Category Archives: books

Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover

So, I’m trying to be more writerly on the blog these days, focusing more on myself as a writer, posting book reviews more on Goodreads and linking to them HERE. But, when I get a unique opportunity to read an advanced copy of a book, and I love said book, I’m of course going to let you all know because then YOU can read the book, and we can gush together!

Six days ago, Colleen Hoover tweeted that Losing Hope, her follow-up to her NYT hopelessbestseller, Hopeless, was up on NetGalley. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ HOPELESS, PAUSE NOW. BOOKMARK THIS PAGE. AND TAKE A DAY OR TWO AND DO IT. You’ll devour Hopeless like I did, fall in love with Sky and Holder, and then you can come back to Losing Hope and fall in love with them all over again, even more than you did the first time.

It is a huge undertaking to rewrite a story from a different character’s perspective, to stay true to the intricate details of the first book while also putting the story in the hands of a new narrator and somehow watching it losinghopemorph into something all its own. And to get readers to greedily consume the story again, you need characters that stay with you long after that last page (which for me is the acknowledgments because I just don’t want it to end). Colleen Hoover did it already with This Girl (Slammed from Will’s perspective) and now with Losing Hope (Hopeless from Holder’s perspective).

I fell in love with Dean Holder in Hopeless, and knew that I would read anything else Colleen Hoover did with him. Then when she tweeted that Losing Hope was on NetGalley, I downloaded it immediately. I had a busy weekend, so it took me a few days to read, but it was everything I wanted it to be!

We know how broken Holder is in Hopeless and how much he and Sky need each other to somehow become whole again. But Losing Hope goes back a little further, do just before Holder loses Les, and (to use Holder’s word), it’s devastating to experience this with him along with going back to him losing Hope.

Loved everything, starting with Holder’s interior monologue, to his interactions with Les via journal, to his slow realization of who he has found in meeting Sky. My favorite scene from both books is still that best first kiss that isn’t actually a kiss. Holy hell. It’s just as spectacular if not more so from Holder’s perspective, especially understanding his motivation for needing to take it slow with Sky.

There aren’t a lot of books I’d read twice, but Hopeless is one of them. With Losing Hope I got to do it by reading through a whole new lens. This is more than a retelling of the same story. It’s a new story because it’s Holder’s story, and we learn so much of him that we didn’t know in Hopeless. We grieve with him for all that he loses and feel his redemption when falling in love with Sky saves him. Well done, Colleen Hoover. You’ve got a fangirl for life in me.

By the way, readers. How about that cover??? That’s Griffin Peterson from American Idol! How cool that he did the cover for Hoover!

*Hopeless and Losing Hope are YA/NA crossover titles. The characters are in high school, but the subject matter is for mature audiences.

**LOSING HOPE releases on eBook July 8th and in paperback October 15th.

New Adult Literature-What it is, why I read it…and write it.

I started this blog a little over a year ago because I spend so much time gushing about books that I thought maybe, possibly, someone else other than those I could corner in the office at work would want to listen to my gushing. And oh, joy, some of you DO! And many of you are just like me…no longer  a YA but reliving the best (and worst) parts of being a YA through great writing. Come with me now as we graduate high school and move on to the next phase, NA.

What is it?
New Adult has been an emerging category in literature for a few years, but it has really only just begun making a name for itself in the publishing world. A great blog that I follow, NA Alley, offers a simple definition just in the the blog’s title: “NA Alley: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN YOUNG ADULT AND ADULT FICTION.”

It’s that simple, folks. NA is an age category, usually between 18 and 26, and it’s this age group that dictates the kind of issues that are dealt with in NA books. Again, I defer to NA Alley because they’ve already put it perfectly on their What is New Adult? page.

“Common themes in NA are identity, sexuality, race, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, bullying, empowerment, familial struggles, loss of innocence, fear of failure, etc.”

“Combine those themes with common new adult issues: living away from home for the first time, military deployment, starting college, engagements and marriages, etc.”

These are not issues that are unheard of in YA, but there’s more freedom in how writers approach them when the protagonists are a little bit older. Often main characters are more autonomous, more independent, and have to figure out solutions to such issues without the same parental guidance they would get in a YA situation. YA offers a lot of firsts. NA offers more experience.

There’s a great Twitter chat every Thursday night at 9 PM EST, hosted by @NALitChat (hashtag #nalitchat). Thursday the 18th was a super chat that combined the Twitter chat with live audio on YouTube. Here’s a quote I tweeted from one of the moderators that pretty much sums it up:

tweet

Contrary to much of the press out there, NA is not simply YA with a lot of sex. It’s not erotic YA. Sex is, one would hope, more prominent in the life of a new adult than a young adult, so the topic may appear more in NA than YA, but those that have been defining the category as more of a genre such as this are way off. One of my favorite NA authors, Cora Carmack (Losing It) addresses this misconception in a great interview on Vicki Trask’s blog, Writer of Wrongs. Here is the post.

Why I Read It…And Write It
Much like the fact that I am not a young adult any more, I am sadly no longer a new adult. But the twenties weren’t too long ago (*pauses for anyone to contradict*), and where adolescence is scary and awkward yet at the same time wonderful and new in all that we get to experience for the first time, the new adult years get us out of that safe, controlled environment and allow us to make mistakes without as much hand holding, to learn with less guidance, and to really develop our independent identities. My early twenties involved just as much discovery as did my teens, much of it painful and much of it wonderful, but there’s something about re-experiencing that time in my life with a more mature perspective–you know, the whole “If I knew then what I know now…” But it’s SO true, and that’s what makes NA so much fun to read…and write… as a not-so-new adult. Hope to have my NA to share with you soon. For now, I’ll share what I’ve been reading.

Because I started this blog as a place for YA, I didn’t want to start reviewing my NA reads without first talking about the category. Now that we are up to speed, expect to see some more NA infiltrating AmyLovesYA because more and more of it has been piling up on my TBR list. For a little preview, I’ll share some of the NA books I’m loving these days by authors Gayle Forman (I’d consider her YA and NA), Colleen Hoover, and Cora Carmack. There are plenty more, but I’m just whetting your appetite. Just click on the book covers to head on over to either my blog review or Goodreads for a preview. These titles fall under the contemporary genre, so yes, there is romance, but there’s also tremendous character growth, finding of identity, etc. in each. Check out NA Alley’s contributing authors, as there’s NA in all genres–fantasy, paranormal, horror–for readers of many interests.

JustOneDay Slammed PointOfRetreat hopeless losing it

 

 

Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013)

Ave atque vale–Hail and farewell to the most wonderful trilogy I’ve ever had the experience of reading. ClockworkPrincess

SPOILER ALERT–This is book three in Cassandra Clare‘s The Infernal Devices. If you’ve not read Clockwork Angel or Clockwork Prince, I promise I am vague enough as to not spoil Clockwork Princess, but click on the links and read my reviews for the first two books…and read the books!). Another SPOILER ALERT: If you have read the first two books and are just embarking on book three, make sure you get the collector’s edition, but DO NOT look at the beautiful family tree on the inside of the book jacket until after you read!!!

I’ve been hesitant to write about this book because I had (and am still having) such a strong emotional reaction to it. Never before has a book both filled my heart so much and made it ache just as equally. So, to ease my soul, let’s start with the Goodreads blurb for Clockwork Princess:

Tessa Gray should be happy – aren’t all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa’s heart, will do anything to save her.

I want to point out, before I review, that I listened to the book on Audible, and the narrator, Daniel Sharman, is beyond perfect. Because of him, Jem and Will’s voices will stay with me, haunt me even (which is ok), for a long time to come, and not just because I keep going back and listening to my favorite scenes. Click the link to listen to the sample. Gorgeous.

While the broad conflict is how to stop Mortmain and his Infernal Devices, the heart of this book is the characters. Gideon and Gabriel Lightwood add delightful humor. The pairing of Henry’s underestimated genius with Magnus Bane’s magic provides not only a wonderful new friendship but also a strong link between The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments (the series for which this trilogy is the prequel). Sophie and Charlotte have story lines of their own as well, but above all, this is Tessa Gray, Jem Carstairs, and Will Herondale’s story.

The love between Tessa and both Jem and Will, between Will and Jem as parabatai, transcends time and distance like nothing I’ve ever experienced. To see how each tries to sacrifice for the happiness of the others without jealousy or resentment is both beautiful and tragic. And for one of the most devastating love triangles ever created, Cassandra Clare resolves it in a way that respects her characters and her readers. Even if you make it to the last chapter without shedding a tear (in which case I ask, “Where is your soul?”), the epilogue. THE EPILOGUE! Exquisite, brilliant, catastrophically perfect.

Today on her tumblr, in response to learning that Clockwork Princess was the number one selling book (not just YA book) in the country, Clare expressed her gratitude to her Shadowhunters for falling in love with historical fantasy fiction, something she was told her readers would follow from The Mortal Instruments. Though I myself am a fan of TMI, the depth of beauty in The Infernal Devices is unparalleled.

So thank YOU, Cassandra Clare, for following your passion project even when others warned you not to. I am privileged to read your work and forever changed by it.

Writers Week 19 (#ww19)

Every year around this time I am reminded of how lucky I am to work where I work, to teach where I teach. For nineteen years (and I’ve been present for twelve of those nineteen years), my school has hosted an event called Writers Week. For every period of WWbannerevery day for an entire week, students, faculty, and professional writers take the stage in my school’s auditorium and share their writing, their journeys to publication, their struggles and accomplishments in all capacities of life. Students take the stage and expose their vulnerability because they know the auditorium during this profound week in February is a place of safety, of acceptance. Faculty get the chance to share with students what they do outside the classroom because contrary to popular belief, we don’t live at the school, though sometimes it may feel like we do.

JayAsher

Fangirl moment with Jay Asher

In the past two years, I’ve added independent reading to my classroom curriculum, and I have an ever-growing classroom library. Many of our Writers Week guests give students the chance to add to their own growing personal libraries with signed copies of some of their favorite books. This year we had the honor of hosting three published novelists, S.J. Kincaid (from whom I received an ARC of book 2 in her trilogy, Vortex), Laura Caldwell, and Jay Asher. I’m so grateful to them for taking the time to inspire students to read and write.

Additionally, Writers Week highlights poets like Mary Fons and Sarah Mathews; professional musicians, like Daphne Willis and Mutts; fantastic student musicians and of course, our very own faculty band, FANBOYS.

There’s always some part of Writers Week each year that stands out above the rest, and for me that was 5th hour on Thursday, February 28th. A panel of students each individually shared their writing. The last writer of the group was a boy named Daniel, a senior. I’ve never had the pleasure of having Daniel in class, but I am so honored that I got to hear him read. Daniel’s piece focused on his experience living with a stutter. He shared about those who tried to cure him, to treat him, those who bullied him and teased him. Daniel doesn’t swear, acknowledging that every utterance that escapes his lips is precious. What he let the audience of 500+ students and faculty know is that he accepts his stutter as a part of him, that rather than try to fix him, he hopes others will accept him as well. Daniel read right until the bell rang. No one moved until he was done. Then, the entire auditorium of 500+ students and faculty gave him a standing ovation. This is the transforming experience that is Writers Week. This is why I love my job. If you’d like to join in the experience, click HERE for an archive of the student presentation from 5th hour on February 28th.

I am pretty much in awe of this event every year and even more so of my colleagues who started it all nineteen years ago, Gary and Tony (each an extraordinary writer, teacher, and person). Check out Gary’s beautiful piece that he shared at #ww19 and Tony’s author site to find out more about his wonderful books.

Thanks to our fabulous tech crew, Writers Week was streaming live all week, and much of it was archived on UStream here. Thanks to my colleagues who were brave enough to get up there, expose their vulnerability, and share their writing. Keep at it. Write that book, Russ! Thanks to my students who have supported and helped me with my writing, who got up in front of 500+ spectators and read their own work. And thanks to all of my colleagues who help  make this event the best week in school every year.

*I had the honor of reading the first chapter of my YA novel in one of the faculty sessions. Feel free to watch me, followed by my other talented colleagues, Grant and Shawn. If you’d like to read the first five chapters of my book, click HERE. This is also where I’ll keep you posted on my journey to publication, also known as Operation Get My Book Off My Laptop and Into Your Hands. #agirlcandream

Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Dutton 2013)

“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day” (Forman 130).

Those few sentences sum up the profundity of what Gayle Forman‘s new novel, Just One JustOneDayBigDay, means for the growing number of readers who have already finished the book in less than a week since it hit shelves. Penguin Teen hosted a 24 hour readathon on Twitter from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, Read Just One Day in just one day. Readers could tweet their thoughts during their progress and swoon together over Forman’s beautiful book of being lost, getting lost, and then finding one’s true self. Then two hours after the readathon endend, Forman herself joined the hashtag, #JustOneDay, for a question/answer session. It was such a wonderful experience! Reading the book in a day was no problem because it is unputdownable (that needs to be a word), and sharing the book love with other readers, well that’s what it’s all about. Continue reading

2013 Releases on my TBR List!

There are a lot of new books making their way onto book store, library, and hopefully my personal shelves this year. This is by no means a preview of all the great YA that will be published this year. This is just what’s on my TBR list so far! What’s on yours? If you’ve got some “Don’t miss!” titles, please share. It’s always a good thing when my list of books to read far exceeds the time I have to read them. It means I’ll always have a great book waiting in the wings! So, without further ado, here’s the list of new releases, in order of release date, already on my list! Continue reading

Bringing YA To You!

Have you ever wished that a big YA book tour would make a stop in your hometown? Well, here’s your chance for that wish to come true! YA2U is a program that features five award-winning and best-selling authors who are holding a contest to see what city they should visit in an exclusive tour stop!

The authors are collecting votes from January 1 to February 15, and any city in the continental US or any Canadian city that has an international airport can win an exclusive visit from all five authors, including an author panel and book signing! Entering is super easy–and if you help spread the word about the contest, you can also enter to win a signed copy of all of their books (TEN signed books in total!)–and the book contest is open internationally!

The authors in the program are:

And they want to have an event in your home town! To participate, just go to the YA2U website and let them know what city you want them to come to. And while you’re there, help spread the word about the contest and you can be entered to win all of their books–TEN signed books in total!

Here’s why the YA2U Team should come to MY hometown! 
This is a difficult choice.  I live in one Chicago suburb but teach in another. I’d be happy for these fabulous authors to come to either, to share a great event with the students where I teach or the YA fans in the community where I live!  So, YOU decide.  Lake Zurich, IL or Palatine, IL? I’d be happy with either one! Right now Chicago is one of the cities in the lead, and I’m close enough to make that work too! So please, if you are in Chicago or the burbs, vote for your hometown so we can bring these great authors here!
Why should the YA2U Team come to your hometown? Why not join in the fun today and share with others about this program and your hometown. The more votes your town gets, the closer you are to having your very own personal tour stop! Vote for YOUR town here!
And if you help spread the word, you can also participate in the book giveaway. Tell them that you learned about YA2U from me and we both get extra entries in the contest!

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2012-A Year In Reading

hunger games trilogyA little over a year ago, I started this little blog. The reason is simple. I love reading and talking about  books, YA books in particular. I’ve always been a reader, but my love of young adult literature is fairly recent. It all started in late spring of 2011 with The Hunger Games trilogy followed by Divergent. Something just clicked. Maybe it’s because I work with teens (I’m a high school English teacher) that I Divergent2gravitate toward YA, but I’m pretty sure it’s more that I’m a perpetual eighteen-year-old stuck in a thirty-something body. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that my high school years are behind me, but with young adult literature, I get to re-experience that part of life as a stronger, wiser, more confident version of my eighteen-year-old self, and sometimes I get to do it in a fantasy world where angels or vampires or werewolves exist! I challenged myself to read at least a book a week this year, and I topped my goal finishing book 60 last night. So, I’d like to share my year of reading with you. These are not necessarily books published in 2012 (though many are) but rather, books I read in 2012. Continue reading

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, by Laini Taylor

Since I’m going to talk about books ONE and TWO of a not-yet-completed trilogy, I will go sequentially and throw in a SPOILER ALERT before discussing book two. Sometimes, a book comes along and so rocks your world that you know it will linger inside of you for days, maybe weeks to come.  I’ve just finished two such books. But really, all you need to know is that it is quite necessary that you drop everything you are doing right now (even if it means putting the rest of this post on hold) and go out and procure yourself a copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight. The only thing worse than not having Laini Taylor’s books on your shelf is having Laini Taylor‘s books on your shelf and not having read them yet! Continue reading

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic 2012)

How much do I love The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater? That’s me right there, holding my two copies, my signed hardcover and my Audible copy. It’s also available to stream on Audiobooks.com,  where I also have a subscription. I used an Audible credit, though, because I wanted this one for keeps. Forever. So I could go back and listen any time I want.

Stiefvater’s writing is gorgeous on its own, but her novels also translate magnificently to audio. It helps that she does get the most spectacular narrators. I started my love affair with her writing, and the audio book translation of it, with The Scorpio Races. You can read my incessant gushing about it here. Then I listened to The Raven Boys, and because I wanted to read/listen to nothing other than Maggie Stiefvater books after that, Shiver, Linger, and Forever (loved, loved, and loved). Actor Will Patton narrates Raven Boys. Complete and utter perfection.

To start off, if you have not read this book yet, for the love of YA, do it!!!

Blue Sargent lives in a house full of clairvoyant women, though she herself is not psychic. She never really takes their predictions to heart because they are always just vague enough that they can be ruled coincidence. But ever since she was a young girl, her mother and aunts have been telling her that if she kisses her true love, she will kill him. This has never really been an issue for her until she spends St. Marks Eve with her mother’s half sister, Neeve, watching the spirits of those who will die in the next year walk past. In years past when Blue has spent St. Marks Eve doing the exact same thing with her mother, Blue herself has never seen one of the spirits. But on this night, with Neeve, she does, and his name is Gansey. Chapter one ends with this:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Marks Eve, Blue. Either your his true love,” Neeve said, “or you killed him.”

Are you kidding me? How am I not going to read four books based on that beautifully tragic premise!?!

From here Blue’s life gets inextricably intertwined with Gansey’s, a boy she never knew before that night, and his three Aglionby friends–Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Though Blue has always considered the wealthy students of Aglionby (or as she calls them, Raven Boys) nothing but trouble, she is strangely drawn to Gansey and his friends. The four embark on a quest that is at turns heartbreaking and magical. And this is only the beginning of The Raven Cycle  series as this is book one of FOUR!!!

I could not put this book down/take my ear buds out. I devoured it in a few days as I’ve done with every Maggie Stiefvater book I’ve read/listened to. Even though it sounds like this is just Blue’s story, each character is so wonderfully nuanced that the book belongs to all of them. I am fully invested in every character Stiefvater has created and cannot wait to continue the journey in books two, three, and four. The wait, however, will be agonizing.

 

Currently reading/listening to Paper Towns by John Green