#TBT: First Test by Tamora Pierce

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 9.20.57 PMIt’s another Tamora Pierce #TBT! What can I say, guys — Tamora Pierce’s books made up 90% of my favorite reads in elementary school/junior high.

First Test is book one of the Protector of the Small quartet, and in a lot of ways, I think it’s a stronger series than The Song of the Lioness. The main character, Kel, represents a type of woman I don’t think we see enough of in current YA literature. She’s tough, yes, but also thoughtful and self aware. She’s not a girl searching for her identity — she already knows who she is and what she wants. There’s something about Kel’s voice that’s very refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tris’s and Katniss’s of the YA world, but there’s something a little more real in Kel. Something more… introspective, I suppose.

Anyway, if you want a great YA read — or if you’re writing MG/YA, especially with a female MC — definitely don’t miss this one. It’s a little old, yes– but it was a NYT bestseller for a reason. 🙂

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

#TBT: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 9.48.17 PMThere are books you read to be inspired (Unbroken),  books you read to bask in beautiful writing (Memoirs of a Geisha), and books you read because there’s so much hype about them even though you have a sneaking suspicion they’re overrated (Matched). Then there are books you read on an airplane or a beach because for an hour or two, you just want to be entertained.

Can You Keep a Secret is one of those books. Is it groundbreaking literature that will challenge the way you see the world? Er, no. But it is light, sweet, funny and a super quick read. I don’t like all of Sophie Kinsella’s books, but this one is just adorable. So if you’ve had a long week and you want a fun read that will leave you smiling, definitely pick up a copy. 🙂

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

#TBT: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 8.15.17 PMOh, boy — this one’s an oldie. First published in 1977, The Thorn Birds tells the story of the Clearys, a poor family who move from New Zealand to work on a sheep station in the Australian Outback. It has about fifteen main characters, but primarily focuses on Meggie, a young girl who falls in love with a priest (gasp! quite the scandal in 1915).

When I read old bestsellers like this, I always like to imagine how much trouble the author would have querying them today. I mean, can you imagine the query for this one? Dear Modern Agent — I have written a sweeping family saga that spans fifty years, has about fifteen or twenty main characters, and is written in third-person omniscient POV. Oh, and by the way, it’s 280,000 words — and no, I won’t cut that number down. Sincerely, Colleen.

I mean, maybe her fabulous writing would’ve been enough for agents to get past that 280,000 word thing, but even still — it’s a very old-fashioned sort of book.

Nevertheless, it became an international bestseller for a reason — the writing is completely phenomenal. And every character – literally every last one – is memorable and unique. If you want a lesson in how to make your characters distinct, definitely give this a read. Colleen McCullough is also the queen of beautiful descriptions — I lived in Australia for some time, and all of the descriptions, the thoughtful little details…they put me right back there again. So good!

So, if you have a few days off this Christmas, and want a quick 280,000 word read (ha)… I definitely recommend The Thorn Birds.

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

#TBT: Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 9.11.44 PMThis one’s a classic – Alanna: The First Adventure, the first book in Tamora Pierce’s four-book series, Song of the Lioness. I read this series about a million times as a kid (which I now think is questionably appropriate, considering all the s-e-x references in the later books) and I still have the original, tattered paperback somewhere in my childhood bedroom.

The book follows Alanna of Trebond, a 12-year-old girl who disguises herself as a boy to become trained as a knight. It’s a quick read, but engaging and immersive. I’ve tried to get into a few of Tamora Pierce’s more recent series, and I have to admit, none of them felt quite as spot on as this one. The writing in Alanna is just so clean and minimalistic. It’s a perfect example of less is more — proof you don’t need flowery explanations or page-long descriptors in fantasy to immerse the reader in your world.

So if you missed out on this series when you were a kid – particularly if you’re a fantasy writer! – I would definitely recommend it.

xo Elizabeth

#TBT: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 9.43.45 PMLong before Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger, there was Anne of Green Gables – the most kick-ass heroine in the literary world.

The first time I read Anne of Green Gables I was probably around 7 or 8. And at the risk of sounding totally cheesy, that book helped shape me into the person I am today. Anne was an incredible role model in a time when female role models in kids’ books were scarcer than they are today. She was smart (and wasn’t ashamed of it), she loved to read (and wasn’t ashamed of it). She had an incredible imagination (and wasn’t ashamed of it!!).

And it wasn’t just Anne – every woman in the book is incredible and unique, from Diana and Marilla to Miss Stacey and Rachel Lynde. The writing itself is brilliant (albeit old-fashioned; take a look at the first sentence — 149 words! Janet Reid (AKA the Query Shark) would have an aneurysm!) and the story is captivating.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 9.51.27 PMI don’t know if kids these days still read Anne of Green Gables, but I really, really hope they do. And if you’re reading this post and haven’t read it yourself, go buy it today (it’s dirt cheap on Kindle!). Also worth watching is the fantastic movie adaptation with Megan Follows (probably the best book-to-movie adaptation I’ve ever seen).

Read and enjoy! 🙂

xo Elizabeth

#TBT: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Omigosh, you guys. This book.

There are books you read once and like, books that you read twice and love, and then there are books you read once a year and can basically recite word for word. For me, Memoirs of a Geisha is one of those books. It’s also one of the only books I’ve ever described as ‘stunning’.

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Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of Chiyo, a young Japanese girl who is sold into an okiya in the geisha district of Gion. After its publication in 1997, it quickly became an international bestseller – and boy, can I see why. The breadth of historical detail in it is astonishing, and yet, despite the enormous amount of research that must of gone into it, the writing itself feels effortless.

Honestly, if you only have time to read one book this month (and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, that might be the case), please make it this one. I promise you won’t regret it.**

Read and enjoy!

xo Elizabeth

**Unless you also watch the dreadful movie adaptation, in which case, you probably will.

#TBT: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Throwback Thursday – another alliteration! An alliteration I stole from every living Twitter user, obviously … but whatever. For my Throwback Thursdays, I won’t be showing you embarrassing pictures from childhood or obnoxious selfies from high school. Instead, Thursday’s posts will be devoted to wonderful books that are more than five years old. Because for me, there’s nothing more exciting than when a friend says, “Do you remember that great book from junior high/high school/university?” And I’m like, uhh – no!! And then voila! I’ve discovered an incredible book that I completely missed out on!

So, without further ado… our first Throwback Thursday:

FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA, by Jaclyn Moriarty

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Feeling Sorry for Celia is a YA novel that was published in 2000 (or as we called it back then, the millennium). It’s written entirely in letters (a hit or miss style, which here works wonderfully well) and centers around Elizabeth Clarry, a 15-year-old whose English teacher starts a letter-writing program between two local high schools. Elizabeth also communicates with her mother through hilarious post-it notes, and receives fictional letters from societies such as “The Association of Teenagers” and “The Society of High School Runners Who Aren’t Very Good (but would be if they just trained)”.

I won’t say any more (because God, I can barely write a synopsis of my own book, let alone someone else’s), but I STRONGLY recommend this book for YA writers. Agents talk so much about ‘voice’, and let me tell you, Feeling Sorry for Celia has got it in spades.

Read and enjoy!

xo Elizabeth