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Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Santa's Book List: Dystopia and Fantasy and Espionage, Oh My!

What books might the middle-schooler in your life be excited to find under the tree this holiday season?  In speaking to several school librarians and some bookstore folks recently, it appears that The Maze Runner continues to be the hot ticket right now.  Books from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan are often asked for as well.  For those who have not yet read The Hunger Games*, the release of the latest movie has also spurred another spike in requests.  Additionally, The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore for boys (about the under-17 highly specialized Cherub Agents), and the Selection series ("...a cross between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor...") by Keira Cass for girls are popular.  Rounding out the list, the Cassandra Clare Mortal Instruments series, about the secret fantasy world of the Shadowhunters, is also sought after.  For the slightly younger crowd, almost anything Disney "Frozen"-related is flying off the shelves. 

Happy Reading to all, and for all, a good book!


*I must admit that when I read about "The Hunger Pains; A Parody," by The Harvard Lampoon, featuring Kantkiss Neverclean, I had to chuckle.  Not sure if it would be worth reading, but I do love a good parody!


Andrea Perry, December 12, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The In-Between

by Barbara Stewart







This past Friday, December 5, 2014, Marcy and I posted our answers to Barbara’s debut novel The In-Between. Today, you get to read Barbara’s favorite's. 

Terrific answers, Barbara! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And  hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too.
 
What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Elanor Moss has a hard time recognizing and accepting the successes in her life. There are points during the novel when the reader sees things are looking up for Ellie, but Ellie’s view is always through a distorted lens. I like the following passage because it’s the first time Ellie admits that maybe she doesn’t see her life so clearly. I also like the way she uses the artwork of M.C. Escher to describe how she feels about what’s happening to her.

My favorite was of this castle with all these stairs. When you first look at it, all the people on the stairs are going down, down, down. But if you look long enough, you see that they’re really going up. It’s an illusion, like my life. I can’t tell which way I’m going. I thought for sure I was failing my classes. I thought everyone hated me. And then I get my grades. And then I get invited to Kylie’s party.

Sometimes I think I’m going crazy.


2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
 
Things usually end badly for Ellie, so I think the biggest cliffhangers are chapters that end with a small ray of hope. One of my favorites is the last paragraph of a chapter that takes place on Christmas. Ellie and her mom go to a truck stop for dinner, and everything is good between them on the ride home. For the first time in a long time, Ellie doesn’t feel the weight of everything pressing down.

I’d forgotten about Rad and my used-to-be friends and my father and even Madeline. I think my mother was forgetting, too. I think she’d forgotten about my father for a little while and about school and money and my mental problems. It was just the two of us, and the babies inside her, and the future stretched out before us like the dark and snowy highway. We can’t see it, but we have to believe it’s there.

In the end, it’s always about believing.


3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why? 
 
Autumn. Definitely Autumn. She’s kooky and wise and fearless. She embraces her awkwardness and doesn’t care what others think. I love her because she’s a good person and true friend.


4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
 
One of the challenges in writing this novel was trying to imbue the mundane with loneliness and longing. This is one of my favorite lines:

The tree outside my window is bare except for one single leaf, brown and desiccated, twisting in the wind.


5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
 
On the first day of school, Autumn tells Ellie how she can’t wait to get out of Pottsville. She’s never been on a cruise ship, but she wants to work on one. Ellie’s response is a dig at Autumn, but it’s also a realization about her own situation.

“Every place is the same. You know that, right? Nothing will change. You’ll still be you, even in the middle of the ocean.”

Barbara Stewart earned an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. She lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where she reads a lot of true crime and crochets way too many scarves. She loves amusement parks and anything with peanut butter. She also loves horror movies—the supernatural kind—thanks to her grandmother. Stewart’s next YA psychological thriller, What We Knew, will be released in July 2015.


To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to:



Friday, December 5, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier


The In-Between


Welcome to December’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Barbara Stewart and her novel, The In-Between. After a car accident and a near-death experience, Ellie, the main character, is visited by a girl who becomes her best friend. She comes to question her sanity as she tries to decide if the friend is real or simply a part of her imagination.


1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – There’s a part in the story where Ellie, the main character, is in therapy after having a nervous breakdown. She’s on medication that silences the voice inside her, her best friend, Madeline. I thought this brief paragraph a great insight into the battle raging inside Ellie.

I need a priest or a medium. I don’t need a psychiatrist. I don’t need pills with names I can’t pronounce. Drugs won’t drive her out. I can’t see her or hear her, but she’s not gone. Not really. She’s just been closed off. It’s like we’re in prison, in adjoining cells in solitary confinement. I can hear her tapping on the wall…

Marcy –  Ellie is at school near the track. The coach assumes she’s there to go out for the team and encourages her to run. Ellie feels stupid but can’t say no to the coach so she runs. This is one of the first steps that changes her life.

The girls were next, ponytails swishing, shorts swishing. They made it look so easy, so effortless, like they could go forever. Not me. My chest was ready to explode. My shins were on fire. I was sweating and gasping and my legs had started to wobble.

That was only the warm-up.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular chapter ending comes from later in the novel. It’s another example of the battle Ellie fights to keep her sanity.

It’s like the new drugs are straps binding Madeline. They've got her wrapped up tighter than tight. I hear the straps straining, creaking. Someday there’ll snap. They can’t keep her tied up forever.

MarcyThis song was like Ritalin. It made him want to live. When he played it, I knew he was on the mend. The darkness was lifting. This is for you, Daddy.


3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Autumn. On many levels she’s as mysterious as Ellie. She’s a total misfit, not accepted by anyone in school, yet she’s drawn to Ellie, as Ellie is drawn to her. She seems to understand Ellie and accepts her as is. It makes me wonder what has happened to Autumn that would allow her to have those reactions.

Marcy –  Like Dave, I really liked Autumn as well, but I’ll choose Coach Buffman, the cross country coach. He is so encouraging of Ellie to join the team even though she’s never run before. He has a matter-of-fact personality and accepts her without judgment. He encourages her to set goals and train hard. He’s a positive force in her dark world.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

DaveI chose this particular scene because it shows the two sides of Ellie. Ellie believes what is written below, but in reality, the kids in the school love her (love Madeline, her subconscious).

At school, I talk to no one. Not even Autumn. I can hear them whispering. They call me Eerie Ellie. They think I am deaf. They stare right through me. I am a ghost, haunting these halls with Madeline. The two of us are invisible.

Marcy – I thought this paragraph was poignant and gave a realistic look into dealing with a family member who battles depression.

I’ve seen him depressed. That’s nothing new. It happens every Christmas, and sometimes around his birthday. This is something different. Worse than the time he and Mom almost separated, or the time they were having money troubles and almost lost the house. Worse even than when I tried to die. It’s like all those other bouts of depression were just tremors, little quakes. Losing Mom is too big. The world is crashing down and all he can do is stand and watch, alone and terrified, powerless to go on living.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? Coach Buffman, her cross country coach, tries to make a point to Ellie about the dangers of using drugs. He shows her a jar of two miniature pigs floating in cloudy liquid, one looking pretty normal, the other clearly deformed.

Dave – “This little piggy’s mother was pumped full of junk,” he said, swirling the jar with the deformed fetus. “This little piggy’s mother was clean.” He swiveled on his stool and returned the pigs to their shelf. “Got it?……”

Marcy –  How true and funny!

Kylie told me what it stands for: Future Farmers of America. They sponsor Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Where am I living?


To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to:


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writing on Wednesday: Why Writing in Bed is Not So Weird After All, or the Odd Writing Habits of a Few Famous Authors

Whether you are standing up, lying down, naked, eating apples, or out in your garden shed as you write, you are apparently in great company.  Many authors have unique writing rituals or habits, or wish we didn't procrastinate so much and actually had writing rituals or habits.  Whatever it takes to get the job done; the proverbial "butt in chair" method that is oft quoted seems to help but a few of us.  Others require some very specific conditions.

Carl Hiaasen likes to face a blank wall, and wears noise-cancelling earmuffs. 
Dan Brown occasionally dons a pair of gravity boots and hangs upside-down from a special frame.
Ruth Krauss kept her manuscripts in the refrigerator.
Agatha Christie ate apples.
Flannery O'Connor preferred vanilla wafers.
Victor Hugo wrote in the nude so he would not be able to leave the house and instructed his valet to hide his clothes.
Roald Dahl composed in the privacy of his garden shed.
James Joyce wrote lying on his stomach in bed with a large blue pencil and wearing a white coat.
Truman Capote also liked to write lying down.
Stephen King is quoted as saying he had a goal of 2000 "adverb-less" words a day.
Lewis Carroll preferred using purple ink.
Joseph Heller arrived at some of his greatest ideas while riding the bus.
Woody Allen was inspired during crowded subway rides.

Some of my fellow writers claim they must be at the local library or sitting in a Starbucks since there are too many distractions at home.  Others keep to a strict daily two or three hour time frame or their required 1000 or 2000 words.  Still others have warm up activities - such as write about the last thing that made you laugh/cry, or do 30 jumping jacks.  Another must wear red flannel pajamas.

So what weird thing do you do?  And does it help?
Maybe we don't have writer's block after all.  Perhaps we are like Harold and all we need is  a purple crayon.

Andrea Perry, November 19, 20114

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Friday Five Favorite Things - Crazy

Image





















by Linda Phillips


This past Friday, November 7, Marcy and I posted our answers to Linda’s debut novel in verse, Crazy. Today, you get to read Linda’s favorite's. 

Great picks, Linda! We learned even more about your characters through your answers.

We hope our readers enjoy the story as much as we did.


1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

As for the main character’s growth and development, it would have to be the very end of the book, in the last piece called “Figurines and Forgiveness.”  Laura has just asked forgiveness in her own way: 

“I’m not sure if she gets it at all,
what I am trying to say,
but the important thing is
I get it
and I did what
I needed to do,
and it feels as good
as anything I have ever done.”


2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Probably the most emotional and high-tension poem of the book is “The Sound of Breaking China.” It’s a cliffhanger in the sense that the reader doesn’t know how Laura will react, but can expect that it will be bigger than the reaction she had to the first breakdown.

“The ambulance and the police get there as we pull up.
Someone makes me stay in the car,
makes me drink something, holds my hand,
tells me it’s going to be all right,
tries to turn my head when

they take her away.”


3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Of course that would have to be Beth, Laura’s cocky, irreverent best friend, who knew her well even though Laura never shared any part of her mother’s illness.  Beth was Laura’s voice of reason, always with a dry sense of humor. 


4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

I love the description of Laura’s parents and a brief glimpse of their relationship in “Puzzling Music.”

“I stop playing after I hear them leave, and I
watch the old Studebaker chug down the hill
in the bright moonlight
with the frozen snow glistening all around
like precious jewels.
I catch the silhouette of the two of them
in the front seat.

It occurs to me
that the love they share
is both mysterious and haunting

like the song of the reed flute.”


5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

And speaking of Beth, this is my favorite dialogue sequence in the poem called, “The Call.”

“He called.  HE CALLED!”

“What? Stop shrieking.  I can’t understand you.
Speak clearly into the microphone, madam.
Did you say some is bald?  Who is this, anyway?

“Beth, stop playing with me, you dimwit.  You know
who this is and what I said.”

“So darling Dennis finally called.  So?”
Beth is unable to hide her biased opinion.


Congratulations to Linda and her debut novel Crazy. Kudos to Linda for this book being selected as a Junior Library Guild selection. Way to go!
To read more about Linda Phillips debut YA novel Crazy please go to:

Friday, November 7, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and 
Marcy Collier

Image



Welcome to November’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Linda Phillips and her novel, Crazy, a novel in verse. Laura, the main character, is worried she’s destined to suffer from the same mental illness as her mother. You’ll love reading to find out if, and how she copes with the problem.


1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – This particular section comes from later in the book, and even though I don’t think I’m giving the story away, I will label it as a “spoiler alert” -  just in case. Laura has gone to see the family doctor to determine if in fact her mother’s mental illness is hereditary.

I thank him,
even give him a hug,
and walk slowly out to the car.
The image of a shot put
comes to mind again,
and I realize the weight
is out of my hands.
I have no control over it now,
and the farther away it lands
the better.

Marcy – This passage comes a little later in the book when Laura’s dad shares with her poems that her mother sent to him long ago. Laura begins to realize that her mother wasn’t always the way she is now.

Now I’m confused, because I always 
thought he was the one who 
originally sent the poems to her, 
but maybe it was the other way 
around. Anyway, I get 
embarrassed when he starts 
showing them to me 
because some of them are downright mushy, 
even racy and passionate, 
I’m thinking he’s probably 
made some mistake and gotten 
an old girlfriend’s stuff 
mixed up with my mother’s stuff 
because this certainly isn’t the mother 
I know. 
If this is my “old” mother, 
I want to know more about her, 
I already know more than I want to know 
about this “new” mother.


2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular section comes about three quarters of the way through the story. Laura’s mother is in the midst of a breakdown. She’s broken china and has blood all over herself. Laura has had to telephone the police.

The ambulance and the police get there as we pull up.
Someone makes me stay in the car,
makes me drink something, holds my hand,
tells me it’s going to be all right,
tries to turn my head when
they take her away.


Marcy – I won’t go into details so as not to spoil it, but everyone has that one particular friend who has an opinion about everything and is not afraid to share it. In Laura’s life, Beth is that friend. Laura tells Beth about the date she had with Dennis.

Stunned silence. 
For once, 
Beth has nothing 
to say.


3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Dennis. I love the lingo he uses - ripped straight from the 1960s. Following is an example:

“So Laura, babe, you look like glum with a capital G.”

Plus, with lines like the one that follows, it’s easy to see Dennis genuinely cares.

“Laura,” he says, almost shouting. “For God’s
sake, you look like death warmed over, you’re angry
at the world, you’ve all but abandoned
the one thing that makes you happiest,
and you really ought to give up lying,
because you don’t do it very well.”

Marcy –  Mrs. Boucher is my favorite secondary character. Laura visits an art gallery to shop for a present for her mother. When she realizes she can’t afford anything, Mrs. Boucher takes her back to check out the sale items in the back of the store. When Laura admits she doesn’t have enough money, Mrs. Boucher tells Laura she can pay her back when she gets the rest of the money. The two end up becoming friends and Laura finds refuge in the back of Mrs. Boucher’s shop while they both create art.

Mrs. Boucher leans back, 
sighs deeply, 
takes both my hands in hers 
and says, “Well, Laura, 
it looks like we are in this 
together. Do you know why?”

“No…no, I really don’t,” I say, 
giving her a completely honest answer 
and a very blank stare.

“Well it sounds like 
we both have work to do, 
and we can do it right here in 
my shop, together.”


4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave – There were quite a few for me to choose from, but I think this particular section describes particularly well what it is that Laura has to endure on a day-to-day basis while living at home with her mother.

Instead
she sits and stares,
rocks and rocks the devil
out of the green rocker,
smokes and stares
stares and paces
paces and mutters
and stares and stares
out those blank eyes through that thick cloud of smoke,
eyes that shut you out of her secret world,
and sometimes
when you do break through,
you know,
you just know,
that she left part of herself on the other side of sanity
and she’s trying to remember
where she was when she got lost.

Marcy – I love the way Dennis is ever so subtly trying to get through to Laura. In this instance, he has broken through the guard she puts up around everyone.

Dennis passes me a note: 
“So sorry you didn’t win, 
but guess you can’t win 
if you don’t try. Have you 
given up?”

Instead of writing back 
I turn fully around and hiss, 
“Not on your life, Dennis Martin,
 not on your life.”

He flashes his gorgeous smile, and I smile right back through a deep blush.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave – This particular line is taken from early in the novel. I chose this section to again give you a glimpse into what Laura has to deal with living with her mother. Her mother is in a manic state, up all hours of the night, painting, painting constantly.    

“Oh, there’s much more where that
came from, Laura, especially since
you suggested I start painting again.
You just wait and see.
No go on back to bed
and don’t you worry. Everything is just fine, honey.
Just fine.”

Marcy –  This line said by Laura’s best friend Beth made me laugh out loud.

“Well,” Beth says dryly, “I’d be throwing up 
too, if I had to spend an evening with 88 Fingers
and his cheerleading pals. 
Seriously, I can’t believe 
your father will let you go, 
and even if he does, 
you wouldn’t consider it, would you?’



To read more about Linda Phillip’s debut YA novel Crazy please go to:

Friday, October 31, 2014

You can count on the Count for a little Halloween Humor

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of the season, pun intended, I'd like to share two vampire poems:  One by Kenn Nesbitt, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate, and one by Andrea Perry, resident Route 19 Writers rhymer.  You can count on both of them to produce a toothy grin:)
I think my dad is Dracula.
I know that sounds insane,
but listen for a moment and
allow me to explain.

We don't live in a castle,
and we never sleep in caves.
But, still, there's something weird
about the way my dad behaves.

I never see him go out
in the daytime when it's light.
He sleeps all day till evening,
then he leaves the house at night.

He comes home in the morning
saying, "Man, I'm really dead!"
He kisses us goodnight, and then
by sunrise he's in bed.

My mom heard my suspicion
and she said, "You're not too swift.
Your father's not a vampire.
He just works the graveyard shift."
--Kenn Nesbitt


Count Dracula is getting old

And less bloodthirsty, we are told.

As far from youth as you can be

And so long in the tooth is he,

That we have heard his bark, at night,

Is worse for victims than his bite.
--Andrea Perry