Monthly Archives: November 2011

On Your Reading Lists


Awhile ago I asked readers what books were on their pile of To Be Read books. Just in time for holiday shopping, I’m sharing their lists!  Feel free to add your TBR books and favorites in the comments!

From Melissa Wyatt: My favorite recent read is The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell. It’s a wonderful old-fashioned midgrade full of mystery, friendship, secrets, a big old house, a spunky heroine and five unusual birds. And take a look at that gorgeous cover!

From Jama Rattigan: My TBR list is a tad food focused: Molly O’Neill’s American Food Writing, Bemelman’s La Bonne Table, Laura Schaefer’s Secret Ingredient, Sara Varon’s Bake Sale. I just started Sprinkles and Secrets by Lisa Schroeder!

From Sharry: Some of my favorite MG reads are Diamond Willow by Helen Frost, Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay ( I love all of The Casson Family series!), Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright ( published in 1941!) and Plain Kate by Erin Bow. Currently reading Sharon Draper’s Out Of My Mind.

From Greg Leitich Smith: Too many books are on my TBR pile: Daniel Nayeri’s Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow!; Cinda Chima’s Grey Wolf Throne; Tracy Barrett’s Dark of the Moon; Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn trilogy; Higgins’s Moonshadow 2: The Nightmare Ninja; Higgins’s The Lunatic’s Curse; Edwardson’s My Name is Not Easy; and far too many others. I just finished Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy and Lyga’s Mangaman, both terrific.

From Kathy Erskine: I’ve been having an ARC fest — Meg Medina’s The Girl Who Could Silence The Wind (very other worldly and beautiful), Rebecca Hogue Wojahn’s Malcolm At Midnight (SO clever for young readers, this is going to be a winner), and now Kami Kinard’s The Boy Project  (such great humor, I am cracking up and I’ve barely started). Oh, and I got my first ARC with a blurb of mine on the back — Beth Kephart’s Small Damages. I feel so lucky!

A Reading Rave: How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr


My favorite thing about long flights? Reading uninterrupted and guilt-free!  On my recent 10 hour flight to Tokyo, I read, nay, devoured the YA novel, How To Save a Life by award-winning author Sara Zarr. I am a long-time fan of all her novels, including the National Book Award Finalist, Story of a Girl.

After Jill loses her father unexpectedly in a car accident, she turns inward, pushing everyone away, including her boyfriend and best friends.  When her mother announces her decision to adopt a baby from a stranger on an open adoption web site, Jill becomes even more closed off.

When Mandy arrives at Jill’s house, she thinks she’s making the best decision for her unborn child. Mandy knows exactly what it’s like to be an unplanned and unwanted daughter. She’s relieved to escape her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, and finds herself growing attached to Jill’s mother and home.

As Jill’s and Mandy’s lives become entwined, both start having second thoughts about their initial decisions/reactions. Matters grow complicated and they are both forced to make decisions they have been unwilling to face. This is a story of loss and gain, of family and love.

Sara Zarr does an outstanding job portraying Jill’s and Mandy’s journeys. I ached for both of them. The ending? Perfect! Worth each and every glorious page turn.

Come back for a Spotlight Interview with Sara in the near future!

SIDE NOTE: If you’re interested in entering a drawing for my nonfiction book for children, Japan: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book, and a souvenir from Japan, enter here.

On My Pile of Books To Read


Last week I asked you what was on your reading list. I’ll be sharing those lists with you here very soon. (And there’s still time for for you to share your list, just click here.)

I’m getting ready to travel. One of the things I love most about flying is that I have long stretches of uninterrupted time to read. (I just don’t get those passengers who don’t bring any reading material at all!)  Here’s what’s on my To Read Pile right now:

1. Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

2. Crossed by Ally Condie

3. How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr

4. The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms) by Cinda Chima Williams

5. You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis

6. The Tea Rose: A Novel by Jennifer Donnelly (adult novel)

7. Ambersley (Lords of London) by Amy Atwell (adult novel)

8. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

9. Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

(see my interview with him here)

10. Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn (ARC)

11. Double Cross (Noughts & Crosses) by Malorie Blackman

Whew – and those don’t include the books I still plan to buy and read, like Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith! The first seven on my list are books on my Kindle so those will be the ones I’ll get to first during this next trip. I look forward to blogging about these books!

(Side note: While I will try not to do too much self-promo here, in honor of my upcoming trip, I will be holding a drawing for a copy of my JAPAN book starting next week at my personal blog.)

Teatime Tuesday with KL Going


Welcome back to Teatime Tuesday where I interview authors about their journeys to publication. These interviews are similar to my Coffee Break Tuesday interviews of last year except for a few new questions and I’ve since given up coffee.  Today I’m excited to share with you my interview with the awesome KL Going. She’s the author of some incredible YA novels as well as a craft book, Writing and Selling the YA Novel.  In addition to being a gifted writer, she is super nice!

What was your first published title and what was it about?

My first published title was Fat Kid Rules the World, a YA about a three hundred pound teenager who is drawn into a punk rock group by a semi-homeless genius guitar player. (Incidentally, this book is now an independent film. Help us find a distributor by clicking the “like” button on the film’s Facebook page!)

How long did your journey to publication take and what were the significant events along the way?

My journey to publication with this novel was incredibly quick. But, to set the stage, I must tell you about the novel I submitted BEFORE that one. Although this previous novel did not get published, it got great feedback from editors and one editor said she was interested in reading it again. I waited on pins and needles for over a year with no response, despite multiple follow-ups. So, when submitting Fat Kid, I prepared myself for a long haul. We submitted it on Friday and it sold the following Tuesday! Just goes to show that publishing experiences can be really different.

Who/what were your sources of inspiration and how did they help you the most?

I had a co-worker who was in a band and he was invaluable when I was writing Fat Kid. These days, my inspiration comes from my two year old, which is why I’ve been writing more picture books. I love reading to him, seeing what works and what doesn’t, what he enjoys and when he gets bored.

Do you have any rituals that you use when you’re writing?

Yes. I check my e-mail first, and that’s a HUGE mistake, but it’s sort of an addiction. Then I get tea and procrastinate. Ha.

Describe your writing space. What makes it perfect for you?

My writing space is definitely not perfect for me. I write wherever I can – bed, couch, local library… I dream of a beautiful, organized office with a gorgeous view out a giant window, but so far I haven’t gotten there. Still, writing can be done anywhere and if you wait for perfection it will never happen.

What is your most recently published book or upcoming release? What is it about?

I have a picture book called Dog in Charge out this summer. It’s illustrated by Dan Santat and it’s about a dog who gets left in charge of five wily cats. This will be my first published picture book, so I’m very excited about it. Plus, the art is amazing. I have never seen such an expressive dog. The pictures are bright, fun, and creative. I can’t wait to share it with kids!

For more about KL Going, check out her site and read her blog!

For previous Teatime Tuesday interviews, click here!

Your Turn


I’d love to hear what books you love. What books are on your pile of “to read”? What books do you reread regularly? What book are you most looking forward to reading? What books do your kids love? And if you’re an author, what book of yours is coming out soon?

One of my favorite things to do is go to a book store and browse at my leisure.

Here I am in a Tokyo book store, browsing manga!

Although I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, the cover (and the title) often prompt me to pick up a book to give it a try.  But, my favorite way to discover a book is through recommendations from people like you and by reading book buzz on blogs and other online sources.

Please share your long list of loves, wants, and to-be-published!  I will share a compiled list in the near future.  Next week, I’ll share what books I have on my “to read” pile!

Happy reading!

A Favorite Author – Maureen Johnson


I have many favorite authors and hope to share them with you throughout the lifetime of this blog. Today I want to feature Maureen Johnson.  She is the author of nine YA novels and a contributor/co-author of two more YA novels.  Prolific, yes?  I’ve never met her, alas, but I have been a fan of hers for many, many years.

I first discovered her when I read Bermudez Triangle, which I remember enjoying, enough to search out other books by her. That’s when i came across The Key to the Golden Firebird.

This book remains one of my favorites of all time and I reread it every other year or so.   What It’s About: May always felt like an outsider to her baseball-loving family – particularly her dad, and her two sisters, Brooks and Palmer.  When her father suddenly dies of a heart attack, she feels even more adrift.  Her mother works night shift, Brooks quits baseball and starts drinking, and Palmer retreats into herself. And suddenly her nemsis and long-time family friend Pete Camp offers to give her driving lessons and they actually get along. May is confused by her feelings for him and further confused by her jealousy when he starts dating her co-worker. Slowly things heat up, Brooks and Palmer and May all heading for self-destruction in their unique ways.

Then, I read another book by Maureen Johnson and loved it equally – 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

I’ve recommended this book to many friends, including my sister, but just recently reread it again earlier this year. Wow! Still love it!  What It’s About: When Ginny receives a package from her deceased beloved aunt with 13 little blue envelopes, she embarks on a mysterious scavenger type trip that takes her from her home in New Jersey, to New York, London, Scotland, and many more places.  Ginny always believed that exciting things only happened when she was with her aunt, but exciting things were definitely happening to her as she travels alone. During her travels, Ginny makes discoveries about her aunt and about herself. 

So I was thrilled earlier this year to learn that she had written a sequel! (So many years later!) I read The Last Little Blue Envelope the day it came out!

What It’s About: Ginny is back home in New Jersey, post-European summer adventure following the directions from her beloved, deceased aunt in 13 blue envelopes.  Except that last blue envelope was stolen in Greece.  Even so, Ginny had a grand adventure traveling alone and meeting Keith, and discovering she has an uncle in London.  She’s preparing for college – struggling to write her essay – when out of the blue, she receives a mysterious email from an Oliver who claims to have her backpack, and the letters. Except there’s a catch – he wants a finder’s fee in the form of half the sale from the proceeds from the very last piece of art Gin’s aunt left – in three pieces, scattered throughout Europe. And Ginny is off again, on another grand adventure.

I’ve read and enjoyed most of this author’s books, but most recently I read The Name of the Star.

Woo Boy! This story was unlike any I’ve read by her, but still contained the things I love most about Maureen Johnson’s stories – great characters I fall in love with immediately, gripping story with strong emotions, and a good romance.  I don’t want to say too much about this book (available in stores now) because I don’t want to ruin any elements of surprise.  What It’s About: When Rory’s parents take a sabbatical to teach in England, Rory leaves behind her small bayou town in Louisiana and attends a boarding school in London. Just as she starts her first day, Jack the Ripper copycat murders start taking place right near her school. Rory makes quick friends with her roommate Jaz and her group of friends, including the cute but shy Jerome, who is rather obsessed with the murders. And that’s all I’m going to say!  Oh, and that I wasn’t able to read this book at night alone. I’m hooked though and am already impatient for what I hope will be book two in this series!

For more about Maureen and her books, check out her site, read her blog, and follow her on Twitter!