Sunday, July 28, 2013

Destination YA: The Beach

Where better to visit during the summer than the beach? The water is refreshing (or chilling if you spent your summer days at Lake Michigan like me). The warm sand feels like your own personal foot massage (until it gets too hot). And lounging under an oversized umbrella is about as relaxing as it can get. Let your worries slide into the ocean and disappear forever (or until you get back to your car).

Here are some great YA gems that aren’t only awesome beach reads, but that take place near the beaches of the Carolinas, Hamptons and England too. Dive right in!


Along for the Ride: Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride takes place in the fictional coastal town of Colby during the bright days of summer. Auden and Eli are both struggling to overcome their pasts, in Auden’s case her parent’s divorce which caused her to grow up too quickly and Eli is haunted by a friend that passed too soon. Together they learn what it means to be young and carefree, along the always comforting Carolina shore.


Rules of Summer: Joanna Philbin

When Rory signs on to be a summer errand girl for a wealthy family in the Hamptons, she descends into another world of beachfront mansions, expensive cars and the latest fashion, not to mention a summer romance that is all her own. The other staff warns Rory not to get close to the family she’s working for, but soon she’s friends with Isabel Rule. It’s all fun and laughter until some hidden Rule family secrets come to the surface and their picture-perfect summer takes a turn like a storm approaching shore.


The Prince of Mist: Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This isn’t your typical beachy-fun novel with swimsuits, cute lifeguards and a plethora of pool floaties. The Prince of Mist takes places in an English coastal town during World War II, where three young teens are confronted with a legend of old that manifests into a ghostly, deadly prince of the mist. The coastal environment plays a role as Max, Alicia and Roland explore the old house where they just moved and fields and beach surrounding it. If you’re looking for something a little darker to beat away the perpetual sunshine, this is it!


More books with beaches:

The Lifeguard: Deborah Blumenthal
The Moon and More: Sarah Dessen
The Summer I Turned Pretty: Jenny Han

Don’t forget to wiggle your toes in the sand!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Keeping Up the Juggling Act of Writing and Life

Juggling my work, passion and everything else seems to be more of a job than anything these days. In balancing my work and passion (which I posted about last month), I have so many balls in the air that I’ve created an unsteady balance, which I’m desperately trying to keep manageable. Metaphorically, I’ve become quite the juggler. Luckily I’m a natural at organization (thanks Mom & Dad for those genes!) so it’s not as difficult as it could be to keep everything straight. However, sometimes it seems that if I get distracted in making sure one ball flies high, the rest might tumble down on my head.

Then at least I'd have my own ball pit to go nuts in.

Here’s what I have in the air at the moment:
·         Novel Writing
·         Short Story Writing
·         Blogging
·         Tribe Writers course
·         Freelance work
·         Reading (books, blogs, etc.)
·         Work #1: Bookstore
·         Work #2: Bank

·         Boyfriend time
·         Family time
·         Me time
·         Cleaning/Cooking/Keeping my life livable

I have to admit that I don’t spit my focus equally. If I tried, I would likely fail. But I think the point is to keep all these aspects of my life in the air, yet really concentrate on two or three at a time. I strive to make sure that all my focuses are kept at a manageable level (clean clothes to wear, blog kept up-to-date, showing up at work on time and with a smile) but I need to ensure that I’m thriving at the most important.
Some suggestions that help:
1.       Write every day! Or (if I’m working a double) at least contemplate my story daily to keep the plot and my characters in the front of my mind
2.       Passion first: On my days off, I try to write/blog/read first, so if I run out of time/caffeine by the end of the day, the other stuff (cleaning/errands/miscellaneous) will get cut
As I keep up this crazed, caffeine-charged juggling act, I can’t forget why I have so many balls in the air. The reason behind the madness is my passion for writing, and the goals I'm working toward. These can’t fall by the wayside. Keeping up the juggling act is hard work, but hopefully, one day, accomplisihng my dream will be the ultimate reward.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

15 Must-Read Teen Books: 2013 Update

Just about a year ago, I gathered a list of the top 15 must-read teen books (that can be found in the teen section in a bookstore). At the time, I thought it was a pretty solid (though slightly subjective) list. Recently, I took a look back and decided I would change a few things. (That happens with time.) So here’s my 2013 update, with many repeats, but with some new (though not necessarily newly published) and awesome teen books!

All Unquiet Things: Anna Jarzab (new)
Truthfully, this should have been on last year's list. All Unquiet Things is murder mystery set in California. It’s intelligent, intriguing and profound not to mention one of the best teen books I read in 2010. Jarzab's debut continues to impress me, as well as her follow-up works The Opposite of Hallelujah and Tandem.

Boy Meets Boy: David Levithan (new)
This is an expertly crafted book about a boy who loves another boy and the crazy unique high school that they attend. Its ground-breaking impact continues to be felt throughout the YA genre, especially as it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  

Divergent: Veronica Roth (new)
When Tris Pryor chooses to leave her family behind for the danger of the Dauntless, she has no idea the hard work, controversy and ultimately the consequences and heartbreak that will come. Roth creates a magnificent dystopian tale where Tris, Four and others are not only in the midst of the action, they are the action.

Eleanor & Park: Rainbow Rowell (new)
The relationship of Eleanor and Park is not only moving, but makes for an astounding and unputdownable read. It's ground-breaking in its realness, and their love is relatable in its imperfection. This is the only book on my list published in 2013, and it's quickly becoming a headliner of YA.

Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card
Ender's tale is not only a teen mainstay but a science fiction classic as well. With the story soon to grace the big screen, the popularity (and controversy) will surely increase in the coming months.

Graceling: Kristin Cashore
This is Cashore's debut novel, and a repeat on this list. Katsa is a strong, Graced but flawed girl struggling to break from her uncle's control. Her world is medieval fantasy, and the story is definitely worth the read. Katsa appears in the sequel Bitterblue and briefly in the companion Fire.

Heist Society: Ally Carter
Kat Bishop is from a family of thieves but strives to use her skills for good, which equals an intriguing yet mischievous female Robin Hood. Carter writes light-hearted teen novels that are fun yet entrancing reads. Heist Society is the first in her second series, and is a repeat from last year on this list.

If I Stay: Gayle Forman
Mia is in a coma after a devastating car accident that took the lives of her family. In an out-of-body experience, she relives past events and watches her friends and family gather around her. Will she join her family on the other side, or wake to the everyday struggle that is life? This is a profound, moving YA book about the importance of choices and the will to fight. This is its second year on this list.

Levithan: Scott Westerfeld
Westerfeld writes an alternate version of WWI in a story that pits the Darwinists (British, French) and their living creatures against the Clankers (Austro-Hungarians, Germans) and their war machines. Imaginative, full of action with sprinkles of history, this tale is not only a repeat on this list, but on the forefront of YA steampunk.

Shadow & Bone: Leigh Bardugo (new)
When Alina, a lowly mapmaker in the nation of Ravka, discovers an ancient and terrifying power, she's whisked away by the mysterious yet alluring Darking. Bardugo crafts an intriguing, new tale with hints of Russian legend and lore. I devoured this debut as well as its sequel Siege & Storm and am anxiously awaiting the third and final in this must-read trilogy.

The Book Thief: Marcus Zusak
This historical fiction novel has quickly become a modern classic, and is a repeat on this list. Narrated by Death during the Holocaust, the story follows Liesel and her life in Nazi Germany. This is a fascinating, powerful tale and a new take on this time in history.

The Fault in Our Stars: John Green (new)
Hazel and Augustus’ story caused my heart to break and to leap with joy (though not at the same time). Admittedly, I took my time picking this one up, which is why it's not a repeat this year but a new addition. It will surely be a bestseller, must-read and feat of YA fiction for years to come.

The Giver: Lois Lowry
A classic dystopian novel, this is a quick, intriguing read that leaves the reader thinking. A precursor to today's dystopian sub-genre and a repeat on this list, Lowry created a classic in her telling of Jonas and his seemingly perfect world. Son, the last in the Giver quartet, was released just last year.

The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games will likely be immortalized as the poster-child for YA dystopia. In a televised fight to the death in a futuristic world where the U.S. has fallen and the Capitol controls twelve districts in a grueling manner, one girl starts a revolution. With the movie sequel to be released this November, if you haven't heard of the awesomeness of this trilogy, then I don't know where you've been hiding.

Thirteen Reasons Why: Jay Asher
This thought-provoking novel lists the thirteen reasons why Hannah committed suicide. It's a heart-wrenching, masterfully-written story and a must-read for the YA genre (as it's a repeat on this list). Asher has only one other YA novel, The Future of Us co-authored with Carolyn Mackler.
Let me know your thoughts! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Poison as Motivation

I picked up Poison because I liked the cover. How many times have you done that? This one had a girl in the woods and a near-hidden piglet. It was colorful and intriguing and I felt, just by seeing the cover, that it would be something I’d like. And after reading the description, I knew this would be my next read.

Right as I was making my final decision, something on the back inside cover caught my eye. The word “was” doesn’t usually make an appearance when describing the author. So I read through and discovered the tragic news: the author of Poison, Bridget Zinn, had not lived to see the book published. Over two years ago, she passed away from cancer.   

Suddenly my desire to read this book catapulted into an aching need. I felt that I owed it to Bridget, who hadn’t lived to see her dream of publication come true. I wanted to experience her writing and pass it along. As I read the book and grew to love it, it was difficult to know that I wouldn’t be able to dive into a sequel or another story by her. There was so much potential between the lines: Bridget’s potential to create more and to write more.

Poison is quirky, fun, imaginative and engulfing. The organization of the book was expertly crafted,and the surprises continually astonished me, particularly the last one which I didn’t see coming. It was gasp-worthy and smile-worthy and even though I wish there was a sequel, I appreciate Poison as a great stand-alone fantasy tale.

For me, Poison serves as a reminder that life is unpredictable. There are many people whose lives are lost before their dreams come true. For Bridget, the love of her husband and the help of many friends led to her dream being accomplished posthumously.  But for the vast majority of people, their passing means their dreams perish as well.

It is a reminder, and a motivator. I may have decades to achieve my dreams, but I can’t rely on it. I can hope for years upon years, but that doesn’t mean I can procrastinate. I need to work toward my dreams now. I need to work hard to accomplish what I want to now. Life is unpredictable. Anything can happen, which can be both a blessing and a curse.  

Cheers to Bridget, and the accomplishment of Poison. Cheers to all those that assisted with its publication.

Find out more about Poison here!