post-/apocalyptic theme. Many great trusted friends and GR friends have it as highly recommended and I’d be grateful to get my hands on a copy to see what all the fuss is about. Plus I love that these authors aren’t engaging in the marketing monstrosity, as I call it. Great books deserve to have some light shed upon them and I am glad that you guys are doing this.

    Good luck to everyone. And even if I don’t win, I will be ordering this book very soon.

  22. The Reapers Are The Angels sounds intriguing. I’ve read a fair amount of zombie books and have been successful in recommending them to my students. This novel sounds like a step up the reading ladder for those students. I’d like to read it, too!

    Thanks so much for the hidden gems. Love learning about lesser-known treasures!

  23. I’d love to have Ultraviolet. It’s been on my TBR list for I don’t know how long, and still didn’t get a chance to read it. I love the intriguing synopsis it gives to the reader. I think this book will make my mind go in a whirlwind and my emotions :))

  24. I’d love to read Ultraviolet! It’s been on my TBR list for a looong time, and my library won’t buy it.
    The premise sounds amazing, plus mention Madeleine L’Engle and I’m sold…
    Thank you for the giveaway!

  25. thank;s to Wendy;s recommendations. The books are definitely great and looking forward to read upon this year.i am much interested of the book entitled “A Certain Slant of Light”. by it’s Book title it would really make you wonder what lies ahead with the book.. and when I read the reviews at Goodreads, it made me decide to put it on my wishlist.

    Thank you very much for this awesome giveaway, Nova! I am looking forward also you for your upcoming book! Bless you more with more wonderful stories to share thru your hardbound books!

  26. Great choices- thanks to Wendy I’m adding them to my wishlist. The story of A certain slant of lights is really catchy for me. I’ve always loved these kind of ghost stories because they could be REAL , so mysterious&exciting to know the truth but frightening&scaring as well!
    Thank You!

  27. As someone who has struggled with depression all of my life, a story about a young woman who is facing possible mental illness or issues that caused her to murder a friend is intriguing to me. I’d love to read Ultraviolet, and I will definitely add it to my to be read pile.

  28. If I win (and I really hope so heehee), I’d choose Ultraviolet. First and foremost, the blurb was amazing and it’s impossible it won’t rope you into wanting to read it. What happened?!?! I love mysteries and coupled with the paranormal, I think this is just my cup of (tea) book. ❤ Thanks for the wonderful recommendations, Wendy! I haven't heard of these books and now they're all in my to-read shelf. 🙂

  29. This is a really tough choice. All three books sound amazing, and I want to read them all. But I think I’m most excited about The Reapers are the Angels. I’ve been on a bit of a zombie kick lately, and every review I’ve read about it has been so good.

  30. To be honest, I’ve never heard of either of these three books until five mintues ago. Now all three sit on my to be read shelf for different reasons, the most obvious being that I’m trying to read outside my usual small circle of books and what better way to do that than reading something like any of these?

    Out of all of them, I must admit that ‘Ultraviolet’ interestes me most by far. It seems that alot of books these days are going down a smiliar track, but from the little I’ve looked up (after reading this post) it seems to do the whole concept a bit better, a bit darker, a bit egdier. Which is refreshing. I’m a bit over the trope, i guess you’d call it, where in a character is thought to kill a friend mostly because I’ve seen it done in such a bad bad way, where the protagonist is portrayed one way to start the book, only to simple do a 180 where their actions don’t even match up. ANd yet, I think the fact that this one is set partly within a mental insituation is what really drew me to it. Part from something I haven’t read, theres just some appealing nature to the premise – which is then jump started by my family dynamics and past experiences. Thankyou for bringing these books to my attention.

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