Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom
Pub. Date: April 14, 2014
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Viking!)
Summary: Emmy is a shy, sheltered sixteen-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now, Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child. Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door.

In a part of the country where the age-old tensions of cowboys versus Indians still play out, theirs is the kind of magical, fraught love that can only survive with the passion and resilience of youth. Their story is mirrored by the generation before them, who fears that their mistakes are doomed to repeat themselves in Emmy and Reuben.
Genre: Adult, Fiction
Rating:

A few months ago I discussed imprints and I mentioned one of my go-to imprints (according to my ratings) is Viking. Steal the North is one of Viking’s latest releases and, once again, proves just how well that imprint knows me.

Steal the North is not a happy story by any means. Instead it’s a story of a family brought together by lies and tragedy and shows how they cope with the past and, ultimately, struggle to move on. Sixteen-year-old Emmy thought her only family was her mother. Her world shatters when she finds out that, not only is her father alive and well, but she also has an aunt and uncle living in Washington. Even more shocking is when Emmy’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer with her new-found family. Kate was just barely out of her teens when she became pregnant. Having been raised in a fundamentalist church, Kate’s pregnancy cast her out of the only thing she knew. Her father disowned her, the church disowned her, the boy she planned on marrying took off. In order to support herself and Emmy, Kate did unspeakable things and, when she couldn’t take it anymore, left Washington for California in order to start a new life. It’s been sixteen years since she last spoke to her sister and now her family needs her help.

When Kate left, Bethany lost a huge part of herself. Her older sister was her rock and the year she was able to spend with Emmy was the happiest she’d ever been. Since she was a child Bethany’s dream was to have children of her own, but she’s suffered miscarriage after miscarriage and realizes she has one more chance. While Matt can’t convince her to see a doctor, Bethany has started looking into alternative medicine – herbs, plants, but not to the extent that her fellow worshipers would become suspicious. The new pastor has agreed to do a healing and Bethany’s niece is needed for a vital role. Next door to the Millers lives a Native American family. Life on the reservation might provide them with family, but the trailer court holds far more stability and a life away from gangs and poverty. Theresa supports her kids as best as she can and her younger brother Reuben helps out whenever she needs him. The summer Emmy spends in Washington brings together two wildly different families and she discovers what it truly means to be home.

Steal the North is beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s emotional, raw, real. The story is set in the late ’90s and, in the easiest way to get to my heart, features numerous points of view. I don’t want to say Emmy is the standout character, though the story is very much about her. Bethany, Reuben, and Kate are every bit as important to the story and each chapter shows a side to the story that wasn’t there before. Bethany, with her homemade dresses and long hair. Kate’s bitterness and regret. Reuben’s desire to hold onto his Colville traditions. I was pleasantly surprised that even minor characters were given a chapter or two: Jamie, Emmy’s father, isn’t quite the deadbeat he’s originally made out to be. Spencer, Kate’s boyfriend, loves her and Emmy more than anything and is determined to become a family. Every single character, big or small, was beautifully written and felt like people I could easily pass on the street or stand behind in line at the grocery store.

Be warned, though: this isn’t a lazy day read. It’s not a novel to be devoured in an afternoon. I spent well over a week with this book and I feel that truly helped me get a real feel for the place and the characters that I would have missed had I raced through it. I also feel that my slow reading pace subconsciously mirrored the slow story-telling – and I don’t mean that in a bad way! Steal the North was not a novel that dragged its feet or one that bored me. Instead, it was a story that simply wasn’t ready to give up its secrets; instead I had to earn them and when I finally discovered the truth it hit me hard. My heart broke a hundred times over for these characters and while my life isn’t anything like theirs, by the end of the book I wanted to reach out to my family. That is the sign of good story-telling, ladies and gentlemen.

My only – only! – complaint about the novel has nothing to do with the story itself, but with the cover. Personally I find the cover stunning, but what you can’t see on the screen is that, because of the camera angle, there’s a clear view down the model’s dress. It would have been so easy to fix: a different angle, different lighting, a different dress.

It floors me that Steal the North is Bergstrom’s first novel. With a debut like this there’s no telling what the future holds – but I look forward to it! Steal the North was filled to the brim with emotion: heavy subjects like loss and race were handled with grace and the love coursing through these pages hit home. This is definitely a novel I’ll be talking about for a long, long time and certainly one I’ll be recommending to friends, family, and customers. Pick up a copy of this novel – trust me.

Notable Quotes

Matt claims I’ve never gotten over the loss of my sister. He says it might’ve been easier if Kate had died like our mother because then I wouldn’t be more betrayed every year that passes without her making contact. But Kate didn’t betray me. There’s more to her leaving than Matt knows.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the day I boarded a bus bound for California, I followed in the footsteps of the Donners and the Joads and the millions of others who have left their pasts behind to seek and, in my case, find redemption in the Golden State.

my week in pictures 4/13

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Nothing – nothing – beats a good dose of retail therapy! I went on a little Modcloth shopping spree and I’m absolutely over the moon with my purchases! Cute spring dresses (which I’ve already gotten a TON of compliments on!) and this fantastic bag. I’ve had my eye on this particular one for well over a year now and finally decided to go for it. The only hard part was trying to decide which color I wanted! I ended up choosing mustard and I love it. Also, see that Roald Dahl print? Yeah, this bag is a MONSTER. It’s enormous. I say when it comes to purses, go big or go home. :)

My oldest niece started softball practice and my goodness, what gorgeous weather we’ve been having! She also registered for Kindergarten this week and I’m not ready for this. SHE’S STILL A BABY. When did she become a Kindergartner??

I ordered a few books this week and they should be here shortly – I. Can’t. Wait! I received only one book this week, but it looks fab: Madam by Cari Lynn and Kellie Martin. Turn of the century, red-light districts, the Big Easy. I’m looking forward to this one!

There are also a few fun articles I’ve read this week that I wanted to share:
Pedestrianism used to be America’s favorite sport! In the late 1800s people would actually gather round and watch people walk. Haha! I’m a huge fan of NPR and this article made my day.

Champagne was considered a stimulant. And a lot of trainers — these guys had trainers — advised their pedestrians to drink a lot of champagne during the race. They thought that this would give them some kind of advantage. The problem was a lot of these guys would drink it by the bottle. That definitely was not a stimulant to say the least.

A royal correspondent tells of her childhood at Kensington Palace This was fascinating!

Paul Burrell, Diana’s infamous butler, and his family lived above us. Sir Miles Hunt-Davies, Private Secretary to Prince Philip, lived opposite, and next door was Jane, Lady Fellowes, Diana’s sister, and her husband Robert, Lord Fellowes, Private Secretary to The Queen. Factor in Diana, Princess Margaret, the Gloucesters and Kents, and you might call it a rather regal version of Melrose Place.

Color Photographs of Imperial Russia As a history fan AND an Imperial Russia fan I was immediately intrigued. These photos show a far different side to the glitz and glamour of palace life.

In Case You Missed It
After having so much fun with the art edition, I decided to make Get Your Fix a feature! Since the anniversary of the end of the Civil War was earlier this week, I decided to make a Civil War rec list! Looking for some Civil War-era historical fiction? Curious about some non-fiction? Look no further!

The Museum of Intangible Things surprised me. It wasn’t at all the happy-go-lucky road trip novel I expected! Instead it dealt with some extremely heavy topics like mental illness and alcoholism. 4/5

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
Pub. Date: April 10, 2014
Source: ARC via author (Thank you, Wendy!!)
Summary: Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Road trip!
Rating:

I equate summertime with road trips. The windows down, the music up, your best friends right beside you. Is there really anything better? When I first heard about The Museum of Intangible Things I knew I needed to read it: two down-and-out girls from New Jersey leave behind their less-than-stellar lives in search of something bigger, grander. Not only did I get that, I also got a surprising amount of emotion and heartache.

Hannah and Zoe have always been there for each other. When they were children they swore they would always protect one another and each girl has made good on her promise. Zoe has no father to speak of, while Hannah’s in struggling in his AA meetings. They sneak off to a nearby ‘rich kid’ school and hide in the attic to listen in on lessons; there’s no way their school could ever afford classes like this. Hannah’s only chance at a better life lies with her grades and what money she’s able to make from selling hot dogs on the beach.

Zoe’s younger brother suffers from a form of Asperger’s where he cannot form or understand emotion. In an attempt to teach him what each emotion is, Zoe builds large displays in their basement – her Museum of Intangible Things. Each display shows – and explains – a concept: proud, sad, disappointment. Spontaneous plans aren’t uncommon for Zoe and she announces a road trip, she wants to show Hannah there’s more to life than following the rules and getting good grades.

Off the bat I should mention this is NOT a happy-go-lucky road trip book. Nope. Not. At. All. The Museum of Intangible Things was a wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous friendship novel (seriously, their love for each other shone through. I wasn’t told they were best friends, I felt it, I saw it), but it was also a heartbreaking look at mental illness, alcoholism, and the hopelessness of being unable to help someone you love. I’m not going to lie – I teared up more than once. By the time I finally caught on to where the ending was headed I hoped I was wrong, that it wouldn’t go that route. ..and when it did? It felt like a punch in the gut.

When the book wasn’t breaking my heart, it was a ton of fun! At one point Zoe and Hannah sneak into an Ikea and stay overnight. While I went along with it (and secretly, I would love to do something like that!), later on in the story I had a harder time believing. Not once, but twice Zoe vanishes and twice Hannah is able to find her. No, the girls aren’t lost in a mall or anything like that. Zoe took off in Las Vegas. Las Vegas. Somehow Hannah was able to find her again without too much trouble. Later in the novel Zoe flees once more – this time to the Grand Canyon – and again Hannah was able to find her far too easily.

Discussing The Museum of Intangible Things is no easy task. I want to talk about THINGS, but those things are massive spoilers. Even Events Leading Up To THINGS could potentially ruin the entire story, so I’m left with extremely vague thoughts. Sorry, guys! If you want to know more, you’ll have to grab a copy of this one and find out for yourselves. Then come find me – I need to talk about this book!

Notable Quote

Who cares if we ever come back. Really, all those great songs about New Jersey were about getting the hell out of it.

Get Your Fix: American Civil War Edition!

You might remember a post I made last month, My Love Affair with the Art Novel, where I compiled a big list of books – some I’ve reviewed here, some I’ve had on my To Read list, and a few upcoming titles – that all dealt with one of my favorite topics: art in literature. I’d love to make this a semi-regular feature and today I’m in total Civil War mode.

If you know anything at all about me, you know I’m something of a Civil War buff. My studies focused on the War Between the States and on this day in 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant. The War was over – a perfect time for this post, don’t you think?

Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby (my review)
I’m usually not a big fan of paranormal stories, particularly one where a ghost is a love interest, but this one is from Scholastic and Scholastic has never let me down. A girl moves to Gettysburg – a town I love – and discovers the inn her parents bought still has a former resident. Nathaniel Pierce died a suspicious death and he wants Lori’s help in bringing the truth to light.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
Chiaverini has a number of Civil War-era novels to her name: The Spymistress and Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival being two others. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker focuses on, well, Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker – Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave. Lizzie was there when the Lincolns’ son died and when the country lost its president. She actually published a memoir, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, which ultimately resulted in Mary Todd Lincoln severing all ties with her. This novel, however, focuses on their friendship and Lizzie’s time spent at the White House.
I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
Hoo boy, this book. Both Cassie and Hannah loved it and that’s really all I need to know. Remember that weekend I culled my goodreads shelves? In an attempt to get a bit more organized I added a priority shelf. This book was one of the first to be added! A woman disguises herself as a Union soldier in an attempt to be with her husband. While this novel is fiction, the events behind it are very real: hundreds of women on BOTH sides went off to war.
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
This one is very similar to I Shall Be Near to You in that it too follows a wife as she dons a Union uniform. What sets this one apart, however, is that her husband stayed behind on their farm. Why did her husband stay? Why did she leave? Will be be coming home? This one drops the day after my birthday and you can bet I’ll be grabbing a copy when it does!
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Oliveira’s latest novel, I Always Loved You was the inspiration behind the art novel post. While I didn’t enjoy that book as much as I had hoped, I wasn’t yet ready to write her off and am curious about her debut. My Name is Mary Sutter tells the story of a woman who wants to become a surgeon and aid wounded troops.
The Civil War 1861-1865 series by Jeff and Michael Shaara
This series is a classic and, judging from the number of high school students asking for them, it’s one that has been added to a number of reading lists lately! Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels (without a doubt the most recognized of the three), and The Last Full Measure follow the events leading up to Gettysburg as well as the aftermath.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Another classic that I’m sure MANY of you had to read in school and, by far, the oldest novel in this list (it was written in 1895). The story follows a young boy who is initially excited to go off and but, but winds up being overcome with fear and flees.
March by Geraldine Brooks
Show of hands: how many of you read Little Women? March tells the story of the father who went off to war. I personally LOVE stories that aren’t quite retellings, but expand upon a work (Jo Baker’s Longbourn is another example).

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (my review)
While technically not a Civil War novel, the War does play quite a large part! I adore this book – so, SO fun – now I just need to get my butt in gear and finish the rest!
The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn
This novel immediately caught my eye the moment I first heard about it. A young doctor at a South Carolina hospital faces a dilemma when a gruesome past is uncovered – literally. Bones of a resurrectionist, a term given to those who had the means for obtaining corpses for anatomy training, have been unearthed. This novel features a dual narrative and you all know I love me some dual narratives!
The Healing by Jonathan Odell
First of all, look at that gorgeous cover! This novel is one I’d love to check out: on the day a slave gives birth, her mistress’s daughter dies. The mistress is convinced that baby holds some of her daughter’s spirit and adopts her into the family despite her husband’s protests. When a deadly sickness rages through the plantation, Granada is said to possess The Healing, and 75 years later, she’s still living in the house with long-buried memories.
Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
A plantation owner’s wife is put on trial and convicted of madness. Although she knows that 1) she’s thoroughly sane and 2) her husband is the true criminal, she agrees to go to an asylum in Florida. While there, she meets a Confederate soldier haunted by his memories. Iris knows she must escape and, in doing so, must find a way to bring Ambrose with her.
The Rebel Wife by Taylor M. Polites
A widow must find a way to support herself and her young son after her husband’s sudden death leaves her with nothing: social standing is gone, she has no money, she has no house, and the deadly sickness that took her husband is raging across Alabama.
When Will This Cruel War be Over? by Barry Denenberg
I lived and breathed Dear America books when I was in elementary school and was THRILLED when my youngest sister became interested in them. While it’s been years since I last read one, they’re still near and dear to my heart, and I’d love to revisit some of my favorites (Voyage on the Great Titanic, A Journey to the New World, and Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie).
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Civil War classic to end all classics.

NON-FICTION

I know not a lot of you are big non-fiction readers (espeiclaly when it comes to history!), so I’ve only included a few that I feel are fantastic places to start. If you’re interested in more non-fic recs, get in touch with me and I’d be more than happy to give you a big long list!
Manhunt by James L. Swanson
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you’re a fan of non-fiction, read it. If you’re a history buff, read it. If you like non-fic that reads just like a story (fans of Erik Larson, this one’s for you!), READ IT. This book starts with Lincoln’s assassination and explores the following twelve days when the entire country hunted the man responsible. Manhunt was my first audiobook and let me tell you, it was perfect. I was making a 10 hr. trip and the entire time we were silent, only speaking during CD changes – and even then it was ONLY ABOUT WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED. The book is fascinating and I never felt bogged down or overwhelmed with details. Bravo, Mr. Swanson!
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Really, anything by McPherson. He’s not one of the most highly regarded Civil War historians for nothing! This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Definitely a great starting point.
The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote
If you’re looking to learn more about the Civil War, look no further than Foote’s massive three-tome narrative. His books are a staple in any Civil War buff’s library. He has also appeared in the PBS series Ken Burns did on the war!
The Centennial History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton
Catton is the grandfather of Civil War historians. He’s the most prolific of the writers and, decades later, his works are still being read and studied. Whether you pick up one of his series or just a standalone, you’re in good hands.

my week in pictures 4/6

The weather started to break this past week and I couldn’t be happier! We’ve been cooped up inside the house for SO long now and it felt great getting out. Our first stop was to one of my mostest favoritest places on Earth: Soergel Orchards! There’s just so much to look at there: a wine shop, Amish furniture (and Amish-made donuts throughout the month!! a return trip is definitely in order!), locally-made cheese (I was in HEAVEN, people), gardening classes, organic food, I love it to pieces. The best part though? THE ANIMALS. If you know me then you know I’m a big fan of pigs. That gentlemen up there is Dudley and he is massive. That sassy sheep is Big Amos and he kept butting Lil Abner out of the way to get to our food first. There are goats, cows, donkeys, horses – unfortunately they were all still in the process of thawing out (seriously, we’re all still in the process of thawing out) and weren’t too social. Next time!

Okay first I need to apologize for that less-than-stellar picture. I was coming home from work and happened to see my town being TAKEN OVER BY A GIANT TENTACLE MONSTER. Once I calmed down I discovered it’s actually Wild Things, an art installation and the kick-off of a huge campaign to highlight all the classes and exhibits the center has to offer! This particular exhibit will run for two months and you can bet I’ll be visiting soon!

I already have an ARC of Michelle Gable’s A Paris Apartment, but received this beautiful finished copy in the mail! This book comes out later this month – check back for my review! (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)

I saw two books at work this week that I couldn’t pass up: Shatter Me and The Sugar Queen (this one was only $1!). Have you read either of them? What did you think??

In Case You Missed It
April kicked off with a recap of March and a goal check-in! Looking good on all fronts!

Gabrielle Zevin has a serious winner with The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. It was gorgeous, a heartfelt love letter to bookstores and books. ♥ Definitely check this one out and don’t be surprised if it makes a TON of Best Of 2014 lists. 4/5

The hits keep coming with YA Mysteries. Charles Benoit’s Cold Calls totally lived up to its hype: Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club with a little I Know What you did Last Summer sprinkled on top. So fun! 4/5

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

Cold Calls by Charles Benoit
Pub. Date: April 1, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (thank you, Clarion Books/HMH!)
Summary: Three high school students-Eric, Shelly, and Fatima-have one thing in common: “I know your secret.”

Each one is blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the stranger who threatens them-before time runs out and their shattering secrets are revealed . . .
Genre: YA, Thriller, Mystery
Rating:

Cold Calls is pitched as “Pretty Little Liars-meets-The Breakfast Club” and “for fans of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton.” I try to avoid giving in to comparisons, but I’m very pleased to say that, this time, Cold Calls lives up to the hype!

Recently, Eric has been getting very strange calls, no number shows up and the caller’s voice is disguised. At first he writes it off as a harmless prank, something that perhaps a freshman thought would be funny. After receiving a picture taken from inside his bedroom, Eric quickly realizes this isn’t just another prank. This caller isn’t messing around and unless Eric wants that picture made public – which he most definitely does NOT want – he better do everything the caller says. Eventually following these orders lands him in an anti-bullying program and it’s there he meets two girls who surprised him by confessing that they too have been receiving calls. Who is this caller and how does this person know their darkest secrets?

To say I breezed through this book wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Cold Calls is such a captivating and intriguing read that I tore through it in a matter of hours. The entire time I was trying to figure out two things: WHO was the person behind these calls and WHAT were the big secrets that these three didn’t want leaked? I won’t spoil anything, but – trust me, if I were in their shoes I would definitely do anything I had to in order to make sure everything remained private.

Although Cold Calls is initially told through Eric’s and Shelly’s eyes, it’s not until the anti-bullying program that Fatima is introduced and adds her own narrative. And you guys know me – I’m all about multiple narratives! The more the merrier! The more I saw of these kids, the more I felt for them. All three were scared and so ashamed. What really broke my heart was that they were worried for themselves, they were doing these things to avoid hurting others. If any of these secrets were exposed loved ones would be hurt and these three are going through hell to protect the person they love.

There was only one small issue I had with Cold Calls. All three felt as those they had no chance of getting any evidence on the caller. While I understand why they didn’t go to the police, if one of them (or even all three!) had simply recorded one of the phone calls they would have had all the evidence they needed. Law enforcement then could have stepped in, traced the calls, and caught the person behind it. But then that wouldn’t have made for a very good story, would it?

Cold Calls is the kind of story I love getting lost in. Prior to blogging I was a die-hard Mystery reader and love revisiting my roots. Mysteries of the Young Adult variety are still new to me, but as Cold Calls proves, they’re just as engaging. The entire time I was trying to figure out the identity of the caller and the motives behind the calls. I ended up behind completely wrong (and felt a tiny bit cheated with the Big Reveal), but overall I had a great time with this book! Face pace, highly entertaining plot, and a fun mystery to boot! If you’re looking to play detective for an afternoon, look no further than Cold Calls.