Tag Archives: Literature

In which I wax nostalgic about Betsy-Tacy books

I’m over at Jennifer Hubbard’s blog, waxing nostalgic about the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Jennifer is a 2009 Deb and the author of The Secret Year and Try Not to Breathe.

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2011 reading recap

Cover of "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps ...

Cover via Amazon

In 2011, I read 70 books. My goal was 75. Yes, I fell short. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of George R. R. Martin. I waded into A Song of Ice and Fire books, reading the first two: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.

Those are some long books, y’all. I’m not sure if I’ll tackle the next in the series in 2012 or not. Long, epic fantasy is a mood read for me. So, if I’m in the mood, I’ll search out the next in the series. If not … I’ll read something else.

But it wasn’t just a year for quantity. A large majority of those 70 books were four and five star reads for me. A few of the best:

Writing book:

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, John Truby


Rival, Sara Bennett Wealer
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern


Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King
Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

Middle Grade

Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
The Magician’s Elephant, Kate DiCamillo


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel, Helen Simonson
A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

War Through the Generations challenge books (Civil War)

Two Girls of Gettysburg, Lisa Klein
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, Tony Horwitz
And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart, Jamie Malanowski

Last book read

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness (a five-star read–bring tissues)

But really, if the book is on my list, I more than likely enjoyed it. I’m putting my 2011 list below the cut (70 books makes for a very long blog post). If you’re interested in my take on any of them, let me know. I love to talk books!

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Filed under 50/50, Books, Reading, Reading & Writing, War Through The Generations, YA

BTT: The Year in Books

From Booking Through Thursday:

What’s the best book you read this year?

So many books (I’m at sixty for the year, not sure I’ll make it to sixty one). But let’s drop them into a hat and pull out some winners.

Best book goes to: War by Sebastian Junger.

Worst book goes to: one I read for the Ritas that I cannot (fortunately) disclose. Sorry, I’m not allowed to. Honest.

Favorite book goes to: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Yes, it’s a re-read. I read it last year. In fact, I’m thinking of making it a traditional December read, I love it so much.

Other great books I read this year:

Young adult fiction:

What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell Post WWII. Deception! Lies! Best meeting the love interest scene ever!

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta I think I liked Jellicoe Road a little bit better but I ❤ Melina Marchetta.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson Road trip romance! Inner and outer journeys! Good stuff!

Young adult fantasy:

Plain Kate by Erin Bow Make this my second favorite book of the year. Loved it. Loved. The. Cat. Cried like a baby at the end. *Sigh*

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. Melina Marchetta does fantasy! Is there nothing she can’t write? Excellent fantasy.

Incarceron (Incarceron, Book 1) by Catherine Fisher More good YA fantasy. I’m looking forward to book 2.

Young Adult mystery:

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House and The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee. Victorian era young adult mystery with an intriguing and smart heroine and the swoon-worthy James. And yes, I’m looking forward to book 3.

Other good books:

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees Intriguing, and now I’m on a LMA kick, so naturally I had to read:

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen

I read all three Tana French novels this year:

In the Woods
The Likeness
Faithful Place

I think Faithful Place was the best written of the three, but I enjoyed all them.


Filed under Book Review, Books, YA

Debs Speak Loudly

Bringing you around the web this week, a day early.

From the 2009 Debutantes website:

Banned Books Week has special significance for the Debs this year. Our own Sarah Ockler and her debut novel, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, are under challenge right now in Republic, MO, along with Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 and Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

In response to this, the 2009 Debs are giving away thirty-eight (38!) copies of Twenty Boy Summer. Visit the Debs site for more details, but the contest is open between now October 2, 2010.  Entries open to everyone worldwide. We’ll ship anywhere!

For more information on what’s going on, visit Sarah Ockler’s site and read her blog. Additionally, check out Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog as well. You can also read Sarah’s wonderful response to the challenge here.

Unfortunately, Mr. Vonnegut is no longer with us and cannot respond to the challenge, but one can imagine what he might have to say.

I’ve seen a few suggestions around the web that the authors in question and their supporters not speak loudly about this–that only gives the challenger in question too much attention, a national platform.

Just ignore him and he’ll go away.

Except sometimes, people like that won’t.  Sometimes, they convince other, reasonable people that there is a threat contained between two covers of a book.

The thing is, children may learn facts from history, but they learn empathy and truth from fiction. How and where do we want our young adults learning about the harsh realities of the world? From the safe confines of a book–where they have the time and opportunity to think about the situations presented and the moral and ethical implications.

Or should we simply shove them out the door unprepared? Let them learn it on the street, from peers who may be as ill-equipped as they are. All under the guise of keeping them safe.

How do we expect our children to make good ethical decisions when we’ve shielded them from ethical dilemmas? Why do we decry the “me-me-me generation” and then take away the very thing that teaches empathy? We complain that children don’t read, then snatch away the very books that engage them.

So sometimes you have to speak loudly to be heard above the din. Like Sarah Ockler. And Laurie Halse Anderson.

Speak loudly, because some would prefer you not speak at all.

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It’s been a while since I booked

It’s been a while since I Booked through Thursday and this was too tempting to resist.

(Side note: I used the new link helper in WordPress. Why it only found some books and not others, I don’t know. But there you have it.)

1. Favorite childhood book?

I’m not sure how to define “childhood” re: reading. Do I answer The Lonely Doll? The Secret Seven? Trixie Belden? The Chronicles of Narnia? Jane Eyre, which I (first) read when I was twelve or so. See? This list is endless.

2. What are you reading right now?

Insatiable by Meg Cabot (audio book in the car)

The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White (on the nightstand)

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

Many. Take a look:

  1. Beastly by Alex Flinn
  2. The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee
  3. A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
  4. The Duff by Kody  Keplinger
  5. Faithful Place by Tana French
  6. The good soldiers by David Finkel
  7. The Hunger Games Book 3 by Suzanne Collins (CAN. NOT. WAIT)
  8. Infinite Days by Rebecca  Maizel
  9. A kiss in time by Alex Flinn
  10. Matched by Allyson  Condie
  11. Nomansland by Lesley  Hauge
  12. The passage by Justin Cronin
  13. Plain Kate by Erin Bow
  14. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  15. Runaway by Meg Cabot
  16. The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek
  17. The talent code : [unlocking the secret of skill in sports, art, music, math, and just about anything] by Daniel Coyle
  18. The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
  19. War by Sebastian Junger

4. Bad book habit?

Buying and then not reading them, or at least not reading them for a very long time.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

  1. Insatiable by Meg Cabot
  2. I am not a serial killer by Dan Wells
  3. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
  4. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford
  5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

6. Do you have an e-reader?

Yes, a Kindle.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I usually have two going at a time, one in the car and one for elsewhere.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

No, they’ve changed since I started writing. I read a little less (a girl needs time to write after all) and I read more carefully, not to mention slowly.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

Probably one (or two/three) books I judged for the Rita. And because I judged them for the Rita, I can’t tell you what they are. (You’re consumed with curiosity, aren’t you?)

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

Do I have list just one? In no particular order:

  1. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
  2. What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  3. The Likeness by Tana French
  4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

I try to do this on a regular basis. I think it’s good for a writer to do this.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Young Adult

13. Can you read on the bus?

Ack! No! Motion sickness! Motion sickness!

14. Favorite place to read?

Anywhere (relatively) quiet

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I give books away. If I need/want another copy, I’ll buy it.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

No, but I don’t have a breakdown when other people do.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

Text books/books for research I might.

18.  Not even with text books?

See above.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

English, although I used to be able to read in German and Russian.

20. What makes you love a book?

A combination of things–compelling character(s), a story that won’t quit, and a theme that speaks to me.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Probably the above, in #20.

22. Favorite genre?

Young adult. Ha. A cheat, since you can get anything in YA these days.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Historical nonfiction.

24. Favorite biography?

How about a memoir, which would have to be Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Yes, I tend toward those that promise to make me smarter or a better writer. It’s a never-ending quest, really.

26. Favorite cookbook?

Bwhahahaha. That’s all I’m going to say.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Nonfiction: Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity was short and fun, with some good advice. I like a book with attitude. Outliers also had some interesting information. (See #25 where I’m trying to be smarter and a better writer.)

Fiction: See favorite books.

28. Favorite reading snack?


29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Ruined? Maybe When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which I enjoyed very much and think it deserves all the awards it has received. But by the time I read it, I was expecting it to also clean my house and make me coffee in the morning.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

Meh. Totally depends. Many times I wonder if we’ve read the same book.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I don’t. Give them, that is. I do read books that simply aren’t for me, since I try to read widely (I think that’s important as a writer.) And I do analyze why a book didn’t work for me, but I generally keep those conclusions to myself.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

I’d love to get back up to speed and read in Russian.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

Anna Karenina–in Russian.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

All those big fat historical nonfiction books I have.

35. Favorite Poet?


36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

A handful.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

For audio books if I cannot stand actor’s voice, I hit eject and back it goes. Commuting is bad enough. Commuting with someone whose voice grates on you? No thanks.

38. Favorite fictional character?

Elizabeth Bennet

39. Favorite fictional villain?

Um, I can’t think of one. Maybe because I tend to think villain = moustache-twirling bad guy, and I like books with antagonists who: 1) are often redeemed, 2) relatable and human, if tragically flawed.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Whatever is next in the queue.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.

I don’t know. I’m drawing a blank on this one. Probably when I was deployed to the Gulf, during that window of time when things were happening. I don’t think I read then.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

Le Divorce. I got bored. I actually put it down at the 3/4 mark, right before the murder. That’s how much I didn’t care.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

Kids’ TV programs. Oy.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

The A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. Really, how can you not love this:

On a related note, I also think that Bridget Jones’s Diary is a better movie than book (especially the last act, structure-wise).

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

I’m sure there are many, but I often avoid movies made from books I love. My son would probably say The Lightning Thief.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

A lot, especially around the holidays.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

Not often. Plus, it’s really hard to skim an audio book.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?


49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

Since they’re not organized, I’m going with: no.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

I do have books that are keepers, but I also like giving them away, especially if someone really wants a book.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

Like doubling back the way I came when I see them on the street … oh, wait. No. I don’t think I have. Except those exceptionally long historical nonfiction ones, that is.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

The Dark Side by Jane Mayer (Actually, I think this was an excellent book, it’s the subject matter that made me angry.)

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Interestingly enough, this one wasn’t working for me until the last fourth or so. I’m glad I listened to this one on audio, otherwise I might not have hung in there with it, but I’m glad I did.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

The last in a YA trilogy I was reading. I really wanted to like it, but it felt off to me from the first chapters. I finally hit eject and went to read a spoiler-y review and realized I’d figured everything (pretty much) without having to read the last book. Sigh.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

YA and now middle grade. I’ve been reading a lot in the Aladdin imprint of Simon and Schuster (market research). These are sweet, fun, fast-paced books and I’ve really enjoyed them.

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