Featured Book of the Week #15 The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Feature Book of the Week

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson 

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do

About the Author

When I was three I was moved to tears by the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I felt so bad for Rudolph that I went through the picture book and scratched out his bright red nose to make him like all the other reindeer. It would be years before I realized that physical conformity was not the answer to my social problems.

When I was eight I cut my first class. I pretended I needed to use the bathroom and snuck over to the library to check out another Nancy Drew book. I lost track of time, got back to class late, and made up a story about being constipated.

I’ve been making up stories ever since. And it was sometime during my third grade year that I first told my parents I wanted to be a writer. They told me it was wonderful idea, but I needed to have a Plan B.

We moved a lot; I have attended nine schools. Some kids who move a lot learn to make friends fast, to be adaptable and flexible and brave. I wasn’t one of those. I entered middle school a very frightened little girl. It didn’t help that I developed a raging case of acne for the other kids to mock, or that I thought the best way to defend myself from social attack was to perfect a scathing offense. I was just like Rudolph, except meaner.

When seventh grade rolled around, I decided I’d had enough. I would figure out how to be cool or die trying. So, I tried out for the cheerleading squad.

I was clumsy and awkward. I had to work harder than everyone else to master the most basic moves. At the tryout, though, we could get extra points for making up the words to our own cheer. I knew I had to take advantage of this, my only possible strength. So while the other girls were yelling, “Go, Dolphins!” I started off with “United we stand, divided we fall!” I squeaked onto the team. At the time, I was convinced it was my moving and poetical cheer that clinched it for me.

Cheerleading changed my life. Seriously.

I learned how to be unafraid in front of the entire school. I learned how thrilling it was to entertain others. And I learned—very gradually and with a lot of messing up—that a little kindness goes a long way when you’re trying to work as a team.

I started off the worst cheerleader who ever lived. Because in addition to being bossy and uncooperative, I was taller than everyone else on my squad. So I got stuck in the back and on the end for most of our formations. Turns out, this provides a wonderful vantage for watching your team lose. And it turns out that when you are wrapped up in team play, you tend to miss a lot of cheerleading cues. So I was out of step with everyone most of the time.

But to this day, I love watching sports, particularly college football and basketball. (Go Ohio State Buckeyes!)

College was a huge improvement. I loved being surrounded by peers who valued thinking and introspection. I learned that you can be a hardcore academic and still paint the town on weekends. I had my first real boyfriend, and I was able to accept the rather stunning fact that I had swanned into something kind of nice. I highly recommend college.

During this time I traded in my pom-pons for a football. I played in the women’s flag league for four years. The first year, I broke three bones and my team tied for last place. The third year, we won the championship.

I was amazed at how even clumsy, unathletic women like us could make such improvements with nothing but hard work and the carefree attitude that if we were going to fail, we were going to do it spectacularly. I overcame my depth perception issues and learned to catch a long-bomb pass in the end zone with seconds left to play, for instance. (I’m not going to lie: I still throw like a girl.) I blame football for the fact that I tend to write about young women who overcome physical inadequacies to find the hero within.

I graduated college with a degree in Social Science–which qualified me to flip burgers–and a mound of education debt. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Well, that’s not true. I did know. I wanted to be a novelist. But that just wasn’t practical, and I had to come up with something else. I had to have a Plan B. So I tried bank tellering, secretarial work, customer service, inside sales, substitute teaching, data entry, logistics, and even machine shop-ing. I didn’t enjoy any of it.

In 2004, after quitting a very high paying job in a very toxic atmosphere, I decided to get serious about writing. It was the only thing I kept coming back to, the one thing that had held my interest over time and distance and lots of life change. So I joined the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror where I met my future best friends, my future husband, and my calling.

I spent the next few years happily writing awful stuff. During this time, I got to know C.C. Finlay online, and after going on three real-life dates, I moved from California to Ohio to marry him. The writing became a lot less awful, and eventually I sold my first novel to Greenwillow/HarperCollins.

Hindsight is easy, I know, and writing about the awkwardness of adolescence is way easier than living it. But I can say unequivocally that although growing up is hard, it’s totally worth it. It’s possible to become your better self. And dreams, no matter how impractical, are made to be pursued.
(author info retrieved from author web site)

Feature Book of the Week #13 The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


 Feature Book of the Week
Running Dream
by Wendelin Van Draanan

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

A Guest Post by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Running Dream was a book I didn’t want to write. I believe in hope and optimism and that we should embrace the joys of life, and the story idea of a girl who lives to run losing one of her legs seemed depressing and dark and…awful.

But the idea wouldn’t let me go. I first got it on the flight home after running the New York City marathon. (Despite having now completed six marathons, I am not “a marathoner.”  I swear after every marathon that it’s my last.  I tell myself to do more sensible things…like yoga, or weight lifting, or walk on the beach. Still, I always come back to running.)

At every marathon I’ve seen runners who are structurally challenged. People with one atrophied leg. People with odd, painful looking gaits. People who are blind, running with a sighted runner. People with prosthetic limbs. And I marvel at how determined these people must be to complete a 26.2 mile race. How incredible they are…and what a wimp I am!

So the idea for The Running Dream simmered in my head for quite some time. I was compelled by the notion that this could happen to anyone. Then I came up with the idea of Rosa—a girl born with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, overlooked by her classmates, wanting to be seen for herself instead of her disability. It was putting the popular girl and the special needs girl together at the same table that convinced me that this was a story worth exploring. And when I finally dared to meet my character, Jessica, on the first page where she’s certain life is no longer worth living, I was done for. I became obsessed with the story, with bringing Jessica back into life, and with her desire to bring Rosa along with her.

The ironic thing about this book is that, while the idea for it seemed so dark and depressing at the onset, it turned out to be an uplifting story of triumph, compassion, friendship, and hope. I’m so glad I wrote it.

About the Author 

Books have always been a part of Wendelin Van Draanen's life. Her mother taught her to read at an early age, and she has fond memories of story time with her father, when she and her brothers would cuddle up around him and listen to him read stories.

Growing up, Van Draanen was a tomboy who loved to be outside chasing down adventure. She did not decide that she wanted to be an author until she was an adult. When she tried her hand at writing a screenplay about a family tragedy, she found the process quite cathartic and from that experience, turned to writing novels for adults. She soon stumbled upon the joys of writing for children.

Feedback from her readers is Van Draanen's greatest reward for writing. "One girl came up to me and told me I changed her life. It doesn't get any better than that," she said. Van Draanen hopes to leave her readers with a sense that they have the ability to steer their own destiny-that individuality is a strength, and that where there's a will, there's most certainly a way.

Her first book was published in 1997, and since then her titles have been nominated for State Award Master Lists all over the country. Now in its tenth installment, the Sammy Keyes Mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Children’s Mystery four times in six years, with Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief bringing home the statue. Additionally, she has won the Christopher medal for Shredderman: Secret Identity, and the California Young Reader Medal for Flipped. Her books have been translated into many foreign languages, and have been optioned for film and television projects. She lives in California with her husband and two sons. Her hobbies include the “Three R’s”: Reading, Running and Rock ‘n’ Roll. (author info retrieved from Random House)


Feature Book of the Week # 13 Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Feature Book of the Week

R. J. Palacio

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

About the Author

I live in NYC with my husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, I was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. I always wanted to write, though. I kept waiting for the perfect time in my life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, I realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It's never the perfect time to start writing a book. So I  decided to just go for it. Wonder is my first novel. And no, I didn't design the cover, but I sure do love it. 

A Feature Book of the Week #12 I Pledge Allegiance by Chris Lynch

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Feature Book of the Week
I Pledge Allegiance
Chris Lynch

Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck are best friends for life. So when one of the teens is drafted into the Vietnam War, the others sign up, too. Although they each serve in a different branch, they are fighting the war together--and they pledge to do all they can to come home together.

Haunted by dreams of violence and death, Morris makes it his personal mission to watch over his friends--and the best place to do that is in the US Navy. Stationed off the coast of Vietnam on the USS Boston, Morris and his fellow sailors provide crucial support to the troops on the ground.

But the Boston itself isn't safe from attack. And as Morris finds his courage and resolve tested like never before, he keeps coming back to a single thought.

He made a pledge. He must keep them safe.

About the Author

Chris Lynch is the Printz Honor Award-winning author of several highly acclaimed young adult novels, including KILL SWITCH, ANGRY YOUNG MAN, and INEXCUSABLE, which was a National Book Award finalist and the recipient of six starred reviews. He is also the author of FREEWILL, GOLD DUST, ICEMAN, GYPSY DAVY, and SHADOWBOXER, all ALA Best Books for Young Adults; EXTREME ELVIN WHITECHURCH, and ALL THE OLD HAUNTS. 

He holds an M.A. from the writing program at Emerson College. He mentors aspiring writers and continues to work on new literary projects. He lives in Boston and in Scotland.

Feature Book of the Week #11 Michael Vey:The Prisoner of Cell 25

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Feature Book of the Week
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
Richard Paul Evans

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

A Guest Post by Richard Paul Evans

I have been an author since 1995 when I published The Christmas Box, a short novel that I wrote for my two young daughters. Since then I have written over twenty novels, but I must say that the books in the Michael Vey series have been my favorite to write! I’ve had a lot of fun creating the characters and the different scenarios they encounter.

Two things inspired Michael Vey. First, after writing literary novels for more than two decades, I wanted to write something just for the sheer joy of it. I’ve always loved superhero stories. When I was a boy I used to rake leaves for the neighbors for money to buy comic books. So writing Michael Vey was personally satisfying. Second, I felt like the Young Adult genre had been overrun by vampire- and dystopian-themed books. I just wanted to write an original good read—something unique and exciting that conveyed a positive message.

Many people have asked about my inspiration for Michael Vey, because he certainly isn’t your “typical” hero. Part of Michael’s character is based on me—I have Tourette’s Syndrome and Michael’s symptoms are based on my own. I wanted a hero that the average reader could relate to. I’ve never believed that the real heroes of this world have perfect physiques and bulging muscles. A hero’s power comes from the heart not the biceps, and I wanted Michael Vey to exemplify that.

Since the moment I began writing Michael Vey, the series has felt like a gift to me. I look forward to writing the rest of the series and hope that you enjoy reading Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen.

About the Author

When Richard Paul Evans wrote the #1 best-seller, The Christmas Box, he never intended on becoming an internationally known author.

Officially, he was an advertising executive, an award-winning clay animator for the American and Japanese markets, candidate for state legislature and most importantly, husband and father. The Christmas Box was written as an expression of love for his (then) two daughters. Though he often told them how much he loved them, he wanted to express his love in a way that would be timeless. In 1993, Evans reproduced 20 copies of the final story and gave them to his closest relatives and friends as Christmas presents. In the month following, those 20 copies were passed around more than 160 times, and soon word spread so widely that bookstores began calling his home with orders for it.

His quiet story of parental love and the true meaning of Christmas made history when it became simultaneously the #1 hardcover and paperback book in the nation. Since then, more than eight million copies of The Christmas Box have been printed. The Emmy award-winning CBS television movie based on The Christmas Box starred Maureen O'Hara and Richard Thomas. Two more of Evans's books were produced by Hallmark and starred such well-known actors as James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Naomi Watts, Mary McDonough and Academy award winner Ellen Burstyn. He has since written 10 consecutive New York Times bestsellers and is one of the few authors in history to have hit both the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists. He has won three awards for his children's books including the 1998 American Mothers book award and two first place Storytelling World awards. Evans's latest book, The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth, is now available.

Of his success, Evans says: "The material achievements of The Christmas Box will never convey its true success, the lives it has changed, the families brought closer together, the mothers and fathers who suddenly understand the pricelessness of their children's fleeting childhood. I share the message of this book with you in hopes that in some way, you might be, as I was, enlightened."

During the Spring of 1997, Evans founded The Christmas Box House International, an organization devoted to building shelters and providing services for abused and neglected children. Such shelters are operational in Moab, Vernal, Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah and Lucre, Peru. To date, more than 16,000 children have been housed in Christmas Box House facilities.

As an acclaimed speaker, Evans has shared the podium with such notable personalities as President George W. Bush, President George and Barbara Bush, former British Prime Minister John Majors, Ron Howard, Elizabeth Dole, Deepak Chopra, Steve Allen, and Bob Hope. Evans has been featured on the Today show and Entertainment Tonight, as well as in Time, Newsweek, People, The New York Times, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, USA Today, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, and Family Circle. Evans lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children. (Biography retrieved from Amazon.com)

Feature Book of the Week # 10 Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Feature Book of the Week



S.J. Kincaid

The earth is in the middle of WWIII in Insignia, the first entry in S.J. Kincaid’s fast-paced sci-fi adventure trilogy. The planet’s natural resources are almost gone, and the war is being fought to control the assets of the solar system. The enemy is winning.

The salvation may be Tom Raines. Tom doesn’t seem like a hero. He’s a short fourteen-year-old with bad skin. But he has the virtual-reality gaming skills that make him a phenom behind the controls of the battle drones.

As a new member of the Intrasolar Forces, Tom’s life completely changes. Suddenly, he’s someone important. He has new opportunities, friends, and a shot at having a girlfriend. But there’s a price to pay...

A Guest Post by S.J. Kincaid

If there are any future writers reading this, then I'd encourage you to go out into the world and have as many new experiences as possible, and learn as many new things as possible. I write full time now, but paradoxically, the most I ever produced was while I followed an intensive educational schedule in nursing school. I wrote INSIGNIA while taking classes on human physiology and studying the human brain. It's strange how very factual, scientific stuff stimulated my creativity, but it truly did. Whenever I find myself running low on ideas, I usually find the best way to fix that is to get out and do something seemingly unrelated to what I'm writing, or read something unrelated. Writing is an exciting field because the entire world is fodder for your stories.

About the Author

S.J. Kincaid was born in Alabama, grew up in California, and attended high school in New Hampshire, but it was while living beside a haunted graveyard in Scotland, that she realized that she wanted to be a writer. Her debut, Insignia, came out in July of 2012. (Bio retrieved from author's website)

Feature Book of the Week # 9 Rush for Gold by John Feinstein

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feature Book of the Week 
Rush for Gold 
John Feinstein

Bestselling sportswriter and Edgar Award winner John Feinstein is back with another sports mystery featuring Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson—this one set at the summer Olympics in London.  In this book, Susan Carol isn't a reporter—she's an Olympian, competing as a swimmer at her first Olympic games. Stevie is both proud and envious of her athletic prowess. And he's worried by the agents and sponsors and media all wanting to get up close and personal with Susan Carol.  But the more disturbing question becomes—how far might they go to ensure that America's newest Olympic darling wins gold?   

Sports novels abound, but Feinstein's books are all stars. They combine sports action, high-stakes mysteries, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of big-time sporting events.

About the Author

John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing forSports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPR's "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" and a visiting professor of journalism at Duke University.

His first book, A Season on the Brink, is the bestselling sports book of all time. His first book for younger readers, Last Shot, was a bestseller. His current book for younger readers is Vanishing Act.

A conversation with John Feinstein

Q: LAST SHOT and VANISHING ACT feature two budding young journalists. Do you hope to inspire more children to pick up the pen with this novel?

A:I think I'm a little bit like Bobby Kelleher in that I think it is important to steer kids to writing–and journalism–and not TV, which is the easy and popular way to go these days. TV is more glamorous, no doubt, but I know from personal experience that writing–and reporting–is far more fulfilling. I hope this book carries that message in some way...

Q: How old were you when you started writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A:I spent most of my boyhood planning to be either the point guard for the Knicks or play centerfield for the Mets. By the time I went to college–as a swimmer–I knew that wasn't happening. I started working at the Duke student newspaper as a freshman and was pretty much hooked on journalism by the end of my freshman year.

Q: Several real sports journalists play roles in your books. Are any of them aware that they are in your book? And how do they feel about the way you portray them?

A:All the real people in the book are aware of their, "involvement." Most are amused; some are flattered; Tony Kornheiser has promised to sue me...

Q: LAST SHOT features a serious conspiracy. Has anything comparable ever happened in the history of the Final Four?

A:Point shaving scandals have been a problem in college basketball dating to the 1950s, when the sport was wracked by them, notably at City College of New York (which never recovered) and Kentucky. There have been numerous other point shaving scandals since then: Boston College in the early 80s; Tulane in 1985 and a rumor, never proven, that heavily-favored Nevada-Las Vegas dumped its 1991 Final Four game to Duke.

Q: Your first two books were mysteries. Since then you have written all non-fiction. How did it feel to return to the “whodunit” genre?

A:It was fun writing a mystery again; challenging to try to create a believable story in an environment that actually exists. The main difference between this and my other two mysteries is that the protagonists do not use a lot of the words used by the people in my first two mysteries.

Q: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
A:As a kid I read all the "Hardy Boys," books and "Chip Hilton," and "Bronc Burnett," both series about star athletes. I also read all the Signature and Landmark books, which really got me into history. When I got older I was very into historical novels: Johnny Tremainremains an all time favorite (recently read by my son) and, for some reason, I vividly remember reading, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Feature Book of the Week #8 Underdogs by Mike Lupica

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feature Book of the Week

by Mike Lupica

Will Tyler may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in his hand, life can't touch him--his dad isn't so defeated, his town isn't so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a well-maintained playing field, with every other family moving to find jobs, there just isn't enough money or players for a season. It's up to Will to rally the town and give everyone a reason to believe.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider's knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. 

Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News, which includes his popular "Shooting from the Lip" column, which appears every Sunday. He began his newspaper career covering the New York Knicks for the New York Post at age 23. He became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper with the New York Daily News, which he joined in 1977. For more than 30 years, Lupica has added magazines, novels, sports biographies, other non-fiction books on sports, as well as television to his professional resume. For the past fifteen years, he has been a TV anchor for ESPN's The Sports Reporters. He also hosted his own program, The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN2. 

In 1987, Lupica launched "The Sporting Life" column in Esquire magazine. He has published articles in other magazines, including Sport, World Tennis, Tennis, Golf Digest, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, ESPN: The Magazine, Men's Journal and Parade. He has received numerous honors, including the 2003 Jim Murray Award from the National Football Foundation. 

Mike Lupica co-wrote autobiographies with Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells, collaborated with noted author and screenwriter, William Goldman on Wait Till Next Year, and wrote The Summer of '98, Mad as Hell: How Sports Got Away from the Fans and How We Get It Back and Shooting From the Lip, a collection of columns. In addition, he has written a number of novels, including Dead Air, Extra Credits, Limited Partner, Jump, Full Court Press, Red Zone, Too Far and national bestsellers Wild Pitch and Bump and Run. Dead Air was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Mystery and became a CBS television move, "Money, Power, Murder" to which Lupica contributed the teleplay. 

Over the years he has been a regular on the CBS Morning News, Good Morning America and The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour. On the radio, he has made frequent appearances on Imus in the Morning since the early 1980s. His previous young adult novels, Travel Team, Heat, Miracle on 49th Street, and the summer hit for 2007, Summer Ball, have shot up the New York Times bestseller list. Lupica is also what he describes as a "serial Little League coach," a youth basketball coach, and a soccer coach for his four children, three sons and a daughter. He and his family live in Connecticut( retrieved from Amazon.com).


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future. Enter the world of the Elementals, which James Dashner called “completely gripping and full of intrigue, revelation, mystery, and suspense.”

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an element—earth, water, wind, or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the Plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’s world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.


Genre busting!

If you pop into your local indie bookstore (or library), you’ll notice that adult books are usually arranged by genre: thriller, chick lit, humorous, historical, romance, etc. Head over to the YA section, and it’s quite likely that many (if not all) of these separate genres are shelved together. If there’s separation, it’ll most likely be between contemporary YA and fantasy.

This may not seem particularly noteworthy, but as a writer, I’ve got to tell you: it’s incredibly liberating. While an author of books for adults may be pigeonholed as a writer of thrillers, or romances, or horror, YA authors have the opportunity to branch out. I can write contemporary YA (e.g. Five Flavors of Dumb, a 2011 Battle book), fantasy (e.g. Elemental and Firebrand), and thrillers (e.g. the forthcoming Imposter), and be assured that they’ll (generally) be shelved together. Readers who enjoy one book can move easily to another without having to search several different shelves.

Now, I have to say that not every YA author is given the opportunity to write such a variety of books. We need our editors and publishers to release them, after all. Luckily for me, I have an editor, Liz Waniewski, and publisher, Dial, who will follow me into exciting new projects. With every new book I feel like I’m getting to write for the first time. It’s exhilarating and sometimes nerve-wracking, but it’s never, never stale.

Of course, none of this would work if no one read the books. And here’s where things come back to you: the reader. See, the other thing I adore about YA is that teens are generally far more willing than adults to try new genres and new authors. If you’ve read all of the books on the Battle list (and I assume you have), then you’ll have read 20 very different authors, and books representing several different genres. Maybe you loved some and didn’t like others, but you’ll have read more widely than most adults do in years. Trust me when I say that exposing yourself to a variety of styles and genres is a sure-fire way to open your mind.

So here’s a challenge: Even when the Battle is over, try to keep reading new books and new authors. Devour everything you find, and ask yourself not just what you like but also what you don’t, and why. In the meantime, thank you for making it possible for me to wake up every day wondering what I’m going to write next. YA readers are the best, and YA is by far the best genre in all of literature . . . even though it isn’t a genre at all!


Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.  Find out more about Antony at his website.

Meet Antony John this year at the Book Battle, so  make sure you bring copies of Elemental to  get it signed.

Feature Book of the Week #6 Death Catchers by Jennifer Kogler

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Until the letters of the newspaper article she was reading rearranged themselves into an article foretelling her best friend Jodi's death, Lizzy Mortimer had always thought of Crabapple as a relatively normal coastal town. But the truth is anything but normal-Lizzy is the descendant of Morgan Le Fay, the legendary Lady of the Lake, and is gifted with the ability to see and prevent unjust deaths. Now Lizzy is caught in the middle of centuries-old feud between Morgan le Fay and her sister, Vivienne le Mort, who hopes to accelerate the end of the world by finding and killing King Arthur's last descendant, humanity's destined champion. So when an obituary for Lizzie's secret crush and the likely Arthurian heir, Drake Westfall, appears before her eyes, Lizzy must race to outwit fate and save her friends before mankind is destroyed forever.


Hello there St. Louis!  First off, I’m thrilled The Death Catchers is a part of 2013-14’s Book Battle.  It also makes me wish I’d had a book battle like this one to participate in as a middle schooler.  The only book-related battles I was a part of as a kid was battling myself over which book in my teetering stack of library books to read next and battling my parents to stay up past my bedtime to read.

The Death Catchers is my fourth book.  If you’ve read either The Otherworldlies or The Siren’s Cry, then you already know that I love stories that involve mythology – I grew up reading and rereading all kinds of myths, legends and fables.  Now I write them into my books.  The Death Catchers is my modern take on the King Arthur legend.  The other main feature of the book, the literary elements that begin each chapter, was actually inspired by a school visit I did at Kraemer Middle School in Placentia, California.  A wonderful teacher there, Mr. Twamley, had creative posters of all the literary elements up in his classroom, made by his students.  The project reminded me of my own school project where I had to learn and memorize all the literary elements.  At that moment I realized it would be a great way to structure a book.  I wrote the idea down so I wouldn’t forget it.

I am currently hard at work on a new project, which is always exciting, even though I’ve been doing this for a long time.  In fact, I wrote my first story in second grade about an owl that couldn’t sleep during the day when the other owls slept.  I haven’t stopped writing since.  I am at my happiest when I’ve just written a great sentence and at my most grateful when I find out someone has read one of my books and enjoyed it. 

Happy Book Battling!


Jennifer Anne Kogler lives in California, where she was born and raised.  She graduated with a degree in English literature from Princeton University.   Her first novel, RUBY TUESDAY began as her senior thesis in college.  Her second novel, THE OTHERWORLDLIES, was a 2011 Truman Award Nominee.  Jennie’s last two books came out in 2011:  a sequel to The Otherworldlies, THE SIREN’S CRY (July 2011), and THE DEATH CATCHERS (August 2011).

Jennie has appeared in front of a wide range of audiences.  She delivered a college graduation speech with her twin brother Jeremy (which she assumes provided a convenient bathroom break for the audience before Jerry Seinfeld took the podium), and has spoken at schools across the country, as well as at the Library of Congress.

She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and has worked as an intern for the Late Show with David Letterman, a clumsy waitress, and a legal intern for the U.S. Department of Justice.   Jennie is a longtime fan of the L.A. Dodgers, which as it turns out, was a great thing to be in the 1980s and not so much since then.  She remains hopeful. Check out Jennifer's website for more info.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

BY Kristen Levine

As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.


Where did you get the idea for The Lions of Little Rock?
My mother grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I started asking her about her childhood, and in our very first conversation about Little Rock, my mother told me about listening to the lions roar at night.  Something about that detail stuck with me.  In addition, I attended very diverse public schools growing up, so the Little Rock Nine and school integration is something I've always been interested in. 

What was the most difficult part of writing Lions?

It took me a long time to really understand the character of Marlee - which wasn't so great, since she was my main character!  Once I did, the story finally started to flow.  I also struggled with trying to figure out how to make my main characters, Marlee and Liz, as active as possible in the plot.  I didn't want them to just observe the historical events going on around them; I wanted them to actively take part in making things change.

Did your process change at all from writing your first book?

Yes!  My first book, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, started as a screenplay.  I did lots of outlining, note cards, and actually had a complete story by the time I sat down to turn in into a novel.  This time, I decided to just "start writing" because I was a writer, right?  I knew how to do this.  Ah, no.  Turns out, I am not a "seat-of-your pants" kind of a writer.  (I totally admire those of you who are!)  I guess it was a good thing to learn about myself, but it was painful to realize I needed to go back and plot things out when I was already 170+ pages into the story. 

What do you do when writer's block hits?

I give myself permission to write something really, really bad.  I have two small children, so I don't have a lot of time to write.  Usually, I force myself to write something, even if it is terrible, and after a while of terrible writing, something okay starts to come out.  But if after an hour nothing good is coming, I'll stop and try again another day.


Kristin Levine, author of The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had and The Lions of Little Rock, received her BA in German from Swarthmore College and an MFA in film from American University.  She spent a year in Vienna, Austria, working as an au pair and has taught screenwriting at American University.  Currently, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her family.  Her third novel, The Paper Cowboy, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in fall 2014.  Visit her at www.kristinlevine.com 
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