The 12 Books of Christmas! Holiday Buyers Guide for YA Book Lovers!

 

holiday pic

My two favorite young people

Sometime during the Christmas season, you’ll probably be shopping for a young adult in your life (or if you’re like my husband, shopping for your wife who still acts like a young adult). You might be scratching your head at what to get someone between the ages of 13-19, but have no fear, Jamie is here! I scanned my Goodreads log and picked out 12 YA books I read across the genres this year, ones that I would for sure recommend to anyone age 13 and up!

On the 12th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . A Fractured Fairy Tale.

Alice in Zombieland and Through the Zombie Glass

This is a great modern-day twist on a beloved story! You can’t buy one without buying the other because you’ll want to read the sequel right away!

On the 11th, 10th, and 9th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Historical Fiction.

A few picks on this one:

The Book Thief (World War II-era story . . . yeah, you’ve heard the story, but not from Death’s POV)

The Red Umbrella (Cuban politics and history . . . I know it sounds boring, but it’s totally not! EVERYONE should read this!)

The Infernal Devices (England during the Victorian era–this is an admixture of the real history and the unreal since it features paranormal elements. This trilogy is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments books, which if you didn’t read, you might’ve seen the movie this year!)

On the 8th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Paranormal Romance.

Ever and Evade are another two-for-one deal in the same series. Get your pot of coffee ready when reading this one because you’ll want to pull an all nighter, but so much more fun than studying for exams!

On the 7th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Inspirational Romance.

KIYA: Hope of the Pharaoh. This book was put out by my publisher this year, and it was one of my favorite reads. It could also fall under historical fiction. What a fun way to learn! Book #2, KIYA: Mother of a King is sitting on my Kindle, waiting to be read over my Christmas vacation!

On the 6th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Mythological Fiction.

Tangled Tides. Love the tag line: Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters–until she becomes one. This book is so good, seriously one of my 13yo favs!

On the 5th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Magical Realism/Adventure Fiction.

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game. Of course, if you’re feeling like winning the title, “Aunt of the Year” then go ahead and buy all 5 books in the series for your tween/teen, but all of the stories can also stand alone. Who doesn’t love the idea of Disney characters coming to life, no matter what age you are!

One the 4th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Fantasy Fiction.

Core. This is the debut novel by a talented writer and friend who attends the same church as me. I have one word for ya: Dragons. Really, what more do you need?

On the 3rd Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me. . . Sci-Fi/Dystopian Fiction.

Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night. Yep, another two-for-one deal here. Can’t recommend these books enough. Out of 5 stars, I’d give them 10! If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, this is a must read! And since it’s told through dual narrative, the hero and heroine’s POV, it offers broad appeal.

On the 2nd and 1st Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Contemporary Coming of Age Fiction.

The Moon and More. I’m in love with Sarah Dessen. She is my literary girl crush. I could read nothing but her books for the rest of my life, and I’d be in heaven!

18 Things.  I may be biased here, but this is one heck of a book! Hahaha . . . could also fit under Inspirational and Paranormal Romance, but the overall arc of the series is definitely first and foremost a coming of age tale.

I could go on and on . . . why did the song have to be the 12 Days of Christmas?! So many books, so little time. Some other honorable mentions are the 4 novels I’m reading with my Language Arts classes right now: The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, Legend, Janitors, and Cinder.

*What about you? What books would you recommend buying as gifts for the holiday season, YA or otherwise? Read any of these books? Yay or Nay to my picks?

Advertisements

Star Wars, Publishing, and a Guest Post

So I made it through my first quarter of teaching middle school Language Arts–WooHoo! I’m still loving it and to celebrate, I decided to do a Power Point Presentation with my classes on Wednesday and Thursday (Friday was a teacher work day for report cards) about the Top 10 Things Star Wars Taught Me About Writing, embedded with video clips from the movie to illustrate each point. We also enjoyed Yoda Soda and Wookiee Cookies and had a lot of great discussion. It got me wondering . . . are there any movies that have inspired your writing?

I’m also presenting a workshop titled 18 Things You Should Know About Publishing at the Lee County Reading Council Conference this coming Saturday, so if you have any top tips, please share them with me:-)

And now I have Mara Valderran, author of Heirs of War, to share about what inspires her: Music!

heirsofwar

Soundtrack Series Part 4: Worlds Turned Upside Down

I could really spend more than four posts discussing the music that inspires me to write, but I’m going to contain myself and wrap it up here. So far, I’ve talked about songs that inspire battle cries, broken souls, and broken hearts. But one of the most immediate conflicts in Heirs of War is the fact that the main characters’ worlds have been turned upside down. And fortunately, I have just the songs to help us understand their plights.

Skillet “Awake and Alive”

“I’m at war with the world and they try to pull me into the dark. I struggle to find my faith as I’m slipping from your arms. It’s getting harder to stay awake, and my strength is fading fast. You breathe into me at last. I’m awake, I’m alive. Now I know what I believe inside. I’ll do what I want, cause this is my life. Here, right now, I’ll stand my ground and never back down. I know what I believe inside. I’m awake and I’m alive.”

Isauria has been dreaming about Estridia and all its troubles for years, but I think, in some ways, that world was always more real to her than the one she lived in. If someone had given her the choice to either stay in the world she knew, where she has little to no social connections and felt constantly out of place, or be sent to Estridia with all its war and strife, she would have still chosen Estridia. Estridia felt more real to her. And once she gets there, she finds out she has this power to see other people in her dreams, and feels she has a responsibility to use it. Even though she has to be unconscious to use it, she feels more awake and alive than she ever has before. She has a purpose, and she is holding tight to it and never letting go.

Katy Perry “Wide Awake”

“I’m wide awake. Yeah, I was in the dark, I was falling hard with an open heart. How did I read the stars so wrong? And now it’s clear to me that everything you see ain’t always what it seems. Yeah, I was dreaming for so long.”

Sometimes, worlds getting turned upside down can be really hard and hurtful. That’s exactly how it is for Rhaya. One of my best friends, who knows this series almost as well as I do, actually introduced me to this song and informed me that it was Rhaya’s. After listening to it, I couldn’t agree more. True, Katy Perry might have been talking about a relationship with a person when writing this song, but to me this is about Rhaya’s relationship with the world of Estridia. When she’s first dropped into Anscombe, she loves it. A world full of magic? It’s every fantasy lovers’ dream! But the more she gets to know the world and the society around her, the more problems she sees. She’s forced to realize that she’s been viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, and the fall to reality is very hard for her. It’s something I can’t wait to explore in the next book with her.

That wraps up my musings on musical inspirations for Heirs of War! Thank you, Jamie, for letting me spend some time on your blog! And thank you, readers, for spending that time with me. I’d love to hear what inspires you. Is it music? Or television? Other books?

~Mara Valderran

Are Ya Looking For the Next Summer Read? Introducing Debut Novelist Teshelle Combs!!!

Tessie, Tess, Tessa, T . . . no matter what you call her, Teshelle Combs is just one huge batch of awesomesauce! She’s a UCF graduate like me (except she wasn’t afraid to take a chance and actually majored in English/Creative Writing), a soul singer with goosebump inducing abilities, a brutally honest Beta reader, a super nanny, and frequent volunteer for all things at our local church.

Now she can add published author at the ripe old age of 24! Add having a baby to the midst of all this, and well, you can see why I named one of my new characters in 18 Truths after her! Not even sure if she knows this, since it’s after page 100 where she left off in Beta reading. She might totally be creeped out now while reading this, but too late! I already got my interview *shakes fist in the air* Haha, sucker! Oh, and you can stalk her too at her new official FB author page!

Tessa's photo

Thanks for joining us today, T! Help me introduce you to my 5 fans (heehee, inside joke from last week’s blog). Give us 3 words to describe your personality

T: Happy. Loving. Kind. –I actually just cheated and asked my husband for the answer for this one. Apparently, he likes me or something.

*mutters*Not as much as I like you!

T: What’s that Jaim-O?

Oh, nothing! Nothing at all *coughs* Can you give us a sneak peek into what it’s like to be a debut novelist? Any insights about self-publishing?

T: I am very, very new at authorship. My debut novel, Core, was just released on June 1st. So far, my favorite part is being able to hold it in my hands. That tied with my very first sale. I did my crazyhappy dance for about ten minutes, which is pretty impressive at 7 months pregnant.

Self-publishing –or indie publishing, which is what I call it because it makes feel all cool –is a lot of fun and a lot of work. The fun part is designing everything, choosing exactly what I want to say, setting my own royalty prices, and involving a team of people I love to help me. The hard work part is the marketing, the ordering of three proof copies because you can’t figure out how to set the margins just right, the hiccups that you have to figure out to fix everything all on your own.

I was afraid I wouldn’t feel like a “real” author if I indie published, but honestly, I was wrong. I feel accomplished, like I worked hard for what I have.

You should! The world of publishing is constantly changing, and wise is the author who changes with it!  Tell us about what you write.

T: I write contemporary YA fantasy and sci-fi. Core falls into the fantasy genre. The story is about an emotionally calloused boxer, Ava, who is catapulted into the world of dragons, sirens (nightfolk and werefolk), and danger. She’s chosen to be the rider of an honest, caring red dragon, and life-wrecking mayhem ensues.

Besides boxing, there are a slew of combat scenes, utilizing dragon abilities and swordplay, which makes for action-packed reading. (I like to run these scenes by my brother, who’s great at all things action).

I love bad guys, so I have quite a few villains in my novel, and–rather disturbingly–they are some of my favorite characters. The more twisted, the better.

What else? I also like to travel to places (even if it’s through research and imagination), so my characters start out in Miami, and get to visit Peru and Ireland in this story.

core-paperback

Oh, I’ve been to Ireland! One of my top 5 moments on my life list! *Shameless plug: If you like life lists, you should check out my debut novel too, 18 Things* Speaking of books, what’s your favorite craft book? Favorite fiction book?

T: My favorite craft book is probably Research in Writing. I love to include interesting facts in my work and before I wrote Core, I probably typed up about 30 pages of research on dragons, Chimbote, Peru, Ireland, sirens, and some other secret little tidbits.

My favorite fiction book? If we’re going fancy-pancy literary, it’d be Beloved by Toni Morrison. But if I’m thinking all-time favorite, changed-my-literary-life, pee-my-pants-it’s-so-good? THE HUNGER GAMES. I love kick-butt female protagonists, I love dystopias, and I love the dryness of it all, the reality woven through the make believe.

I also have a problem peeing my pants while reading books. Started 13 years ago . . . well, you’ll see after you give childbirth! Oh, I see you’re doing the potty dance yourself, so I’ll just ask one closing questions. Tell us anything FUN about yourself, related or unrelated to writing.

T: I have these special powers: my toes can swell to remarkable sizes in just a few minutes. I can smell anything unpleasant, even if it’s miles away. I can go to the bathroom 15 times a day. I can use my belly as a portable reading desk. I’ve evolved past the need to remember anything, even details that would be significant to other people, like what the current month or where we parked the car.

Jealous yet? Well go incubate your own baby! This one’s mine!

Hahaha! You’re a hoot, T! I love you . . . in a completely sisterly way, I promise! *watches T bolt from the room and shrugs*

Well now that it’s just the eight of us (last week proved I have at least 7 fans!), I want to thank you all for your encouraging comments after sharing my pity party publicly. If you missed the blog, you can find it here. My family cheered me up by taking me to Disney. We hit Hollywood Studios the first half of the day for Star Wars weekend, then moved on to Magic Kingdom!

DSC06535

DSC06591

Also, thanks for giving me some easy questions! Cheryl wanted to know what kind of coffee she should drink. I’m still scratching my head at the fact she’s never drank a cup! If you invest in a Keurig machine,

kcup_feature_brewer

which you should because it’ll allow to try hundreds of flavors any time of the day whenever you want within seconds with just the press of a button . . . even though it may cause you to be all hyper and write really long-winded sentences, you could also drink tea and hot chocolate if you end up not liking coffee, but I think you will love it. I have a sweet tooth, so I love the Cape Escapes, especially the caramel. So sweet you don’t even need cream and sugar! When I’m not using the Keurig, I’m slightly less squirrely and like Barnie’s Santa’s White Christmas with some Baileys coffee creamer. But I’m a coffee snob and Barnie’s can be damn hard to find, so Dunkin’ Donuts French Vanilla will also do the trick. I do love Starbucks, but their coffee is rather bold, so you may need to ease yourself into it.

Now for Marisa’s question . . . what movie should she rent? This is sooo easy since Oz the Great and Powerful just released today on DVD! Saw this one in the theatre and it quickly became a family favorite 🙂

What about you guys? Any good picks for coffee virgins? Any other movies we should rent from that big red box? Interested in reading Core? Hope you’ll all join me next Wednesday for the tale of one amazing squirrel–it’s gonna be nuts!!!