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What Makes a Good Book Review?

What Makes a Good Book Review? by Author Lauren Mayhew

Book Reviews - Lauren Mayhew AuthorI’ve always wondered what people like to see in a book review. As an author, any review 3 stars or more is greatly appreciated. Even a 3 star review can mean that the reader enjoyed the book, they just didn’t love it. Every review is appreciated by an author, indie or not.

One of my most liked posts on here is a book review. I wrote it almost two years ago now, and it still gets views. I do wonder sometimes how people stumble upon that post. It made me think why that review was so popular. If people enjoyed it enough to like the post, it meant the format of the review must have been to certain people’s taste. You can find it here.

These are the 5 steps that I use to write my reviews.

1- I start with the rating.

This way the reader can get an idea of what sort of review they’re going to read. If you can’t rate the book as 3 stars or more, don’t publish it. An author never knows if you’re reading their book (unless they’ve given you a free copy), so it won’t matter if you accidentally forget to write a review.

There’s nothing worse as an author than to wake up to a 1 or 2 star review. What’s worse, most low rating reviews don’t even give a good reason as to why the reader didn’t like the book. If you do insist on writing the review, make sure you have valid reasons as to why it wasn’t to your taste. Simply writing, ‘This character annoyed me’, isn’t enough. WHY did they annoy you?

2- I state whether there are any spoilers.

I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I’ve read a book review before that didn’t warn of spoilers, and I found out about a character’s death. It took the fun out of reading the book, as I knew what was going to happen. Always warn of spoilers.

3- I include the blurb of the book.

So many reviewers summarise the plot of a book themselves. I don’t see the point of this. The blurb is the hook that reels a reader in, so just include that instead of spending time reducing the plot of the book into a few paragraphs. This is also where those pesky spoilers come in.

Sometimes the blurb on Goodreads can be different to the blurb on Amazon, so it’s usually best to pick the one that will grab most people’s attention.

4- I write about what I liked.

This can include plot lines, characters, quotes, the author’s writing style etc. Literally anything can go in this section. There are usually a few characters that I pick out and write a little bit about. If you’re reading a series of books, it can be good to theorise what might happen in the rest of the books in this section. This can lead to conversation, especially if others have also read the book. They might have a different opinion about what might happen next.

5- I write about what I didn’t like.

As above, this can include many things. I sometimes feel like there are characters in books that serve no real purpose, so I often include them in this section – without spoiling too much! There are often times when I have nothing to write here, so if nothing springs to mind immediately, don’t feel like you have to say something purely for the sake of it.

If you are reading a self-published novel, try and refrain from pointing out spelling and grammar mistakes. All books have them, indie or not. I find mistakes in the majority of books that I read, but I wouldn’t feel the need to mention this in a review for a traditionally published book, so why would I for an indie? Obviously, if there are mistakes on every page, the author should be notified, but not through a review. Send them a private message so that they can work on it for future readers. This way, if they edit the book, anyone reading the reviews won’t be put off by spelling and grammar errors that are no longer there.

Obviously all reviewers are different. This is how I like to write my reviews, and as an author, this is the sort of feedback I’d like to have for my books. A review only has to be a few sentences long to make an impact.

I’d love to know what your thoughts are on book reviews. Let me know what you’d like to see.


Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted by Lauren Mayhew.

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The Kanga Wola Fox and the Great Outback

At the Young Adult Author Rendezvous, we believe in fostering a love for writing in young people. One of our own, LJ Higgins, had the pleasure of judging a teen writing contest in September. We’re going to showcase each of the three winners. Enjoy the third story below.

A bit about the contest:

In September, Calliope, a small town in Central Queensland, Australia, held it’s annual Country Carnival. As part of the Carnival, YAAR Author L J Higgins was invited to judge a writing competition. She was blown away by the amazing entries, and along with two other judges, they chose one winner from each age category.


The Kanga Wola Fox and the Great Outback

By: Janay Jeynes

Friends Billy and Bridy set out on an adventure to find the magical kanga wola fox. The legend was, that the kanga wola fox granted wishes to whoever found him. They were cautious about what they were doing but they wanted the best for their loved ones. Billy and Bridys family were homeless, they had a couple of pairs of clothes and a handful of food. They lived in a poor country town of about two hundred other people, many with children under three years old. They wanted to help their town, friends, and family by finding the kanga wola fox.

They began to pack for their journey. They’d have to put up with the hot sun beaming down on their backs and the long tiring walk. Before they left everyone gathered around the town hall and wished them good luck. They began walking but before they could take one step an elderly couple grabbed Billy’s shoulders and warned him about the kangaroos. They mentioned that the creature was ancient and fierce. Billy thought the people were loopy. They told him that the creature lives in the middle of the forest about a kilometre from the river. Billy and Bridy were confused, they had been told that there were no kanga wola foxes in the area at all. They didn’t know what to expect but they were soon to find out. Off they went on their adventure.

Billy and Bridy had nearly reached the end of town. Billy had already started to list the things he wanted. Billy wanted an education, food and a home to live in. Bridy wanted the same things as Billy but she thought that was a little bit selfish so she didn’t mention any thing about wishes. When they had an hour to go on foot, Billy reached into the backpack looking for the water but they had forgotten to pack it. They came to a sudden stop then looked at each other and looked back and all they could see was little houses in the distance. They didn’t talk for half an hour then their mouths became sticky and dry. Suddenly they dropped and crawled. 

They told themselves half an hour left. They saw a puddle of water they wondered if it was real or not. They began to crawl faster and faster they touched the water and they mentioned that it wasn’t water it was air Bridy jumped in and floated back up and she told Billy to jump in. Billy had a gut feeling about it, he thought it was a trap. It took ten seconds to reach the bottom. They looked around and saw black shadows. They were frighted. A big kanga wola fox pounced out of nowhere. They didn’t expect to find it this close to the edge. It seemed the kanga wola fox didn’t expect them.

The kanga wola fox circled them, they could sense its fear and anger the fox spoke with his deep crackle voice, ‘‘why are you here, and what do you want?

Billy and Bridy stuttered with their words, “w.. w.. we are here to get wishes from you and maybe a little more.”

The fox laughed and laughed. He claimed he retired a year ago because no one needed him. But Billy and Bridy didn’t care, they knew he could do anything so they just stayed stubborn.

They looked up and saw that he looked sad so they asked, ‘‘what’s wrong?”

He replied in a soft voice saying, “I am lonely, and it’s been like this for many years.” 

Billy and Bridy were upset for what had happened so they turned and gave each other the thumbs up.

Bridy said, “well, we will make a deal if you give our whole town wishes you can come with us forever and you won’t be lonely.”

They had arrived at the small country town and everybody stared and clapped. Billy and Bridy got carried to the town hall and two little kids took the fox. Everyone started to line up for their wishes. The fox got upset because he realised that most people didn’t have a home to live in.

After he served them all he wanted to make wishes for him so he stood in front of a mirror and wished for a family and a name he wanted three family members and he wanted his name to be Sparks.

The next morning Sparks woke up he saw three foxes standing in the middle of the room. They ran up to him and hugged him. He was confused for what had happened but at the last minute, he remembers that he wished for a family. Sparks was proud of the achievements that he had created. Later on in the night, the town had organised a surprise party. Sparks was wondering where everybody was so he went home and when he opened the door everyone was there they had told Sparks it was for what he had done for the community.

On that night they all enjoyed themselves and they had the best times of their lives.

 

About the author:

Janay Jeynes placed first in the 6-12yr category in the Calliope Country Carnival Writing Competition.

Hello, my name is Janay and I am in year seven. I have recently moved to Central Queensland, Australia, and I am already off to a good start. My story took lots of effort and tears. It took me over a week and lots of reminders for me to write my story. I would like to thank the judges for choosing my story for first place in the Calliope Writing Competition, and I hope that everyone who reads my story enjoys it as well.    


Read the first story HERE.

Read the second story HERE.

This post was created by Michelle Lynn

The contest was judged by LJ Higgins

Don’t forget to check out more posts by the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

Swallow​ Creek Spring Fair

At the Young Adult Author Rendezvous, we believe in fostering a love for writing in young people. One of our own, LJ Higgins, had the pleasure of judging a teen writing contest in September. We’re going to showcase each of the three winners. Enjoy the second story below.

A bit about the contest:

In September, Calliope, a small town in Central Queensland, Australia, held it’s annual Country Carnival. As part of the Carnival, YAAR Author L J Higgins was invited to judge a writing competition. She was blown away by the amazing entries, and along with two other judges, they chose one winner from each age category.

Swallow Creek Spring Fair

By: Cassie Laelyn

Hands firmly on the steering wheel in the ten and two positions, Amelia flicked a glance over at the passenger seat beside her, where her creased leather satchel sat in-lieu of an occupant, eagerly awaiting their adventure. A far better companion than the grouchy, uncompromising one she’d chosen to leave behind. Plus, she was the one who’d received the exclusive invitation, not him.     The high-gloss, trifold brochure poking out from the front pocket of the satchel, once again caught her attention, causing the butterflies to resume fluttering in the pit of her stomach. She’d been counting down the days until the annual Swallow Creek Spring Fair and now it was finally here.

Eyes back on the narrow, windy road, as the GPS, announced she was minutes away from entering the town limits. Easing off the accelerator, Amelia curved her Audi around yet another sweeping bend, treating her (and her stand-in-passenger) to uninterrupted views of the majestic landscape. Rolling forest green hills, worthy of a scene in The Sound of Music, filled the countryside for as far as her eyes could see, covered sporadically with fields of flowering canola, as though an artist had splashed patches of bright yellow paint across a green canvas. Squinting behind her shades, she spied an eagle in the distance, gracefully soaring in the cloudless, bright blue sky. Amelia wound the window down and sucked in a breath of clean, fresh country air, a stark contrast to the thick, foul, dirty stench her lungs were accustom to. It’s so much better out here. Rounding the final bend, the small township of Swallow Creek came into view and her excitement jumped a notch.  Amelia eased the car off the single lane bitumen road and pulled up before the weathered town sign to take a quick snap-shot with her phone.

 

Swallow Creek Est: 1873 Population: 607

 

Wow, for such a small town, they sure put a lot of effort into advertising their Spring Fair.  Resuming the journey, Amelia pulled the car back out onto the bitumen and headed towards the centre of town, where all the fun and excitement could begin. Choosing one of the many empty car parks at the beginning of the main street, Amelia wound the window back up and killed the engine.  She leaned over and grabbed her satchel before stepping out of the car. Her pastel, knee-length dress swayed in the gentle, balmy breeze, bringing a smile to her face; the first hint summer was around the corner.

Amelia paused for a few minutes to glance down the centre of the main street and take everything in, giving her an opportunity to prioritise her day of sightseeing. After waiting so long, she wanted to make sure she saw every inch of the historic township. The wide main street was flanked either side with a few weathered, stone buildings. The pathways and tin roofs were covered in a thick layer of creamy dirt like the sidewalks hadn’t been swept since the town’s birth. She half expected a tumbleweed to bounce down the road any minute now. Mid-way down the street on the right, was the Town Hall; a single-story red-stone structure, with a square steeple towering above the roof line, complete with a large roman-numeral clock on the face. On the opposite side was the sole pub, the only double-story building, complete with a wrap-around timber veranda on the upper level.  From first glance, the other buildings comprised of a general store, chemist, town library and historic homestead.  Craning her neck back, Amelia inspected a large tattered banner hanging loosely from its tether above her head, strung between two decaying wooden poles on either side of the street, gently flapping in the breeze.  The material frayed and ripped as though it had been subjected to the harsh elements over a period of decades.  Amelia could make out some of the faded words:

Swallow Creek Spring Fair 13 September Fun and excitement for all!

Peering back down the length of the main street, at the far end on the left, Amelia spotted a paddock filled with market stalls and the tops of amusement rides peeking above the tin roofs. That must be the Fair. Amelia eagerly slipped the brochure from her bag, folding it out to examine its content for the millionth time. Local produce, quality market stalls, and good old fashion country games were the taglines which had grabbed her attention, making the two-and-a-half-hour drive worthwhile. High on the priority list was buying homemade chutney or jam, from a region renowned for its ideal growing conditions. But first, she wanted to explore the hand-full of historic buildings, before she got carried away at the Fair and had to make the long journey home. Amelia crossed under the hanging banner and a wave of uneasiness trickled down her spine, frightening away the fluttering butterflies. She glanced back at the brochure clutched in her hand. There was something niggling her about the pictures on the brochure compared to the town before her. For starters, where were all the people? Shrugging off her paranoia—brochures always exaggerated anyway—Amelia strolled towards the first building on her list: the general store. Ding-ding! A tiny golden bell announced her arrival as Amelia pushed open the wooden fly-screen door and entered the store. Pausing inside, she cast her eyes over the cramped space; three rows of shelves huddled together in the centre, an unmanned counter on one side and a refrigeration section in the rear.

“Hello?” She called out to the empty store, receiving no reply.

Wandering down the first aisle, Amelia eyed the contents of the perfectly organised shelves. Reaching out, she ran her fingertip along the top of one of the tins and grimaced at the track it left through the thick layer of dust. The second and third aisles were the same, heavily coated in dust as though the store owner had neglected to clean for like, a century. She strode to the refrigeration section at the rear and covered her nose and mouth with one hand, as a foul stench filled the air. Leaning over, she poked her finger at a sealed bag of brown meat, laying at the bottom of a chest fridge, it bobbed back, swimming in rotten blood. Yuck!

Turning away, she grabbed a bottle of soft drink from the refrigerated shelves, its sides expanded as though it was going to explode, and inspected the used-by date. What? Did this store stock anything that wasn’t going to give her food poisoning? Quickly returning the bottle—she’d grab a cold drink somewhere else, thank you very much—Amelia turned on her heels and hot-footed it out the door. Back on the sidewalk, Amelia glanced up at the oversized clock situated on the face of the Town Hall’s tower. Weird. She could have sworn that was the exact time she’d arrived at Swallow Creek but according to the clock on her phone, she’d been here for over thirty minutes. Guess the ancient clock was broken. Crossing the bitumen, Amelia headed towards the Town Hall; the next stop on her list of things-to-see.  Amelia twisted the brass handle on the double wooden doors but it wouldn’t budge. Locked. Maybe it was closed and everyone was at the Fair?  Cheers and a loud ding suddenly rang in the distance, like someone had slammed down one of those large hammers, throwing the weight to the top of the tower and hitting the bell. Winning a prize. As Amelia turned away, she caught a shadow pass the uncovered window, out of the corner of her eye. She halted mid-step and peered over her shoulder towards the white panelled glass. A moment or two passed without the figure returning and she exhaled the breath she didn’t realising she’d been holding. Shaking her head to herself, Amelia continued back across the deserted main street to the sole pub in town. At least there was music coming from that building. A tingling sensation at her nape sharpened during the fifteen strides it took to cross the road and Amelia peeked over her shoulder several times, to check if someone was watching her. Unable to see the fiery yellow eyes staring back, her mind shrugged off the weird sensations.  Her body, however, was not easily convinced. By the time Amelia reached the pub’s entrance she was a flustered mess; her heart racing so fast it was at risk of a speeding fine and her mouth so dry she had difficulty swallowing. Calm down, Lia.  You’re overreacting. Any second now, she was going to waltz into the pub and be surrounded by town folk and tourists here for the Fair, all of which would laugh at her crazy story, assuring her it was all in her head. What was she waiting for? Deep breath in… and out, and Amelia pushed open the antique door… and froze. Her heart sank. Inside the pub, there were no town folk perched on the wooden bar stools, no bartender behind the fully stocked bar, no patrons occupying the hand full of round tables in the centre. Where the heck was everyone?   Amelia forced her shaky legs to cross the polished timber floor to the far corner and inspect the jukebox, mid-way through belting out ‘The Gambler’. The track listing set on random and continuous play. Her gaping eyes peered right at the burgundy carpeted staircase leading to the upper level.  Think there’s been enough excitement for one day. Amelia tucked her satchel closer to her body and rushed out of the pub through the same door she’d come. It was time to socialise with actual people. If there are any… Back out on the dirt covered sidewalk, Amelia flicked a final glance at the clock town across the street. Yep, still broken.

She quickened her step towards the Spring Fair but the lure of the old library building drew her in. How could it not? An entire building filled with books; countless stories and adventures held between the pages. Ok, she groaned to herself. One more building but then she was heading straight to the Fair. This deserted town was beginning to give her the creeps. The double wooden doors to the library creaked open as she entered, echoing off the exposed rich timber rafters under the pitched roof. Amelia descended three steps and wandered down the first isle of towering mahogany shelves, overflowing with deep brown and burgundy treasures. She couldn’t help brushing her fingers along one of the leather-bound books before her, its spine frayed and dusty, the pages yellowed with age. There was something magical about the musky scent of an old novel, the way it filled the reader’s soul with— Amelia’s breath hitched and her head snapped around as a shadow passed outside the panelled window of the library. Forgetting the book, she raced up the stairs, ripping open the doors to rush outside. Her heart speed as she flicked her gaze left and right, searching for the figure among the empty, deserted street. Nothing. Once again, it had vanished without a trace. She prayed at any moment now, the town folk would jump from behind the buildings to yell, ‘surprise!’ and this crazy day will be forgotten. Biting her lower lip, she tried to decide what to do. Stay or get the heck out of here? She had come all this way, it would be a shame to let a few creepy moments ruin her outing to the Fair. Especially one she’d waiting so long for.  Right, she was going to take a quick peek at the Fair, if there weren’t any people there either, she would high-tail it out of this freaky town and put her lead-foot to good use. Her summer sandals scooted down the cement sidewalk to the end of the street and she breathed a sigh of relief; beyond the two-foot wire fence in front of her, spread out across a lush grassy paddock the size of half a football field, was the Spring Fair. Cheers and laughter filled her ears, drowning out the country music blaring from the loudspeakers. Finally. A shiver ran down her spine as Amelia pushed open the rickety gate to enter the Fair but she was too distracted to pay it any attention. Stall after stall lined the rows before her, filled with jams, chutney, sauces, smoked meats, handmade goods; you name it, there was a market stall for it. The fluttering butterflies returned, filling her with the urge to leap and cheer. Taking her time, Amelia wandered down the stall aisles, stopping at a chutney stand to taste one of the jars on offer. Yummy mango. At least these jars weren’t coated in layers of dust. She dug inside her satchel and grabbed out her purse, to purchase a jar or two.

“Hello?”  Amelia leaned over the chutney table glancing left and right, in search of the stall holder. “Anybody there?” She called. No answer.

Purse in hand, she peered down both sides of the stall, in case the attendant was on a break. Nope.  No-one. The tingling at the back of her neck returned and Amelia spun around, scanning the aisles with fresh eyes. Her stomach churned. Each stall was packed with fresh local produce, yet had no sellers behind the tables. At the same time as her realisation, laughter echoed from the carnival rides to the rear of the Fair, as though they were beckoning her. Maybe all the people are on the rides? Stepping free of the unattended stalls, Amelia discovered the real excitement at the Fair. Loads of operating carnival rides spread out over the paddock; a merry-go-round, a gigantic ferris wheel, a swinging pirate ship, and bumper cars.

She gravitated towards the giant chair swing directly in front of her, the only ride stationary for thrill seekers to board. Choosing a vacant chair on the outer rim, Amelia used the hanging chains to lift herself onto the warm metal seat. The moment she attached the linked chain across the front of her, securing herself in, the centre of the ride began to rotate, as though the giant swing had been waiting for her and her alone. Gradually the ride increased its speed, floating her chair out the side, rewarding her with a panoramic view of the town. Strands of golden hair fell free from her braid, blowing across her face, and she tucked them behind her ear. Closing her eyes for a moment, Amelia relished in the warm, calming rays steaming over her wind-blown cheeks. On the third slow spin, Amelia opened her lids and glanced towards the centre of the ride. Her breath hitched. From out of nowhere, a male appeared on the chair to her left. Another person at the Fair.

“Hi!” She waved over to him.

But he didn’t respond. Didn’t turn his head to acknowledge her. His gaping eyes stared straight ahead, gripping a small piece of paper tightly in his hands. Wait! Squinting, she discovered the male was clutching an ancient copy of the Swallow Creek Spring Fair brochure, its cover page faded to a sepia tone like an old family photograph on her grandmother’s mantelpiece. Not at all like the glossy one she’d received— Dread filled her stomach as she peered down at the brochure in her hand, it gradually changing to the same sepia tone. A date appeared through the paper as though she’d used a magic marker to reveal the ink.

Swallow Creek Spring Fair 13 September 1967 Fun and excitement for all!

What? How could that be? Her heart pounded behind her ribs and her lungs struggled to inhale a breath. Frantically, she scanned the ride and found more people appearing on the seats one by one, each of them dressed in various fashions as though they belonged in different decades. Each person clutching the same sepia tone brochure tightly in their hands, their eyes wide with horror. Amelia’s pulse pounded in her ears as she desperately tried to pull back the clasp with her thumb, to release the chain in front of her but it refused to budge.

“Help!” She yelled.

It made no difference, the people on the ride were oblivious to her screams. On the fourth rotation, she viewed the township below—or rather, the ruins. Decrepit buildings lined the main street she’d strolled down, stone bricks tumbled over the cracked sidewalk. All that remained in tack was the Town Hall clock tower, still displaying the same time she’d seen all day. Wait, was that— On the fifth rotation, Amelia narrowed in on the wooden slates directly beneath the clock face.  Oh my god. A pair of haunting yellow eyes were locked like laser beams on an unsuspecting tourist, about her age, strolling down the deserted street. Heading towards the Fair. A glossy brochure pinched between his fingers. No! She had to stop him. Amelia yanked harder at the chain on her seat, again and again, until her hand cramped. It was no use. The metal clasp was fused shut, as though she’d signed her fate to ride the swing forever, the moment she’d linked it to the opposite side.

“Stop!” She screamed at the top of her lungs down at the male, but he couldn’t hear her.

Sixth rotation and the tingling sensation at her nape intensified. Peering over her shoulder, she swallowed the lump forming in the back of her throat, as a monstrous black fog drifted across the grassy field towards the Fair. Towards her. The fog thickened and darkened the closer it crept, like a vicious thunderstorm rapidly building in intensity. Screams echoed in the distance as the fog swallowed the carnival rides whole on its approach. She frantically searched for the young male on the sidewalk. He’d reached the gate of the Fair, his face lit with excitement and anticipation.

“No!” She shouted, “Don’t go through the gate!”

The male paused, tilting his head to the side as though he’d heard a noise. A split second later his grin widened and he pushed open the gate, entering the Fair… at the exact moment, the population figure on the town sign increased by one. For the second time, today. Below, the sickening fog crept closer, nearing the chain swing Amelia helplessly hung from. Amelia’s screams joined the hundreds of others, the terrifying moment black tendrils of fog stretched up from the sinister darkness below, reaching for her feet like long whispery fingers. Oh god, please no… But it was frivolous to try and escape her pending doom. Because once more, the quaint country town of Swallow Creek had lured an unsuspecting tourist to their annual Spring Fair, with the prospect of fun and excitement for all. But only now, would the fun truly begin…

About the author:

After living in many different towns across Australia, Cassie Laelyn now calls coastal Queensland home, with her husband and two energetic boys. 

 She’s a self-confessed bookworm who admits to being slightly obsessed with stories involving otherworldly characters – everything from gut-wrenching romance to killer suspense!

 When she isn’t narrating the characters in her own head, Cassie enjoys binging on TV shows, spending time at the beach and going on adventures with her family.


The first story can be found HERE.

This post was created by Michelle Lynn

The contest was judged by LJ Higgins

Don’t forget to check out more posts by the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

City Girl, Country Boy

At the Young Adult Author Rendezvous, we believe in fostering a love for writing in young people. One of our own, LJ Higgins, had the pleasure of judging a teen writing contest in September. We’re going to showcase each of the three winners. Enjoy the first story below.

A bit about the contest:

In September, Calliope, a small town in Central Queensland, Australia, held it’s annual Country Carnival. As part of the Carnival, YAAR Author L J Higgins was invited to judge a writing competition. She was blown away by the amazing entries, and along with two other judges, they chose one winner from each age category.

City Girl, Country Boy

By: Charlie-Cherie Zorzan

“Harper!” My grandmother exclaimed as I got off the train from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a little town in WA that my grandparents call home, “Oh look at you! I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since we last saw you! How are you?”

“Great thanks, grandma, it’s good to see you too.” I smiled to see my grandparents after so long. We lost all connection after my parents divorced, but my Mum decided that it wasn’t fair to my grandparents that they never got to see me, but really, Mums always had a soft spot for my Dad’s parents.

I turned to see my grandad holding my luggage with a huge grin on his face. I ran over and wrapped my arms around him. I didn’t realize until I had finished, but I had started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I loved my grandad; I remembered when my parents used to take me down there every summer, he would read me a story every night and ride the horses with me, and take me in the tractor. That didn’t happen anymore.

“Well, how are you darling?” he said with a smile, “No boyfriends, I hope?” I laughed at that and told him that I was planning to be single for the moment.

“Good,” he grunted, “I better keep my gun on me, just in case. With a pretty face like yours, all them boys are going to be tripping over their tongues.” That little comment made my face turn tomato red. My grandmother chuckled and suggested that we head home.

As soon as we arrived at the little, yellow house I grabbed my bags and ran in, eager to see what had changed. It was mostly the same, with the exception of the spare room which had been repainted my favourite colour, aqua. I smiled, set my bags down and went back out into the kitchen, where grandma announced that dinner was already prepared and that she just needed 10 minutes to heat it up. So, I set the table for three and then poured grandmas homemade lemonade for everyone.

As I was eating my sausages, my grandmother said, “I just can’t believe you’re 17 Harper, you look so much like Conner.”

I shifted uncomfortably, my dad was a weird subject for me because I hadn’t seen him in about 6 years, after my mum won full custody of me when I was 11. It was true though, that I looked like him, we shared the same curly brown hair and bright blue eyes, as well as naturally tan skin. The only feature I shared with my mother was my smile, we both had identical smiles and dimples, with perfectly straight teeth. But the similarities ended there because my mother was fair skinned, had long, blonde hair so straight it looked like she straightened it and soft brown eyes.

“Yeah, I’m told that I look like him often.” With that, I excused myself and went to bed; I was exhausted.

I woke up at about 3 AM to sound of a truck engine roaring and a man cursing. I opened the window and found myself looking down at a muddy mess of a 17-year-old boy, trying to get his truck out of the muck.

“Hey, you!” I called out to him, come to think of it, that probably wasn’t the best decision, but I needed my beauty sleep, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, you know, just hunting elephants.”

I rolled my eyes at that one.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to get this stupid truck to start!” He moaned, motioning to a rusted up ute.

Rolling my eyes, I called down, “Do you need a hand?”

“That would be very much appreciated.”

I quickly pulled on my boots and crept down the hall, careful not to wake my grandparents. I reached the door and in a quick motion, I was out of the house.

I made it to the ute and tapped the guy on the shoulder, he turned around, and, well, I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t attractive. He had a mop of messy black hair and navy blue eyes.

He held out his hand and I shook it, “The names Tom, and you are?”

It was at that moment that I realised I had forgotten how to breathe. As though he could read my mind, he smirked and said, “You’re checking me out.”

I turned tomato red and in a desperate attempt to regain my pride, I replied with, “Was not.”

“You were too!”

“Was not!”

“Yeah, you were.”

“I wasn’t!”

“Were.”

“Wasn’t!”

“Were.”

“WASN’T!”

“Were.”

“Was- Ugh, never mind.”

“Anyway,” He said, still smirking at me, “Are you going to keep staring at me or actually give me a hand? I can give you a minute or two to make up your mind if you want, I know it’s a hard decision.”

I blinked a few times and walked over to the back of the truck, he jumped into the drivers’ seat and started the engine. I pushed as hard as I could and we eventually managed to push his ute out of the mud.

He hoped out and smiled at me, “Thanks for that, I really appreciate it.”

“Anytime.”

We stood there in a comfortable silence for a few more minutes until I say, “Well, I should probably head inside.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to disturb any more of your precious rest, I guess I’ll see you around.” And with that, he jumps back into the truck and drives away.

The next morning, I woke up to the smell of bacon on the fry-pan. I jumped out of bed and raced into the kitchen, and there, much to my surprise, was Tom talking to grandad.

“Yeah Geoff, I reckon I could get to that today and maybe I could-” but he paused when he saw me, grandad turned to see what he was looking at and smiled when he saw me, “Ah, Tom, I don’t suppose you’ve met my granddaughter Harper, I told you she was coming yesterday.”

Tom nodded and said that he remembered.

Before I could decide what to say, grandma saved me and called out that breakfast was ready. At the breakfast table, my Granddad told me that Tom helped around the farm because he was getting too old to do it by himself. Apparently, Tom just lived down the road with his parents. Then, my grandmother suggested that Tom should show me around town, I almost choked on my bacon.

“No, its fine, I’m sure Tom is busy today, right grandad?”

“He can take the day off, I’m fine with that.” My grandad was not helping.

“But I was going to work with the horses today Mr. Harris.” Thank god, Tom was actually being useful.

“Then you can take Harper out for a ride, you remember the basics, right sweetie?” Ok, couldn’t grandma tell I was trying to get out of this?

“Then it’s settled, Tom will take Harper out for a ride this morning. Perhaps she can name our new horse.” Granddad said.

That got my attention, “New horse?”

“Yeah, we picked him up at the markets a couple of days ago. He’s young, about a year old, but he’s strong, needs a good rider.” I immediately warmed up to the idea of being with Tom for the day.

So we went outside, the awkward silence following us all the way to the stable. I didn’t know why, but he seemed to relax as soon as he was around the horses.

“What do you think?” Asked tom, spreading his arms wide gesturing to the stables.

“It’s beautiful, just as I remembered,” I replied with a huge grin on my face.

He took me to the back of the stables, where he introduced me to a beautiful light brown stallion with a white nose and legs. He said that this was the new horse and that I could name him anything I want.

“Peanut Butter.” I decided.

“What?” Tom questioned with one eyebrow raised.

I rolled my eyes and replied with, “I am naming him Peanut Butter, Peanut for short. Isn’t that clear enough?”

Groaning in frustration he looked me straight in the eyes and in a really sarcastic voice, said, “I know that, but why?”

I laughed out loud, wasn’t it obvious? As though he sensed he was missing something, Tom let his shoulders sag and frowned.

After I finished laughing, I managed to give him an explanation, “Peanuts coat looks like peanut butter, so he is now known as Peanut Butter.” I smiled proudly, Tom didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm though.

“That is by far the dumbest name I have ever heard in the entire seventeen years and 3 months I have been living in this world. I honestly feel bad for the horse.”

I laughed and in-between my cackling I managed to choke out, “He is Peanut Butter now, not horse.”

“Really, Harper this is ridiculous,” he sighed.

“You’re the one who said I could name him anything I want,” I reminded him.

He groaned and said, “Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d name the poor horse something so dumb.”

“He’s Peanut Butter now. Accept it and move on,” I replied, holding my still aching sides from laughing so hard.

I continued to laugh as Tom continued to grumble as he saddled up Peanut and another horse. He ran me over the basics, just to make sure I knew what I was doing, and helped me on to Peanut. He hopped on his horse and pointed me in the direction we were riding and then we were off.

I held on tightly to the reins as I enjoyed the feeling of the breeze in my hair. I looked at the beautiful scenery as I gained speed. Peanuts hooves kicked up the red dirt, the sun was high in the sky; even the dead grass was beautiful. I rode through the gum trees, laughing uncontrollably, adrenaline running through my veins.

Finally, we stopped at the dam. We tied up the horses and wade knee deep into the water, we laughed and joked, and I honestly enjoyed just being with him. I turned to Tom to thank him for the ride, that I loved every minute of it, but before I could say anything, I realised he was already looking at me with an odd expression that I couldn’t read.

He took a few steps forward and bent down and whispered in my ear, “I had a lot of fun with you today Harper.”

And just like that, he moved away and went to get back on his horse. I followed him in a daze.

The trip back was a blur. All I could think about was the way he was looking at me. Why was he looking at me like that?

“Here,” I almost dropped the saddles Tom handed me. “Put these in the shed while I put the horses away.”

I watched him walk away and then went to the shed and hung up the saddles. Since I had nothing better to do, I went to the stables to see if Tom was done yet.

I walked into Tom brushing Peanut Butter. I come up next to him, grab a brush, and start on Peanuts left side. We worked in comfortable silence for about five minutes before I realised Tom wasn’t brushing anymore. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I turned around to look for him and found him standing in front of me.

“Breathe,” he murmured, as he started to lean forward.

His hands wrapped around my waist. I stood on my tiptoes and looked into his eyes. I swear a saw the trace of a smile on his lips as he continued to lean forward. His lips brushed against mine, ever so slightly, like a butterfly wings brush against a flower. He was about to press his lips to mine but I heard a person in the background clearing his throat.

We quickly pulled away, both our faces were bright red. There, in the entrance, stood my grandad.

He took a few steps forward, his face emotionless. He took a deep breath and finally spoke, “You know Tom, I have a fine collection of guns. Maybe I should show you them sometime.”

“Yes sir, I would very much like that.”

“I could show you now if you want, anything for a mate.”

“I would really like that sir, but I think it would be best for everyone if we went in for lunch. Harpers really hungry.”

“Yeah, I am.” I had to butt in, it was just getting too awkward to stay silent.

Grandad nodded and began walking towards the house, grumbling something about his guns.

 

A few weeks had passed, and I was with Tom nearly every day. One day, while we were eating lunch, Tom invited me to a family bonfire at his house. My grandparents let me go, so Tom went to help his parents set up, while I got ready.

He came round at about 5:00 PM to pick me up. I said goodbye to my grandparents and let Tom lead me to his rusted up ute.

When we arrived, I was full of nerves. I wondered what his parents were like. Would they like me? Why was I even worrying about this, it’s not like I was his girlfriend or anything?

He took me into the house and out onto the veranda. There, sitting in a chair, was a middle-aged woman with straight brown hair and navy blue eyes. It was clear that that was his mother, even though they didn’t share many features. He went over and gave her a hug and then introduced us.

“Ah, yes, Harper right? Tom hasn’t stopped talking about since he came back from Geoff’s the day he met you,” she said, smiling at me. “It’s great to finally meet you, I’m Ava.”

I smiled and shook her hand just as a man, a little bit older than Ava, walked up to us. He had black hair and brown eyes. Aside from the eyes, he looked exactly like Tom, that must be his dad. Once again Tom introduced us and the man said he’d heard all about me and identified himself as Toms Dad, Mick.

Overall it was a great night. I spoke to Tom and his parents by the bonfire until about 11:00 PM. I told them that I wanted to be an illustrator, and that my Mum wanted me to go to university and that I hadn’t seen my dad in 6 years. All in all, I felt more at home in front of that bonfire with these people I had just met, then I had since my parents got divorced.

At around 10:00 PM Ava and Mike went inside to grab some more drinks. It was just me and Tom in front of the fire, under the stars.

Tom took a deep breath and murmured softly in my ear, “Your eyes put all those stars in the sky to shame.”

I blushed a deep red and looked down at the ground. He gently put his hand under my chin and made me look up at him. I looked into his navy blue eyes and began to lean forward, he did the same. He pressed his lips to mine, and I’d have to say it was the best first kiss any girl could ask for.

In a few weeks, I had to go home, and I was dreading it. I didn’t want to leave Tom or my grandparents or Ava and Mike, who had become my second parents.

I was preparing myself to go to Toms and talk about what he wanted to do since I was going to have to find a way to make things work. But then, there was a knock on the door, I opened it and speak of the devil, there he was.

“Hey beautiful, listen, I know this is late notice but I’m taking you to the town fair.” He gave me that smile that just made me melt inside and grabbed my hand.

He lead me to his ute and I hopped in. He drove us all the way up to the show ground where the town held its annual fair. It was amazing. I don’t think I had ever enjoyed myself so much in my entire life. We danced and laughed and talked the whole night away. I kissed him over and over again, it was perfect, everything was perfect. But, all good things must come to an end.

“Hey, Tom, listen, I know this a topic we have been avoiding, but we need to talk about this,” I took a deep breath and continued, “The summer will be over in about a week, I am going to be leaving. And before you ask, no, I don’t want to leave, but if I stay my mum will drag me by my hair back to Brisbane.”

“You’re going to be a legal adult soon, why can’t you stay?” he asked, he was upset now.

“I just can’t, ok? I just can’t.”

“But you can!”

“Please don’t make this any harder than it has to be, we can still keep in touch we can still work this out.” I was near tears now.

“No Harper, you’re being ridiculous, you can stay if you want, just stand up to your mum!”

“I’m sorry Tom, I can’t.”

“Fine!” He exploded, “But don’t expect to see me again!”

“Tom! Wait!” But he was gone.

He didn’t come to say goodbye. His parents did, but he didn’t. I was probably for the best anyway, I wouldn’t be able to contain myself if he came, I’d be a sobbing mess on the floor.

I ended up going to university, I got in on a full scholarship. It’s not like I wasn’t smart enough. But that was when things started going wrong.

I started dating this guy called Mark. At first, he was really sweet and supportive, he made me feel beautiful. But then things took a turn for the worst. He slowly started to change me, I became depressed and insecure. He was horrible to me in public. I lost all connection with family and friends, and he embarrassed me in front of people. It hurt, a lot.

Eventually, I got out of the relationship, but it was too late. The damage had been done. I had already dropped out of university for him, I lost all my friends because of him, and my dreams had been thrown out the window.

I was a twenty-year-old girl with nothing, no friends, no plan, no love life, nothing. I packed my bags and got on a plane and flew to Perth. I got on a little train to the small town of Kalgoorlie and went to visit my grandparents. I hadn’t seen them in three years, not because I didn’t want to see them, just because there was at least a ninety-nine percent chance I would see him.

When a saw my grandma and my grandad, I just cried and cried and cried. It felt good to see them, they took me to their little house and just let me cry, they just rubbed my back and let me cry.

The next morning, I took the car and went for a drive. I needed some time to think.

As I was driving, there was a huge bump and before I knew it, I was stuck.  I got out and tried to push the car, but it wouldn’t budge. Cursing, I grabbed my phone to call someone, only to find that it was flat. I was cussing like a sailor, kicking the stupid thing and trying to get it to go. I was in tears by the time a rusted up ute pulled up next to me.

“Excuse, but do you need any hel- Harper?” That voice, it sounded so familiar, I looked up and there in front of me was Tom.

“Tom?” I couldn’t believe it.

All of a sudden his face split into a huge grin and he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tightly, “Harper! I am so sorry, I’ve missed you so much and I was such a jerk and-”

But he didn’t get to finish his sentence because I was kissing him, and it was like falling in love all over again.

About the author:

Charlie-Cherie Zorzan placed first in the 13-17yr category in the Calliope Country Carnival Writing Competition. She is thirteen-years-old and attends senior high. She is passionate about writing and desires to become a successful author. She also loves to read and enjoys a wide range of genres including action and adventure, history, love, and fantasy. Charlie-Cherie is a very enthusiastic and excitable person and enjoys getting out and being active. She plays netball and does boxing. Acting and drama are also her passion and she has been part of a small drama group for three years.


This post was created by Michelle Lynn

The contest was judged by LJ Higgins

Don’t forget to check out more posts by the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE.

Characters: Gay by nature or choice?

Characters: Gay by nature or choice? by Author Paul Mosier

The following is my response to an email from a woman who kindly beta-read the novel I have recently completed– the middle grade “Summer and July.” Her feedback was thoughtful, intelligent and complimentary. To my surprise she said she enjoyed it in spite of her being ethically opposed to the nature of the love presented in the story, and her worry that my story would contribute to the “normalization” of such love. Below is my response to her. I omit my opening remarks.

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Notes on your notes: The “men in gray suits” is actually one of the several colorful terms in surfer lingo for sharks. Another good one is “landlord,” which is their term for great white sharks. Those don’t appear on the beaches of Santa Monica, or they would have been a good inclusion. But since that didn’t come through to you as a reader, perhaps I need to expand on that exchange. “Noah” is another term for sharks, from the Aussie cockney rhyming scheme of “Noah’s Ark” rhyming with “shark.” Similarly Aussie surfers call Americans “seppos” because “Septic tank” rhymes with “yank.” It’s kinda bizarre.

I, too, was happy with Summer’s method of giving herself permission to feel something other than happy, enthusiastic and optimistic– putting on Juillet’s clothing and makeup. I didn’t plan it– I don’t plan anything in writing, really. I don’t think I am capable of doing something as artful or lovely as that, but as a servant of the muse, I think I do a pretty good job of staying out of her way. I don’t feel like I’m the creator of a story so much as I am the first person to experience it.

I feel the same way about characters. I don’t expect that I’ll change your mind about seeing same-sex love as being somehow wrong, but I’ll make my argument anyway. I have never designed a character, and if I did I think they’d be wooden or cliched. I feel like they are introduced to me by the universe, and I disagree with writers who think that I as an author need to know my characters completely. In fact I feel like I only know them as much as they are willing to reveal themselves to me. An interviewer once asked if I ever found myself disappointed when I finished writing a novel and realized that my characters weren’t real, and my reply was “I don’t think I agree that they aren’t real.”

But I didn’t set out to write a same-sex love story. I think that every story is a love story– the only question is what kinds of love. Summer and July was born from the sense of place of a seaside town with an ice cream shop and boogie boarding, then the characters walked into the scene. But I don’t feel like I determined their sexual orientation any more than I designed the bluebird metaphor. Which I did not design. I’m just witness to it. My understanding of Juillet and Summer, watching them act, is that they are not necessarily drawn exclusively to their own gender. It seems like their affection is specific to the individual case– for Juillet, Summer, and for Summer, Juillet. They’re probably both surprised that their first kiss was with another girl. They’re both young and figuring themselves out.

I don’t choose the sexual orientation of my characters, but if I did, I wouldn’t apologize for representing same sex loves as being as legitimate and potentially beautiful as heterosexual loves. And I would suggest that maybe instead of worrying about texts that “normalize” same sex loves, perhaps you should worry about texts that vilify or demonize love between two men or two women, which has always existed. It’s hard for me to even imagine what motivation lies behind such persecution other than some antique need for maximum regeneration of the species to swell the ranks of armies and churches. It is interesting that you use Plato to support your argument about our need to use care in what we teach our young, when Plato said that the only true type of love was that which existed between two men. Of course I disagree with Plato in this respect, as I think that the love between a man and a woman can be pretty profound, too.

I’m sure that– while gay people have appeared in previous novels of mine– Summer and July will open me to a new level of potential criticism and rejection for elements other than my ability to tell a story. I didn’t wish for this, and it doesn’t represent any kind of bravery on my part– that distinction is reserved for those who wrote about the love between members of the same sex in decades past. I’ve got a left-handed female character named Lefty in my work-in-progress, but likewise people in centuries past have fought the stigma of people who find themselves preferring using their left hands, so there is no heroism for me there, either.

Happily, though thinking ill of same sex love still exists in the world I live in, having a contract with a Big Five publisher I have learned that, generally, in the world of children’s books, publishers have moved beyond the argument. Though opposition to same sex love still exists, my editorial group does not wish to dignify such opposition with space on the page. Nobody in a middle grade book written by me and published by my publisher is going to look askance at two girls or two boys falling for each other.

For me It was easy to make the “normal” heterosexual choice. Girls and women have always been attractive and fascinating to me. Though I didn’t set out to write a story featuring a same-sex love, the idea that maybe some kid will fail to kill him or herself because I didn’t resist presenting a story in which affection and romantic love between two members of the same sex is pretty much the most adorable love story ever– I’ve got to say I like the idea of being on that side of the equation, and of history. And all I have to do is let the characters be who they are. Take them as they are, and love them as they came to me. I hope you’ll consider this position.


Want more from Paul? You can check out his books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Paul on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted by Lauren Mayhew with the express permission of Paul Mosier.

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In Defense of Insta-Love

In Defense of Insta-Love - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway.

I do three things when I’m trolling the aisles of heaven (re: bookstore), searching for a few new books to burn my paycheck on:

  1. Seek out a kick-ass cover.
  2. Read the back jacket.
  3. Read the first page . . . and maybe the Goodreads reviews.

Let me tell ya – I’ve learned one thing about Goodreads and that’s that many readers apparently hate any novels with “insta-love,” but I’m calling out their whining as “bullshit.”

Why?

Because they’ve done it themselves. Repeatedly.

Let’s face it – novels have plenty of this “insta-love” thing going on, BUT I find that it’s (usually) not actually insta-love. It’s insta-LUST and lemme tell ya – we’ve ALL been there.

And lust . . . is dangerous. Forbidden.

Yet we don’t care, ’cause, baby,  we LOVE to lust.

We’ve drooled over the movie star, licked the Abercrombie bag (well, I have), and mentally stripped the barista hottie who’s serving Starbucks (yes, we females are just as guilty of doing it as the males, but we’re sneakier about it). Fellow writer Trisha Leaver would no doubt shove me from her car and haul butt for her TV if she realized the new season of Outlander had suddenly appeared because, well . . . hot Scot in a kilt! (FYI – it’s not on yet, damn it).

Adam Driver - Kylo Ren

Adam Driver is “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars, The Force Awakens

And Lust can corrupt your sanity and your morals. Take, for horrifying instance, my teen daughter: she’s totally in love with Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The second that jerk took his helmet off on the big screen and tried to suck the brain cells out of Rey, my daughter was drooling. DROOLING. Hello? RESIST THE DARKSIDE, GIRL! That’s lust.

And honestly, I’ve never known love-at-first-sight, but I’ve totally known LUST at first sight. Sometimes it evolves into love, other times . . . meh. More importantly, if you go back and really read all those book which have been labeled as “insta-love,” you’ll realize that they are actually insta-lust, which happens every second of every day.

I guess my point is that you can’t bash insta-love because it’s a truth of life (just sorta misnamed by readers). I tried to cover every variation of love in my books because I’ve known all the variations through my friends, family, and my own life.

For many, MANY people, lust usually comes first (Eila for Raef). If you’re lucky, it evolves into love (Raef for Eila). And sometimes hate comes first, then a slow “like,” then love (Ana and Kian). And sometimes lust comes first, but eventually burns both people out and they end up loathing one another while plotting one another’s murders (Collette and Kian).

And other times, a cautious friendship starts first, then love, then lust (Christian and Elizabeth).

But you can’t bash insta-love / lust because you think it’s cliché.

It’s not and we all know you’ve done the insta-love / lust thing with the movies, TV, books, and the Chris Helmsworth lookalike working on the roof next door. Even freakin’ love triangles are real (what a nightmare, FYI – in real life, it’s a major pain in the ass).

So, if I have no issue with insta-love / lust and love triangles in books, then what do I loathe in a novel? That’s easy: dumb heroines and crappy characters. Bad writing and thin storylines.

So, yeah – I’m calling out all you insta-love haters because we all know you’ve done it, multiple times, and lust is good for ya. If you’re gonna whine and protest about something, protest bad writing. Protest shallow characters, boring stories, and weak females, but not the lust.

Because, quite frankly, lust makes the world go round.

You can see Kate’s original Blog Post here.

Spring Fever Giveaway

 ** This Giveaway has finished. Follow our blog to be the first to know about any future giveaways! **

 

enter

We all need to get away after months of cold, dreary, monotony. But even while we’re dreaming of white sand beaches and rolling waves, our regularly schedule life must go on.

But does it really? Getting away is a lot easier than you think. All it takes is a bit of spare time, an open mind, and a good book. That’s why we’re giving away tons of books! There’ll be over TWENTY winners.

And one grand-prize winner will walk away with a signed, first edition hardback of Witch and Wizard which just so happens to be written by one of the biggest names in fiction – JAMES PATTERSON! On top of that, they get a $100 amazon gift-card! 

And all if takes is a minute or two and a few clicks of the mouse.

DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE!

Check out these other amazing prizes we have for you.

Signed copy of XODUS by K.J. Mcpike!

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Signed copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Finds His Home by Barbara Renner

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Signed copy of Order of Seven by Beth Teliho

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Signed copy of Choices by Michelle Lynn

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Signed copy of The Keeper of Dragons by J.A. Culican

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Signed copy of The Hereafter by Jessica Bucher

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Signed copy of Autumn in the City of Angels by Kirby Howell

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Signed copy of Reality is in a Dream by Lauren Mayhew

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Signed copy of The Other Inheritance by Rebecca Jaycox

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Signed copy of Orangutan by Rita Goldner

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Signed copy of Glitter and Sparkle by Shari Tapscott

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Signed copy of Into Shadow by T.D. Shields

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Signed copy of The Convergence by Tenille Berezay

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Signed copy of Counteract by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Dawn of the Dreamer by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of On Delicate Wings by L.J. Higgins

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Signed copy of The Clay Lion by Amalie Jahn.

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Signed copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Audio version of Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn

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Kindle copy of Shine and Shimmer by Shari Tapscott

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Kindle copy of Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

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Kindle copy of Spark by Tracy Lawson

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Signed copy of Lonnie the Loon Learns to Call by Barbara Renner

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Kindle copy of The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon by Ellen Buikema

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s Aviation Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Kindle copy of Jackson’s History Adventure by Rita Goldner

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Bookmarks

Glitter and Sparkle series journal

Orangutan notecards

Most Popular YA Quotes

The Hunger Games Quote - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Christopher Morgan

Most popular quotes from the most popular young adult authors

Have you ever pondered a popular quote from a popular author? Ever read something and thought Wow! That’s just too good not to share? Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, now anyone can share a special quote with everyone.

Of course, just because you find interesting or poignant, that doesn’t mean others will, right? Well, what if lots of people find the same quote interesting?

Here’s a summary of the top 2 most popular quotes taken from the most popular young adult titles as reported by Kindle readers…

The Matchmaker’s Playbook – Rachel Van Dyken
1) It wasn’t that it had been too long without a girl. It was that it’d been a lifetime without the right one.
2) Lex: Every night after practice he eats at Asian Fusion. Gross. You’ll find General Tso at his usual spot.

A Shade of Vampire 2 – Bella Forest
1) Just because sandcastles are temporary, it never stopped me from making them as beautiful as possible.
2) Derek was to wake once it was time to find the girl who would help him fulfill his destiny.”

A Shade of Vampire 3 – Bella Forest
1) Let the sandcastle collapse. In its place, I will build a fortress—one that the waves of nature and time could never destroy.
2) I might have underestimated my father, but he had no idea how much he had just underestimated me.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
1) The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
2) District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety,

A Shade of Vampire 5 – Bella Forest
1) I know an excuse when I hear one. Don’t you dare deceive yourself into believing that you’re the victim, Derek Novak.
2) eighteen-year-old Sofia Claremont made five-hundred-year-old me feel like a boy.

A Shade of Vampire 6 – Bella Forest
1) we hold our fate in our hands. We always have a choice. Don’t settle for less than the future that you dream of with her.
2) You are who you choose to be. No matter how much light is shed upon you, if you still choose to remain in darkness, that’s your doing, not anyone else’s.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
1) It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.
2) And it takes too much energy to stay angry with someone who cries so much.

A Shade of Vampire 7 – Bella Forest
1) You’re no stranger to storms. The waves may rage, but you can rise above them.
2) All of the bad and good things that come with living become worthwhile once we find love.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
1) Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.
2) Life in District 12 isn’t really so different from life in the arena. At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.

Shades of Vampire 24 – Bella Forest
1) I was left to ponder over the power of a simple apology. A taming of one’s ego, an admission of being fallible… the effect that these things could have on a relationship was profound. I couldn’t help but feel that if more people were ready to apologize in the world, it would be a brighter, happier place.
2) Those ghouls really should charge for their service. Ghoul rehab. Guaranteed results for the assholes in your family.

The Banished of Muirwood – Jeff Wheeler
1) A friend does not abandon a friend during troubled times. That is when the friendship is needed most.
2) I have learned, mostly through painful experience, never to be dismissive of a friend’s accusation, even if it seems unreasonable. More often than not, it is well-meant, the truth, and something I have needed to hear but did not want to. It is an easy thing to be offended. It is difficult to learn something new about ourselves.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
1) If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
2) May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
1) The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.
2) I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

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Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

Super Cool Toys and Apps for Writers

writer  By K.R. Conway

Looking for cool Christmas ideas for the writer you know?

I taught at the Young Writers Workshop (which is part of the Cape Cod Writers Center Summer Conference) and I’ve gotta tell ya – my class of crazies totally rocks.

I have eight of the brightest, wildest teen writers this side of Hogwarts. They are tackling everything from twisted retellings, to high fantasy dragon shifters and dream thieves, to awesomely wicked horror and family murder and magic, to bookworms-turned-assassins, to glorious contemporary dramas. I look at my class and each writer there is dedicated to their story, their characters, and (amazingly), one another.

Thank heavens there isn’t a story-slam at the end of this because my clan of teen writers would wipe the floor with ya!

In just a couple of days, they have joined forces to pull the best stories and voice from each of their manuscripts, offering twists and turns and solutions to one another that the creator never saw coming. I’m showing them my personal tricks of the trade and they are intent on getting it right. They are determined. Fearless. They are true story-crafters and can write circles around many adults.

Because all writers should indulge in a few tools of the trade, I am listing a couple awesome apps and toys for my class here on my website. Of course, you TOO can steal a peek . . .

AWESOME APPS:

Lists For Writers: http://thinkamingo.com/lists-for-writers/

Evernote: https://evernote.com

Index Card: http://www.denvog.com/app/index-card/

AWESOME TOOLS:

Aqua Notes

Fisher Space Pen

Laptop Cooling Pad

Neo2 Alphasmart

Storiarts clothing

Woodlands End Table

Dragon Speech-to-text software

iworkz Foldable Keyboards (for writing on the fly)


Author K.R. Conway has a page on the Young Adult Author Rendezvous Website HERE.

Christmas Book-list for Boys

book-boy-2   By T.D. Shields

When it comes time to shop for gifts – whether at Christmas or any other time of year – I often go looking for a good book to share. I love reading so much that a new book is always a welcome gift, so I like to do the same for other people. Of course, the problem with giving books is that sometimes it’s hard to know what to give!

In light of that, I thought I’d share some suggestions and maybe you’ll find some books on my lists that are new to you or perfect for the reader in your life.

I’m going to start with a list of books for boys. It can be tough to find books for boys, so I went to the source. I have three boys (ages 6-10) and I asked for a list of books they love and/or would want to find under the tree this year.

Recommendations from the 6-Year-Old

  • This kiddo loves the Doreen Cronin books about the animals on Farmer Brown’s farm. His favorite is Duck for President, but he’s also a big fan of Click, Clack, Moo and Giggle, Giggle, Quack. https://goo.gl/vDfY7E
  • Another favorite is the Pete the Cat series by James Dean. https://goo.gl/oLgJBN
  • And though he’s getting a little old for the Sandra Boynton board books, he still likes to look through them now that he’s old enough to start reading them for himself. Cute stories, funny pictures, and easy reading-levels make these a good fit for my beginning reader. https://goo.gl/8Ofgx1
  • And, of course, don’t forget the indie options you can find on our YAAR website. There are lots of fantastic choices there! https://yaarendezvous.com/kids-picture/

Recommendations from the 8-Year-Old

  • It’s sad but true, 8-year-old boys love gross humor. That why this kiddo loves the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. I’ll admit that I don’t particularly enjoy it when he wants to read me a funny (to him) section about mega-farts or Professor Poopypants, but I do love it that he enjoys reading these so much. https://goo.gl/axwaAP
  • Another hit with the 8-year-old set is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. The first couple of books in the series have been made into movies, but there are plenty more books in the series. Kids who enjoy the movies could get hooked on the books. https://goo.gl/0X7Fwl
  • For some reason it’s become a big thing for kids to spend time on YouTube watching OTHER people play games like Minecraft. I don’t get it, but I’ve given in and let the kids watch some of them. Dan TDM is a hugely popular star of Minecraft YouTube videos and now he has started writing books as well. If it means that my kiddo is interested in spending less time watching videos and more time reading, I will buy the book – so we picked up Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal when it came out last month. It was a big hit at my house, so your little Minecraft fanatics might enjoy it as well. https://goo.gl/Q5W3Xl
  • In the non-fiction area, this kiddo really enjoys a series of books called Who Would Win by Jerry Pallotta. These books take two animals that spark kids’ imaginations – for example, a killer whale and a great white shark – and analyze the animals’ temperaments, abilities, and other characteristics to determine which would probably win in a fight between the two. Maybe you have to be a kid to really appreciate them, but my son finds the books interesting and entertaining – and he even learns something along the way. https://goo.gl/Ow8lSH
  • And once again, don’t forget the great indie options! We haven’t read all of these (yet!), but we’re working on it. Both the eight-year-old and the ten-year-old really liked The Monsters Anonymous Club and have plans to read The Chosen. https://yaarendezvous.com/mg-fantasy-mystery-humor-sci-fi/

Recommendations from the 10-Year-Old

  • The ten-year-old is an avid reader and loves adventure. He devoured the Harry Potter books before moving on to a new fantasy series called Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. It took some work for him to get through them all, but he loved the stories so much that he persevered. They are really fun books; my 13-year-old daughter and I read and loved them too! https://goo.gl/CWXKm7
  • Now that he’s finished with Fablehaven, the ten-year-old has moved on to a new series by Brandon Mull, The Beyonders. This is another fantasy series and while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, my son tells me that it’s really great. He’s finishing up book 1 and already checking to be sure that he’ll be able to get book 2 right away. https://goo.gl/fdKWc6
  • He also likes the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. This is a great series because it mixes a fun adventure story with real facts and figures about various topics, so kids can learn while they’re entertained. There are a lot of books in this series, so it could keep your kiddo busy for a while! https://goo.gl/K4Rbyk
  • Though he loves fiction and fantasy books, my son is also a big fan of non-fiction as well. He likes anything to do with animals. He recommends any animal book from National Geographic because there are lots of interesting facts. He also enjoys Wild Kratts in book and video formats because of the wealth of animal facts. https://goo.gl/CINImF
  • When it comes to the YAAR indie offerings, I’m planning to introduce this kiddo to several of the titles in this section. I think they’ll be right up his alley! https://yaarendezvous.com/mg-fantasy-mystery-humor-sci-fi/

That should be enough to get you started!


You can see more about author T.D. Shields in her interview HERE!

T.D. Shields has a page at Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE!

Find Young Adult Author Rendezvous on Facebook HERE!

Happy Holidays from everyone here at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous. We hope you’re reading good books, eating good food, and enjoying time with good people!

The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

At a recent talk, I cited The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) as the first YA dystopian book, but at the time I hadn’t read The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson. First published in 1975, it has been in the curricula in elementary and middle schools for years, and many adults of my generation cite this book as their first taste of the dystopian genre.

A book about post-apocalyptic Chicago might first bring to mind the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but The Girl Who Owned a City might best be compared thematically to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t say this lightly–Atlas Shrugged is one of the heavy hitters of the genre, but consider the situation in this children’s book:

A great plague has swept the country, killing everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services or adult supervision, children band together in family groups for protection, and must forage and steal in order to get the food and supplies they need to survive.

Though it doesn’t fit my stated definition of a dystopia as a twisted version of perfection, it’s an excellent example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Lisa, the ten year-old protagonist, makes some interesting observations about human nature as she struggles to survive and defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding pre-pubescent gangs. In doing so, she becomes aware of her desire for liberty in a way that makes this a very timeless, and timely, read.

In one scene, Lisa discusses a group of children who’ve been adopted by her friend Jill. The children whine and bicker over their few communal toys, and Jill is constantly admonishing them to share. Lisa thinks the children will be happier if they are given jobs, and the opportunity to earn new toys that will belong to them, and only them. Out of earshot of the children, Lisa says, “I’ve been watching your children for days, Jill. Just watching and thinking about them. They do too much sharing and it isn’t working at all. They have nothing of their own—no real duties, no real way of helping. It’s nice to share things if you want to, but it’s stupid to force people to share or be nice. These are things people have to do on their own. Otherwise it’s no good.”

Jill argued that the children are frightened. They’ve lost their parents and their sense of the world. They need coddling, not jobs.

Lisa replied, “I don’t think they’ll ever be happy if you do everything for them. They need to work and be proud of themselves. They need to be able to say to themselves, “I worked hard and did a good job and earned my toy.”

The narrative goes on to say, ‘Lisa wanted to say something about how she had lost her own fear by solving problems and staying busy. It seemed to her that fear was what you felt when you waited for something bad to happen, and fun was what you had when you figured out a way to make something good happen.’

Despite Lisa’s attempts to create a neighborhood militia to protect the children on her street from the Chidester gang, and her idea to learn to drive a car so she could go to a grocery warehouse for food and other supplies, the gangs stage multiple attacks. She despairs until she notices a school building which has a wall around it, like a fortress. She decides to move everyone from her neighborhood into Glenbard and make it into a walled city. Everyone is enthusiastic about the plan, but after they move in and organize the school according to Lisa’s vision, some of the children begin to grumble that she calls Glenbard her city. Lisa’s response is a response worthy of a young Ayn Rand protagonist:

“Lisa, why do you keep calling it your city—saying it’s your property?”

“Because it is! I thought I told everyone that on the very first day.”

“But we’ve all helped build it, haven’t we?” argued Jill. “The kids are starting to call you selfish. They don’t like it when you call it yours.”

“Selfish? I guess I am. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t forget, it was my discovery. The place was sitting here empty…I found it. I planned it, filled it with my supplies, now I run it.

“I know you like to share things, but it just doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. In the first place, nothing would ever get done. With no one in charge and no one to make decisions, the group would argue all the time about whose property should be shared. And then …they’d be too busy to accomplish anything.

“I do own this place. I didn’t force anyone to come here…Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to own anybody. I don’t want anyone to own me…Freedom is more important than sharing, Jill. This is my city. I plan to run it well and build it into something good. But I have to do it the way I think is best.”

Lisa decides the best way to run her city is to offer something better to her citizens than they can find anywhere else.

Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

Academic year 2016-2017 is officially ON!  Bring on the new friends! Sign up for  afterschool clubs! Meet some inspiring teachers! Start documenting every single page you read and every single minute you spend reading!  Wait . . . whut?

Sadly, often yes.

And I get why, I really do—not all kids are avid readers, and teachers need to insure that a minimum is happening for everybody.  For lots of kids, though, setting a “minimum” amount can make it feel like a maximum, as in, “Reading any more than the 20 pages my teacher assigned for tonight just makes me a sucker.”

Even worse, assigned reading can shift the whole experience of reading from the “joy” column in a young person’s life to the “chore” column. We definitely don’t want that.

Luckily, there are lots of way to keep reading in the joy column all year, and all life, long.  Here are a handful of ideas:

1. Make an after school or weekend library visit a regular thing, tempting your child or teen with more fun choices than she or he can handle.  You might take turns picking out books to read aloud to each other, or invent a library game.  A fun one that helps kids broaden their reading interests is “Reading Roulette,” where you walk down an aisle of books with your eyes closed, pull out 3-5 books sight unseen and select at least one of them to read.

2. Create a family reading time. This can be a family ‘read aloud’ or a family ‘read together,’ where everybody gets cozy on the couch with their own book in their hands. Either option can be 15 minutes a night, or a longer, once a week gathering—whatever works with your family’s schedule.

3. Read books for fun yourself, and do it at a time when your child or teen sees you reading.  It’s tempting to read only after the kids are tucked in, or only when they’re at school or sports, but as with most everything else in a child’s life, if they see YOU enjoying reading, they will forever associate reading with something fun and pleasurable.

4. Movies that have been made from books can also be a great incentive.  Right now my daughter wants to watch the Lord of the Rings movies.  We’ll make each one a special movie night just as soon as we finish each book.

5. You know I’ve gotta say it—check out the great books for children and teens at YAAR!  We’ve got so many amazing titles, and there’s always some on sale. Plus, every YAAR author LOVES to hear from readers.  Nothing sets reading more firmly in the joy column than the chance to make friends with the author of a book that inspires, delights, makes you weep, or gives you the shivers.

What ideas do YOU have for keeping reading in the joy column?

Bumped and The Handmaid’s Tale: A Comparison

Bumped by Megan McCafferty - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

“The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again!” –President’s State of the Union Address, Bumped

What’s to be done when a country faces an infertility crisis? Women of childbearing age become the most precious commodity, the most sought-after natural resource. Will they be celebrated and pampered—or subjugated—to spur the creation of the children essential to the society’s survival?

That’s the question in both Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The societies depicted in these novels both formulate plans to replenish their populations through surrogate mothers, and their governments launch propaganda campaigns that sanction and even glorify using women as breeders.

Though teen sex is glorified in pop culture and slang in the young adult novel Bumped, the actual details of bumping are kept appropriately veiled, while in the dystopian horror story The Handmaid’s Tale the rituals of mating with a surrogate are relayed in stark detail.

Religion and its influence on people’s attitudes toward procreation is central to both stories. In Bumped, the Goodside religious community seeks its own solution to the country’s infertility issues, and in The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic government blames the lack of healthy children on a permissive, promiscuous society, and aims to correct the problem by properly subjugating women.

In Bumped, 75% of the teenagers in Melody Mayflower’s high school class are infected with HPSV, the Human Progressive Sterility Virus, and will go irreversibly sterile sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. These stats are the norm nationwide, and the teens in Bumped are bombarded with songs whose lyrics glorify pregnancy. Trendy stores at the mall that sell provocative clothing and “fun bumps,” strap-on bellies that show the girls how sexy they’ll look when pregnant. Even school clubs like the Pro/Am Pregg Alliance put the focus on procreation.

Teens are pushed to have as many children as possible before they reach the age at which they’ll become infertile. They use the drug Tocin, which lessens inhibitions and causes memory loss, to help set the mood and make it less embarrassing to bump with partners they barely know. Later, they’re told, after they become sterile, they can attend college, get married, and adopt children of their own, and build their lives with someone they love. But for now, bumping with lots of partners is a way to keep the human race going until the full effects of the virus are known.

“A free society cannot force girls to have children, but a free market can richly reward those who do.” Ashley and Tyler Mayflower, PhDs, Princeton University

Melody’s parents, both economics professors, adopted her when she was a baby, and they’ve spent her entire life developing her brand and molding her into the perfect Surrogette—beautiful, accomplished, and intelligent. When she was fourteen, Melody’s virginity was brokered to the highest-bidding couple, which was a radical idea at the time, but now pregging for profit is something to which teen girls aspire. Melody received a six-figure signing bonus, and, In exchange for giving birth to a healthy child, she can count on a new car, liposuction, and college tuition. She’s been paired with Jondoe, the most genetically flawless bumping partner available, and they’re scheduled to do the deed as soon as possible. Melody’s been preparing for this her whole life. So why is she having reservations?

It turns out there’s more than one obstacle blocking the successful execution of her parents’ plans.

The first hitch shows up on Melody’s doorstep, in the form of her long-lost identical twin, Harmony. The girls were separated at birth, and Harmony, the frail, sickly twin, was adopted into a religious sect called Goodside. Now, Harmony’s run away from her community to save her sister from a life of sin. And she’s got a few ideas about saving herself, too.

Though Harmony has been reared to believe that life for a woman is JOY: Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last, she’s not comfortable with all the tenets of her faith-based community, and is especially distressed by the scripture in 1 Corinthians, which dictates that the wife’s body belongs to her husband. Early marriage and procreation are of paramount importance in the theocratic communal society of Goodside. Girls are raised to be mothers, nothing more. Harmony’s not sure how she feels about arranged marriage, and she flees rather than commit to a lifetime with someone she doesn’t love. When Jondoe mistakes Harmony for Melody, she’s more confused than ever.

Melody’s BFF, Zen adds to the problems. He’s sweet and charming and would be the perfect boyfriend, except he’s not “upmarket” enough to be Sperm for a Surrogette like Melody. Though he’s desperately in love with Mel, is Zen destined to be just an “Everythingbut” for a professional pregger like her?

Neither situation is healthy for these young girls. Melody feels responsibility as the president of her school’s Pro/Am Pregg Alliance to set an example of pregging for profit that influences other girls, for better or for worse, never mind that she’s the oldest virgin in the club. The girls in Otherside may believe it’s easy to stay emotionally detached while having sex, giving birth and then turning their children over for adoption, but Melody learns that’s not always the case.

Harmony rebels against her austere and restrictive upbringing, while Melody rebels against her parents’ plan for her. But at least in Bumped, the girls retain some autonomy. The decision to bump or not to bump is still theirs, despite peer pressure and a growing demand for children to adopt. Many teens will enter the baby market, but they won’t have to pregg at the point of a gun.

Not so for the unfortunate Handmaids.The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood - Young Adult Author Rendezvous

“Our big mistake was teaching them [women] to read. We won’t do that again.”

The Handmaid system of repopulating the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States) came about after a decline in healthy births in the late 20th century, which was attributed to many factors, including the rampant use of birth control, abortions, AIDS, syphilis, nuclear accidents, and the uncontrolled use of herbicides and insecticides.
At first, surrogates were hired, but when the number of healthy births continued to decline, the government declared all second marriages and non-marital liaisons adulterous, arrested the women in those relationships, and confiscated and adopted out their children to upper class families. The women were given the option of becoming surrogates. But it was never really an option.

Childless or infertile older women were recruited as Aunts to help run the Handmaid indoctrination programs, and wives who were unable to have children of their own took part in and supported the system that made sex slaves out of other women. After all, a little power is better than no power at all.

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

Commanders, men highly placed in the regime, chose Handmaids for their households from among the indoctrinated women who had demonstrated reproductive fitness.

“Not every Commander has a Handmaid; some of their Wives have children. From each, says the slogan, according to her ability; to each according to his needs. We recited that, three times, after dessert. It was from the Bible, or so they said. St. Paul again, in Acts.” Take away free access to information and enslave.

The mating ritual was an absolute horror which forced Commander, Wife, and Handmaid to take part in a regimented copulation designed to reduce the Handmaid to nothing more than a vessel held by the Wife to receive her husband’s seed. To say that it warped the sex act for all concerned would be a gross understatement.

Many Commanders of the regime came in contact with a sterility-causing virus developed by scientists, Pre-Gilead, which were intended to be used on the Soviets. But it was against the law to insinuate that a Commander could be sterile, so Commanders, Wives, and Handmaids went through the horror of the mating ritual, month after month, until the Handmaid either conceived, went insane, or was traded in by the family for a better specimen. Younger men of lower classes were shut out of marriage entirely. But Handmaids often risked their lives to use these men as studs when their Commanders failed to impregnate them. The risk was great, but the reward for producing a healthy child was even greater: it guaranteed that a Handmaid would never be sent to any undesirable location, never be made to shovel up the polluted waste in the Colonies or be a prostitute at Jezebel’s gentleman’s club.

Handmaids were identified by their red full-length robes and veils, and were tattooed on their ankles, a “passport in reverse…supposed to guarantee that they will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape. I am too important, too scarce, for that. I am a national resource.”

The narrator in The Handmaid’s Tale never gives her real name. Handmaids were stripped of identities other than “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren” which associated them with their Commanders. If they changed households, they changed names. Handmaids were discouraged from forming relationships of any kind with the families they served.

“We lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.”

Both novels demonstrate how far things can spin out of control when people are forced into unnatural behaviors and brainwashed to believe that it’s just business as usual.

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