Monday, December 31, 2012

Reading Resolutions & Goal Setting

I've been doing a lot of thinking about resolutions with the new year creeping up on us, and more specifically, I've been thinking about how setting resolutions for accomplishing something in a time frame of one year is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Resolutions are a good thing because they're an act of goal setting. Resolutions require putting down in words actual things that you want to do and achieve. You give these goals a time frame. This is motivating and a push to pursue something. But resolutions are also a bad thing because, well, it's an arbitrary time frame and sometimes, goals are fickle. They change mid-stream. They mold and shift. Sometimes, not accomplishing a resolution or goal within the time frame becomes a means of assessing failure. If you didn't reach a goal, you've failed, even if there were other things that popped up along the way that hindered (or changed or enhanced) pursuit of that goal.

For some people, that failure is in and of itself motivating. It encourages trying harder, readjusting, reassessing. It encourages finding what did work and aligning goals with those accomplishments. I don't deny that failure is proof of trying; it is.

For people like me, failure to meet a goal, though, is stressful. Rather than feeling like the other achievements were worthwhile, when I don't meet a resolution, I feel nothing but stress or frustration. Neither of those sensations are motivating for me. They don't actually cause me to want to work harder or to reassess. Instead, they make me feel defeated, which leads to disinterest. I lose steam. Of course, that doesn't mean I hate failure or fear it -- it's a part of every day life.

With me here?

In 2012, I set a goal of reading 220 books. In theory, if I counted the picture books I read, I met that goal. But I don't count picture books (some people do and that's fine), nor do I count manuscripts I've read (which totals around 20 this year). I came up quite short in my reading, even though I read nearly 160 books.

Even though I want to be stressed and defeated about this, since I didn't get to everything I wanted to book-wise this year I had hoped to back in January, I made a decision in October to quit worrying about it. I still kept track of the number of books I was reading. I still updated my Goodreads progress bar. But, I decided then that the quantity didn't matter. I'd rather read and do so with intention, with an eye toward following what it was that interested me reading-wise. Instead of trying to blow through a ton of shorter books, I let myself read a few monster-sized titles, even though it slowed numeric progress down. I picked up adult titles that looked interesting to me and read them, even though a shorter YA title would give me more books read. I am a slow reader, despite how much I read. I can't normally finish a book in a day or two, unless I'm scrimping on close and critical reading.

At the end of this year, I find myself really satisfied with what and how much I read, even though I did not meeting my goal. I ignored that number, 220. I pretended it didn't exist.

In doing so, I quit stressing about it.

It's all self-induced, but I think anyone who reads (as a blogger, as a librarian, as a reader more generally) puts pressure on themselves to read as much as possible. It's because the to-read piles are huge. It's because there is so much good stuff TO read. It's because there's a drive and pressure for content, for knowledge, for being ahead of the curve. Reading 250 or 300 books a year certainly does that.

But I found it was unsatisfying personally.

Last year and the year before, I signed up and participated in the Debut Author Challenge. I made it a goal to read 32 debut novels this year, and I achieved that, plus some. I'm not going to sign up for it this year, though, because I don't want to pressure myself to meet a certain quantity of books that fulfill a specific criteria. I still plan on reading and blogging the heck out of debut novels because I think it's important, but I don't want to force myself to pick up titles that I'm not interested in simply because it's a debut. I think reading challenges are GREAT things, and I believe they really do motivate people to push outside their preferred reading (and it's helpful for reader's advisory, for becoming a more critical reader, among a host of other things).

But they just don't work for me.

I'm not signing up for any challenges in 2013, and I'm not going to set a goal number of books I want to read. Instead, I'm going to spend 2013 reading with intention. That intention is to enjoy reading for reading's sake. I'm going to read widely, both books inside and outside my comfort zone (using Angela's reader's advisory challenge as a guide to doing that part). I want to remember the joy of spontaneous discovery through browsing and, since I'm lucky, surprise review books that come to the house. I want to read fiction and non-fiction, YA and adult titles. I want to sink into a thick read as much as I want to sink into a tiny book and tease out all of the layers packed within it. I want to reread favorite books, and I want to try reliving some of them in alternative formats where possible.

What I've come to learn about myself as a reader and as a blogger is that the goal setting pressure isn't motivating for me. It's not the kind of stress which encourages me. Instead, it frustrates me. In taking a step back and reassessing my reading earlier this fall, I learned what works best for me and what makes me happiest is being intentional and pursing something because I want to. Not because I feel like I need to for myself nor anyone else. This is the same philosophy I plan on taking through the new year more broadly, too. I'm not setting any resolutions. I want the pressure to be minimal where I can make it so.

My only goal for 2013 is to live in it -- and blog through it -- for me.

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13 Days of Class 2K13: Cristin Terrill (All Our Yesterdays)

About the Author: Cristin Terrill is a YA author and aspiring grown-up. She holds a BA in Drama from Vassar College and an MA from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon and has worked in the theatre on both sides of the pond. She now teaches creative writing to children and teens in Washington, D.C. Visit her at

About All Our Yesterdays: Marina has everything. She’s got money, popularity, and a bright future. Plus, she’s best friends with the boy next door, who happens to be a gorgeous prodigy from one of America’s most famous families.

Em has nothing. Imprisoned in a small white cell in the heart of a secret military base, all she has is the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

But Marina and Em have one big thing in common: they’re the same person.

Now Em must travel back four years in time in order to avert the terrible future from which she’s fled, and there’s only one way to do it. She must kill the person who invented the time machine in the first place: someone from her past. A person she loved.

But Marina won’t let them go without a fight.

We've got an abbreviated Twitterview with Cristin to share!

Pitch your book in 140 characters: 

A girl must travel back in time to 
kill the boy she loves before he destroys the world. Like TERMINATOR meets THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE.

Who will this book appeal to: 

People who like conspiracies, tough 
girls, snarky boys, secrets, kissing, and twisty-turny mind-bending time travel stuff.

Favorite moment or character in your book: 

The first scene, with the 
girl from the future, the military base, the drain, and the boy cracking jokes in the cell next door.

What's your writing routine: 

Procrastinate. Go to library. Stare into 
space. Check Twitter. Weep silently. Actually write something. Proclaim it terrible. Repeat.

What's your best piece of writing advice: 

Do a little everyday, 
because waiting for inspiration is for wimps.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey: 

long it takes for things to actually feel real. I’m still pretty sure I’m hallucinating all of this.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published: 

Got THE 
CALL while at dinner with writer friends and couldn’t say anything. Tried to act casual. Laughed hysterically in the parking lot.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received: 

Try to be 
honest, especially when it makes you uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to suck. Get your ass in the chair.

What are your top three favorite books: 

Pullman (yes, I’m kind of a cheater), THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, and THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin.

What's next for you: 

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS #2! More time travel, more 
secrets, LOTS more kissing. After that, learning to cook and world domination.

Find out more about Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays on Goodreads.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

13 Days of Class 2K13: Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink)

About the Author: Mindy McGinnis is a YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision. Mindy runs a blog for aspiring writers at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. She also contributes to the group blogs The Lucky 13s, Friday the Thirteeners, Book Pregnant, and From the Write Angle. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Pinterest.

About Not a Drop to Drink: The story of a teenage girl surviving in a rural America where an ounce of fresh water is worth more than gold and death wanders the countryside as thirst, cholera, and the guns of strangers; when her mother dies in an accident, the girl must decide between defending her pond alone or banding together with a crippled neighbor, a pregnant woman, a filthy orphan, and a teenage boy who awakens feelings she doesn’t understand.

Today, we've got a short Twitterview with Mindy to share!

Pitch your book in 140 characters: 

In a world without water, Lynn's 
pond is life, her rifle its guardian.

Who will this book appeal to: 

Anyone who drinks water and likes being alive.

Favorite moment or character in your book: 

Anytime the very secluded 
Lynn meets a new person it throws her. She has no idea how to interpret teasing or flirting.

What's your writing routine: 

Mostly I write when I get a chance. It's 
always evening. And I make sure I pee first.

What's your best piece of writing advice: 

Don't feel like you have to 
write everyday to be a "real" writer.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey: 

fact that someone wanted me in the first place. I'd been writing and querying for ten years, so it was a bit of a shock.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published:
Honestly, I went into shock and scooped the litter pan.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received: 

Trust your 
reader. Don't try to control what they "see."

What are your top three favorite books: 

THE STAND by Stephen King...
after that -- Really? Only two more??

What's next for you: 

The sequel to Not a Drop to Drink, currently 
titled A Handful of Dust, is going through crit partners.

Find out more about Mindy McGinnis's Not a Drop to Drink on Goodreads

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Quarter 4 Reading Report & Year in Review

I've been sharing all of the books I've read each quarter this year, and no way to finish out the year than with the list of final quarter reads. In the first quarter, I read over 50 books. In the second quarter, I also read over 50 books. The third quarter was when I hit a slower patch, finishing just over 20 titles.

So what about the final quarter this year? I managed to read 26 books. Not as impressive as the first and second quarter, but in my defense, I've been writing a ton. I've read longer books. I've also read quite a few manuscripts, which definitely impacts my book reading.

Here's the breakdown! I realize there's still a day left in 2012 and in this quarter, but I'm not sure I'll knock another book out in that time frame. If I do, well, it'll be the first I count in 2013. I've linked relevant reviews.

1. 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma (YA): This haunting story isn't quite what it seems. Lauren's visited by girls who have all gone missing when they were 17. Is she next? Incredibly rich writing.

2. The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell (YA): A story of grief. It felt a little over the top for me and a little pretentious.

3. The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis (YA): I mentioned this was one of my favorite books in 2012, right? Oh how I LOVED this book. Reviewed here.

4. Live Through This by Mindi Scott (YA): This was a powerful little book about sexual assault. I may still review this one, though I talk about it in an article I've got coming out from VOYA in the new year (spoiler alert: I've got an article in VOYA next spring).

5. Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook (YA): A 2013 debut about a boy and a girl who run away from their home and their problems. They're good for each other. They'll save each other. They're incredibly BAD for one another.

6. Return to Me by Justina Chen (YA): I was unimpressed with this. I can't remember much other than feeling like the main character was way too privileged and unaware of it.

7. The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (YA): This book was delightful. It's about family and about musical theater and made me feel really good when I read it and when I finished it. Another 2013 debut.

8. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues (YA): This was billed as a read alike for 13 Reasons Why since it's about a dead girl and the clues she left before she killed herself. It wasn't spectacular.

9. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (YA): It's the summer before dad will die from cancer and the family is spending it at their summer home. It was long, but it was pretty good.

10. Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos (YA): I didn't care for this story of a girl trying to find her meth-using brother when he finds himself in trouble. Reviewed here

11. Fingerprints of You by Kristin-Paige Maldonia (YA): This was a story about a pregnant teen girl, a road trip, and a non-traditional family. I liked it and reviewed it here.

12. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith (YA): This was an adorable romance, set in a tight time period, on a plane, then abroad and I really liked it.

13. This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell (YA): An adult suffering PTSD takes a classroom of first graders hostage, and not everyone comes out alive. I wrote a review of this and planned it for earlier this month, but I made the decision not to run it for obvious reasons. I may in the new year. This book had good parts and bad parts. A net neutral. This was a 2012 debut.

14. What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen (YA): I don't even remember reading this. It was a mystery, and I remember feeling unimpressed. This was a 2012 debut.

15. When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (YA): I LOVED this book. It was so, so good. Danny was an incredible character. The pain and the longing were so spot on. I talked at length about this book over at WORD for Teens.

16. The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (YA): This is my favorite Sara Zarr, hands down. The third person captured everything perfectly. What happens when you quit the thing that defined you? When you give up art? Review to come in the new year (and spoiler -- an interview with Sara Zarr herself!)

17. Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak (YA): Another grief book, and as I said in my review, it didn't quite hit the mark for me.

18. Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony (YA/graphic novel kind of): This felt like hipstery stuff. I read it to see what it was, and it did nothing for me. I see the appeal. It's not for me.

19. Absent by Katie Williams (YA): This is a 2013 book and it is AMAZING. Love ghost stories? Tales of revenge? J Horror? This is it. It's a short little thing, but it packs a punch.

20. Then You Were Gone by Lauren Strasnick (YA): Another winner coming out in 2012. This is a grief story but also, it's a story about intimacy and romance and the way those things can tangle. I think there will be a review soon!

21. Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris (YA): Mind candy in the best possible way. Kate Grable is a riot. This entire book is fun. Werewolf fun.

22. Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught (YA): This is another winner from Vaught. It looks at mental illness and bullying. There's a mystery within it, too.

23. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (YA Audiobook): I mentioned that Rhys has a southern accent? But it's Grace's voice that is so my favorite. This is an imperfect production -- there's a lot of obvious cuts and changes in intonation -- but the story works well aurally.

24. Dare Me by Megan Abbott (adult): Girls are nasty and vile and this book was nasty and vile and really damn enjoyable because of that. There's definitely teen appeal here, but the voice of the story makes it an adult novel, if that makes sense.

25. Empty by K. M. Walton (YA): This might be the most disappointing book I've read in a long time, and there is a lengthy review to come soon.

26. Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan (YA): ADD, grief, loss, 9/11, pop culture, and much more make this story of two boys and a hostage situation (sensing a horrible theme here) a great feat. The writing held it back from being a total knockout, though. Again, a review will come soon.

I guess that makes 25 YA reads and one adult read. But I did get an audiobook in, as well. I'm just starting Uses for Boys by Erin Lorraine Scheidt, which is a 2013 debut novel. I've got a few outstanding egalleys to read, so I'm working through those the first few weeks of the new year.

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13 Days of Class 2K13: Lydia Kang (Control)

About the Author:  Lydia Kang is an author of YA fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. She is a part-time internist and has a blog where writers can learn the most accurate way to maim their characters. She believes in science and knocking on wood, is an unapologetic salt addict and thinks Star Wars should have been Ewokless.

About Control: After the violent death of her father, 17 year-old Zelia loses her younger sister, Dylia, during an abduction at the foster home. It turns out her sister Dylia isn’t just pretty and sweet – she’s illegal.

In the year 2150, DNA must be pure by law, and anyone with enhanced genes face death. Zelia’s only allies are the freak-show inhabitants of her new, underground foster home. Along with the unexpected love of a very strange boy, she will need her flaws and their illicit traits to save the only family she has left.

We've got a shortened Twitterview with Lydia to share today!

Pitch your book in 140 characters: 

A 17 y/o girl aligns herself with a 
foster home full of genetic freaks to save a sister with a secret trait.

Who will this book appeal to: 

People who love adventure, a little 
sci-fi, lots of romance, a medical mystery, and some fun, new world building.

Favorite moment or character in your book: 

The club scene! It's the 
first time you see the foster kids really come together.

What's your writing routine: 

Check way too many social media outlets, 
turn on some music, and write. Oh, and drink something caffeinated.

What's your best piece of writing advice: 

Never stop trying to be 
better at your craft. Read like crazy and write whenever you can.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey:
Destroying my preconceived notion that I could never write a novel.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published: 

I think 
I bit my fist and jumped up and down.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received: 

Show, don't tell.

What are your top three favorite books: 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, 
Persuasion by Jane Austen, and LIttle Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What's next for you: 

The sequel to Control!

Find out more about Lydia Kang's Control on Goodreads

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Links of Note for December 29, 2012

It's the last installment of Links of Note for 2012 -- and while it's not as lengthy as most, what's here is worth your time (and sorry no fancy pictures to jazz it up).

  • What happened to serendipitous book discovery? I have a lot to say in favor of this at a future date, but go read Stacy Dillon's really thoughtful and powerful post on the importance and value of browsing for books, "Happy Accidents." Also, if you missed it, please read Linda Urban's passionate piece on making and unmaking readers over at the Nerdy Book Club. 
  • Forbes offers three book-related predictions for 2013. These are really interesting, especially the one about Goodreads. I'm sure if the monetizing happens, there will be a real uproar. I am already enjoying the uproar coming through with Overdrive's new interface which allows them to monetize their library-related ebook lending services (this is in my sarcasm font and also, I HAVE already seen instances where people purchased an Overdrive book, rather than borrowed it. Sigh).
  • Publisher's Lunch just launched Bookateria. If you're looking for more information about new releases, about best sellers, and about books getting big buzz and push, this is a great resource to have on your radar.
  • Only fifteen million things about new adult in the last couple of weeks. There was the ridiculous New York Times article, which spurred the even more ridiculous Jezebel article, which launched Diana Peterfreund's really thoughtful post. There was also the insane Guardian article. Jen Hubert over at Reading Rants has been noting books that feature a lot of what people WANT from new adult on her Slacker Fiction reading list (like "Scott Pilgrim"). I'm not commenting further because I've blogged this twice already, and my thoughts haven't changed. These books exist. You have to look for them. Genre fiction is not an enemy. And so on. Liz is talking about "new adult" this weekend, too, so spend some time on this post and the follow ups she's working on. 
  • Macmillian is launching "Swoon Reads," a line of new YA-friendly romances. It's crowd-sourced, meaning that readers will have a hand in helping make these stories make their way to print. It's an interesting model, and it'll be interesting to see what sort of success they might have with this (will people still buy print or ebook copies if they've already read it? How much editing will happen between crowd sourcing and final product?).
  • Here are the New York Times's favorite book covers of 2012. Lots of non-people covers and lots that I agree with. I love good design so much. 
  • Ever wondered about board books? As someone who has purchased them for my library in the past and someone who shuffles through them to buy for my nieces, I was super interested in Jennifer Laughran's blog post on the topic. Interesting stuff!
  • Go read Amy Spalding's blog post titled "On Always Painting the House." It's about comedy and about mental health and about creativity and I think anyone who has ever created or thought about the creative process will get a lot out of it. This is a brave and honest post. 

If you haven't filled out our reader survey yet, it would be great if you could take a few minutes and give us some feedback

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13 Days of Class 2K13: Geoffrey Girard (Project Cain)

About the Author: Geoffrey Girard is an award-winning dark fiction author. Born in Germany and shaped in New Jersey, Geoffrey graduated from Washington College with a literature degree and worked as an advertising copywriter and marketing manager before shifting to high school English teacher. Since then, he’s earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Miami University and is the Department Chair of English at a famed private boys’ school in Cincinnati. None of his students, he believes, are clones. He also has two teenage sons, and suspects one of them could be. For more information, please visit

About Project Cain: This is a story about blood. The blood of family. And of science. And murder.

Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff’s life changes forever when the man he’d thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called ‘Project CAIN.’ There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA. There are others like Jeff — those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy… even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from. When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it’s too late. But will he catch the ‘monsters’ before becoming one himself?

Geoffrey decided to offer up a guest post answering one of my questions. That question is . . .

If you could be the writer behind any novel, what would it be and why?

The poetry of 1984. The royalties and merited popularity behind Harry Potter. The legacy of Lord of the Rings. The courage and scope of The Fountainhead or Moby-Dick. The brilliant so-simple-why-hadn’t-someone-thought of-it-before concepts behind Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And then books like A Prayer for Owen Meany or Shadowland or The Chocolate War which I read over and over and over because everything’s exactly where it should be…

But the game/challenge here was choose the ONE novel I wish I’d written. And for decades, it’s been one book: A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. Not even in my top hundred favorite books, yet every time I read it or even think about it, I frequently proclaim out loud: I wish I wrote this damn book.

1] The concept is clever. So clever. And simple. So so simple. Three ghosts (past, present, future) will visit you tonight and teach you about yourself (a self that needs some teaching). Such a powerful tale wrapped in a plot less complicated than most fairy tales or shaggy-dog jokes. The anticipation of what the next ghost will reveal the uncluttered linear storyline… Some of our very best stories, the ones that last/resonate, can afford to be the most straightforward.

2] Christmas. I mean, wow. Smart. THE Holiday. And sure, you can dress up any plot by attaching it to a specific holiday, especially this one. But that’s not what Dickens is doing here. He’s doing specific things with the roles of tradition (on the holiday with the most traditions in a time (1840s) when tradition was flying out the door faster than you can say “Tiny Tim”) and promoting specifically Christian values on a major Christian holiday (in a time when Christian values were flying out… you get the point). This story HAS to happen on Christmas. Just like Michael Myers has to happen on Halloween.

3] Ghosts. (see #1 above). To my dismay, I remain unable to write a story without including something somewhere that’s a little peculiar, supernatural, fantastic, unexplainable… I try to write about “normal” people doing “normal” things and get bored with them all-too quickly. I spend the bulk of each day surrounded by normal people doing normal things; They’re also boring. As a reader and writer, I like a little seasoning in my fiction and incorporating ghosts as main characters and plot drivers adds just the right touch of fantastic to a story entirely about, ultimately, a normal man.

4] A CHRISTMAS CAROL has a point. It’s not written to be just entertainment. It was also written, during the greatest societal change in human history, to question/explore the rise of industry and its toll on social justice and the individual human spirit. I wouldn’t know what to write about if I didn’t have some underlying “point” to my tale. Not that you have to (or should) get up on a soapbox with theme, but to borrow a quote attributed to half a dozen brilliant authors: “ALL Art is propaganda.”

5] Scrooge is all of us. Ok, so maybe you’re no wrinkly pinchpenny but you’re here and human. So, it’s safe to say you also have a Past that includes some regrets and missed opportunities; a Future that you worry about; and a Present where you ignore/mistreat/misunderstand a lot of the people in your life. Good fiction is universal; it can speak to each of us. Make us look within ourselves. Regardless of any themes exploring the price/cures of the Industrial Revolution, this tale remains at its core a very human and familiar story. The ghosts, you see, haven’t just come for Scrooge…

6] Dickens’ writing. While this one’s a touch dialogue heavy, when Chuck takes a moment to work his magic, you see an absolute master at work. First line of the book: Marley was dead, to begin with. Readers are said to sometimes throw a book against the wall when it’s terrible. Writers, however, more often do it when the writing is so darn good, you wonder if you should ever bother writing again. One sentence can do that. Dickens has several in this little tale that endanger the walls.

7] 150 years after it was written, people still like this story. Proof of how well #5 and #6 were done. We still know these characters, their words, their struggles and joys. Yes, the story got plenty of help from countless plays and films over the years, but the actual book is still read, given as gifts, and enjoyed to this day. It will be on our shelves another 150 years from now. Hint: Not even people named Meyers will know who Bella and Edward are 150 years from now. For an Artist to create something that lasts and delights/touches generations is certainly a worthy goal.

A brilliant concept, skillfully written, a splash of magic, with social relevance and universal personal meaning, whose characters and story will keep readers entertained and thinking for, likely, a thousand years. Yes, that I would like to write.

Now… which book would YOU choose?

Find out more about Geoffrey Girard's Project Cain on Goodreads.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

STACKED wants your feedback!

I know. I know. It's the end of the year, and things are busy. But, Kimberly and I have been talking about what we'd like to blog about in the new year and as part of that, we're curious for some reader feedback. This survey is entirely private and information will only be seen by Kim and myself. We will not post the results, though we may use feedback to guide future posts.

None of the questions are required, so no need to answer everything. Anything you can and are willing to share with us is much appreciated. There is a scroll bar located on the right-hand side of the survey to take you to further questions.

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read or share this.

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13 Days of Class 2K13: Nicole McInnes (Brianna on the Brink)

About the Author: Nicole McInnes is a university writing and literature instructor, a mom and a horsewoman. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives in northern Arizona. When not writing or teaching, she can be found exploring the national forest on horseback, taking pictures and playing with her kids and pets. Visit her at

About Brianna on the Brink: Sixteen-year-old Brianna Taylor finds herself lost, alone and with a major surprise in store after a one-night-stand. Just when she’s got nowhere left to turn, help arrives from the one person who is closest to her big mistake, but accepting that help will leave Brianna forced to choose between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

Pitch your book in 140 characters: 

It’s JUNO meets MEAN GIRLS meets 
WHERE THE HEART IS in the edgy, soulful BRIANNA ON THE BRINK by @Nicole_McInnes

Who will this book appeal to:  

Love edgy, soulful contemporary YA? You

Favorite moment or character in your book: 

Aside from Brianna, my 
favorite character is Earl, who’s modeled on my late grandpa – a true, old school gentleman with fantastic one-liners

What's your writing routine: 

I generally wake up in the morning 
feeling like P. Diddy, drink strong coffee & then apply my butt to the writing chair for several hours.

What's your best piece of writing advice: 

If writing is what you must 
do, don’t ever stop. If traditional publication is what you’re after, don’t ever give up. Support your library.

What's been the most surprising part of the publishing journey: 

flippin’ LONG everything takes. And how incredibly generous with their time & talent other writers & readers can be.

What did you do when you learned your book would be published: 

down the driveway in my pajamas - barefoot, with bedhead, doing wild jazz hands - to tell a family member who was just driving up.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received: 

Go out and 
live life, have jobs, make a family. Experience what you can. It’s the best way to gather material.

What are your top three favorite books: 

Frazier, GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Cormac McCarthy. Pure prose mastery, all three.

What's next for you: 

More writing, reading & connecting with readers 
at libraries, schools, conferences, etc!

Find out more about Nicole McInnes's Brianna on the Brink on Goodreads.

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2012 in Review

2013 was a low reading year for me. I only read 66 books, compared to my 119 of 2012. Seems pretty pitiful. I know it's still more than most people read, but it makes my yearly round-up a bit harder to write. Fewer books read mean fewer books to choose from! Still, there were definitely some stand-outs. All links below lead to my reviews here at STACKED or to Goodreads.

Best Book of 2012
Nothing matches its depth, its plotting, its emotional resonance. This is a masterpiece.

Best Book of 2012: Runner-Up
Historical fiction and fantasy in one book? Yes, please. Great plotting, great romance, written by someone who isn't afraid to have her protagonist do the unpleasant things that her world calls for.

Best Dystopia
Peterfreund channels Austen in the best possible way in this re-telling of Persuasion that's less concerned with secrets and lies of the future world and more with the characters that inhabit it. 

Best Fantasy
I excluded Grave Mercy from this category since it already won the (almost) grand prize, but I do consider it to be fantasy. Still, Vessel is a fantastic book with lovely writing, a sharply-realized setting, and an unconventional story. It's also got one of the best covers of the year.

Best Mystery
A terrific whodunnit with a unique and interesting (and tortured) protagonist. 
Best Sequel 
This one takes the prize in part because I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I loved how Meadows expanded the history of her world and didn't duck the hard questions.

Most Disappointing Sequel 
This was just not a pleasant reading experience for me.

Best Start to a Series
OK, so it won't win any awards for logical world-building. But I loved reading this book - it was twisty, interesting, and just really, really fun. I think sometimes when the word "fun" is applied to a book, it can seem like the book is ephemeral or nothing special, but Starters is special. It's actually not all that easy to write such a fun book, and I wanted to mention it here in hopes others may pick it up and give it a try. 

Craziest Ride
Hautman's book turned me into one of those annoying readers who audibly exclaims "What?!" every ten pages, thus alarming those around her. I loved the risks this book took, that I never knew where it was going, that it shocked me and made me think. I loved that it was different without seeming to try to be different. This is one I love to recommend to others.

Most Problematic
I had so many issues with this book. And yet...I still want to find out how DeStefano pulls everything together, so I'll be reading the third book (or at least reading spoilers online). 

Most Anticipated of 2013
I'm sure this is a surprise to no one.

Most Anticipated of 2013: Runners-Up
All sequels to books I thoroughly enjoyed in 2012 (or in the case of the Bradley, 2011). 

This was a great year for historical fiction for me. Aside from just Code Name Verity and Grave Mercy, I also read and enjoyed Passion Blue, the Wicked and the Just, and Monstrous Beauty. All of these books merited four stars or higher from me. With the exception of Code Name Verity, these books also feature time periods I generally don't seek out, but other aspects of the synopses convinced me to pick them up.

I've also been reading a lot more fantasy and SF that can't be (or shouldn't be) classified as dystopias. Some of the books I've written about above, but I wanted to also mention Insignia, Fair Coin, Shadows on the Moon, Black Heart, and Misfit. They're all terrific books worthy of attention.

I was about to create a category for best non-genre book (genre here meaning fantasy, SF, mystery, etc.) and list Ask the Passengers there, but then I realized it was the only non-genre book I read this year. I'm actually not surprised by that. I've concentrated more on reading what I know I will like, and generally genre fiction is it. But I think this also says a lot about my respect for A. S. King as an author - I sought out her book even though it's not something I normally read. And it was terrific.

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13 Days of Class 2K13: Demitria Lunetta (In the After)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chicago native Demitria Lunetta holds a BA in Human Ecology and has spent countless hours studying the many ways in which people are capable of bringing about their own destruction. In case the end is near, she always carries a good book and a chocolate bar—the two items essential for post-apocalyptic survival. In the After is her debut novel. Visit her at On twitter @demitrialunetta. 

About In the After

They hear the most silent of footsteps.

They are faster than anything you’ve ever seen

And They won’t stop chasing you…until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to survive—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler she finds in an abandoned supermarket. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.

Instead of a Twitterview, it seemed appropriate that Demitria Lunetta instead chose to answer one of my questions for a lengthier guest post. That question is....

How do you survive the zombie apocalypse and how does your debut novel play a role in your survival?

In the After is about survival in a post-apocalyptic work over-run with blood-thirsty, flesh eating creatures. If it’s taught me anything about surviving a similar, zombie fueled apocalypse it’s quite simply that I wouldn’t…well not as human anyway. I would do quite well as a zombie.

I imagine in the first days of a Zombie apocalypse I’d try my best to survive…but I wouldn’t make it long. I have all of five cans of food in my cabinet, no back up water supply, and the only weapons to speak of are a set of dull butter knifes. I live in a densely populated area, which would greatly increase the zombie to human ratio, lowering my odds. Survivors would fight each other for supplies, leaving little to scavenge. My best bet would be to stay inside. If I somehow managed to live long enough for the zombies to break into my apartment, I wouldn’t be able to fight them off. I could hide in my bathroom for a bit, squirt lotion to try and get them off my scent, maybe fight back with some nail clippers, but let’s be honest… eventually they would get to me.

Now you may think, up to this point, what a depressing outlook. But consider what happens next. I am bitten by a zombie. I become a zombie. Sure, there’s a slight period of adjustment, including a feverish, painful death but after that I don’t have another care in the world. I shuffle where I like, when I like. I suppose the downside is that I have an unnatural desire to ingest brains, but I’ve sadly passed up enough chocolate bars to think I can live with this craving, though I doubt I’d be able to suppress it altogether.  Mmmmmm, brains.

But I digress, I’d also do well as zombie because I’m a slow human with short legs, so I’ll probably be a slow zombie. This will be especially useful if I meet up with a group of organized survivors. Sure, I’ll lunge for them, snap my teeth, but a bunch of other zombies will probably get there first, be dispatched of, allowing the survivors to flee and leaving any yummy casualties to me.

Let’s also face it; Zombies have it made. They don’t have to worry about their mortgage. They don’t care about deadlines or promotions. Heck, they don’t even mind if they lose a limb or two. They say, “Whatevs” to being covered in rotting flesh. Who knows, maybe they even like their new lives. They’re probably just trying to infect those survivor chumps so they too can live a perfect, care-free zombie life.

I might not survive the zombie apocalypse as a human, but I think as a zombie, I would totally rock it.

Find out more about Demitria Lunetta's In the After on Goodreads

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