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  • Corrina Lawson 4:00 pm on 2018/02/15 Permalink
    Tags: anne rivers siddons, , cheryl zach, emily mckay, fifteen, heartbreak hotel, jean and johnny, , john green, , king of ithaka, lurlene mcdaniel, , now i lay me down to sleep, , sister of the bride, the dark between, , , , the iron king, the problem with forever, , the witch of blackbird pond, tracy barrett, waiting for amanda   

    The Great RITA Read: Young Adult Romace 

    Young Adult Romance is a unique category in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award.

    All the other categories are defined by their genre or length, but the YA category is defined by its intended audience. That means stories set in any genre can—and have—won the Young Adult Romance RITA Award. Those genres include contemporary, historicals, suspense, urban fantasy, and dystopian fantasy.

    It also means that interest in young adult romance has waxed and waned since the YA award was created in 1983. Cheryl Zach, who won the award three times, was the most prominent early YA author in the 1980s and 1990s, winning in 1985, 1986 and 1996.

    But then there was a long gap. RWA officials said that the YA Romance RITA award was always available for entry, but lack of entries lead to no awards being given between 1997-2007.

    This revitalization is likely due to a book that never won the award at all: Adios To My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer. This novel, about a teenage girl who enters a reality show music competition, won the Contemporary Single Title Romance RITA in 2007. Ferrer had originally entered her book in YA but that category didn’t have enough entries, so it was moved to contemporary romance, where it unexpectedly was the victor. In her emotional acceptance speech, Ferrer urged other YA writers to write their stories and enter their books.

    And since 2008, YA Romance RITA Award winners have included dystopian and urban fantasy coming-of-age stories, such as the The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, and The Farm by Emily McKay, along with the contemporary tales, such as the latest winner, 2017’s The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

    But whatever the genre or the year of publication, there have been two constants for the RITA Award winner in YA romance:

    First, they’re the heroine’s story. Not one of the young adult romances I found still available featured the hero’s story first. They all begin with the heroine. The recent YA RITA Award winners feature first-person narration from the heroine’s point of view. Among the earlier winners, it’s generally a third-person narration that always includes the heroine’s point of view.

    Second, the young adult romances are intensely emotional tales.

    I discovered some delightful stories but also some shockers. We modern readers sometimes believe we’ve invented something new, but it might surprise you to learn that the winner in 1992 was Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep by Lurlene McDaniel, and it featured two young cancer patients falling in love. (Yes, many years before John Green delved into similar territory with The Fault In Our Stars.)

    And reading Cheryl Zach’s books showed me that these early stories set the standard for quality and emotional involvement. Zach’s award winners—The Frog Princess (1985), Waiting for Amanda (1986), and Runaway (1996)—put her in the RWA Hall of Fame in 1996. She’s one of the few (if not the only) romance writer to receive the three different versions of the Award now known as the RITA: a plaque (1985), a large wooden “book” with a round medallion in its center (1986), and the now-traditional RITA statue in 1996.

    Zach was the third member of that Hall of Fame, preceded only by Nora Roberts and LaVryle Spencer. It’s a shame that these three of Zach’s books are out of print, because while some details of the world might seem dated, their quality is unmistakable. But Zach also writes historical novels under her own name and as Nicole Byrd, and many of those later Zach and Byrd books are available for sale.

    Waiting for Amanda, my favorite of Zach’s three winners, is the story of a teenage girl who is left bereft by the death of her mother, and shipped off with her younger sister to a distant relative in a small town. It’s clear the heroine is traumatized and has what we’d now call PTSD due to grief and past abuse from the father who abandoned them. She buries her grief by keeping busy, and there’s much that needs doing, including cleaning up the hoarding mess created by her new guardian, her great-aunt, and watching over her sister, who’s expressing her own grief by acting out in various ways. Amanda’s story would resonate today, even with the few anachronisms–no cell phones, and the inability to, well, locate people who have left town.

    I asked Zach what led her to writing young adult stories.

    “I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, wrote for the school paper in high school and college, in was published book reviews in the local city paper. After college, I started trying to publish books, slowed by having children—would still have the children!—finally succeeded. I got the idea for Frog Princess from an incident that happened while I was still teaching at high school—what would happen if someone was elected class president as a prank? The plot for Waiting for Amanda came to me as I was finishing the first book.

    Runaway, the last award winner, came straight out of a newspaper story in back pages…I wasn’t sure I wanted to write it as it seemed pretty sad, but it wouldn’t leave me. I happened to speak to an editor shortly afterward, mentioned the story idea, and she immediately wanted the book. Something happened then that I had heard about but not experienced before: the characters took over and would not do what I had planned…I had to call my editor and tell her the book was going to end differently than I had expected. But it turned out to be one of my strongest books, I think, and certainly one of my favorites.”

    She said that YA books have seen an evolution over the years.

    “Early on, I well remember editors taking out lines or passages or nixing topics I was not allowed to write about. Runaway was a step forward in what I was free to cover. Now about anything goes. I do agree with the late great Madeleine L’Engle that young readers deserve some hope at the end of the book (as opposed to adult readers). She also said the best writing was being done for young readers!”

    Adios To My Old Life was somewhat of a departure for Caridad Ferrer, who has also written When The Stars Go Blue and Between Here and Gone as Barbara Ferrer.

    “Since YA had been such an unexpected detour in terms of my writing, it’s not a world I was ever very in touch with. What influences I did have, were more rooted in the books I’d read growing up. Judy Blume, for example, and oddly, some of the books that were quote/unquote “children’s” books when they were first published, but had a lot of YA influence to them, like Beverly Cleary’s Sister of the Bride and Jean and Johnnyand Fifteen—books that might seem dated because of when they were written, but the underlying story structure is sound and timeless.

    “I also referred to a lot of the coming of age stories I’d read as a kid and teenager, like Fox Running and Anne Rivers Siddons’ Heartbreak Hotel and The Witch of Blackbird Pond—all which fall in line with my preference for writing older teen characters (as all three of my YA novels and the two novellas showcased).”

    The last three winners of the YA RITA have all been contemporary stories, which made me wonder if that’s a new trend. I asked Ferrer about where they saw the Young Adult RITA category going in the future.

    “I honestly could not tell you,” Ferrer said. “What I can tell from looking at the winners in the ten years since I won my RITA (albeit in a different category), is that there’s been something of a shift from paranormal/dystopian skewed YA toward more realistic, contemporary YA. I can’t help but wonder if Adiós would have even won in 2007, had there been a YA category that year, and how my later YA novels, which were more of the realistic contemporary (and weren’t as well received) would do if they were published now. Beyond that, it’s going to be interesting to see which way the pendulum swings in the next decade.”

    Zach says she still reads young adult books and enjoys young adult books and stories.

    “Recent books I’ve enjoyed include Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys quartet, Sonia Gensler’s The Dark Between, and Tracy Barrett’s historical fiction such as King of Ithaka.”

    As for advice for anyone who wants to write young adult stories, romance or not, and perhaps become the future of young adult romance?

    “Anyone who wants to write should read lots of books and write, write, write and write some more,” Zach said.

    The post The Great RITA Read: Young Adult Romace appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/01/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , john green, , the fault in our stars original ending, the sense of an ending, wait what?   

    5 Beloved Novels That Almost Had Very Different Endings 

    The act of creation isn’t always simple. Sure, sometimes writers receive a flash of inspiration and create something fully-formed. More often, writing a novel is a start-stop process, marked by flurries of intense work and stretches of contemplation. Most novels undergo serious revision between the initial idea and the final version. (Heck, some authors continue revising even after a book has been published.) Even still, usually a finished novel is fairly similar in its main plot points to the first draft. But not always, as these five famous novels demonstrate—the endings of each were actually quite different in the initial draft, sometimes shockingly so. (Beware of spoilers, obviously!)

    The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
    Anyone who has struggled to main their composure when reading the devastating, somehow inspiring ending of Green’s novel knows the death of Augustus, the co-lead and primary love interest of the main character, cancer-afflicted teen Hazel, hits hard. It’s a quiet, yet intense ending that fits perfectly with what comes before. But Green recently admitted that he had two other endings in mind, and in retrospect, both of them sound absolutely insane: in one, Peter Van Houten ties a character to railroad tracks in order to explore the philosophical puzzle known as the Trolley Problem, and in another, Van Houten and Hazel die together in a shootout with drug lords. Green was talked out of both ideas and settled on the tragic ending that so perfectly ends the story, and no, you’re tearing up thinking about it again, not us. Pass those tissues.

    A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
    The final lines of Hemingway’s 1929 classic A Farewell to Arms are perfectly Hemingwayesque: “But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” The clipped rhythm, unadorned sentences, and bleakness: that’s Hemingway, all right. But in 1958, Papa admitted he’d struggled to find those words, and estimated he’d written 39 alternate endings before settling on the final version. Recent scholarship ups that to 47 distinct endings, all preserved in Hemingway’s papers—including one suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A 2012 edition of the novel includes them all, and while only the final few lines are altered, the tone and implication of the ending is often completely transformed between variations.

    Matilda, by Roald Dahl
    Matilda is one of Dahl’s best-loved novels, the story of a precocious little girl whose intellectual prowess is stymied by schoolwork way beneath her abilities, triggering the development of temporary telekinesis, which she uses it to play pranks on the mean-spirited school headmistress and help her kind-hearted teacher, Miss Honey. The ending is a bit abrupt—Matilda’s awful parents are implicated in an elaborate fraud scheme and go on the run from the police, disinterestedly giving her permission to live with Miss Honey instead—but Dahl’s early manuscripts reveal a much darker ending in which Matilda dies. In that early version her pranks are a little meaner, as well, demonstrating an overall different tone.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    Dickens actually revised the ending to this classic novel twice. The original ending had Pip meet Estella—but she has remarried after Drummle’s death, and thus there is no chance of a happy ending. Dickens liked this ending because it was unexpected and went against convention. However, he was persuaded its melancholy tone was uncommercial, so he altered it to something very close to the modern ending, wherein Estella is widowed but not remarried, and indicates she now sees Pip as a potential future. His final revision was to finesse the famous line “I saw no shadow of another parting from her” into its current form in order to make it slightly more ambiguous.

    Rinkitink in Oz, by L. Frank Baum
    Baum wrote 14 Oz books in his lifetime, and dozens of official entries in the series have been penned by others. Like many authors of successful series, Baum tried to do something different, only to come back to Oz because the books sold well. The 10th installment, Rinkitink in Oz, is often considered an outlier—albeit a very good one—because 90 percent of the story takes place outside of Oz; Dorothy only appears suddenly at the very end to give the heroes a tour of Oz. The reason for this is simple: it was originally written a decade earlier as a standalone fairy tale with no connection to Oz whatsoever. In need of a new Oz book and exhausted after a particularly busy few years of writing, Baum dusted off King Rinkitink, rewrote the ending with a bit of Ozness injected, and published it. The good news is, it’s one of the best stories in the series.

    If John Green had gone with the shootout ending, would The Fault in Our Stars still be as beloved? Discuss below.


    The post 5 Beloved Novels That Almost Had Very Different Endings appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Diana Biller 8:30 pm on 2016/03/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , david auburn, , john green, mmm... pi, , proof, rebecca goldstein, the mind-body problem   

    In Honor of Pi Day, 6 Great Novels for Math Nerds 

    Today is Pi Day (or, as the Internet has dubbed this year’s occurrence, Rounded Pi Day), which means it’s the perfect time to celebrate the long tradition of books inspired by mathematics, and also to ask the important question: are mathematicians really as tortured as writers like to think they are? Because…yikes. Here are six genre-spanning books that promise to please even the most math-obsessed.

    A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin
    This bestselling novel from the critically beloved author of America America spans 70 years in the life of mathematical genius Milo Andret, from his childhood, to his academic superstardom, to the scars he leaves on his son, Hans, a genius in his own right. Canin deftly interweaves mathematics, family, addiction, grief, and love to produce an elegant, powerfully written novel that brings the reader into a fraught world of genius and struggle.

    Proof, by David Auburn
    Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece follows Catherine, a brilliant young woman who has spent the last several years caring for her math genius father, who is suffering from mental illness. Picking up a week after his death, the play deals with Catherine’s own struggle to define the line between brilliance and madness as she navigates the loss of her father and a tentative, difficult new romance. Proof won the Tony Award in 2001 and was turned into a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

    An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
    This charming young adult novel, about a teenage prodigy who tries to prove a theorem that will predict the ultimate end of any relationship, is stuffed to the brim with surprisingly accurate math. Green, who declares he “sucks” at math while still being really into it, actually consulted with a mathematician friend as he wrote the book, and there’s an appendix filled with graphs and equations at the end. Funny, smart, and tender, An Abundance of Katherines is a great read for math lovers young and old.

    Flowers from the Storm, by Laura Kinsale
    Laura Kinsale’s beloved romance about a mathematician who suffers a debilitating stroke and the Quaker woman he falls in love with appears with astonishing frequency on “best of romance” lists, and for good reason. Weaving together linguistics, math, disability, and religion alongside the main love story, Kinsale’s novel is intensely absorbing, poignant, and even funny.

    Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
    It was hard to pick which Neal Stephenson novel deserves to represent his work on this list, and if I’m honest, Cryptonomicon probably edged out the competition because I’ve always liked the title, so, you know, check out Anathem too. Starting in the 1940s with a mathematician who becomes a cryptoanalyst for the Allies (and hangs out with Alan Turing along the way), and moving on to the life of his grandson, a computer genius in the present day, Cryptonomicon is an exciting and challenging technological adventure.

    The Mind-Body Problem, by Rebecca Goldstein
    Goldstein’s first novel was a runaway hit when it was published more than 30 years ago, and it’s still easy to see why. The hysterically funny story of a young philosophy graduate student who marries a famous mathematician and then finds herself struggling to balance the life of the mind with the life of the body, The Mind-Body Problem offers hilarious takes on academia, philosophy, genius, marriage, and family, and is a delightful and startlingly clever read.

  • Monique Alice 6:00 pm on 2015/11/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , john green, kate morton, , , the lake house, , , why leave the house?   

    5 Books to Keep You Inside on Black Friday 

    There are two kinds of people in this world: There are the people who love Black Friday (the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer), and the people who don’t (the parking, the crowds, the constant fear of being trampled for standing too close to the last half-price flatscreen). If you are one of the former, I commend your positive attitude and wish you a wonderful holiday season. If you are one of the latter, follow me down a rabbit hole of amazing books that will shelter you from the mayhem occurring at your nearest shopping outlet. If you dig into one of these reads after your turkey, you’ll be done just in time to fire up the laptop for Cyber Monday. Happy reading (and shopping) this holiday season!

    The Lake House, by Kate Morton
    The newest novel by the author of The Secret Keeper is a spellbinder of a book. Sadie is a young whip-smart detective who stumbles upon an intriguing old manse in the English countryside while visiting family. Captivated by the abandoned estate’s air of mystery, Sadie reaches out to its elderly owner, Alice. Sadie is soon astonished by the many layers of secrecy and deception that permeate the house’s history, beginning with a little boy’s disappearance in 1933. As the tale unfolds, the reader is never quite sure whom to trust—this book keeps you guessing right up until the sucker punch of an ending. You might want to make sure to have snacks on hand before you start this one, because you’ll be glued to your favorite chair until the very last page.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    Chances are, you’ve heard of the recent movie adaptation of The Martian starring Matt Damon. Well, as is always the case if you’re a book lover, the book is even better! Imagine, for a moment, the kind of guts it takes to not only be an astronaut, but to be among the first astronauts to go to Mars. Got it? Great. Now, imagine the guts it takes not to immediately lose it if, after an unforeseen crisis, the rest of your crew takes off and leaves you alone on Mars because they think you’re dead. You have no way of communicating with Earth, and even if you did, your supplies will never last long enough for help to arrive. This is exactly the pickle that Mark Watney finds himself in, but luckily, he is pretty dang gutsy. Mark is determined not to give up, and readers will want to hang in there with him for the long haul.

    A Little Life, by Hanya Yanigahara
    This story begins when four college friends make their way from a Massachusetts campus to the Big Apple to begin their respective careers. At first, it seems like the quintessential New York coming-of-age tale—a lawyer, an actor, an architect, and an artist adrift in the big city and trying to make their respective ways in the world. However, it soon becomes clear that this book is all that and so much more. Yanagihara’s finely wrought characters capture the reader’s imagination for the three-decade span of the book, careening back and forth between life’s most joyous highs and desperate lows. This is a book that tackles the complex manna of the human experience: friendship, love, trauma, disappointment, and the darkest of our secrets. A light read? Not so much. But this critically acclaimed book promises to make you see your own life and loved ones with a renewed sense of gratitude and inspiration.

    The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
    It’s 1939, and Europe is ablaze with the effort to repel the Nazis. Vianne sees her husband, Antoine, off to the frontlines and tells herself that the Germans will never set foot on French soil. So, she is beyond terrified when Nazi boots land not only in her town, but on her foyer when troops commandeer her home. She and her daughter are forced to live among the enemy, and to resist in whatever hidden ways they can without being discovered. At the same time, Vianne’s sister Isabelle is falling hard for a handsome rebel who may not be who he seems. In the pages that follow, Vianne and Isabelle fight to stay true to themselves and preserve their way of life. This historic novel is an ode to sisterhood, the French character, and the ways in which women also fought the Second World War.

    Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    The Fault In Our Stars author John Green has knocked another one out of the park with Looking for Alaska. This book is a heady brew, indeed—one part weirdness, one part infatuation, one part crisis, and several parts heartbreak. At first glance, it might appear to be a book about being a teenager, and in some ways, it is. In reality, though, just like The Fault in Our Stars, it’s a book about being human that happens to feature teens. When you think about it, there must be a reason we continue to find teenaged characters so compelling long after we leave our own teen years behind. John Green makes you wonder whether the reason is that the teenage years represent our best and worst selves—the time when we are full of hope and also full of anger, brimming with love and concurrently as selfish as they come. Like teenhood, the beauty of Green’s work is in its potential to be many things all at once.

    What book will you be diving into on Black Friday?

  • Jeff Somers 4:33 pm on 2015/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: alternate views, , , , , , , , , john green, , , , ,   

    5 Fictional Romantic Leads Who Deserve the Grey Treatment 

    It’s no shock that demand for more tales from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades universe remains high. What is a delightful surprise is James’s decision to explore the relationship by going back and telling the story from Christian’s point of view in the forthcoming Grey. It’s an exciting decision, bringing a renewed depth and urgency to the story, and giving readers the opportunity to have their assumptions challenged. Retelling the story from a different point of view is a genius move—and one we wish other authors had made over the years.

    As a matter of fact, James isn’t the first writer to have this idea—Veronica Roth Released Four: A Divergent Collection last year, five short stories from the Divergent universe told from Four’s perspective. Roth originally tried to write Divergent from Four’s point of view, in fact, abandoning that version when she created the character of Tris and fell in love with her voice, but she always felt that Four “has a distinct history and a complex psychology” and wanted to explore his point of view more. With some stories that retell events from Divergent and others that offer up new background information on Four, it’s a fascinating look at events from the books and the relationship between Tris and Four from a whole new perspective, and fans love the opportunity to get to know their favorite characters and stories more deeply. Here are four other famous romantic couples we’d love to see get the Grey/Four alternative perspective treatment.

    Q and Margo from Paper Towns, by John Green
    Part of the point of Green’s great novel (a film version of which drops this summer) is that Q can only see things from his perspective—a perspective that proves to be pretty narrow by the end of the story. After falling in love with the Margo he imagines, and then perceiving clues and intention where none actually exists, he must by the end of the book accept that he wasn’t dealing with reality, but rather with his own desires. Margo is a fantastic character who injects a crazy energy into Q’s life and inspires a life-changing road trip. Seeing the same story from her point of view, and finding out in detail what she’s up to while Q and his friends follow the “clues” and pursue her, would be fascinating.

    Claire and Jamie from Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    It’s true that over the course of her novels, Gabaldon opens up the story to other points of view—she’s even stated in interviews that she tries to add a new POV character in each new novel. And it’s also true we’ve had sequences from Jamie’s point of view. But wouldn’t it be grand if we got to read the whole story from his perspective, from Claire’s arrival from the future through the witch trial? On the one hand, this would be difficult to navigate. On the other hand, it would be tremendously fun to see how Gabaldon would narrate events through a red-blooded 18th century Scot’s point of view.

    Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Gatsby and Daisy’s doomed romance is so burned into our collective consciousness, and has been adapted for the screen so many times, it’s easy to forget the whole story is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view—we never get inside the head of either of the lovers. A book told from Gatsby’s point of view might ruin the mystery that still surrounds one of the greatest characters of all time, but the story told from Daisy’s point of view might shine light on heretofore hidden aspects of the story—most notably why Daisy is such an object of obsession for Gatsby in the first place, as from Nick’s point of view the character never seems to quite deserve such passion.

    Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
    A permanent classic of American novels and American romance, this is one of those stories where both principles in a love affair are equally interesting. While Jane’s voice and personality continue to entrance readers to this day, Mr. Rochester is also a fascinating character filled with surprises, and surprising depths. Hearing the tale of how Jane came into his life and how he developed a passion for her—and hearing Jane’s famous speech admitting her feelings—from his point of view would no doubt be entertaining and revealing, and just a lot of fun.

    If Grey is a smash hit, which it likely will be, maybe one positive effect will be inspiring other authors to offer up alternative takes on their most popular characters.

    Pre-order Grey >
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