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I turned in the first draft of my new manuscript to my editor, school is closed for the summer, and we’re winding up my daughter’s dance and theatre activities until August.  This means we’re melting into some of my favorite weeks of the year:  summer reading! Time to sit and enjoy some new books without too many distractions. Okay, I’m also getting knee surgery but that just means more guilt-free reading time, so I thought I’d list a few of the books I plan to dive into this month.

 

Extra Special Bonus: My ten year old daughter, Ana, is joining POV today as a guest blogger to share a few of the books on her summer reading list.

 

From Kim’s list, for adults:

The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil (Grove Press)

The New Valley, his collection of linked novellas, shimmered with lush storytelling and rich characters. His debut novel, which has been called futuristic Russian folklore, promises the same. Plus, he created all the gorgeous illustrations inside so it’s like also getting an art book for your coffee table. It’s a two-for-one! Casually leave it out in your house where people will spy it and think, whoa, nice book.The Great Glass Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum (Touchstone Books)

This one had me at the title. Love it. Maum’s novel looks like a fresh take on marriage and infidelity, plus it’s set in both England and France. Mostly, I’ve heard that it’s funny and anytime someone can take something painful and find the humor in it (see anything Jonathan Tropper writes!), I find it a useful lens.

 

for YA:

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (S&S Books for Young Readers)

I just started this book and it’s terrific – everything a YA book should be: a great set up (what happened to Sloan?), rich characters (Emily, the MC, is funny, sharp and interesting), and there is a cute smart boy. This is my kind of YA and I can’t wait to recommend it to my students in the fall for their independent reading.since you've been gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Ana’s list (in her own words):

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic)

I read Rules by Cynthia Lord and I really love her concepts and her characters. In Rules, Catherine wished she had a normal life because her brother was autistic, but throughout the book she figured out that normal is different for every family. One of my favorite characters from Rules was Jason. He was different from everyone else and he became friends with Catherine. One of the reasons I want to read Touch Blue this summer is because I really like Cynthia Lord’s writing. Touch Blue seems like a similar book to Rules because it has a girl who is challenged by something she wants and befriends two new people who help her figure out what she really needs.

touch blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion)

This is Rick Riordan’s second series, Heroes of Olympus. I read his first Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and I loved how he told the story in first person (Percy’s POV). I also love the character Annabeth. I read the first book in this new series and I love the characters Leo, Piper and Jason. I’ve already started reading Son of Neptune and in this book Percy Jackson’s POV returns as well as a character named Hazel and one named Frank. I like how it rotates POV every few chapters. These books are filled with action, humor, and Greek Mythology, which I love.

 

Amulet #6 by Kazu Kibuishi (GRAPHIX)

This one doesn’t come out until the end of August but I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ve read the other five and they are about a girl and her family who come to live in their grandfather’s house and she finds an amulet necklace that starts talking to her (weird!) She chooses to be a Stone Keeper and the whole series is about her fighting the bad people (the elves) and learning how to control the amulet’s magic. These are graphic novels and the drawings are amazing. I highly recommend it, but start with the first one or nothing will make sense.

It’s May 19th which means it’s the start of #IreadYA week!  Scholastic’s This Is Teen team wants to celebrate (along with the whole YA community) the YA titles in our lives that make us – you know – feel all the feelings.

This week via Twitter and Facebook, I’ll be sharing some of the YA books in my life that matter to me, and other authors, bloggers, teachers, librarians, readers and book-lovers will be talking about the YA books that matter to them.  Sound fun?  It will be.

Start building your summer reading list!

Look I’ll get you started: #CatchaFallingStar #IreadYA (see what I did there?)

Catch a Falling Star

Scholastic (April 29th, 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some ways to participate:

Check out #IreadYA to find out what YA books people are recommending/ reading/loving…

Share your favorite YA books #IreadYA

Or, if you’d rather, you can post a comment here about what YA books have mattered to you and let me share them for you…

This week, let’s #IreadYA together…COLL014113-001-I_Read_YA-Spring_color_ways-02

 

In Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, she writes with great passion and insight about the special nature of the independent bookstore, how a bookstore is truly part of the soul of a community.  If you haven’t read this novel yet, you should.  It’s delightful. Bookstores mean a lot to me (I know, surprise, surprise).  But there is just something irreplaceable about the physical space of a bookstore – the thousands of worlds dwelling in the stacks, the smell of the pages, the very act of being greeted by another human being who loves the weight of a book in his or her hands as much as I do.  It really does have a soul.

 

On Saturday, May 3, as part of CA Bookstore Day, I got to experience this soul firsthand when The Bookseller of Grass Valley hosted a beautiful party for the launch of my new YA novel CATCH A FALLING STAR in the multi-purpose room of Forest Charter School.  They rolled out a red carpet, dotted the room with stars, set up a photo booth with costumes, and baked delicious treats.  We gave out books and a prize basket full of goodies donated by other local businesses.  Looking out at the audience, everyone there to celebrate this book and support The Book Seller, I couldn’t help but feel that soul Zevin wrote about in her novel — that special energy community creates.

 

So I want to send out a huge thank you to The Book Seller for my special day.  They sure made me feel like a star.  Here are some shots of the special event.signing2prizesredcarpetreadingsigning

Scholastic will publish my new young adult novel Catch a Falling Star on April 29th! In celebration, I will be giving away a Catch a Falling Star Stargazer Prize Pack on my website.

Catch a Falling Star

Scholastic (April 29th, 2014)

The prize pack includes:
• A signed hardback copy of Catch a Falling Star
• A “shoot for the stars” journal
• A $15 iTunes gift card so you can create your own stargazing playlist

To win the Stargazer Prize Pack, please write a comment on this post telling me about your favorite place to stargaze. In celebration of Catch a Falling Star’s book birthday, I will select a winner at random from the comments posted by noon PST on April 29th. This contest is open to US residents only.

Thanks, and, happy stargazing!!

Over the last year, my family has read the seven Harry Potter books out loud to each other. We have spent many hours curled up inside the world J.K. Rowling built around her boy wizard, his friends, and their journey. Harry Potter has traveled with us – to our winter vacations the past two Februarys, to weekends away, and, last summer, we loaded all the books onto Kindle and took them with us to Scotland and Switzerland. One of my favorite memories from our trip was reading to each other on the sprawling lawn of Urquhart Castle as the wind came off the rolling waters of Loch Ness. Recently, we closed the book on the last page of book seven. My daughter looked at us, tearful, and asked, “Now what?”

I was telling this story the other day and a friend remarked, “Wait, Ana read them all?” This surprised her because she knows my daughter well and knows that she won’t read anything dark. As a little one, she refused to watch most Disney movies on the grounds that “Disney hates mommies!” and wouldn’t watch Tangled until several weeks ago because that witch “totally freaks me out. I mean, she steals a baby and pretends to love her. That’s messed up!”

But she’s fine with Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. That makes sense.

I asked Ana, “Why are you okay with the Harry Potter books, but you don’t want to try other stuff?” She shrugged and said, “No matter what, no matter how dark, there is always hope. Besides, JK Rowling is funny. She always throws in something funny.” Ana’s right. She does do that. Over the past year, my husband and I found ourselves cracking up as we read, especially because as educators we appreciated her commentary on schooling via the wonderful Hogwarts world.

But I’m a Potterhead now even more than ever for a personal reason. Rowling’s books have acted as a gateway for my child to explore some darker themes, some more complex concepts. We’ve had amazing discussions about racism (all the Mudblood, half-blood threads), about slavery (Ana was Dobby for Halloween last year), about death and love and compassion and betrayal and sacrifice. The list is endless.

Harry Potter has given Ana a literary reference point, one she has embraced with her whole heart. Now, when we read things that are tough, we find her saying, “That reminds me of that scene in Harry Potter …” and she’s able to process more difficult content. I’m not going to be throwing Stephen King at her anytime soon but I’m thrilled to know this series has given her a way to process the harsh things she encounters in the world at large.

The other night, she snuggled on the couch, re-reading book six for about the fifth time, and she said, “Mom, sometimes I feel like these characters are with me even when they’re not.” Then, she giggled, “I know, that’s kind of weird.” I told her it wasn’t weird to me at all. It’s why I’m a reader, why books matter so much to me. I am the sum of all the books I’ve read in my life, all those stories and characters and triumphs and failures help guide me through a world that often doesn’t make sense either. I told her how happy I was she had Harry and Ron and Hermione and Neville and Luna as friends to help her.

I want to end with one of my favorite quotes from Albus Dumbledore. It sums up the reason I love writing YA Fiction, why it matters so much to me to write for this age group: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

Author Crush

January was author crush month in my Creative Writing class.  I’m always telling my students when I’m crushing on new authors (they are very kind and indulge me), so I like to give them opportunities to dive into an author they love and read a book closely for style, voice, structure, etc.

At the start of this project, one of my favorite things to do is have the students call out books they love and I write them on the board.  This year, the list was resoundingly YA heavy. (Is their teacher biasing them?  Perhaps.)  I asked them what they loved about each book and they thoughtfully spoke about how the voice, setting, plot, and other elements made the book a must-read (insert proud teacher smile here).

Next, I had them each choose a book that might be a potential crush and study it closely by looking at the craft of the book – all the things the author does to make the book work for them.  They also took some time to get to know their author by studying webpages and websites devoted to their author.  Last, I had them create a piece of original writing that mirrored the work of their author in some way.

On the due date, students brought their projects into class in the form of Author Crush Binders and shared their authors with each other.  We agreed ahead of time on some guidelines for share day.

  1. We don’t apologize for our crush.  We just love what we love.  No apologies.
  2. We don’t criticize other crushes.  No haters allowed!
  3. We would each try to find a book someone else read that we would consider reading, even if it seemed outside our comfort zone.

I had a blast watching them share their crush binders.  Some of the titles shared were Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, Crazy by Amy Reed, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Crank by Ellen Hopkins and I shared my crush on Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy.

That day, I was struck by how passionately these students talked about the work they’d read, how clear they were about what they loved about these books, and how eager some of them seemed to read the books their classmates had read.  Lately, I’ve read a lot about how grim the statistics are about reading, about how many people don’t really read books anymore.  It felt like a sort of paradise to sit in a room full of thoughtful teenagers and hear them crush on these authors and books.

Writers, try this:  Choose an author you really love and read a chapter of one of their books.  Create a piece of writing in the spirit of that author’s voice.  Pay attention to their sentence structure, their use of specific detail, and the way they use dialogue.

YA Novel Review

The Language of Love

On November 2nd, I had the opportunity to attend the Vegas Valley Book Festival and sit on a wonderful panel called The Language of Love moderated by the fabulous librarian Nikki Bylina-Streets. First of all, I want to send out a huge thank you to Crystal Perkins for the invitation to the festival. I sat on the panel with eight other authors who write contemporary love stories, and while each of our books features an element of romantic love, the conversation of the day very much focused on how love in a broader sense provides the driving force behind what we write. To paraphrase Terra Elan McVoy, we write about relationships. And love, whether between a parent and child, or between siblings or friends, fuels the exploration of these relationships in our work. Sitting there, I listened to these incredible women discuss the reason they write, share stories of love in their own lives, and talk about their excitement for future projects, and it struck me: I’m so freakin’ lucky to be sitting here with these authors! Sitting in my folding chair, a warm desert breeze on my face, I realized: I love these people. I love that they write books about love. I felt drenched in a deep sense of gratitude for what they do, what they share in their books, for their individual voices all coming together to write about the power of love.

And since it’s the holidays – a time for reflection and gratitude, and, let’s face it, buying stuff – I thought I’d give you a list of these amazing authors and their books so you could check them out too and maybe find one or two that you want to stuff into some stockings. This holiday season, give the language of love.

Amy Plum (Die for Me series, HarperCollins)

Lauren Morrill (Meant to Be, Random House)

Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits, Harlequin Teen)

Stephanie Strohm (Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Graphia/HMH)

Terra Elan McVoy (Being Friends With Boys, Simon Pulse)

Robin Mellom (Ditched: A Love Story, Disney Press)

Jennifer E. Smith (This Is What Happy Looks Like, Poppy)

Leila Howland (Nantucket Blues, Disney-Hyperion)

Writing Exercise

Write a poem called “The Language of Love.”  What specific, sensory language do you use to describe love?  For me, love smells like wet autumn leaves and sounds like my daughter and husband laughing at something unknown in the next room.  Think about all the language we can use to describe love.  Write, write, write.

Outside Reading School Project

Create a holiday book list with books that show the language of love.  For each entry, chose one or two lines from the book to show how this author showcases love.

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