Category Archives: Books

2017 Reads

Books I read list from last year:

  1. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find the: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  3. Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson
  4. The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White
  5. Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler
  6. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
  7. The Tundra Trials by Monica Tesler
  8. The Ivory Needle by Leslie Miller
  9. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
  10. Foxheart by Claire Legrand
  11. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schimdt
  12. Lizzie Bright and Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schimdt
  13. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  15. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  16. The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  17. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
  18. Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull
  19. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
  20. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
  21. Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
  22. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  23. Like Magic by Elaine Vickers
  24. The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
  25. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  26. The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame
  27. The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone
  28. Restart by Gordan Korman
  29. The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida
  30. Play On by Michelle Smith
  31. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
  32. Lemons by Melissa Savage
  33. The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
  34. Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
  35. First and Then by Emma Mills
  36. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  37. The Only Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson
  38. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
  39. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
  40. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  41. Funny Girl by Besty Bird (editor)
  42. Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  43. Changes in Latitudes by Jen Malone
  44. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  45. The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
  46. Warcross by Marie Lu
  47. Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
  48. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  49. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski
  50. Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy by Gareth Wronski

My goal was to read 40 books and I managed 50. As usual, the focus is on children’s literature, Middle Grade and Young Adult. It’s what I write, and I loved to read it first. Some of this list was for research, but most of it I read for fun.

What I loved: Books by Gary D. Schmidt were recommend to me by a friend on Twitter. I discovered this author is amazing! I read four of his novels this year and especially loved The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now. I also really enjoyed Restart by Gordan Korman, a book I found by accident. Lemons by Melissa Savage was adorable and Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry is a lovely book in verse. Lastly, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus might have been my favorite book from last year. It’s a high school thriller with some really flawed but super likeable main characters under suspicion for murder.

What I didn’t love: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby came highly praised and recommend, but it fell flat for me. I also didn’t care much for Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, another praised book (maybe I’m just weird…). I also really didn’t care for The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi or Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. These just weren’t in the kind of style I like to read, so it’s more about my tastes for all of these than anything else.

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2016 Reads

My yearly book report, here is what I read this year…it was a very good year:

  1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  2. Seraphina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. Proposal by Meg Cabot
  5. We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist
  6. Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
  7. The Pirate Code by Heidi Shultz
  8. Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  9. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
  10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  11. Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
  12. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  13. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  14. Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly
  15. Enduring Light by Carla Kelly
  16. After You by Jojo Moyes
  17. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
  18. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
  19. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  20. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  21. Cress by Marissa Meyer
  22. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  23. Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
  24. The Rogue Knight by Brandon Mull
  25. Remembrance by Meg Cabot
  26. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  27. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
  28. Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull
  29. Death Weavers by Brandon Mull
  30. My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin
  31. Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
  32. Summerlost by Ally Condie
  33. The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
  34. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  35. Ruby on the Outside by Nola Raleigh Baskin
  36. Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud
  37. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
  38. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
  39. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
  40. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
  41. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
  42. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  43. Wool by Hugh Howey
  44. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  45. The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
  46. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
  47. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
  48. Ravenous by MarcyKate Connolly
  49. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  50. The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  51. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling
  52. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies by J.K. Rowling
  53. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists by J.K. Rowling

I set a goal to read 40 books and managed 53! Here are some of the stand outs, both good and bad.

The good: Ready Player One was hands down my favorite book of the year. As a child raised in the 80’s it appealed to all things nerdy from that era…video games, movies, etc. all set in a futuristic “game”. This one I highly recommend to all my fellow nerds out there. I loved Illuminae because of the sci-fi aspects and epistolary style used. Finally, I also loved the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter), I just couldn’t put them down. They had a great blend of sci-fi, fairy tale retellings, and romance. It was a really fun series to read.

The bad: I wasn’t fond of The 5th Wave trilogy. I read it all, mostly because I was hoping it would get better, and it kept my attention just enough to get through them all, but overall I wasn’t satisfied with it. I also really didn’t like Thief of Lies, but for various reasons I don’t want to go in the details of why…I just didn’t like it and have no intention of reading anymore of the series, I’ll leave it at that.

I have my goal set for 40 books again this year, happy reading everyone!

2015 Reads

Time for my yearly book report! Funny…I hated book reports in school, but now I love recording and discussing a bit of what I read over the past year, maybe that’s because no one is telling me I have to do this for a grade?

Anyway, I read 43 books in 2015, which makes it a pretty good year. My goal was 40, so I accomplished that. Here is the list:

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  2. Into the Fire by Ashelyn Drake
  3. The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio
  4. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
  5. The Martian by Andy Weir
  6. Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above by Robert A. Polk
  7. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
  8. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline
  9. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  10. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia M. McKielip
  11. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  12. The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
  13. The Last Wild by Piers Today
  14. Monstrous by MarcyKate Connelly
  15. The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
  16. Jinx’s Fire by Sage Blackwood
  17. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
  18. The Spirit by D. Nichole King
  19. The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
  20. Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein
  21. Bone Gap by Laura Rudy
  22. The Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  23. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
  24. Firegirl by Tony Abbott
  25. Liar and Spy and Rebecca Stead
  26. First Light by Rebecca Stead
  27. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  28. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  29. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  30. Magnus Chase and Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  31. George by Alex Gino
  32. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  33. Skylark by Patrica MacLachlan
  34. The Body Electric by Beth Revis
  35. Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan
  36. More Perfect Than the Moon by Patricia MacLachlan
  37. Gossamer by Lois Lowry
  38. Grandfather’s Dance by Patricia MacLachlan
  39. Switch by Ingrid Law
  40. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  41. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  42. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
  43. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Again, there is a lot of Middle Grade on my list, but I love reading it so I have no regrets. I also finally took the time to finish reading a series I started years ago when I read the first book Sarah, Plain and Tall. I meant to read the rest since then, but never got around to it until now. None of them were as good as the first, but they were still enjoyable. The good news is none of these books were downright stinkers, but the bad news is very few of them really stood out either. I’m hoping for more stand-out books in 2016.

My favorites: A few did stand out. First, The Penderwicks in Spring. I love this series and this book in particular really spoke to my heart and made me sob out loud, which doesn’t happen often with books. It tore my heart into pieces and then put it back together. Not many books can do that. Next, The Martian. This was a super popular book this year, along with the movie (which I also saw). I love space stories so this for me was just a lot of fun to read. It was a bit technical, but it’s a great story. Then, Bone Gap. This was an unusual book for me, I’d call it magical realism, which I don’t normally read or enjoy. But this was different, special, and unexpected…and that’s didn’t even have to do with the magical realism aspects of the book. It’s hard to explain, I just really liked the journey this book took me on. Finally, The Crossover. I read this because it won the 2015 Newbery Medal. I was skeptical, it’s a book in verse and the verse is written in rap style, neither of which I normally like. But this book is so good and so moving, it’s no wonder it won the Newbery Medal. I highly recommend it!

A Few Disappointments:  While I didn’t outright hate anything I read, there were a few that let me down.  First, and I really hate saying this, the first installment in Rick Riordan’s latest series Magnus Chase just didn’t do it for me. I love Riordan’s book, I love his twist on mythology. But this new one, his take on Norse mythology, just wasn’t anything terribly new or different to make it stand out from his other book featuring Percy Jackson with Greek and Roman gods. The heroes have to save the world, the gods are mostly indifferent bystanders….blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t special and that was a disappointment for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Riordan’s books and have every intention of continuing to read the series, I just hoped for more. Next, Fuzzy Mud, by another author I love, Louis Sachar, to me just wasn’t up to his usual standards. Plus the book was just plain odd and slightly preachy at the end. Again, I wanted more and came away from it unsatisfied. I’m hoping his next will be better.

My goal for 2016 is to read at least 40 new books and I already have the first two on my to-read-queue so hopefully that means I’m off to a good start already. Happy reading!

Website Update

I’ve moved my book list to Goodreads, to make it easier to update and keep track of. The link to my “read shelf” is on the book list page. I also deleted my Quilting Bee pages since the club is pretty much defunct now…which is very sad…still, it was a lot of fun while it lasted! For now, this not-often-updated blog is mainly dedicated to my reading and writing.

Pitch Wars 2015 Mentee Bio

Hey there, welcome to my little bit of the web. Please ignore the fact that this blog is seldom used. My online presence is mostly on social media and it’s hard to maintain a blog when I keep writing about the exact same thing…

“Still writing…not published…working on it.”

That about sums it up!

Anyway, my name is Joni and I’m really hoping that this year I’ll find an awesome-sauce mentor with Pitch Wars to help me spruce up my latest project so I have a shiny gem to present to many lovely agents.

A little bit about me:  I’m 40-something years old, married, with three children. I haven’t always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve always loved reading. Always. I dabbled with writing on and off while my kids were little, but busy mom stuff and health issues kept me from pursuing it seriously. Finally, in 2012, I got to business. I decided, “I’m going to write a novel!” and really meant it. Since then, I’ve written five complete novels and actively queried two of them, so I’m no stranger to how all this stuff works, but I know I have plenty to learn. My novels are YA or MG, all are fantasy in nature except one…

A bit about the MS I’m submitting to Pitch Wars:  My latest novel is my first MG contemporary. No fantasy, no magic, and no mystical lands. Just a normal girl in her own extraordinary circumstances. It’s funny, when I first started writing I would have never imagined writing anything but YA fantasy, so the fact that I’ve written this is a surprise even to me. But it’s all part of learning, growing, and becoming a better writer. My novel, MESSY, is about Bailey, a sixth-grade girl with a secret she’s dying to keep to herself…her mother is an out-of-control hoarder. By hoarder, I mean Bailey’s mother packs their house with all kinds of useless junk, so much that they can barely move around inside, and Bailey’s had enough. But, being a sixth-grader, what can she do? She feels trapped and alone at home, while at school she has to deal with all the craziness that comes along with being on the cusp of adolescence. Basically, everything is messy!

I think Middle Grade literature is special, it’s amazingly varied and packed with meaning on all sorts of levels. Most books that have moved me and made a lasting impact on my life have been MG.  Here’s a short list of some of my MG favorites (although I love so many there’s no way I can list them all):

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • All Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • All Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus/Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
  • The Prydain Chronicles (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, etc.) by Lloyd Alexander

I’ll stop before I get carried away, but you get the ideas.  I love MG books, I l just love books in general.  As far as being a potential mentee goes, I love writing and I’m perfectly aware of how much I have to learn.  I don’t mind feedback, in fact I like seeing lots of red on my manuscripts because it means I can  improve.  In writing, revising is where the real work is and I try my best to work hard.

Thanks for reading and good luck to everyone entering Pitch Wars!

2014 Reads

Here is the list of new books I read this past year, it does not include any re-reads:

  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
  • Flora &Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
  • Twelve Steps by Veronica Bartles
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
  • Fire and Hemlock by Diane Wynne Jones
  • Dangerous by Shannon Hale
  • How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
  • The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit
  • 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture and Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen by Jame Howe (editor)
  • The Only Boy by Jordan Locke
  • The Promise of Everything by Robin Constantine
  • The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
  • One or Two Things I Learned About Love by Dylan Sheldon
  • Jinx by Sage Blackwood
  • Winterling by Sarah Prineas
  • Storybound by Marissa Burt
  • The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood
  • Story’s End by Marissa Burt
  • The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth
  • Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil
  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
  • How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Atlantia by Ally Condie
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  • Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schultz
  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • Scumble by Ingrid Law
  • Clariel by Garth Nix

My total for the year was 51 new books.  Note many of them are Middle Grade which are pretty quick to read, but I love children’s lit and don’t find it any less relevant than adult literature.  In fact, I’d say that most of the books that have made an impact on my life would be considered children’s lit and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Because I prefer to write for children, I find it extremely important that I continue to read and enjoy books for kids.

My Favorites (haha, they are all middle grade reads):

  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter–I picked this up after hearing about it as a Newbery Honor book in 2014.  It’s about a boy who stutters and it was really, really good.  I read most of the Newbery Medal/Honor books from 2014 and this one was my favorite.
  • Flipped by Wendlin Van Draanen–This book is a just a super cute romance for middle grade readers, that’s really all I can say about it.  It was much deeper than it sounds, I loved it!
  • All of The Penderwicks novels by Jeanne Birdsall–This is a cute contemporary series for middle grade readers about four sisters and their normal, everyday adventures in growing up.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked the first one up, but I was enchanted.  Good writing and distinct, likeable characters.
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell–This is actually a graphic novel about a deaf girl trying to figure out how to fit in and find a true, real friend at school.  The book is autobiographical in nature, the author uses her real-life experiences to shape the book.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead–I’m not normally a huge fan of magical realism, but this one was done so well and meshed with the awkwardness that is adolescence, I might learn to love the genre from now on.

There were others that I really like, but I can’t mention them all.  Luckily, for the most part, I liked all of the books I read this year.  However there were a few stinkers I wouldn’t recommend:

  • Taste Test by Kelly Fiore–Cute concept ruined by trite characters, a predictable plot, and a romance  I just didn’t care about.
  • The Promise of Everything by Robin Constantine–I just found this entire book incredibly shallow and again featured a romance that felt forced and fake.

This is just my opinion, of course.  Feel free to disagree, we can still be friends.

I consider any year where I’m able to read 25 or more new books to be a good year, so I’d consider 2014 a great year!  Eventually, I’ll get these added to my book list with my star rating for each.  Here’s to hoping I can read many more lovely books in 2015.

A Book That Reminds Me Why I Love Books

Recently, I purchased the book S., created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst.  The concept of the book fascinated me:  it’s about two college students who meet and get to know each other by writing in the margins of novel by a fictional author named V.M. Straka.  When you get the book S., it’s an actual copy of the novel, Ship of Theseus by Straka, complete with the notes written in the margins and other papers, postcards, newspaper clippings, etc, tucked into the pages.

It’s difficult to describe, one of those things you really have to see to understand, but it’s basically two stories intertwined.  One is the story by the fictional author, the other in the story of the college students told in the margins.  The notes, in pencil and various pen colors, are hard to follow because they aren’t in chronological order.  The two college students pass the book back and forth at the library in an attempt to figure out who the mysterious Straka really is, all while getting to know each other through the pages of the book.

I’m only about 100 pages into this book (of approximately 450).  It’s slow reading, but meant to be savored, I think…so that’s what I’m doing, just taking my time.  Here’s my opinion so far:  I’m much more interested in the story going on in the margins than the one on the printed page, which is (quite frankly, and in my non-expert opinion) not very well-written and actually a bit boring.  That said, the book itself is super interesting because, as I stated in the title of this blog post, it reminds me why I love books.

Now, when I say that, I mean why I love physical books, not necessarily in reference to the actual written word–even though I love that, too, and probably more.  S. is like a piece of art in my hands, an homage to books as books, with covers and paper pages.   The true brilliance of it isn’t in the story, but in the actual book, which is an amazing little feat in publishing.  Although S. is mass produced, what I’m holding feels like the only one like it in the world.

The cover is solid and the book has a nice weight to it when I pick it up.  The pages are made to look aged, so they are yellowed around the edges, but have an excellent texture to them when I turn the pages.  Even the binding makes a pleasing noise when I open it and the pages smell like a good book should.

Only someone who loves books the way I do will understand what I’m talking about…but no, I’m not crazy.

Anyway, the way the notes in the margins are printed make them look like real pencil and pen marks, even though they’re not.  I know this, yet I keep running my fingers over the pages expecting to feel in indentations from the pen or pencil.  Reading it feels like invading a personal conversation, but in a good way…like it feels when you read an excellent book and you become immersed in another person’s life.

In the end, I may not ending up loving the story in the pages of S., but I’m in love with S. itself, as a physical book.  I feel like I want to carry it around with me and endlessly study its pages.  Or better yet, get a beloved book of my own, write in its margins, and create a book like S. that really is all my own.