Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Countdown - Books in Review

Christmas Tree Made Out Of Books
It's Christmas Eve and I'm sure a lot of you are ticking down the last minutes till the end of the workday or some may have started their holidays already! Perhaps you're traveling to see loved ones or staying put and welcoming guests into your home. Or better yet, perhaps you've got time off to snuggle under cozy blankets and catch up on some great reads.

If the latter is in your near future, here are a few books that made the top of my list this year. Not all YA but sure to knock your socks off. 

ROOM by Emily Donoghue

I watched the movie, then quickly ordered the book. Word of advice if you happen to watch and read in that order: if you are a sleep deprived mother at one of those schmancy theatres where they let you drink win at your seat, WARNING! Your eyes will become overflowing reservoirs of salty liquid for TWO HOURS!


Reading Ng's debut is like listening to Adele for the first time. I know, that's a mighty comparison but you don't make it to the top of Amazon's list of 100 Best Books in 2014 because you're average. Ng's story is about characters that love and live and make you want to hug your child. 

I think I'm noticing a trend here?

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

A story of two sisters during WWII who couldn't be more different. The author makes writing strong female characters seem easy - but that's because she does it so well. If you're looking for a study in conflict, this is the book. 

Two non fiction books also made my list.

YEAR OF YES by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda, Shonda, Shonda. As blogmate Lauren mentioned, I recommend audio booking this one because Rhimes' voice is like butter and she invites you to drink wine with her. A glass of wine in one hand and Rhimes' voice dancing in your ear and singing words of wisdom (or drink more wine). It's a fabulous treat. 

Apparently wine is another trend in my life.

JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson

Real, intense. We take a journey with the author as he battles the broken system that is death row. Hooked by the first page.

PAPER TOWNS by John Green

An oldie but a goodie.  My YA pick for the year. It's young, it's fun and if you finish the book, you can pick up the movie and compare.

What were your picks of the year?

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fun Sites for Writers

NaNo is over and as you push that WIP aside to mull things over, you may still want to write, so here's a list of a few fun sites for writers:

And our personal favorite:

Happy Writing . . . and writing and writing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

YA Series That Make Great Holiday Gifts

Piggybacking off Lauren's Book Lovers' Holiday Shopping List post, here's a holiday ideas list with a narrower focus: young adult series. For a young (or not so young) bibliophile, there's nothing better than having a complete series to devour, book after book. Best of all, each of the series on this list comes in a handy box set, perfect for easy gifting.

1. The Hunger Games
It's a perfect time to give Suzanne Collins's trilogy to new readers, since the last movie in the series just came out and those who haven't read the book yet are probably wondering what all the buzz is about.

2. Legend
I gushed about Legend in the first ever YA Book Pick here on this blog, and the rest of the series definitely held up. If your giftee likes dystopian, high-stakes books, this is an excellent choice.

3. John Green
Okay, this one is cheating, because they aren't technically a series, but most teen readers would love to get a set of books from the master of the YA contemporary genre.
4. A Wrinkle in Time
Do you have someone on your list who's into sci-fi and fantasy? Introduce them to one of the most influential and groundbreaking series ever with this quintet of books. It's also a perfect trip down memory lane for adults who grew up reading the adventures of Meg Murry and her family over and over again.
5. Percy Jackson and the Olympians
For a reluctant upper MG/young YA reader, it doesn't get much better than Percy Jackson. These books are quick reads, and Percy is relatable and funny. Your giftee will get through all five books before he or she knows it.
6. Harry Potter
Last, but certainly not least, it would be an unthinkable omission if I didn't mention possibly the most giftable series ever. Depending on your budget and the versions the person owns already, you can choose from a hard or softcover set and different covers. (There are even fully illustrated editions coming out, although only the first one is released to date, so you'll have to wait a while for a box set of those...)
Do you have any young adult series on your wishlist this year?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book-Lovers' Holiday Shopping List

If you're like me and love giving books as gifts, here are some of my top picks across the age-lines:

 (most of our picks are found here, but I added a couple of extra nods to the books that were hot commodities in my classroom with my reluctant readers last year):

Our very own Stacy Stokes' Where the Staircase Ends is a juicy and drama-filled story of friendship while also taking readers on the philosophical quest for what happens after we die/ how that knowledge affects how we live now. My class of reluctant readers nabbed this book right away and passed it around for reading.

Another favorite of my reluctant readers was The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. This multi-perspective story was honest and haunting about the ways bullying affects a community.

Picture Books

My 5 year old niece is going wild over anything Elephant and Piggy, but really any Mo Willems will do. 

She also can't stop laughing over Josh Funk's Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Her sister thinks that The Ghost of Karl Marx is a hoot, delighting her Economics-teaching mother. I'm inclined to agree that it's wonderful. 

Adult Books

While most of us are so deeply entrenched in the YA book world, we may not get outside to see the adult reading offerings so I'm dedicating most of my referrals here. 

For the creative friend you want to get a pick-me-up: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Jennifer
recommended it to me as read by the author. I agree.

For the cozy down-home literary reader/foodie: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. It makes even the unlikable of us more lovable.

For the community-minded: Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me was thought-provoking and a beautifully nuanced letter to his son about his thoughts on race in America today.

For history-lovers and feisty feminists: Meg Waite Clayton's The Race for Paris, the story of the female reporters who broke the rules and laws forbidding them from front-line action in order to tell the stories of WWII. Fast-paced and inspiring.

For hard-core literary fans: Adam Johnson's Fortune Smiles A warning: this book is sad. It's a collection of short stories that takes an honest and surreal eye to the struggles man faces day in and day out, but somehow Johnson leaves the reader feeling both empty and full at the same time. It's easy to see why it won the National Book Award.

***And though it's not out this year, a bonus recommendation to the talented mother/son duo whose blog postings you love, for your MG needs: a story of adventure set amidst the National Parks of America. Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers by Karen and Mitchell Clayton is always a winner.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cover Reveal + Giveaway! FACSIMILE by Vicki L. Weavil

Hello all!  Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and a happy and successful NANO! I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus as I think through some pending revisions to my latest and greatest, but that's a tale for another post. ;-)

Today, I'm thrilled to share the cover for fellow Month9Books author Vicki L. Weavil's newest release, FACSIMILE. I am a sucker for Sci-Fi, and can't wait to get my hands on this one. If it's half as good as her debut CROWN OF ICE, then we're all in for a treat.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win your own copy!

So, without further ado, are you ready to see the amazing cover?


...two and a half

...two and three quarters

...Three! Here it is!

facsimile ebook final

Beautiful, no?  Here's a little more about the book:
For a ticket to Earth, seventeen-year-old Anna-Maria “Ann” Solano is willing to jettison her birth planet, best friend, and the boy who loves her. Especially since all she’s required to do is escort Dace Keeling, a young naturalist, through the wilderness of the partially terraformed planet Eco. Ann‘s determination to escape the limitations of her small, frontier colony never falters, until Dace’s expeditions uncover three secrets. One offers riches, one shatters Ann’s perceptions of herself, and one reveals that the humans stranded on Eco are not its only inhabitants.
Ann’s willing to sacrifice friendship and love for a new life on Earth. But when an entire species is placed in jeopardy by her actions, she must make a choice – fulfill the dream that’s always sustained her, or save the planet she’s never considered home.

What does Vicki Weavil, aurthor extrodinair think about her latest cover?

"I love this cover because it reflects the book so well. The image of a girl standing alone on a desolate world is a perfect depiction of my protagonist, Ann, as well as her "sand over stone" world, Eco. But it's also symbolic, because although Ann isn't really alone, she often feels isolated on her frontier planet. The addition of the image of the Earth is also appropriately symbolic. Ann can't actually see the Earth from Eco, but since her goal is to live on Earth it's always on her mind, so the inclusion of the Earth image is a wonderful metaphor for her hopes and dreams."

I have to agree, it's beautiful . Can't wait to read it, Vicki!

add to goodreads

Facsimile (Facsimile #1) by Vicki L. Weavil Publication Date: March 8, 2015 Publisher: Month9Books

Available for Pre-order: Amazon | B&N
Vicki Weavil 11
Vicki L. Weavil is represented by Fran Black of Literary Counsel. Her Young Adult Fantasy, CROWN OF ICE -- a dark YA retelling of H.C. Andersen's "The Snow Queen" -- is published by Month9Books. Two companion books to CROWN OF ICE -- SCEPTER OF FIRE and ORB OF LIGHT -- will be published in 2016 and 2017. Her YA SciFi -- FACSIMILE -- will be published by Month9Books in 2016, with a sequel, DERIVATION, to follow. A new YA Fantasy, THE DIAMOND THIMBLE, will be published by Month9Books in 2018. She also writes adult SciFi.
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Tumbler
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Title will be sent upon its release.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Twenty Thousand Words and Counting

Frustrated Writer Cartoon

Now that Nanowrimo is behind us, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Whether you made your 50,000 words or fell short a word or two, the Canadian in me salutes you. You tried, you did your best. No go forth and continue writing!

For me, I've started to see a pattern. One that blogmate Lauren has been helping me to overcome. 

It's the "Twenty Thousand Words" mental barrier. That fifty foot fence that creeps up as you hit that word count and all of a sudden nothing seems good, everything you've written is crap and oh my god there's so much more to write but this is all so fricken boring!

It's that point that Lauren pointed out where you've either reached or are about to reach the end of the first act and that gosh forsaken mother of a second act looks like a never ending ocean with no third act in sight. 

And let's not forget there's that new shiny toy in the window. That whimsical idea itching your brain that's going to be the next NY Times Bestseller.  It's sitting there, cute as a puppy, begging you to play with it instead.

We've all been there and I'm still trying to break that barrier. Luckily I have great blog mates with great tools to help me out. Here's a few that might help you.

Pow Wow with Your Writer Friends

Coffee time, chocolate time, or happy hour.  This is when you need your writing buds the most. Maybe they're going through the same thing or have suggestions on how to overcome it. More importantly perhaps they have ideas that may push your project forward. Worst case scenario? A great night out with the gals (and guys).

Plot with Help

During my pow wow with Lauren, she recommended The Plot Whisperer Workbook by Martha Alderson.  During Nanowrimo, we right like hell, but sometimes we need a break because we're worried we're going in the wrong direction.  But we have no time, cause it's Nanowrimo for gosh sakes! But now it's December and we have some time and this is a good way to plug into some exercises that may help jog your brain or give you a new perspective on your manuscript.

Take a Break! 

Seems counter intuitive but your brain needs a breather. Go to the beach or the skating rink or spend time with family and friends. Your brain is still subconsciously working on that book, I guarantee it. 

Seek Deadline Motivators

Groups like San Diego Writers Ink have page review sessions with professional writers that meet once a week. This might be just the deadline driven motivator you need to make it to that next five pager. Can't go to a professional meeting? is a great place to find like minded individuals in your area who already meet weekly to do the same thing. 

Keep Writing

Self explanatory. It's hard but it's going to feel real good when you write "The End". Then it's onto revisions, yay!