Spotlight on YALSA’s Nonfiction Award Finalists: Fiction Readalikes for The President Has Been Shot! by James L. Swanson
The 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist The President Has Been Shot! reconstructs in vivid detail the tragic events of November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, as well as the days leading up to the assassination and its aftermath. This narrative makes the reader feel like they were there, and will lead teens to want to know more about what life was like during that era.
Try the following novels for excellent fiction companions for Swanson’s account of that terrible day in US history. (The book summaries come from the publishers’ jacket copy.)
The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York. Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
In Okay For Now (companion book to The Wednesday Wars), Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that’s hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall. It’s 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn’t know how to deal with what’s going on in the world–no more than she knows with how to deal with what’s going on with her family and friends. But somehow she’s got to make it.
- My Name Is Not Easy by Debbie Dahl Edwardson (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011)
The dramatic events of the 1960s were felt by Americans everywhere, including students attending the Sacred Heart Boarding School in Alaska. When one of them, Luke, hears news of the assassination of Kennedy, the first Catholic president, it triggers fierce emotions that have nothing to do with religion or politics, and everything to do with irrevocable loss.
Luke knows his I’nupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. He knows he’ll have to leave it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School things are different. Instead of family, there are students – Eskimo, Indian, White – who line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. And instead of comforting words like tutu and maktak, there’s English. Speaking I’nupiaq – or any native language – is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader – if he doesn’t self destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. Each has their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School – and in the wider world – will never be the same
-2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee in collaboration with Hub blogger Diane Colson
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked your opinion on the coolest tattoo in YA lit. Four’s back tattoo’s from Divergent by Veronica Roth and Ronan’s tattoos from The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater tied for first place with 33% of the vote. Not far behind were the Shadowhunter runes from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books, with 28% of the vote.
We also got some great suggestions for other cool tattoos in YA lit through the comments on last week’s poll! Leslie mentioned Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Cassidy chimed in with Wes’ tattoo from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, Shari reminded us about Perry and Roar’s tattoos from Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, and Molly brought up Karou’s tattoos in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted and commented!
This week, we want to know what you think is the most intriguing, most suspenseful YA story about being the Witness Protection Program. There’s certainly a captivating mystique about this topic, so vote in the poll below, and be sure to comment if we’ve missed a good one!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
It is snowing at my library. It might be snowing at your library too. Even when I am not reading I like to imagine things. I wonder what people are doing other places. Sometimes I like to role play and suppose I am another person. If I were a teen and not a librarian, would I read the same books? Would I suggest the same books I suggest now? Below are suggestions of awesome teen fiction as recommended by young adult patrons.
Alex Rider series Book 5 Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz (Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
Beauty by Nancy Ohlin written as Nancy Butcher
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults – Zombie, Werewolves & Things With Wings)
Teenie by Christopher Grant (Perfect Get Away – Escapist Fiction for Spring Break)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Out With the Old, In With the New: Contemporary Fiction in the Classroom)
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (Happy Birthday, Jane Austen)
A Boy At War by Harry Mazer author of Please Somebody Tell Me Who I Am (2014 Popular Paperbacks – Conflicted: Life During Wartime)
Drama High series by L. Divine (2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
If you’ve read all of the books my teens suggested you can check out the previous posts in this series for more young adult favorites.
- What Teens are Saying About What They Are Reading
- More of What Teens are Saying About What They Are Reading
- What Teens Are Saying About What They Are Reading, vol. 3
- What Teens Are Saying About What They Are Reading, vol. 4
-Laura C Perenic, currently reading Black juice by Margo Lanagan. (2006 Printz Honor Book)
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!
I haven’t made any progress on the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge. As I mentioned Friday I was reading other stuff. I am in the middle of two challenge books right now though, which is progress right? I’ve started both Go and Sex and Violence so I am feeling a little bit more accomplished than normal since I tend to suck at reading challenges.
So how are you doing? Do we have any new signups? Any one finish yet? What are your favorites so far? Let me know in the comments and same me into reading more.
- Faythe Arredondo, currently reading Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
Instead of reading for the Morris/Non-Fiction Challenge, I was reading other books. Ooops. But one of the books I read spawned this month’s contemporary theme: parental abandonment. These books don’t necessarily address homelessness (Molly Wetta already tackled that subject), but teens that were left on their own by their parents for whatever reasons. I know there has to be more, so let me know in the comments! First up, the book that inspired this list:
Carey and her younger sister Janessa live in a broken down trailer in the woods. They don’t go to school, they don’t go into town much (if at all), and they are anxiously awaiting the return of their mother. Instead they are met with a stranger and someone who Carey recalls being her father. They have come to take the girls away since their mother has informed the state she is unable to take of them anymore. What seems like a nightmare to Carey is actually a blessing in disguise as she is forced to come to terms of what really happened in the woods and adjusts to living in civilization.
Taylor was abandoned by her mother at 11 at a 7/11 and was found by Hannah. Now, at 17, she is the leader of the boarders at Jellicoe School. Amidst the struggle of trying to keep the upper hand in a territory war at her school, Taylor has to deal with the disappearance of Hannah who was the adult she came to rely on. All that is left of Hannah is a manuscript that she had written. Taylor needs to find out more but this means she will have to confront her own story and find her own mother.
Felton has grown several inches, gained muscle, and discovered he is “stupid fast.” This leads to new attention from the jocks and the coaches. Felton has gone from being bullied to being popular. But Felton’s speed can’t help him escape from his past. His father is gone and his mother has all but abandoned him. She’s still there, but she can’t be bothered to talk to him or his brother, buy them food, or take care of them at all. Now Felton has to navigate his new world while trying to figure out what is happening at home.
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
All Ruby had to do was make it to her 18th birthday and she was literally free. She had been living on her own for a couple of months in a small house working and taking care of herself. She knew her mom wasn’t coming back. She wasn’t expecting her sister Cora to sweep in and set Ruby up in a life she could never imagine. A warm and loving home, private school, a promise of college, a sister who cares, a highly successful brother-in-law, and a nice boy next door. If she seemingly has everything, why is Ruby having such a hard time accepting and living her new life?
Faythe Arredondo, currently reading Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Here are some bookish tweets you might have missed this week.
- @susanecolasanti: Touching interview with @halseanderson on how THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY reflects her own life: http://shelf-life.ew.com/2014/01/07/laurie-halse-anderson-the-impossible-knife-of-memory/ … #lhatour
- @naturallysteph: Announcing: MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. Ally! David! Gayle! Holly! Jenny! Kelly! Kiersten! Laini! Matt! Myra! Rainbow! http://dft.ba/-7Icn
- @CBCBook: Love fairy tales? Love #comics? You’ll love this! http://bit.ly/KA1oGC More at @CBCBook‘s @Pinterest boards. @01FirstSecond
- @spkowalski: Scholastic declares January as “Get #BookFit” month. Will you take the pledge and help kids exercise their minds? http://bit.ly/BookFit
- @sljournal: Must-Read Middle School Book Club Novels │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go http://ow.ly/slQb2
- @harperteen: RT @AlysonNoel: It’s finally official-My new deal for my new YA series made Publisher’s Marketplace Deal of the Day! http://shrd.by/hLH3Cv
- @sljournal: Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists Announced — http://ow.ly/slkin Good Comics for Kids
- @bwkids: Read the first 7 chapters of @haleshannon‘s DANGEROUS for free NOW! http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-eSampler-Shannon-Hale-ebook/dp/B00GRXTFGO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389027300&sr=8-2&keywords=dangerous+shannon+hale …
- @JessicaBrody: ANNOUNCING! The very first Girls Gone Sci-Fi TOUR! Like our Page to find out more! http://ow.ly/skbRJ #GirsGoneSciFi
- @PWKidsBookshelf: 5 Hidden Messages in Children’s Books That Went Right Over Our Heads | PolicyMic http://pwne.ws/1bLKI4k
- @TLT16: More new #yalit titles for 2014 http://tmblr.co/Z2Ipfr13VV132
- @sljournal: The Givers: What It Takes to Serve On the Newbery, Caldecott Committees http://ow.ly/sjOfL
- @FierceReads: We’re so excited to share this video! Watch @lbardugo describe RUIN AND RISING in 6 words! http://tmblr.co/Z6g1Ix13V3e6H
- @FierceReads: Looking for something new to read? Try before you buy by downloading the first five chapters of our hottest titles. http://ow.ly/sfqKy
- @catagator: Stacked is back! Get Genrefied this month with our huge guide to YA short stories + massive short story reading list: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2014/01/get-genrefied-short-stories.html …
- @abbylibrarian: 2014 YA Fiction preview by the awesome @catagator! 60 titles to put on your radar: http://bit.ly/1aAXrao
- @4everYA: YA Movie News: FALLEN casting, THE MAZE RUNNER, new DIVERGENT stills and more! http://foreveryoungadult.com/2014/01/07/ya-movie-news-roundup-the-maze-runner-
- @sljournal: Tiger Eyes DVD is out today. Check out SLJ’s Q&A w/ Judy Blume re: film adaptation of her YA novel http://ow.ly/slFN7
- @HMHbooks:The most anticipated movie adaptations of 2014, including #WintersTale, #TheGiver, and @thehobbitmovie: http://ow.ly/sj47V
- @catagator: Revisiting the reductive approach to YA: contemporary YA, John Green, and generosity to YA readers http://www.stackedbooks.org/2014/01/the-reductive-approach-to-ya-revisited.html …
- @TLT16: Today kicks off @RobinReads Middle Grade Mondays series & she begins w/ @anneursu http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/01/middle-grade-monday-what-exactly-is-it.html?m=1 …
- @sljournal: YALSA Envisions the Future of Libraries, Teens http://ow.ly/sm8JR
- @librarified: New blog post: “Is There an Expiration Date in Teen Services?” http://ift.tt/1eiW96n
- @MundieMoms: Check out the new cover for @breedespain‘s THE SHADOW PRINCE & enter to win a signed hardcover http://readbree.com http://breedespain.tumblr.com
- @PitchDarkBooks: Enter the Robot Revolution Contest sponsored by FUGITIVE X by @GreggRosenblum! ––> http://www.pitchdark.com/blog/?p=1891 pic.twitter.com/QkmAyY09NN
- @HarperChildrens:Here’s a chance to win the OTHERWORLD CHRONICLES series for your #mglit reader –> http://bit.ly/198j5aZ
- @harperteen: Enter to win @andiamjulie’s fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality ––> http://shrd.by/dJ45Wf
- @jkbibliophile: #OperationVitro is underway! It’s the ultimate giveaway–EVERYONE who enters is guaranteed to win prizes!!! http://www.CorpusNetwork.com
- @HarperChildrens: Enter to win an ARC of ALMOST SUPER! Perfect for fans of Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES! ––> http://bit.ly/1c7M7Gy pic.twitter.com/44cluyl46V
Just for Fun
- @TLT16: #Sherlock program/party ideas including crafts like a Sherlock inspired silhouette http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/01/i-am-sherlocked-sherlock-programparty.html?m=1 …
- @TLT16: Doctor Who fans – my teens want to make sure you have seen this music video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQlBJYh2baw … @mselke @mz_christie
YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.
The original request
I am putting together a 1980s party for winter break and I want to have a book list or display to go along with it. Can you help me think of any books that really have to do with the 1980s? So far I have Eleanor and Park and Ready Player One. Thanks everyone!
- White Lines by Jennifer Banash
- Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
- Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty-Girl by Carolita Blythe
- The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
- Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
- Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
- Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
- Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem
- Scowler by Daniel Kraus
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
- Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
- Zero Fade by Chris Terry
- Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana (to be published June 2014)
- Princess Diana
- Michael Jackson
- Boy George
- Bill Cosby
- Valley Girl speak
- Rubik’s Cube
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Breakfast Club
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- Out of Africa
Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.
– Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
Here’s a personal story. Almost five years ago now I was just finishing up back-to-back stints on selection committees as a member of the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award committee and then the 2009 Robert F. Sibert Information Book Medal committee. It was a heady time, made slightly more mad by the arrival of a new baby (our first–this is important) right in the middle of the process. That summer I found myself sitting in Chicago at a dinner hosted by Scholastic, trying desperately to engage in articulate adult conversation while totally consumed by the thought of my tiny daughter being so far away (ok, back at the hotel) in addition to being really, really tired and mostly incoherent. I was seated next to a very interesting author whose name sounded so familiar–I was sure I had a book or two waiting for me at home in the stacks of titles I’d had to hold off on reading while I finished committee work. She was young and cool and her editor was so excited about her forthcoming book (which sounded awesome) that even my unfounded parental worry couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm.
Obviously that author was Maggie Stiefvater, and obviously being completely freaked out about being away from my (new) baby for so long meant that I didn’t take advantage of the moment to hit her up for some awkward dinner conversation or polite small talk, which is just sad. Mostly I remember (through new mother haze) being sort of jealously appalled that someone who could draw so well (I think she was doing it at the table) was there to be honored for her writing. (I should also note that Maggie’s editor is David Levithan, who was sitting across from me. Hello missed opportunity!)
Anyway, after the conference I went home and dug Lament out of a pile of books and felt very sad indeed, because it was Excellent and I was sitting right next to her and could have said so, had I been capable of thought and/or speech. And that was before The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys and all the rest. It was also before I fully realized the extent of Maggie Stiefvater’s ridiculous talent, so maybe it was for the best–I probably would have babbled. I mean, have you seen her book trailers?
Thank you, Maggie, for taking the time to answer my questions (especially the forty-point ones) and sorry for the terrible dinner conversation back in Chicago. I love your work.
Please describe your teenage self.
Sulky. Effervescent. Pugnacious. Push-over. Gloomy. Elated. Musical. Musical. Musical. I was a creature of opposites: black-hearted and belligerent or funny and warm — no one got both sides of me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The first thing I remembering wanting to be was a writer — books, especially, because books pleased me, and in my family, there was no difference between consuming a thing and making a thing. But I also wanted to be a screenwriter, because movies pleased me, and a cartoonist, because cartoons pleased me, and an animator, because animated movies pleased me, and a soundtrack composer and a pilot and a radio personality and a pastry chef and a rose breeder and — I wanted to be lots of things.
What were your high school years like?
Technically speaking, I had no high school years. I sort of had high school months, but those barely even counted. I was home-schooled from sixth grade on, and by the time I got to high school I was bored with it — school felt like practice for real life, and I’d wanted to start real life for a very long time. My high school books arrived and I just thought: no. I tested out of school (can you do that now? It sounds fishy) and went to college at age 16. That . . . was a thing.
I had a rather rough time with a lot of the men I encountered in positions of college power at the time, but I did have one history professor who was incredibly influential. I recall that in one of my classes, he gave me a B on a paper, and I marched into his office and hurled it on the desk and said “B!” He concurred. I spat, “Tell me anyone else in that class wrote a better paper than I did!” He said that he couldn’t. I said, “Then why!? Why did I get a B?” And he replied, “Because you could write a better paper.”
I’ve never forgotten that I’m only in competition with myself.
What were some of your passions during that time?
Um. Well. I was a competition bagpiper. I could probably tell you some of my other interests, but most people just stare after I say that.
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
The most difficult experience I had as a teen hit when I was 17 or 18 — I was suicidal. My family was great, school wasn’t difficult, I was working and managing my time well. But I looked at the adults around me and thought that I didn’t see a single one that I wanted to be when I grew up. I did, however, see a lot of people I didn’t want to be. So I just decided, logically, not to grow up. I know, I know.
I can’t tell you how much it moves me now when teens tell me they see me as a role model, or that they didn’t realize that adulthood could look like this, or that they didn’t know women could act like me.
What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
I’m not sure how I feel about going right from suicide to bagpiping, but I’m going for it. I was very involved in my college’s bagpipe band, and I also had several bands of my own — a Celtic band called Ballynoola and a classical quintet. We gigged across several states and recorded an album. We got into festivals along side seasoned acts and we were treated like adults, like we mattered, like we weren’t waiting for life to start: it had started.
What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened?
I would have said MAGGIE GO TO AUSTIN, TX, YOUR PEOPLE ARE WAITING FOR YOU THERE. No, no, that wouldn’t have worked. I would have laughed in my own face. Maybe this, then: MAGGIE YOU MAKE THE WORLD IN YOUR OWN IMAGE. Because really, I didn’t understand then that if I didn’t see the world I wanted around me, I could make myself a world that I wanted. I didn’t think one person could change anything. I didn’t realize that I could find people like me and fill my life with them.
Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
I have a strict no-regret policy.
What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
I had a really sweet dark-blue Volkswagen Jetta with a nice five-speed and helluva torque. I miss it.Every Day I Write the Book
Many of your books take inspiration from folklore and mythology, and you’ve talked elsewhere about your love of books that bring mythology into a contemporary setting. Setting aside the inherent awesomeness of the stories themselves, what is it about folklore and mythology that you find compelling or powerful in terms of your own work? What draws you to Celtic/Welsh tales in particular? Are there other tales or mythologies you’d like to tackle in the future?
I love mythology because it makes true things more true. While I was reading for The Raven Boys, I reread the Mabinogian — an old, weird collection of Welsh stories. In one of them, the Welsh king is a giant (this doesn’t seem to bother anyway). He leads his army after the Irish, but the Irish escape over a river and the Welsh are stuck watching the Irish taillights disappear. Not to worry! The Welsh king lay down across the river and his men rode their horses across his back, allowing them to continue pursuing the Irish. I like this story because it tidily shows the power of myth to make true things truer. It doesn’t matter what culture you come from, you immediately understand the point of the story: the Welsh king was larger than life (literally) and his army couldn’t pursue the Irish without his help (literally).
It’s what I hope the magic and myth does in my novels, too.
And why Celtic mythology? I grew up listening and playing Celtic music, reading those stories, and it feels like home to me. I have more than a little Scottish blood galloping through my veins, so maybe I can place the blame there.
One of the elements that really stands out for me in your writing is atmosphere—that combination of setting and feeling that–in your books, especially–is really visceral and haunting. You’ve said that “usually the reason why a book cries out for me to write it is because of a central mood or feeling; then plot and characters and theme wander in, generally in that order… I know what SORT of book I want to write, but not always what it’s about at first.” Do you remember the mood or feeling that sparked each of your books? Could you talk a little bit about how that initial feeling grows into “atmosphere” as you write and how the other elements—character, plot, theme, setting—play into that construction?
I would like you to be aware that this is a forty-point question.
Yes, I remember the mood of each book still — I usually have a song that I listen to over and over at the beginning of a novel, something that encompasses that mood. And when I feel I’ve wandered too far from my original purpose, I will play it again. I can still invoke early memories of writing Shiver by playing “The Ocean” by the Bravery.
So, if you google “Maggie Stiefvater character-driven” you get hundreds of hits, meaning that just about every blogger and reviewer and interviewer (include me) has used that phrase to characterize your work at some point. You yourself have also described your novels as “character-driven, which means reader satisfaction comes largely from seeing people change over the course of the novel.” I’m wondering, how do you build your characters? Do you start with a general idea of how each character is going to change over the course of the story or does that trajectory reveal itself along the way? Have any of your characters started life as a secondary and then grown into a protagonist or vice versa? Do you have favorites?
I think that probably you should come live in my house and whisper all of these nice things to me a nest I will build for you in the potted plant by my office desk.
It’s true that the characters are what I care about. I mean, I care about the other things, but as a reader, the characters are what I remember. Mostly, I just long to make my readers sick at heart that they will never meet my characters in real life. That’s my goal. Does that sound sinister? I mean it in the nicest possible way.
Now . . . how do I build my characters? I used to have a different answer for this. A writerly one. But now I am not sure how good of a writer I am at all. I think instead that I’m a very clever thief instead. A few books into my career, I realized that my best characters and settings were ones I’d stolen from life, and now that’s all I do. Every character starts life as someone I have met, and then I alter them according to my story’s need. When I feel like I’m running out of inspiration, I get a new hobby or take a trip or go construct an adventure so I can find people and places.
So there you go. I’m a stealer.
You make no secret of your various passions, which seem to include music, cars, art, and goats, and pushing past the line of casual interest or even strong enthusiasm (to a point where you buy a piano instead of a house, or learn to drive really fast race cars) appears to be one of your defining characteristics. Your interests often infuse your work either as details that flavor the story, elements of character development, or specific plot points (except maybe the goats?), but I’m wondering, in a more abstract way, how being such a fiercely passionate person impacts and influences your life creative life?
Confession: I just turned to my husband and said, “There is a hard question on this interview. Tell me how to answer it.” Then I read it to him. And then he laughed at me. Or maybe with me. But I’m pretty sure it was at me.
Man, I’m just not sure. I think my brain is on fire, maybe. Or maybe I killed my sense of fear and self-doubt — I think a lot of people want to do many things, but they let all kinds of logical and practical things stop them. Practical concerns aren’t the boss of me!
How does it influence my creative life? Sometimes I can’t tell if I am pursuing a hobby because it will be useful for my novel, or if I’m writing a novel about something because I love it as a hobby. All I know is that when I was that black-hearted, suicidal teen, I decided that I needed to be a hero in my own life. And that means never letting my curiosity die untended.
And of course I have to write about what I find, putting in some magic, of course, to make it more true.Just Can’t Get Enough
NOTE: Here is Elizabeth’s question in full, and Maggie’s generous answer(s)!
Question from Elizabeth Wein for Maggie Steifvater: I’m going to give her a choice, if that’s ok! I’ve got a rather literary question and also one that she might find more fun.
1) This question is inspired by my 16-year-old daughter, who has in fact read a greater selection of Maggie Stiefvater’s life work than I have. Sara’s observation is that “Shiver is easy to read, like The Hunger Games or Divergent. The Raven Cycle is almost difficult, it reminds me of The Owl Service [by Alan Garner] with its tone and content. You can’t really skip past bits.” Many readers seem to agree that The Scorpio Races was a turning point for Maggie’s writing in terms of style. My question for Maggie would be, do you feel that your writing style has consciously changed over the course of your career? If so, what is driving the shift—experimentation, literary ambition, your own reading habits, or something else entirely? If the shift isn’t conscious, what do you think is going on to make it noticeable to teen readers?
All of these forty point questions. The Scorpio Races is the very first novel I wrote knowing that I was a better thief than creator — so the people are real people that I co-opted for the novel, and the places are real places that I visited and glued together to become the island of Thisby. It’s also the first novel where I completely embraced the idea that if I wrote something I loved, no matter how strange, it would find an audience. Also, I’m just getting better, I hope. I’m always trying to find better ways to make people feel.
I am curious, I have to admit, if readers will be able to see a marked difference in Sinner, the companion novel to the Shiver Trilogy. I wrote it this summer, three years after I wrote Forever. I want it to be compulsively readable, like Shiver, but I also tried to use all of the tools I’ve picked up in the past few years.
2) Is your racing car obsession ever going to drive a novel for you?
Well, there are quite a lot of exhaust fumes in The Dream Thieves already. But I do contemplate writing a car screenplay . . .
(Elizabeth says: My daughter also sent me a ton more questions for Maggie, which might make her laugh):
When is the sequel to The Dream Thieves coming out?
Fall. 2014. Assuming terrible things do not happen.
Does she love me since I made her laugh with my Twape?
Yes. We’re best friends, actually. I can’t believe you haven’t sent me a mix tape yet.
Does she know anything about the Raven Boys movie?
I do. But the things I know, I’m not telling. Yet.
Has she read Rose Under Fire and what did she like about Code Name Verity?
I loved the characters in Code Name Verity, because they felt like real people. I confess I haven’t read Rose Under Fire because it was sent to me as a file instead of a book (this was my fault, and I will accept all blame), and I despise reading on my computer since I write on it all day. Now I’ve been lazy about it for so long that I’ve asked for a real copy of it for Christmas. Would you like to see my list for proof? It is right under “Yellow Electric Guitar,” and right above “Black Dodge Viper.”
Is she a cat or dog person?
I like cats who act like dogs and dogs who act like cats. Mostly I like all animals that seem to like me.
Maggie has contributed a question for the next author in the series, A.S. King. Watch for an interview with her in a couple of weeks!
Professional novelist by day and artist by night, Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the Books of Faerie (Lament, a 2010 YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and a 2010 Quick Pick, and Ballad) and the bestselling, multi-starred Shiver trilogy (Shiver, Linger, Forever) as well as The Scorpio Races, which received five starred reviews and was named a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association. The first two books in the Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys and Dream Thieves, have also received multiple starred reviews and Publisher’s Weekly selected The Raven Boys as a Best Book of the Year. Maggie’s contribution to the Spirit Animals series, Spirit Animals Book 2: Hunted, was released this week and Sinner, a companion novel to the Shiver Trilogy, will be published July 2014.
About herself Maggie says: “After a tumultuous past as a history major, calligraphy instructor, wedding musician, technical editor, and equestrian artist, I’m now a full-time writer living in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, four neurotic dogs who fart recreationally, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki. I’m also an award-winning colored pencil artist, play several musical instruments (most infamously, the bagpipes), and an ex-Navy brat. I recently acquired a race car.”
–Julie Bartel, currently reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane
In December I first blogged about heightening your reading experience by concocting a “bookish brew,” a beverage inspired by the book that you’re into at the moment. Today, in honor of yesterday’s release of Lissa Price’s Enders, I thought I’d share a drink recipe that I created in the spirit of her Starters (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers), the first book in this duology and one of my favorite reads.
In Starters, sixteen-year-old Callie lives in a futuristic Los Angeles in which everyone is either under age 20 or over age 60. A fatal spore illness has killed all those in the age range in between. Callie, her ill young brother Tyler, and her friend Michael are attempting to survive together by living in abandoned buildings, trying to avoid being sent to a prison-like institution for parentless children. Desperate to help Tyler, Callie decides to sign up to rent her body out to seniors who will take control of her mind, living as youth again for a short period. In return Callie is promised a very large sum of money. During Callie’s third “rental,” however, she experiences periods where she is back in her own mind, learning that her current renter may plan to use her body to kill someone. This initiates an action-packed series of events in which Callie learns more about her renter’s motivations and the plans of Prime Destinations, the company which she’s allowed to loan out her body. Fans of the Hunger Games trilogy will love Starters, another great dystopian read about a strong and compassionate female lead taking a stand in a society divided between haves and have-nots.
Price has also written some eBook-only short stories to accompany the duology. These are Portrait of a Starter (told from Michael’s point of view), Portrait of a Donor (Briona’s point of view) and Portrait of a Marshal. They’re available through online retailers and some libraries’ online collections.
As I mentioned in my December post, I generally think that the best bookish brews are inspired by the simplest elements: a book’s setting and main character, and the ingredients that these suggest. With Starters, however, I felt that the right drink was even more obvious than this, especially for a sweets lover like me. I felt compelled to create my own liquid version of the “Supertruffle,” the supremely decadent treat consumed by the rich in the novel. Inspired by the excess of the “Supertruffle” if not its exact ingredients, I do hope that the Supertruffle Sipper takes over your powers of reasoning for a moment, much like Prime Destinations takes over Callie’s mind… yet in a much more delicious and non-sinister way of course.
The Supertruffle Sipper
Makes 1 serving
- 1 cup whole milk (or 2% if you must)
- Small block of chocolate
- 2 tbsp. of the richest cocoa powder that you can find
- 1/4 cup marshmallow crème
- 1-2 tbsp. peanut butter or other nut butter
- whipped cream
- On the stove top, bring milk to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slivers from the chocolate block.
- Once the milk is simmering, pour it into a mug and mix in cocoa powder.
- Add marshmallow crème and nut butter and whisk everything together.
- Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
More book-inspired beverages to come! In the meantime, have you concocted any bookish brews that you’d like to share with us and your fellow Hub readers?
-Anna Dalin, currently reading Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Travis sits in the old wood cabin built by his great-great-great grandfather Eli, holding the guitar built with Eli’s own hands. His heart is broken. Travis’s mother is hospitalized after a serious car accident, and his father has nearly lost his own mind with grief. Minutes before, Travis’s father had been ready to smash the old guitar against the wall. Now, cradled in Travis’s hands, the guitar vibrates with the spirit of years long past.
It was Travis’s mother who could really play. She knew all the old gospel songs, tunes that Travis knows down in his bones. Sitting in the lonely cabin, Travis begins to play and sing.
Sometimes I feel Like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel Like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel Like a motherless child.
A long way from home.
A long way from home.
Motherless Child is a powerful Negro spiritual that once expressed the grief of slaves separated from their homeland, sold apart from their family, and shorn of human respect. The slow, beautiful tune voices a plaintive cry that comes from our most helpless selves, granting emotional release in its simple repetition.
The song has been recorded many, many times, by artists ranging from Billie Holliday to Prince. My favorite version is sung by Odetta (Holmes,) who performed it on April 8, 1960, at Carnegie Hall.
-Diane Colson, currently listening to The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, read by Gretchen Mol
With most of the United States facing the coldest winter seen in years, we here at the Hub thought it might be fun to distract you, and ourselves, with thoughts of the upcoming Spring! Sunshine, warmer days, new flowers, and, of course, great new book releases. *Happy sigh*
As you can probably guess, most of us are continuously scouring the internet for news about up and coming releases. Checking dates for the next book in a beloved series, “oooohing” over a newly revealed book cover, and of course adding more and more books to our never ending “to be read” lists. If you do the same, here’s another opportunity to add some great books that will be coming out before June.
As you can see, even from just this sampling of our bloggers, there are some great books coming out this Spring! We fervently hope that you’re cozied up somewhere frantically writing titles down for future nabbing. Stay warm, my fellow book lovers, and keep your eyes peeled for sunnier days.
- Jessica Miller, currently reading Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore and Fevercrumb by Philip Reeve.
Spotlight on YALSA’s Nonfiction Award Finalists: Fiction Readalikes for The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
In 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, author Neal Bascomb recounts the heart-pounding search for a man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands during the Holocaust, and explores the aftermath of that horrific time. If you’re riveted by this compelling true life narrative, try the following novels that also deal with the Holocaust and its aftermath.
(The following book summaries are from the publishers’ jacket copy.)
When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her? (Companion novel to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity)
- Real Time by Pnina Kass (Best Books for Young Adults 2006; Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2007)
A newscaster . . .
Minute by minute, hour by hour, these lives and many others unfold—and then intersect in one violent moment on a highway outside Jerusalem. Each is drastically and irrevocably changed. What do secrets, hopes, dreams, and future plans mean after such a catastrophe? Can what was destroyed be made whole again?
Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked which winter 2014 sequel you’re most looking forward to reading. With twenty titles to choose from, it was a tough call! Cress by Marissa Meyer took the lead with 34% of the vote, followed by Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, which garnered 21% of the vote. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab wasn’t far behind with 18% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks very much to all of you who voted!
This week, we want to know what you think is the coolest tattoo in YA lit. Vote in the poll below, and be sure to comment if we’ve missed your favorite!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Since the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887, Holmes has captured the imagination of readers– so much so that when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle initially killed him off, readers clamored for more, eventually convincing him to resurrect the character. In modern day, Holmes’ popularity has remained high, with many books including either the detective himself or references to him, not to mention a recent movie series that reimagined Sherlock in a more steampunk inspired setting and two currently-airing television shows bringing Holmes and Watson into modern day.
Though it is never mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, many Sherlock scholars and fans have placed his birthday on January 6th. In celebration of this date and the fact that the early Sherlock stories were declared to be in the Public Domain in the U.S. just recently, this post collects some books that build on the Sherlock mythology directly and others that are not directly related, but will nevertheless captivate fans of Sherlock’s adventures.
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane – The first in a series of books about Sherlock Holmes’ teenage years, this books takes place during a summer break that he spends with relatives in the countryside. Set in 1868, the story introduces readers to a much younger Sherlock in an attempt to explain how he came to be the man in Doyle’s stories. This book covers his first investigation into a plague that seems to be sweeping through the town in which his relatives live. While the story takes place well before Holmes meets Watson, his brother Mycroft makes an appearance in this and later books in the series and there are many references to Doyle’s works throughout. If you enjoy this first book, there are five more in the series, Rebel Fire, Black Ice, Fire Storm, Snake Bite, and Knife Edge.
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier – When Dora discovers that Sherlock Holmes might be her father, she strikes off for London to find him and convince him to help her solve a mystery. Upon arrival, she learns that he has died, but rather than let this stop her, she decides to team up with another young detective to solve the crime herself. This is a fun mystery set on the periphery of Holmes’ world that will entertain those who want to move beyond the characters that Doyle created.
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason – This is another series that is built on characters related to Holmes, in this case his niece, who teams up with Bram Stoker’s daughter to investigate a mystery in London society. Combining elements of mystery, fantasy and steampunk, The Clockwork Scarab will appeal to a wide range of readers and is the first in an intended series. It is likely to particularly appeal to fans of the recent movie adaptation of Sherlock Holmes as it shares a steampunk sensibility.
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress – Another option for steampunk fans who are willing to move beyond the world of Sherlock Holmes to other mysteries is The Friday Society. Set in a steampunk version of Victorian London, this book follows three girls- a lab assistant, magician’s assistant, and a Japanese martial arts expert- who combine forces to solve a mystery. The book is light and action packed, perfect for those who are looking for a mystery romp and particularly those who enjoyed the recent Sherlock Holmes movies.
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha – Though completely unrelated to Sherlock Holmes, this is a story in a similar vein set in a steampunk version of New York City. Carver Young, a teenage orphan who is learning to be a sleuth, is convinced that recent serial killings in the city are the work of Jack the Ripper. He sets out to prove his theory with the help of his friends and, periodically, his mentor. The setting and the style of story will appeal to fans of Andrew Lane’s series, Sherlock Holmes and mysteries more generally.
Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin – While this one won’t be released until the spring, Sherlock Holmes fans will want to be on the lookout for it. With his father incapacitated, Darkus Knightley has been trying to take over his job as a private investigator. Just like Sherlock Holmes, he assists Scotland Yard with cases and has a penchant for tweeds. The story combines action and mystery, and I personally am looking forward to checking it out.
Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz – If you are interested in a modern-day story about a high school student who idolizes Sherlock Holmes, look no further than Colin Fischer. This fun mystery is told from Colin’s point of view. As a teen with Asperger’s syndrome coping with his first days of high school, Colin feels out of place and adrift. Unlike his classmates, he actually feels more in his element after a gun goes off in the cafeteria, giving him a chance to use his observational and investigative skills to clear the name of one of his classmates and to find out who actually brought the gun to school. Colin is a worthy successor to Sherlock and a great option for those looking for a more modern sleuth.
I hope you’ll find something on this list to keep you entertained once you’ve finished the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Let me know in the comments if I have missed any other great options!
- Carli Spina, currently reading Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!
This year will be my first participating in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge, so I was excited to see the lists when they were released. While I must confess that I have only just started in on the books since the holidays, the lists have a little something for everyone, making them a great way to start the year. It will make my reading for January very diverse and I can’t wait to see what my favorites are.
So, follow my example and join the challenge even if you haven’t gotten started yet; you have until January 27th to finish up! Or, if you are already well on the way to completing the challenge, leave a comment and let us know how you feel about what you have read so far. And, for those of you who have already completed the challenge, be sure to fill out the form below.
- Carli Spina, currently reading Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Are you feeling kind of down in the dumps? Not feeling like your normal, awesome, powerful self? I know I’m not – this time of the year with night starting when it should still be day, I just don’t feel like I could confidently save the world, fight crime or even cause a little mischief to keep that pesky Batman on his toes. What we need this time of the year are books that show us someone who’s willing to put in the long hours, patrolling the streets – someone who’s tough, smart, feisty – someone we can count on and look up to during those long dark nights. Lucky for us fatigued readers of the world, there are a multitude of awesome comics that feature some seriously awesome superheroes (and villains) that will wake up your senses and inspire you. How could you read these stories of some serious kick-butt action and not want to get back to be all that you can be in this hectic dark and cold winter season. Let’s start with the ladies! And don’t worry, gents…I’ll get back to you in a future post!
Wonder Woman: Blood by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang: If you haven’t read Wonder Woman in a while, now’s the time to revisit the warrior princess, Diana. With the reboot of DC’s entire universe, readers can start fresh with this first volume of Wonder Woman’s adventures on Earth and beyond. When all the Gods of Olympus, and I mean everybody – Apollo, Hera, Hermes and more – set their sights on a child born to a mortal, Wonder Woman’s wondering, what’s up? She needs to find out why this child has attracted so much attention while keeping the Gods at bay, and oh, yeah – there’s a three headed dog and some weird, huge octopus creature that she has to fight to keep the baby safe. Plus, the big secret reveal at the end will get you wondering what other secrets the Gods are keeping. (a 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection)
Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy & Emma Rios: Meet Carol Danvers – she’s had a lot of aliases over the years – Ms. Marvel, Warbird, Avenger – but my favorite is who she is now, and that’s Captain Marvel. She’s also an ace pilot, so when she accidentally time travels to the past, she thinks she’s made a huge mistake. Nope – she realizes that as an Avenger, if there’s trouble on planet Earth (and even in space, but we’ll get to that another time), she’s the perfect solution to the problem– even if it is 1943. But, by helping the all-ladies (also awesome) squadron, will she end up changing history? Not only does this book have a great story for readers, it’s beautifully illustrated and colored, too!
And, now…we get to the Bat section of my post, which, if I’m talking about comics, I’ll find some way to get some Batman content in there one way or the other!
Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone & Ardian Syaf: Three years ago, Barbara Gordon was Batgirl – flying high (literally) and helping Batman keep the Gotham streets safe and secure. But, in a horrific act of violence by the Joker, she was paralyzed from the waist down. She soon morphed into something even more powerful – Oracle – who guided Batman night after night with information that certainly saved him more than once. Now, with the DC reboot, Barbara can walk again, and she has taken up the mantle of Batgirl once more. And, just in time, it seems – someone who calls himself “Mirror” has decided that those who survived a life or death situation really shouldn’t have. He’s got a list that no one can survive, and unfortunately, both Barbara Gordon and Batgirl are on the list. Written by Gail Simone, the awesome lady who knows Batgirl the best, this book is full of hope and some awesome Batty behavior. (a 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection)
Catwoman: the Dark End of the Street by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred & Cameron Stewart: This is really the best Catwoman ever (except for the ’66 Batman’s Julie Newmar, but let’s not split hairs) – she’s funny, tough, smart and ready to tangle with Batman anytime he’s around. In this case, there’s a serial killer roaming Gotham, and Catwoman’s not about to let him prey on any more women in her city. She might be a cat burglar, and usually on the wrong side of the law, but she knows this town, these streets, and if there’s anyone that can help Batman stop this lunatic, it’s Catwoman. But, don’t even think that suddenly she and Batman are on the same side, she’ll still take from the rich and enjoy the fruits of her labor, thank you very much.
Batman: Harley Quinn by Paul Dini, Yvel Guichet & Aaron Sowd: Once upon a time, well, in the early 90’s, there was a Batman Animated Series that was awesome and funny and innovative. So, innovative, in fact, that one of the writers for that show, Paul Dini, actually created a new character for the Bat universe that had never existed before. Viewers loved her so much and her relationship with her “Mistah J” that DC wrote her into the comics. Thus, Paul wrote a comic just for her where she tangles with Poison Ivy, the Joker, Penguin, Batman – all of ‘em. For a little comic relief on those dark nights, Harley Quinn, formerly known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, will keep readers in stitches with her crazy antics, undeniable love for the Joker (wut?!), and her extreme annoyance with the Batman. Cartoony, fun goodness!
All in all, there’s no need to feel sad and lethargic during these winter months. Whether you want time travel adventure, hilarious hijinks, a noir murder mystery or a story that has a character that looks like his head is a candle (that would be the Wonder Woman one); these wonderful women of DC and Marvel will keep you covered until the dog days of summer are here.
–Traci Glass, currently reading Bad Machinery: the Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison
Since debuting in the UK three seasons ago, Downton Abbey has become a worldwide phenomenon. It combines great characters, a compelling plot and a fascinating historical setting to make for an addictive viewing experience that has captivated audiences of a wide range of nationalities and age groups. Now that Season 4 is about to start airing in the U.S., I know I am excited to see what is in store for all of my favorite residents of the Abbey. If you are like me and Downton Abbey has sparked your interest in the history of this time period more generally, get in the mood for Season 4 (or tide yourself over between episodes) with one of these books.
Downton fans who have fallen in love with the English manor house setting will find plenty of options to keep them busy. Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame is one such option. It follows the Darlingtons, an upper class British family, and their staff as they all struggle to keep their secrets private even as their lives become the thinly veiled fodder for a new newspaper column.
Set in 1926 in London, The Heiresses by Allison Rushby is a New Adult novel that follows triplets who were separated at birth. Never knowing that they had sisters or that they were kept from inheriting their mother’s fortune, each of the girls is tested by the temptations of the big city, their struggles to come together as a family, and the uphill legal battle that they face to regain control of their inheritance.
Manga enthusiasts will definitely want to track down Emma by Kaoru Mori, which made YALSA’s 2008 Great Graphic Novels list. The ten volume series is set a bit before the time period of Downton Abbey, in the late 19th century and follows a maid named Emma as she works at a grand mansion in York and falls in love with the eldest son of an upper middle class family.
A couple new books in this genre are also scheduled for release while Season 4 is airing. Next week, Diamonds & Deceit by Leila Rasheed picks up where Cinders & Sapphires left off. Somerton is at risk due to the family’s dire financial situation, Ada is moving forward with both her engagement and her education and former valet Oliver is facing murder charges for a crime he didn’t commit. Filled with just as much romance, intrigue and excitement as Downton Abbey itself, this series will definitely be a hit with those who love to get caught up in the Crawley family’s machinations.
At the end of January, Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore, author of Gilt and Tarnish, will be released. The book is set in England in 1911 and follows Lady Charlotte Edmonds, the teenage daughter of the family that owns the manor, and Janie Seward, one of the house’s kitchen maids. Though they have very different lives, neither is happy with their lot in life and each is struggling to break out of the roles into which society has forced them. Coming from a popular author of young adult historical novels, this one is bound to be a very compelling read.
If you are interested in reading more books set in the 1920s and are willing to look beyond the shores of the United Kingdom, there are several books during this period in the U.S. Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (also the author of the Sommerset Abbey trilogy under the name T.J. Brown, which is another great Downton readalike) is set in the world of magicians and illusionists in New York City. The protagonist is a young illusionist named Anna whose great secret is that unlike the other mentalists around her, she actually has the power to see the future. This story is a perfect mix of magic, fantasy and history for those who love both fantasy novels and historical fiction.
Those with a penchant for more realistic fiction might prefer the Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen or The Flappers series by Jillian Larkin, both of which are set in the Jazz Age (in New York City and Chicago respectively) and follow flappers and their social set as they encounter romance, adventure and the dawning of a new age. For more on these and other Jazz era reads, check out Mia Cabana’s Jazz Party for the Books post.
Fans of nonfiction also have plenty of options to learn more about the show and England during this time period. Lady Fiona Carnarvon of Highclere, the estate where Downton Abbey is filmed, has written a second book, Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey, which is a nonfiction account of an American woman who married into the family who owned Highclere and lived there during the 1920s and 1930s.
If you are more interested in learning about how the cast and crew of the show brings this world to life, you’ll definitely want to check out Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma Rowley, which focuses on every production detail of Season 4 of Downton Abbey. With sections on the set, wardrobe, props and makeup, it will tell you exactly what is required to take television audiences back in time to England in the 1920s.
Knitters who enjoy the fashion of the show may want to try out the patterns in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits, a special issue of PieceWork magazine, which is really more of a book on how to recreate articles of clothing from the time period. The book includes numerous patterns for both clothing and accessories as well as background information on the fashion of the show. If you are interested in moving beyond knit garments, you might also want to check out Andover Fabrics’ new collection of licensed Downton Abbey fabrics.
If humor is more your speed, you might want to check out Downton Tabby by Chris Kelly, which imagines a world where the Abbey is populated entirely by cats. Kelly manages to find a surprising amount of overlap between the behavior of the Crawley family and house cats. If you aren’t a cat fan, you can try Mouseton Abbey by Nick Page instead, which is a picture book about a family of mice and their mouse servants (all named for types of cheese), who live in a regal estate.
If these aren’t quite enough to get you through the season, check out our previous posts for more Downton Abbey readalikes. And, I would love to hear about any other books you would recommend for Downton fans in the comments!
-Carli Spina, currently reading Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
Happy New Year! Twitter has been relaxing over the holidays too it seems, but here are some things you may have missed.
Contests and Giveaways
- Did you miss it? Cover Reveal: Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither + Giveaway (US/Canada) @SimonTeen http://ow.ly/s9nty
- Blogoversary Giveaway! Istyria book blog is 1 year old! Check this out on Istyria book blog: http://istyriabookblog.com/blogoversary-giveaway/ …
- Enter our End of the Year Giveaway for a chance to win 1 of 28 books! Open internationally! http://www.yareads.com/end-of-the-year-giveaway-2/contests/12158 …
News and Events
- Wonderful choice for our new Young People’s literature ambassador . . . http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/books/kate-dicamillo-to-be-ambassador-of-young-peoples-literature.html?_r=0 …
Just For Fun
- . @EpicReads has an awesome round-up of new years resolutions from @harperteen authors –> http://www.epicreads.com/blog/new-years-resolutions-from-epic-ya-authors/ …
- 2014 YA Predictions http://storify.com/LizzB/2014-ya-predictions … via @lizb
- Whitney Etchison, currently reading The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Three years earlier, Willem spent one day with a girl he called Lulu, because she had a “passing resemblance to Louise Brooks.” Now he realizes he should never have let her go. Driven by yearning, Willem takes off from his native Amsterdam to find Lulu. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know her real first name or her last name. Willem does recall that Lulu talked about spending the winter holidays in a resort that looked like a Mayan temple. Following a desperate hunch, he finds himself spending New Year’s Day in Cancun, Mexico.
Weary from the wandering and fruitless search, Willem takes a solitary swim in the sea. From the shore, he can hear someone strumming Stairway to Heaven. It’s a lovely scene: The moon on the water, the music wafting in from the shore, and the sweet warmth of the tropical air. But Willem is alone in a world that seems far too large to search out his one special person.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin is one of the most beautiful rock songs of the 1970s. Composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant , the song begins with a slow, lovely melody and evolves into a rock symphony that soars with Page’s guitar riffs (played 0n a double-neck Gibson) and Plant’s soulful, screaming vocals. The video recording below is from Zeppelin’s concert film, The Song Remains the Same. This segment was recorded in Madison Square Garden in 1973.
Diane Colson, currently reading Sex and Violence: a novel by Carrie Mesrobian.
It’s National Science Fiction Day! A day to pause and give thanks for the genre that offers us an infinity of futures to inhabit, if only for the space of a novel. It’s also the time of year when I like to ponder why I find science fiction so captivating. Like many fans, it’s partly because I love immersing myself in a sense of possibility: these are civilizations that could happen, interstellar events that may well unfold, alien life yet to be encountered, worlds upon worlds waiting to be discovered (or explored or exploited or misunderstood). However, I think my great love for this genre largely lies in its ability to reframe how I perceive the world. Reading the great sci-fi classics in high school introduced me to an astonishing array of philosophical concepts and conundrums that shook up my belief systems. Modern sci-fi continues to do the same for me some twenty years later. So, in honor of National Science Fiction Day, here are five titles that will change the way you see the world.
Let me begin with Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation Trilogy, a particularly apt pick given that National Science Fiction Day falls on his chosen birthday. The series won the Hugo Award for best all-time series (deservedly so) and is inspired by Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. What sets the trilogy apart from so many other series is the scope of its ambition. Asimov writes of the decline of the Galactic Empire and the forces at play to preserve its knowledge and help bring about the rise of another empire. Sound dry? It’s not! You’ll be swept up by the fascinating ebb and flow of power and politics and by the series end, be asking yourself profound questions about history, the human condition, and the cyclical nature of civilizations.
Ursula K. LeGuin’s (2004 Margaret A. Edwards Award) entire canon could rightly be included in this post as she excels in mind-bending narratives. However, it’s her Hugo and Nebula-award winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness that has most stayed with me over the years. This book was my first foray into feminist sci-fi and completely transformed how I understood gender and love. The novel is narrated by an envoy from the League of Worlds, Genly Ai, seeking to persuade the citizens of the planet Winter to join their League. His experiences on the planet are affected by his difficulties understanding the gender roles and sexuality of a people who are hermaphroditic. His relationship with the former Prime Minister, Estraven, in particular forms the basis of the story and provides one of the most beautiful ending scenes in science fiction.
Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim (a 2007 Hugo Award nominee) is a meditation on faith, science, and ultimately compassion. A first contact story set in the 14th century at the height of the Black Death, it is an unusual combination of historical fiction, philosophy, science fiction, and theology. The novel centers on Dietrich, a Christian priest, who attempts to care for and aid a group of aliens who have crash-landed in the woods near his village. The novel is intriguing on multiple levels, in part because unlike most first contact stories, this happens in a past devoid of modern technology and science and the means to understand it. The addition of Christian faith and the attempts to convert the aliens makes the book all the more interesting and will cause you to reconsider when and how humans and aliens might actually interact.
China Mieville’s books are unfailingly riveting, from his noir-inspired tale The City & The City to Railsea, his young adult retelling of Moby Dick. His 2011 Locus Award-winning book Embassytown is as enthralling as his other books while also daring readers to reexamine their views of language. The book relates the story of Avice Cho who has returned to Arieka, a planet home to humans, extra-terrestrials, and Hosts (the indigenous species of the planet). The Hosts speak a language that only a handful of altered human Ambassdors can speak and the introduction of a new Ambassdor brings about devastating changes for all the inhabitants of Arieka. Mieville’s exploration of linguistics and how language defines us is both engrossing and challenging. Bonus points for the depiction of an alien race that actually reads as completely alien (a difficult feat)!
I’ll end with a book much beloved by many, Madeleine L’Engle’s (1998 Margaret A. Edwards Award) Wrinkle in Time. The story of Meg Murray, her brother Charles, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe as they search for her missing father throughout the universe is a mind-boggling read for young people past and present. It forever changed my understanding of space and time and introduced a female scientist (Meg’s mom, the first I had encountered). And who can forget the concept of a two-dimensional world? Or better yet a tesseract? This ode to non-conformity, intelligence, and the power of love is both uplifting and thought-provoking…a must read if you’ve somehow missed it.
The immensity of science fiction’s conceivable futures is both exhilarating and bittersweet as a reader. Exhilarating because the scope of the human imagination is dizzying and allows us readers to revel in worlds both breathtaking and believable. Bittersweet, because the thought of sights unseen tugs at the soul, a forward-flung regret for futures we’ll never know. It is this combination of vastness and intimacy, the allure of worlds just out of reach, and sci-fi’s ability to alter our minds and our hearts that makes it a genre worthy of a day of celebration. That said, close your computers, grab some science fiction and start reading (and let me know what science fiction has shaped your personal universe)!
p.s. Looking for other paradigm-shifting novels? Check out the works of Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Connie Willis to name but a few.
-Alegria Barclay, currently devouring Lexicon by Max Barry