Tuesday, January 13, 2015

28 Days From Now

This morning I got a package from HarperTeen! As usual, it took my breath away to open up the box and see my own name on the cover of this beautiful book. My own book. About to go out into the wide, wide world, only 28 days from now.


I am so proud of this book. I mean, I'm proud of all of my books. They all take so much time and energy and passion to write. But this book was especially difficult, and especially close to my heart, so it feels like something of a miracle to see it actualized.

So what do I want to do now? I want to give it away! Enter my rafflecopter contest to win this book, signed by me. I am also giving away some signed ARCs of the book this week. Just follow the directions below. (Contest starts tomorrow. U.S. entries only, please. The contest officially starts tonight at 12am, and you can do some things to get an entry every day, so check back.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, I have some tour news. I am going on the Epic Reads Winter Tour with Victoria Aveyard and Jasmine Warga. So here's where and when you can come see me and get your books signed:

February 18, 7pm at Anderson's Bookstore, 123 Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

February 19, 7pm at Flyleaf Books, 752 MLK Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC

February 20, 7pm at Barnes & Noble Orlando, 481 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL

February 21, 2pm at Vero Beach Bookcenter, 325 Miracle Mile, Vero Beach, FL

Check my Events page for more upcoming appearances, and leave a comment there with the name of a bookstore and city you'd like me to visit. I will seriously take that under consideration in my travel planning for the year.

*goes back to stroking the pretty pretty book*


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books I Read To My Son In 2014

I have always read out loud to my son, every single day of his life since he was two days old (that first book was Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton), and easily my favorite time of day with him now (he's almost eight now) is just before bed, when Will reads to me and then I read to him.

When I first started going on tour for Unearthly, bookstores would often offer me a free book of my choice, as a thank-you for appearing at their store. At first I was always too exhausted from the event to really take advantage of this, but then I hit on the idea that I could bring back a book for Will from each of the bookstores I visited. I only made one firm rule about this: it has to be a hardcover, so his library will stand the test of time. This tradition has been such a great thing for us. Once I procured all of the classics I had read and loved as a child, I had to ask the booksellers to recommend books for me to take home to my son, and so we have come to read a lot of amazing books that we wouldn't have known about otherwise.

We've read a lot of stellar books this year.

1. Peter and The Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. We began the year by finishing this book, which is the fourth and final book of the Peter and the Starcatchers series. This series is my son's favorite series, even over Harry Potter. If someone asks him what his favorite book is, he doesn't hesitate before he says, Peter and the Starcatchers. It is a wonderful, WONDERFUL retelling/prequel of the Peter Pan story. My son loved it because a) it involved pirates b) it was magical, but a different, completely new kind of magic than you've ever seen before and c) you feel in a way like you're getting the backstage pass to some classic story. As an adult, I loved this series as much as Will did, and it lit a desire in me to someday, if the right idea strikes, write a children's chapter book--there's just something so enthralling and deeply personal about children's books. This series is probably best for ages 10-12, I think. Most of the books Will loves fall in this age range, and he does fine with them, but if you have kids who scare easily, you might want to wait a while for this series. It has some pretty dark and frightening villains.

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling. We have a rule in this house that we can only read one Harry Potter book a year, and so we basically begin every year by reading the next Harry Potter. I don't know what it is about Harry Potter, but Will loved the first book more than he had ever loved any other book up to that point. There's just something about this world and these characters that is fascinating to him. He loved book two equally well. We started reading the third book last night.

3. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I had never read this before, so it was a new experience for both of us. Will liked it, but he quickly forgot about it after we finished. It stuck with me way longer, of course, and I can see why it is considered such a classic. I think of it as a head-book, though, full of big thoughts and ideas to ponder, and I will always choose a heart-book over a head-book.

4. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. This was try number two for this book this year--we started it last year and didn't finish. It didn't seem to hook Will, and I was a bit uncomfortable with the depiction of the Indian in this book that was written before the age of political correctness. But Will wanted to read it it this year, and it was amazing the difference a year made. He was the perfect age this time to understand the dynamics between the boy and his best friend at school, in this story. And I thought, on this second read, that the Indian character, was shown as a heart-felt human being, at least, in spite of how the way he talked and thought sometimes made me cringe.

5. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. Will liked this one, and it was a quick read that delves into Norse mythology. The young boy hangs out with Thor, Odin, and Loki, who have all been turned into animals, and must go on an adventure to get them changed back. Still, I think I was expecting a bit more because I have such high expectations of Gaiman and this was such a quiet story. We had a go at The Graveyard Book, but it was quickly clear that it was too scary for Will, and he felt the same way about Coraline.

6.  Dinosaurs Before Dark (The Magic Treehouse #1) by Mary Pope Osborne. We read these on my iPad, and they are brilliant. The series (and there are more than 50 books in this series) is about a brother and sister who discover an abandoned treehouse in the woods. The walls of the treehouse are lined with non-fiction books about history and places, and when they open a book to a certain place and wish they could go to that place and time, they are magically transported there. They always run into a bit of trouble, but it is easily solved. Will loves these and is always up for reading them. They are perfect for a seven-year-old, and they are educational and fun. We've read the first seven of them. Big thumbs up.

7. Disney After Dark (Kingdom Keepers #1) by Ridley Pearson.
We listened to these on tape in the car on longer drives (and on shorter drives, and any other time Will could talk me into it.) I thought this was a sure-thing because it's written by one of the Peter and the Starcatchers authors, but I can't stand these books. It really shows how much I love my son that I made it through this entire novel, because I really, really didn't like it. I have a few theories about this: 1) I didn't like the narrator of the book on tape. This was my first try at a children's book on tape, and the sound of this guy's voice was grating to me. I probably would have liked the hardcover way better. 2) I am way more interested in Peter Pan than I am in Disney World. 3) I don't like Ridley Pearson as much as I like Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson together. I have an inkling this is true. Some of the writing patterns in this book rubbed me the wrong way.

I should point out that Will doesn't share my negative opinion here. He loved the first book so much he pleaded with me to buy the second one (which I did; see: I love my kid. A lot), but he had to listen to most of that in his own time, because I really couldn't stomach it.

8. The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket. This one was especially good, I thought. I am holding back on letting Will watch the movies, because these books are so darned good. What I love about these in the playfulness of the storytelling mixed with these independent, orphaned children, who have to use their individual skills to get themselves out of some really dire scraped. Snicker doesn't talk down to kids--he meets them where they are at, and my son loves this.

9. Holes by Louis Sachar. This is one of the books Will obsessed over for weeks afterward, it so captured his imagination. It was probably a bit old for him, because of the backstory of Kissing Kate Barlow (spoiler alert--she becomes an outlaw after the town kills the black man she loved), but it was a good opportunity for us to talk about our country's racial history and racism, so I thought it went okay. Will was very taken with the idea of the boys digging a new hole every day, hoping to find a long-lost treasure.

10. Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman. Now I can feel better about reviewing a Gaiman book because WILL LAUGHED SO HARD at this one. It was just so much fun to read, because he was so tickled by the different twists and turns, and the way it all ended up. It's hard to describe this one, but it's a nice fast read with bigger letters and a funny narrative.

11. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I got this on Audible because we were about to drive the kids 1200 miles (because I moved to Idaho! Yay!!) and if I was forced to listen to any more Kingdom Keepers I was going to hurt someone. And then . . . this book had the same narrator as Kingdom Keepers! Groan. So, that didn't happen, but Will was interested in the story, so when we got home I bought him the hardcover and read it to him. It too was probably a bit old for him--he didn't get some of the humor and the pre-teen thinking about the opposite sex, but he really liked the adventure part of it.

12. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (which is all the books in one hardcover). Another one that Will obsessed on. The story is about three siblings who go to live in their uncle's old house, where something strange is definitely afoot. They find a secret room that contains an old, secret book about the unseen world around them: the world of magical creatures like fairies, brownies, and trolls--a field guide, that holds such important information that the evil creatures of the world would kill to have the book. It's so good for kids because KIDS LOVE SECRETS. It also has a lot of sympathy for the children of divorce, as these children are, and the way the breakup of their parents affects each child differently. After we were done reading, which took a while because the book is over 600 pages, Will got a blank book and started to write his own field guide, about vampires. He quit because it turns out that he doesn't really know much about vampires, and I wasn't super helpful in giving him that information. :)

12.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. This was a reread by Will's request, since we read every book in this series last year around Halloween. I love the narrator of this novel, who is a dog who tells the story of when his family brings home a strange rabbit that the family cat is convinced is actually a vampire. What so impresses me about this series is that it was written in the 1970s but it continues to be so darn entertaining.

13. Eliot and The Goblin War by Jennifer Neilson. This was our other Halloween read this year, and Will really liked it. It's about a little boy who inadvertently sets off a war between the brownies and the goblins. I thought is was playful and fun.

14. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. Will loves anything by Rolad Dahl, and we have read them all a few times over, but this is one of his favorites, so we read it again this year. I finally got around to seeing the film, which everyone gushes about, and I liked it well enough, but I like the book so much better. Sorry, George Clooney. Will received Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator for Christmas (thanks Grammy and Granddaddy!), and I can't wait to get started on that.

15. The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley Archer. This is the story of two British children, one of whose father is a scientist, who have an accident with an anti-gravity machine in the lab and end up being transported back to 1773. It's like the kids version of Outlander--ha ha! It was a long book, and it took us a long time to get through it, so I was kind of looking for something else by the end, but Will stayed engaged the whole time. I thought he would get confused when we got to a section where the author considers the problems of time travel (duplicates and / or alternate universes, anyone?) but I think Will liked that part the best--it was what he talked about when he mentioned the book to guests at the dinner table. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so we'll be waiting for the next one. (I hope the next one is shorter. I know a lot more about England in 1773 now, though.)

16. There Is A Bird On Your Head! by Mo Willems. So I've listed all the books that I've read Will this year, but I haven't given much attention to the books Will has read me. There are too many of these to list, really, but I will say that the overall winner this year for Will has been the Mo Williams Pig and Gerald books. Ironically enough, Will is a bit behind in reading at school. Some of this is my fault, I think, because we moved past the "easy" books when he was around five and have been reading chapter books ever since, and Will no longer has any interest in reading, for himself, from these simpler books when he could be enraptured by Peter and the Starcatchers. We've done a lot of BOB books, which were like pulling teeth for Will, but when we hit on Pig and Gerald, he started to enjoy himself more. These books are simple, about a sentence per page, but they do have a few harder words in each book. They often have a very subtle lesson about manners or friendship in each book, and, more importantly, they are funny. They always make Will laugh, and he loves to perform them for you. Will's favorite is There Is A Bird On Your Head!

I could hug Mo Willems.

So that's it, our year in summary. And, because this is the first year I've done a post for children's books, here are some more books we've read over the past few years that I highly recommend:


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Lasky. This is based on a true account of a gorilla who grows up in a glass cage in a mall. So good! I cried a bunch at this one, so beware.

The Peter and the Starcatchers series, as I mentioned before, if your little one is brave and seeking adventure.

Almost any book by Roald Dahl, especially the classics. Will's faves are Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Witches, although The Witches does strike terror into his heart just a bit.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. We've read this whole series and we both thought it was wonderful. Get ready to make a convincing motorcycle engine noise.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, but bring tissues and coach your kid not to summarize the story to people as "that book about the pig and the spider that makes Mommy cry really hard."

The Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. The movie was okay, but it actually condensed the entire three novels of the series into 90 minutes, so I felt like we missed a lot, like maybe the entire point of the books, really.

The Nathaniel Fludd Series by R. L. LaFevers. This is about a boy who is born into a family of beastologists--people who take care of magical creatures. Will LOVED these, and I am stalking Robin's website to hear when the next one will come out.

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. These are totally, COMPLETELY different from the movies, and for once I think the movies are actually better, but Will loved the saucy humor of these books. They are full of little boy humor, though, so beware, and the boys are pretty mean to each other.

The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else. This is another one of those fun adventures on a ship, so Will loved it when he was going through his private phase but I was a little tired of reading about out-and-out pirates. This was a cool one, and the stakes were crazy high for a kids books--at the beginning the main character catches the evil-queen-figure trying to poison his baby sister, and then he is separated from his parents and has to search far and wide to find them.

William Joyce's The Guardian series. Your kid has probably seen the movie Rise of the Guardians, but the books are completely different and also amazing. And it is a fun series to get into, as you can read Nicholas St. North And the Battle of the Nightmare King (Book 1) at Christmastime and the easter bunny one at Easter and so forth.

Anything by Kate DiCamillo. Despereux is great, and The Magician's Elephant is really good, too, but our favorite is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is like if the Velveteen Rabbit was spoiled and selfish and had to go on an EPIC adventure to grow into someone who can truly experience love.


Any suggestions for what I should read to Will next? Leave it in the comments below.




Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read In 2014

It's the last day of the year, so it's time for my annual wrap-up of what I read this year, along with my top recommendations. So, without further ado:

1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Starting strong this year! I was completely blown out of the water by this novel, although I really shouldn't have been surprised. Pierce audited one of the classes I taught at Pepperdine a few years ago, and he was one of those students I love having in my classes because he always showed up with insightful, intelligent things to say. I was a little trepidatious going into reading this, however, because of the way they marketed the book--"Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow," was a tag line, and they had a tendency to treat Pierce more like a piece of meat than a writer--more was said about how good-looking Pierce is than the kind of writing he does. Which makes me uncomfortable on many levels because he was my student and I feel very maternal toward my students, so EW.  But, all that aside, THIS IS AN AMAZING BOOK. The world is so detailed and fresh and evocative. The characters are alive in your head and they just break your heart. I was completely lost in the story, and it is still with me, even a year later. RED RISING totally lives up to the hype, and I am on pins and needles waiting for the sequel this January.

2. Cress, by Marissa Meyer. I have loved all of the books in this series, and this was one was no exception. Cress is now maybe my favorite heroine of the three so far, and Captain Thorne. . . sigh. I can't wait for the next one.

3. Into The Still Blue by Veronica Rossi. Okay, so I'm biased when it comes to this book, since I know Veronica and I adore her as a person. But this was a wonderful conclusion to the series. It felt like I was holding my breath for the last 50 pages, and I was so happy with the way it ended. Yay, Veronica. But now I am sad, because I know I will have to wait for a long while before her next book. Which is going to be AWESOME, trust me.

4. Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguie. I had an idea for a retelling of "The Little Mermaid" this year, so I started to read a few books on the subject to see if it had already been done. Which. . . it hadn't, although this book was a nice take on it. I especially liked the relationship between this little mermaid and this prince.

5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I am a huge Rainbow Rowell fan, but this one might be my absolute favorite of hers. I read this on a plane, and I'm sure the other passengers thought it was odd that I was crying and smiling at the same time when I got to the end. The ending was so good. I found myself going back and rereading the ending several times that week, and it always made my chest swell with emotion. It was also a book that made me laugh out loud several times. So good!

6. Enders by Lissa Price. I didn't get wrapped up in this one quite as much as the first one, but I still liked the way it ended.

7. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan. Really good. Neat premise.

8. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. I am a huge Oz fan--read every single Oz book that was ever printed when I was kid, like 40 of them, so I had high expectations of this book. I did like the idea of Dorothy being the real villain. But the ending left me empty. It was one of those where I felt like it ended right about the same time that it really got going.

9. Great by Sarah Benincasa. I was a bit scared to read this one, truthfully. I got my literature Ph.D. specializing in Hemingway and his contemporaries, and there are few books I know and love better than The Great Gatsby. Big shoes to fill. But I feel like Ms. Benincasa did a great job with the shoe-filling. It was engaging and heart-breaking. I felt a little muddled about the ending, but that was definitely a case of my own personal issues changing the way I react to a story. Great book, pun intended.

10. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Gosh, I adored this book. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that left me breathless. The book was so passionate, from the beautiful cover to the painterly, sense-heightened writing to the incredibly flawed and intense characters. I devoured this one and am eagerly waiting for the next installment.

11.  Fathomless by Jackson Pearce. Another Little Mermaid retelling. I dug it. Ms. Pearce is always good, I think.

12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I hadn't read any of Neil Gaiman's adult work, so when a friend recommended this to me, I got right on it. It was amazing. I keep hearing whisperings of a TV show based on this, which is so exciting. The world-building is fantastic (duh, it's Neil Gaiman, duh) but it's really the main character who continued to haunt me long after I was done reading.

13. Ignite Me, by Tahereh Mafi. Okay, so, I'm biased. I will readily admit that. I have a lot of friends who finished up their series this year, and I read them all and liked them all. But I can honestly say that even if I didn't know Tahereh, I would have LOVED this book. It had such amazing build up, and the writing was gorgeous, as usual, but it was really the passion of this book that blew me away. And I don't mean the hubba hubba type passion, of which there is plenty of in this book, too, but the FEELING behind the words. Oh so many feels. Loved it.

14. The Elementals, by Saundra Mitchell. I am a big Saundra Mitchell fan, and I liked this book so much, and the way it subtly tied the other two books together. I think my favorite of this series is still The Springsweet, but this was a great read, too.

15. Perfect Lies by Kiersten White. Really good. I love the dichotomy of these two characters.

16. Alienated by Melissa Landers. You can't really beat a hot alien boyfriend. Thumbs up.

17. Side Effects May Vary by Julia Murphy. The loved that this MC was ANGRY and she acted on her anger, and those actions had real consequences. I wish more YA fiction had the guts for that.

18. This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready. A fascinating look at a teen boy living in an uber religious family who believe in (and then participate in) the Rapture. I liked it better than Left Behind, but there was definitely the same kind of uh-oh moment. And I am in love with this cover.

19. Infinite by Jodi Meadows. Okay, really really ridiculously biased. But this was an intense and super awesome conclusion to her Incarnate series. And I have to remember that I loved Jodi's writing before I ever met Jodi. Also, I will add that no one else I know incorporates the use of music quite so beautifully into their writing. The characters are musicians, and they have such an awareness of music throughout. I loved how music was how they found each other. xoxo

20. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton. Continuing with the biased opinions. . . Brodi may have spoiled this book for me by telling me, almost line for line, a heartbreaking scene from the very ending almost a year before the book came out. But when I got to the actual scene when reading the book, I still cried. It was the perfect combination of funny and sad. And I could read Brodi's quirky, hilarious voice all day. xoxo

21. See Me by Wendy Higgins. As far as paranormal romances went this year, this was by far my fave. It's about a pre-arranged marriage and hot leprechauns. No joke. But the relationship was one of the best slow-builds I've ever read, also no joke. I loved it.

22. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. This was good, a complex story about a girl who loses her sister, and doesn't want to really admit to herself what really happened. It reminded me, in a good way, of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. I also thought it was a wonderful, creative use of all the historical and literary sources that Dellaira utilizes to tell the story. I can see why there was so much buzz.

23. Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon. A good, solid thriller.

24. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. Great premise, which I thought was so well executed. Each boy brought something so different to her life, and I liked the idea of this girl writing a letter to these boys as a way to take control of what she feels. Nice.

25. Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I will never look at hatchets the same way again. I loved this simple, short novel for the middle-grade crowd about a boy who has to unexpectedly survive in the wilderness after a plane crash with only the help of . . . you guessed it, a hatchet.

26. Born of Illusion by Teri Brown. I liked this. You have figured out by now that I'm not terribly hard to please with books, but really, this one, about the (supposedly) illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini, really caught me in its world. Also I really liked the character dynamics here, especially the prickly one between the mother and the daughter.

27. The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer. Steampunk goodness! This actually may be my favorite book by Andrea Cremer so far. Wonderful, thoughtful world building. I was distressed when the book ended before the major conflict of the story was completely resolved, but that's reading a series, I guess. I'm eager to get my grabby hands on the next one.

28. Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White. This. book. I heart this book so much it hurt to finish it. The main character was smart and resourceful and amazing and funny and totally memorable. The world building was perfect--I could see the ways it was England but also the ways it was different. I swooned over the swoony guy. I cried a couple of times. I booed the villain. I was so obsessed by the time I finished this novel. This, in my opinion, is Kiersten's best work to date, and I loved the Paranormalcy series so much I blurbed her third book, so I don't say that lightly.  Loved loved loved.

29. September Girls by Bennett Madison. Another mermaid read, and this one was fascinating.

30. The Taking by Kimberly Derting. Alien abduction! I grew up under a very big, very empty sky, so aliens were my big fear. This book chilled me in all the right ways. I also really loved that, under all the menacing questions about where this girl disappeared to, it was really a book about what it is to grow up and move on (or have the people around you grow up and move on while you don't, and then you must learn to). One of my year's faves.

31. The Princess And the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. I love MIH and I predictably loved this book, which had a very detailed, Robin-McKinley-fairytale feel for me. It was a full, all-encompassing story that is so satisfying as a stand-alone and feels truly epic in proportion.

32. Defy by Sara B. Larson. Good love triangle in this one.

33. The One by Kiera Cass. So great to see how this story ended, and I think the right team won the hand of the fair maiden. It felt like a novel about growing up, in that way, and putting aside childish things for real, adult concerns.

34. Forever by Judy Bloom. I had read this ages ago, but I thought I would reread it this year. What I continue to appreciate about this novel, and Bloom in general, is the characters and their dialogue and the situations they find themselves in feel so completely real and relatable.

35. Under The Skin by Michel Faber. Okay, so this is adult literary/sortof science fiction / whatisthis? I read it because I wanted to read it before I saw the film, and I was so glad I did. The book stuck with me in a deeply haunting way that the movie definitely didn't. It made me ask all the tough questions about what being human truly means and what being a woman truly means and what makes us ourselves. I also loved the details in the book that they couldn't and didn't even try to accomplish in the movie, how the main character has been surgically altered to look like a human woman and how that ostracizes her from the other members of her alien race. My mind is still grappling with it.

36. Conversion by Katherine Howe. A modern-day Salem witch hysteria, which was so cool. And based on a true story.

37. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. This book was a literary novel that got squeezed over into YA, I think, with a small supernatural twist, and as such I really enjoyed it. It is all about the complex characters and their relationships and evocative, beautiful language, which is entirely my cup of tea.

38. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. I had a hard time finishing this book, which was so odd because I was completely hooked in the first one. It was just harder to connect with the characters this time, for some odd reason, maybe because my heart was still with the two main characters from the last one and they got significantly less page time and attention this time. Hmm.

39. Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott. I get a kick out of Victoria, both her books and her real-life self, and I enjoyed this book so much. Waiting eagerly for the second book to find out how it will all work out. If you like The Hunger Games, you'll like this one.

40. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I have loved Mary E. Pearson since The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which I adored, and I really liked it, and boy did it ever have a twist I didn't see coming, but it ended on the worst cliffhanger, so I don't really feel like I've finished this book yet. Will have to wait until the next one before I can give it five stars.

41. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is an adult literary novel, and it was a finalist for the National Book Award this year for a very good reason. I have always really enjoyed post-apocalyptic novels, but this one may be the best, in my regard. It's about the end of the world as we know it, yes, but it is about connections and art and the way human beings find hope. It is the most hopeful post-apocalyptic novel I've ever read.  I know it will stay with me, one of those books that will feel like a memory, part of my own experience, and that is a rare and beautiful thing.

42. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I read this in preparation to watch the TV series, which Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton and I decided we were going to watch together for our Girls Night In times. I was glad I read the book first. It is, sexy parts and all, a great book--the characters are mesmerizing and the premise (WWI nurse accidentally gets transported via magical Stonehenge-like stone circle to Scotland in the 1700s) is so satisfying. And okay, the TV show is soooooooooooo good. Swoon swoon swoon over Jamie and his kilt.

43. The Jewel by Amy Ewing. This book had guts. It's about a world where poor girls train to be magic wielding surrogate mothers for the rich and powerful. Really good.

44. Panic by Lauren Oliver. My favorite LO is still Before I Fall, but this was a good one. I don't think Lauren Oliver is capable of writing anything but good ones.

45. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. I enjoyed this novel, about a girl struggling to escape her stifling life in New Orleans. I liked it even better than Between Shades of Gray.

46. Thorn by Intisar Khanani. Loooooooooooved this one. It's such a rich, powerful, and engrossing retelling of "The Goose Girl." This had all the feels for me. I felt the same way I did reading a Hans Christian Anderson story when I was a little girl, like the world outside my door was a magical but dark, thrilling, terrifying, and romantic place. One of the best, most straight-forward retellings I've ever read.

47. The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas. Okay, so here's two books in a row that I absolutely loved. This was the best debut fantasy this year for me. I relished pretty much every minute--there was so much emotion and magic and strategy at work here. It had the boarding school fun of something like a cross between Harry Potter and Looking For Alaska, the prophecy that hangs over the main characters' heads like a dark cloud, the fated-but-doomed romance element, the dressing like a boy to hide stuff, which was awesome, the magic and magic training and a magic book that they can go inside to play out different scenarios or speak with ancient wizards of the past, the slightly steam-punky London element---GAH, THIS BOOK. So awesome. Read it now now now.

48. The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas. Because of course I had to immediately read the sequel the second it came out (I read the first one like 2 weeks before the sequel came out, fortunately for me). This was an awesome book also, but it didn't quite transport me as deeply as the first did. But it was still so amazing.

49. Blackbird by Anna Carey. Okay, biased opinion here, since Anna is my friend and I'm sure I'd find her grocery lists good reading, but this book was like a textbook example of how to convincingly write a story in second person. Yep. Second person. Which is disorienting at first, because we don't often hear stories that way, but once you settle in, it is so good. The kind of book that will keep you guessing. And by you I mean you.

50. Get Even by Gretchen McNeil. Gretchen just brings it every time. I laughed out loud a few times reading this book, and wished there was more to read when it ended. Grrr. I hate having to wait for the next one. I love how Gretchen is able to be simultaneously playful with her storytelling and intensely thrilling at the same time.

51. Heart-Shaped Box. An adult horror novel about a washed-out rock star who on a whim buys an old suit that the seller claims carries a ghost with it, and then receives it in a heart-shaped box, and it turns out to be way more than he bargained for. I haven't been this creeped out by a novel since I was a teen reading Stephen King. *shudders*

52. Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini. Josie told me about this story a couple of years ago, and I've been dying to read it ever since--it's about an alternate reality that is loosely based on The Crucible. It's hard to explain, but it's a great read.

53. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I had the good fortune this year to attend a screening of the movie that Peter S. Beagle himself attended, and it was such fun, and I had him sign a copy of the book and brought it home and read it that same night. It still had the magic I found there when I was ten years old. Brilliant story.

54. Atlantia by Ally Condie. I got very swept up in this one. The underwater world and the main character's plans to escape it was so engrossing. I liked it as much as I liked Matched, which is a lot.

55. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory. I read this because I had watched the White Queen TV series, and really liked it, and wanted to know what happened next. Then I was pleased to get to know a character in this book who also makes an appearance in My Lady Jane. Sweet. For the record, though, my favorite Gregory book is still The Other Boleyn Girl, which is so much much better than the movie.

56. The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters. I loved the cover of this one, so I picked it up, and I was so glad I did. It's an amazing historical novel set in Oregon during the women's rights movement. But it's also romantic and funny and a bit magical. Yay!

57. In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. I liked The Cure For Dreaming so much I went off immediately to find this one, which I also liked.

58. Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis. I really liked this one--a sci fi retelling of Snow White that felt a lot like Marissa Meyers, in a good way, mostly. It was inventive--the seven dwarves are seven robots that the main character builds, and the term stitching applies to how she programs computers. The love interest was swoon-worthy and the tension was there, and I also have to applaud Lewis for confronting an unexpected issue with the father. If you liked Cinder, you'll like this one.

59. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers. I love Robin LaFevers. I met her at an event a few years ago, back when Unearthly was new, and I was sort of new as an author, and Robin struck me as the coolest, calmest, wisest veteran writer ever. I loved Grave Mercy, and my son has LOVED her Nathaniel Fludd series. So this year it suddenly struck me that I hadn't read the other two books in the series yet. So I read this one, number two, which knocked me out because it was even better than the first one.

60. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers. And then I got to this one, which is even BETTER than the first two. The twist in this one KILLED ME. After I finished I had to go lie down for a while and stare off into space thoughtfully and ponder how it is not at all fair that Robin LaFevers can write such great middle grade AND young adult and I'm sure whatever the heck else she wants to. #writerjealousy #sigh

61. Jackaby by William Ritter. I felt like I was watching the YA cross between Sherlock and Supernatural with this one. And that's a wonderful thing.

62. The Fall by Bethany Griffin. Two very dark books in a row here after reading Jackaby. This one has great language and a sense of claustrophobia that is truly uncomfortable at times. Great read.

63. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Attachments is still my favorite, but this one, the other adult novel as opposed to her YA, was so darned good. I love Rainbow Rowell characters. I wanted to be Georgie McCool's friend, I liked her so much. That's Ms. Rowell's genius--the way her characters slowly draw you in until you feel like you know them so well, and then you care so deeply about what's going to happen to them and you want them so badly to get what their hearts desire. #morewriterlyjealousy #butinagoodway

64. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley. I can't remember exactly when I read this--in airports, going to some event this year, and then on the way home someone asked me about it, and I ended up giving them the book. This story has stayed with me, but it's a hard one to explain, plot-wise. It's about a young woman who finds a burned man on her property during a storm one night, but he ends up not really being a man, but someone from another place, another planet, perhaps. It's an adult book and it's very literary (read: character-driven and language based) and it is unconventional and strange, but I think in a good way. What I liked about it was the way that relationships work--how love changes and grows. The whole thing felt like an extended metaphor for how we love--at first love is like a reflection of ourselves, but then it changes according to what the other person needs. Anyway. I'd recommend it to adults.

So that's it: 64 books! What stuck out to me as I put together this list this year was how many books I loved this year--more than usual, I think. There weren't any instances that I was tempted to write about how much I didn't like a novel. Maybe this is because I had less patience this year, and if I didn't like a novel past the first few chapters, I stopped reading. In any case, it was a good year for books.

Here's my top 6 choices for 2014: (because I could not narrow it down to 5!)

The His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. Read this if you are looking for a good series, because this is one of the best out there. Killer assassin nuns in 14th century France, is all I'm saying. So. Good. Even better taken as a whole, so I'm going to lump them together.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Read this if you want to read a great book--it's that simple. This is a great book. I always tell the people to whom I recommend this book to stick with it through the transition. The beginning is so tense and heartbreaking and vivid, and then there's a little transition period, and then it picks up again being tense and awesome and vivid. The transition period is a necessary setup, so stick with it. This is a GREAT BOOK.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas. Read this if you like fantasy--this one has it all. Maybe my favorite reading experience all year.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Windel. Read if you like thinking about how fragile our little world is, or what it would be like to go through a collapse of life as we know it, or if you just love beautifully written, thought-provoking novels.

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White. Read this one for the main character, really. She's a show stopper. There's also a book that becomes a bird that I LOVED.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Read if you need a romantic comedy that will hit all the right notes.

Stay tuned later in the next week or two to vote on what I should read next (I have a TBR pile a mile high, people, and I need your help) and to see the list of the books I read to my seven-year-old son this year, and get my top 5 children's book of 2014.

Now I'm going to go rest my tired eyes. . .



Friday, October 31, 2014

The Reviews Are Coming In

Two good reviews this week on The Last Time We Say Goodbye!

This one is from Kirkus:

After her younger brother's suicide, ordinarily rational Alexis starts seeing her younger brother's ghost.Seven weeks after Ty shot himself with a hunting rifle, Alexis' mom announces she's seen him in the house. Alexis, a math student with aspirations of attending MIT, is skeptical but soon sees visions of her own. Alexis watches Ty die in recurring dreams, reluctantly relives firsts and lasts in a journal suggested by her therapist, and tries to stay strong for her mom, who is drinking to cope and certain that her own life is over. Alexis herself hasn't cried since her brother's death. Instead, moments of intense emotion open what Alexis powerfully describes as a "hole in my chest." The hauntings here are more emotional than paranormal, and Alexis' journey primarily entails reconnecting with estranged friends and family and slowly moving on. The characters involved are many—a childhood friend-turned-occultist stoner, Alexis' emotionally absent father and Ty's last girlfriend, to name a few—but each storyline is distinctly important and carefully woven in. Details of Ty's last days, Alexis' sense of guilt and the incident itself are revealed slowly and are often unexpected but always believable. Evocative and insightful. (Fiction. 14-18)

And this one from the School Library Journal:

Gr 8 Up-For Lex, since her brother committed suicide, questions about their last 
goodbye have haunted her. Filled with regret, she ponders their last words and 
not being able to show him how much she loved him while he was still alive. The 
narrative unravels in perfect pacing, drawing readers into this emotional story. 
With a rocky home life in a small town in Nebraska, Lex begins pulling away from 
her friends, breaks up with her boyfriend, and struggles with life in general. 
When her therapist, Dave, assigns her the task of writing down her thoughts in a 
journal, flashbacks of the siblings' relationship and the protagonist's 
interactions with their parents fill in the gaps. Readers will be drawn in by 
the even pacing, the heavy moments never overwhelming the teen's story. Raw, 
emotional, and gripping, this book is Hand's first realistic fiction title, and 
fans of her popular "Unearthly" series (HarperCollins) will follow her genre 
change willingly. Libraries should jump at having this book, not only because of 
the author's previous work, but because it is an excellent and thoughtful 
exploration of grief.-Stephanie Charlefour, Wixom Public Library, MI


Whew! I am always a little fretful about reviews,  but this book is especially dear to me so the good reviews mean even more.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Young Adult Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive TWENTY signed books, one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are THREE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GREEN TEAM--but there is also a red team  and a blue team for chances to win a whole different set of twenty signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage. 

Scavenger Hunt Puzzle

Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the green team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Scavenger Hunt Post

Today, I am hosting Ashelyn Drake on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Ashelyn Drake (AKA Kelly Hashway)


Kelly Hashway grew up reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street novels and writing stories of her own, so it was no surprise to her family when she majored in English and later obtained a masters degree in English Secondary Education from East Stroudsburg University. After teaching middle school language arts for seven years, Hashway went back to school and focused specifically on writing. She is now the author of three young adult series, one middle grade series, and several picture books. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she isn’t writing, Hashway works as a freelance editor for small presses as well as for her own list of clients. In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling, and volunteering with the PTO. Hashway currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets. Hashway is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.


Find out more information by checking out the author website!

Buy the book from here!




In one month, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die. But until then, she plans to enjoy every look, touch and kiss with her boyfriend Logan, the new boy in Ashlan Falls. Cara is a descendant of the mythical Phoenix bird, and her rebirth is nearing. But first, she must die and forget all that she knew before, including Logan's face, his laugh, and the way he says her name. With precious little time left for the two of them, Cara does all she can to savor every moment, unwittingly drawing a Phoenix hunter to her doorstep with every move.



Exclusive Content -



Here’s an excerpt from the sequel to Into the Fire, titled Out of the Ashes. This particular scene is taken from one of Logan’s chapters, not Cara’s, so you can get a better look at the male lead in the series as he tries to defend himself to a room full of Phoenixes.
Logan
            “I hate to break it to you, Logan, but what you feel for her is just the effect of the imprint. It isn’t real. And when it wears off, all she’ll be to you is a human-bird hybrid that you’ll never be able to love. You’ll be so angry for how the imprint made you feel that you’ll want revenge—on her, and on all of us.” His arms swing out, motioning to everyone in the room.
            He’s baiting me. Trying to get me to admit that I’ll turn on them, but he’s wrong. “Nice try but I don’t buy a word of that.” I stand up, tugging at the handcuffs still pinning my arms together. “This isn’t fake. It’s not just the imprint, or whatever you all do when you fall in love. I felt something the first time I saw Cara. Something I still feel now. I’m the biggest cynic when it comes to love, but here I am, living proof that it exists. I’d rather die than lose Cara. I don’t care if she is part bird or part demon. I’d love her just the same.”
            Linette wipes a tear from her eye and steps toward me. “That was beautiful.” She wraps me in a hug, and a small amount of relief washes over me. One down, now I just have to convince the rest of them.
            “Yeah, very heartwarming,” Garret says, crossing his arms.
            Linette pulls away and looks at him. “Always the voice of negativity, Garret.”
            “And you’re always too eager to see the good in people. Our lives are at stake. People are dying. Phoenixes are dying. And you’re willing to believe the very person who was there when Cara was attacked just because he gave a speech about how much he supposedly cares for her?” Garret scoffs and shakes his head, his eyes never leaving mine. “I’ll be damned if I lose another one of our kind because I fell for some sappy love story.”
“Then I’ll vouch for him,” Monique says, walking into the room. I didn’t think she’d heard what I said from the kitchen, but she must have because her expression has softened.
“You?” Garret raises a brow in challenge. “And what will you be able to do to stop him from telling the world about us? The most contact you have with him is feeding him at the cafĂ©. That’s hardly good enough.”
“I’ll watch him,” Linette says. “I’m at his house every day cleaning anyway.”
“And what about at night?” Garret isn’t going to let this go. He wants me under constant supervision, house arrest, and I’m willing to bet he plans to keep these handcuffs on me permanently, too.

Enter the Contest

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Cynthia Hand, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the green team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Continue the Hunt

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here!


Enter The Extra ARC Giveaway

In honor of this special event, I'm going to give away 2 extra signed ARCs of THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. Just follow the directions in the rafflecopter below:


a Rafflecopter giveaway