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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last-minute gift suggestion--books!

This is the final list I’m going to post of great books to give this holiday season. You can't give more enchantment for less. The Fiction Writers Co-Op—53 authors of distinguished, award-winning, and best-selling fiction—recommend: 

Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland. "Here's a warning: Mistress of the Sun is dangerously seductive. It's one of those books that will grab you and hold you captive till the last page is turned." —Calgary Herald  http://amzn.to/mistressofthesun 

Stay by Allie Larkin. "Larkin makes writing look easy. Stay has everything...humor, heart -and, endearingly, buckets of dog slobber." —The Miami Herald http://allielarkinwrites.com/ 

Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch. Robert Goolrick calls it "eloquent and moving, written with precision and clarity to stave off loss — the loss of history, of art, of humanity." O Magazine's lead pick for summer reading, and a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010.    http://www.jonclinch.com/

My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher. "... rendered with humor and heart." -- People "... a laugh-and-cry novel whose plot includes equal portions of heartache and hope." -- The Chicago Tribune    http://juliannabaggott.com/ 

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow.  Chosen by Barbara Kingsolver for the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, "Durrow's powerful novel is poised to find a place among classic stories of the American experience." --Miami Herald.  A Washington Post Best Novel of 2010!

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici  by C.W. GortnerPower. Passion. Poison: History's most notorious queen tells us her side of the story. "Fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory will devour this!" - BookList. http://www.cwgortner.com/

Souvenir by Therese Fowler.  An IndieBound selection and book club favorite, this novel about family, fate, regret and redemption is "truly impossible to put down."--Booklist.  USA TODAY says it's "Compelling...the characters are likable, troubled, and human, and are well worth following on their journey." http://www.theresefowler.com/

After You by Julie Buxbaum.  Jodi Picoult says of this novel about love and friendship: "Buxbaum writes with honesty and grace about the things we know about our friends and the things we wish we didn't. After You highlights—beautifully and compellingly—the truth that sometimes we have to lose the people closest to us to find ourselves." http://www.juliebuxbaum.com/

Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice Jacquelyn Mitchard author,The Deep End of the Ocean, says of this novel about what really makes a family: "I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice's new novel, Children of the Waters. Five hours later, I'd finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers' secrets and children's sorrows and was shouting 'Hurray!'" www.carleenbrice.com

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell, the story of Claude Monet in his young struggling years which led to the birth of impressionism and his great love for his model and wife , the tragic Camille.  The Boston Globe said, "an enthralling story, beautifully told" and Bookpage added, "A vivid portrait of Monet's remarkable career." www.stephaniecowell.com

Remedies by Kate Ledger.  Remedies explores the complicated nature of pain, in the nerves of the body and the longing of the heart.... "an immediately gripping, expertly woven tale of pain and healing. Ledger is a brilliant writer; the book is dazzling, but more importantly, it is moving."--Elin Hilderbrand   http://tiny.cc/ofni9

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay “What a gorgeous paradox of a book:  a deep, thoughtful exploration of a young mother’s first year of widowhood that is as much a page-turner as any thriller" says bestselling author Marisa de los Santos. Publishers Weekly deemed it "a wise and inspirational debut." http://juliettefay.com/

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum.  In the stirring tradition of The Secret Life of Bees and the Poisonwood Bible, Amaryllis in Blueberry is "spellbinding...A perfect melding of family saga, murder mystery and a meditation on faith, loyalty and love."--Susan Wiggs, New York Times Bestselling author    www.christinameldrum.com

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman  - a New York Times bestseller. “Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…”  (Starred review) from Library Journal http://bethhoffman.net/

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Bookish Gift Ideas!

Consider giving a book this holiday season. You can't give more enchantment for less. The Fiction Writers Co-Op—53 authors of distinguished, award-winning, and best-selling fiction—recommend:

The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate. "Senate handles the hefty topics of loss and remembrances with lightness and respect and in so doing, redefines comfort food." --Publishers Weekly  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439107238

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook. "Bestseller Cook [Must Love Dogs, Life's a Beach] charms again with this lively warm-hearted look at changing courses mid-life." --People Magazine http://ClaireCook.com/

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri. "This hopeful, comforting novel is a testament to the power of taking chances and starting fresh, and a reminder that life can bring joy after sorrow."--Miami Herald

All the Numbers by Judy Merrill Larsen.  "Larsen depicts a mother's year of grief and recovery with a sure and honest voice."--Booklist  http://www.judymerrilllarsen.com/buy.htm

Spin by Catherine McKenzie. "The tag line is: ‘How far would you go to get what you always wanted?’ and Kate Sandford, protagonist of Catherine McKenzie's first novel, Spin, goes so far she makes you cringe. … Where A Million Little Pieces … was tortured and powerful, Spin is more about entertainment and fun. … Full of pop-culture allusions, some really funny ones. … Spin is a compelling, fast-paced read.” – The Globe and Mail

The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen. "Both of Cohen’s previous novels (Town House and Inside Out Girl) are in development as films, and The Truth About Delilah Blue is sure to follow. She is clearly familiar with the cinema’s propulsive rhythms, and has an almost Hitchcockian sense of how to uncoil audience guts and play double dutch with them." --The Globe and Mail

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos.  "[W]hat happens when life throws us kinks and crumbles the plans we've so carefully laid out . . . There is poetry in her words and all around the world she has created."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen, forthcoming from Crown Publishers, April 12th. "A magical debut, original and poignant, lovely and moving. I absolutely loved The Bird Sisters and will carry Milly and Twiss with me as if in a locket for a long, long time." --Jenna Blum, Bestselling Author of  Those Who Save Us. Visit http://www.thebirdsisters.com/ 

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.  Diana Gabaldon says of this fictional biography of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, "This is magic!  Childhood, sensuality, love, sorrow and wonder, all bright and complex as the shifting patterns in a kaleidoscope." http://melaniebenjamin.com/books.php#buy

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Gift of Books-Part 2!

Give a book this holiday season. You can't give more enchantment for less. The Fiction Writers Co-Op—48 authors of distinguished, award-winning, and best-selling fiction recommend:
The Day the Falls Stood Still  by Cathy Marie Buchanan. "A wonderful love story…Buchanan weaves Niagara Falls’ history and her storytelling together masterfully.” − Elle http://tinyurl.com/2wmccyv
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan. "Remarkably learned and heartbreaking romantic novel... Despite its medieval setting, the story has contemporary echoes... Hard to put down, beautifully executed, highly recommended." Minneapolis Star Tribune http://bit.ly/fzZoET 
Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette. "Fans of Cecelia Ahern’s PS, I Love You will find a lot to like here ... strong, richly detailed ... with a truly lovable heroine ... the spins and turns the story takes along the way are well worth the ride." —Library Journal http://tinyurl.com/26cmt6e

Monday, December 13, 2010

Give a book this holiday season!

I recently joined a facebook group of 48 authors of distinguished, award-winning, and best-selling fiction. I know, I know. What am I doing there? I don't quite know. Somehow they let me into their club, and I'm not about to correct their error.

Anyway, we've all banded together to urge readers to give a book to someone this holiday season. The group's motto: "You can't give more enchantment for less." So true! I know I haven't kept up with my virtual book club at all, but some of these titles make me want to resume in the new year with renewed vigor. Consider adding one of these titles to your to-be-read list or buying one for a dear friend for the holidays!

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. "...the writing is so vivid, lusciously sexy and chillingly outrageous by turns..." - The Star Ledger

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh. "This tender tale of sisterhood, self-discovery, and forgiveness will captivate fans of contemporary women’s fiction.”- Library Journal

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers. "A powerful portrait of sisters growing up in the shadow of violence . . . A thought-provoking, heart-tugging debut." Boston Magazine

Over the next few weeks, I'll try to post more book suggestions from the group. Until then, happy holidays and happy reading!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Does anyone else think the month of October flew by? I can’t believe we’re days away from Halloween already. Appropriately enough, October was Gothic Book Month for the Virtual Book Club, and I selected Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, which came out in paperback this year and has received rave reviews.

The novel begins with Nell, a little girl placed aboard a ship sailing from England to Australia in 1913. When she arrives in Australia, she has no idea who she is or where she came from. Adopted by the harbormaster and his wife, the girl grows up happy and cared for until her father tells her the truth about her origins. This sets in motion a quest to find her true identity, a mystery that will echo across the years, culminating in her granddaughter Cassandra’s inheritance of a mysterious cottage with a forgotten garden. As Cassandra journeys to Cornwall, she uncovers secrets about a woman who once lived in the cottage known as “The Authoress:” the fairy tale writer Eliza Makepeace. The three women’s stories overlap and intertwine as the mystery of Nell's identity is slowly revealed.

The book definitely has traits of the Gothic mystery, although it steers clear of some of the more creepy elements of the form—ghosts and graveyards and such. There’s not a fainting heroine or Byronic hero in sight. But it does have a gloomy mansion, a wicked stepmother, a maze garden, and a few dark fairy tales woven throughout. While I enjoyed each of the women’s stories, Eliza’s was the most compelling for me, particularly as we got glimpses of her imagination through her fairy tales—they ended up being my favorite parts of the novel.

While I enjoyed The Forgotten Garden and was impressed by the research, ambition and passion that went into it, I wasn’t as compelled to finish it as I am with my favorite books. For one thing, the novel is long (550 pages), and the transitions between the three story lines and time periods got a little tedious at times. I’d find myself getting really into one storyline when suddenly I’d be hoisted out of that one and deposited into another, only to be switched again three or four pages later. While all the stories eventually fit together like a puzzle, the reading experience was a bit jarring.

Overall, I appreciated the novel and can say that Kate Morton is an extremely talented writer, one I’d be happy to try again, maybe with a smaller page-count next time! For anyone out there who has read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, is anyone interested in doing Non-fiction November? Typically, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction so if you have any suggestions for fascinating NF reads, I’d love to hear them. Happy reading, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 27, 2010


The selection for Gothic October's Virtual Book Club is... Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden! Even though I was very tempted to go with April Lindner's Jane, in the end, all the amazing reviews for The Forgotten Garden won me over. (The $7.69 price tag at Amazon didn't hurt either.)

If you'd like to participate, pick up a copy at your local library or bookstore, and we'll open the discussion toward the end of October. Until then, enjoy the crisp fall weather, changing leaves, scary movies, Ginger Snaps and candy corn, and spooky Halloween decorations!


Saturday, September 18, 2010


Okay, so school started a few weeks ago, and consequently, I skipped right over September’s Young Adult book club selection. For those who participated in August, I hope you enjoyed On Folly Beach as much as I did. Several people emailed me to say they were reading the book, but didn’t have a chance to finish in time to participate in the online forum. As long as people are finding good books to read, I’m happy.

While we didn’t have a huge turnout for On Folly Beach, I decided I’m going to keep at the virtual book club, if only to encourage myself to keep reading for pleasure during the school year. Anyone who’d like to read along with me is welcome, and I’ll post some discussion questions at the end of the month in case people want to chime in.

For October’s Gothic novel month, I’ve chosen a few contemporary Gothic novels that have been getting good buzz. Our good friend Wikipedia defines Gothic fiction as “a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance… the effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures.” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Instead of selecting classic Gothic novels like Jane Eyre, Dracula, or Frankenstein, I assembled a collection of modern interpretations of the Gothic formula, some based on the classics themselves.

Jane is a modern retelling of Charlotte Brönte’s Jane Eyre. As jealous as I am (my agent is currently trying to sell my second manuscript, a Young Adult book inspired by Jane Eyre), I’ve been dying to read this adaptation, which updates the star-crossed lovers Jane and Rochester as a penniless nanny and a troubled rock star. It doesn’t come out until October 11th, but it might be worth the wait.

The second book, The Forgotten Garden, sounds like a cross between Wuthering Heights and The Secret Garden, complete with an orphan, a wind-whipped Cornwall setting, lots of family secrets, and a mysterious garden shrouded by a thicket. Gothic bliss!

The final option, Out of the Shadows, follows a modern woman, Clara, who finds she is related to Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley. Told alternately through Clara’s narration and Mary Shelley’s letters, the book seems like it might be built around psychological tension rather than genuine suspense, but it sounds intriguing nonetheless.

If any of these sound like winners, leave me a comment with your vote. I’ll be making my decision by the end of September. Hope you’ll join us for a spooky, Gothic October!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virtual Book Club Officially Open: On Folly Beach!!

Are you ready for Virtual Book Club? (By the way, I just saw a mash-up of Jane Austen’s books and the movie, Fight Club, called Jane Austen's Fight Club. Pretty hilarious if you want to take a look.)

August is Beach Book Month, and for anyone new, we’re going to be discussing On Folly Beach. I’ll start us off with a few big ideas from the Discussion Guide, but please feel free to comment on any aspect of the book you choose.

Also, I’m looking ahead to September as possible Young Adult Month, so if you have any suggestions or recommendations for YA reads, I’d love to hear them! A few I had in mind are Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Gayle Forman's If I Stay.

Okay, shall we get started with our On Folly Beach discussion? Some ideas to talk about:

1.    Setting: What did you think of Folly Beach as a setting? The author’s descriptions? The name “Folly Beach” and its significance?

2.    Characters: Who was your favorite? Anyone you didn’t like? Why? Anyone you had trouble wrapping your head around?

3.    Perspectives: Did you like that the story was told from the third person, but switched back and forth between WWII era and present day? Did you find yourself looking forward to reading one part over the other? Why?

4.    Mystery: If you’re finished, you know there’s quite a shocker toward the end. Did you see it coming? Feelings about it?

5.    Romance: There are several romantic relationships described in the book. Did one ring more true than another? Were they satisfying?

6.    English teacher question: Comment on a symbol, such as the bottle trees.

Remember, you don’t have to answer all questions, and you can talk about whatever you like. The discussion will no doubt be more lively if you read other people's comments first and respond to what’s already been said, as well as provide your own insights. We hope to hear from you soon!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pet Adoption Month Contest Winners!!

I received so many wonderful entries to this contest and read such touching and inspiring stories about animal adoptions and rescues. It was incredibly difficult to choose just three (and as you can see, I didn’t), but here are the winners!





I will be emailing the winners shortly for their addresses. Thanks so much to everyone who entered for sharing your incredible stories with us!!

AND… for those participating in the inaugural month of the Virtual Book Club (anyone is welcome!), we have selected On Folly Beach for August. We’ll begin the discussion in a few weeks. Hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm thinking of launching a virtual book club from my blog, and I want to see what people think of the idea. Every month would have a different theme. About a month in advance, we would post possible book selections for the following month’s theme and let everybody weigh in on their choices. On the first of the month, I would announce the book selected and give everyone a month to read. At the end of that month, we would open the floor to a virtual month-long book chat—you could share your thoughts whenever you were able. Each month’s best virtual book club member might win a prize related to that month’s theme just to keep things interesting. And, of course, members wouldn’t have to participate every month—only when they were interested in the book chosen and had the time to do so.

Here are some possible themes I was considering:
1.      Jane Austen January (a little Austen to get us through the long, dreary winter)
2.      Romance February (in honor of Valentine’s Day)
3.      Spring classic (a great classic novel)
4.      Animals in April (books with pet or animal themes in honor of the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month)
5.      Mothers in May (novels with strong mother-child relationship themes)
6.      Fathers in June (novels with strong father-child relationship themes)
7.      Bestseller July (a book from the NY Times bestseller list)
8.      Beach read August
9.      Young Adult September (I’m thinking “back to school.”)
10.  Gothic October
11.  Nonfiction November
12.  Holiday December

The inaugural month would probably be this August, so here are some contenders for Beach Read August:

Karen White’s On Folly Beach  

Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch

Heidi Jon Schmidt’s The House on Oyster Creek

Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch (doesn’t come out until August 5th, but I think that would still give us enough time to read.)

If you think you might like to participate, leave a comment on my blog and tell me which book sounds the best to you. Unfortunately, you’d all be on your own to buy the book from your favorite retailer. I hope this virtual book club works, and I hope to “see” you all here, reading poolside, this August!

My National Pet Adoption Month contest is still open on my blog, extended until July 31st.

Friday, June 18, 2010

National Pet Adoption Month Contest!


Free to a Good Home is about Noelle Ryan, a veterinary technician at a New England animal shelter who helps stray animals find the perfect homes. After discovering that she can’t have children—and watching her marriage fall apart after a shocking revelation by her husband—Noelle is left with only her Great Dane, Zeke, to comfort her. But when a carefree musician named Jasper gives her a second chance at life—and at love—Noelle comes to realize that home is truly where the heart is.

• From JUNE 18-JULY 31, leave a comment about what you love about your pet or tell us a short story about an animal rescue or adoption. 
• On AUGUST 1st, I will announce the three best entries on my blog and website. The third and second place winners will each receive a free, signed copy of Free to a Good Home. The first place winner will receive a Free to a Good Home Book Club package — eight signed copies of Free to a Good Home, a sterling silver “For Those Who Have No Voice” key-chain (proceeds benefit the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League), and a Skype call-in from the author.

This contest is open to U.S. shipping addresses only. Here’s to happily ending tales and happily wagging tails!

Click HERE to read the entries and to submit your own!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Premature Summer Reading List

With longer, sunnier days and temperatures creeping into the high sixties, I am happy to say that summer is finally in sight. For me, that means a chance to do one of my favorite things in the world: read good books. I know it may seem a little premature, but I am already hording up books for all the idle, sunny days I’m imagining. The reality is, I probably won’t get to all of them, but just thinking about reading gives me a thrill. The books on my “To Be Read” list seem to fall into two major categories: escapist women’s fiction and dark, apocalyptic YA fiction—go figure. One thing that occurs to me is how many of these books have what I would call a “high concept,” some intriguing and original idea or twist that makes for a compelling premise. Many of the books have been getting great buzz, others are from my favorite authors, and still others are sequels to books I read this year and adored. So here it is, my premature summer reading list for summer, 2010:

1.    Elizabeth Berg The Last Time I Saw You—Who doesn’t love a high school reunion? This one is about several people preparing to attend their 40th reunion and trying to reconcile who they used to be with who they are now, if they even know.
2.    Claire Cook Seven Year Switch—Pure escapist fun about a mother starting over in mid-life, only to have her ex-husband return to complicate matters. Releases June 1.
3.    Alicia Bessette Simply From Scratch (debut coming August 2010)—A widow and young girl bond through baking—sounds heavenly!
4.    Allison Winn Scotch The One That I Want—Intriguing plot about a woman who is able to see her own future… can’t wait for this one!
5.    Sarah Pekkanen The Opposite of Me—Sibling rivalry, weddings, reinvention, and perhaps the redeeming message that you can go home again.
6.    Marilyn Brant, According to Jane—YA-Adult crossover book about a girl who has the voice of Jane Austen whispering romantic advice in her ear.
7.    Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me—Coming of age mystery about a girl who receives some enigmatic notes from a stranger who wants to save her best friend's life.
8.    Suzanne Collins Mockingjay—You either know about this one and can’t wait for it, or you haven’t read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire yet.
9.    Joelle Anthony Restoring Harmony—YA dystopian, coming of age novel about a girl who must use her wits to survive after an economic collapse in the future.
10.    Carrie Ryan The Dead-Tossed Waves—Sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, the only romantic zombie book I’ve ever read—the first book was a stunner!
11.    Gayle Forman If I Stay—Introspective YA about a girl who gets into a car accident and finds herself stuck between life and death.
12.    Lesley Livingston Wondrous Strange—An updated YA adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed...

         -- Excerpt from Billy Collins' "Snow Day"

I have just realized that if I want to be a writer, I can never move to Buffalo or Mount Rainier or Bangor or to any place where it snows much of the year. I’m sitting here in my living room, the entire school day cancelled, with the perfect opportunity to pack in a full day of writing, and all I can do is look outside and stare at the snow. It’s mesmerizing. I cannot think. I cannot plan. I cannot write. Even writing this post is a challenge. It must be something about the brilliant white glare of it all or the constant sense of movement in my peripheral vision or the sound of kids sledding down the hill across the street. Or possibly, it is the ache in my right shoulder from shoveling this morning that is making it difficult to type.

But maybe it’s just the sheer differentness of the world on a snow day that makes it impossible to carry out normal responsibilities—banks and schools and malls are closed—even some highways are closed!—and most sane people are either out sledding with their kids or at home with their loved ones, perhaps drinking hot chocolate or reading a good book under the covers. Snow gives us an excuse to be human again, to stop obsessing about the “to do” list at work, the chores around the house, the bills to be paid, the IRS forms to be completed. A snow day gives us a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature and the wonder of being together without the burden of obligation.

Last night, my husband and I watched Groundhog Day for about the eightieth time. If you’ve never seen it and are under the impression, like I was for years, that it’s another movie starring Bill Murray and a large rodent (Caddyshack, anyone?), please reconsider. Groundhog Day is about a selfish weatherman who gets stuck in a small town in the middle of a blizzard and is forced to live the same day over and over again until he can figure out what it means to truly live. Every time I watch the movie, I am struck by how funny, charming, insightful, and at times, touching it is. It is also surprisingly existential, asking the big question: “What are we really here for?”

I think a snow day gives us the opportunity to ask this question, too. With all normal routines suspended, life as we know it gets put on hold, and life, momentarily, is as it should be.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jumping on the YA Bandwagon

It’s January, and the holidays are over. While that makes me sad, I did get to spend some quality time with my family, snuck in a bit of writing, and did a lot of pleasure reading, which always feeds my soul. For some reason, lately I’ve been drawn to YA fiction. Maybe it’s because YA is trendy now (thanks in part to Stephenie Meyer), but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think the reason is that today’s YA fiction is so darn good! My favorites tend to be well-written, plot driven and thoughtful fiction that’s not just for teenagers.

I’ll begin with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which obviously needs no endorsement from me. But this is a book that truly lives up to its hype. Here are the ingredients that make me adore it and its sequel Catching Fire: a strong female heroine names Katniss, a thoroughly believable dystopian world, a fast-moving and thrilling plot relating to the most extreme form of reality entertainment, characters who stay with you long after you’ve closed the book, spare but lyrical prose, and a compulsively readable storyline. I read both books in the series over the course of three days, then went into work and recommended them to my colleagues, many of whom went home and had the same response I did. These are, simply put, fantastic stories for almost any age. I cannot wait for the third book to be released this summer.

Also a stand-out is Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth, another dystopian story that gets it just right. If you’re spotting a trend in my picks, you’re also spotting a trend in literature right now: for some reason, readers seem to be craving bleak yet gripping stories of people facing the worst in humanity but using strength and love to guide them through unimaginable circumstances. Perhaps this trend was inspired by the success of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, one of my top ten books of all time. Or maybe collectively, the country is feeling pessimistic and longing for everyday heroes. The Forest of Hands and Teeth delivers that AND one of the most unique and horrific storylines I’ve read in a long time. Without giving too much away, Mary lives in a village that has isolated itself behind metal fences, protecting itself from the hordes of Unconsecrated that lay beyond in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Unconsecrated are zombie-like creatures spawned many generations ago during an infectious epidemic now referred to as the Return. While life inside the walls is orderly, peaceful, and strictly regimented by the Sisterhood, Mary is not content to accept the rules of her society, getting herself into a heap of trouble by being too curious. Scratch the surface of this placid community, and you’re going to find secrets that may make it impossible to stay. After the incredible set up, the book is a nonstop roller coaster ride of riveting action, suspense, and heartwrenching scenes of love and despair. I have been very sick over the past few days and in desperate need of sleep, but last night, I stayed up until 2 A.M. to finish the book because I absolutely could not put it down. And then, once I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It is haunting in the very best way. And, it has a sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, coming out in March!

If you haven’t given the new YA a try, I highly recommend the books I've just mentioned, along with several others I’ve read this year: Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox, and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series. There are many, many more out there; these are just a few I’ve really enjoyed!