Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This Wednesday is the beginning of something new for my blog. Every Wednesday, I’m now going to be participating in YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday, which is a ‘Blog Carnival’. They post a weekly writing- or reading-related question, and participants answer on their blogs. Then a link to every blog post is entered into the comments section on the YA Highway post, so writers and readers can see what everyone else is saying about the same topic. Neat, huh?

This week’s topic: What books were you obsessed with as a kid?

I’ve spoken a lot before about specific books or series that impacted me growing up, but I also went through book phases. This is when I would read every book that fit into a specific genre or covered a specific subject matter. A few that I remember fondly from my elementary school days:

Nancy Drew: Yes, I know this is a series and I just said that I wasn’t going to talk about specific series, but I was truly obsessed with Nancy Drew books. I first got hooked on the series because there were a few random ones from the series that my mom had read as a little girl in our basement. After that, I read every single one our local library had, in numerical order, of course. I read them all…except one that was missing! The Mystery of Crocodile Island (#55) by Carolyn Keene alluded me until a friend of mine let me borrow her copy in ninth grade. It wasn’t quite the same as reading Nancy when I was ten, but it felt great to have competed the series and grow up with such an adventurous, smart girl.

Oregon Trail/Western homesteading books: Inspired by Little House on the Prairie, which my mom read to my sister and me, and the fantastic Oregon Trail computer game that every child of the 90's bemoans the loss of, I became obsessed with the Oregon Trail around third grade. My favorite books for this category, besides Little House of course, were Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski (written in my tiny hometown!), Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell (Dear America), Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. My boyfriend is from eastern Washington State (right on the Columbia River near Fort Walla Walla) and I’m still trying to convince him to let us try and ford the river at The Dalles in a Conestoga wagon with oxen.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure: I’ve already shared my story of how the first book in this series, The Abominable Snowman by R.A. Montgomery, turned me into a reader. I loved how involved these books were, and I’d read and reread each adventure until I memorized which decisions I’d have to make to get to the conclusion I desired. They’re so fun!

Holocaust books: In fifth grade I became really interested in learning about the Holocaust. I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig. The book that had the biggest impact on me was The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember meeting individually with my fifth grade teacher to talk about our independent reading, and telling her snottily “I hear that 10th graders read this book, but I’m reading it now” look at how smart I am. Of course, my fifth grade self did not fully understand the significance of the diary or the horrors of the Holocaust, and I had reread the diary several times since then. I hope to visit the house where they hid in Amsterdam the next time I am in Europe.

Historical fiction: I can’t pinpoint a specific time period growing up when I was obsessed with historical fiction (besides the moments, above), because growing up historical fiction was just the genre of choice. I loved (and still love) it so much! My favorites including The True Confession of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (4th grade), The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (5th grade), and Lyddie by Katherine Paterson (6th grade).

So there you have my childhood book obsessions. Check out what others are saying and share yours!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Must Share

I couldn't have said this better myself. Indeed, I probably couldn't have said it at all. But like I said before, it's nice to be acknowledge for the work you do. And who better than a previous editorial assistant and soon to be published author (repped by one of the agents I interned for), Shelby Bach? Her words ring so true. Thank you, Shelby!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's Go To the Movies

A lot of different and unrelated events lately have gotten me thinking about movie adaptations. 1. I saw the film adaptation of Jane Eyre in theaters 2. I read the book Stardust long after seeing the movie a few years ago 3. I saw the Broadway musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which stars Daniel Radcliff, of Harry Potter movie fame. And then I realized these three separate experiences nearly perfectly reflect how I feel about book to film adaptations.

·      The Classic
Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights: these books are so good and dense that it’s impossible to capture the lengthy novel on screen. So I don’t expect it. I expect it to be faithful, but understand when parts are changed or omitted due to feature-film time constraints. For example, in Jane Eyre details about Adele, the gypsy scene and the familial relationship between Jane and St. John are all omitted. This worked because they’re not vital points of the novel and thus the two hour movie had to cut something; better to exclude something trivial than a major plot point that the film producers thought was nonessential. Of course, the six-hour-long BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice will ALWAYS trump the Kiera Knightly one, but it’s not fair to compare the two because they’re different lengths. Overall, these adaptations are best to give viewers visual representation of the time period in which they’re set and a decent taste of what the novel holds.

·      The Middle Road
This category is for books and movies that I like but aren’t as attached to as the group below. Stardust, Time Traveler’s Wife and Alice in Wonderland all work- they’re fantastic novels that I could also appreciate seeing how the material needed to be adapted to a different medium. The movie Stardust, for example, has a much more dramatic and, indeed, vindictive ending than the novel because that’s what would give the story a final cinematic oomph. Any changes like that intrigue me, but I am not, for the most part bothered by changes made during the adaptation process.

·      The Favorite
Sometimes a book is so good, so perfect that nothing a film director does will perfectly capture your idea of the characters/plot/setting/etc. I first experienced this difficulty when I was very young and watched Little Women with my mom and sister. My sister, who hadn’t read the book, loved the film. My mom and I, who count Louisa May Alcott’s novel among our favorites, just couldn’t get into the film. So much seemed to be missing. A more recent example for me is the Harry Potter series- I love the books so much that the movies disappointed me so greatly that I’ve only seen two of them. Sometimes it’s just better to stick with your own perfect remembrance of a novel.

These categories clearly overlap and change over time. After all my babbling I’ve realized that it really just comes down to how far I can emotionally distance myself from a novel. Sometimes no matter how good the movie is I’ll always prefer the novel to the point that I’ll hate the movie. That’s my choice, of course. And I know that adapting a book to a movie is a daunting task, one that cannot make all readers and viewers happy. I look forward to see what happens with the buzziest movie adaptation- that of The Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Do you think it will work? What are your favorite adaptations? Share!

Friday, March 25, 2011

What's In a Name?

I’ve come to discover that bus rides are my prime random thinking time. Unlike trains and planes I get a little carsick when I read on buses, so that’s out of the question. So, if I don’t have an audiobook to listen to, I now pop in the headphones with my ‘quiet/writing/sleeping playlist’ on repeat and start thinking. Last week’s discovery: when my name pops up in books, I’m a fairy!

Laurel the Fairy! Check out Laurel the Woodfairy (with a corresponding doll) or Wings by Aprilynn Pike. Anyone who knows me knows how thrilled this makes me. I love having a unique (but not weird!) name that feels special. And being a fictional fairy is pretty cool, too! I guess the two go hand in hand; since my name refers to a flower, it’s natural connection to think about nature, being one with nature, fairies and other fantastical nature-based creatures.

And that got me thinking…are other names stereotyped enough or have a strong enough connection that fictional characters who share that name also share a characteristic? This, of course, won’t work if you have a common name like Sarah or Katie or Megan. There are just too many characters with names like that…but what about Harriet or Veronica or Rochelle? My sister, Amy, always related to the Amy Loves the Sun/Rain/Wind/Snow books. And I remember my friend, Heather, once complaining how so many fictional characters who share her name are snotty vacant girls like in the movie Heathers.

Luckily for Heather, she’s nothing like her fictional counterparts. Unluckily for me, I’m not a fairy. How does your name pop up in the fictional world?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NYC Teen Author Festival

This past week was Teen Author Festival here in NYC and there were TONS of great events to go to. I (ahem) made it to one event- free theater tickets, my job, and errands unfortunately got in the way- but the one event was definitely a great one!  It included music-themed readings from top YA authors, plus performances by Tiger Beat, a YA author band comprised of Libba Bray (vocals, piano), Dan Ehrenhalf (guitar), Natalie Standiford (bass, vocal backup) and Barney Miller (drums, vocals). Even with two fractured elbows Libba was energetic and working the crowd! Check out a past recording of Tiger Beat playing their original hilarious (and somewhat inappropriate) tune “YA Song”. You'll be sure to smile!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Warm and Fuzzy Moment

Today I learned that Sarah Tregay, the author of the upcoming fantastically funny and sweet novel-in-verse Love and Leftovers, has included me in her in acknowledgements. It’s the first time my name will appear in that section of any book. While I don’t work in publishing expecting to be thanked, it’s nice to know that an author thinks that my contributions during the publication process were meaningful. I was all smiles when I found that out! Make sure you check out Sarah’s book when it comes out a year from now (I’ll be sure to remind you again and again-her novel is really something special)!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pick the Winners!

Children’s Book Week is coming up in May (more on that to come), but one of the best parts of that week is awarding the Children’s Choice Book Awards.  And how are those books selected? By you!

So, check out the nominees

And then get your sibling, child, niece, student you tutor, random kid on the street, etc. to vote! There are soooo many good choices!

P.S. I had the chance to meet Jarett J. Krosoczka (nominee and gala host) last November at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair. He’s just as charming and funny in person. And his books are hilarious! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Love My Credit Card

You will rarely find a person who says this- but it’s true: I love my credit card! Why? Because I get points back and those points are redeemable for Amazon gift cards, as well as a host of other things, but the key part here is that I get ‘free’ books! I use my credit card normally and every six months or so I get $50 of books! Yay! This week I got Beauty, Nightshade, the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series and Fire in the mail.  I’m going to have lots of happy reading weeks all thanks to my credit card….

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad Reviews

A little while ago there was quite a flurry of responses about the existence, or lack thereof, of the YA Mafia. YA Highway did an excellent job of staying on top of all the blog posts related on that topic, so I’m going to steer clear of it. You don’t even need to know what the YA Mafia is for this post; I’m only going to highlight one facet of the conversation: bloggers that give bad book reviews.

This topic is actually is quite timely for me. The most recent reading roundup is the first time I’ve outright expressed my dislike for a book on this blog. Not only did I give my first negative review, I also gave a mediocre one. Up until this point all the reviews I’ve written (and every single book I read gets a review) was either a) glowing b) kind or c) one of the above but with a few aspects that needed improvement. I was on a great reading streak – I more or less loved every book I had read since August!

It was bound to end. I read the book that I didn’t like and wrote my blurb as always, only to realize that it was nowhere near my usual positive review. Bad reviews, by important reviewers or influential authors (that’s where the YA Mafia comes in), do have considerable impact on whether some people will pick up the book. I don’t pretend that my words have that kind of power, but whatever I write online can be read by anyone – the author, the editor, a potential reader – anyone.

What if, somewhere down the line, someone googles my negative review and judges me for it? What if I interview for a job under the book’s editor? What if I publish a book and want the author to blurb it? What if what if what if! You could ‘what if’ yourself into silence.

There were choices. I could have lied, or sugar coated the truth, or even avoided reviewing the book at all. But here’s the thing: I’ve reviewed every single book I’ve read since August. It wouldn’t be fair to you if I glossed over the books I dislike: how else will you know whether or not you can trust my book opinions?

And there’s the most important part of reviewing. What I say about the books are MY opinions. They’re not HarperCollins’s (see my handy dandy disclaimer that hangs out at the bottom of my blog), nor are they regurgitated from other book blogs – they’re mine and mine alone. I give you reasons why I think what I think, and then it’s your turn to read the book and form your opinions. Everyone has opinions and no one is going to like every book they read. So if you agree with my review, great! And if you don’t, let’s discuss it: leave a comment on the post! An open dialogue provides the best resource for potential readers to judge reviews for themselves.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In a While, Crocodile

Fact: I’m going to away this weekend to visit my best friend/ four-year-college roommate/ fellow book lover! I’m SOOOOO excited (to quote a fantastic Easter book coming your way in 2012). I’m going to be on a slight post hiatus because of all the fun and busyness, but I’ll be back soon!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ice Cream

No, this is not where I’m going to share my favorite homemade ice cream recipes (but that can be arranged at a later date if you’d like), but rather the title of this post refers to soon-to-be-huge author of Divergent Veronica Roth’s brilliant blog post.  This post was written way back in October and I wanted to respond to it, comment on it, do something, but it was so brilliant yet simple I felt that I could not match its eloquence. 

I’m not going to try to now, either.  The gist of what Veronica says (but please read her post) is: you have to go out and do things in order to be able to write well.  Experiencing new things gives people (and therefore writers!) a fuller understanding of the world that they can write about to give their books more depth.  Don’t just sit in your house and write all day, every day.  Fly a kite! Move to Eastern Europe! Try Korean food! Volunteer at an elementary school! Do something! (Just to be fair, Beth Revis [Across the Universe] gave the same boiled-down advice during the Breathless Reads tour a few weeks ago that reminded me of Veronica’s post.)

I completely agree with this advice, and it’s always interesting to me to see how what I do influences my writing.  Here are a few recent examples…

The Rose of Coracus (WIP)
·      Read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and realized that maybe the oomph needed as a climax in my novel was a little revolting and rebellion. Not full-blown and horrifyingly violent like in Mockingjay, but the idea is there.  The same can be said about Katniss and Prim’s relationship inspiring me to build up Shayna and her sister Minna’s.

The Lady and the Unicorn’s Lover (WIP)
·      Read Tracy Chevaliar’s historical fiction novel, The Lady and the Unicorn, then saw the famous tapestry in the Cloisters Museum in New York, then wrote a term paper about medieval tapestry for my art history class in London, which inspired the playful title of my novel.
·      Watched the wonderful British TV series, Downton Abbey, which inspired me to increase how much the servants’ lives (beyond the main character) are depicted.

Untitled Picture Book Idea #1
·      I bought new socks the other day.  They’re made from bamboo.  I suggested (hopefully) to my boyfriend that pandas would now become attracted to me and follow me home. This seems like a playful premise for a children’s book.

Untitled Contemporary YA Series #1
·      I was thinking recently about my church youth group and some of the wonderful experiences we had together during middle and high school.  There were also a lot of serious issues that had to be dealt with. Since there’s been a lot of talk about teens wanting stories about real kids (not rich/ famous ones) and/or novels that deal with ‘problems’ I’ve been wondering if my experiences with that group could be the basis of a series.

Untitled Contemporary YA novel #1
·      My boyfriend has a crazy roommate. The roommate doesn’t have any social skills, barely speaks English yet reads classics (like the tome Gone with the Wind-only people like me read that!), and keeps very strange hours (often returning to the apartment at 4am only to leave again at 7am).  Thus, the currently theories are that he is either a spy from a foreign country or a vampire.  He’s great source material for some sort of story.

So, there you have it, by reading books, watching tv, visiting museums, studying, buying socks (!), socializing and just living- aka not writing- I’ve come up with plenty of story ideas and ways to make my writing fuller. 

Mmmmm….and now I want vanilla ice cream with peanut butter cups and chocolate swirls!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Roundup

Jane by April Linder
In this modern retelling of the classic (and one of my favorite books of all time) Jane Eyre, plain Jane Moore has to drop out of school and become a nanny for rockstar Nico Rathburn’s daughter, Maddy.  To be clear, I never would have picked up this book had it not been a retelling- the plot on it’s own doesn’t appeal to me and although I have reservations about retellings, I can (and do) appreciate how the author manipulates and expands the story to suite their purposes (if you haven’t read another retelling of Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, I recommend it for its unique take on the story and beautiful language).  All that being said, Jane still didn’t work for me.  It’s a very quick and fun read, but that’s where the positives end. The writing was often unpolished and awkward; for example, every time Jane has a drink of water (it’s quite often!) she realizes how thirsty she was and the metaphors for sex are painful (“[I] let him unmake me into a thousand glittering pieces” [244]).  Worse, though, was the fact that Jane Eyre and Rochester’s relationship just didn’t translate well to Jane Moore and Nico Rathburn’s. It is difficult to pick up on Jane’s feelings for Nico unless you know the original and then they go from confessing their love, to having sex, to attempting to get married in a span of twenty-four hours. This is the twenty first century! She’s a well educated Sarah Lawrence girl, who’s never had a boyfriend. Her financial prospects might not be bright, but she was working towards a better future through hard work and effort- and then she sleeps with her significantly older employer and plans on getting married at age nineteen! The modern retelling aims to be realistic, and this had red flags all over the place for me. Normally my reviews aren’t so long, or so harsh, but I was quite disappointed with this cheesy book.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
When I picked up this book knowing that it was about a modern teen and a teen during the French Revolution, I expected traditional alternating chapters from each character’s point of view. I was so wrong. This is the first young adult book I’ve read in a while that felt like it had substance. Don’t get me wrong- I love YA, and I know a lot of YA novels deal with important issues well, but Revolution was much heavier and denser (literally- it’s nearly 500 big pages- and figuratively) than most novels that deal less successfully with the same subject of grief. Not only does Donnelly edgily explore modern day Brooklyn teen Andi’s depression after the death of her brother, but she also weaves together the musical history of a 18th century composer and the story of Alex, a teen during the French Revolution determined to help Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s ill-fated son, the dauphin. Donnelly’s novel might be a tad too ambitious as the novel is really long and the multiple storylines a little difficult to follow, but the message and conclusion of the novel- through all the revolutions that take place- are incredibly satisfying.  A recommended read.  (Historical Fiction Challenge Book #1)

Her Fearful Symmetry  by Audrey Niffenegger
I was so excited about this novel. It’s by the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (a MUST read) and takes place in London/Highgate Cemetery, an area that I love. This novel, though, didn’t work for me. It’s very episodic, to the point that I felt like I was missing major character developments and I would flip back thinking that the pages had stuck together. I just didn’t understand why the characters acted the way they did and the promised “romance that transgresses all natural barriers” (quote on the back of the book by Ron Charles, The Washington Post) was not romantic or compelling at all.  Without giving too much away, you barely see the two as a couple during the entire story! I sobbed after reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was vaguely curious reading this novel.  The twist at the end helps redeem Her Fearful Symmetry, but not enough for me to recommend anyone read this book.

Manuscripts: 5

Friday, March 4, 2011

Reading Is Making You Fat

How’s that for an eye-catching headline? And I hate to say it, but in some ways, I think it’s true (after all, this is Fun ‘Fact’ Friday). Reading, and writing, is a sedentary activity. People say, “curl up in bed with a good book” not “let’s go on a hike with our new book!”.  And, in the past couple of months, I’ve seen myself gain a tiny bit of weight. This clearly does not have anything to do with my unrelenting sweet tooth.  It has much to do with the fact that I wake up, walk five feet to the subway station, sit on the subway for thirty minutes, walk briskly for ten minutes to the office, sit at a desk for eight hours, walk briskly for ten minutes to the subway station, sit on the subway for thirty minutes, walk five feet to my apartment, cook dinner, and then, more often than not, sit down to read a manuscript or read a book or write a blog post or write my story. Sit sit sit sit sit!

I’ve tried to come up with a solution to this, but it’s hard!  I need to be reading and writing- it’s not (just) that I’m lazy and like lying in bed all afternoon (who doesn’t?). My best solution so far?  Audiobooks.  They can go anywhere with you- on a walk, to the gym, you can even listen while you’re vacuuming.  You can be active AND read!  Lately, I’ve been listening to White Cat by Holly Black on my commute and have surprisingly loved it.

I never thought I’d like audiobooks. I am very much a visual learner and I thought I’d get lost listening to a book rather than reading the text on a page. Not so! If you have hesitations like me I suggest you try one audiobook first before brushing the concept aside.

The one downside is that audiobooks are expensive.  From Amazon, White Cat will cost you around $30 for CDs or $23 for a direct download to your computer. I got mine for free with a 30-day trial to It’s a great way to test whether audiobooks work for you or not! Be forewarned, though, that is an company and even if they don’t ask for your credit card information, has it on file to automatically pay for your membership when your free trial is up. (Yep, had to make some angry phone calls about that mishap). But the library always has audiobooks, too!

Oh, and if you still need a solution for the sit sit sit-ing of writers, author Helene Boudreau has come up with a solution (Thanks to upcoming Katherine Tegen author of Incarnate, Jodi Meadows, for tweeting about that ages ago).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ultimate Teen Reading List

Time for another book list, this one from!  It’s the Ultimate Teen Reading List!  What I really like about this list is the variety.  There are new and old books.  And it isn’t limited to YA- a lot of adult books make the list, which is great because there is so much crossover, both ways! Normally, I would include the list here, but since it’s 400 books, it would take over my blog! Instead, I’m going to list the books I’ve read, starred if I highly recommend them (And this way I can avoid the embarrassing fifty-book-long gaps of novels I haven’t read yet).  But make sure you check out the whole list and add some books to your TBR pile!

ALANNA: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce*
BREAKING DAWN by Stephenie Meyer
CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins*
CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson
THE COMPLETE MAUS written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman
DUNE by Frank Herbert
ECLIPSE by Stephenie Meyer
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
GO ASK ALICE by Anonymous
THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins*
INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer
JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë*
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott*
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden
MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins*
NEW MOON by Stephenie Meyer
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel
THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks
THE PERFECT STORM by Sebastian Junger
REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier*
REBEL ANGELS by Libba Bray*
REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly*
SABRIEL by Garth Nix
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger*
TITHE: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black
TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer
A WALK TO REMEMBER by Nicholas Sparks

P.S.  A special “recommended reads”: Betrayal by Lee Nichols is now available! I read the ARC ages ago, and have a special connection to the Haunting Emma series.  I did the first read of the first book, Deception, while interning for the editor at Bloomsbury over two years ago and I interned for Lee Nichols’s agent this fall. Small publishing world! It’s a great contemporary book full of mystery, history, and romance!