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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book recommendations, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Can't wait to buy my copy of WHEREVER YOU GO by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler!

 

I recently had a chance to read the f&gs (which stands for "folded and gathered", an unbound galley) for WHEREVER YOU GO, a new picture book coming out from Little, Brown in April, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by my friend Eliza Wheeler.

LOVE THIS. When I read picture books for the first time (and second and third...) I usually read them out loud, and this one was so fun to read aloud with its rhythmical prose.

Young readers will appreciate the fun journey and look-more-closely-what-do-you-see gorgeous artwork. Adults will also appreciate the multi-layered interpretation of the prose. The following (especially when combined with the beautiful artwork on that spread) is just an example:

"Roads...remember.

Every life landmark, the big and the small.

The moments you tripped,

the times you stood tall."

*snif* (this wasn't the only page spread that made me teary-eyed)

You can read the STARRED review of Wherever You Go on Kirkus Reviews.

0 Comments on Can't wait to buy my copy of WHEREVER YOU GO by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler! as of 3/19/2015 1:46:00 PM
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2. Love List: Great Books to Read Aloud with Preschoolers Again and Again

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

When people find out that I have a love affair going with children's books, they often ask me: "So what's your favorite book at the moment?" or "What do you read to your children at bedtime?" or "What books do you recommend?" These are questions that parents and grandparents and nannies and teachers are always curious about - everybody seems to be looking for a new great book to read!


Today I'm sharing 10 great books to read aloud. I read these books often with my children, and these are books that we all love and can read again and again. Some of these books may be familiar to you, some may be unknown - but if you haven't read them aloud with your child yet, you should!



1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz

As a child I loved hearing this story, and as an adult I love to read it to my children even more. Everyone can relate to having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day". It's a great book to read aloud because Alexander's voice and attitude are expressed so clearly in the way Viorst writes that you can make the character "come alive" as you read it. And while I have seen this book criticized, I really couldn't love it any less, no matter what some say about Alexander being bratty and spoiled. It's a perfect book to open up a conversation with your child about having a day that's just not going his way.



2. Veggies with Wedgies by Todd H. Doodler


You might know author Todd H. Doodler from another underwear-themed tale, Bear in Underwear. This story about a bunch of veggies who happen upon a bunch of underpants hanging out to dry is....well, pretty funny. There are lots of veggie characters in this book and when I read it with my children, I give each one its own distinctive voice. I promise this book will make you and your kids chuckle, or at the very least smile. Veggies with Wedgies would be a great book to buy for a potty-training toddler or preschooler - it will not only get them excited about underwear, but will put some silliness into what can sometimes be a less than fun transition.




3. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein



In my humble opinion Shel Silverstein is a genius. I've read this collection of poems over and over and over again and never tire of it. My children can recite some of the poems by heart because many are short, and I'd imagine can keep the attention of even the busiest of toddlers. All of the poems in this collection are what I would call "whimsical". Some are touching. Some are just outright hysterical and goofy. Basically what I'm saying is that this book of poems has something for everyone. And, did you know that rhymes like these aid in your child's pre-reading skills by drawing his attention to the different sounds in spoken words? Yep, you should really pick up this book if have never read it, and your child's preschool teacher will thank you. Oh, and Silverstein's drawings are just as genius as his words.


4. Blue 2 by David A Carter


Blue 2 is really an art book to me. There aren't many words, but the words that Carter uses in this intelligently crafted pop-up book will give your child a lesson in vocabulary. I put this book on my "read aloud" love list because it's something fun to read and do with your child. If you ask my daughter what her favorite present was this past Christmas, she'll definitely respond, "Blue 2". Trust me, you will read this book over and over again - not always because you want to, but because you just HAVE to find all of those hidden Blue 2's!





5. Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo 



I do have to warn you that this book does contain potty humor, but the giggles I get from reading it make me happy. Brief Thief does have a very important lesson to be learned too: don't touch other people's things. My children just love to read this book over and over for a plain and simple reason: it's fun. And in my mind, if you can take a valuable lesson and make it fun to learn, it's a win win for all.







6. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts




This book gets one thing right with its title - this world needs more female engineers! I'm loving this book not only because it's inspiring to little minds, but it gives you a great feeling when you are done reading it. You can't help but feel like you did at least one thing "right" in the day by reading it with your child. 







7. Eric!...The Hero? by Chris Wormell



Ah, Eric! The boy that nobody believes in, and who seems to be good at nothing. I think we all can relate to feeling a little lost and misunderstood at times which is why I love this book. Wormell's story is about courage, finding yourself, and believing in your own abilities, even when no one else does. This book is especially great for kids who love monster books, and parents (like me) who love to teach important life lessons through books.





8. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson




My kids adore this book, and I do too because it's clever. The first time I read it I remember thinking - well, isn't that an adorable ending to a perfectly enjoyable book. The Gruffalo is fun to read aloud because you can really put a lot of expression into the character's voices, and even give the story an eerie feel in the way that you read it. In my opinion, this is one of those great children's books that you can cuddle under a blanket and read together....and anticipate exactly what's going to happen next. This book is truly a greatly told story.





9. The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer and Jake Parker




A story of a little girl who wouldn't brush her hair...and you know what happens to her? She has a little village of mice who take up residence in her over-tangled locks! There are many days that I think this book was written specifically about my daughter (she even has the same long brown hair). We love this story because it takes something that we struggle with on a daily basis and exaggerates it. I'm sure many families with little girls can relate. And of course, if you think a book was written for you and about you...you're going to want to read it aloud again and again like we do.




10. Tap to Play by Salina Yoon




A truly interactive book where you play a game as you read along! My 5-year old and 2-year old equally love reading this with me and the second we are through, ask to read it again. While Tap to Play reads like a traditional book, it feels like an iPad app with all of the fun, and none of the screen-time guilt (which I sometimes feel, anyway). I have no doubt this book will become one of your household favorites to read (and play) over and over, like it is ours.





So there you have it....my book love list (just in time for Valentine's Day). Of course, if you ask me in a week, I might have some new favs to add to the list, but as of right now these books get my votes and I'm sticking to it.

What are your favorite books to read aloud lately?


0 Comments on Love List: Great Books to Read Aloud with Preschoolers Again and Again as of 2/12/2015 3:37:00 PM
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3. Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror, plus advice for writers and illustrators

 

Just finished reading Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror by Chris Priestley, with wonderfully creepy illustrations by David Roberts. I've always been a fan of scary stories ever since I was little and I used to write a lot of scary, sinister short stories in grade school. My eighth grade teacher attended my I'M BORED book launch, which was a total (and wonderful) surprise, and apparently he was telling my husband about how many of the stories I wrote back then were very dark.

I don't read as much horror now but I do still love indulging in creating creepydark illustrations sometimes, just for the fun of it.

Speaking of illustrations, here's a fun interview on The Independent's children's book blog with illustrator David Roberts. Interesting that David says he doesn't think much about the age group when he's working on book illustrations. He says his work is more a response to the story. His tip for aspiring illustrators: "Don't be afraid of that vast expanse of white paper (or I guess these days you could say computer screen). Sometimes your mistakes can be good and you can always start again if you don’t like it."

Chris Priestly advises young writers to have at least a rough outline of their story. "Give yourself a decent start and plan where you are going. You don’t have to stick to it – but it will make your life easier and it will mean that you will be less likely to give up."

More info about Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror on the Bloomsbury website

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

0 Comments on Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror, plus advice for writers and illustrators as of 1/19/2015 8:27:00 AM
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4. Elle & Buddy – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

On January 1st, An Unconventional Librarian, an educational, book-loving blogger whom I follow, posted the following challenge, which I love and have been promoting over the inter-webs. I thought it would be fun to take the challenge myself and blog … Continue reading

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5. 2 Favorite Reads: One Classic, One New, & Links to Best Books of 2014


Today, in our last TeachingAuthors' post for 2014, I wrap up our series about our favorite reads of the year. In case you missed the earlier posts, Mary Ann kicked off the series by talking about a graphic novel she enjoyed, April shared a poetry title, Bobbi discussed a bounty of books, JoAnn shared not only favorite titles but also a description of her reading process, and Esther even included a couple of adult books on her list. After sharing my two favorites, I'll also provide links to several "Best of 2014" lists published by review journals. That should give you plenty of reading material to get through winter break!

This has been such a busy year that I probably wouldn't have read any books for pleasure if I wasn't a member of the "Not for Kids Only" (NFKO) Book Club sponsored by Anderson's Bookshop. Both my favorites of the year are books I read with the group.

My first is the classic, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, originally published in 1993 by Houghton Mifflin and winner of the 1994 Newbery medal.


Our NFKO group read the book in preparation for seeing The Giver movie together as a group. Most of us had read the novel before, as I had back in 1997. While re-reading it this August, I was surprised by how little I remembered. I recalled the ending clearly, because I’d reread it several times to try to understand it. I also recalled that Jonas’s eyes were different, and how he’d first seen the color of an apple. But other than that, it was like reading the novel for the first time.

After my first reading in 1997, this is the response I wrote in my book-reading journal:
"This book was extremely well-written.  The futuristic world seemed so real it was frightening. Jonas made a great hero: intelligent, sensitive and brave, yet still uncertain and with his own fears.  . . . I can see why it won the Newbery."     
I'm a much more critical reader now than in 1997, and I was even more impressed with the novel this time. I was so enthralled with the story and with Jonas's world that I went on to read the other three books in the Quartet: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. While they are all masterfully written, The Giver is still my favorite.

By the way, I didn't know what inspired Lois Lowry to originally write The Giver until I read this post on Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. If you're not familiar with this classic novel, or haven't read it recently, I suggest you pick it up, especially if you've seen the movie. While I enjoyed seeing the world of The Giver brought to life so brilliantly in the movie, there are several significant differences between the movie and the book. I'm not sure all the changes were for the better.

The other favorite I'd like to share is Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in 2013.


This middle-grade novel is a fun re-imagining of the Rumpelstiltskin tale in which the title character turns out to be the story's hero. Here's an excerpt from the School Library Journal review that sums it up well:
"All the elements of the original story are here--the greedy miller, the somewhat dimwitted daughter, and Rump's magical ability to spin straw into gold--but Shurtliff fleshes out the boy's backstory, developing an appealing hero who is coping with the curse of his magical skills while searching for his true name and destiny. This captivating fantasy has action, emotional depth, and lots of humor."
I identified with the main character--initially known only as "Rump"--right away because, like him, I hated my name as a child. I was the only "Carmela" in my K-8 elementary school and even in my high school. I disliked having such an unusual name and I despised the "nicknames" the other kids gave me. Eventually, though, I grew to love my name, as "Rump" does by the end of the novel.

I happened to read Rump while I was preparing to teach a summer writing camp for ages 11-14. I decided to use it as an example for our class discussion on choosing character names. After I read the first chapter to the students, several of them went out to borrow or buy their own copies of the book to read the rest of the story. I know of no better recommendation for a children's novel!  

And now, as promised, here are links to some of the review journal lists of "Best Books of 2014" for children and teens:
Don't forget, today is Poetry Friday. When you're done checking out all these great lists, be sure to head over to this week's roundup by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog.

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

Our blog posts will resume on Monday, January 5, 2015.
Until then, happy writing (and reading)!
Carmela

0 Comments on 2 Favorite Reads: One Classic, One New, & Links to Best Books of 2014 as of 12/23/2014 4:56:00 AM
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6. That Time of Year

Shopping at holiday time is not high on my list of favorite things to do. Unless it involves being in a book store. I’m always happy in a book store :) Chronicle Books has an annual challenge for people like me. #GiveBooks this holiday and they’ll donate books to a child in need through First […]

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7. 5 Tips for Researching a Novel & Cover Reveal!

Writing Life Banner

by

Meredith McCardle

The Eighth Guardian

I, Susan, am a huge time travel dork. Like, I grew up on a steady diet of both time travel fiction and just straight science time travel books, so when I say that The Eighth Guardian is one of the BEST time travel books out there, I think I’m pretty qualified to make that assertion. ;)

Now, imagine my ABSOLUTE delight when the author of The Eighth Guardian, Meredith McCardle, asked if she could do a guest post + cover reveal on Pub(lishing) Crawl? Cue FREAK OUT!

And as if that wasn’t awesome enough, Meredith and Amazon have been kind enough to donate a Kindle Paperwhite!!! So scroll down to enter that giveaway–and to check out the Blackout cover!

Now, onto Meredith’s guest post!

5 Tips for Researching Your Novel

1. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but it probably shouldn’t be your only source.

Wikipedia is great for the small things—like figuring out who the candidates were in a gubernatorial election in the 1870s. But for the really big stuff, definitely branch outside of Wikipedia. In BLACKOUT, one of the biggest missions that Iris goes on is to Washington during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wikipedia was great for giving me a basic timeline of the crisis—when the US discovered the missiles on Cuba, when President Kennedy addressed the nation, that sort of thing. But Wikipedia can’t give you a feel for how terrifying it must have been to be living on the eastern seaboard of the United States in October 1962. It won’t let you experience the protests that built outside of the White House every day. For that, you have to go deeper. These are some of my favorite sources for further research:

  • Museums and museum websites. There are museums for everything. Many times, you’ll find they maintain really excellent websites with a lot of information and videos readily available.
  • Books! Good ole’ fashioned history books, to be exact. I’ve made fast friends with my local librarians who are always willing to escort me to the right shelf or track down a book through inter-library loan if I need it.
  • There’s a reason 90% of my Netflix suggestions are documentaries.

2. YouTube is a godsend.

You really can learn to do just about anything on YouTube. It’s taught me how to pick a lock. It’s taught me how to defend myself against both a knife attack and a gun in my face. You can also find a lot of documentaries on YouTube that aren’t available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Google Image Search is also a godsend. Not quite sure what a civil war-era rifle looks like? Want to know what a well-heeled Colonial woman wore? Google images! (But brace yourself because you never quite know what you’re going to get. And do me a favor and never, ever, ever do an image search for gangrene. Trust me on that.)

 3. For settings, primary research is best, but it’s not a total necessity.

I set both THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN and BLACKOUT primarily in Boston because I know that city very well. I lived there for several years. But there are scenes in the books that take place in New York City, Washington D.C., and Vermont, places I’m far less familiar with. And as much as I would love to research all the places I mention in my books specifically, it’s not always logistically (or financially!) feasible. But I have friends who live in those places. I have Google Earth. I have access to all sorts of historic maps. As long as you spend the time researching the setting, you can skate by without buying a plane ticket.

 4. When is it time to stop researching?

Have you ever fallen down a research hole? I know I have. The Kennedy assassination plays a huge role in THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, and I’m sure you can imagine the sheer volume of information out there on it. I turned THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN in to my editor nearly two years ago, and had I attempted to read everything I could find on the assassination and all of its various conspiracy theories, there’d probably still be a stack of library books on my nightstand. And by probably, I mean definitely. So here’s a good rule of thumb that I learned from my days as a lawyer: When you’re running into the same information over and over again in different sources, you probably have a good enough base knowledge. Move on!

 5. Keep your notes.

You’ll need them when you revise. I am a huge fan of printing out every tiny little thing I find on the internet that might be useful. (I’m currently leaning over a full copy of the Geneva Convention in order to get to my keyboard). The papers will pile up on my desk, I’ll scribble notes directly on them, and then once I have a complete first draft, I punch holes in the papers and stick them in a three-ring binder. It’s kind of a pain to organize everything at once, but it makes life so much easier later on. And trust me, you’ll use them later!

Oh my gosh, having written historical with LOADS of research, I (Sooz) cannot emphasize #5 enough! I was so disorganized with all my research in book 1, and it made copyedits as well as sequel-writing a giant pain in the butt! So be organized and be fastidious!! Meredith’s right that it will make life easier later on.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for ;)–the cover for the second Anum Guard book, Blackout!

Blackout

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

A thrilling time-traveling adventure that spans from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the Cuban Missile Crisis and back to the present day, this pulse-pounding sequel to The Eighth Guardian reveals that playing with time can turn into a deadly game.

I have read Blackout, and I can honestly say it is just as good as The Eighth Guardian, if not more so. Meredith really takes the stakes up a notch, and aaah! SO much tension!! (I really love this series, if you can’t tell.)

So, if you’re interested in starting the series or reading an early copy of Blackout OR just getting a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite, be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meredith McCardleMeredith McCardle is a recovered lawyer who lives in South Florida with her husband and two young daughters. Like her main character, she has a fondness for strong coffee, comfortable pants, and jumping to the wrong conclusions. Unlike her main character, she cannot travel through time. Sadly. The first book in the Annum Guard series, THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN, was released in May of 2014 by Skyscape. The second title, BLACKOUT, releases January 13, 2015.  Learn more about Meredith on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

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8. Buy Books for Black Friday

Black Friday is at the end of the week. As writers I highly suggest we forget the newest gadgets and support other writers. Buy books! Give them as gifts. Buy them for yourself.

But BUY BOOKS!

If you need some suggestions, here are some great books that came out this year by my friends:

MIDDLE GRADE (ages 8-12):

Caroline PiratesThe Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: Terror in the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

More pirates, more magic, and more adventure in the second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series! Caroline Carlson brings the unceasing wit, humor, and fun of the first book in the series, Magic Marks the Spot, to this epic sequel. Fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society will love this quirky tween series and hope to join the VNHLP just like Hilary!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Greene heistJackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then  school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count. So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

YOUNG ADULT (ages 12-18):

Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Don't TouchStep on a crack, break your mother’s back,
Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before. When her parents split up, Don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite CaptiveFor fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy comes the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle, a modern fantasy-adventure trilogy about a gorgeous, fierce eighteen-year-old jinni who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Now in hiding on the dark caravan—the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command—she’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle. Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to release Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle . . . and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him.

Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

Don't Call Me BabyPerfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life. All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.

Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols

Now THat You're HereIn a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek. One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Don't YouStephen King meets Tuck Everlasting in this eerie, compulsively page-turning tale of a girl haunted by the loss of her sister—and trapped by the mysterious power that fuels her small town. Gardnerville seems like a paradise. But every four years, a strange madness compels the town’s teenagers to commit terrible crimes. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, led her classmates on a midnight death march into a watery grave. Now Piper is gone. And to get her back, Skylar must find a way to end Gardnerville’s murderous cycle. From Kate Karyus Quinn, author of Another Little Piece, comes a mesmerizing and suspenseful novel that will thrill fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Strange Sweet SongOutside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right. Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school’s production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary? Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

Divided We FallDanny Wright never thought he’d be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the Idaho National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the governor’s orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission … but then Danny’s gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

NEW ADULT (ages 17 – 25):

Black Moon by F. M. Sherrill and Becca Smith

Black MoonShea Harper is forced to stay in boring, hot and dry Phoenix, Arizona for college. But once she meets the enigmatic yet positively egocentric Lucian, Shea’s life changes forever. She finds out that she comes from a long line of descendants called Vessels. In her soul is the key to destroying an ancient prison protecting the world from darkness itself: Lucian’s father.

Up until now, Lucian has captured every descendant except Shea. With her powers awakening, all vampires want to drag her down to the pit. But Lucian is territorial. She’s the first female Vessel… and he’s convinced she belongs to him. Saucy and tauntingly surprising, Black Moon captures the struggle between burning desire or denying the heart. This is a love story that will drain you dry.

All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

All Lined UpNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights. In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past. But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated. Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

 Want More Book Suggestions? Check out the list I posted last year:


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9. Buy Books for Black Friday

Black Friday is at the end of the week. As writers I highly suggest we forget the newest gadgets and support other writers. Buy books! Give them as gifts. Buy them for yourself.

But BUY BOOKS!

If you need some suggestions, here are some great books that came out this year by my friends:

MIDDLE GRADE (ages 8-12):

Caroline PiratesThe Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2: Terror in the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

More pirates, more magic, and more adventure in the second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series! Caroline Carlson brings the unceasing wit, humor, and fun of the first book in the series, Magic Marks the Spot, to this epic sequel. Fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society will love this quirky tween series and hope to join the VNHLP just like Hilary!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Greene heistJackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then  school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count. So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

YOUNG ADULT (ages 12-18):

Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Don't TouchStep on a crack, break your mother’s back,
Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before. When her parents split up, Don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite CaptiveFor fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy comes the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle, a modern fantasy-adventure trilogy about a gorgeous, fierce eighteen-year-old jinni who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Now in hiding on the dark caravan—the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command—she’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle. Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to release Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle . . . and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him.

Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

Don't Call Me BabyPerfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, Don’t Call Me Baby is a sharply observed and charming story about mothers and daughters, best friends and first crushes, and our online selves and the truth you can only see in real life. All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on that blog.

Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. The thing is, Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her. In gruesome detail. When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online . . . until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to define herself for the first time.

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols

Now THat You're HereIn a parallel universe, the classic bad boy falls for the class science geek. One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body–his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee–a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom–may be his only hope of getting home.

Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Don't YouStephen King meets Tuck Everlasting in this eerie, compulsively page-turning tale of a girl haunted by the loss of her sister—and trapped by the mysterious power that fuels her small town. Gardnerville seems like a paradise. But every four years, a strange madness compels the town’s teenagers to commit terrible crimes. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, led her classmates on a midnight death march into a watery grave. Now Piper is gone. And to get her back, Skylar must find a way to end Gardnerville’s murderous cycle. From Kate Karyus Quinn, author of Another Little Piece, comes a mesmerizing and suspenseful novel that will thrill fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys and Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Strange Sweet SongOutside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right. Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school’s production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary? Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

Divided We FallDanny Wright never thought he’d be the man to bring down the United States of America. In fact, he enlisted in the Idaho National Guard because he wanted to serve his country the way his father did. When the Guard is called up on the governor’s orders to police a protest in Boise, it seems like a routine crowd-control mission … but then Danny’s gun misfires, spooking the other soldiers and the already fractious crowd, and by the time the smoke clears, twelve people are dead.

NEW ADULT (ages 17 – 25):

Black Moon by F. M. Sherrill and Becca Smith

Black MoonShea Harper is forced to stay in boring, hot and dry Phoenix, Arizona for college. But once she meets the enigmatic yet positively egocentric Lucian, Shea’s life changes forever. She finds out that she comes from a long line of descendants called Vessels. In her soul is the key to destroying an ancient prison protecting the world from darkness itself: Lucian’s father.

Up until now, Lucian has captured every descendant except Shea. With her powers awakening, all vampires want to drag her down to the pit. But Lucian is territorial. She’s the first female Vessel… and he’s convinced she belongs to him. Saucy and tauntingly surprising, Black Moon captures the struggle between burning desire or denying the heart. This is a love story that will drain you dry.

All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

All Lined UpNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights. In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past. But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated. Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

 Want More Book Suggestions? Check out the list I posted last year:


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10. Nine Halloween Reading Recommendations!

Book Recommendation banner

by Team PubCrawl

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, READERS! Some of the members of Team PubCrawl wanted to share our recent Halloween-esque favorites! I hope you’ll let us know what spooky reads you’ve discovered recently in the comments section.

ADAM SILVERA: Rooms by Lauren Oliver breathes new life into ghost stories. There’s an ensemble cast, and my favorite narrators were Alice and Sandra, two ghosts inhabiting the walls of this old house. There are family secrets, the sudden appearance of a new ghost, stunning prose, surprising humanity from the ghosts, and a glowing ending. It’s not a tale of vengeance or a typical journey toward redemption, but it’s definitely a unique kind of ghost story you should check out.

ERIN BOWMAN: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Tucholke, which just came out in August! It’s the sequel to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and both are incredibly creepy, haunting and atmospheric. Perfect Halloween reads for anyone craving a little gothic horror.

SUSAN DENNARD: So…I might have devoured the entire Fever series by Karen Marie Moning recently. What with the brooding dudes, terrifying monsters like you can’t (and don’t want to) imagine, and the whole plot revolving around Samhain (a.k.a. Halloween), I cannot imagine a more atmospheric (and smexy!) read for Halloween.

JULIE ESHBAUGH: I recommend Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly trilogy for Halloween season! The series is set in a fantastic, alternate-history world with a thrilling gothic feel. I loved traveling from nineteenth-century Philadelphia to Paris to Egypt with the amazing Eleanor as she battled an evil necromancer (all with romance thrown in, of course!).

JORDAN HAMESSLEY: I recommend the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine edited by Ellen Datlow featuring great horror short fiction and non-fiction discussing women in the genre. It’s totally badass.

S. JAE-JONES: I recommend Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan, the final book in the Lynburn Legacy trilogy. A spin on gothic tropes, it has a mixed-race Japanese heroine in a picturesque English town. The town, of course, has dark, dark secrets. Oh, and invest in some Kleenex stock because SARAH REES BRENNAN WILL WILL OUT YOUR HEART AND EAT IT. She thrives on the tears of her readers, like a YA Erzebet Bathory.
KAT ZHANG: I just finished The Madman’s Daughter, and it’s definitely Halloween creepy!
JANICE HARDY: Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson! Very creepy, wonderful demon-gothic setting in a post-Katrina-esque hurricane devastated Savannah. Demons cause natural disasters and steal people’s souls :) Fun! Good scary book for Halloween.
JOANNA VOLPE: The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham. This middle grade book was a little slow to start, but it definitely got super creepy and it’s stuck with me. It’s about a giant sycamore tree that is sapping the life of boys it’s lured into its roots over the past 80 years. It keeps them just alive enough to continue feeding on them. TOTALLY CREEPY.
Hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween! Let us know what spooky books you’re reading!

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11. June Books of the Month

writing_prompt_book_recommendation

It’s Books of the Month time again!

By now, you all know the drill. It’s the end of June. Obviously, that means it’s time for the most exciting (okay, okay, I’m biased) post of the month . . . BOOKS OF THE MONTH!!! I feel like this post should be celebrated with an ice cream cake and confetti every month. I know I’m not the only person who gets really happy every time this post goes up, though! Last month you guys really came out in support of your favorite books. There were so many!share what books you were reading.

Then we made a word cloud to show which titles were most popular. I think it’s pretty obvious which series the people of the STACKS are loving this month: Percy Jackson!

June Books of the Month

Let’s keep this going! What books are you reading now? What books do you love and recommend? Leave the title (or titles!) in the Comments section below. I’m about to dive headfirst into Kingdom Keepers now, and I can’t wait to see which new series pop up next time around!

See ya later,

image from kids.scholastic.com — En-Szu, STACKS Staffer

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12. Who Can Recommend a Good Book?

by Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

Julie

I’m fascinated by lists of “recommended reading” - not only do such lists help us discover great books, but they also reveal quite a bit about the person who created the list. (For example, someone over at LibraryThing.com has cataloged the contents of Marilyn Monroe’s personal library. Reading through the list reveals a lot about the private interests of such a public person.)

Recently, while searching for lists of “favorite books” or “recommended reading,” I stumbled upon a very cool site - OpenCulture.com. Clearly, someone there enjoys reading lists as much as I do, because the site includes a fantastic sidebar titled “Reading Lists by…” Here you can find reading lists compiled by some well-known and fascinating people.

Reading over the lists, I noticed, with regret, a lack of diversity among the recommended books. Other than that common problem, however, I was surprised by how little overlap the lists contained. Below is a sampling of a few lists I found interesting. Others included on OpenCulture.com are by F Scott Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg, Christopher Hitchens, Joseph Brodsky, WH Auden, Donald Barthelme, and Carl Sagan.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

ndgt

In an “ask me anything” feature on Reddit.com, popular astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked, “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” The following list, along with short explanations of each choice, was his response:

1.) The Bible - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine  – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli - “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

Tyson clarified that he chose these books because, “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

David Bowie

david-bowie

In 2013, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London created an exhibition called “David Bowie is…” The exhibition, a retrospective of Bowie’s career and influence on the arts, is currently touring internationally, and includes a list of Bowie’s 100 favorite books. Here’s the (long) list (clearly influenced by his love of music):

The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 2007

The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007

Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002

The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997

The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996

Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995

The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994

Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993

Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C. Danto, 1992

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990

David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986

Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985

Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984

Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984

Money, Martin Amis, 1984

White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984

Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984

The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980

Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980

Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980

Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980

Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91

Viz (magazine) 1979 –

The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979

Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978

In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978

Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976

Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders, 1975

Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975

Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974

Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich, 1972

In Bluebeard’s Castle : Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner, 1971

Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971

The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970

The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967

Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr. , 1966

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965

City of Night, John Rechy, 1965

Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964

Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963

The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962

Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961

Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –

On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding, 1961

Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961

Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961

The Divided Self, R. D. Laing, 1960

All The Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd,1960

Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959

The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958

On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957

Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957

A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956

The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949

The Street, Ann Petry, 1946

Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945

Ernest Hemingway

ErnestHemingwayAn aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson traveled to Key West in 1934 and knocked on Ernest Hemingway’s front door, seeking writing advice. During their conversation the following day, Hemingway asked Samuelson if he’d ever read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. When he said he hadn’t, Hemingway offered to write out a list of books he felt the aspiring writer ought to read. The list includes two short stories by Stephen Crane and 14 books:

“The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Dubliners by James Joyce

The Red and the Black by Stendhal

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

Hail and Farewell by George Moore

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Oxford Book of English Verse

The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson

The American by Henry James

And lastly, for those of you who believe that the task of comparing one book to another is too subjective, here’s a brilliant quote from Virginia Woolf, from her 1925 essay, “How Should One Read a Book” :

VirginiaWoolf“The only advice … that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at the liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions — there we have none.”

 

So what do you think? Do you enjoy book recommendations and lists of “Best Books”? Do you find any merit in the above lists? Do you agree with Virginia Woolf that we should not “admit authorities” to tell us “what to read”? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

 ~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is represented by Adams Literary. You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Virginia Woolf

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13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at fifty



Happy fiftieth birthday to Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was originally published in 1964. To celebrate, Penguin has a new paperback edition plus a golden ticket sweepstakes.

It's hard to imagine a book that was more influential for me than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all of Roald Dahl's books for that matter, which were so powerful with their combination of humor, heart, but with a very sinister underpinning that perfectly captures what it's like to be 10-12 years old. The world at the age is amazing and funny and wondrous, but also a little scary.

Happy birthday to one of the greatest children's books of all time. While many people's memories of the book are shaped by the equally indelible film version Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (and to a lesser extent the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version), some of us remember that Veruca Salt wanted a squirrel and not a golden goose, Mike Teavee was overly stretched to ten feet tall, and a vermicious knid is an alien, not a dangerous creature on Loopaland.

What's your memory of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

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14. Starting to blog about children's books I read, #BookADay, and why I DON'T do formal book reviews (so please don't ask)

As some of you already know, I've been participating in Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge and having great fun with it; you can see my posts so far here and all my #BookADay collages on Flickr.

I've decided to keep posting about the children's and YA books I read (and re-read) this way, even if I'm unable to do it every day. But now I'm torn; I'm not really adhering to the rules of the official #BookADay challenge...although I AM reading/rereading an average of a picture book a day, I don't always post about it. I mentioned on FB that I'm pulling back a wee bit from online distractions so I can get more writing done.

I enjoy the process of putting together these mini book-collages, however, especially for favourites I'm re-reading, because it gives me an excuse to delve more into the background of the book as well as finding out more about the author and illustrator. I also love hearing from people who say my post has prompted them to check out the books, or are reminded of a book they need to reread or share with their students.

Because I'm not strictly following the #BookADay rules, however, I'm going to change the footer of these images from now on...else I'll feel like a #BookADay cheater!

Please note that these are not meant to be formal book reviews. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I just like reading books written for young people, and sometimes I am going to blog about them. I want to make this clear because I strongly prefer NOT being contacted about reviewing books. Reading a book for review or critique vastly changes the reading experience for me, and I am already finding it a challenge to carve out time for pleasure reading.

I avoid posting negative comments about books I read. My posts do not criticize the books and are not meant to be objective reviews. If I truly dislike a book, I just won't post about it*. Chances are good I just didn't finish it. I would much rather spend that time and energy talking about books I do like. There is enough snark and negativity in reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I have also seen how a single, hate-filled anonymous review can affect a hardworking author. Yes, we need to develop thick skins as authors, but no one deserves some of the personal attacks I've seen on those sites.

Note that I consider the above reviews very different from thoughtful and well-balanced critical reviews by those who have no hidden agenda.

I tend to agree with Hallie Sawyer, who makes a distinction between book reviews and book recommendations. In addition to highlighting some of the books I've been reading and re-reading, one of my goals has also been to let others know (especially teachers and librarians) about books they may not be aware of, or have not yet had time to read themselves.

Why am I going on and on about NOT being a book reviewer? Because in the past, when I have done informal so-called book reviews, I've been inundated with publicists and authors who want me to review books. They want to send me books. If I don't respond right away, they follow up with multiple emails.

I need to clarify a few points:

I am not short on books to read.

I am short on time to read.

I would much rather pay money to buy a book I'm 90% sure I'll enjoy than get a free book that only vaguely interests me at the outset.

Okay, enough on that topic.  

Thanks again to Donalyn Miller, whose Book-A-Day Challenge inspired me to start doing these book mini-collages, and who has been inspiring countless others to do more summer reading!

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*Note: If I haven't posted about your book and you know I own it, please DON'T assume I disliked it. I may not have read it or finished reading it, may have finished and enjoyed it but not yet had time to post about it, or it may simply be one of the many books I've read and enjoyed in the past but never posted about. 

 

 

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15. Just finished reading RULES by Cynthia Lord

Thanks to my sister for recommending this book to me. SUCH a good story. What made the book for me: the main character, Catherine. She is entirely believable, funny and flawed, and I fell in love with her right away. HIGHLY recommended.

Here's a great interview with Cynthia Lord about Rules on Cynsations, where she talks about having a son with autism and how she wanted to explore the unique dynamics that exist in a family that has a child with severe special needs. Rules was her first published book!

You can find out more about Cynthia at her website:  http://cynthialord.com/rules.html

I recently bought her newest book, HALF A CHANCE, and can't wait to read it!

More about the book on the Scholastic website: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/bookwizard/books-by/cynthia-lord

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My #BookADay and "Books I've Read" archives at http://inkygirl.com/bookaday/

 

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16. A back-to-school reading list of classic literature

With carefree summer winding to a close, we’ve pulled together some reading recommendations to put you in a studious mood. Check out these Oxford World’s Classics suggestions to get ready for another season of books and papers. Even if you’re no longer a student, there’s something on this list for every literary enthusiast.

Timon of Athens

If you liked Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, you should read Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare. Like Miller’s Willy Loman, Timon does not enjoy an especially happy life, although from the outside it seems as though he should. Timon once had a good thing going, but creates his own misery after lavishing his considerable wealth on friends. He eventually grows to despise humanity and the play follows his slow demise.

If you liked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, you should read The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois. Many argue that each of these texts should be required reading in all American schools. The Souls of Black Folk sheds light on a dark and shameful chapter of history, and of the achievements, triumphs, and continued struggles of African Americans against various obstacles in post-slavery society.

The IliadIf you liked Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, you should read The Iliad by Homer. Written 2,700 years ago, The Iliad may just be the original anti-war novel, paving the way for books like Slaughterhouse-Five. Illustrating in poetic form the brutality of war and the many types of conflict that often lead to it, the periodic glimpses of peace and beauty that punctuate the story only serve to bathe the painful realities of battle in an even starker light.

If you liked The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, you should read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This 19th century Victorian novel explores the survival of good, utilizing England’s workhouse system and an orphaned boy as vehicles to navigate its themes. Dickens was considered the most talented among his contemporaries at employing suspense and violence as literary motifs. The result was a classic work of literature that continues to be a favorite for many.

The Scarlet LetterIf you liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood you should read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If strong female protagonists are your thing you will probably enjoy Hester Prynne, who endures public scorn after bearing a child out of wedlock, and faces a punishment of wearing a red “A” to designate her offense. Despite the severe sentence, Hester maintains her faith and personal dignity, all while continuing to support herself and her baby—not an easy feat in a 17th century puritan community.

If you liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you should read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. A colorful and eclectic assortment of characters make the best of a long and arduous pilgrimage by entertaining each other with tall tales of every genre from comedy to romance to adventure. If you enjoy certain aspects of Garcia Marquez’s writing, namely the fantasy elements and large cast of characters in One Hundred Years, you will probably appreciate those same characteristics in this novel, which was written 600 years ago and is still admired today.

My AntoniaIf you liked The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, you should read My Antonia by Willa Cather. A similar tale of survival in a harsh new land, My Antonia provides the context for a romance between two mufti-dimensional characters. Cather offers readers a glimpse into settler life in the nascent stages of American history, with vivid landscape descriptions and universal themes of companionship and family as added bonuses.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf

If you liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, you should read The Trial by Franz Kafka. Psychological thrillers don’t get much better than The Trial, a book that incorporates various themes including guilt, responsibility, and power. Josef K. awakens one morning to find himself under arrest for a crime that is never explained to him (or to the reader). As he stands trial, Josef gradually crumbles under the psychological pressure and begins to doubt his own morality and innocence, showing how Kafka used ambiguity brilliantly as a device to create suspense.

Featured image: Timeless books by Lin Kristensen. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post A back-to-school reading list of classic literature appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. Book Recommendation: Jeff VanderMeer’s WONDERBOOK

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from

Susan Dennard

WonderbookI’m a HUGE fan of books on writing. Like, I probably have an addiction and I know my husband would be REALLY happy if I’d throw out some of these gazillion craft books hogging up the basement…

Recently and sort of on a whim, I picked up Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. I am so, so, SO glad I did. Seriously guys, this is my new favorite book on writing craft. Not only does this book give beginners everything they need to know to start crafting stories, but it’s an incredibly helpful book for experienced writers too.

Here’s the trailer:

Not only does VanderMeer introduce some awesome concepts and prose possibilities that I’d never considered before, but he also shares tons of essays from other authors on how THEY do things.

Then there’s all the art to go along with it!! A few of the crazy diagrams left my Muse spinning in the best possible way. Like this Hero’s Journey as depicted with a Mexican Luchador:

Mexican-Wrestler-Mono-myth-VanderMeer-Zerfoss-Wonderbook-2013

On top of all the graphics, there’s an interactive website to go along with the text. SO. MUCH. INFORMATION. It took me weeks to get through this book, and I enjoyed/savored every sentence.

So watch the trailer below, read an excerpt or the web extras, and maybe pick a copy of your own. I promise: all artists can gain something from this fantastic guide.

Jeff VanderMeer is the author of more than 20 books and a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award. His books have made the year’s-best lists of Publishers Weekly, LA Weekly, the Washington Post, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many more. He is the cofounder and codirector of Shared Worlds, a unique writing camp for teenagers, and has taught at Clarion, the world’s premiere fantasy/sci-fi workshop for adults. VanderMeer is based in Tallahassee, Florida.

SusanDennardBefore she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series (Tor, 2015), and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or practicing her tap dance shuffles. You can learn more about Susan on her blogTwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

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18. Back-to-School Reading Recs

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by

Erin Bowman

It’s September and the school buses are again making the rounds. In honor of back-to-school, us Pub Crawlers have been chatting about some of our favorite required reading from high school. (And also some of our least favorites). I’ll kick things off…

Erin Bowman
Favorite: A Separate Peace by John Knowles and The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, both read in 10th grade when I had an amazing teacher. I remember connecting with these characters because they felt so distinctly teen, and I loved that.
Least Favorite: The Red Pony. I could not stand this novel. I don’t even remember why. I had a grudge against Steinbeck until Grapes of Wrath won me over in 11th grade.
– Erin Bowman

adamfaceauthor
Favorite: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Seriously the only book all the Juniors read beyond where we were asked to. 
Least Favorite: Ulysses by James Joyce because, come on, who had time to read that when I was busy writing Harry Potter fan-fiction when I was home?
– Adam Silvera

Kat Zhang
Favorite: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. The language in this book is gorgeous!
Least Favorite: Hmmm, probably A Light in August? I just wasn’t a fan of Faulkner…
– Kat Zhang

SusanDennard
Favorite: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I have no idea why, but I was obsessed with that book.
Least Favorite: My Antonia by Willa Cather. I didn’t even finish this, I’m ashamed to admit. I got, like, three chapters in, decided it was too dreadful to continue, and SparkNoted the rest.
– Susan Dennard

JJ
Favorite: Probably Jane Eyre or Pride & Prejudice. Because I am predictable like that. Jane Eyre pretty much cemented my love of the gothic novel, but I really appreciated the way my teacher taught us the book, which was pretty much about sex. Passionate sex, romantic sex. In other words, FEELINGS. I loved Pride & Prejudice because I thought it was funny. Austen is extremely wry and she writes about ridiculous people that just SKEWERS their ridiculousness. (Although unlike Bronte, she doesn’t do earnest feelings nearly as well.) Other books I loved were Beloved (Morrison) and The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald).
Least Favorite: Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I tried, Thomas Hardy, but I just can’t get into you.
– S. Jae-Jones (JJ)

amie165c-twitter
Favorite: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig. This was a memoir about a Polish girl exiled to Siberia during WWII, and at thirteen, it was a revelation to me.
Least Favorite: Far From The Madding Crowd. Like JJ, I just couldn’t get into Thomas Hardy. I faked my book report on this one. Still not sure if my teacher knew or not…
– Amie Kaufman

EC Myers
Favorite: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Least Favorite: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
– E.C. Myers

Joanna Volpe
Favorite: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Least Favorite: My Antonia by Willa Cather
– Jo Volpe

Julie
Favorite: A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Least Favorite: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
– Julie Eshbaugh
(note from Erin: Julie and I are book twins, yay!)

Rachel Paint
Favorite: Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, which is still one of the best novels about the cultural divide between immigrant mothers & their daughters that I’ve ever encountered.
Least Favorite: The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I didn’t find anything likeable or interesting about the characters or the story, and I was assigned the book 4 times between grade 9 and second year university!
– Rachel Seigel

Jodi Meadows
Favorite: I also liked A Separate Peace.
Least Favorite: I’m pretty sure I didn’t care for the rest of the books assigned in school, but that’s all overshadowed by the amazing books I picked out for myself from the library.
– Jodi Meadows

What’s your favorite novel read during high school? What about least favorite? Tell us in the comments!

Erin Bowman is a YA writer, letterpress lover, and Harry Potter enthusiast living in New Hampshire. Her TAKEN trilogy is available from HarperTeen (FORGED out 4/14/15), and VENGEANCE ROAD publishes with HMH in fall 2015. You can visit Erin’s blog (updated occasionally) or find her on twitter (updated obsessively).

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19. What We’re Reading Now

Compiled by Julie Eshbaugh

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Here at PubCrawl, we’ve occasionally done posts about “What we’re reading now.” Recently, I found myself feeling the need to do one again, prompted by this story I saw in Publisher’s Lunch, the daily newsletter of Publisher’s Marketplace:

Booker Prize winner for THE LUMINARIES Eleanor Catton said in accepting a recent prize from the New Zealand Post that she intends to establish a grant that will award writers $3,000 to provide “time to read.” Catton told the Guardian: “My idea is that if a writer is awarded a grant, they will be given the money with no strings attached except that after three months they will be expected to write a short piece of non-fiction about their reading (what was interesting to them, what they learned) that will be posted online so that others can benefit from their reading too.

This story started me thinking about the importance of reading for writers, and the value of sharing our thoughts on books with each other. So, with all this in mind, here are the books some of us are reading now.

Erin Bowman

Erin Bowman:

just finished Jodi Lynn Anderson’s THE VANISHING SEASON. I picked it up on a whim because I absolutely adored her previous novel, TIGER LILY. She’s now 2/2 in making me cry. The books are very different but both touch on first loves, and have lyrical prose, vivid locations, and heart-wrenching endings. Tragic but beautiful tales. Highly recommend!

 

adamfaceauthorAdam Silvera:

I just started CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn, which recently won the William C. Morris award for best young adult debut novel. The jacket copy was pretty vague, but it’s definitely done the book a great service because I’m insanely compelled by it and have zero clue what’s about to go down. If the book slays me the way I think it might, not reading summaries beforehand may be the new way I approach reading.

 

Rachel PaintRachel Seigel:

Right now I’m in the middle of David Baldacci’s new Dystopian Fantasy THE FINISHER which is great for that 11-14 age range. I’ve just finished OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman. Fabulous, quick fantasy that will appeal to teens and adults alike. 

 

Jodi MeadowsJodi Meadows:

I’m right in the middle of RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard (Feb 2015) and it’s really interesting to see how her film background influenced her novel writing. Plus I’m enjoying the story a lot. 

 

 

JJSarah Jae-Jones (JJ):

I am currently reading what I call 12-year-old JJ Crack, or books set in England…with magic (you know, in the vein of Harry Potter). It’s partially for research, and partially because it’s 12-year-old JJ crack. So right now I am currently (re)reading: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, the Chrestomanci books by Diana Wynne Jones (YES, ALL OF THEM), The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. (I have read several of these before, which is why I am reading so many books at the same time.)

 

SusanDennardSusan Dennard:

I’m reading THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. I’m enjoying it, but I find it interesting because so far it feels incredibly YA (in a good, fun way!) though the book is marketed as adult fantasy. It leaves me wondering why–from a publishing/bookseller standpoint–a book gets placed on the YA or adult shelves.

 

EC Myers EC Meyers:

I just finished THE MAGICIAN’S LAND by Lev Grossman, the wonderful conclusion to his Magicians trilogy, which now stands as one of my favorite book series. I’ve just started something completely different: GREAT by Sara Benincasa, which is described as a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I recently watched the film Gatsby, so the source material is fresh in my mind, but I keep forgetting about that because GREAT is so funny and interesting and pretty much works on its own.

 

JulieJulie Eshbaugh: I’m about 80% through LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS by William Styron, which is easily one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read, but the setting and characters are so well rendered, I can’t break away from this vivid portrait of a dysfunctional family. I’m also reading Maggie Stiefvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS, which I’m just getting into and loving.

 

 What are YOU reading now? Do you have any books you can recommend to us? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is represented by Adams Literary. You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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20. Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry


When someone asks me what all the hullaballoo about YA is these days, I don't start by talking about Twilight or The Hunger Games, I talk about how there is Literature, with a capital L, being written for young readers, books that are both accessible and fun to read but full of meaning, beautiful prose and depth. It's an incredibly exciting time to be a reader, and I'm so jealous of all the Kids These Days who .

Case in point are the books by my good friend Sarah McCarry, first her incredible debut All Our Pretty Songs, but even more especially the prequel Dirty Wings.

Dirty Wings is about the deep, intense friendship of the mothers of the main characters in All Our Pretty Songs, when they were teenagers with hopes and dreams and confusions, and it's told with such beauty and precision.

But hey, don't take my word for it, here's what Kirkus had to say (in a starred review, naturally):
The prose is exquisitely crafted, moving effortlessly from dizzying to heartbreaking. Each setting—an exhaustingly filthy punk house, the New York street where Maia’s hermitlike father suddenly comes to life, the Mexican beach town where the girls’ road trip ends—is vibrantly constructed through careful detail and spare but evocative prose.
A breathtaking companion volume, fully readable on its own and devastating in the context of its predecessor.
Looking to see what all the YA hype is about? READ THIS.

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21. Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Hong Kong Movies

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by

Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor

Note from Sooz: I am so delighted to share a guest post from author Grady Hendrix today. Personally, I am desperate to soak up any writing wisdom he might be so kind as to share.

Because guys, his new book Horrostör is incredible. Like, I got a copy of this in the mail, opened the package and snickered at the cover (and how the entire book is laid out like an Ikea catalog). Then I started reading…

…and two hours later, I finished the book. I COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN. It was laugh-out-loud funny and also thoroughly terrifying. Plus, there was incredible character development, a thoroughly twisty plot, and OH MY GOSH, what an ending!!

Since I’m sure y’all are dying to read this book too now (seriously: everyone should read it.), then make sure you fill out the Rafflecopter form below! We’re giving away 2 copies (hooray!).

Now, I’ll hand over the mic to Sir Grady, writer extraordinaire.

When I was in college, I lived near the Music Palace and that gave me the better education by far. A vast, rotting hulk of a movie palace it showed Hong Kong double features for $6 and, being broke, that was a deal I couldn’t resist. The Music Palace led to me co-founding the New York Asian Film Festival, it led to me moving to Hong Kong, my wife and I bonded over our shared love for Stephen Chow’s Love on Delivery and the hand amputations in Always Be the Winners, and it taught me how to write. Because everything I learned about writing, I learned at the Music Palace.

Everything I learned about language, I learned from subtitles.

“Say if you find him lousy!” Uncle Bill shouts. “Thanks for elephant, it’ll be worse if it’s dinosaur,” mutters Lam Ching-ying. “Are you an archeologist or a sucker!” a cop screams in frustration. Hong Kong movies have to be subtitled in English, but that doesn’t mean the subtitles have to make sense. Recruiting random strangers off the street, or sometimes just making a production assistant stay up late with an out-of-date Cantonese-to-English dictionary, Hong Kong subtitles emerge looking like William Burroughs cut-ups. And I love them. Every time they stretch, push, bend, or otherwise mutate the English language I feel like a door is opening inside my brain. At this point in my life I’ve watched thousands of Hong Kong movies, and not a day goes by when I don’t find subtitles popping into my head. Stuck on a packed elevator? “It’s getting crowdy,” I think. Cut off by an annoying driver? “Damn you, stink man, try my melon!” rolls off my tongue. As I learned from Hong Kong movies, it’s not the actual words that are important. It’s the feeling.

Everything I learned about character, I learned from John Woo.

You may think that John Woo is all about the gunfights, but his secret weapon is his mastery of crafting iconic characters. He doesn’t need plots, he just drops his characters into the ring and lets their conflicting motives drive the story. Whether it’s happy-go-lucky Mark (Chow Yun-fat) in A Better Tomorrow who finally gets sick of being treated like an errand boy and decides to demand respect, or Jeff (Chow Yun-fat, again) in The Killer who’s wracked with guilt over blinding a bystander in an assassination and tries to earn enough money to get her a cornea transplant, or Ben, Frank, and Paul, trapped in Vietnam, one of them wanting to rescue a woman, one of them wanting to steal a crate of gold, and one of them just wanting to go home. In Woo’s movies there are simply characters who want things, and what they want and how they get it drives the story into some of the most insane action sequences ever put onscreen. Because character is action. Quite literally.

Everything I learned about plot, I learned from Comrades, Almost a Love Story

Plot means you throw everything horrible you can think of at your characters and watch them squirm, and by the end they need to be in a different place than where they began. No movie is better at this than Peter Chan’s Comrades, Almost a Love Story. When the movie begins, Leon Lai is a Mainlander who comes to Hong Kong to make money. He falls for local girl, Maggie Cheung, and then…complications. Chan (and screenwriter Ivy Ho) throw every conceivable twist at their two romantic leads and by the time the movie’s over these two characters may seem to be right back where they began, but the viewer isn’t. You’ll find yourself crying buckets of tears not over the main characters but over the people they’ve hurt on their way to “happiness.” Comrades is a movie where every time you think you know the story, you suddenly realize that it’s about something else entirely. Like a great magician, the creators distract your attention over there, and then take you by surprise from over here.

Everything I learned about writing scenes, I learned from Peking Opera Blues

I firmly believe that Peking Opera Blues is the greatest motion picture ever made. Period. Full stop. Movies don’t get any better than Tsui Hark’s tale of three women trying to keep their heads above water during the early 20th century when China was torn into factions by greedy warlords. And one thing he does better than anyone else is stage big fat setpieces that keep going, and going, and going. Just when you think a scene has gone as far as it can, it goes even further. Writers often skip from scene to scene, but great directors know that if you’re going to go through the trouble of lighting a scene, dressing a set, and placing your camera, then you better wring every last ounce of drama out of it. And so, for Tsui, even a scene of a character waking up becomes a slapstick ballet as her father enters her bedroom and she has to keep him from detecting any of the four other people hidden on her bed, armed with nothing more than a blanket. Rather than starting a new scene every ten minutes, Tsui digs deep and plays every spin, variation, and complication on every scene that he can possibly find, turning each one into a setpiece that’s packed with emotional and dramatic information.

Everything I learned about writing women, I learned from The Heroic Trio.

Hollywood has two models for women: mothers and whores. Sometimes they dish up a motherly whore, or a whorish mother, but that’s just about the entire emotional spectrum. I was lucky enough to see The Heroic Trio back in 1993 when it first came out, and in Johnnie To’s movie an evil undead Chinese eunuch from the past is living in an underground lair in a dystopian future, stealing babies to turn them into an army of feral monsters. Opposing him are Wonder Woman (Anita Mui), Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung), and Invisible Girl (Michelle Yeoh). Wonder Woman is a devoted mother who doesn’t get to spend as much time as she wants with her family because she’s constantly saving the world from evil. Thief Catcher is only in it for the money, but she’ll ultimately do the right thing. And Invisible Girl starts out purely evil, but changes sides when Wonder Woman and Thief Catcher offer her what she’s been missing: friendship. I came out of that movie theater understanding that inside every woman is a Thief Catcher, an Invisible Girl, and a Wonder Woman. I do my best to write them that way.

Well, you have succeeded, my friend. I ADORED Amy in Horrorstör. Thank you so much for joining us, Grady! And for all you readers interested in absorbing more of his wisdom, he’ll be touring all week across the interwebs:

Finally, here’s the giveaway we promised!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called “lies,” and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes mistakenly pay him for. There is a science fiction book called Occupy Space that he is the author of, and also a fantasy book called Satan Loves You which he wrote as well. Along with his BFF from high school, Katie Crouch, he is the co-author of the YA series, The Magnolia League. With Ryan Dunlavey he was co-authored the Li’l Classix series, which are cartoon degradations of classic literature, and with his wife, and Ryan, he wrote Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, the first graphic novel cookbook in America. His fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, and the anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.

He is very, very beautiful, but if you ever meet him, please do not let this make you uncomfortable. He does not judge.

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22. Finishing a Trilogy: Interview with Meagan Spooner, author of Skylark

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by Susan,

featuring

Meagan Spooner

meagan spoonerToday, I’m delighted to have Meagan Spooner back on the blog. The final book in her Skylark trilogy, Lark Ascending, just released last week, and if you haven’t yet read these books, then now’s the time!

For one, the books are EXCELLENT (and if you’re a fan of my Something Strange & Deadly, then you’ll definitely love Skylark).

For two, the book is only $0.99 on Kindle right now!!

For three, just read this summary and tell me you’re not intrigued:

Now, let’s get down to the interview!

Lark Ascending1. Alrighty, Meg. Biggest author inspirations/influences. Go!

Way too many to count! I’m one of those who firmly believe everything you read (or watch or listen to or see or eat…) goes into the imagination compost and shows up in your work when you least expect it. But some big ones include: Diana Wynne Jones, Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Neil Gaiman, Peter Beagle, Philip Pullman, Tanith Lee, Tamora Pierce, Patricia C. Wrede, and pretty much every myth or fairy tale I’ve ever heard.

2. You have basically listed all of the authors on MY list as well. ;) Plotter or pantser or…plantser?

Definitely a pantser. When I first started writing Skylark, the first book in this trilogy, I had absolutely no idea where it was headed. There were a few twists and themes I knew I wanted to hit, but part of the joy of writing for me is the act of discovery. Often the ideas that come to me as I write, whether totally out of the blue or as a response or solution to some problem that pops up, are my best ones. Of the three, Lark Ascending is probably the most “planned” of the three, simply because most of the ideas in it came to me while writing Skylark and Shadowlark. I had all these awesome, epic scenes that I knew I wanted to hit in this third book. It was tons of fun.

3. I feel you on the “art of discovery” bit. So now that you’ve finished, how does it feel wrapping up an entire trilogy?

AMAZING. I think it’s no secret that writers often have a love-hate relationship with their books, particularly with their series books, and I’m definitely one of those. Like any long-term relationship, being with someone–or some story–for that many years means you know it inside and out. Its good, its bad, and everything in between. But despite every time I wanted to throw the story–and my computer along with it–out the window, seeing all three books lined up and knowing that I finished telling Lark’s story in a way that feels complete and satisfying—and TRUE—to me… that’s an amazing feeling.

4. Wow. I’m even more excited to read now. Okay, here’s a fan question: in the Skylark trilogy, which character do YOU identify most with?

Definitely Lark herself. Skylark was the first novel I ever wrote, and for me, at least, that meant that of all my characters, my main character was the one most drawn from my own thoughts and personality and experiences. Lark is an odd combination of things I wish I was, things I’m afraid I am, and things I one day hope to be. She’ll probably always be the character most like–and most unlike–me in all my books.

5. That’s TOTALLY how I feel about me with Eleanor! She’s both part of me and who I wish I could be. So cool. Now, final question: If Lark Ascending were a literary cocktail, what ingredients would it need?

Equal parts fantasy and dystopian with a shot of steampunk and a sprinkle of moral grey area. Garnish with a rebel uprising, and serve on the rocks.

 HA! Love the “garnish” bit. Nice touch. ;)

Okay, dear readers. To celebrate having Meg stop by, we’re doing a giveaway (international!)! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below, help us spread the word about Meg’s amazing series, and we’ll choose a winner next week.

Also: if you weren’t aware, both Meagan and her coauthor, Pub Crawl’s own Amie Kaufman, have a short story releasing tomorrow. It’s called This Night So Dark, and it’s free!! You definitely don’t want to miss it.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and she currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina. In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads. Learn more about her at her website.

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23. 6 Fabulous Dragon Books

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

Six of my favorite dragon books

I recently had had so much fun creating a short story called Princess and Dragon. But my love for dragon stories started years ago. Here are six of my favorites.

Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One by Patricia C. Wrede

This book is classic in my mind. I still remember the friend that recommended it to me when I was in junior high-school.  I’m forever grateful to her since I’ve loved the series and Patricia C. Wrede’s books ever since.


Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) By Patricia C. Wrede

Speaking of Patricia C. Wrede, this is one of her new books. I love it. I really want to be best friends with Eff the main character. This book has dragons and tons of other magical creatures. It also has a fun historical element which grounds the story and makes it feel like it really happened.

Seraphina By Rachel Hartman

This is a newer novel as well. It’s well crafted and fun. The dragons in it are different than dragons are normally depicted, and the story… I just can’t get over how much I loved it. I’m excited to read the sequel. 

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

This book is similar to Dealing with Dragons in that the main character is a girl who challenges the status quo by refusing to be a damsel in distress. But the story its self is original and fun.  (I’d say I love it again but I’ve said it a lot already. I do love it though.)


The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank R. Stockton illustrated by PJ Lynch

I have to be honest, I love this book for the pictures. They are beautiful. If you haven’t looked at PJ Lynch’s illustrations this is a good place to start.

Saint George and the Dragon By Margaret Hodges Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

This book won the caldecott medal in 1985. The illustrations by Trina Hyman have been a big influence on me. If you haven’t seen her art this is another good place to start.

 

Princess and Dragon by Manelle Oliphant Don’t forget to download my short story Princess and Dragon.  You can download it by clicking any of the following links.

Princess & Dragon PDf (20) Princess & Dragon ebub (13) Princess & Dragon mobi (11)

 

 

Did I miss any great dragon stories? Let me know what they are I’m always up for reading more about Dragons.

 

Learn more about how you can support the creation of more stories like Princess and Dragon by clicking here. 

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24. Book Recommendation: The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours

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Biljana Likic

So you’re writing that sweeping historical novel full of war and political intrigue, and you maybe need some inspiration. Where better to turn than to history books? Only problem is that they can be a bit dry, and at times the forced impartiality (“I must present this as facts uncoloured by my opinion!”) can make the prose frustratingly ambiguous. Then there’s the whole “history is written by the victor” thing. The phrase reveals the difficulties readers face when approaching historical writing. Not to mention, it’s practically impossible to write about a historical event in a completely detached way without it sounding like a recipe.

Honestly, it makes me glad I write fiction. The pressure of writing a history book is terrifying. What sources you include, and where you include them, and why…no matter how you organize them, there will always be an expert disagreeing with you.

Enter Gregory of Tours. He was a 6th century bishop of (you guessed it) Tours, France, and is our best contemporary source of the Merovingian dynasty in modern-day France and Germany. He wrote history, but it’s only in very recent times that we started giving him more credit as an actual historian. Why did it take so long? You only need to take a gander at all the wild stuff he says in his most famous work, The History of the Franks.

Here’s the deal. Remember the whole “no such thing as no bias” spiel? This is very apparent in Gregory. A lot of people read the Histories assuming they’re a moralistic work about how those who aren’t Catholic will suffer the demons of hell, and those that are will be saved in heaven. To be fair, it’s not a hard conclusion to reach. There’s one story of a priest conspiring against his superior, and as alleged punishment from God, on the morning the priest is getting ready to betray him, this happens: “He went off to the lavatory and while he was occupied in emptying his bowels he lost his soul instead.”

Lost his soul on the can. He quite literally shit himself to death. There are fewer effective ways to teach someone a lesson about going against a saintly authority.

But then, in another story, Queen Deuteria is afraid that her husband might “desire and take advantage of” their maturing daughter so she puts her in a cart drawn by untamed bulls and the daughter crashes into a river and dies. And this happens in like three sentences with no moral. No ceremony, no “The shadow of sin is cast upon the loveless mother!”, no “Don’t lust after your own daughter or else your wife might kill her (and also, sin)!”, only a few nearly parenthetical phrases, perhaps just to explain what happened to the daughter when the King later takes a new wife and refuses to take Deuteria back. I wonder why he’d do that.

So you have this one priest’s story taking up a few sizable, memorable paragraphs about him conspiring against his bishop, and then you have this other one of a horrific filicide told in a measly three sentences. That’s the fascinating thing about this work. It’s a bunch of to-the-point recitations of facts mixed together with wildly moralistic tales where common sicknesses and coincidences are explains away as God’s doing. In some sections it even reads like fantasy. It’s as full of people having prophetic dreams and being warned about the dangers ahead as it is of short side notes about a perfectly Christian king being poisoned just because…well…he was king, and he was poisoned.

But the reason the Histories are so valuable today, aside from being a long and spectacular feat of story-telling, is because there really is a genuinely massive amount of historical information within them. Every so often you’ll find entire letters Gregory directly transcribed so he could give us the primary source rather than rephrasing an event in his own words. Some of these letters survive in different forms and can be used to cross-reference events in the book. Others only survive through his writing. There is a ton of specificity about the Church, and especially about the history of the bishopric of Tours. There’s stuff in there about the actual daily lives of people living in the 6th century, their traditions, habits, and gossip, written by a person living in the 6th century. That is absolutely invaluable.

Not to mention a freaking amazing read. Merovingian kings and queens meant business. The backstabbing, the stealing of territory, copious amounts of regicide, broken alliances, queens abandoning their husbands for other kings because others were manlier and held more promise as conquerors… These people were ruthless. Contrast that with the general thread of what it means to be a good Christian weaving through the work, and you’ve got some damn awesome dichotomies going on.

So move this baby up your to-read list. Not only is it full of events that actually happened, making it an excellent book to read for personal research, but it’s also a great literary window into the workings of 6th century Continental Europe.

biljana new picBiljana Likic is working on her fantasy WIPs and has just started her MA in Medieval Studies, from which she can’t wait to graduate so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can follow her on Twitter.

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25. 7 Frightening Books for Kids

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

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As a kid I loved Goodbumps, Bunnicula and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which are all great series of scary stories for reluctant readers, but what else is there? This Halloween don’t miss some of these other fun ghost stories for middle graders.

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story
By Mary Downing Hahn

I read it as an adult and thought it was the right amount of scary for kids who like scary.

The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery

by Chris Grabenstein

This one is a fun mystery tied up with a ghost story. 

Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator

by Jennifer Allison

This is the first in the Gilda Joyce series. Gilda seriously cracks me up. Love this series.

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

This book won a Newberry Medal. It’s full of Ghosts but not too scary after the first scene.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

By Ray Bradbury

This is a fun creepy story which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s also a movie.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama

by Laura Amy Schlitz

This is probably my favorite book on the list. I wrote a whole review of it here.

MidnMidnight Ghost Coveright Ghost

A short story I wrote. You can read online or download by clicking here

What are your favorite Ghost stories for kids? Did I miss any good ones?

Learn how you can support the artist by clicking here. 

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