annietupek.com blog http://annietupek.com/blog Thu, 28 Nov 2013 02:46:48 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.1 Nanowrimo 2013 http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/11/27/nanowrimo-2013/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/11/27/nanowrimo-2013/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 02:46:48 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=476 It’s time for my annual Nanowrimo blog post, I guess.  It has really been too long since I blogged anything.  It has been one hell of a busy year with school, life, the universe, and everything.  I’m not sure why I decided to do Nanowrimo this year.  November is near the end of the semester, with lots of projects coming due in lots of classes, and ramping up for finals, and the holidays.  But, well, in all honesty, I haven’t written much of anything fun (as in, non-school related) since last year’s Nanowrimo, and I thought it was time for me to get back into writing.  I have had to place writing on the back burner during school, and this year, Nanowrimo taught me that I really don’t have to give up on writing just because I’m taking twelve credit hours and working.

Ah, yes, working.  Jobs.  That’s just another one of the many hella-busy things that has kept me from writing much of anything.  I lost my job at the bookstore this summer.  The previous owner retired and the store was purchased by new owners.  I was basically told that I had to choose between my job and school.  They wanted me there 9-5 M-F which didn’t work with my school schedule.  As much as I loved my job, school was more important, and so I chose school.  I don’t regret that particular decision for a single instant, and I did get a different job, student intern for UAF’s IT department.  That was one big change in my life, and there have been some others, but I don’t want to get into them now.

So taking the Nanowrimo challenge was a bit of a long-shot for me.  On Halloween, I had no idea what story I was going to work on.  No characters, no concept.  I was, as my friend Jenn likes to say, “pantsing it” this year, as in flying by the seat of my pants.  I drove into work on Halloween listening to The Crash Test Dummies.  I had pulled out one of their CD’s and threw it into my car stereo for something different that I hadn’t listened to for a long, long time.

The Crash Test Dummies have a song, Two Knights and Maidens.  It’s about two maidens in a garden and the knights that try to seduce them.  But, instead of being seduced, the two maidens give the knights hallucinogenic potions, and then two tigers come into the garden and kill the two knights.  It’s really a lovely song.  Listen to it.

I decided to use that as the inspiration for my story, and I went from there, and thus The Garden of Voluna Bar was born.  It’s a fantasy novel, about an enchanted garden and what happens to the people who enter it.  (Not many of them make it out alive).  Right now, as a rough draft of just over 50,000 words, it really sucks.  There are plot holes and cardboard characters, there are whole sections of story missing.  However, going without an outline made some interesting things pop up during the process, and I’m looking forward to eventually returning to it and making it somewhat presentable.

I am thankful for Nanowrimo this year for reminding me how much I enjoy writing, and for reminding me that once I finish school and have more time that I really want to spend a vast portion of that time writing.  It also proved to me that I can write and work and go to school all at the same time, and still maintain a high GPA (I have three A’s and one B so far this semester, and finals are drawing nigh).  I am going to return to the Cupbearer story that I was polishing up before I started back at school, and make a point of working on it whenever I can.  I’m also going to get back to my ebook project of my previously-published short collection and hopefully have that available soon.  Nanowrimo has once again returned my passion for writing to me and for that I am grateful.

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Spring Break! (kind of…) http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/03/10/spring-break-kind-of/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/03/10/spring-break-kind-of/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 02:09:21 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=455 Once again, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything. Both school and work keep me so busy, I barely have time to do anything other than work & study. The semester is half over and I’ve really been enjoying my classes.

Yes, even Calc III. I’m taking that one correspondence, and while it’s difficult for me to force myself to do the lessons, since I have to do them on my own, it’s incredibly convenient to not have to sit through it in a classroom. I think the best part about it is that the homework is submitted online, and I find out instantly how well I did on it. The professor has the system set up to give us four chances to get the right answer, and so if I get a question wrong, I go back and do it until it’s right. That’s something I never did in my traditional math classes. If I got something wrong on the homework, I never went back to re-work the problem. Maybe that’s why I was a C math student in the past, but have a pretty solid high B right now at mid-term.

My computer science class is a blast, too. We recently got to pick our groups for our semester project. There are four of us in my group, TEAM_ONE. We’re doing a text-based game that features vampire bunnies. It’s a really fun idea, but we keep getting distracted when we talk to each other about it. I’m going to start working on the storyline during the next week so that we can argue about it and hopefully have something decided before we need to start coding it.

One thing that’s a bit out of my norm for the group is that the other members are all probably ten years younger than me (at the very least!) and they do all the communications via facebook. So, we’re all friends on fb now and we even have a private group for us to communicate in. I dig it, really, it’s very convenient, but it’s just kind of strange. And those kind of thoughts make me feel really, really, really old!

I’ve been doing a ton of event planning at work, it seems to be the focus of my job right now, but with Battle Book season coming up, who knows what will happen. I’ve been working on plans for National Poetry Month in April. Gulliver’s never used to do anything for it, but that’s going to change this year. I contacted a bunch of local poets and scheduled them for readings throughout the month. And, it looks like we’re going to be working with a local brewery to host an off-site poetry slam. We don’t yet have the particulars worked out, but if everything goes according to plan, it’s going to be a great night. If you really want to know what’s going on at the store, like us on facebook! www.facebook.com/GulliversBooks (Wow! was that a shameless promotion for the bookstore, or what?!?!?)

Plans for Spring Break? Work 40 hours at the bookstore. Try, try, try to get my ebook together. I haven’t forgotten about it. And, thanks to everyone who commented on my cover pics, whether on fb, this blog, or if I bothered you in person, thrusting the cover ideas at you and asking which one you preferred. I’m also hoping to do some reading.

I started Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, which is a fascinating look at food additives and how the food industry has shaped our culture. I’m pleased to say that I normally don’t consume the heavily-processed foodstuffs, but I am also ashamed to say that the increased time I spend at school and at work has led me to the convenience foods a little more in recent months. I also have some other writing projects I’m working on, and if I can manage my time well, I should be able to make progress on those, as well. And nap. I’m going to nap.

Hopefully another two months won’t pass without a blog post…

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eBook Covers http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/01/15/ebook-covers/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/01/15/ebook-covers/#comments Tue, 15 Jan 2013 23:25:47 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=449 I need your help!  My epublishing class has ended and I’m just about ready to put my book up for sale.  I have a couple of covers designed, and I want to know what you think about them.  Which do you like?  Which do you dislike?  Any suggestions?

Cover 1

Cover 2

Cover 3

Cover 4

This is a collection of short stories, all previously published in various publications: The First Line Magazine, EverydayFiction.com, Courting Morpheus an Anthology, and 10 Flash Quarterly.  (Hence the title: First Lines, Flash Fictions, and a Hungry Sofa)
This cover is for ebooks only.  I would do a completely different cover for a print book, but details disappear on the screen, especially for images that are so small.  The ones here are a tiny bit larger than how they would appear on the Amazon book pages.  (And yes, for those of you concerned about the legal aspect, I do hold the copyright to the fractal images I used.)

I appreciate any and all feedback that you have, so don’t be shy!  Thanks!
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Winter Non-Break http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/01/09/winter-non-break/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2013/01/09/winter-non-break/#comments Thu, 10 Jan 2013 04:05:46 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=443 Less than a week left of winter break.  Have I been sitting around and relaxing this last month?  I wish.  I did have a bit of time there where I worked on a lot of knitting, almost nonstop when I wasn’t at work.  However, they were all knitted projects that I had promised to people, that I would have them finished and delivered before Christmas.  They were the thank-you fingerless gloves for the photographer and models of the knitting pattern book that is in progress.  I finished them just before New Year’s Eve.  It was great to start the new year off with those being done, since we had the photoshoot back in September!  I haven’t made any progress on the book’s layout, but I am getting a lot of really good epublishing tips in the epub class that I decided to take.

I took the class to work on getting my previously-published short stories together into a collection to sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The class is interesting, though the instructor is a little scattered and there’s a couple of older folks in the class who don’t seem to be computer literate, so that slows things down a bit.  Rhetorical question: If you don’t know what a web browser is, why are you taking an epublishing class?  (That is the extent of my blog-venting.)

I’m working on three or four different cover options, and I’ll be posting them in a couple of days for your opinion and help in picking out my ebook cover.

I’m very excited about getting this collection of short stories available, and as soon as it’s up I’ll let you know.  And, I expect every one of you (all five of my readers!) to buy and download a copy!

And, with the first day of school coming up, I have been scrounging through calculus review material.  Derivatives, integrals, series, sequences, convergence and divergence.  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  Yuck.  I am not afraid of Calc III.  Repeat after me: I am not afraid of Calc III.  All I have to do is pass!

And, of course, yesterday, the final volume of The Wheel of Time came out.  So, yesterday was my one true Winter Break day.  After work, all I did was sit around and read!  It was marvelous.  Brandon Sanderson has done an excellent job with finishing the series for Robert Jordan.  I’m on chapter thirteen and I think it’s time for me to get back to reading…

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Winter Break Hibernation http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/20/winter-break-hibernation/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/20/winter-break-hibernation/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2012 15:54:39 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/20/winter-break-hibernation/ Finals are over and I’m looking ahead to my winter break. Yes, yes, I know I was planning on hibernating during the month-long break, with a little bit of writing and reading and knitting thrown in to balance out the sleep-time. However, I have decided to take an epublishing class at the university during what UAF lovingly refers to as Wintermester. It’s a pretty cool deal, you can take a 3-4 credit hour class during a two week period. They smash an entire semester’s worth of knowledge into two weeks. Yikes!

The epublishing class isn’t anything like that, however. It’s a non-credit course that meets three nights a week. The whole point of the class is to start with an edited and ready-to-publish manuscript, and by the time the course is completed, I’ll have gone through the entire ebook publishing process and that book will be available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an ebook. I am going to have to ask the instructor why we’re not using an aggregate ebook distributor like Smashwords, who distributes to B&N, Kobo, Apple’s iBook store, and a bunch of other places. I’ve had a lot of indie authors recommend Smashwords to me, and from looking around on their website, the process seems easy enough.

So what does ebook publishing class mean? Do I have a novel ready to publish? Sadly, no. I am getting back to the edits on Cupbearer after taking almost a full semester off of them. Strange Essence, another novel in ‘decent’ condition still needs some tweaks after I received back some excellent input and suggestions from friends and readers. And, I’m going to remain hush-hush about that knitting pattern book, still working on the layout, so that won’t be my project for this epublishing class, either.

What I will be doing is publishing a collection of short stories, featuring those sf/f stories that have already been published, and perhaps a couple that have not. So, this as-of-yet untitled ebook will contain (at the very least):
Noah’s Ark (first appeared in The First Line, Spring 2007)
The Aldevowering Chesterfield (first appeared in The Courting Morpheus Anthology)
Polar Explorations (first appeared at EveryDayFiction.com June 2, 2011)
Eve of Destruction (first appeared at EveryDayFiction.com July 6, 2011)
Flight of the Avia (first appeared at 10FlashQuarterly. Sadly, they have closed and this story is no longer available to read online-guess you’ll have to buy the ebook!)
I’m not sure which, if any, of my unpublished short stories I will include.

So long, thoughts of hibernation. I’ll be publishing an ebook this winter break! Oh, and working on my calculus review for my Calc III course, reviewing my German language skills so that I can CLEP out of the language requirement but still get credit for it, polishing up Cupbearer until it shines, and trying to catch up on my reading…Wait a minute-isn’t winter break supposed to be a vacation?

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Final Countdown http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/11/final-countdown/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/11/final-countdown/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 04:27:30 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/11/final-countdown/ Twelve hours until my first final. It’s in computer science, and I’m scrambling to remember things like dynamically allocated arrays and classes and the stupid prime number program he made us do for homework weeks ago, tested us on last month, and because most of the class got it wrong (I, however, got 19/20 points on it for that test), I have a sinking feeling it is going to be on the final.

It has been well over 8 years since I took a final exam, and I had forgotten about all the stress they induce. I’m having very vivid recollections of that stress now. I have to keep on reminding myself that I’m doing fine in the class, and that my finals really aren’t going to affect my grade at all. Still, I’ve got tingly fingers and a racing mind. And I haven’t started thinking about my Physics final or my Communications final, either. Uh-oh…

My Communications final is cracking me up. The professor paired us up in class and we had to find a topic that we could discuss. Amanda, my partner, and I came up with television. Amanda is taking the pro side and I’m taking con. Now, I have to write a 3-4 minute speech about why TV is bad. We’re giving out speeches in public the morning of the final. There are some kids in my class who are definitely freaking out about it, since the audience is now going to be everyone in the Woods Center who is trying to eat their breakfast and do some last-minute cramming. What they don’t understand is that no one is going to be paying attention to them.

I think it’s going to be fun. My biggest problem is going to be keeping my speech down to 3-4 minutes. I could go on for hours…

And here’s a picture of my latest feedback from my Communications professor. I gave a speech about Beer, and why micro- and craft-breweries are better than Big Beer Anheuser-Busch InBev. I was trolling for an A, but got an A+ (professor is a beer geek). I just think it’s funny. With the class curve, I’m only two percentage points away from an A+ in the class. Hahaha. That’s what happens when you’re forced to take the same damn intro com course at three different universities because credits don’t transfer.

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Unmotivated http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/07/unmotivated/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/07/unmotivated/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 16:29:16 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/12/07/unmotivated/ The end of the semester is almost here, my finals are a week away, and I’ve reached the point where I just don’t care. End of semester apathy. I gave my last speech in my communications class Wedneday, my last physics assignment was due today, and now all my professors are in ‘let’s review for the final’ mode. I just have this feeling that if I don’t know it now, I’m not going to be able to cram it into my brain in the next week, so why bother. I suppose I’d be worried if I was failing my classes and needed to rely on the finals to pass, but I’ve got A’s in my classes. If I fail the finals, each of which is 20% of my grade, I still pass the class with at least a C. It’s hard to be motivated at this point.

I used up all my motivation during November’s Nanowrimo this year. Finished a day early with a story chock-full of cliches, but that’s okay. They can be edited out next year when I’m looking for a novel to work on. Going to put it away and forget about it. Still doesn’t have a title, I’m just calling it Nano12 right now. Perhaps Reeve and the Ethereals, or maybe The Book of the Solar Rose. I’m not going to get into details right now, but it’s another fantasy novel.

I’m back to work on Cupbearer, going through the revisions one last time (I hope!). This was my NanoNovel from last year and I have just about gotten it into something readable. I would love to throw it on Critters and get some feedback, but I went inactive on Critters at the beginning of the semester because I knew that I would not be able to keep up with those critiques and classes and writing and work. I’ll go back to being active on Critters for the summer, at which time Cupbearer should be readable.

But it’s still hard to find motivation. I think it’s because it has been so cold. Three straight weeks of temperatures below -20, with a handful of days below -30. Brrr. And the trickle charge on my car battery malfunctioned and didn’t start on Monday. Good thing Nick is in town. He drove me to school and got my car started and we’re taking it in to get it fixed next week. That’s Fairbanks for you, things get cold out, cars break, and it’s seven to ten days before any repair shop can get you in for an appointment. Sometimes I miss Chicago. It is starting to warm up, though. We’re at -15 right now and got a sprinkling of snow overnight.

Can’t wait for this semester to end so I can get back to some comfort-knitting!

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Discovering Time Management Skills http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/11/21/discovering-time-management-skills/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/11/21/discovering-time-management-skills/#comments Thu, 22 Nov 2012 04:30:19 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=435 The first week of Nanowrimo started out strong for me this year. My bff was in town and I took the week off work (but not school, unfortunately). We sat around knitting and finished grafting together our BFF Cowls (pattern on Knitty). She blogs about gaming & life on tumblr. Check it out.

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Then, November first hit and we got down to some serious writing.

I finished off the first week with about 12,000 words, definitely on track, and she has totally surpassed my word count by now. But that first week, I had all the time in the world to write. My classes this semester do not take up all of my waking hours. And, I didn’t have to work. It’s amazing how much writing I can get done when I don’t have to be at the bookstore.

But then, the real world retook control over my time. Classes three mornings a week and one evening a week. Work for 36 hours. And then all those inconsequential daily components of writing time-suckage really started adding up.

Cooking and eating, both activities I thoroughly enjoy, have become rushed meals that more often than not have begun with logging in to Papa Johns and ordering a pizza.

Studying, finals are nigh! I keep telling myself that all I have to do is pass, but the overachieving perfectionist in me is disappointed in anything other than an A. (I do, however, have A’s in all my classes right now…)

Cleaning. Yeah, I completely cut that one off the list. I’d throw a picture up here, but then my house might be condemned.

No knitting has been done, either. I have three pairs of fingerless gloves that I have to finish by Christmas for the gals who did the photography & modeling for a knitting pattern book I’m working on. (More about that in a later post, after Nanowrimo, I promise!)

So what have I learned about time management this month, other than it’s okay to have a cluttered house and eat pizza every night? Focus. Focus on one thing at a time, for a set period of time. Write for an hour in the morning before class starts. (I’m at 25,000 words just five days behind schedule. I can still make it up and finish on time. Determined that this year will not be the first that I fail to accomplish the 50,000 words!)

Spend an hour and a half each night doing homework and studying. It’s not that bad, actually. My physics homework definitely takes the bulk of my time, but with only one assignment due per week, it doesn’t take up all of that time, and I have plenty of time for my programming assignments for my C++ class and my research and outlining for my communications class.

Sleep. It’s important. I get plenty of it. And on Sunday, the only day that I have neither work nor school, I take a nap. It’s marvelous.

The hardest part is focusing on what I’m doing at any particular time and not letting other tasks leak into the current one. But, in reality, Nanowrimo is nothing more than a self-imposed deadline, and it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get to 50,000 words. I think the most important part, and one that I have tried to embrace these last 21 days, is not stressing out about it. So, no stress, and if I win Nanowrimo this year great! If not, well, at least I have A’s in my classes…

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Returning to Earth http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/10/26/returning-to-earth/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/10/26/returning-to-earth/#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 15:35:56 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=431 I’ll bet you think I fell off the face of the earth as far as this blog goes, don’t you?  It has been months since I blogged anything, and I have several excuses as for why.

Primary Excuse: I decided to go back to school to finish my degree.  I’m majoring in Computer Science, and I’m taking twelve credit hours this semester, plus one three hour lab for my physics class.  Needless to say, I’ve been quite busy.  It’s either all-programming all-the-time or all-physics all-the-time.  It’s the middle of the semester and I’m remembering just how much math, specifically trig, I have forgotten.  So physics has been a bit of a struggle, but I’m pulling an A in that class, so there is a decided payoff for all the effort.

Secondary Excuse (related to primary excuse): In addition to going to school full time, I’m also continuing to work almost-full time at the bookstore.  I’m putting in 36 hours per week there.  Oh, and we went through a change of ownership, so the store is in new hands.  It has been a change for the better.  Not that David was a bad owner, but the store needed an influx of fresh, young blood and new ideas.  Christy and Bryan certainly have that.  However, the months leading up to the changeover, which happened on October first, were incredibly stressful.  Things remain a little out-of-wack at the store, because not all of the publisher accounts are set up, which takes a lot more time than anybody realized.  But, the new owners are fantastic and it is once again a joy to go to work.  Takes up a lot of time, though.

Tertiary Excuse: My sister in law is pregnant and I wanted to knit her a really great, big, entrelac blanket for the baby.  It’s a girl, and she’s due in a month.  I finally finished the blanket last week and sent it out to her.  Don’t even want to talk about how many hours I put into that work.  And, like all cozy, cool blankets that I knit, I wanted to keep it for myself.  One day I’ll make a nice, big afghan for myself, but it’ll have to wait until after finals.

Final Excuse: I started work on the final draft of Cupbearer, which was my NaNoWriMo novel from last year.  The story flows well, and I’m very excited about it.  That’s the writing that I’ve been concentrating on, but even that I have had to deprioritize in favor of school work.  Blech to school work.

And, now, the NaNoWriMo challenge is beginning again in one week and I’ve suddenly realized exactly how little writing I’ve done since September.  For those of you who don’t remember, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  It’s pretty intense, and if you’re interested, I suggest you check out their website www.nanowrimo.org and sign up.

It’s been a challenge for me to find a writing/work/school balance, and I’m still trying to find it.  November will be a real test for me.  I’ve done NaNoWriMo for years, and won it all the years but one, and that was many years ago.  I cannot allow this year to be the second no-win year.  So, this is me, returning to earth.

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Children’s Summer Reading Picks http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/05/18/childrens-summer-reading-picks/ http://annietupek.com/blog/2012/05/18/childrens-summer-reading-picks/#comments Fri, 18 May 2012 19:26:27 +0000 Administrator http://annietupek.com/blog/?p=416 School is out!  It seems it lets out a lot earlier here in Fairbanks than in the rest of the world, but maybe that’s because spring is so short.  I’ve compiled here some quick reviews of some great books for children and young adult summer reading lists.

Traveling Restaurant

The Traveling Restaurant by Barbara Else

Nothing goes right for Jasper Ludlow.  After being separated from his family while fleeing their home for mysterious reasons that have to do with the Provisional Monarch Lady Gall, he finds his way aboard the Traveling Restaurant.  Magic, even the mention of it, has been outlawed by Lady Gall, but Jasper senses that the boat is magic.  A high-seas adventure to reunite him with his family ensues.  Pirates, whirlpools, secret forest enclaves, and pies make for an exciting story, coupled with the low undercurrent of forbidden magic that slowly rises to the surface during Jasper’s adventures aboard the Traveling Restaurant.  I loved it.  From Jasper sneaking aboard Lady Gall’s boat to save the orphan child, to Polly teaching the pirates to cook for themselves, The Traveling Restaurant was both exciting and funny.  This mid-grade reader is sure to be a favorite at any family’s read-aloud story time.

Scorpions of Zahir

Scorpions of Zahir by Christine Brodien-Jones

Zagora Pym desperately wants to be an explorer and she has her chance when her archaeologist father brings her and her brother along to Morocco in search for his long-lost partner.  The exotic location, combined with magical mythology makes the story jump off the page.  Zagora’s a spunky little girl and throws herself head-first into her adventure.  She doesn’t always think before she acts.  I felt her character was very believable, from her disappointment in her brother’s bookish ways, to her impulsive decisions.  This adventure story has enough suspense to keep a young reader interested.  There’s mystery and mythical magic, and some very creepy, very over-sized scorpions.  The female protagonist will appeal more to girls than to boys, though I think both will enjoy the story.

Diary of a Parent Trainer

Diary of a Parent Trainer by Jennifer Smith

This British mid-grade reader is a delight.  13-year-old Katie Sutton is an expert in parental behavior and wants to share her knowledge on how to maintain your parent in its highest working capacity.  This instructional guide details the different operating modes and what to do in case of Overheating.  Happy mode is ideal, and Katie has operating her mother down to a science until Mom’s new boyfriend enters the picture.  Katie is determined to resolve the situation and get him out of their lives for good.  But despite her expertise, her plans go awry.  Diary of a Parent Trainer had me laughing throughout.  It also contains a nice little message about meddling in the affairs of others.  This is a nice, quick read for a young girl.  Just make sure Mom & Dad don’t get their hands on it or they could go into ‘grumpy mode!’

Castle of Shadows

Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner

Plucky Princess Charlie has led an independent life every since her mother, the Queen of Quale disappeared five years ago.  Her father, the King, has sequestered himself in his rooms and spends his time building castles of cards.  Charlie is left to her own devices and runs about the castle like a little ragamuffin.  When she finds an unfinished letter penned by the Queen before her disappearance, Charlie begins a mission to find her mother.  Charlie’s character is fresh and fun and very sympathetic.  I wish the antagonists in the plot didn’t seem so flat and singularly sinister compared to Charlie, but I think children will overlook them and cheer harder for Charlie because of it.  Again, a girl-centered story.  Tobias, The gardener’s boy, and Charlie’s companion in her quest to find her mother, will appeal to boys.  There’s a little bit of violence towards the end, but nothing gratuitous.  I don’t want to put in a spoiler, but I was disappointed in the end.  I wish the King survived, he was an eccentric character, and I would have liked to see the family reunited.  However, this is another great story for summer night read-alouds.

The Peculiars

The Peculiars by Maureen McQuerry

Afraid that she has goblin blood and searching for the father who left her and her mother years ago, Lena flees to Knob Knocker, the border town on the edge of Scree.  Warned against traveling to Scree, the land of outlaws and Peculiars, Lena find employment helping in the library of an eccentric explorer and inventor.  But, everything is not how it seems and she is quickly drawn into a lawman’s plot while trying to discover her father’s less than upholding past.  The fast-paced plot kept me reading and I had a very hard time putting it down.  Recommended for young adult readers who are looking for something strong in paranormal weirdness that is not bogged down by the withering romance so common in the genre.  (I don’t mean to mislead you; there are two romantic interests in Lena’s life, however they are secondary to her search for her father and add to the depth of the characters.)

Sisters of Glass

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Presented in a series of poems, Sisters of Glass is a beautifully sharp story of two sisters on the island of Murano.  The narrator, Maria, wants nothing more than to carry on their deceased father’s business of creating beautiful glass.  Instead, his will makes his wishes clear, that Maria wed a suitable senator, a fate more suited to her beautiful older sister Giovanna.  Suitor after suitor rejects Maria, for she never paid attention to the feminine arts that were the realm of her sister.  When the latest suitor Signore Bembo shows more interest in Giovanna than Maria, the two sisters concoct a plan that will mean happiness for them both.  The poetry in Sisters of Glass flows seamlessly and I very quickly became lost in the story, forgetting that I was reading a series of short poems.  This is a very fast read and can be devoured over the course of a few short hours.  It is a lovely story, though it has a markedly female audience.  Recommended for young adult readers who enjoy poetry, history, and art.

Erebos

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

An exciting addition to our young adult fiction section, Erebos features a male protagonist, which seem few and far between in the influx of trending young adult paranormal romance.  I am excited to have a new book to recommend for boys, but I think that girls who enjoy science fiction adventures will also enjoy Erebos.  An underground video game is sweeping Nick’s school, and one of the rules is that you cannot talk about it.  The game’s instructions bleed over into the real world and soon become sinister.  People get injured, others are threatened with death.  Nick is determined to discover Erebos’s secret.  This fast-paced book kept me reading late into the night to discover what would happen next.  The main characters are well-developed and believable high school students, but some of the secondary characters read a little flat to me.  However, it didn’t bother me too much and I was able to overlook it because of the continuous excitement and suspense of the plot.  Highly recommended for teenage boys looking for a summer read, as well as any young adult who is looking for a story with substance.

Starters

Starters by Lissa Price

This high-concept YA science fiction novel will appeal to readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic stories.  Biological spore warfare wiped out everyone between the ages of 20 and 60.  Now, the wealthy elderly, known as Enders, can pay money to have their personalities inserted into young bodies.  They’re out joyriding young bodies and Callie, an unclaimed minor, volunteers herself for the program so that she can provide for her sick little brother.  Things go horribly wrong when Callie’s implant malfunctions and she wakes to find herself in her renter’s life, and deeply involved in a devious plot.  Starters is hard to put down, and its strong female protagonist is easy to identify with.  Recommended for older readers, as some material might be too complex for the younger crowd.

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