Monday, March 23, 2015

Come Join the YA Scavenger Hunt!

I'm so excited to be participating in this year's YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

There will be EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I will be joining the GOLD TEAM--but there are seven others, and you can participate in all of them for a chance to win books!

The Hunt will begin at 12 NOON Pacific time on Thursday, April 2nd and ends at noon on April 5th.  I'll be posting exclusive content from BRAZEN on another author's site and giving away special additional prizes right here, so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Favorite Banned Books as a Teenager

I originally posted this blog with the YA Muses in September of 2010.  Of course, much of it remains true today, except that my dad passed away two years ago, and I can no longer call on him to recommend challenging books to me.  Now it's my job to do the same for my teenager.

On my first day of Sophomore AP English, I brought home the extracurricular reading list.  I had chosen the “new” teacher – young, foreign, different.  She had big ideas.  Eccentric tastes.  Expansive theories.

My dad grew up in the deep South in the 1940s and 50s amongst people who had fixed opinions and a strong sense of tradition.  People who didn't question their faith or the government.

My dad took a long look at that list.  Graham Greene.  Ernest Hemingway.  Kurt Vonnegut.  John Steinbeck.  Ken Kesey.  William Golding. J.D. Salinger.  Anthony Burgess.

He sighed.

“I loved these books,” he said.  And showed me his favorites.

In honor of Banned Books week and in honor of my dad (on whose opinion I still pick up certain titles), I’d like to share a few of those books with you.   I read them in high school.  The “classics” were my books of choice.  They, and my parents, made me who I am.  The reader.  The writer.  The person.  All of these have been banned or challenged at one time or another.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.  Burned by the Nazis.  Banned by the Italians for its accurate portrayal of the retreat from Caporetto.  Challenged for being a “sex novel”.  This was my favorite Hemingway.  A brilliant love story.  Tragic.  I may have thrown it across the room when I finished it, though.  I was a little volatile as a teenager.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  Banned and challenged for language, promoting criminal activity and “secular humanism”.  Quite possibly one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read (another one that hit the wall when I read the final page).  I read it on my dad’s solid recommendation.  Then we watched the movie together.  Jack Nicholson rocks.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I seriously fell in love with Steinbeck and Hemingway in high school.  This book was banned and is still challenged for profanity (damn!), violence and being defamatory to women and differently-abled people.  It was also pulled from shelves in one community because Steinbeck was known to have an “anti-business” attitude and “questionable patriotism”.  You can’t question his technique, though.  George and Lenny live in my mind 20 years later.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This book is consistently challenged for language (damn again!) and racial epithets.  Also for its portrayal of the treatment of blacks by racist whites in rural Alabama.  Huh.  I may have read it when I was sixteen, but wasn’t that kind of the point?  Lee wrote the book so eloquently she showed us what that community was like.  Her use of language fit the setting.  Those characters were unlikely to wander around calling blacks “African-Americans”.    My dad thought her portrayal of the South was acutely accurate.

This is a short list of  my favorite books when I was a teenager.  I still count them as such today.  (Yes, I was a nerd.  And a drama geek.  Double whammy). I can’t countenance removing them from the shelves of libraries and classrooms.  Or any other book that encourages a child or teenager to think, to question, to discuss.  To read.

The Long List (favorite banned books I read as a teenager):

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What I'm Reading Now

I seem to be failing at my Reading Challenge.  I admit it.  I am addicted to buying books.

That said, I'm still doing the mental math required to keep up with it.

This week, I've read four books, but only two were off of my TBR shelf:

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt.  I met Dana during the summer at Linden Tree Books in Los Altos, and immediately decided to buy her most recently published book. She's knowledgable and kind and incredibly articulate and she writes with glowing restraint.

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston.  I love reading a good thriller, and this one kept me up at night and away from my revision during the day.  It delves into the murky world of witness protection in an entirely new way, and I loved the nuances of Anna's personality.  Looking forward to reading the sequel (once I catch up on all the books I have to read before buying another one!)

I also read two as-yet unpublished manuscripts, both utterly captivating, with unique premises and fascinating settings.  Can't wait to talk about them more!

My complicated calculations follow thusly:

Read one, buy one (check, but also acquired one)

Read two, buy one (I read three, but bought two)

Read three, buy one.... (I really only read two....)

So, if all of this follows on, I need to read five more books before buying another one.  I've decided to discount all books I borrow from the library, because they don't actually weight down my TBR shelf because I read and return them. :)  Of course, that also means that the book I'm reading now--100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith, which I LOVE--doesn't count toward the challenge.

So.  Still five books to go!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reading Challenge Update

So I've already confused my accounting for my TBR Shelf Reading Challenge, because I didn't take into account books that I borrow from friends or the library!  It means that this week looks like a three-steps-back week as far as my reading-and-donating record is concerned.

I read Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay, my Class of 2k12 sibling.  I've had this book for a while, and I've been saving it for just the right moment.  It's a novel in verse about a girl who is struggling to learn what true love really is, as well as the importance of friends.

I also finished The Grand Tour by Tim Moore.  Way back when, I wanted to be a travel writer, and read dozens (if not hundreds) of travelogues covering all seven continents.  This was a wonderful return to those roots, but also a lesson in history as Moore follows the path of Thomas Coryate, who traveled from England to Venice and back again--mostly on foot--in 1608.  The first "Grand Tourist". Moore also inserts bits and pieces of accounts written from the heyday of the grand tour (the 18th and 19th centuries), and it's amazing to see how many things have stayed the same over hundreds of years.  Made me want to return to Europe.

So I finished two books, which entitles me to buy one and....I bought two.

Can't Look Away by my dear friend Donna Cooner.  I read and early draft of this and can't wait to read it again.

Maid of Deception by Jenn McGowan.  I read McGowan's first book, Maid of Secrets last year and loved it.  Mystery and romance in Elizabeth's court?  Yes, please!

I also borrowed the ARC of Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers from my friend Beth Hull and, inspired by The Grand Tour, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne from the library.

So this week, the total is:

Read:  2

Acquired: 4

Not sure how this is going to help lessen the burden on my TBR shelf, but at least I'm enjoying it!

Friday, August 22, 2014

TBR Shelf Reading Challenge

One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to be a reader, too.  It's part of my job.  I love to read, and always have.

(Actually, no, that's a lie.  When I was five, I swore I'd never learn to read because when my older sister did, she got boring and never played with me again.  But then my mom got me Cat in the Hat out of the library and I ignored my best friend during a playdate so I could read it again and again.)

The drawback to the love of books is that they start to take over the house.  We are currently in a frenzy of (long overdue) clearance and organization at my house, so I decided to add my TBR shelf to the list.

It's not just a bookshelf, it's the entire bookcase (with the exception of a few research books down at the bottom.  Note the Dictionary of Slang.  Best.  Research.  Book.  Ever.  Unless you're on a deadline.  When you open it, it's like going down a rabbit hole.)

So I've taken a leaf out of my friend Anna Billings's book, and decided to set myself a reading challenge.

I read one book off my TBR shelf, and I can buy a book.

Then I have to read two TBRs before I can buy a book.

Then I read three.

And so on.

I shall try to check in on Fridays, hoping that keeping myself accountable will help.

This week, I read Burial Rites by Anna Kent.  Fascinating historical fiction for adults set in early 19th Century Iceland.  History and culture I knew nothing about.  Great stuff.

I bought (on Anna's recommendation, curse her) The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I acquired Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (also from Anna!).  However, I also read it in one day and gave it to a friend, so that's a free pass, right?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BRAZEN is Here!

Today I'm celebrating the publication date of my third (and final!) Tudor historical, BRAZEN.  The series has been a crazy roller coaster journey, made ever so much fun by my friends, by the opportunities to meet other writers, and by my readers.  Thank you all for getting me to this day.

And many thanks to all of you who came to the early launch party at the Avid Reader in Davis!  I love reading aloud (probably comes from all those years of acting followed by several years of being a preschool teacher!) and the response to BRAZEN was heartwarming!

Many thanks to Mona Dougherty for
taking pictures!

I have a few more events coming up (, so drop on by--I'd love to see you there!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anne Boleyn's Execution

The queen steps up onto the scaffold, exposing a crimson kirtle beneath her gown. The color of blood. The color of martyrdom.

I realize I’m holding my breath and try to let it out slowly, but can only suck it back in again with a gulp. And another. I can’t get more than a mouthful of air into my lungs at a time.

Fitz was right. I shouldn’t be here.

If you're a Tudor nut like me or even just follow any of the Tudor history blogs, Facebook accounts and Twitter, you probably already know that today marks the 478th anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn.

You can read about the actual events in any Anne Boleyn biography or book of Tudor history (my favorites are The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives,  Six Wives by David Starkey and The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir.)  You can read instantly on The Anne Boleyn Files or any other blog dedicated to true history.  And, of course, there are numerous fictional accounts--one of the best being Thomas Cromwell's account in Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

It's difficult not to be repetitious with so much information out there.  So why did I want to give an account from Mary Howard's perspective?

I think it's because I felt that someone who loved Anne should have been there.  She made many enemies and many courtiers wished her gone and forgotten.  Mary is known as one of her supporters, and I figured Anne needed one on this day in 1536.

And, of course, she continues to have supporters.  Including one who sends flowers to the Tower of London every year.

Whether or not you believe Anne was a traitor (or a bitch or a gold digger or a saint), she has certainly made an impression.  And I think she deserves to be remembered.