7 YA Books Perfect for Back to School

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As the school year fast approaches (and in some cases, has already begun), most students are preparing for the onslaught of required reading. But if you can squeeze in some books of your own choosing, here are 7 books perfect to get you in the mood for back to school.

tragedy paper, theThe Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

This hauntingly-written portrait of a school-year mystery is an enchanting read. Exploring the true-meaning of a tragedy in this dual-voiced novel, The Tragedy Paper is a fascinating portrayal of first love and tragic loss.

isla and the happily ever afterIsla & the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Perkins’ latest romance is all about going back to school (at the School of America in Paris!!!) and a blossoming new relationship. Swoon over Josh and Isla’s whirlwind romance, then plot your own path to true love for the coming school year.

fangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Especially perfect for the college-bound, Fangirl follows university freshman Cath as she searches for a way to fit-in socially with her new classmates, while struggling to find her way in her writing class amidst the pressure of a fandom collectively waiting for the finale to her epic fan fiction, based on a book series thinly-veiled as a Harry Potter-esque franchise. This book embodied my feelings as a college freshman.

ten miles past normalTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

High school freshman Janie finds herself trying to figure out the best way to fit in, while still being herself in this charming, and freshly-told coming of age story. Unique characters and quirky traits make this an enchanting and honest read.

edumacation of jay baker_final coverThe Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark

Clark’s irreverent and hilariously-written story perfectly captures the high school experience. Written in one of today’s freshest voices, The Edumacation of Jay Baker is an honest, engaging and heartfelt portrayal of high school life, and one teen’s experience balancing a shattering home life and blossoming romance.

take a bow paperbackTake a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Chronicling the lives of four teens at a prestigious fine and performing arts school, Take a Bow captures all the stress, drama, and rewards of senior year. Even readers who haven’t participated in arts programs will appreciate the pressure and competition Eulberg describes throughout the novel. It takes the challenges of high school and adolescence to an entirely new level.

hexhallHex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

If you want your school experience a little less normal and a little more paranormal, then Hex Hall is for you. The first novel in Hawkins’ series features Sophie first year at a reform school for wayward kids with magical powers. It has all the things most students deal with: classroom responsibilities, parental pressure, and friendships … all mixed in with a dash of the supernatural.

For the comments: What other YA books do you think are perfect for back to school reading?

Lisa Schroeder Guest Post: Why Setting is Important to Me

Today, The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder stops by to share an exclusive guest post about location, location, location! Thanks for taking the time to share with us, Lisa!

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Why Setting is Important to Me
by Lisa Schroeder

10483566_1459860497602560_1574151591_nIt took me a while, as a writer, to realize how much setting matters to me, both when I’m reading stories and when I’m writing them. Taking careful care with setting and the details around it can add so much to a novel. I think it’s one of the reasons I love well-done historical novels, like A NORTHERN LIGHT and HATTIE BIG SKY. I love being taken to a different time and place.
With my first published novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the setting. I was sort of vague about it – just somewhere in California. For that novel, I think it was okay since it’s part ghost story, part love story. Setting didn’t play a big part in the story at all. But as I continued on, I realized writing in verse is easier when I have a setting I can really picture, and that allows me to do some lovely things with the poetry.

lisa schroeder2THE DAY BEFORE takes place at the beach, and specifically, the town of Newport, Oregon. I used specific places and landmarks in the book to make it as real as I possibly could, and I like how it turned out. As I contemplated the setting for THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU, which I knew would be a small town, I had to decide whether I would use a real small town or make one up. In the end, I went with Willow, Oregon, which is a fictional town and one that comes from some of my other books, though most readers probably won’t get the connection.

Three of my middle grade novels (IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS and FROSTING AND FRIENDSHIP) take place in Willow, Oregon. I wanted a town where the girls could ride their bikes to the library and to their favorite diner, The Blue Moon. I wanted a town where I could make up a new business moving in (Beatrice’s Brownies) so Isabel and her mother would worry about their cupcake shop in relation to this big “chain.” Sometimes it’s just easier to use a fictional town and make it everything you want it to be.

bridge from me to you, the - largeI spent my high school years in a small town. There is a certain feeling that comes from small town life, and I tried really hard to get that across in THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU. Sometimes you get bored and the only thing to do is drive around in the country – that happens in this book. Sometimes there are creek parties – that happens in this book. Sometimes there are gatherings in corn fields or on a little hill tucked back in the woods – that happens in this book.

Readers will get a story about Lauren and Colby and the struggles they’re facing. But readers will also get a taste of small town life – for some, it will be familiar, and others, like those who have lived in big cities all of their lives, it will be very, very different. Either way, it’s a fun setting to visit, and I hope people enjoy their time in the town of Willow.

Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, the third book in the Throne of Glass series, is a slowly unfolding story of transformation and transition, as Celaena and her friends find themselves each individually facing the question: who do they want to be?

heir of fireLost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

With their worlds in upheaval, Celaena, Chaol, Dorian, and a new character (no spoilers) find themselves on shaky ground. What forces are they truly facing? Whose side do they want to be on when the inevitable war breaks out? And what kind of person do they want to be? Will they fight for what they know, in their hearts, is right? Or do they take the path of least resistance?

Heir of Fire is perhaps the slowest book in the Throne of Glass series so-far, but that in no way takes away from the enjoyment readers will find within its pages. That’s because the slowness isn’t because nothing happens — but because it is such a reflective chapter in Celaena’s story — for both her, and her friends (despite their distance from each other).

In Heir of Fire, we truly see these characters face an internal struggle and make difficult choices — ultimately building to a dramatic climax that just proves, once again, that Maas knows how to really hook her audience and keep them on their toes. (And keep them longing for more — which is a good thing, as there are an anticipated three more books to come in this series).

Heir of Fire is a transformative book for the Throne of Glass series, as well, in many ways. No longer is this just a series dubbed “Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games” … no, truly, Heir of Fire sets this series apart as a masterful fantasy epic that needs no comparison.

Heir of Fire is in stores September 2nd.

Book Review: Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects

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My how duct tape craft projects have changed since I was a teenager. When I was in high school, duct tape came in only one color — silver. And the idea of using it for nontraditional craft projects was still fairly new and had not yet captivated mainstream media. I knew a few friends who made duct tape wallets, but that was about it. I took it upon myself to go a bit further: constructing various tote bags and purses. Then a necktie for my dad. Then a ballgown skirt, because I could.

sticky fingersMy work surface was the floor of my bedroom, old hardwoods in desperate need of refinishing, so my mom didn’t care that I was laying strips and strips of duct tape across the floorboards.

Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects by Sophie Maletsky shows just how far duct tape projects have come in a little over ten years.

These days, duct tape can be found not only at your local hardware store — but in your craft store, too, and now in an abundant array of colors and even patterns. (There is such a thing as Spider-Man Duct Tape. Who knew?)

Sticky Fingers starts with a section covering the basics of duct tape crafting — how to make sheets of duct tape “fabric,” appropriate work surfaces (better options than my old hardwood floors), and how to incorporate other materials (even other kinds of tape) into your projects.

The projects then go on to start with the basics — like the now-classic duct tape wallet — and takes readers beyond into far more complicated, creative, and colorful creations. The projects include pretty embellishments, like tassels, bows, and flowers. More advanced creations include a tablet case, a messenger bag, and even some really cool-looking jewelry.

Sticky Fingers is in many ways a nostalgia trip for me (and a reminder of how old I am!) — but is also a refreshing zing of inspiration. Where can I get all those colorful rolls of duct tape again?

Oh, yes. The craft store down the street …

Sticky Fingers is in stores now. Pick up your copy today & get inspired!

The Bridge from Me to You: Verse Novels

Lisa Schroeder is one of the best YA verse novelists around, in my book — and her latest, The Bridge from Me to You uniquely combines verse with prose in alternating chapters.

the day beforeNew to verse novels? Here’s a brief definition of them, plus a list of some other YA verse novels you should check out!

Verse Novels

A verse novel is a type of narrative poetry in which a novel-length narrative is told through the medium of poetry rather than prose. Either simple or complex stanzaic verse-forms may be used, but there will usually be a large cast, multiple voices, dialogue, narration, description, and action in a novelistic manner. (Source)

You might consider The Odyssey and The Illiad classic versions of verse novels (though they are typically referred to as “epic poems.”)

chasing brooklynYA Verse Novels – by Lisa Schroeder

  • I Heart You, You Haunt Me
  • Chasing Brooklyn
  • Far From You
  • The Day Before

YA Verse Novels

  • Crank (and other books) by Ellen Hopkins
  • Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  • The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
  • Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
  • Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
  • Frenchtown Summer by Robert Cormier

For the comments: What are some other YA verse novels you’d recommend?


GoneReading.com: The Perfect Place to Shop for Book Lovers

Most reviews here at Novel Novice are for books — but let’s face it. Even the most diehard reader needs to surface from the pages of a book sometime. And when we do return to the real world, we want to cling to our love of books and share it with the world.

That’s where GoneReading.com comes in — the perfect online place to shop for book lovers everywhere.

book plattersWhat’s that? You’re in need of a snack? Why not dish up a tasty treat on one of these adorable book-shaped plates. Made of bright-white porcelain, these plates and platters are sturdy and solid. Not only perfect for dishing up snacks for your book club meeting, the smaller pieces are also great as valet trays or a place to hold assorted nick-knacks, like paperclips, loose change, etc.

Mark-Twain-Travel-Tin-Candle-300x300Maybe you long for the smell of the library when you’re cooped up at home reading? GoneReading.com has a fabulous collection of literary-inspired candles and scents. Don’t worry, the candles don’t actually smell like unwashed old men … I received a sample of the Mark Twain candle, and it’s divine. (My husband loved it, too!) A blend of tobacco flower and vanilla, it’s a unique but lovely scent and not at all overpowering. I’m eager to try out more of this collection, too … I think Oscar Wilde is next on my wish list!

My-Bibliofile-300x300GoneReading also has a great assortment of book journals, for you to keep track of your reading habits offline. (I know, what a concept, right?) As much as I love blogging and social media, there is something so lovely about hand-writing lists and notes and details about things you love — especially when it’s on nice paper in a pretty, bound journal. GoneReading’s assortment includes “My Bibliofile,” which is a wonderful diary-type book for folks who want to keep track of their thoughts on the books they read offline. It features many pages for writing reviews (complete with the option of filling out how many stars), interspersed with fun interactive pages where you can answer questions about things like your favorite authors, favorite quotes, and travel destinations inspired by books you’ve read. As an avid gone reading review itemsbook blogger, I can’t see myself using this particular journal much, since it would be like rewriting all my blog posts by hand! But for non-bloggers, it’s a great template for keeping track of what you read and your thoughts on each book. (The “Books to Check Out” journal would probably be a better choice for me, since I’m always making lists of books I want to buy/borrow/request/read.)

Besides these three items (which I received for review), GoneReading.com offers plenty more for book lovers to drool over. I’ve already added a ton of items to my “wish list” board on Pinterest (where my husband looks first when he’s shopping for my birthday, Christmas, or other gift-giving occasion). There are cute t-shirts, an assortment of adorable bookmarks and bookplates, unique bookshelves, book-ish home decor, and more.

So if you love reading and love telling the world about your love of reading — check out GoneReading.com and start making your OWN wish list.

New YA Releases: August 19, 2014

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Here’s a look at some of today’s new YA releases:

false futureFalse Future by Dan Krokos

True Earth has returned during a massive snowstorm in Manhattan-and this time they have an army. Rhys, Noble, Sophia, and Peter know they don’t stand a chance against the enemy without Miranda. And once they revive her, she’s horrified to find her world in flames.

The enemy occupation is brutal, but the director promises to release her hold on the city if Mr. East is turned in, and Miranda and her team are determined to find him. With her grief over the losses she has suffered fueling her spirit, Miranda knows that this time the sacrifices have to be worth it.

Packed with suspense and deception, Dan Krokos brings Miranda’s journey to a mind-bending conclusion as she risks losing everything in the fight for her future.

starlight's edgeStarlight’s Edge by Susan Waggoner

Zee has given up her entire world to be with David on far-future Earth, confident that their love will overcome all obstacles. But beneath its lustrous surface and dazzling technology, New Earth is full of challenges, including the animosity of David’s wealthy and powerful family.

As Zee struggles to find her place, David travels back to past Earth. Then, on a mission to Pompeii on the eve of the Vesuvius eruption, he vanishes. Zee knows he is in mortal danger, but will she be able to rescue him in time?

For the comments: Which of today’s new YA releases are you most excited about?

The Bridge from Me to You Quote Graphics

Lisa Schroeder’s The Bridge from Me to You is packed with beautiful quotes. So to showcase some of these quotes, I’ve created some original graphics featuring some of my favorite passages overlaid with photos I’ve taken of the places throughout Oregon similar to the locations featured in The Bridge from Me to You. Enjoy!

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For the comments: What are some of your favorite quotes from The Bridge from Me to You and Lisa’s other books?

July 2014 Contest Winners

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Time to round-up the winners of our assorted July contests. Congrats to all the winners, and be sure to check out our current contests for more chances to win great prizes!

Deady Delicious Giveaway

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Our U.S. winner receives a signed paperback copy of Deadly Delicious from author K.L. Kincy: Victoria Zumbrum

And our int’l winner receives an e-book of Deadly Delicious: Mary Preston

The Family Romanov Giveaway

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One winner receives a copy of The Family Romanov courtesy of Random House: Lisa Ahlstedt

Homeroom Diaries Contest

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One winner receives “The Happiness Project” prize pack — which includes copies of Homeroom Diaries, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, and First Love: Victoria Zumbrum

Squish + Comics Squad Contest

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One winner will receive copies of Squish #6: Fear the Amoeba and Comics Squad: Recess! courtesy of illustrator Matt Holm: Natasha Donohoo

Brazen Historical Writing Contest

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For this writing contest, we asked you to choose a moment in history — a person or time from the past — and imagine what really happened. What are some of the details that may not have survived time? That we don’t know about today?

The winner is … Mackenzi Lee! Congrats, and here is her winning entry about Mary and Percy Shelley:

When we lit the funeral pyre around Percy Shelley, his heart did not burn.

His skin melted, muscles and bones collapsed and crumbled into something I could have brushed on my skin and run between my fingers, his heart remained behind, stubborn and smoldering, but refusing to catch.

We had been standing on the beach for hours, watching his body turn to smoke that the wind wrapped into wispy clouds and pushed away across the lake. I tipped my head backwards and through the haze I could see the stars, faint and pale like salt spread in handfuls across that velvet darkness. The first time I had kissed Shelley it had been dark like this. Dark and hazy, but I had never felt so bright.

It was Byron who finally reached into the flames and withdrew Shelley’s unburned heart. His fingers were black with ash, and as he held the heart before him, it seemed to me an artifact of a lost civilization. A left behind thing from a body gone to God, though Shelley would have been sick if he knew I had thought of God at his funeral.

Beside me, Claire let go a quiet moan, and her trembling grew suddenly violent, as though it were her husband’s heart in Byron’s hand instead of mine. Her fingers clenched vise-tight around my arm. The crepe puckered under her nails.

Byron passed the heart to John, who held it in a way that was somehow tender and terrified, the same way he had always handled Shelley, before he passed it off to Claire. She took it, just for a moment, and clutched it close enough that it left a black smear across the starched material stretched tight across her stomach. She let go one sob, a ravaged caw like a gull’s, and then my husband’s heart was in my hands. I looked down at it, black and gelatinous, scarred by the flames of his funeral pyre, or perhaps the scars had been there all along. It felt hard, like a bone.

It is only now that I realize we passed the heart in the order in which we died.

Byron was the next to go after Shelley. He died young and lonely and fever-mad in Greece.

Then John, who hung himself from a balcony in France.

Then Claire, whose soul went into the ground with her little daughter.

I am what is left of us, waiting alone with only the feeling of my husband’s heart between my fingers and the prickling memories that stab me every time I shift of once running young and barefoot and happy on that same beach where we burned his body.

All these years, and I still have the heart. I wrapped it in his love letters and kept it in my drawer.

The Bridge from Me to You Preorder Contest

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Everyone who entered this contest will be receiving a signed bookplate from author Lisa Schroeder and a bookmark. We also offered up some additional prize packs, and the winners of each prize pack are listed below:

  • Signed copies of Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson & To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Ivan Shellenbarger
  • The Book of Broken Hearts and Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler: Becca Rackley
  • Signed copies of Illusions and Destined by Aprilynne Pike: Anne Campbell
  • Signed copies of Hereafter by Tara Hudson and Die for Me by Amy Plum: Kianna Ramirez
  • Signed copies of Perfect and Triangles by Ellen Hopkins: Daisy Richeson
  • ARCS of Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott, Rain by Amanda Sun, How to Meet Boys by Catherine Clark, and Far From You by Tess Sharpe: Jennifer Malphy

Congrats to ALL our winners! Look for the August contest winners to be announced sometime in September.

Exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder – Part 3


Today, we bring you part 3 of our exclusive Q&A with The Bridge from Me to You author Lisa Schroeder … FLASH QUESTIONS! If you missed it, catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

lisa schroederFavorite decade?

I think I have to go with the 80s.

Must-have writing snack?


Favorite Disney movie?

The Aristocats

The beach or the mountains?


Song that can always get you dancing?

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince

Name 5 things currently on your desk (or in your writing space).

  1. Mother’s Day card from my youngest son
  2. chapstick
  3. a fabric cupcake
  4. too many notebooks
  5. a turtle a fan made me.