Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Reading Recommendations

I did a school visit!

The school was Timpanogos Intermediate School. They put me in a small auditorium and I got to present to about 5 classes of middle school students. Honestly, I underestimated my time and had lots of extra time for kids to ask questions. The good news is that they rose to the occasion in a big way. Some asked questions. Others spouted ideas like, "What if Jeremy went back in time?"

I don't know if, as a writer, I'm allowed to encourage fan fiction (shouldn't I want kids to write their own stories, not mine?), but if I can, those kids should totally do it. Their ideas were great, even if I couldn't use many of them without fundamentally altering the story.

So, first school visit since publication: success!

Next week, I'll probably be talking about the race I'm running this Saturday in the Grand Tetons.

But for today, I want to make a summer reading list.

This is in part inspired by a Goodreads question I was asked, but since I've had friends ask me what books I recommend, I'd like to post a few: 5 books each in middle grade, young adult, and adult. I'm limiting myself a little, since there are so many books I love in each category! I'm going to omit the gimmes, like anything by Rick Riordan or the classics that I've already stated I love. These will be the hidden gems I've found and enjoyed to no end that make for good, fun summer reading.

Middle Grade

1. Archvillain by Barry Lyga

This is Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog for kids. The main character gets powers the night another super-powered kid falls from the sky. Not trusting the alien kid, the protagonist becomes the villain to his hero. It's smart, poking fun at the superhero genre while still being a fun member of it. Likeable characters and exciting plots.

2. Story Thieves by James Riley

James Riley is consistently funny. This book is no exception. Also, it is a little meta: with the idea of kids being able to jump into books at will as a major part of the story, be ready to see the author mention himself. Again, characters are likeable and the story is imaginative.

3. The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris

Ever wished Arthurian legends could be more sarcastic? Then this book's for you! The whole series follows tales from Arthurian legend but in a way that feels like Patricia C. Wrede's take on fairy tales in the Dealing With Dragons series. Very clever writing and dialogue, and adventure while still poking fun at the traditional tales.

4. Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

 Magic bakery and strong family connections. This book is "bliss" to read - pleasant, light and enjoyable, like a good pastry, and I love that the relationships between the family members are realistic but kind. Also, magic bakery.

5. Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This is by the same author who wrote the Bartimaeus books. In these, ghosts run amok and only kids can sense them, so kids work for agencies for stopping ghosts. These books follow the only child-run agency. Dark and creepy, but also funny and tightly written, a good book for stormy summer days.

Young Adult

1. Taste Test by Kelly Fiore

This book is a light, entertaining book about a teen cooking reality show. There's romance, mystery, and all through it a strong current of competition. This book makes me want to cook something, and it's fresh enough not to feel like every other teen romance out there while still being familiar and comforting.

2. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I love this book. This is about teenagers who are "naturals" at solving crime (the protagonist is a natural profiler) who live together and are trained by the FBI to be agents one day. Smart writing, smart subject. The crime psychology feels chillingly real. It's a thrilling read.

3. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Barry Lyga makes the list again, but this time, not for his humor. Dark book, this one. The son of a serial killer struggles to stay human (aka, not go murderous like his dad who trained him to be so) and also seeks to identify and stop a serial killer. Like The Naturals in many ways, but much darker and grittier, so if you like horrors and thrills, this is a good one.

4. The Siren by Kiera Cass

And we're back to light. This book, by the author of The Selection, is a take on "The Little Mermaid," in a way. Girls who are drowning are sometimes allowed to become sirens. They live a hundred years as a siren before becoming mortal again, and during that time their voices lure people to their deaths. A sweet, romantic story with very likeable characters, more so than I expected for a book about girls luring men, women, and children to their deaths.

5. The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

The Phantom of the Opera set in the Caribbean. If I need to say more to entice you, know that the setting feels vibrant and real, and story follows the original fairly well, all things considered, and you get to see the Phantom from "Christine's" perspective, which gives the story more depth.

1. The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner

This is a work of nonfiction. It tells the stories of the Hershey and Mars chocolate empires, from beginning to current day. I loved learning about the making of chocolate and how both companies started, their philosophies, and how they became what they are now. I also finished with a real admiration for Milton Hershey as a person.

2. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Apparently, I like food and magic. This book is about both, but also about sisters and family. The main characters come from a family where all the women have some special, magical gift. When one sister comes back to their hometown after being away for a while, things start to happen. It's a magical, fairy-tale-like read that's great for summer.

3. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is glorious and this is a good first book for new readers. Sarcastic, humorous, smart (so very smart), this book about a con artist taking over the role of postmaster is wonderful. The fantastic elements are present but the focus is more on the character Moist's plans and schemes.

4. Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Urban fantasy about a wizard in Chicago who occasionally helps the police solve crimes. This book is great, with a wonderful voice and an imaginative world that feels real. The series just gets better, too. If you like Supernatural, read this book. You'll be doing yourself a favor. Great characters, just great.

 5. The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo

Another nonfiction, but not as sweet as the chocolate book. This is about the Vidocq society, a club of cops, detectives, profilers, and all kinds of other crime fighters who meet up, eat dinner, hear details of a cold case, and solve it. It can be creepy in places, but if you like true crime, this is a fascinating read.

These are certainly not the only books I enjoy, but they're some of my favorites and they're great for light, interesting, dark, scary, thrilling summer reading. I'd recommend these books to my friends.

Here are this week's debuts:

Young Adult:
Sandhya Menon - When Dimple Met Rishi (5/30)
Nadine Jolie Courtney - Romancing the Throne (5/30)
Karen McManus - One of Us is Lying (5/30)
Julie Israel - Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index (5/30)
Andrew Shvarts - Royal Bastards (5/30)

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