Best of 2013 YA Literature: Epic Reads’s Book Shimmy Awards

Good evening, dear readers! Awards show season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes earlier this month and the Grammys happening as I post. And though you couldn’t tell it from my outfit at the moment–head-to-toe fleece (#PolarVortex)–I certainly enjoy the glitz, glam, and overall spectacle of it all.

OMG Katy Perry (Grammys 2014), that DRESS! Fabulous! We are practically twins at the moment. Combining my love of music and romantic drama–you ordered two, right?

This year, though, I discovered my new favorite awards show. It was much smaller-scale: a two-woman operation plus a pouty cut-out of Four (from the upcoming Divergent movie).

“The *Book Shimmy* Awards” is an awards show hosted by Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s young-adult literature community. The two ladies behind Team Epic Reads host a weekly “Tea Time” series to discuss the latest and greatest in YA lit. They developed a new verb on Twitter to connote enthusiasm about books–*book shimmy*–and thus the term was born and given its own awards show.
Their thought was that young-adult literature deserved its own glamorous celebration, and that the winners should be decided upon by readers. I appreciate that Epic Reads truly does foster a community of book fans, even if we are continents apart. 🙂

These ladies are so cute, quirky, and nerdy (in a good way); their shows are lots of fun to watch. The awards show is an hour long, but you can watch it in parts. If you don’t have time to watch it, they also created a great infographic to represent the winners from each category:


And here is the whole awards show:

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday! Join me later this week for a Top 10 list and whatever other silliness or excitement pops up. Stay warm! 🙂

Top 16 Most-Anticipated YA Books of January 2014

Hello, dear readers! I hope the week has been treating you well. Mine has been busy, interesting, productive, and even fun, so I suppose I couldn’t ask for a better mix. 🙂 I hope to share some stories with you about it soon.

For now, though, it’s time for this week’s Top Ten post–except this week, it will be 16! Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s fun young-adult literature online community, posted a list of this month’s most-anticipated YA book releases. I’m glad they did, because I hadn’t heard of a lot of these, and my to-be-read pile has grown even larger (can’t wait for that new seven-foot-long bookcase…). I’m especially excited for Cruel Beauty (#9), a dark reimagining of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast; Infinite, a fantasy dystopia; and Defy, a fantasy adventure that was a runner-up for the “Top 15” list. Click the titles to take you to their Goodreads entries, where you can read more about them as well as purchase them. (Blurbs are from Epic Reads and Goodreads.)

The 16 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing In January

(Most anticipated = most YA books added on Goodreads as of December 12th, 2013 when we collected the data. View the entire list and see how the rankings have changed here.)

1. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

On sale January 28th

Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent series, Veronica Rossi’s trilogy has been called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “incredibly original” ( Brimming with romance and danger and building to a climax that will leave you breathless, Into the Still Blue brings this “masterpiece” trilogy to an unforgettable close (

2. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

On sale January 14th

In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.

3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

On sale January 21st

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

4. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

On sale January 28th

From New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan, Uninvited is a chilling and suspenseful story about a girl whose DNA brands her as a killer, perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

5. Enders by Lissa Price

On sale January 7th

Someone is after Starters like Callie and Michael – teens with chips in their brains. No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

6. Infinite by Jodi Meadows

On sale January 28th

The stunning conclusion to the Incarnate trilogy, a fantasy series about a girl who is the first new soul born into a society where everyone else has been reborn hundreds of times. Romantic and action-filled, the rich world of Infinite is perfect for fans of epic fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, while Ana’s courage to expose the cracks in society and fight for what is right is ideal for fans of dystopian novels.

7. Unhinged by A.G. Howard

On sale January 7th

Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through Alyssa’s art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind. If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

8. Erased by Jennifer Rush

On sale January 7th

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last page is turned.

9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

On sale January 28th

The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

10. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

On sale January 28th

Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

11. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

On sale January 28th

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

12. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

On sale January 7th

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

13. Avalon by Mindee Arnett

On sale January 21st

For fans of Josh Whedon’s cult classic television show Firefly comes a fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi thriller from author Mindee Arnett, about a group of teenage mercenaries who stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens the entire galaxy. With pulse-pounding action, a captivating mystery, and even a bit of romance,Avalon is the perfect read for hard-core sci-fi fans and non–sci-fi fans alike.

14. Vitro by Jessica Khoury

On sale January 14th

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw. Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

15. Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

On sale January 23rd

In a stunning story about the beauty of fate and the power of secrets, Mary Lindsey returns to the world of Shattered Souls with a breathtaking thrill-ride of a novel. [The author notes Shattered Souls takes place one month before this book’s plot, but is not a required read for this one–same world, different story lines.]

16. Defy by Sara B. Larson


A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?


So, dear readers, did you add any of these to your “to read” shelves? Which debuts are YOU most excited for?

Forecasts are predicting chilly temperatures and more snow (at least for the weather-battered Midwest!), so stay warm and check back this weekend for more posts. I hope you have a lovely weekend, yourself!

Top Ten: Signs You Are Reading Too Much Young-Adult Literature

This week’s Top Ten will focus on” Signs You’re Reading Too Much YA Literature.” Have you ever noticed common themes in your reading repertoire…and then applied them to your life? Today’s list will be a combination of my own ideas, preceded by this “Top Five” posted by Book Riot in 2011 (with memes added in by me). It was so funny and so relevant to my blog that I had to share. (I will note where the shift takes place.)


Posted by dr b
Originally Posted on Book Riot on October 11, 2011 
 I read a lot of young adult literature, as previous posts at Book Riot might suggest. But this semester, I’m also teaching Children’s Literature in addition to reading YA for pleasure. It’s starting to feel like I have a YA novel in hand every waking moment, and I think it’s starting to skew my perceptions of reality. If you’re like me, you may hear echoes of yourself in this list.

Here are my top five signs you’re reading too much young adult literature.

1. Utopia vs. Dystopia

    1. You keep a spreadsheet to try to determine whether you exist in a utopia or a dystopia. (Corporate ownership of media? Dystopia. New Muppet movie on the horizon? Utopia.) You secretly hope it turns out to be a dystopia so you can demonstrate your awesomeness in some world-liberating way.

    2. The Love Triangle

      You wonder how your relationship triangle is going to shake out. Will it be the moody, wild rebel who taught you about passion, or the sweet, gentle artist who taught you about love? (If you’re still waiting for the candidates to show themselves, you may be spending entirely too much time eyeing up your colleagues.)

    3. Life is a Metaphor

      Symbolism, Symbolism Everywhere | X, X Everywhere
      You take to expressing yourself metaphorically through objects. You position a dying plant, a talisman, and a notebook of doodles on the corner of your desk. When people ask how you are doing, you gesture knowingly at the objects and keep silent. They’ll figure it out.

    4. Expecting Parental Conflict via Telephone
      You phone your parents hoping for either any angry blow-out of epic proportions or a disinterested silence that will reaffirm your worldly malaise. Disappointingly, they just want to tell you they love you and chat about your day.

    5. Saying “No” to Games

      Between Hunger and Ender, you’ve become quite suspicious of the concept of games. When a colleague suggests a round of charades before the end of a dinner party, you arm yourself with a steak knife and take refuge behind the largest armchair. You’re developing a reputation at baby showers.

This marks the end of Book Riot’s list–the next five are my own.

6. Too Many Grown-Ups

Young-adult novels can make it seem like the world is populated with nothing but teenagers. So when you look up from your book and notice you’re surrounded by adults, you feel a sense of foreboding and worry for their safety. They may be unwritten at any moment.

7. Destiny Past 16

Sixteen is the unofficial coming-of-age moment for heroes and heroines of young-adult literature to fulfill their destiny. I’m guilty of this myself, as an author.  I think it does make sense, psychologically, that 16 is often an approximate turning point for people to define themselves. But besides being a little redundant, it gives us non-teenagers some anxiety about doing anything meaningful with our lives now that we’re not 16 anymore. Maybe we won’t single-handedly prevent a civil war in our nation, but we can put out one hell of a press release. That makes a difference in its own way, right? Right?

8. Your Significant Other Has a Pulse

This one comes courtesy of my friend Lindsey, who is sort of the expert on supernatural love stories. If you’re surprised your significant other has a pulse, it may be time to take a breather from the genre–pun intended. Young-adult literature has been supersaturated with love stories about vampires, werewolves, zombies, angels, ghosts, fairies, and other otherworldly beings lately. It makes for an exciting read, sure, but it puts us mortals in a less interesting light when it comes to your love choices.

9. The Near-Kiss

Another friend, Alex, mentioned this one. He’s right: any good young-adult romance is filled with near-kisses, almost-romantic gestures that take until the last page to conclude–or never do. If your significant other has expressed confusion that you never quite kiss him/her goodbye before work–that instead it’s a lip brush and a breath–you may be applying this trope to your real life.

10. Love at First Sight

This is a couple of dangerous stereotypes rolled into one. This is a popular idea in young-adult literature, and it makes sense. When learning about first loves, teenagers, sometimes, can pay too much attention to the superficial, i.e., what we can see/physical perfection. Personally, it annoys me when books perpetuate the idea that love interests are all physically perfect and instantly fall in love. I think that’s encouraging too much focus on what isn’t important–it’s what’s inside that really counts, even if we’re still working on making a difference after the age of 16. 😉


What do you think, readers? Have you been reading too much young-adult literature? Personally, I don’t think it’s possible, but I will try to cut myself a little slack with destiny, and I’ll allow myself to enjoy games with less paranoia. No promises on being less metaphorical, though. Hey, I’m a writer; I can’t help it. 😉

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was Forced to Read

Hello, readers! This installment of Top Ten Tuesday was actually suggested last week by The Broke and the Bookish; an extremely busy week has pushed it to this Tuesday instead. 😉 The prompt is:

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, book club) — doesn’t necessarily have to be a BAD thing. Could be required reading, yes, but also book club, or just super enthusiastic friends “making” you read something!

I’ll admit, I’ve been rather stubborn in the past with my favorite book genres. Actually, for much of my life, I would only read classics (nothing written post-1900, preferably). That’s right; I used to be even more of a book snob than I am now (I figure I could only go on hiding it for so long, readers). To be fair, though, I was similarly discriminatory with my movie taste (nothing in color–especially black-and-white classics colored in later).

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid…wait a minute, you don’t look quite right.
(Casablanca image from

But gradually, through social and academic pressures against my will, I have expanded my reading repertoire. I’m glad, too, because I would have missed out on some great books. Below, I’ve listed ten memorable books I’ve been forced to read–some good experiences, some…not. All images are from; click them to buy or read plot summaries.

1. The Winter’s Tale, by William Shakespeare

Winter's Tale

This one wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. I LOVE Shakespeare, but somehow, despite numerous classes on him and reading on my own, I hadn’t encountered this book until one of my advanced-level Shakespeare classes in undergrad at UIUC. This less–well-known play by the bard is actually a favorite among enthusiasts, and I think it would translate really well to a movie, especially given the popularity of period dramas nowadays. This is a tragicomedy, which, if memory serves, is the bard’s only (or one of the only) meld of the two genres (as opposed to dark tragedies like Hamlet and fun comedies like As You Like It). The best of both worlds! Plus, you get the usual memorable characters and sparkling language of Shakespeare’s work.

2. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

Lord of the Flies

I probably don’t have to go into much detail with why I did not like this book, after last week’s list of book turn-offs, especially in regards to disturbing violence. Even the cover is breaking my heart. I was required to read this in middle school, and it was not a good experience. Actually, I’ve kind of blocked it out to the point where I remember the feelings I had about reading it more than the actual book itself. I wonder how I’d feel about this on a reread at an older age, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

Strangely, as much as I disliked the last book, I loved this trilogy–extreme fangirl level. I was so afraid of it being exactly like the last book (#2) that Jennifer offered to screen it for me first…that’s right, my younger sister has more book courage than I do. She LOVED these books, and as soon as I got the green light from her, I began reading it, because I actually was required to read it for class, haha. (I just needed to know with what level of caution–at what arm-length–I needed to read this.) This was one of the books assigned in my Young-Adult Literature class with Alix Reid at DePaul, which you know was shelf–and, I dare say–life-changing. Although these books were indeed violent, it was all justified, and the message was powerful and important. The writing was great, too; quick and biting, it matched the plot perfectly.

4. “Debbieland,” by Aimee Bender


I couldn’t find this story or a picture of it online. Instead, this is a picture of the author, and it links to her website.

This short story about bullying, told from the P.O.V. of the bullies, disturbed me so much that I asked my teacher, with a single tear rolling down my cheek (j.k.?), WHY she had assigned it to us. She responded that that was exactly the reason why she had. Touché, Professor Pittard. (Hannah Pittard was one of my favorite teachers from DePaul, in large part because her taste was so different than mine that she helped me to grow and think outside my own writing box.) As much as I was uncomfortable from being inside the heads of such horrible people in “Debbieland,” I learned an interesting writing technique from it. To be honest, though, I much preferred my professor’s own use of the group-P.O.V.; check out her critically acclaimed novel, The Fates Will Find Their WayPerfectly lovely and haunting for this time of year. 🙂

5. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Dune (Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics)

I think Barnes & Noble described this book best on their website: “A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.” This book was on our Honors English summer reading list for incoming freshman year, and from this book alone, I knew high school was going to be awesome. (Perhaps a blanket judgement, but I was only 14…and I do have many fond memories of those four years. 🙂 ) Anyway, this was, hands-down, the best assigned summer reading I’ve ever had. This book was so inspiring that I chose to teach it as a student teacher in my undergrad program; I think it should be assigned reading to everyone in school. I was shocked, when I asked the class (all honors students), if they had read the book before. For some reason, it isn’t being assigned as much as I think it should be, with such timeless and important themes. This is Jeremiah’s favorite series ever; he’s read all of the books, as well as the companion books written by Herbert’s son based on the late Frank’s notes. It’s a favorite book of mine, though admittedly, I haven’t finished the series yet. As a teenager, it had changed so much after the first three books that I wasn’t sure I liked it anymore, but as an adult, I suspect I might like the bigger picture even more.

6. & 7.: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, & In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected TextIn Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

And on the flip side of assigned high school summer reading were these two books assigned for us to read the summer before my sophomore year of Honors English. Dear God, these books scarred me so badly that I can’t even look at them today. Part of me wonders if I was just too young to handle the dark subject content (15 years old), but given that I don’t like much graphic violence nowadays, either, I think I might have the same reaction reading these as an adult. Briefly: they both focus on gruesome aspects of death, as the titles suggest. I know these are classics, and I’m sure they’re well-written, but I was so disturbed by the content that I couldn’t even pay attention to the writing (unlike #4). Not only did they RUIN my summer, but I’ve stayed away from the authors’ other work as much as possible, too (though after other assigned Faulkner readings, I still am not a fan–too dark of humor for me to find it funny).

8. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

And back to the positives of assigned reading, The Graveyard Book was another assignment for that Young-Adult Literature class at DePaul (see #3). I love this book so much that I have two copies: a hardcover I read for class and a signed paperback from an author appearance when Neil Gaiman came to Chicago in 2011…the appearance where I almost got in to see him but didn’t, because the line was hundreds of people too long for the space the Chicago Public Library had available. 😥 I drowned my sorrows with a little retail therapy, that being his autographed books. Here’s a picture of me after the event (the event was specifically celebrating his book Neverwhere, another favorite of mine).

Mega-fangirl: My shirt is a sketch Neil Gaiman did, imagining a potential cover for The Graveyard Book. Jennifer bought it for me! ❤ You can buy it from Neverwear here. (Don’t you love the pun?)

Anyway, I’m really glad I was assigned this book, for several reasons: First of all, it was my gateway into Neil Gaiman, who, as you know, is one of my favorite authors (just search his name on my homepage search box and you’ll see tons of my entries pop up). Secondly, I might never have picked it up, as it is technically a “middle grade” book, i.e., targeted for an audience of ages 8-12. As you know from previous posts, I was surprised to learn how much I loved young-adult literature, and this book SHOCKED me with the discovery that I liked middle grade, too. So not only did this book introduce me to an author, but also to a whole bracket of books, too. If you’re looking for a spooky and amazing read for Halloween, I highly recommend this one! It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set, Books 1-7

I tried to hide my moments of snobbery from you before, dear readers, but I’ve officially given up as of the last Top 10 post. 😉 As a recovering pop culture connoisseur in 6th-7th grade, I tried to steer clear of anything popular after that, including books. It was to my detriment, as my older, wiser self now knows, because at least with books, they are usually popular for a reason. The first couple of books had already been out for awhile before my mom bought one and urged me to read it, and thank God she did. I read it because I wanted to figure out the “overblown hype,” but instead, I found compelling, complex, beautiful coming-of-age story as timeless as it was timely: my sister and I had the privilege of growing up with Harry Potter, as his age in each book release roughly matched ours. What a fantastic influence on a developing teenager–or for adults. I can’t see this book ever going out of popularity; it has something for everyone.

10. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer

TwilightThis book is in yellow, because I haven’t actually read it yet. I would say that it is the book I feel most pressured to read by society, both as a reader and a writer. This is such a polarizing novel series; it seems people either love it or hate it. I was somewhere in between with my opinion of the movies; I’ve seen them all. I could understand both the praise and the criticism this series receives, but I feel like until I (finally) read these, I have no right to an opinion either way on their content or writing. As a cultural phenomenon, my opinion of it is: Well-done, Stephanie Meyer. You’ve inspired millions of people to read, and you’ve made it a bit easier for authors to include more sentimentalism in their work. You know that it’s a balance I struggle with as a writer, but I do think there is a right balance out there somewhere. Maybe it’s in here. I actually requested this first book as a Christmas present a few years ago, and it’s still looking at me from the shelf, eyeing me from that big apple.


I hope you enjoyed my top-10 list this week, readers! What are some memorable books YOU’VE been assigned?

Join me later this week and next for some festive posts about autumn and Halloween. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Outrageous Book Bans

It’s a week full of celebrations! Hobbit Day and autumnal equinox on Sunday, with Tolkien Week all this week. Today is National Punctuation Day. Sunday also kicked off a very important week-long celebration: Banned Books Week.

Censorship is nothing new to human culture. A quick history, courtesy of Mette Newth for the Beacon for Freedom of Expression:

Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history. In ancient societies, for example China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. The origin of the term censor can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. In Rome, as in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship was regarded as an honorable task. In China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD. Perhaps the most famous case of censorship in ancient times is that of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his corruption of youth and his acknowledgement of unorthodox divinities.

It’s understandable why people would ban books. Nothing’s quite so threatening as an idea that catches on, spreading through society like wildfire. People can be killed, but ideas?–not so easily–and so has this concept been posed in many great books and movies. I can’t speak for the entire globe, but in America, the freedom of speech is a “certain unalienable right,” one that defines what it means to be an American. So I just don’t understand why books are being banned here.

Usually, books are banned by people who fear those books will have a negative impact on readers. Granted, I would understand banning a book that promotes violence (or even overt hate speech) against people, with no “moral compass” guiding its pages. Beyond that, though, it’s hard to imagine justifying a ban. The controversies that make us uncomfortable are usually the most important ones to talk about–because they imagine a breakthrough of human or animal rights that are not currently universally acknowledged. The whole purpose of a book is to make us think, to open our minds, to help us grow.

Sometimes, when books are banned, it’s for some pretty incredible reasons. Below is my list of the top ten most outrageous book bans.
A special thank-you to The Week and Buzzfeed for most of the info and choices, along with, cited below. All images are from Amazon; click them to buy or find out more about the books .

1. The Dictionary

Seriously. I’ve never known anyone except my dad and me to read the dictionary as an actual book, but apparently, the concept of using the American Heritage Dictionary or Merriam-Webster as “pleasure reading” has been a threat since 1969. School boards have cited “illicit entries” as reasons to keep these compendiums of words out of the classroom. Because why would we learn new words in school? (The Week)

2. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

“In 1985, challengers at Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wisconsin, said that A Light in the Attic ‘encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.’” Now, I’m thinking this is a problem on the parenting side, not a fantastical poetry book, but that’s just me. (

3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle

This popular children’s picture book was banned by the Texas School Board because they thought the author behind this playful story was the same who published a controversial Marxist book. And their names weren’t even the same. It was philosophy Professor Bill Martin (of DePaul University, coincidentally) who published Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation—no “Jr.,” no relation. The Board reversed their decision once they learned of their error, but it seems like a little preliminary research would have avoided this. Or, you know, common sense. (

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What could be wrong with this innocent literary legend? “Ministers and educators challenged it for…depicting women in strong leadership roles. They opposed not only children reading it, but adults as well, lest it undermine longstanding gender roles.” What?! You KNOW I have a problem with this, readers. Strong Female Characters are essential, and anyone who says they are toxic should be visited by a few. I volunteer as tribute. (

5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

You already know of my love for this book, but even a non-fangirl would laugh at this irony. This book about the danger of banning books has been banned. Is this to enable them for future bans? Still, one can’t help but assume the people banning it have not read it.

6. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

This is a hallmark of many middle/high schools’ English requirements–and with good reason. How rare to have such a poignant first-hand account into one of the most horrible events that has ever transpired in human history. Plus, the narrator is a teenager, pulling in readers that age that might feel distanced from colder textbook accounts. No one curls up with this one for a laugh before bedtime–obviously, right? But apparently, some people missed the memo. “In 1983, four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this title because it is, quote, ‘a real downer.'” …I can’t even. Of course it’s a downer. That is EXACTLY why we need to read it. (

7. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Yet another children’s book for the list. Guess who got this one banned? The logging industry, for the book’s “anti-deforesting plot line.” In my opinion, the ban just makes them look (much) worse. (The Week)

8. Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

I’ve had a lifelong affection for this cuddly little bear all stuffed with fluff, but apparently, the love is not universal. In fact, Pooh comes in at #22 on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently banned books. Meek little Piglet came under attack as “offensive” in Turkey, causing a State-controlled TV station to take the show off the air. In Russia, someone found a drawing of Pooh wearing a swastika, owned by an extremist–note, not an original, likely “fanart”–which caused the book to be banned by Russia’s Justice Ministry. And then there’s the whole “Issue” of talking animals, which I’ll discuss in #9. I’ve never seen a game of Poohsticks go so wrong. (

9. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Anthropomorphism (giving animals/inanimate objects human characteristics/behavior) is downright offensive to some people. A parents’ group in Kansas claimed “[humans are] the only creatures that can communicate vocally. Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God.” I think everyone would agree animals have personalities; you know I think so. But even if you don’t, this book is clearly a work of fiction. Symbols have been used to represent human characteristics since the very beginning of storytelling. By that logic, wouldn’t every single book be banned? By the way, the Bible is packed with symbolism, and it advocates kindness towards all creatures. (The Week)

10. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Even the revered bard isn’t safe from being banned. This explanation is spoilery, just warning you–but you should still read/see this play, because it’s excellent! Anyway, in this play, a female character has to disguise herself temporarily as a male. She then falls in love (with a male). Apparently, this early seventeenth-century text has proven too progressive for a New Hampshire town that banned it for violating the school district’s “prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction.” Really? This seems to be another case of the banning group not actually reading the play. (The Week)


In closing, here are some famous quotes by authors about banning books. Of course I had to include two from Ray Bradbury, from/about one of my favorite books ever. Perhaps it’s one of my favorites because banning books is a deep-rooted fear in bibliophiles, this one not excepted. 😉

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Readers, I hope you celebrate Banned Books Week with me. The American Library Association is hosting the event all week long, and you can join in the festivities. But first and foremost, you can just pick up a book that’s been banned and read it. Be a rebel! I hope it will open your minds. Let me know what your favorite banned book is in the comments below. As an author, I hope to see my books land on a ban list somewhere, someday. It will mean I have said something important, something thought-provoking. Something to change the world.

Top Ten Tuesday: Exciting New Book Releases

Today is Tuesday, and that means another installment of a top-ten list! Today’s list, prompted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List (you could do top ten fall releases you plan on reading or just your planned reading list).

Well, with that kind of freedom, I will do a meld of the two. I will list my top 10 want-to-read books that have been released recently/will be released soon. (As with last week’s list, all images are courtesy of Barnes & Noble. Click them to buy the books.)

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

If you’ve read any other posts on this blog, you know that I am a HUGE Neil Gaiman fan. This is Neil Gaiman’s newest adult novel, and the first (adult novel) he’s written since 2006. I actually started listening to this audiobook, but as you can imagine, the waiting list for this at the library is pretty long, so I had to return it before I could finish it. Boo! I was really loving it so far, and I can’t wait to find out what happens. That’s why this is definitely #1 on my list, although technically, it’s only half. 😉

2. Allegiant/Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Allegiant (Divergent Series #3) (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The final book in this trilogy will be out on October 22nd. I have no good reason why I haven’t read the 2nd one (Insurgent) in this trilogy yet. Honestly, my reason is that I know the book is buried in my tiny college bookshelf (different from my overstocked MAIN bookshelf, you see) in the basement under piles and piles of other books and other things. I’ll need to get a hard hat with a light to unearth it. And I have this thing about not listening to an audiobook version of a book I have a physical copy of, unless I’ve already read the physical copy. It’s weird, I know. But Divergent was an AMAZING book, a 9.5/10. It’s a thrilling, innovative dystopia that has great writing and engaging characters. And Veronica Roth is SO sweet and humble; I got the opportunity to meet her at her first book launch, before her popularity exploded (which it did a few days later, literally). She deserves all her success.

3. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

The Fault in Our Stars (B&N Exclusive Edition)

I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for this book. It’s earned top critical and everyday reader praise. From what I’ve seen, it’s an important book–and it will ultimately rip my heart out when I get around to it. I’m thinking of it like medicine–it will be good for me, but it might be a bit hard to bear on the way down. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and I do love books that grab my heart, so I know I just HAVE to read this. It’ll be a race to read it before the movie comes out.

4. Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

I’ve been hearing about this YA author for years, but somehow, I haven’t read her work yet. She’s got several best-selling series out (and some new releases soon), so I’m not sure where to start. This one about faerie musicians looks right up my ally, though, so I think I’ll start here. 🙂

5. Ruin and Rising/Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

The last book of this acclaimed trilogy is on the 2014 release list. I have the first book, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’ve read that Russian fairy tales play into the story, and that the main character is a Strong Female Character. I don’t see how I couldn’t love it! (By the way, I love how my favorite authors are rooting for each other. Note Veronica Roth’s blurb on the front of this cover. Tamora Pierce also wrote a blurb for Lament, above, though it’s not pictured.)

6. The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King (Iron Fey Series #1)

It looks like the last book of this series was out last year, but I started hearing lots of buzz about this only recently. Perhaps it’s because I only joined Twitter recently, and I get a lot of my publishing info from news sources on there…at any rate, I’ve been hearing great things about this series, and it looks really interesting.

7. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily

Until I recently read the classic J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, I never realized how heartbreaking and beautiful the story was. I’ve heard great things about this book, and I think it’d be so interesting to see the story through Tiger Lily’s eyes. She’s an often-forgotten secondary character, but I’d bet she’s an SFC.

8. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Several of my bookish friends have suggested this one, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I believe the last one in the trilogy hasn’t been released yet. I’ve just noticed how I’ve been letting the YA romances stack up in my to-read pile (#3, 4, 7, & 8, from what I can tell). In the pure YA romance genre (that is, YA books where the love story is the main story), I’ve been somewhat disappointed in what I’ve read. I think a good love story needs a lot of surrounding plot to make it whole, just like real life. I do have high hopes for these, though, so I should probably stop procrastinating. 😉

9. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child

I first read about this one in a Costco catalogue/newsletter, of all places. The title struck my eye as romantic (in the old-lore sense) and mystical, and the author’s name charmed me into reading the interview (my favorite LOTR character is a shieldmaiden AND an author?!). Then, the interview made me cry, but it also put this on my to-read list, where it’s been since 2012 when it came out. I need to stock up on tissues before I invest my emotions into this one. It will be another good-for-me-sobby one, I believe.

10. Shadowscale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman


Last but certainly not least is the sequel to my beloved Seraphina. There’s no cover image for it yet, so I’m putting in the prequel. If you saw last week’s list or read my audiobook postyou know I’m a big fan of the first Seraphina book. From last week: “This enchanting tale speaks volumes about human nature–and how better to do that than with dragons? The characters and the world completely pull you in, almost without your realizing it until you have to close the book/pause the CD. ;) Hartman’s innovative twist on classic elements is both familiar and refreshing at the same time.” The first book was satisfying in tying up loose ends–way more than I anticipated (YAY HARTMAN), but I still can’t wait to read about what will happen next for this lovable heroine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-to-Movie Wish List

Yesterday was Tuesday, and that means another installment of a top-ten list! A busy day pushed it to today instead; I hope you’ll find it just as enjoyable with the added anticipation. 😉 I skipped last week due to my scheduled book review of Ken Floro III’s The Rising Wind, but you can see my first list here.

Echoing my first list (Top Ten Book-to-Movie Adaptations), today’s list, prompted by The Broke and the Bookish, is another fun one: “Top Ten Books I Would Love To See As A Movie/TV Show (set in a perfect world…in which movies don’t butcher the books we love.)”

I had to think about this one, because there have been so many great movies made already of many of my favorite books. But I was able to come up with 10 clear choices–some by the same authors. Here they are, in no particular order. (All images courtesy of Barnes & Noble; click them to buy.)

1. Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe

Immortals Quartet Box Set (Immortals Series)

The Immortals Quartet, a series set within Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe.

I fell in love with these books as a young girl. Talk about strong female characters! At the time of this posting, I believe she has 18 books out that are set in this universe (according to her website). I have a little catching up to do! This is a magnificent, vibrant universe with lovable characters and compelling plots–all of which would translate well to the screen. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Tamora Pierce in person, and she said that although she’s had movie offers, none have felt quite right. Kudos to her for being protective of her work. I’m hoping that someday, we’ll get to see these books done well on the big screen.

2. Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

“Wait, isn’t this already a movie?” Yes…yes it is. It’s the only book-to-movie I’ve been too afraid to watch, because if they changed just *one* thing about the book, I feel like it’d be destroyed. And from what I’ve read about the movie, they did make some pretty significant changes. So why is this on my wish list? I’d like to see a screenplay done verbatim from the book, or at least to be adapted as CLOSELY as possible. Who’s up for the task? I did take a screenwriting course with the award-winning Jay Bonansinga…so yes, I absolutely volunteer for this project. 😉

3. The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Rumors have been swirling for a movie adaptation of this book. I discovered this book in Alix Reid’s young-adult/children’s literature class, as one of the assigned books, and it quickly became one of my favorites of all time. It’s a special book to a lot of people, which has earned it several awards. It’s extremely visual, and even the most extraordinary settings are vivid. Initial rumors suggested this would be a stop-action movie (like The Nightmare Before Christmas), which seemed an appropriate style for this dark fantasy. As of January, however, Ron Howard took the helm and it looks like it may be live-action. No filming has actually started, and so many changes have happened already that the fate of this film is still uncertain, which earns it a place on my list. This is another AMAZING book that will require care and precision in adhering to Gaiman’s masterful diction and plot.

4. Neverwhere


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Interestingly, this other novel by Gaiman actually started on the screen. Its original form was a BBC miniseries written by Gaiman, which he later adapted into a novel. I think this urban fantasy would be brilliant as a movie, especially with the right special effects. I’m not quite sure why no one’s completed a movie for this yet, especially with its timeless fanatical popularity (it’s a modern classic–the PENULTIMATE in fantasy, if you ask fans). Gaiman’s other movie adaptations, like Stardust and Coraline, have been well-received. It seems a sure-fire box-office hit. Fans of the recent BBC 4 radio production are rooting for its all-star cast (including Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy and Natalie Dormer) to take it to the silver screen, too. I’m all for that!

5. Seraphina


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This enchanting tale speaks volumes about human nature–and how better to do that than with dragons? The characters and the world completely pull you in, almost without your realizing it until you have to close the book/pause the CD. 😉 Hartman’s innovative twist on classic elements is both familiar and refreshing at the same time–something that movie-goers would love. And if I may be a fangirl for a moment, I NEED to see this love story onscreen. Please.

6. Wicked

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years Series #1)

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

This book and musical will forever be special to me. The theme of “It’s not only OK to be different–it’s what makes you extraordinary” inspired me during my recovery from a traumatic brain injury. It taught me about courage to fight for what’s important to you, that you can make a difference against all odds. This twist on the classic The Wizard of Oz has great heart, great humor, and great quotes. Don’t you think that would be a great movie? I’m not the only fan who thinks so, and rumors have been flying for years about movie projects. So far, I haven’t found any specific information on a movie adaptation, though. Keep your fingers crossed, green or otherwise!

7. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

This other book by Maguire is my favorite retelling of the Cinderella story–and it’s not even starring her. It’s such a clever twist on this ever-popular fairy tale–so popular, in fact, that it needs a little zest added in to keep it fresh. It just so happens that zest is what Maguire does best. With the popularity of fairy tale remakes in Hollywood lately, I’m surprised this hasn’t been picked up yet.

8. Pathfinder


Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card

This is one of those books where my jaw dropped several times, and by the end, it was fully agape.

Something like this. (Image via Tumblr.)

It was also one of those books that was almost mind-bogglingly complex. The world and the concepts were fascinating, but packed with a bit more physics than I’d expect a 13-year-old to wade through (this is technically YA lit, i.e. 13 and up). For both of these reasons, Pathfinder is on my movie wish list. If done well, it might be one of those movies that makes the book even better by clarifying it. Then again, narrowing down the 800-page book into a movie might be its own challenge.

9. Libyrinth

Libyrinth (Libyrinth Series #1)

Libyrinth (Libyrinth Series #1) by Pearl North

This YA dystopia would strike fear into the hearts of bibliophiles everywhere. Like Fahrenheit 451, the world in this book questions the danger of books–a clash against the spoken and written word. The similarities to Fahrenheit end there, and we’re immersed in a foreign world that’s both futuristic and ancient at the same time. The characters are witty and clever, which makes for a fun read. I won’t spoil it, but the message is timeless and important, which is always good for movies. This movie would be popular with book-lovers and others (ARE there any other kinds of people??).

10. …My own.

So I have to admit that one of the reasons I took that fantastic class with Jay Bonansinga was because, as a reader, I get SO UPSET when a movie *ruins* a book. And as a writer, if my books ever got ruined in this way, I’d be devastated. (These books are still in development—I promise to keep you updated. :)) I wanted to have at least a basic understanding of screenplays and movie-making in my tool belt, and in Jay’s class, I got so much more. So, powers that be, if you’d like to adapt my books into a movie, I am ready to help. 😉