Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I Read in 2015

It's that time again, when I list the books I read this year. To be honest, it was a lighter reading year than I've had in a very long time. I had a lot of other things on my plate this year, but I snuck in a book whenever I could.

So here we go:

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I've been a huge fan of LHA all the way back to Speak, and this book was just as good. What is so killer about Anderson is her amazing ear--she just gets how teens talk and how they feel and conveys it so well on the page. I am struck anew with writerly envy every single time I pick up one of her books.

2. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows. Okay, disclaimer: Jodi is one of my very best friends, so I am not exactly objective when it comes to her work, but in my opinion this is one of her best books. If you love fantasy, you'll love this. It has it all: magic, political intrigue, a kick-ass heroine and a guy who runs around wearing a mask. Love love this one.

3. The Martian by Andy Weir. This is an adult book, and I loved it so much I bought it for my parents. They, er, thought it was a bit boring at times and greatly preferred the movie. I will have to agree to disagree--the book is awesome. It is a love letter to science in the best possible way, and the voice of the main character is so winning and lively that it's easy to follow all the science that comes with surviving when you've been abandoned on Mars.

4. Golden Son by Pierce Brown. If you caught my list last year you'll notice that the first book in this series, Red Rising, was one of my favorites of the year. I went into Golden Son with a little bit of trepidation, honestly, because I loved the first book so much I was worried that the second one couldn't possibly measure up. I was wrong--this book is every bit as tense and engaging and beautifully written as the first novel. Easily the best sci-fi I read all year.

5. The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman. I really liked this fantasy/horror retelling with whispers of Snow White and Rose Red and the Snow Queen all in one. Reading the book felt like a beautiful nightmare, in the best sense possible.

6. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter. This felt like the good old paranormal teen stories of old to me, which I miss. The modern life of the main character was so believable. I also loved the ways the author used clouds and symbols.

7. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Ah, Holly Black, you slay me. How do you do it every single time? This story was soooooo compelling, one of those hide-in-the-closet-so-I-can-finish-reading kind of books--you other mothers know what I'm talking about. I loved that this was a fairy book, and the characters were so well drawn and the plot was so engaging. Sigh. *fangirls all over Holly Black.

8. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Okay, so this was the year of the suicide novel. That sounds like it shouldn't be a thing, but it's good. It's an issue we need to talk about. And it felt like all of these suicide novels came out at roughly the same time, my own included. So I read a bunch of these last winter. ATBP ended up being one of my favorites, because the characters, particularly the guy character, felt so real to me. Bring tissues for this one, though. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to cry at the end.

9. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. This one is hard for me to talk about for a few reasons. If you've read the acknowledgements of my book The Last Time We Say Goodbye, you'll know that I lost my younger brother to suicide when I was in college. Books about suicide can be pretty difficult for me. This book came out the same day as TLTWSG, and we were going to tour together, so HarperTeen sent me an ARC. I got to page ten, and then I had to put the book down for a while. It's a story about a girl who is contemplating suicide, and she seeks out a "partner," someone who also wants to kill himself. She ends up connecting with a boy who wants his life to end on a specific date: April 7. The entire book from that point counts down to April 7. Which just happens to be the date that my brother died. I got to that date and felt a ripple of shock go over me. It was painful to read and anticipate how Warga's April 7 was going to turn out, but I did pick up the book again and keep reading, and I'm so glad I did. It's a beautiful story about, i think, how human connection can save us.

10. I Was Here by Gayle Forman. I am a big fan of Gayle Forman--her book If I Stay is one of my favorites of all time, and I've never read a book of hers I didn't like. That said, this one is probably my least favorite, even though it's a very good book. This is about a girl whose best friend has committed suicide, and the girl goes on a journey searching of answers. Again, a really good book, but it felt like a head book to me instead of a heart book. If you know what I mean.

11. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. I loved Marie's previous Legend series, but I have to say I loved this novel even more. The Main character was just so fascinating, and the world the book operates in is dark and engrossing. And the end was so awesome.

12. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Again, I might be a bit biased, as I toured with Victoria this year, but this novel was so well crafted--it keeps you pretty much on the edge of your chair for the entire read. If you read a lot of fantasy, you'll dig it. The ship situation is pretty intense in this story, too. Hot guys and red-blooded girls for the win.

13. The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes. I really love survival stories, so I was excited to read this one, about three teens lost in the woods. It was pretty good, too, a little kitchy at times, maybe, but a feel-good read, for sure.

14. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This was the book that I recommended when people asked me for my favorite book this year. In so many ways it was just another one of the gazillion fantasies that flooded the market this year, but IT WAS SO GOOD. It's from the point of view of two characters, and the stakes are so high for both of them, and I was just holding my breath for them by the end. AWESOME AWESOME.

15. A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thompson. This was an excellent retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, which begins with the kiss that wakens her and proves that happily ever after isn't necessarily a given.

16. The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons. Gosh, this was the year for great fantasies (and the word glass in the title, apparently). This one hooked me right away, and had one of the most interesting, engaging main characters I read this year.

17. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. This book about aliens was hands-down the goriest, foulest-mouthed, most intense YA I read this year, but it was also really funny at times and incredibly authentic to the experience of a teenage boy. I enjoyed it.

18. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. The title is so apt for this book, which is both strange and beautiful, about a girl who is born with wings. But ultimately it is about so much more than that--it's about family and womanhood and the way people can treat each other as symbols instead of as human beings.

19. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I loved this one--it felt a bit like The Book Thief, about Love and Death competing with each other over the lives of two star-crossed lovers in the 30s. The world of this novel was so rich, and the story was so tense and compelling, and the premise was so imaginative and well wrought. A great book.

20. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. Yet another amazing fantasy. At this point some of the fantasies had started to blend together in my head a bit, but this one stood out for Hodge's deft use of sexual tension--I liked her book Cruel Beauty a little bit more than this one, but she continues to write attraction mixed with hostility so well. Great writing and imagery in this one, too.

21. Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. I am a HUGE Carrie Ryan fan, and I tore through this book the moment I got my hands on it. It's a great, quick-paced thriller where you definitely can't see all the twists coming.

22. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahndieh. One of my favorite books of the year--this is a super cool retelling of the 1001 Arabian nights. I found the world and the characters here simply mesmerizing, and I loved the storytelling aspect, and how the revenge in the main character's heart slowly shifts into something else, and the torment of the male lead. Wow. Wow wow.

23. The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy. This is an adult novel that reimagines the Lewis and Clark expedition in a post-apocolyptic landscape, and it was brilliant, easily my favorite of Ben Percy's books so far. I loved that the Sacajawea character was constantly thinking about just murdering the whole bunch of them so she would be rid of them. I loved the steampunk feel.

24. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Okay, so I read and loved this two years ago, but this year my family and I went to dinner with Ransom and Tahereh, (his equally lovely and talented wife) and my eight-year-old son was immediately enraptured by Ransom and came home wanting to read his book. So we read it, although I had to do some heavy editing because it was a bit too scary for my kid.

25. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. I LOVE Westerns, and I was instantly smitten by the cover of this book, so I went right out and got this the day it came out. It was a fun, exciting read, and I loved following this kick-ass girl's path through the Old West. Awesome.

26. Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson. Another Western! Woohoo! This one I felt had a bit more of an "educational" feel to it--like we were learning about the history of the Oregon trail as we went along, but as usual Carson's language was beautiful and the little paranormal twist to it made it so cool.

27. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman. A sci-fi version of the Titanic, set in space and on some distant planet. There was a moment in this one where I literally gasped--what happened was so unexpected. I'm eager to read the next one.

28. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. This was easily my favorite contemporary YA of the year--it was just so heartfelt and authentic and true. I loved the main character in all her flawed and wonderful struggles--she is trying to hide her obsessive-only OCD from her mean-girl friends, learning how to express herself and come to love herself through writing, and reinventing her life. If there's one book I wish all teens would read this year, this is it.

29. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Gosh, this was a beautiful book. It struck me as a literary novel that got swept into the YA category because the characters are fairly young. I don't want to give too much away, but I flat-out loved this one--the gorgeous language, the strange yet familiar story, the yearning characters, the small-town revelations.

30. The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This was an awesome book, too. I think this year, which my more limited time and budget, I really only bothered with books that I had a strong sense that I would love. This one is about a family with a kind of curse on them--every October they tend to get into strange "accidents." It had mystery and romance and one of the best family dynamics that I've read in YA.

So that's it--the books I read this year! If I had to pick favorites I'd go with:

The Darkest Part of the Forest, if you miss the paranormal romance phase and love the dark and engrossing kind of fantasy.

An Ember In the Ashes, if you want a book to get completely lost in.

Bone Gap, if you're in the mood for something beautiful and completely engrossing.

The Game of Love and Death, if you like historical and magical.

Every Last Word, if you want a contemporary that will make you think about the ways we define ourselves.

What strikes me every year when I go to make this list is just how great teens have it now--you have SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS TO READ. I mean, seriously. There are great books of every type and genre--the world is your oyster. Every year I am amazed at both the quantity and quality of the books on the YA shelf, and I grew up in a time where there was no YA shelf--you just kind of skimmed the adult shelves looking for something that would speak to you.

So what was YOUR favorite book of 2015? Tell me in the comments. And stay tuned for tomorrow, where I will give you the list of books I read to my son in 2015. *spoiler alert--there was an equally-great selection of kids books this year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Power of One Good Friend

I've been trying to write this post for a year. Brace yourself, it's going be long and weepy, but sometimes these things just need to be said because it's important to say these things out loud (sort of). So here it goes:

One morning last October I was packing up and getting ready to leave Yellowstone National Park, where my family had been staying at the Old Faithful Inn for a long weekend. My cell phone rang. I smiled when I saw who was calling: my friend Joan Kremer, who had been my off-and-on writing partner for the past six years.

"I was just thinking about you yesterday," I said as I picked up. "Happy birthday!"

But on the other end, there was silence.

"Joan?" I asked.


"Silas?" I said, thinking maybe Joan's baby grandson, whom she adored and was often joyfully babysitting, had gotten ahold of her phone. "Silas?"

A throat cleared. Then, in a faltering voice, Joan's wife, Brenda, told me that Joan had suffered from a sudden brain hemorrhage the day before. She'd been in the hospital all night, surrounded by her family, but there hadn't been anything the doctors could do.

"She's gone," Brenda whispered.

After I hung up I sat down on the edge of the hotel bed in total shock. Just like that, my friend, who I'd spent hours upon hours talking to and laughing with and goofing around with, was dead.


I spent the first several months in that stage where I couldn't get my brain around what had happened, where it felt like there'd been some kind of awful mistake. Joan can't be gone, I'd think. There was just so much I had to tell her. I never got to tell her, I kept thinking, how she kind of saved my life.

Hiking with my son in Westlake Village, CA
Rewind seven years. My husband and I had just moved to southern California so my husband could start his new job at Pepperdine University. We had very little money at first, and only one car. Every day my husband took the car to Pepperdine, and I was stuck at home with my toddler in a city where I didn't know anyone.

To say that I was unhappy during that time is such an understatement that it almost makes me laugh. I was deeply depressed--a touch of postpartum, a dash of guilt that I clearly wasn't "enjoying the time" with my baby, a whole lot of cabin fever. I was bored. I was wildly lonesome--the kind of lonely that caused me to start up conversations with the grocery store clerk just so I'd have a flicker of adult conversation. The second my husband crossed the threshold of our apartment I was like an excited puppy waiting at the door. The problem was, he was usually exhausted at the end of the day, trying to get on his feet in his new job.

It was not a good year.

In April of that year I heard an NPR story about a new internet phenomenon: SecondLife, a virtual world sort of like The Sims but where the inhabitants were all real people and the content was all created by the players. It wasn't a game so much as a social experiment, NPR claimed, and it cited colleges setting up virtual campuses to hold virtual classes and people doing cool things like recreating the Sistine Chapel and having poetry readings attended by people from all over the world.

I was intrigued. I was also, as I've said, dull-eyed bored, so I thought I'd check this Second Life thing out. So, one day during my son's nap, I created a profile, put together an awkward avatar, and stumbled into another world.

My avatar at the virtual Sistine Chapel
I'm always a little hesitant to talk about SecondLife, honestly. It shows off my geek side, sure. There are some incredibly cool things to see and experience in that place--yes, there IS a virtual Sistine Chapel, where you can fly up and get a closer, private look at every nook and cranny, which is SO cool-- but there is also a very seedy underbelly. It can be like a gigantic costume ball where everyone is wearing masks. Real money is constantly flowing through that world--money for virtual clothing for your avatars, virtual property that you can rent, virtual furniture you can buy for your virtual property, sounds and textures and animations for sale to make your experience more and more lifelike, and it isn't really surprising that the best selling items in SecondLife have to do with sex.

It can be a creepy place, is what I'm saying. But I guess, like anything, SecondLife is what you bring to it.

So there I was, duck-walking around a self-proclaimed "writing center" in SecondLife--somewhere that people had set up to hold these aforementioned poetry readings and serve as a resource for writers--when I literally (or virtually, I should say) bumped into an avatar named Alas Zerbino.

Like me, Alas was new to SecondLife. She quickly introduced herself as a freelance writer and educator who'd heard the same NPR story that I had and come to check it out.

So we decided we'd check it out together.

Alas Zerbino and me in the virtual Vincent Van Gogh exhibit
At first we were just merry traveling companions. There's a lot to do and see inside Second Life, and from pretty much that first day, Alas Zerbino and I experienced it together. We went to poetry readings and fiction writing groups. We explored the Emerald City and the planet Mars and the inside of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. We shopped. One of our favorite things was to collect a bunch of free hair demos (in SecondLife, you have to buy your hair the way one buys a wig, already styled, but most places will let you try on a demo first) and then try on the silliest ones and laugh our butts off. In the beginning Alas wore her hair in an updo--a cascade of curls. Over the years we both went through a series of different looks, but Alas always sported auburn hair, large brown eyes, and a hint of a smile.

We were a bit guarded with each other at first. We were both wary of the dangers of the internet, and we didn't give out our real names and locations. We didn't voice chat--only type. But over the weeks and then months that Alas and I hung out in that virtual space, the details of our lives started to trickle out. We started to talk about more than just our writing. Alas Zerbino slowly became Joan, and Clarissa Tolsen (which was my avatar's name) became Cynthia, and we spent less time exploring and more time just finding cool places to talk.

Joan and me literally hanging out

It didn't add up to that much time that we spent together, really, maybe one or two hours a couple of times a week, but it made a HUGE difference in my life. Suddenly I had someone to talk to, and not just someone, but Joan--Joan who was quietly funny and whip-smart, sympathetic yet capable of calling a spade a spade when the need arose. We were both writers and mothers. Her younger sister had died when Joan was a teen--my younger brother had died when I was twenty. She was older than I was, in the next stage of her life, with two kids in their late teens / early twenties who she was constantly worrying about, but she remembered her early times with her kids so well. We had so much, we found, to talk about.

After so long feeling completely adrift, I felt like I'd found myself again. And it was all because of the power of one good friend.

It was about a year after I met Joan when I had the idea for UNEARTHLY. At the time it seemed like a huge undertaking--WRITING A NOVEL!-- one that I had tried before and pooped out on long before I'd finished. When I told Joan about it, she was the best cheerleader. Not only did she urge me to just start writing, she offered to write with me. By this time Joan and I had pitched in to get our own little spot in SecondLife, a place we called Story Mountain, which was basically like a big ski lodge where Joan and I compiled all the SL information about writing and writers into one beautiful reference location and where I taught intro classes in creative writing from time to time.

My alter ego working on my real book.
So for the next six months after I had the big idea for UNEARTHLY, Joan and I showed up every day at Story Mountain to work. We both set up virtual desks with virtual computers and directed our virtual avatars to sit at those desks and type while we sat at our own real life computer and wrote. We wrote hard for a couple of hours, and then we retreated to a couch in my Story Mountain office. We copied and pasted our day's work onto a virtual notecard and traded. We read each other's work and offered advise and encouragement. (Click here to see a transcript of one of our discussions of Unearthly.) And then we showed up the next day, and the next day, and the next.

At the end of that six months I had a novel, and within a year, I had a book contract with HarperCollins and my life would be forever changed.

And it was all because of the power of one good friend.

Joan and me in Chicago
I met Joan is real life once. I came to Chicago for the Romantic Times Book Convention. Joan and Brenda drove down from Wisconsin. I remember that I was a little nervous to meet her in person, and I knew I was being silly. We ran up and gave each other a big hug and then found a spot to hang out and talk. I shouldn't have worried; it was just the way it always was--totally comfortable. Sure, we weren't as thin or as well-dressed as we were in SecondLife, but guess what? Our friendship wasn't based on looks, obviously. We had a great time.

In the past few years we didn't log in to SecondLife as much. I became monumentally busy with all of my Unearthly stuff, and I had another baby. Joan finished her novel and shopped it around for an agent, but didn't have any luck. But she was tough--she just kept working on it, revising and revising. And then along came Silas, her grandson, and Joan threw herself into being the epitome of the loving grandmother. We both got caught up in other things, but every now and then we carved out a little bit of time and found a place to work together--a virtual cabin or a virtual beach, wherever we could put down some virtual laptops to work. We'd write and we'd talk, and it was always like picking up right where we left off.

Joan and I writing together and also 1500 miles apart

This is the last picture I have of Joan and me: the two of us as avatars writing together. Today, on what would have been Joan's birthday, I pulled it out and looked at it, and finally let myself have a good long cry over the loss of my friend. I wish I could call her right now and say thank you, for being my person when I desperately needed a person, for being my cheerleader and my writing partner and my friend. You showed me just how much power one good friend can have in changing a life.

Thank you, Joan. Love you. Wherever you are.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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 GOLD 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 gold 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 4, 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 Pintip Dunn on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Pintip Dunn

Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She then received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She lives with my husband and children in Maryland.

Find out more information by checking out the author website!

Buy the book from here!

Imagine a world where your destiny has already been your future self.

It's Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they're meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.

Or in Callie's case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself. 

Exclusive Content -

FORGET TOMORROW – alternate opening
The following is the original opening of FORGET TOMORROW. I decided not to use this scene pretty early on – although I’ve always liked it, this scene didn’t fit the direction of the story.  What was originally scene two is now the opening of the book. Enjoy!

We’re learning in school that our ancestors believed in God. He took many forms, appearing sometimes as a single omniscient being and other times as a whole gang of deities.
“God was necessary,” Ms. Farnsworth lectures, tapping teal blue fingernails against her beaky nose, “because back then, in the pre-Boom era, time travel was nothing more than a theoretical possibility.”
She doesn’t add that time travel still isn’t possible, at least not for physical bodies. In the future, we’ve apparently figured out how to send memories back in time, but so far, the present’s yet to see evidence of an actual time-traveler. Unless, that is, you count Ms. Farnsworth, who seems stuck in a fashion-era of her own making.   
Even now, she tosses her pink feather boa around her shoulders as if she’s a flamenco dancer. Or a flamingo. “Any questions?”
            My hand shoots into the air. “You mean, our ancestors didn't have to wait until their 17th birthdays?” I blurt out. “They had this God’s comfort all of their lives?”
            My classmates gasp. Ms. Farnsworth blinks. Even my best friend Marissa knits her eyebrows like she’s just been pinched.
            What am I saying? This is blasphemy.
            Every citizen in the North Amerie is allotted one memory to fling into the space-time continuum, to be received by his or her seventeen-year-old self. The memory can be sent any time after the legal age, but conventional thinking advises waiting as long as possible, to ensure choosing a proper memory.
Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve been waiting all my life to turn seventeen. I measure my days not by my experiences but by the time remaining until I receive my memory, THE memory, the one that’s supposed to imbue meaning into my life.
They tell me, then, I won’t feel so alone. I’ll know, without a shred of doubt, that somewhere in another spacetime exists a future version of me, one who turns out alright. I’ll know who I’m supposed to be. And I’ll never feel lost again.
            Too bad I have to live through sixteen years of filler first.
“Calla Ann Stone.” Ms. Farnsworth’s high-pitched voice squeaks an octave higher. “I hope you’re not seriously suggesting that the Agency is mistaken in setting the age of receipt? You don’t actually believe that a sixteen-year-old is mature enough to handle future memory?”
            Right. As if a few months’ time will stop Bobby Fernandez from drawing pictures of his anatomy on his desk screen and turn him into a responsible adult.
I drop my eyes to the table. “Of course not.”
            Ms. Farnsworth sits in her chair and drums her hands along the edge of her desk, fingers dangerously close to the button embedded in the underside of the glass. “That’s not the way it sounded to me.”
            Eighteen pairs of eyes fix on her hands. The button is supposed to be a secret, but everyone knows it’s there. One push, and officials from ComA will descend on the school so quickly, you would think they were staked out in the trees. The button’s only been pressed twice since I’ve started school – once, when Mikey Russell made a ball fly across the racquetball court, without touching it, and the second time, when Lena Pereles flipped out and started hacking at the ComA’s Rulebook with a pair of scissors. I really don’t want to be number three. 
“Callie’s not herself today,” Marissa says, grabbing my arm. “She’s getting her memory tomorrow, remember? It’s enough to put anyone on edge.”
            Ms. Farnsworth purses her lips. My heart misses a few beats and then, thank the Fates, she moves her hand from the button.
            “I was hoping you could tell us about the time you received your memory,” Marissa continues. “It must have been so exhilarating, learning that you would someday become a teacher in this school.”
            “Well, I suppose I could.” Ms. Farnsworth pats the glass beads around her neck. “As you know, my class was one of the very first to receive the memories in a structured manner Before the Agency intervened, the memories struck individuals like a bolt of lightning – randomly but so vividly, it gave the survivors of the Dark Days the hope they needed to rebuild the future…”
I mouth “thank you” to Marissa. We turn to our desk screens, and I tap out a word here and there, barely comprehending what I’m typing.
It’s over. I’m safe. She didn’t report me. 
And then I hear, from somewhere behind me, in a voice so low it might just be my imagination: “It’s not like the Agency has any control over it.”

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 37. 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 1 extra signed copy of THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. Just follow the directions in the rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 31, 2015

Deadline Week Rundown

This is what last (deadline) week looked like for me:

Monday - Friday:

6 am - Woke up, drank coffee, and worked on my revision for the new book.

7:30 am - Woke the kids up, drank coffee, and got them ready for school.

9 am - Returned home from dropping off the kids, drank coffee, dinked around on the internet and/or called my agent / editor to freak out over my impending deadline and book issues.

10 am - 4 pm WORKED WORKED WORKED on the revision, eating lunch at my desk. Also drank some coffee.

4 pm - Picked up my kids. Homework. Shenanigans.

6 pm - Threw something together for dinner and shuttled the kids to various activities and / or found a movie for them to watch so I could WORK WORK WORK on my novel.

8 pm - Bedtime for kiddos, which is always a circus entitled, Tricks My Children Do To Avoid Going To Bed. I should charge admission for this. . .

9 pm - WORKED WORKED WORKED on the novel.

12 am - Went to bed. Stared up at the ceiling thinking about the revisions.

1 am - Fell into fitful sleep in which I actually revised my novel in my dreams. All night long I wrestled with phantom lines.

5 am - Woken up by two cats jumping all over me who had decided it was time for the human to WAKE UP AND PLAY. Threw ungrateful cats out of the bedroom.

6 am - Started all over again.

Behold the oh-so-glamourous life of a writer! It went like this until Friday, where I'll add -

11:52 pm (8 minutes before my deadline) - Pressed send to give the draft back to my editor

12 am - Went to bed, stared up at the ceiling for no good reason.

3 am - Finally got my brain to turn off enough to fall asleep. But that's okay because it's Saturday so I can sleep in. . .

5 am - Woken up by my 4 year old because she was cold. Also, was it time for cartoons?

The weekend was a total blur- not even sure what I did there--maybe cleaned up the house and had some friends over for both me and the kids, ate donuts and pizza, played the game Munchkin for the first time, which was highly entertaining, but mostly just sat still with my brain going DUHHHHHH DOHHHHHHH DERRRRRRRR.

Which leads me to this morning, which went like this:

7 am - Woke up and laid in bed for a while.

7:30 am - Woke the kids up and got them ready for school

9 am - Returned home and threw myself into my To Do pile: finished several writer errands I've been procrastinating on, like signing up for YASH and filling out my author profile stuff they make me do for every book for the new book, sent a barrage of emails

10 am - Stared at the computer.

11 pm - Spent an hour making homemade banana bread. The house now smells amazing.

12 pm - Ate leftover pizza and took a shower so long it would have made Al Gore cry.

1 pm - Stared at the computer.

1:30 pm - Wrote a bizarre blog post about my schedule for the past week.

2 pm - Eyed the notebook for the next project. . .

2:03 - Picked up a pen.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Novel #6

So last Wednesday I finished the first draft of my sixth novel!!!!

 . . . which I can't tell you much about yet.

*frowns* Well, that's no fun.

What CAN I tell you?

Hmm, well:

-It is a stand-alone.

-It is NOTHING like my last (solo) standalone, (i.e. THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE) in that it is not a straight contemporary, and it will probably (hopefully) make you laugh more than it will make you cry. (I did sniffle a bit writing a scene or two at the end there, but that's just me. I'm emotional about the needs of my characters.)

-It is also nothing like my last (group) standalone (i.e. MY LADY JANE) in that it is not a fantasy, and I am not writing the point of view of a sixteen year old boy.

-It was a blast to write, because I've had this story in my brain for, like, three years now and it was awesome to finally get to write it.

-It was the fastest I've ever written a book.

-It's probably the roughest first draft I've ever produced, which is both exciting and terrifying for me, because, at this point, so much could change.

-The main character is EVIL. I love her so much. I also kind of hate her. She and I have a love-hate thing going.

-It is mainly set in Manhattan, and also a little bit in Malibu, and I listened to Taylor Swift's new album a lot while I was preparing to write it. Like, a lot a lot. Welcome to New York.

-It will (fingers crossed) be out Fall 2016.

These last few days I haven't even really known what to do with myself, because I have been working SO HARD for the last six months and my brain just wants to keepgoingkeepgoinsomuchtodo. I spent a few hours today playing SKYRIM, which, I kid you not, I have not played since May 2012. And the whole time I was playing I felt vaguely guilty, like I was betraying my writer self by letting my video-gamer flag fly for even a little while.

But that's how it goes.

If you need me, I will be over here either a) working on my mad-bow-skillz or b) pacing while waiting for my editor to tell me what she thinks.

Either way, it's always good to be at that place where I've written a NOVEL. It feels like a miracle every single time.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Last Time We Say Goodbye in Italy

It's June! (How did that happen?!)

This month THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is coming out in Italy. (June 16, to be exact). The publisher there (Harlequin Mandadori Editore) has been so wonderful and proactive, so there's going to be an official Italian blog tour, starting today, featuring lots of exclusive content from me and other sources.

And here is the Italian cover:

Beautiful, right? I love it.

So if you're Italian, or if you speak Italian, here's the link to where you can buy the Italian version.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Playing Catch Up

Wow, I have been absent from this blog for a long time. Sometimes this crazy, unreal writing life of mine leaves me very little time for anything else. What have I been doing these past few months? Well, let's see:

1. In February I went on the Epic Reads tour with Victoria Aveyard and Jasmine Warga to Chicago, North Carolina, and Florida. This was so fun, especially because I got to meet two lovely debut authors and get to know them beyond their books. These girls were so smart and funny and great to be around. Some highlights of this tour include: a. being in a Chicago cold spell that was so fierce that they cancelled school and my nose hairs froze (but I did get to eat the most amazing pizza), b. getting to interact with so many amazing readers and booklovers, c. HARRY POTTER WORLD at Universal Studios, and d. Girl Scout cookies that a wonderful reader brought us.

Book tour!

2. In March I went to New York City to throw a book launch for my friend Jodi's new book, THE ORPHAN QUEEN. We had an awesome event at seriously the best children's book store I've ever been to (Books of Wonder!), ate dinner that night at a place that uses chocolate in everything on the menu (Max Brenners!) and then tearfully said goodbye to my friends (it was okay; I'd see them next month). I spent an extra few days in New York researching for my new book (which takes place in NYC), meeting with my HarperTeen editor, and hanging out with my agent--who is one of my favorite people in the world.

A picture my agent took of me outside of a restaurant in New York

3. In April I went to ENGLAND with the Lady Janies. In case you missed this from an earlier post, the Lady Janes are myself, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, three authors who wrote a book together this year about the Lady Jane Grey called MY LADY JANE. (Click here to go over to the Lady Janies page and find out more about this.) Anyway, in between the first and the second draft of the book we went to England to do some research and work on the revisions all together.  I'll save the highlights for the Lady Janies web space, but I will just say that it was the best trip ever. We wrote, we laughed, we took a gazillion pictures and video, we got lost, we got found, we wrote some more, we laughed some more, and we enjoyed every bit of our adventure.

The Lady Janies at Windsor Castle

4. In May I went to Texas to take part in the Romantic Times Book Convention, which was, as usual, both overwhelming and awesome. I was on a couple of brilliant panels, the first on how to throw a successful launch of your book (led by the always-charming Victoria Scott), and the second on writing tips and techniques led by Aprilynne Pike. On this second panel was Alyson Noel, Rachel Caine, Claudia Gray, me, and . . . Kathy Reichs. KATHY REICHS, as in the real life forensic anthropologist who writes the books they make the TV show BONES about. She may have asked me to pour her some water. I may have poured her a glass, and then poured some water on the table. Because I am smooth that way.

My view from the giant book signing at RT. That's Rachel Harris on my left.

5. I worked my backside off all this time on MY LADY JANE. Yesterday we turned in our final draft before the book goes to copy edits, and I have serious revision hangover. I would be just lying on the couch going GAHHHHHH for a few days, but I can't. I have a draft due on my next solo book (which I can't really tell you about yet) coming right up.

So consider this the part where I peek out of my writing cave, wave to you all, and then . . . crawl right back in.

I'll be out more at the end of summer.

I hope.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Epic Reads Tour

I'm moments away from the big black car coming to pick me up for the Epic Reads tour! I am so excited to meet my fellow tour-mates: Victoria Aveyard and Jasmine Warga. I read both of their books last month and loved them. Yay for new friends!

I'm also super excited to see the readers and bloggers who are going to show up in Chicago, Chapel Hill, and Florida! See below for dates and times. Yay for old friends!

See you there!



Monday, February 9, 2015


Tomorrow THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is on the shelves. I have nervous stomach. This is normal. Usually it feels like Christmas Eve at book launch; I'm excited that the day has finally arrived, and nervous to see if readers will respond to it, and thrilled to see the real book on a real shelf in a real bookstore. Usually at this point I'm swimming in newly-purchased swag, exhausted by all the blog tour stuff I've been writing (one year, I think it was with HALLOWED, I actually wrote nearly 20,000 words worth of interview/marketing stuff in the weeks leading up to publication. Good grief--that is like 1/4 of a book!) determined to enjoy the day (which to me means a mani-pedi, lunch out, and a trip to the bookstore to see the book in the wild), and just slightly nauseated.

But this book feels different.

Last night I had a dream that I was backstage. I spent my high school and college years as an actress in local theaters, so this is a typical dream of mine. It usually goes like this: I'm backstage, nervous, and then I go out there and either a) can't remember my lines and have to improv the whole play (which I suck at, btw) or b) go out there and get that beautiful-and-slightly-out-of-control high of simply letting myself go. That's when the magic happens. I perform, but it doesn't feel like performing. It feels like me.

You can tell I miss the theater.

In last night's dream, I was waiting backstage in that cozy blackness with the smell of sawdust and hairspray, waiting, waiting, for the show to begin. I took my place at center stage, and the curtain rose. Slowly. There was a huge crowd out there in the dark, the biggest crowd I'd ever seen. A spotlight flared up on me. Silence fell over the crowd. And I felt. . .

Naked. Not physically naked (although I'm sure I've had those dreams, too, gah), but naked in the way that  all of those people had come and bought their tickets to see ME. Just me. Standing there in front of them. No lines. It wasn't that I'd forgotten them so much as there were no lines, in this play. No costumes. No makeup or fancy hairstyles. Just me.

And I had a choice: improv (which remember, I suck at) or let go.

I took a deep breath, and woke up.

It's hard to describe how vivid the dream was, or how perfectly it captured what I'm feeling now, as I wait for February 10 to arrive, the day of my book, this book that I put so much of my heart (and tears) into.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another Giveaway and A Bit of News

Wow, time is moving fast. THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE comes out in two weeks!

I got another wonderful package in the mail--5 real copies of the Australian version of TLTWSG.

Pretty, right?(See below for how another rafflecopter, where you can win a copy or one of the last 2 ARCs before the book actually comes out.)

Which brings us to how, yes, TLTWSG is going to be available in some other countries:

Here's the list so far:

  • Australia from HarperAustralia (Happy sigh--I love my Australian fans and I will someday finally get over there to meet them!)
  • Italy from Harlequin Mondadori
  • Germany from Darkiss
  • Hungary from Maxim Konyvkiado

I also wanted to announce that TLTWSG will be available as both an ebook and an audiobook, all out on February 10th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 had a hard time wanting to stick with this book. It really shows how much I love my son that I made it through this entire novel, because I really didn't like it. I have a couple 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.

I should point out that in spite on my own lack of enthusiasm about this book, Will adored it and wanted to keep reading through the series.

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. Snicket doesn't talk down to kids--he meets them where they are, 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.