Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Top 5 or 10 Books We Read in 2014

POWELL'S BOOKS Portland, Oregon- You should visit it!!

This year the Triple Scoop read a LOT of great YA novels!! A few of them were reviewed here, but with so many wonderful books and so few weeks available for reviews, we just couldn’t get around to singing the praises of ALL of the fantastic books we enjoyed. Now, at the end of the year, we want to share with you some of our favorite books that we read in 2014!! (Not all of these were released this year—some were simply discovered by us during the year. And we do love discovering these gems!) And, as for that top five OR ten—well, some of us just can’t limit ourselves!!
None of our lists are in any particular order.

Sarah's Top Ten List
* I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson - Maybe one of my new favorite books. Ever. 

* Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephanie Perkins - I don't usually gravitate toward Contemporary genre, but this was the year for it. Loved all three of these books!

* The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - Such a great new series. Loved these characters so much!

* The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo - I'm so happy I hadn't started these until this year so I didn't have to wait to read them all! I would NOT have been able to take it.

* The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson - This book! I loved the mystery and romance of it. 

* Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - The year for Fantasy. This is easily one of my favorite series and I can't wait to find out what happens next with Celaena Sardothien.

* Brazen by Katherine Longshore - If you love historical fiction, read ALL of Longshore's books. This story of Mary Howard and Henry Fitzroy was so touching. 

* Uninvited by Sophie Jordan - The one that surprised me the most this year. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did! A unique concept and a major page turner. 

* The Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken - I don't know HOW I have not read these books before now, but it’s a bandwagon I am all too happy to jump on! 

* The Burning Sky and The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas - Another incredible high fantasy series!

Monica's Top Five List

* Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. This continuation of the The Raven Cycle was even more magical than most of Stiefvater’s previous books—if that’s possible. Her twists have twists, and I adore the characters—even the evil ones. Left me craving the next, and last, book in the series.

* Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. My new obsession with contemporary YA, after years of a steady diet of paranormal, can be directly attributed to Ms. Perkins and her delightful connected books, Anna and the French Kiss (swoon, swoon) Lola and the Boy Next Door, (Cricket!), and now this amazing book, which I reviewed in this space a few months ago saying that it HAS ALL THE FEELINGS. Let me repeat: ALL. None are left out. Hmmm, I think all three books need a re-read. Soon. Maybe I’ll start that tonight…

* My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. So, after Stephanie Perkins opened wide that door to contemporary, many other books just walked right into my heart, but few took up residence there
quite the way this book did. To say I LOVE this book and its amazing characters simply isn’t enough. MLND is currently sitting on my nightstand awaiting a re-read. Also, I just finished Fitzpatrick’s What I Thought Was True, and again she gives us characters to love and to care about and to wonder about after the book is over.

* The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Fantasy isn’t usually my genre, but this book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Beautifully written, the story and its telling is riveting. This is the first in a trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next installment!
* Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Another contemporary that just doesn’t leave you after you’ve closed the book. Sweet, tender, heartbreaking, I couldn’t shake this one for weeks after I finished it. Loved it dearly. 

Heather's Top Seven List

Okay, we all agreed that this would be a post of our top five most un-putdownable books of 2014 but as I sit here I know there is no way I am going to be able to stick to that number!

* What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick. This book drew me in in a way not many contemporary books can, I loved the MC and each and every scene was exceptional!

* The Naturals/Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. These books! I never thought a book about teenage serial-killer catchers would stick with me for so long! This book seemlessly blends YA contemporary and Criminal Minds! READ IT! LOVE IT!

* Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas. Need I say more? No. OK. But I will. There is something about her
characters that is truly amazing! Celena sits on my shoulder for days after I read her books and whispers to me. In fact, sometimes I lay in bed still and replay the plot in my head.

* The Rules/ The Hunt by Stacey Kade. These books captured my attention immediately! The series so far is exciting, funny and the internal dialogue is one-of-a-kind!

* Aleinated by Melissa Landers. I loved Cara's voice! She was a total crack up! I can't wait for Invaded (book 2 in the series)!!!!

* The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski! (Yes I feel the need to put an exclamation point.) This
book sucked me in! In fact, the second I was finished reading it, I started it over!

* The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I loved the relationships in this book and the imagery was beautiful.

And last but not least, I would like to make a nod to The Hunger Games trilogy which I re-read every year in November. These are the books that got me HOOKED on YA!

*****Happy New Year from the YA TRIPLE SCOOP!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Favorite Books on the Writing Craft

When I started writing a little over three years ago, I foolishly thought I knew all there was to know about writing a novel—after all I’d been reading novels all my life. Boy oh boy did I have a rude awakening! When I heard about a writing workshop that was going to be held in town, a dear friend and I decided to go, and I think both of us were fighting back tears just an hour into the two day class. We had no idea what the instructors were talking about! Hook? Show, do not Tell? Plot points and twists? Three act arcs? We were in WAY over our heads. But by the end of the second day, we had some tools in our writer toolbox, knew we had a LOT still to learn, and when we came out of our stupor a few days later we were energized to continue learning our craft.

Now, three years down the road I’ve attended numerous workshops and classes, read as many books on the craft as I could, and feel I have a modest handle on things. Along the way I’ve found some excellent books on the writing craft; some of the best are listed below.

  • Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver: Hands down the best book on writing for the beginning writer.  Also an excellent book for any writer at any stage in their career. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this book for my first craft book, and just now as I was gathering books from around my house, I realized it’s time for a re-read. Cleaver breaks
    the writing process down into its most essential parts. It’s an easy read; he uses plenty of examples; exercises are included for each ‘lesson’ throughout the book. He covers every aspect of the writing process from story and plot, to rewriting, to unblocking, to the submission process.

  • The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, followed by his other two books, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Writing 21st Century Fiction. Donald Maass---ahhhh. A top literary agent and craft teacher extraordinaire, Maass has written some of the best books on the writing craft you will find. HOWEVER, you should have some of the basics in place, maybe by reading Immediate Fiction first. Like Cleaver, his books are filled with examples of everything he teaches, but he delves more deeply into the craft. Start with The Fire in Fiction!! I made the mistake of starting with the 21st Century book, and it was over my head. I needed his basics first, which are in the Fire book. I was very, very fortunate to get to attend a workshop given by Mr. Maass, and he is amazing. A multi-published writer acquaintance of mine is repped by Maass, and she says she reads The Fire in Fiction every time she’s about to begin writing a new book. It’s THAT good. I read Writing the Breakout Novel while reading a breakout novel and found the experience very educational. And recently I’ve started reading a snippet of Fire in Fiction each time I sit down to write, just to keep it fresh in my mind.

  • On Writing by Stephen King: It’s Stephen King, do I need to say more? First half memoir—wow, fascinating!—second half craft. Simply put, every writer should read this book! I’m going to cheat here and send you to my alter ego’s blog where I wrote an open letter to Mr. King after reading this book, and followed it by some of the lessons I learned from his book. My blog post here, if you want more info on this classic, must-read book.

  • Writing Irresistible Kidlit  by Mary Kole: Kole is a well known YA and MG literary agent (she was with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency for six years) who shares her writing wisdom in her book, as well as on her popular blog. Though many of the excellent lessons in this book can be applied to any form of writing, she targets her lessons to the YA and Middle Grade writers. Readable and accessible to any novice writer, I loved reading this book, and learned so much about the unique requirements of kidlit. Looking over this book again as I write this, I think this is another book that’s ready for a revisit.

  • Second Sight, An Editor’s Talks on Writing Revising & Publishing Books For Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein: Klein is the Executive Editor for Arthur A. Levine which is an imprint of Scholastic. She was the continuity editor for the last two Harry Potter books, and is the current editor for some of the best writers currently working in YA and MG literature. She frequently speaks on writing for children, teaches workshops, etc. and this book is a compilation of many of her talks. She’s pretty damned brilliant, and I think having the opportunity to get a glimpse into her insight just for the cost of a book is one not to be missed. I got to hear her speak on a panel not too long ago—and let me repeat: she’s pretty damned brilliant!

  • Steering the Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin: Like the Stephen King book, this one has become something of a classic. Storytelling craft is combined with some grammar lessons ala Strunk and White, and all mixed in with an airy and comfortable narrative. It’s like getting a chance to sit down with LeGuin and hear her talk about writing and all it means.

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: I’m currently reading this, after it was highly recommended at a recent conference I attended. The subtitle tells what this book is about: “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”. You aren’t going to learn so much how to write the next best seller, but you will hear about the life of a writer, the highs, the lows, the joys, and the tribulations, and everything in between. When I pick up this book I feel like I should first have a cup of tea sitting next to me, as I’m about to have a chat with a remarkable writer. This book is for your writer’s soul.

I hope you’ll find something from this list that will help you with your writing! Whether you are just starting out, or simply need a dose of encouragement to keep going, there’s a book here for you! (And NaNoWriMo writers—you might want to come back here the first week in December and find an excellent craft book to help you whip that 50,000 word MS into a masterpiece.) Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE by Maggie Stiefvater

“Are you still reading that book?” my husband asked on the fourth day that he saw me with Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Seeing me with the same book for more than a couple of days is an unusual event at our house, so this anomaly was note worthy.

“Duh, YES, it’s Maggie Stiefvater,” I said as if that answered all possible questions about this odd occurrence.

Maggie Stiefvater. Ahhh…I cannot read one of her books quickly. That would be like reading poetry rapidly. Or gulping fine wine. Some things are meant to be savored, slowly enjoyed so as to make the experience last. I have to read and reread sentences, passages, paragraphs to see how she’s woven her magic through her words. And it is MAGIC.

A little about Blue Lily, Lily Blue from GOODREADS:  (More from me after this synopsis)
There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in the four book series, The Raven Cycle. At its center are Blue Sargent and her unlikely best friends, boys from a local high-priced private boys’ prep school: Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Led by Gansey the five friends are on a search for a mythical lost king. The first book, The Raven Boys, whipped your head back and forth, front and back as one amazingly imaginative plot twist was laid on top of another. Oh, to be able to read that book again for a first time! The second book, The Dream Thieves, moved the story arc along while the reader got to know the characters better. And talk about clever, imaginative storylines. Wow.

This latest installment, Blue Lily, Lily Blue isn’t as much about story arc as it is about character arcs—though there is plenty of story here! I just felt that I was getting to know the characters in a new light, as they were also getting to know themselves and one another. And we have new characters!! Stiefvater has outdone even herself, (that’s a giant feat!) with two of her newest creations. One is decidedly evil, yet one of my all time favorite characters, sassy, smart, laugh-out-loud witty, blazingly clever. I wouldn’t mind reading a book dedicated to just this character.

Throughout the series, the five teens at the center of the story, have not only gotten to know one another better and become increasingly inseparable, but they have also discovered that their finding one another was destined—that their lives were connected long before they had even met. None can move forward without the others. This plays out beautifully at times in this book, and painfully at others.

Though the second book was about dreams, this book has a definite dream-like quality. It feels a lot like a fever nightmare, where you constantly question whether something is real or imagined or maybe a night terror. Nothing feels right, normal or as you expect it to. I found myself doubting my understanding of things. Stiefvater makes the reader feel just a little off kilter.

In other words, she has written magic.

If you are one of the two or three people on the planet who have not yet read Blue Lily, Lily Blue what’s keeping you?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

First, I’m going to tell you a secret.

Come closer. 



Especially things that could really happen. No. Thank. You.

I started reading The Naturals full of tension that I was never going to sleep again. And, there were a few nights that were touch and go. Once I was reading on my break at work (we have a “quiet room” and the lights are motion activated) and as I sat there reading a VERY creepy scene all the lights shut OFF and all I could do was scream. I’m sure security thought I was dying. But! Guess what? I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK!!! (Even the creepiest of the creepiest parts.)

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about it:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

It just gives me the chills thinking about it again. 

This book stuck with me for days…in fact I recommended it to a co-worker (who works nights) and she finished it in one shift at work, loved it soooo much she immediately put the next book on pre-order!

I highly recommend cracking open this cross between Criminal Minds and Pretty Little Liars!

Just make sure you have a night light!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Walk on the Spooky Side

HALLOWEEN WEEK! So it’s time for a little walk on the spooky side…

I have no idea why I decided to start reading Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour just before my husband had three business trips over the course of three weeks. When I’m home alone this big old house does a lot of settling and creaking, and things tend to go bump in the night. Reading a scary book at night when you’re alone in the house is not a good idea. Reading a book that puts frightening ideas in a mind that tends to have a fairly fertile imagination? Also not a great choice. Put the two together and you have a recipe for a haunting.

Let us recall, for a moment, how I’ve mentioned in this space that Stephen King terrifies me, and we can put the amazingly talented Anne Rice in that category too. However, when I read that one of YA author Tessa Gratton’s all time favorite books is The Witching Hour I knew I had to read it. My timing was just a little off…

A little background on The Witching Hour: There is an evil entity that does nasty things to people. It might also be able to manipulate objects and truly make things go bump in the night. As I tried to go to sleep on the night in question, after a good two hours of reading in bed, I was sure that there was some kind of entity in my house and it was going to do something during the night. Maybe just your basic minor destruction—I was fairly confident that it didn’t want to hurt me. (Yes, I was one of those kids who couldn’t go upstairs in the dark after watching something scary on the TV.)

But when I got up in the morning I saw that everything looked just as I had left it the night before.

Phew! Dodged that bullet. I didn’t, however, have any reason to go into the family room until later in the day. {cue scary Bach fugue type music}

What I found was my high school graduation picture lying on the floor, the glass shattered into a zillion pieces. It had sat on that shelf for years without deciding to fly off the shelf and flinging itself to the floor. Why now?

My reaction to this was exactly what you would expect of someone who was brought up to be a superstitious Irish Catholic girl. Seeing the picture and the broken glass freaked me just a little. Okay, there may have been a search for some holy water, and what kind of Catholic am I that I have none? A cross may have been placed on the shelf where the picture had sat. Just rational precautionary measures, you know.

And I was FINE a few days later when the St. Brigid’s cross I was wearing came unclasped and was lost in my shirt. I obviously didn’t clasp it properly. The fact that I’m rather OCD about making sure necklaces are clasped is irrelevant. Later in the day, home alone in the house, when I felt someone tug on the back of my sweatshirt, I was as calm as can be, as I knew it was just settling into place. For some reason, unknown to me. But, ghost? No. Certainly not.

My husband finally returned from that business trip! Yay! No more ghosty stuff, not with another person in the house. Shortly after he arrived home he asked me if I’d pushed aside a bunch of stuff on his desk. Huh? Of course not. Why would I do that?

And I know a ghost wouldn’t. Right.

My current theory is that my reading of The Witching Hour  opened some kind of ghosty portal, allowing my ghost entry to my home. Or that I have a mouse in the house. So, so, so prefer the idea of a ghost over vermin.

This I know for certain however: no more reading scary books when alone in the house. Oh, and I need to stock up on holy water. Duh.

 All images courtesy of http://www.webweaver.nu/