Hello, fellow book junkies! I’m almost afraid to check and see how long it’s actually been since I wrote a blog post. Sometimes, major life changes get so big and numerous they seem to pick me up and tumble me around for a while.
My whirlwind of the last year consisted of positive things: relocating to a rural, wild-west kind of town in the Mojave Desert, working toward a creative writing degree, and setting up a new piano lessons studio. They’re all good changes but have kept me away from my passions of writing fiction, reading books, and blogging.
But that’s how life is sometimes, and it’s okay.
I’m really itching to write YA fiction again and to read lots of new books. What are some great new YA books that have come out lately? I’d love if you could share!
Decisions, decisions. All three library books I requested from Overdrive became available at the same time! That means I have only two weeks (no renewals) to read all three, and no idea how long it will take before they’re available again. If I were a faster reader, this might not be a problem, but since my days are also filled with writing my own books, taking classes and, y’know, life, I’ll probably only get to one, maybe two, of these three books–and I’m really excited to read all three!
Help! Which book should I start with?
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins “A library with the secrets to the universe.” Yep, that definitely captures my attention. Protagonist Carolyn was once a normal American. Now she wonders if the cruel tutor called Father who captured her and her adopted siblings and trained them in the ways of the library might be God. Then Father goes missing, and Carolyn must battle fierce competitors for control of the unguarded library.
Unspoken (Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan Kami Glass is a girl detective from a sleepy English town who has spoken to a boy inside her head all her life. Haunting atmosphere, humorous, and charmingly creepy. This looks like it could be a really fun read.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Ruby survived a mysterious disease that killed most American children, and it gave her dangerous powers. Now she’s on the run for the only haven for kids like her. When she arrives, she finds nothing at the haven is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader (who I’m pretty sure she gets in a romantic relationship with). A lot of readers say the first couple of hundred pages are a slow burn but that the ending is completely amazing (which how I felt about Six of Crows).
Hello, fellow book junkies! Here’s a fun trick to try when your TBR list gets longer than a Duck Dynasty character’s beard. You know those books you clicked on as “want to read” way back when? They looked wonderful at the time, but in hindsight maybe they don’t need to take up quite so much space on your TBR. “Down the TBR Hole” is a brilliant way to whittle books off your list. It comes from Lia @ Lost in a Story, and I first saw it on Regina @ Bookish in Bed’s blog, so thanks, Regina!
How to go Down the TBR Hole: 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf. 2. List books in ascending order (oldest first). 3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. 4. Read the synopses of the books. 5. Decide: keep it or should it go?
Here are my five picks for the week. Let’s see if any make the cut.
When, oh, when will I finally get around to reading this timeless classic?! Anne of Green Gables is only 320 pages long, so I suppose even if it doesn’t totally keep my interest, it’ll be a quick read. Judging by the quote, it’s a pretty joyful story, too, which is something I can always use more of: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
I’m kind of on the fence about this book. Some readers had a hard time with the oppressor-oppressed romance and relating to the main characters. It’s also a very heavy story–understandable considering the theme. Lies We Tell Ourselves has a lot going for it too. It’s an important story about racial oppression, which is something we have a long way to go toward needing to improve in society today. Apparently, Robin Talley has a great writing style (which is a big plus for me). It’s also well-researched, which is cool since I’ve been liking historical fiction a lot more lately. Oh, and we mustn’t there’s an F/F romance.
Is anyone else weary of stories about characters whose relatives die? This book opens with a nice, voice-y protagonist mentioning that her mother and sister have died. Uh-oh. I get that people die, and it is a very, very sad thing, but there are ways to build conflict and tension in a novel without needing people to die all the time. The opening of The Sky is Everywhere also has the MC saying her grandmother believes “a particular houseplant. . . reflects my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.” Quirky. I like it.
The Everafter has an average 3.71 rating on Goodreads. That’s a little on the low side, but then again rating isn’t everything. I loved The Graces by Laura Eve, for example, and can’t fathom why Goodreads insists it is only a 3.28 star read. Reviews of The Everafter also abound with the word “depressing.” That’s not a good sign. It’s hard enough to stay positive without reading a depressing story. Sorry but. . .
I really enjoyed books one and two of Kasie West’s Pivot Point and have been wanting to read something else by her. The Distance Between Us intrigues me with its premise: “Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment. However, the book is also labeled by some readers as a “cheesy romance.” (I should’ve have looked a little closer at the cover). I prefer books that explore human connections beyond stereotypical boy-girl romance, so. . .
Hello, fellow book junkies! Have you ever noticed how so many book lovers are also passionate about music? I know I sure am. Music and books are a wonderful combination, and they have a lot in common. Both books and music are powerful forms of expression and artistry. They transport us, help us navigate emotions, and can even elevate us as human beings. In honor of the beautiful duo known as books and music, let’s take a look at YA books which incorporate music as a theme. (Music about books would be an interesting topic too, but that one we’ll save for another day.)
Without further ado, here are the top ten, music-themed YA books. If you can suggest other good, music-related YA books–especially in YA fantasy–I am all ears. 🙂
This is one of those books that always has a song reference going. The main character is Aden, a high school senior with a beautiful voice who’s looking to get a solo gig. Heavy themes of grief, teen pregnancy, and drug addiction abound, but they’re strangely glossed over. One of the most compelling aspects of the story is Aden’s struggle to connect with her Jewish identity, which she lost as a little girl when her mother passed away.
Susannah wants to follow in the footsteps of her rockstar father, with whom she has a complicated relationship. The story has a cool, dreamy atmosphere steeped in music, though the plot is a little disjointed . The Midnights represents yet another music-centered story that’s rife with heavy themes likes grief and loss. Wouldn’t it be great to encounter a music-themed story with depth but also an uplifting feel? I’d also like to see more music-themed stories in YA fantasy. That’s why I’m writing one. 🙂
Fair warning: You might want to be in a strong emotional place before plunging into this book about three characters dealing with grief and loss. Music is a central theme–Sasha is a music blogger; Logan is a songwriter. And Woodfolk’s lovely, poignant writing will appeal to fans of Nina Lacour and Jeff Zentner.
This book totally captures what it’s like to be in a band with friends. Okay, so it’s also littered with F bombs and explicit sexual descriptions that don’t add much to the story. That being said, the adventure this music-loving band of jazz camp dropouts goes on is really entertaining. Jesse Andrews, of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl fame, is a genuinely funny writer who aptly describes the interactions and special chemistry of different personalities in a band, kids who are in the trenches together as musicians but who also have complicated friendships, emotions, and desires.
Nick, a guy in a band, asks Norah, daughter of a famous music producer, to pretend to be his girlfriend after his ex brings a date to his gig. Half-assed pick-up line aside, Nick and Nora spend the entire night hopping to different venues in New York City and forming a deep connection. Except, is it really that deep? The 2008 film adaptation starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings suffers from the same weakness as the book in that Nick and Norah don’t really talk to each other that much. Still, the music is a great factor, and so is the New York City setting.
Carmen is a violin virtuoso raised by a stage mom who was once a rising opera star but whose career was cut short when she became pregnant with Carmen. Forging through the cutthroat world of music competition, Carmen unexpectedly bonds with her biggest competitor, Jeremy, both of whom live, breathe and adore music. As a main character, Carmen can be a bit wishy-washy, but her scenes with tutor Helen are super good.
Though this isn’t technically a YA book, The Ensemble is a glorious celebration of music and enduring friendship. Over a 15-year period, starting when they are young, the story follows four high-level classical musicians who perform together in a string quartet. Shades of Mozart in the Jungle.
This story about humans and alternative dragons who can take human form, has a strong plot, smart writing, and super unique world building. Plus, all the main characters have a growth arcs that are satisfying to read about. The main character is Seraphina, an unusually gifted young musician hired to work at the palace as a court musician.
Though this isn’t totally centered around music, science-y Haitian girl Natasha and Korean-American boy poet Daniel meet in a record store, Natasha wears earbuds a lot of the time, they go on an awesome karaoke excursion, and both are music lovers, so I’m including it on the list.
Introvert Elise has always felt like an outsider, and music is her escape. At a warehouse party she finally meets people she can connect with and discovers her love of DJ’ing. Serious themes but also lots of humor.
Books with super long titles sort of whisper, “I am going to be so well-written. Just wait and see.” But is it true? Are YA books with longer titles better? Let’s find out.
Here’s a list of fifteen YA books with titles of six words or more, each rated from 1 to 5 stars.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Maas – 4.5 stars The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – 4.5 stars The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – 4 stars Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King – 4 stars The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil – 3.75 stars The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness – 4 stars The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – 3.5 stars
Holy royalty checks, Batman. Did anyone notice that on Goodreads The Perks of Being a Wallflower has over ONE MILLION ratings? A million. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book with that many. How could I possibly give this classic book only 4 stars? But I did. Oh, and A.S. King? Her books are so interesting, smart, cool, and different. I love them all. Okay, so there are lots of excellent reads in this six-word title group, but none with five-stars, so let’s see how 7-word titled books fare. . .
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – 4.5 stars Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina – 3.75 stars
Okay, not bad. The First Fifteen Lives is so well-written. Technically, it’s adult fiction but feels like a bit of a crossover. Still no five-star books. Let’s move on to YA books with eight-word titles.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – 4.25 stars The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 4.25 stars Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle – 4 stars
All three of these books are so enjoyable. Who can resist a book with the gorgeous and unusual title of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender? And that cover! Alas, neither of these books earned five-stars, so it’s on to the nine-word titles.
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – 3.75 stars
Only one YA book (that I could find) had nine words in the title–which is probably my favorite title, by the way. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe–it’s a magical title! I wish I liked the book more. The writing is lovely and philosophical, but the plot meanders a bit.
And now, for the grand champion, the longest-title on the list. No other books had ten-word or even eleven-word titles, but this one, oh, this one.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente – 4.25 stars
Yes, a twelve-word title, and a stunner. Wow! Those were all long titles. All combined, the titles of these fifteen books add up to over 100 words! Something else I noticed was that 50% of them include the name of a character. I wonder if that’s a long-title thing.
The search for long-titled YA books continues. What are some of your favorite YA books with titles of six words or more?
Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂
Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .
Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.
Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:
An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.
Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?
K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.
Eve: When is your book’s official release date?
K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!
Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?
K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).
Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?
K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.
Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?
K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)
A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)
Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?
K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!
Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?
K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.
Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?
K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!
Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?
My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂
Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?
K.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.
Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”
K.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have a favorite winter read, but reading in the wintertime makes me think of the classics, so I’ll say Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
2. Find a book with blue on the cover!
I just finished reading the first two books in Lauren Oliver’s YA dystopian trilogy, Delirium, and look forward to reading the last one, Requiem, whose UK paperback edition has a lovely blue cover. (Incidentally, the second book in this trilogy contains a character named “Blue”–which happens to be my favorite color!)
3. Find a book you’d use as the star on a Christmas tree!
There are so many pretty books to choose from. I’ve always liked the cover of Leslye Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender,but perhaps it’s not quite right for a Christmas tree. Tahereh Mafi’s Ignite Mecover is also gorgeous, but it would be disconcerting to have an eye staring back at me from the Christmas tree, so I choose. . . The One by Keira Cass. An angelic-looking girl in a gown of white roses would be perfect.
4. Pick one fictional place that would be perfect for a winter vacation!
Fjerda, Matthias’ homeland, from Leigh Bardugo’sSix of Crows. I imagine it looks something like this.
Since we’re on the subject of Six of Crows, I want to share this fabulous poster by artist Kevin Wada. Leigh Bardugo gave it out as a promotional item at her early book signings, and I wish I had one!
Out of all the novels I read this year, Six of Crows grew on me the most AFTER reading it. Does that ever happen to you?
5. Pick one fictional character you’d take with you on your winter vacation!
I’d pick Sam Roth from Maggie Stievfater’s Shiver. Sam is handsome, musical, loves to read, AND he’s a werewolf.
(I highly recommend the film this fan art is based on–
Mamoru Hosada’s spectacular and tear-jerking Wolf Children.)_______________________________________
6. Name one book on your wish list this year!
I’m going to cheat a bit here–well, more than a bit. I already own many of the books at the top of my wish list, and there are lots of others available at my (awesome) local library, so the “one book” on my wish list this year is. . . a Kindle! Oh, how preferable that would be to reading books on my little iPhone 5.
Which color do you like best? I’d probably go for basic black. _______________________________________
7. Favorite holiday drink, treat, & movie?
This one is so easy. My favorite holiday movie is Elf! It’s one of those rare movies I can watch over and over again and love just as much each time. In fact, I enjoy Elf so much that–rather than writing about my favorite holiday drink and treat– I will write the name of this movie twice more.
This ‘Tis the Season book tag was so much fun to do that I want to spread the cheer to everyone on the following “nice list.”