Best Books of January

What was Your Favorite Read During the Month of January?

Here we go, it’s the end of another month. So, what is the best book you read in January (either for yourself or with your child)? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you really enjoy? Or, which one made a major impact on you?

Please use the comment space to share the title and author and to tell just a snippet about your book to whet our readers’ appetites. Is your child old enough to write? Invite him or her to write a recommendation for the blog.

The Kiss of DeceptionMy Reading Recommendation 

The book I would recommend from my January reading is The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I would recommend this novel for several reasons. First, like my own The Swallow’s Spring, its protagonist is a princess who does not want to marry as her parents have arranged for her to. Second, two of the secondary characters start out identified simply as “the prince” or “the assassin.” When these terms are used, you don’t know which male lead it is referring to. When these terms are not used, all you know are the male leads’ names. Therefore Pearson kept me wondering and hypothesizing about who is who. Third, it is one of only two books I finished reading this month. (The other was Thornspell by Helen Lowe–also a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy.)

Your Turn

What was the best book you read this month?

Advertisements

Wonderful Words on the World of Children’s Books

In an age when a limited diet for hundreds of millions of Americans daily is prescribed through the medium of TV, there is more nourishment, more privacy, and—best yet—more freedom of selection to be had in children’s reading. Because it is personal and powerful, reading can help weather children into an individuality which will help them to weather that which is impersonal and powerful.

~Gregory Maguire, from Innocence and Experience: Essays and Conversations on Children’s Literature: Introduction

Your Turn

Are you reading with your kids?
What would you recommend to read to a child? (Or simply to enjoy on your own!)
I’ll start the list with two, one an old favorite and one a new:

  1. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
  2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pierson

The Kiss of Deception

 

Best Books of December

best-books-logo

A Return to “Best Books of…”

The end of December is long past, however, I want to get back to a routine that was born with the inception of Literate Lives. Instead of me sharing all the books I read last month (you can still find these on my Reading Log page) I am going to pick my favorite for the month and talk about it a bit.

Your Role

Then… (Here’s where things get tricky.) I want to invite you (implore you, actually) to use the comments section to share about your favorite read from December. Please don’t let me down! The title of this post will be a lie if no one else chimes in with a book recommendation.

Okay, so…I’ll go first.

My Favorite Book of December

doomsdaybook1stedI love to read Christmas novels during the month of December, and this time, I kicked the season off with a re-read that proved every bit is gripping the second time around as it did the first. Even though I enjoyed the other books I read immensely (see Reading Log), The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis must rank as my favorite.

The Doomsday Book is a science fiction novel set in a futuristic Oxford, England during the weeks surrounding Christmas. Scientists have begun to master the dynamics of time travel, and historians have begun going back in time to do research–only not back much farther than two to three hundred years. The Oxford medieval department is eager to get in on the action and the book opens on the launch of a graduate student to the 1300’s–before the plague. Chaos ensues. The technician who oversaw the launch collapses with a mystery illness before he can confirm the student has arrived safely. The doctor who prepped the student for the launch gets caught up in trying to diagnose the mystery ailment. The history professor who observed the launch frantically tries to find another technician to confirm the arrival. As Oxford is placed under quarantine, the doctor’s twelve-year-old nephew arrives for the Christmas holiday and is entrusted to the care of the history professor. Meanwhile, the graduate student who lands in the 1300’s also gets sick. …And did I mention the bell-ringers?

Doomsday Book is a gripping tale, and I had a terrible time finding places to stop reading so I could go to sleep at night.

Your Turn to Recommend a Book

So, I shared my favorite December read. Tell me, please, what was yours? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you or maybe your children really enjoy? What book made a major impact on you? Please use the comment space to share the title, author’s name, and just a snippet about your book to whet your fellow readers’ appetites.

 

Meet Carol Riggs, Author of The Lying Planet

lyingplanet_200x300_finalToday I am launching what I hope will be the first of  many interviews that will provide you with a peek into some of my writer friends’ lives. Today, I’d like to introduce my long-time conference roomie, Carol Riggs, and her newest novel, The Lying Planet, which releases September 19!

Carol: Thanks, Debby, for inviting me here on your blog!

Debby and I met at an Oregon SCBWI retreat many years ago, and we’ve been event roommates ever since. We share a love of fantasy and other speculative genres. We support each other’s writing along with enjoying a great friendship.

I’m an author of young adult novels who lives in southern Oregon, USA. My books include The Body Institute, Bottled, and my September 19 release, The Lying Planet. Hobbies (besides writing): reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with my husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds.

Book Summary: THE LYING PLANET

Promise City. That’s the colony I’ve been aiming for all my life on the planet Liberty. The only thing standing in my way? The Machine. On my eighteenth birthday, this mysterious, octopus-like device will scan my brain and Test my deeds. Good thing I’ve been focusing on being Jay Lawton, hard worker and rule follower, my whole life. Freedom is just beyond my fingertips.

Or so I thought. Two weeks before my Testing with the Machine, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality. The truth. In a single sleepless night, everything I thought I knew about the adults in our colony changes. And the only one who’s totally on my side is the clever, beautiful rebel, Peyton. Together we have to convince the others to sabotage their Testings before it’s too late.

Before the ceremonies are over and the hunting begins.

Debby: I think it’s really interesting to get a peek at the roots of a story. What was your inspiration for Lying Planet?

Carol: This story was born one night in 2010 as I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep, and I thought I heard a noise out in the living room. It was probably our “haunted refrigerator” as we called it—that thing made more noises than a backfiring old jalopy. Whatever it was, my mind started spinning scenarios about What If. I figured this could be the initial pivotal moment of a YA novel, the story about a teen lying in the darkness of his room, and hearing… something. And getting up to investigate.

Debby: Describe your novel in 5 words:

Carol: Terrible secrets. The Machine. Banishment.

Debby: What themes play an important role in your novel?

Carol: I explore integrity and courage, with a splash of romance. Betrayal also factors in.

Debby: Who is your favorite character in this story?

Carol: Jay, the main character; he’s a conflicted hero who desperately wants to protect his friends and two little sisters, but hates how he is forced to go about doing it.

Debby: What was the hardest scene to write?

Carol: The ending scenes, because they involve battles, fighting, death, and other more gritty things that I usually tend to shy away from.

Debby: What scene did you most enjoy writing?

Carol: Jay in the hay barn of the cattle compound with a friend or two. Fun, flirty romance and goofing around.

Debby: Speculative Fiction requires strong worldbuilding. Tell us a bit about the world you created for this novel.

Carol: The planet Liberty has a 26-hour day where noon and midnight occur at 13:00. It has two moons; their magnetic pull causes the water from the underground tables to rise every night for an hour starting at 1:00 am, which irrigates the yards and gardens. It never, ever rains. There are 8 days in a week, Monday through Restday.

Twenty-five years ago Liberty had a war. Now most of the planet is bombed out and covered with deadly genomide dust, which clings to skin and sifts into lungs causing chemical burns and mass killings. The few exceptions are Jay’s colony of Sanctuary, along with the other safe zone colonies of Refuge and Fort Hope.

Turning 18 is a big deal in this colony. There’s a Machine that Tests the teens on graduation day. If they score high, they get rewards like a wristcomm or a hover vehicle. If they score low, they’re branded with a “B” on their foreheads and banished to the outer zones. That’s great motivation to work hard and obey all the strict rules in the safe zones.

Foods include greshfruit, which is a sweet fruit like an apple only softer like a nectarine.

Animals include vermal, similar to coyotes, but more bulky and powerful, and worrels, turkey-like creatures with shimmery bronze wings.

Debby: What is it about this novel that has turned out to be the most meaningful to you?

Carol: The value of not giving up on a story if you really believe in it. Sometimes you can dig out old manuscripts that were shelved and breathe new life into them. In the case of The Lying Planet, it started out as post-apocalyptic dystopian, and in 2015 I changed the genre to science fiction—and I’m really glad I did. I also plowed through numerous revisions with my excellent editor at Entangled Teen, and although it was challenging, I think it’s a much better story for it.

Debby: Describe your early life as a reader/writer.

Carol: I mostly devoured Nancy Drew books, sucked in by the mystery genre, and in retrospect, I think I admired how confident and smart she was as a character. Even today, I love inserting secrets or mystery elements into my own novels. I didn’t read anything more “literate” until my sophomore year of high school, where I had two great English teachers and I fell in love with Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Great stuff! That’s when I also began writing, myself.

Debby: Describe your “Literate Lifestyle” now.

Carol: I used to say I could never read a book while writing one of my own, but now that I’m published and had two novels release in 2016 with overlapping revisions for my editors, I squish in reading whenever I can. I read for pleasure, but also for “research,” to check out the latest in other young adult novels. I wrote one middle grade (ages 8-12) novel last year and had fun with it, but mostly I stick to YA.

Debby: What are you presently working on? What’s next for you?

Carol: I’m writing the final scenes of a fantasy novel that’s a retelling of a rather obscure French fairy tale. I’ve always wanted to do a retelling, and I’m having a blast putting my own creative twist on it. It’s taking on a life of its own.

Debby: How can readers help get the word out about The Lying Planet?

Carol: Reviewing on Goodreads or Amazon is extremely helpful no matter what the rating is, because it shows that people are reading the book; people are generally wary of trying things no one else has. Also, with Amazon’s analytics, having a certain number of reviews enables the book to get mentioned in the “also viewed” or “also purchased this item” areas on the site.

Any form of social media is good for a shout out, whether Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, emailing or talking to friends, etc. Sharing links to my website or bookseller sites works well. Word of mouth is a great way to spread news!

Debby: Thanks so much, Carol, for visiting with my readers here on Literate Lives.

  • You can learn more about Carol and her books on her website.
  • You can follow Carol on Facebook and Twitter.
  • And if you want to be one of the first people to read The Lying Planet, you can reserve your copy here

August 2016: My Reading List

When I look at this list, I am embarrassed. It is barely a list, for August, when I, a teacher, am supposed to be enjoying the last weeks of summer! What was I doing?

Well…

What was I doing?

My overall goal for the summer was to revise my flagship novel, THE SWALLOW’S SPRING from tight, past tense, third person to present tense, first person. I had finally made sense of the feedback I have been getting and realized I needed to allow readers to get not just in Iseult’s head, but actually in her skin, in her life. At the beginning of August, I was only half-way through.

Also, I went to the Willamette Writers Summer Conference–three days of talking writing, information, talking writing, learning about connecting with our audiences, talking writing, taking copious notes in writing craft workshops, and, of course, talking writing. It was vastly informative, and awesome learning experience, and fun!

Therefore, I truly only read two books in August.

What I Read

6335178Lady Vernon and Her Daughters by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

This was a very “Jane Austen” type of novel based on notes Austen actually made for a novel that never got written. It had a marvelously, Austen-like cast of quirky characters, and typical Austen-like near misses where characters you love don’t recognize their own feelings until it is almost too late. It was a delightful read.

16140922Altered by Gennifer Albin

This is book two of a trilogy. Book one, Crewel, I read in my school library. I enjoyed the first novel so much, I finally bought the sequel myself. (The library didn’t have it.) Altered follows Adelice, Jost, and Erik when she rips a hole in her own world–Arras–and descends to a very messed up earth, California in particular. Determined to rescue her sister, Adelice seeks a way to sneak back home, and we get to tag along with her  to a post apocalyptic Hearst Castle and Alcatraz Island (where she meets a very famous person familiar to most of us). Again, I really enjoyed this read. Too bad the sequel to this one, Unraveled, got checked out last school year and was never returned. Hmmm. Maybe I can get it through interlibrary loan!

May 2016 Reading List

41BfcrI4hML._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Tardy again, aargh! (Read this post for a bit of an explanation)

However, better late than never, right? So it is, my May 2016 reading list:

Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls, by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. My husband is in school earning his MAT, but when I saw this book sitting around, I had to read it too. In addition to having three precious granddaughters, I am  a teacher who works daily with at risk teens. Sax’s contention is that there are four factors at play in society that negatively impact the lives of girls and young women: premature pressure to address questions of sexual identity, the pressures of living in a cyberbubble, the dangers of obsessions, and the presence of environmental toxins. Sax cited numerous situations that have already had me concerned, and offers tips for parents (but also useful for educators) to help our young women grow up healthy and strong.

urlLockwood and Company: The Whispering Skullby Jonathan Stroud. This one I got from our school library. It is the second in a series (the first is: The Screaming Staircase). This is a YA fantasy novel set in a modern/futuristic London where “the problem” (ghosts, specters, and all kinds of disturbing supernatural phenomena) has been going on for a long time and young people are the only ones sensitive enough to the phenomenon to be able to get rid of it. The protagonists run an independent ghost-busting agency and are hired to provide protection when a graveyard is prepared for relocation. Darkness, chaos, and a contest with their most aggravating competitors ensues.

urlThe Skin Map (Book I of the Bright Empires Series), by Stephen Lawhead. For my husband and I, anything written by Stephen Lawhead cannot go terribly wrong. And so, with trust, when The Skin Map opened with a contemporary setting (something I very rarely have any interest in whatsoever) I hung on for what was for me a slow start. It paid off. Lawhead unfolds a mind bending (time bending) adventure that pops into ancient Egypt and 18th century England, China, and Prague. Enjoy.

If you were to ask me what was the best book of May, I would not be able to decide. However, Girls on the Edge was certainly the most alarming and thought-provoking and The Whispering Skull the best romp. I would recommend any of the three.

A Very, Very Late March & April Reading List

Ruin and Rising by Leah BardugoLate winter and early spring of 2016 has been one of the most difficult in recent years. Between asthma attacks and catching every little cold I came in contact with, I regret much of what I accomplished in these months relates solely to trying to get healthy, trying to stay healthy, and trying to fulfill my responsibilities at work. I am so grateful to be turning the corner into June!

Therefore, today I present my, again, much belated reading list. During the months of March and April, I read the following books.

Each book was eminently enjoyable in its own way. For any writer I would recommend putting Bell’s book on your reading list.

However, the books that made the greatest impact by far were Leah Bardugo’s Grisha series. These were the most gripping and shattering novels I have read in a long time. Bardugo’s Slavic-themed fantasy world is rich and fascinating. Her main character, Alina, is so vulnerable and alone, and what she must do and endure to save her world is devastating. She more than earns her ending. After putting down the final book, Ruin and Rising, I felt utterly broken and bereft (maybe even a little depressed, although I’m sure the Oregon gloom and my health struggles played the majority role in that). These are powerful books, and definitely turned me into a Bardugo fan.