Tag Archives | young adult

Countdown of my favorite books – part 6.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! And if the holidays are hard for you for whatever reason, I hope you found comfort in memories of loved ones and the small moments, even if it’s a hot cup of cocoa with whipped cream. And here are some good books to help too. There are specific reasons I’m pairing the next two books together. Read on to find out.

DEMON GLASS by Rachel Hawkins

Many of you know this book. NYT best seller. The first book in the series, HEX HALL, was a fine book. Fun character. Strong story. But it was the second book that sold me on this series. If you want to understand how to write a sequel, read these two books. I can’t wait for the third to come out!

TREMBLE by Addison Moore (Book 2 of the Celestrial series)

Book two continues the saga of Skyla, the purest of angels. Addison introduced so many neat plot twists in this second book. In fact, each book in this 5 book series and counting, does an incredible job of building on the previous novels. There’s something about these books that force you to buy the next to find out what happens! Seriously.

What these books had in common?

1. Both are angel/demon stories in a series.

2. In both series, it was book 2 that hooked me.

3. Both authors did an incredible job of raising the stakes and creating conflict – especially for book 2!

4. If you want to know how to end a book on a cliffhanger without frustrating your readers, then read these. The plot lines closed, the stories ended; but a new twist is introduced at the end.

Share in the comments about your favorite books!

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Countdown of my favorite books – part 4.

Both of these books I’ve read in the past months. Loved them both. And by the way, if you click on the title it will bring you to Amazon.

SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

I’ll admit it. I first checked this book out based on the huge buzz it got. But I purchased the book based on the opening pages. Beautiful writing. If you want to understand about rhetorical devices and poetry in prose then read this book. This story was not about the plot. Not really. It was about the writing. The author took the saturated dystopian genre and did something completely different with it.

RED by Kait Nolan

I’d seen this book for a while. But honestly? I didn’t want to read another werewolf novel. Again, one day, I was curious and read the first few pages. Then I bought it. I fell in love with the writing and loved the story.

Your turn. Share some more of your favorites!

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Countdown of my favorite books – part 1.

Instead of signing off for two weeks, I want to try something different. For the next two weeks I’ll post my book recommendations. Books from this past year that I really enjoyed, okay, loved!

Because the frantic Christmas countdown is on! And I still have Christmas cards to mail. Presents to wrap. Cookies to burn. Self imposed deadlines to meet. Squirrels to torment and scare off, I mean  feed with little special nut cakes. And of course sit on my duff and indulge in some eggnog by the fire.

So here are my first two picks.


I absolutely loved the beautiful writing, the mysterious story, and the relationship between the sisters.

And the new paperback cover:

BECOME by Ali Cross

When I saw the cover I knew I wanted to read it. I never know when I read a self published book what it’s going to be like. But this one was terrific. The writing. The story. The characters. Worth reading.

Know that I’ll be reading your blogs this next week but most likely won’t be commenting! Feel free to leave your book recs in the comments all week!

Hope you are all farther ahead in your Christmas prep than I am! Yikes!

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Is IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE really a YA novel?

Think about it. It’s an angel story. Okay, so there might not be a hot angel stud in it, but Clarence is definitely not your typical angel. There is a character named Potter in it. And think about the firsts – first kiss, first love, first job, first save-your-brother-from-drowning, and first…well, you get the point.


Here are the ten reasons I love this movie from a writer’s point of view.

1. Opening prayers that make me care for George Bailey. Why is he in so much trouble? Why is everyone praying for him? I want to know!

2. Every single scene is important to the story. They deal with George, Mary, or Potter; and of course, don’t forget the Bailey Building and Loan – that crummy old building.

3. The scenes start late and end early. No fillers! I sit down to watch for five minutes and I end up watching the whole darn movie.

4. Every scene contributes to the main storyline but also has its own storyline. Almost every scene ends with a cliffhanger. For example, George leaves Mary in the bushes to go see his father who had a stroke.

5. Humor is added to each scene: George and Mary falling into the pool or Mary losing her robe.



6. A great debate is introduced in the beginning. Will George take over the Building and Loan or go and travel the world? He chooses to stay but always holds onto the dream of leaving.

7. George is an extremely likeable character. He’s not off to save the world. His goals are really quite selfish. But every decision he makes, putting himself last, comes at huge personal sacrifice. For example – his hearing, his college, his travels, his honeymoon.

8. Incredible secondary characters. Their stories and pivotal moments are revealed when they connect with George’s life.

9. Let’s not forget the mirror images of the first and third act. Every scene in the first act, the characters who are introduced, come into play in Act III.

10. George never reaches his goals. I mean how often does that happen? But that makes the ending so moving. He realizes he had a better life than the one he dreamed about. So primal. Sigh.

This movie is so different from JINGLE ALL THE WAY, but I love them both!

What’s your favorite scene in this movie, if you’ve seen it? If you haven’t, tell me, your favorite Christmas dessert!

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What’s in a thriller? S.R. Johannes gives us her best tips.

I’m so excited to welcome S.R. Johannes to the blog to talk about writing thrillers. I put her in the hot seat with the following questions.

1. Do you write mainly thrillers? Will you continue to?

Yes and yes. J

When I was growing up, I used to sneak my mom’s books and read them – anything from Steven King, to James Patterson, to Iris Johannsen to James Hall (just to name a few) and I loved how they would keep me up at night reading.

I’ve always wanted to create that for teens. And I’ve been shocked at how few thrillers there are that DO NOT have some type of paranormal or fantasy twist.

So I do contemporary thrillers. Tough girls in the real world.

I’d like to say I’d write other stuff. But I will never be able to write something that does not have some level of suspense. I don’t know why but I’ve tried and it doesn’t work – for me.

2. What are you top tips or must-follow instructions for writing thrillers?

Thrillers are all about creating some kind of tension. If it isn’t in action, it needs to be in a relationship or in emotions. Something that makes you hold your breath and then release when it’s settled.

I have studied James Patterson’s writing and his writing process for years. He once talked about how he writes to an inverted conflict curve. This means he starts a chapter with tension, resolves it in the middle, and then begins more rising action and ends a chapter on a tense moment. This is what makes his books page turners in my opinion.  Because we – as readers – look for those natural places to stop – usually when a chapter/scene resolves in some way or in a quiet moment before the storm.

After I write my books, I recut my book to that inverted model so the tension is at the end of a chapter.

3. What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when writing a thriller?

I think the big pitfalls are losing tension and being predictable. If you are predictable – it is not thriller b/c you lose the tension in your story. You never want your reader to sit back and go “ah this is resolved.” You want them going. ”What!? How!” The best compliment I get on Untraceable is when someone says, “I did not see that coming.” Good because that is what I felt when I wrote it.

In a thriller – you have to be willing to go places you don’t really want to go. Don’t write the neatly tied up ending. Don’t go the way most people will go or want to go. Don’t go the way you want to go. Go the way that gets to you the most. The way that is the hardest to write. This book doesn’t end the way I wanted. It is not the original ending. And that was hard for me to swallow but necessary for the story to touch people. You would not believe how many emails I have already gotten about the ending. And I agree with them. But it was unexpected.

4. How do you feel is the best way to add heart to a thriller without taking away from the “thrill”?

Well I try to keep some humor in my books so my characters are all not gloom and doom and woe is me. That gets old. Even when I’ve been down and out – there are those times and places – those awkward moments where you crack a joke or laugh – when you probably shouldn’t. And for just a minute, things feel okay again. Grace is like that and I find that endearing that in the midst of everything – she can kid Wyn or jab at Mo.

Part of the tension with Grace is her emotions. She is completely unpredictable and sometimes even annoyingly reckless. This keeps tension b/c you never know what she is going to do. She also doesn’t cry at the things most of us would. I think she holds back her emotions for 2/3s of the book until everything comes crashing down around her.

That process of holding back causes some tension because once she breaks, the reader is left thinking, “Oh crap – now she is in trouble.” At least – I hope.

5. What are some of your favorite YA thrillers?

Gosh I hate to say this but I cannot think of one contemporary thriller in YA – one that does not have a paranormal or fantasy element. I have racked my brain on this for years. Maybe I have missed it somewhere. Ally Carter is the only person that pops into my mind.

But books that have great tension – to me – are Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Seriously, I think I held my breath for ½ that book.

Also Kimberly Derting’s Body Finder series – there is one scene in the first book where Violet is running through the woods and I was on the edge of my seat. I still get chills when I am in the woods, thinking about that.

My favorite thriller writer of all time is James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. I still love those.

Hope that’s not too much! Good luck with this journey!

Check out Shelli’s book UNTRACEABLE. And her website Market My Words where she has blogged about her self publishing experiences.

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