Friday, April 27, 2012

My Five Favorite 'Big Boy' Books

Every now and then, I'll read something age-appropriate. And by age-appropriate, I mean a book written for people out of high school. To close out the week, I'm sharing my five favorite novels of literary fiction. All overviews are taken from either Barnes and Noble (books 1-4) or Amazon (book 5).

1. For One More Day by Mitch Albom

For One More DayAs a child, Charley "Chick" Benetto was told by his father, "You can be a mama's boy or a daddy's boy, but you can't be both." So he chooses his father, only to see the man disappear when Charley is on the verge of adolescence. Decades later, Charley is a broken man. His life has been crumbled by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits bottom after discovering his only daughter has shut him out of her wedding. And he decides to take his own life. He makes a midnight ride to his small hometown, with plans to do himself in. But upon failing even to do that, he staggers back to his old house, only to make an astonishing discovery. His mother--who died eight years earlier-is still living there, and welcomes him home as if nothing ever happened. What follows is the one "ordinary" day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Charley learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a WallflowerCaught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.

3. American Youth by Phil LaMarche

American Youth: A NovelAmerican Youth is a controlled, essential, and powerful tale of a teenager in southern New England who is confronted by a terrible moral dilemma following a firearms accident in his home. This tragedy earns him the admiration of a sinister gang of boys at his school and a girl associated with them. Set in a town riven by social and ideological tensions - an old rural culture in conflict with newcomers - this is a classic portrait of a young man struggling with the idea of identity and responsibility in an America ill at ease with itself.

4. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen MinutesSterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy. For them, the lines between truth and fiction, right and wrong, insider and outsider have been obscured forever. Josie Cormier, the teenage daughter of the judge sitting on the case, could be the state's best witness, but she can't remember what happened in front of her own eyes. And as the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show, destroying the closest of friendships and families.

5. The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline

The Great Lenore is the tale of a ravishing young Brit whose falsely-reported death provides her with an opportunity to begin a new life. Before she can disappear for good, however, she longs to know the reaction of her two-timing husband and his aristocratic family. To find out, Lenore enlists Richard - an outsider in the money-and-booze sodden landscape of Nantucket high society - to be her eyes and ears. As events unfold, Richard discovers the entanglements of Lenore's relationships are more intricate than he ever expected - more intricate even than the secrets within Lenore's miniature punt boat. 

Got a suggestion for me? Leave it below. Have a great weekend, friends.

In case you missed it:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Five Favorite MG Novels

Though mainly a reader of YA Contemporary, I'm known, on occasion, to treat myself to a good middle grade novel. Today, I'm sharing five of my favorites. All overviews come from the Barnes and Noble website.

1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped PajamasWhen Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

2. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside. Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows -- does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to? In a future where the Population Police enforce the law limiting a family to only two children, Luke has lived all his twelve years in isolation and fear on his family's farm, until another "third" convinces him that the government is wrong.

3. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

HootUnfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and–here’s the odd part–wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails. Roy has most definitely arrived in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida.Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy's attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.

4. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing GameFor over twenty-five years, Ellen Raskin's Newbery Medal-winning The Westing Game has been an enduring favorite. It has sold over one and a half million copies. This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. They could become millionaires-it all depends on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, a game involving blizzards, burglaries, and bombings! Ellen Raskin has created a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense. The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance.

5. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous PieThirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

 Have one to recommend? Share it below!

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Five Favorite YA Contemps

I read as much YA Contemporary possible.  I mean, studying the genre you write is sort of important and all, but I also love these books.  I'm a picky reader (it makes up for being an unpicky eater and devouring anything edible, except turnips of course, because turnips are downright nasty).  That special place in my heart is reserved for teen protagonists, particularly those in stories that can actually occur, among humans, here on Earth.  That's my taste.  It keeps me young and handsome.  Or at least one of the two.

Since finishing the second draft of my own (crack at a) YA Contemp, I've spent time combing my bookshelves and revisiting the characters who, once upon a time, put me in a trance.  Characters who sucked me inside their world and made me forget my own.  Voices I didn't want silenced.  Prose I couldn't put down.

Honestly, are these not the stories we search for?

Today I'm sharing my favorite YA Contemps.  Later this week, I'll share some of my favorite Middle Grade novels, since I do read them too, and then I'll share my favorites from literary fiction.  Because yes, I read those too.  I just have to look up more words.

My Five Favorite YA Contemps

*All overviews come from the Barnes and Noble website.

1.  Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

TwistedHigh school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world. In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitchperfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.

2.  A Scary Scene In A Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone

A Scary Scene in a Scary MovieRene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound.

3.  Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Right Behind You
When he was nine, Kip set another child on fire. Now, after years in a juvenile ward, he is ready for a fresh start. But the ghosts of his past soon demand justice, and he must reveal his painful secret. How can Kip tell anyone that he really is—or was—a murderer?

4.  Burn by Suzanne Phillips
Burn"Are our schools safe?" It's hard to turn on the news without hearing this question, and the answer is typically "no." This novel explores what happens when bullying escalates to violence, and it challenges our definition of victimization. With thought-provoking prose, Suzanne Phillips explores the psyche of Cameron, a bullied freshman who ultimately does the unthinkable: he kills another student. As she did with Chloe Doe, Suzanne has found a way to make this seemingly dark story ultimately redemptive. But she also dares readers to look at the behavior that provokes violence as having the potential to be as dangerous as the violence itself. It's Suzanne's hope that Burn will inspire readers to take a precautionary stance against bullying rather than waiting to react to it.

5.  Boot Camp by Todd Strasser
Boot CampIn the middle of the night, Garret is kidnapped from his home and taken to Lake Harmony, a disciplinary boot camp for troubled teens. Beaten, humiliated, and stripped of his pride, Garrett is abused almost to his breaking point. He won't be allowed to leave until he admits his "mistakes" and repents completely...whether he's guilty or not. Then Garrett hears whispers of an escape plot. It's incredibly risky—if he's caught, the consequences will be unthinkable—but it may be his only way out.

So, friends, what's your favorite YA Contemp?  I need to update my TBR list. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cheers! Saludos! Salute! Ypa!

After ten months of labor, DRAFT TWO was born tonight at 6:03PM. It weighs 29 chapters, 84,000 words (a bit on the chubby side, but draft three will be put on a diet). Dad is exhausted but doing well. He's going to feed himself before celebrating the occasion. He thanks everyone who followed (and will hopefully continue following) his journey. The draft shares the same birthday as dad's dog, who is nine today.