Which Literary Love Story Are You?

Hello, dear readers! This girl certainly had a much more eventful day than expected, and all of it led to a lovely Valentine’s Day after all, despite my having bronchitis (my official diagnosis now! At last…). I shall fill you in on my story tomorrow, but for now, to wind down tonight, here are some fun Valentine’s pieces from the literary community. No matter how we try, we readers can’t hide that we love to imagine ourselves in the books we are reading, perhaps most of all in the storybook (fairy-tale, dystopian, etc….) romances.

First, allow me to share a valentine that Harper Impulse (the romance imprint of HarperCollins) created, based on a quote from an author I’m proud to say has been a dear friend for over 10 years! Her book, The Best Thing I Never Had, just came out a few months ago to eBook, and it is coming out in paperback in April. I’ll talk more about it another time, but for now, enjoy her brilliant quote on a lovely valentine:

Valentines-card-FINAL5

Wow. One of life’s great truths that I’ve never thought about in those terms. Erin Lawless has a knack for poignant insight. 🙂 (Check out her blog here, where you can also buy her books, follow her on Twitter, etc.)

Also, some great bookish candy hearts, posted today by Random House, originally posted here.

And lastly, I will leave you with this great chart, developed by Goodreads, where you can find out which love story your life matches best among some popular novels.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

That’s all for tonight, dear readers! I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day and that the spirit of love fills your life beyond just this day into the rest of the year. 🙂

Join me later this weekend for the story of my interesting and lovely Valentine’s Day. 🙂

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Top 20 Wintry Reads

This Frozen meme was too funny and relevant not to share. The Elsa/Snow Queen jokes have been flying around as abundantly as the snowflakes here. If Elsa truly is holding out for that Oscar, hopefully we’ll only have a little over a month of this left (seeing as Frozen will DEFINITELY be getting at least one Oscar, right?!).

I’m not usually a fan of winter, but this year has been particularly bad. We’ve seen nearrecord-breaking temperatures and snowfall. This week, my friend’s car stopped dead on the road because a part froze (while she was driving!), and another friend’s pipes froze completely in his house. Luckily, this has generally been the extent of my personal suffering:

One keep-warm tactic that’s popular with bibliophiles is curling up with a good book, perhaps next to a roaring fireplace or space heater. Or this:

If you’re afraid that you’ll miss celebrating the season while you’re between the pages, you’re in luck: the lovely ladies of Epic Reads have again come through for us, this time with a list of Top 20 Wintry Reads, shared below. This way, you can enjoy all the magic(?) of the outdoors from the comfort and safety of your favorite armchair.

Reading in a Winter Wonderland with @EpicReads

01/03/2014 5:04PM | Posted by: TeamEpicReads

This winter, snuggle up with these twenty snowy, icy, frosty young adult books! Each book is set either during winter or in a snowy locale and are the perfect read for when your real world is a little bit frozen. A complete list of all the books (with links to Goodreads) can be found below the infographic!)

A special thanks to all of our Twitter followers who helped us craft this list!

20 Winter-Themed Young Adult Books

––> Click here to view the infographic at the fuller, high-quality size! (Right click + ‘Save As’ to save the image and print it!)

20 Wintry YA Books via @EpicReads

Complete List of Books

(Each link will take you to the books’ Goodreads page!)

First Row

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (HarperTeen)
Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz, Michael Johnston (Putnam)
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (Knopf)
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Ace)

 Second Row

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (Greenwillow)
Trapped by Michael Northrop (Scholastic)
Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)
Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (HarperTeen)

 Third Row

Towering by Alex Flinn (HarperTeen)
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (Delacorte)
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara (Simon & Schuster)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins)
Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher (Greenwillow)

 Fourth Row

Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne (HarperTeen)
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt & Co.)
After the Snow by S.D. Crockett (Feiwel & Friends)
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (HarperTeen)

Thoughts on the list

This list is far and away from being complete. There are so many books we could have included, it was truly difficult to narrow it down to twenty. We wanted to focus on books that have cold, wintry, snowy settings that aren’t holiday related. That’s why these two obvious books, Let It Snow! by John Green and company and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn are left out. We also excluded Harry Potter because that’s kind of just a given. Harry Potter is a given for any and all lists. So what you see here are some books you haven’t read it or haven’t heard of!

It is also worth nothing that The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is not technically a young adult novel, but it is a classic fantasy novel that we highly recommend young adults and adults alike read. Finally, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson is on this list but the book doesn’t go on sale until July 1st, 2014. We wanted to include it because Team Epic Reads is overly obsessed with Jodi’s books and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy. So keep this one on your radar!

We hope you enjoy the list!

What other wintry YA reads would you add to this list?

(Show us your #WinterYA reads –– snap a photo of your collection and upload to Instagram and use that hashtag so we can see!)

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What do you think, dear readers? Did your favorites make the list–what would you add? The Bitter Kingdom, Shiver, and Shadow and Bone have all been on my to-be-read list, but after seeing this list, I think I need to add more!

I hope you stay warm and well-read! ❤

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” (Seventeen.com). 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 (Examiner.com).

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

17406847

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?

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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 Tuesday: Appetizing Book Covers

Hello, readers! I hope you’re feeling festive tonight, because I am. We had a lovely pre-Thanksgiving celebration last weekend with a couple who is very special to our family. The timing was significant, too, in just how special they are to us–they have been instrumental in my brain injury journey. Sam is the one who was able to get my dad out of the city to the hospital in time to see me before my brain surgery, and Sue Ann came to see Jennifer and me speak about our experience at my memoir preview event. Not to mention, they have been supportive and encouraging all along the way. Both of them have become as close as family, lifelong friends whom we love deeply. Beautiful people we couldn’t help but be thankful for at a celebration about thankfulness right after an anniversary of what we are most thankful for (my survival, our family’s survival over something that might have destroyed us). I’m not sure if writers’ lives are onion layers of symbolism, or if we just have a layered way of looking at things. #SorryImNotSorry, right?? 😉

Speaking of Thanksgiving, HarperCollins posted a very timely list from their Buzzfeed on their Facebook today, and I thought it would be perfect for tonight’s Top 10. I will be posting another “Top 10” installment on Thursday for Thanskgiving, prompted this week by  The Broke and the Bookish: “Top Ten Things I’m Grateful For.” For now, though, sit back and salivate over HarperCollins’s compilation of appetizing book covers. (The list has product links if you’d like to buy or lust over the book covers in greater detail.) Though my mom and sister are the primary chefs of the family, I enjoy cooking/baking, too, and I sure enjoy eating the fruits (and veggies) of their labor. These book covers are making me even more excited for Thanksgiving, and you already know how excited I get about holidays. 😉

10 Book Covers You Wish You Could Eat On Thanksgiving

1.

With foolproof recipes, detailed menu timetables, and down-to-earth advice,Thanksgiving 101 is the holiday cook’s best friend.

2.

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the pioneers of the online community cookbook, return with a second helping of delicious, seasonal recipes from the country’s most inventive home cooks in The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2.

3.

Supplemented by illuminating food facts and anecdotes, and illustrated with gorgeous full-color photographs, Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour is a satisfying and educational international collection of inviting, delicious recipes for home cooks and food lovers everywhere.

4.

Featuring scrumptious dishes passed down for generations through Christy Jordan’s family, Southern Plate highlights the very best in southern cooking.

5.

From squash and root vegetables to cranberries and quince to hearty, savory dishes, Autumn Gatherings will help you make the most of this season’s natural bounty.

6.

In Slow-Cooked Comfort, Lydie Marshall focuses on fish, poultry, meat, and vegetables that have been simmered in aromatic broths and sauces. Unparalleled in flavor, these dishes resonate with the coziness of family suppers, hearth, and home.

7.

Since it was first published in 1973, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco has established itself as the classic work on one of the world’s great cuisines, and in 2008 it was inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame.

8.

A one-of–a-kind cookbook, Savory Sweet Life is a wonderful collection of inventive and playful family recipes that celebrate the everyday moments in life—from birthday parties and family game nights to potlucks and summer backyard barbecues.

9.

A celebration of the food of the Hudson Valley and the people who grow and produce it, Hudson Valley Mediterranean shows how to use seasonal ingredients to create delectable, nourishing meals.

10.

Fresh Food Fast is a collection of seasonal vegetarian menus that can be created in under an hour, from James Beard and IACP Award–winning chef Peter Berley, a culinary instructor, family man, and chef with a passion for delicious meals that use seasonal produce and are easy to prepare.

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Are you hungry now? 😉 What delicious-looking books would YOU add to this list–and what cookbooks are your favorite? Though you’ve probably wandered off for a snack by now, just remember that the rule about not talking with your mouth full doesn’t apply to typing. 😉

Please join me on Thursday for a list of the ten things I’m most grateful for–and have a happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. ❤

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 forum.dvdtalk.com)

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 www.barnesandnoble.com; 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

AimeeBender

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.

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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. 🙂

Pining for New York Comic Con

Happy Saturday, readers! I hope you have a nice weekend. Mine will be pretty relaxing and low-key, which is OK with me after the adventurous (and fun!) one last week. But I have to say, I’m pretty envious of anyone who gets to go to the sold-out New York Comic Con this weekend! There are some fantastic literary events going on with some all-star guests. This line-up from HarperCollins Children’s Books alone has my mouth watering. Writing tips from these awesome YA authors? Fabulous giveaways? Yes, please! Read below and join my envy. Maybe next year, New York. I should probably start planning my cosplays now.