Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Santa's Book List: Dystopia and Fantasy and Espionage, Oh My!

What books might the middle-schooler in your life be excited to find under the tree this holiday season?  In speaking to several school librarians and some bookstore folks recently, it appears that The Maze Runner continues to be the hot ticket right now.  Books from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan are often asked for as well.  For those who have not yet read The Hunger Games*, the release of the latest movie has also spurred another spike in requests.  Additionally, The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore for boys (about the under-17 highly specialized Cherub Agents), and the Selection series ("...a cross between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor...") by Keira Cass for girls are popular.  Rounding out the list, the Cassandra Clare Mortal Instruments series, about the secret fantasy world of the Shadowhunters, is also sought after.  For the slightly younger crowd, almost anything Disney "Frozen"-related is flying off the shelves. 

Happy Reading to all, and for all, a good book!

*I must admit that when I read about "The Hunger Pains; A Parody," by The Harvard Lampoon, featuring Kantkiss Neverclean, I had to chuckle.  Not sure if it would be worth reading, but I do love a good parody!

Andrea Perry, December 12, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

The In-Between

by Barbara Stewart

This past Friday, December 5, 2014, Marcy and I posted our answers to Barbara’s debut novel The In-Between. Today, you get to read Barbara’s favorite's. 

Terrific answers, Barbara! We can’t wait for our readers to read the novel. And  hopefully to give us a few of their favorites, too.
What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Elanor Moss has a hard time recognizing and accepting the successes in her life. There are points during the novel when the reader sees things are looking up for Ellie, but Ellie’s view is always through a distorted lens. I like the following passage because it’s the first time Ellie admits that maybe she doesn’t see her life so clearly. I also like the way she uses the artwork of M.C. Escher to describe how she feels about what’s happening to her.

My favorite was of this castle with all these stairs. When you first look at it, all the people on the stairs are going down, down, down. But if you look long enough, you see that they’re really going up. It’s an illusion, like my life. I can’t tell which way I’m going. I thought for sure I was failing my classes. I thought everyone hated me. And then I get my grades. And then I get invited to Kylie’s party.

Sometimes I think I’m going crazy.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Things usually end badly for Ellie, so I think the biggest cliffhangers are chapters that end with a small ray of hope. One of my favorites is the last paragraph of a chapter that takes place on Christmas. Ellie and her mom go to a truck stop for dinner, and everything is good between them on the ride home. For the first time in a long time, Ellie doesn’t feel the weight of everything pressing down.

I’d forgotten about Rad and my used-to-be friends and my father and even Madeline. I think my mother was forgetting, too. I think she’d forgotten about my father for a little while and about school and money and my mental problems. It was just the two of us, and the babies inside her, and the future stretched out before us like the dark and snowy highway. We can’t see it, but we have to believe it’s there.

In the end, it’s always about believing.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why? 
Autumn. Definitely Autumn. She’s kooky and wise and fearless. She embraces her awkwardness and doesn’t care what others think. I love her because she’s a good person and true friend.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
One of the challenges in writing this novel was trying to imbue the mundane with loneliness and longing. This is one of my favorite lines:

The tree outside my window is bare except for one single leaf, brown and desiccated, twisting in the wind.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
On the first day of school, Autumn tells Ellie how she can’t wait to get out of Pottsville. She’s never been on a cruise ship, but she wants to work on one. Ellie’s response is a dig at Autumn, but it’s also a realization about her own situation.

“Every place is the same. You know that, right? Nothing will change. You’ll still be you, even in the middle of the ocean.”

Barbara Stewart earned an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. She lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where she reads a lot of true crime and crochets way too many scarves. She loves amusement parks and anything with peanut butter. She also loves horror movies—the supernatural kind—thanks to her grandmother. Stewart’s next YA psychological thriller, What We Knew, will be released in July 2015.

To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to:

Friday, December 5, 2014

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

The In-Between

Welcome to December’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Barbara Stewart and her novel, The In-Between. After a car accident and a near-death experience, Ellie, the main character, is visited by a girl who becomes her best friend. She comes to question her sanity as she tries to decide if the friend is real or simply a part of her imagination.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – There’s a part in the story where Ellie, the main character, is in therapy after having a nervous breakdown. She’s on medication that silences the voice inside her, her best friend, Madeline. I thought this brief paragraph a great insight into the battle raging inside Ellie.

I need a priest or a medium. I don’t need a psychiatrist. I don’t need pills with names I can’t pronounce. Drugs won’t drive her out. I can’t see her or hear her, but she’s not gone. Not really. She’s just been closed off. It’s like we’re in prison, in adjoining cells in solitary confinement. I can hear her tapping on the wall…

Marcy –  Ellie is at school near the track. The coach assumes she’s there to go out for the team and encourages her to run. Ellie feels stupid but can’t say no to the coach so she runs. This is one of the first steps that changes her life.

The girls were next, ponytails swishing, shorts swishing. They made it look so easy, so effortless, like they could go forever. Not me. My chest was ready to explode. My shins were on fire. I was sweating and gasping and my legs had started to wobble.

That was only the warm-up.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - This particular chapter ending comes from later in the novel. It’s another example of the battle Ellie fights to keep her sanity.

It’s like the new drugs are straps binding Madeline. They've got her wrapped up tighter than tight. I hear the straps straining, creaking. Someday there’ll snap. They can’t keep her tied up forever.

MarcyThis song was like Ritalin. It made him want to live. When he played it, I knew he was on the mend. The darkness was lifting. This is for you, Daddy.

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – My favorite secondary character is Autumn. On many levels she’s as mysterious as Ellie. She’s a total misfit, not accepted by anyone in school, yet she’s drawn to Ellie, as Ellie is drawn to her. She seems to understand Ellie and accepts her as is. It makes me wonder what has happened to Autumn that would allow her to have those reactions.

Marcy –  Like Dave, I really liked Autumn as well, but I’ll choose Coach Buffman, the cross country coach. He is so encouraging of Ellie to join the team even though she’s never run before. He has a matter-of-fact personality and accepts her without judgment. He encourages her to set goals and train hard. He’s a positive force in her dark world.

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

DaveI chose this particular scene because it shows the two sides of Ellie. Ellie believes what is written below, but in reality, the kids in the school love her (love Madeline, her subconscious).

At school, I talk to no one. Not even Autumn. I can hear them whispering. They call me Eerie Ellie. They think I am deaf. They stare right through me. I am a ghost, haunting these halls with Madeline. The two of us are invisible.

Marcy – I thought this paragraph was poignant and gave a realistic look into dealing with a family member who battles depression.

I’ve seen him depressed. That’s nothing new. It happens every Christmas, and sometimes around his birthday. This is something different. Worse than the time he and Mom almost separated, or the time they were having money troubles and almost lost the house. Worse even than when I tried to die. It’s like all those other bouts of depression were just tremors, little quakes. Losing Mom is too big. The world is crashing down and all he can do is stand and watch, alone and terrified, powerless to go on living.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue? Coach Buffman, her cross country coach, tries to make a point to Ellie about the dangers of using drugs. He shows her a jar of two miniature pigs floating in cloudy liquid, one looking pretty normal, the other clearly deformed.

Dave – “This little piggy’s mother was pumped full of junk,” he said, swirling the jar with the deformed fetus. “This little piggy’s mother was clean.” He swiveled on his stool and returned the pigs to their shelf. “Got it?……”

Marcy –  How true and funny!

Kylie told me what it stands for: Future Farmers of America. They sponsor Drive Your Tractor to School Day. Where am I living?

To read more about Barbara Stewart and her debut novel, The In-Between, please go to: