Entries in It has turned her brain (63)


Gateway Books

Ah, it’s summer—the perfect time to read, right? Not always, apparently.

Earlier today, Patrick texted me to ask for help. The teenage daughter of a colleague needed some book suggestions. She’s a good student, but isn’t much of a reader. Patrick asked me for a list of books that she might find appealing.

I was intrigued, but needed more information about the daughter. What does she want to major in at college? What are her hobbies? Does she like sports, fashion, or travel, for example? A book on a topic of interest can be a great hook for a non-reader.

Patrick replied that he knew she wants to study architecture, but didn’t know much more than that—except that she’s recently become interested in her Jewish heritage.

Aha, I thought. I can work with that. I wanted to go beyond Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. Those books are probably the top three recommended “gateway” series—books that often can get non-readers reading--but everybody knows about them. I wanted to go deeper. Following is the list of books (in no particular order) that I assembled, which includes a couple of books about Jewish teens.

The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen
My darling, 23-year-old hairdresser adores Sarah Dessen. Dessen’s books are always accessible and pertinent to the challenges of today’s teens. She’s almost a Jodi Picoult for young adults.

Austenland, by Shannon Hale
When a Mr. Darcy-obsessed NYC singleton is given a trip to Austenland, an English theme park for adults, hilarity and unlikely romance ensue. Delightful.

The Stranger Within Sarah Stein, by Thane Rosenbaum
As Sarah rides her bike back and forth across the Brooklyn Bridge between her divorced parents’ apartments, she discovers surprising things about herself and the family she thought she knew.

13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
On his porch, Clay finds a box of cassettes recorded by his classmate, Hannah—who committed suicide two weeks ago. He follows her taped instructions and is shocked by the mystery he unravels. Unputdownable.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Hazel and Augustus both have cancer. They fall in love anyway. This immensely popular book is a tearjerker in the most satisfying of ways.

Prince William, Maximilian Minsky, and Me, by Holly-Jane Rahlens
Nelly is crazy for Britain's Prince William, but how will a geeky, astronomy-loving, bat mitzvah-planning, German-American girl meet her prince? Funny and heartfelt.

Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson
Scarlett has grown up in a shabby NYC hotel owned by her quirky family. A handsome would-be actor and a mysterious semi-celebrity bring even more chaos into Scarlett’s topsy-turvy life.
Manhattan + Romance = Win.

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Anna gets sent to a Parisian boarding school against her will. I have a few problems with this book, but it’s hugely popular and a fun read despite its flaws.

Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik
A retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a chic Hollywood prep school. Pure, delicious candy.

Variant, by Robison Wells
Fast-paced and freaky, this award-winning sci-fi suspense novel set in (yet another) boarding school begs to be made into a movie.

Matched, by Ally Condie
One of the very best of the current dystopian craze.

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
It’s a sci-fi classic. It’s a forthcoming movie starring Harrison Ford and Hailee Steinfeld. It’s awesome.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
This memoir is heartbreaking, laugh-out-loud funny, and life-changing. I gave 20 copies away on World Book Night last year—I love it that much.

Was, by Geoff Ryman
A (sort-of) retelling of The Wizard of Oz. One of my favorite contemporary fantasy novels of all time. Wrenching and brilliant.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Writing doesn’t get better than this. Published in 1960, this classic is still fresh, vivid, and beautiful.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
Deliciously creepy, this book’s melancholia and mystery stay with the reader long after the last page is read.

And of course, I recommend Dispirited, by Luisa M. Perkins. ;)
Night after night, Blake leaves his body in order to search for his dead mother. But when another being takes over his body, Blake watches this malevolent impostor live the life that should be his. After his father remarries, Blake seeks help from his stepsister, Cathy, who possesses unusual gifts of her own.
Cathy sees things invisible to everybody else. A ghostly child. An abandoned house in the woods. Her new stepbrother's bizarre behavior. But she doesn't see how they're all connected. And what she doesn't see just might kill her.

So, there's my list. What would you add?


Don't Fear the Reaper

"I’d lost sight of heaven, God, and everything good, but not Jordan. Some things
transcended both life and death. Some things never died."

Haunted by memories of her murdered twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her only ticket to eternal peace. But in death, she discovers the afterlife is nothing like she expected. Instead of peaceful oblivion or a joyful reunion with her sister, Keely is trapped in a netherworld on Earth with only a bounty-hunting reaper and a sarcastic demon to show her the ropes.

I do love stories about the afterlife, and Michelle Muto has written a good one. This novel is just how I like them--dark, but with the promise of redemption. Plus, the title rocks--Blue Öyster Cult's single is one of my favorite songs from my youth. (I'm also excited to read her latest book, The Haunting Season. I just downloaded it, and it is creepyyyyyy!)

Would you like a free e-copy of Don't Fear the Reaper? Leave me a comment, and on Wednesday, February 6, I'll choose one winner via random number generator. 


Interview and Giveaway! 

The lovely ladies at Writing4Two asked me if they could interview me for their Feature Friday event, and I gladly agreed. Go over and read our conversation, then enter to win a copy of Dispirited. Tell your friends! 


The Long and Winding Road: The Best of 2012

My adorable baby girl ringing in the New Year (on NYC time)

2012 was perhaps the biggest year of change of my life. I had a novel published and had another accepted for publication; I got hired to collaborate on a video game. I spoke at conferences, English classes, and signings. I moved with our large family across the continent to a very different but wonderful new life. As I look out my window at the palm trees and sunny skies beyond my balcony, I marvel at how different this day is from 1 January 2012.

Let's get to the lists. 

Favorite Books Read or Re-read:

(I didn't rank books written by close friends, many of which were excellent.)

1) 11/22/63, by Stephen King

2) Flora's Fury, by Ysabeau Wilce

3) Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk

4) Acceptable Loss, by Anne Perry

5) A Short Stay in Hell, by Steven Peck

6) The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

7) The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

8) The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

9) Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

10) French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon

Most Disappointing (not Worst) Book of the Year:

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Best Music Purchased:

Ralph Vaughan Williams: On Christmas Day: Folk-Songs and Folk-Carols

Morten Lauridsen: Lux aeterna

Great Big Sea: XX

Gary Clark, Jr.: "When My Train Pulls In"

The Black Keys: "Little Black Submarines"

Favorite Movies Seen:

1) Moonrise Kingdom

2) Skyfall

3) Argo

4) Hitchcock

5) Life of Pi

6) The Dark Knight Rises

7) The Hobbit

8) Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

9) Brave

10) Frankenweenie

Best Meals Eaten:

Per Se, NYC

Jean-Georges, NYC

Patina, LA

Brenda's French Soul Food, San Francisco

Chez Panisse Café, Berkeley

Luscious Dumplings, Monrovia

Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, Pasadena

Yarn of the Year: madelinetosh 80/10/10 MCN in the Grenadine colorway

Rose of the Year: Cramoisi Supérieur


Here's to 2013 being fabulous! Happy New Year, everybody.


The Jane Austen Tea Party

It began a wishful tweet and ended up a delightful afternoon. I can't remember which one of us brought it up first, but the planned event grew from four or five of us to more than a dozen. Most of us made our own frocks, shawls, and/or bonnets. Many made scrumptious treats to accompany our tea and cocoa. Some entertained us with lovely muscial offerings. A few had a lively "Wentworth vs. Darcy" debate. Conversation was wonderful, and new friendships were made. Divine.