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Dogs, Pianos, and Names that Make You Smile

Authors Augusta Scattergood and Sarah Weeks discuss their new books and how they come up with names for their characters.

Sarah: Hey, Augusta Scattergood. You don’t mind if I call you by your full name, do you? It’s such a wonderful name! It makes me smile just to say it. Speaking of names, how did you choose the names for the characters in your new book The Way to Stay in Destiny?

Augusta: Names are so important, aren’t they? But I don't always get them right the first time. Occasionally I give a character a place-holder name until he tells me what to call him. Theo was Shelton for a while! But Theo’s name is such a part of him—the mystery of why he was named for Thelonious Monk and that now he’s “just plain Theo.” Miss Sister was actually named for a dance teacher in my hometown. Speaking of names that make you smile, I can just hear Honey being read aloud to kids. Teeny and Melody jump off the pages. And Bee-Bee Churchill. Great names, great characters.

Sarah: Thanks! Melody’s mother was a musician, so I chose a musical name for her. Even the dog in Honey is named after a famous composer. I was a singer-songwriter for many years before I became an author, so I have a deep love of music. I really enjoyed reading about Theo’s musical talent. I could hear that piano playing inside my head. Our new books have a number of things in common—pianos, bratty neighbors, dogs, and dance lessons—did I leave anything out?

Augusta: Let’s see, both of our books are set in small towns where kids have the freedom to get themselves in and out of escapades. Although I’ve lived in a lot of places, my heart is in the kind of place I grew up, a small southern town.

Sarah: I didn’t grow up in a small town, but I spend my summers in a little town in the Catskill Mountains. My dog loves to swim in our pond there. I wonder if Mo and Ginger would get along.

Augusta: My childhood was filled with animals. Rabbits, fish, parakeets, dogs, and cats. And those were the ones we had for pets. But I’m really a dog person. My book’s dog, Ginger Rogers, didn’t get quite the billing as your dog Mo. I love Mo’s voice and his sweet personality, but Ginger is the old and crotchety type. She did take a shine to Uncle Raymond, who’s a bit crotchety himself actually.

Sarah: You know what makes me crotchety? Doing research! I prefer to make things up. The things I am most interested in writing about are kids and animals, and of course things that make me laugh or cry—or better yet, laugh and then cry. 

Augusta: Since I write historical fiction, I’d better love the research part. Hey, I’m a librarian, what can I say? For my first novel, Glory Be, I did a ton of research about Freedom Summer. While writing The Way to Stay in Destiny, I spent a lot of time fact-checking dates, prices, and baseball records. 

Sarah: I love baseball—especially Little League games! Before we sign off I just want to mention that in addition to Honey, I have a new picture book out called Glamourpuss. It’s about a narcissistic cat who thinks so highly of herself that instead of saying meow, she shortens it to just “Me!” David Small illustrated—lucky me! Nice chatting with you, Augusta Scattergood.

Augusta: You too, Sarah Weeks!

What’s in a name?

812qKnP+sgL._SL1500_Author Emery Lord talks about the classic heroines who inspired her new novel The Start of Me and You.

When I started writing The Start of Me and You, it felt like Pride and Prejudice was all over the media. It often is, in remakes, new takes, references.  But what kept catching my attention was precisely what got me when I first read it at age thirteen: the hesitance. Not Elizabeth and Darcy but Jane and Bingley. The longing, the miscommunications. Their conflict wouldn’t even exist if one of them even sort of articulated their feelings. That rang so true for me in high school.

So, in the following excerpt, my main character, Paige, is talking with a guy she’s recently met. They’re doing an in-class assignment about names and nomenclature in advance of a Shakespeare unit. And in asking this question of being a Jane or an Elizabeth, I wanted to set my narrator on a journey toward no longer being hesitant and in learning that none of us is an Austen heroine—not even the one we identify with most at age thirteen. We’re each our own. But, for me? Elizabeth and Marianne and Emma were dear company, and I had something to learn from them all.

The first section read: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

“Full Name,” I read aloud. “Is it Maxwell? Or Maximillian?”

“Neither. Just Max.” His mouth pulled into a half smile. “Max Oliver Watson.”

“Paige Elizabeth Hancock,” I said, watching him write it down. “Okay, next question. Are you named after anyone?”              

“My grandfather and my godfather.” He pushed up the cuffs of his shirt. “Although, when I was little, I thought I was named after Max from Where the Wild Things Are.”

I smirked at the idea of Max being anything like Max from the children’s book. Highly unlikely. Max Watson was more “volunteer tutor” than “king of all wild things.”

“What about you? Are you named after anyone?”

“My parents just liked the name Paige, I think, but Elizabeth is because my mom is a huge Pride and Prejudice fan.” I thought for a second. “I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that, actually.”

His head jerked toward me. “Really?”

“Yeah. Guess it never came up. Elizabeth is a pretty standard middle name.”

“No,” he said. “I mean really ‘Elizabeth’? You seem much more like a Jane Bennet.”

My jaw dropped in offense. “That’s kind of mean!”

“No, it’s not! Jane is deeply underappreciated.”

“Because she’s boring,” I said, surprised at how much this bothered me.

“As opposed to Elizabeth, who judges everyone?”

“Jane is also smart. She’s just not critical of other people. And she has much better taste in men.”

“Now you’re insulting Mr. Darcy?” I sat back in my chair, arms crossed. “Well, this should be interesting.”

“He’s mean and moody.”

“He’s misunderstood,” I said. “He has a good heart.”

“Bingley has a good heart.” He laughed, apparently not realizing that his volume was now significantly above the general buzz of our classmates.

I opened my mouth for a counterargument, but people were starting to look at us—because we were heatedly and publicly disagreeing about Jane Austen. Not winning any cool points here. So I mumbled, “I guess.”

Inspired by a Nightmare

Lynn Carthage_9781617736292Author Lynn Carthage shares what it was like to wake up from a nightmare and write Haunted: The Arnaud Legacy, the novel that launches a new young adult series.

I couldn't get the nightmare out of my head. I kept drifting back into it, replaying opening the door of that little stone cottage and realizing it was really one wing of the enormous manor house...tricking me. Houses don't usually trick people.

I thought this might be the start of a book. I had the good fortune to write down the dream, and then riff on it. A first draft spilled out of me in a week, much of it handwritten. I worked on Haunted: The Arnaud Legacy for years, fine-tuning and changing characters, the ending, pretty much everything about it. I built a larger storyline that unfolds over three books--and now it's a trilogy. The first book launched this February; here's a brief excerpt from Chapter One:

You know you’ve done something pretty awful when your family moves because of it. Not just within San Francisco, or within California…not even within the country.

My stepdad, Steven, has a remote job, so it was no problem for him to relocate. Mom is a stay-at-home mom for Tabby; her job “traveled” too. As for me, they un-enrolled me from school just a month before my sophomore year ended.

Crazy.

When you’re a major screw-up, it helps if your stepdad has an ancestral mansion in England ready to move into. Well, not exactly ready. It’s been uninhabited for a long time and needs some serious TLC, I heard him tell Mom. He’d been trying to sell it for years. But at least it’s a place to live, and a place for me to reflect on my behavior and improve it.

My therapy would be a lot more effective if I could remember what I did.

Emerging from the tunnel of trees to the clearing where we could finally see my stepfather’s manor, I let out a moan of disillusionment. This wasn’t the crumbling but still-impressive castle surrounded by broad, grassy lawns I’d imagined back in California, with swans wafting snootily around a lily-ponded lake. Instead, it was a grim, stonewalled prison with the grounds so overgrown they were nearly impenetrable.

I had allowed myself to become interested, had thought there was a lovely poetry to the phrase, “ancestral mansion in England.” But nothing could quell the immediate sense of grinding apprehension the manor gave me. Nothing about it felt right.

As we drove up into its shadow, the manor leaned down over us to look. More than idly curious, it practically rubbed its leathern hands together in glee. Visitors, at last

A.G. Howard Discusses "Wonderland" and a Few "Splintered" Surprises

81mLTXJEVzLStill Ensnared by Wonderland? Author A.G. Howard discusses how it felt to end her bestselling gothic Wonderland spinoff series, and shares some surprising developments on the horizon for the beloved characters of her Splintered fantasy world.

While writing Ensnared, the last book in my Splintered series, not only was I saying good-bye to the characters and Wonderland, but I also suffered a loss in my family—suddenly and unexpectedly. Every emotional obstacle my characters were up against throughout the book, I shared to some extent, in real life, which bled into every word and scene. To be honest, by the time I finished, I felt like I'd been through the wringer with my characters. But I also felt satisfied and purged.

I walked away from Ensnared more confident and secure about the ending than I have ever been about any book I've ever written, including both Splintered and Unhinged. Being so deeply invested in every emotion and decision that the characters faced, I didn’t worry about outside opinions. This gave me the courage to write for Alyssa, Jebediah, and Morpheus as individuals—to let them take the final story the directions their hearts led. Even if some readers don't like the resolution, they can look back over those last pages and see that I was being honest, and most importantly, that I entertained them in the telling. I consider it a job well done, to have accomplished those two things…

… Although I have to admit, even being as satisfied as I was with the ending, I still wanted more from these characters and the warped Wonderland world. So, although I had another deadline looming, I indulged myself, and began to write an extended version of the epilogue, using some of the deleted scenes I’d had to cut from Ensnared’s final manuscript to keep my novel at the ideal word count. What started out as something for me, ended up catapulting into a novella that my publisher was interested in buying. So now I’ll get to share it with readers.

The novella (title TBA) is a post-Ensnared collection of three stories—and it will be available in both print and e-versions.

The headlining short story, Six Impossible Things, takes readers into Alyssa’s future, via new and deleted scenes, to offer a deeper understanding of the decisions made at the close of Ensnared. It’s an extended, detailed version of the epilogue and beyond. Two bonus stories, The Moth in the Mirror and The Boy in the Web, delve into the past.

Together, this collection provides a “director’s cut” version of both the past and future in my dark, magical world. I’m hoping Splintered series fans will be as delighted to experience these stories firsthand as I was to write them and revisit my characters and settings.

Guest Post: Jessie Humphries, Author of the Ruby Rose Series

Ruby_roseJessie Humphries, author of the Ruby Rose series, shares her picks for the most memorable books of 2014.

As precocious little girls—whenever my sister and I were feeling especially cantankerous—we would tease each other with “You’re such a cow face.” You see, somewhere along the way, someone told us that there are two shapes of faces: a roundish cow face or a longish horse face. We decided we’d rather have the latter, probably since My Little Pony toys were all the jazz.

Later on, we learned that it’s okay to have a long or round or whatever shape face we happened to have at the time (depending upon freshman-fifteens, breakups, babies, etcetera). Actually we learned that this information was a bunch of horse sh*! (or cow sh*! depending on your view), but it’s managed to stay with me all these years just the same.

Well, it turns out that 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse…and my birth year is also Year of the Horse…and I’m writing this post just after a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco where I bought a Year of the Horse calendar…so I’ve claimed 2014 as my year. (You see my line of thinking is a lot like Lombard St.—the windiest street in San Fran and the world.)

And you know what? So far, so good. Not only has 2014 turned out to be the year I debuted as an author, but it’s also a year full of amazing reads. Here are some of them:

Gilded by Christina Farley The stunning first book in the contemporary fantasy series. (Book two, Silvern, which also released in 2014, is equally beautiful.) This series has it all. Gorgeous cover: check. Fascinating mythology: check. Main character that knows how to fight: check. Rich Korean culture: check. Hot boys/hotter immortals: check.

Remake by Ilima Todd A dystopian book unlike any you’ve ever read. In a society where children are raised androgynously, they are forced to choose once they’re seventeen years old. This book is controversial, emotional, provoking, and powerful—all things I happen to love.

The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle A time travel novel to blow your mind. It’s like a history lesson wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate, and deep-fried in sweet donut batter. (The bacon being the sizzling storyline, the chocolate being the rich historical detail, and the deep-fried batter being the twists and turns that make your blood pressure skyrocket…and then leave you wanting more.)

Elevated by Elana Johnson A contemporary novel set in an elevator and written in verse. I acknowledge that the idea of an entire book being written in poetry is scary. Scary-boring or scary-intellectual. Maybe even scary-bad. This book defies all those concerns you may have had.

Push Girl by Jessica Love and Chelsie Hill An inspiring and real contemporary novel about how life can change in an instant, based on the life of Chelsie Hill, one of the stars of the Sundance Channel’s unscripted series "Push Girls." 

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee A fantasy full of magic, mythology, and intrigue. This is the kind of story that begs to be made into an HBO series. I’d love to see some director take on the challenge of visually creating the world Miss Lee built with words alone.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker A supernatural story set in the swamps of the Deep South. The atmosphere in this book is so pervasive that I can feel the sticky atmosphere lingering in my soul as I type these words. We got gators, we got strange happenins, and we got secrets. Eerie and beautiful, this gothic fairytale story will haunt you long after you read the last page. Excuse me while I go round myself up some moonshine or mead and read it again.

Richard Farr's Recommended Reading

Fire_seekersThe Fire Seekers author shares some science fiction and fantasy favorites.

New worlds! Quirky people! Above all, unsettling ideas! The stories I love best are the ones that ask big questions—the ones that leave me feeling as if someone just stomped in, wearing heavy boots, and rearranged the furniture inside my head.

If you like that feeling too, try Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End. Old-fashioned? In fact, 2001 brilliantly confronts us with—and refuses to solve—a terrifying enigma that’s only now about to become real. When we first produce a machine like HAL, which seems to have beliefs and desires all of its own... will it have them? Or just seem to have them? And how will we know? (Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is another classic on similar themes that also, like 2001, became the basis of a great movie.)

My big fantasy recommendation (new, quirky, and unsettling all at once) is always the first big fantasy novel I read, aged 15 or so. While my friends were falling in love with Tolkein, I preferred reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. It's not an easy book; the language is dense and odd. And maybe calling it fantasy is odd, too: there’s no magic, not a single orc or talking tree, no wizards or demons. Just "ordinary" human beings (about half of them insane) in a castle. But that castle is a world so rich and colorful (yet so bleak, and weird, and weirdly familiar) that it’s like seeing our world from the viewpoint of a Martian. And it’s hard not to like a book in which the homicidal cook is named Swelter, the mad medic is Dr. Prunesquallor, and you also get one of literature’s great creeps, the ruthless, stop-at-nothing anti-hero, Steerpike.

I always admire good SFF books that —like these— beg to be read by teens and young adults even though they’re not “supposed” to be “YA.” (A pet peeve of mine—in any genre—is the phrase “age appropriate.” I think you should read every good book you can read.) To see what I mean, get your hands on these three: James Gurney’s fantasy adventure picture book Dinotopia (yay: there are many more books in the series). David Almond’s so-called "middle grader," Skellig, which everyone from 10 to 110 should read. And finally, a grown-up, gritty detective novel that’s really something else entirely, China Miéville’s The City & the City (Hint: Beszel and Ul Qoma are such different places. But they’re in the same place.). Is this sci-fi? I’m not sure and I don’t care—it’s brilliant. 

Miéville is serious stuff, but I also like my SFF seriously funny. Read anything, anything by Sir Terry Pratchett, but especially The Wee Free Men—preferably aloud, in a bad Glaswegian accent. Also Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy. Oh, yes, and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books. A 12-year-old criminal mastermind searching for Irish fairy gold… only, the fairies have unreliable atomic-powered wing-backpacks, and one of them smokes vile-smelling cigars and says “D’Arvit!” all the time—a word the author helpfully explains as a fairy swear-word “too rude to translate.” Hilarious.

I have to finish by recommending Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, my favorite SFF book by any living author. And especially book two, The Subtle Knife, not just because it's great writing that makes you think about Big Stuff (stomp, clomp: sounds of furniture being rearranged), but because it's such a great metaphor. A magic knife? With which you can cut a gap in this universe? And step through into a different universe? Oh, right... that's what a story is.

Julie Kagawa's Recommended Teen Reads

TalonThe author of The Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series and most recently Talon shares the books she's been most excited about in 2014.

The life of an author is a busy one. Some may envision writers having tons of free time to relax and kick back with a good book, but truthfully, the only book I'm reading these days is my own as I'm typing it on the computer. I have very little time to sit down and read, but that doesn't mean I don't get excited about books. Here are the books that I tell myself I'm going to read if I ever get a moment...

Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry Okay, I lied. I have read this one, but it technically isn't even out yet. (One of the perks of being friends with the author and living in the same town.) Breaking the Rules is the continuation of Echo and Noah's story from Pushing the Limits. I love these two characters, and their story is even more wonderful and heartbreaking in Breaking the Rules.

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid Let's Get Lost is a road-trip story that sounds like a lot of fun. It’s the perfect book for traveling this holiday season; I think I'll take it with me on the long drive up to the in-laws’ place.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor If I could just have an uninterrupted afternoon, this is the book I would grab first. I've been dying to finish Karou and Akiva's story ever since Days of Blood & Starlight. They're the couple that makes me sigh and melt into a swooning puddle of goo. With the huge amount of obstacles they face, it'll be hard for them to get their happy ending, but I'm crossing my fingers for them.

White Hot Kiss and Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L. Armentrout Confession: I have not yet read any of Jennifer's books. I know, it's shameful. I intend to remedy that soon, and when that day comes, I'll start with this series. I mean, no-brainer, it features gargoyles and demons—mortal enemies—and a girl who is both!

The Fall by Bethany Griffin I love Poe and creepy ghost tales, and The Fall of the House of Usher was a story that haunted me as a kid. I can't wait to see this story told from Madeline Usher's point of view.

Lisa Mantchev: "It Started with a Pocket Watch"

TickerLisa Mantchev discusses how a random discovery and a love of steampunk inspired Ticker, her new novel.

It started with a pocket watch: an actual, physical pocket watch that I found on eBay in 2008 while looking for brass bits. At the time, I was writing and editing theater books. All my excess nervous energy I channeled into a new costuming aesthetic that was popping up at the science fiction and fantasy conventions I attended.

Bustle skirts? Corsets? Goggles and gadgets? Count me in.

But when I discovered that particular pocket watch on eBay—a watch that contained a compass and sundial instead of a traditional timepiece—my writer-brain took over.

Who would have owned such a thing?

Where would he or she have traveled with it?

And, of course, what kind of cake did they have when they got there?

This was my chance to wallow in the words of Jules Verne, to reboard the Nautilus and venture once more Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. To punch dates into H.G. Wells’s Time Machine. To reacquaint myself with Tik-Tok from the Land of Oz books. To take tea with Stoker and Shelley, then throw myself headlong into worlds lit by gas lamps and populated by the lords and ladies, spies and saboteurs which now feature prominently in young adult work by authors such as Gail Carriger (the Parasol Protectorate series and Finishing School series,) Kady Cross (the Steampunk Chronicles) and Tiffany Trent (the Unnaturalists novels).

And because steampunk is as much a rich and varied maker-movement as it is a literary genre, I was similarly inspired by the music of Professor Elemental, Abney Park, Steam Powered Giraffe, and Emilie Autumn. I admired the technological artwork of artisans like Richard Nagy (Datamancer) and the vibrant, glorious couture produced by Kato. I reveled in movies like Hellboy II: The Golden Army, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Hayao Miyazaki's anime Howl’s Moving Castle. I rejoiced over the brilliance of comics like Girl Genius.

Because that is the beauty of steampunk: it is a creative garden that defies definition and cannot be contained by convention. It will continue to break through the fences, burgeoning into exotic jungles through which we must crash, wearing pith helmets, and carrying our pocket watches… which secretly contain sundials and compasses, so that we might (eventually) find our way home.

Ticker is a Kindle First Pick during the month of November. The book is free for Prime members and $1.99 for non-Prime members.

Romantic Ruminations from Amy Engel, "The Book of Ivy" Author

BookofivyAmy Engel discussess the backstory--and complicated relationship--of the two main characters in The Book of Ivy, out on November 11.

True love is friendship set on fire.

It took me a long time to figure out what romantic love actually is, how it really works. As a teenager, I wasn’t exactly knocking over boys with my charm. I was quiet, introverted, self-conscious. I had a series of crushes that never really panned out. Later, in college, I gained confidence and dated a string of not-quite-right guys, was even hopelessly, stupidly in lust with a few of them. But there was always something off.

I have very clear memories of dates where I felt like I was standing outside my body, coaching myself on how to act, when to laugh, what to ask next. The entire process was exhausting and disappointing. I wondered if it would always be so difficult. And then I met the man who would one day become my husband.

 I was 26 years old and working as an attorney. I met Brian his first day at the firm when we shared an elevator. I remember the moment distinctly, down to the exact outfit I was wearing and the smile he gave me when we shook hands, which is weird because at the time I thought Oh, he’s handsome, but that was about it. I was focused on my career, and definitely not looking to date someone I worked with. And then a few weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, we were the only two people sitting in the office library and we started to talk. We talked. And talked. To be honest, I don’t really remember about what (although Brian swears I asked him his political affiliation within the first thirty minutes).

By the end of that afternoon, I was ridiculously smitten. I had butterflies in my stomach to such a degree that I walked back to my office feeling vaguely nauseous (in a good way). But beyond the attraction, I genuinely, down-to-my-core, really liked this man. And I realized that’s what had been missing with all the guys before. Desire is important; it’s vital. But so is friendship, the ability to be yourself, in all your weird, honest, raw glory. Love needs both to survive.

So when I set out to write The Book of Ivy, I knew that I wanted the romance between Ivy and Bishop to involve more than lust and desire. It had to involve true friendship as well. And that type of relationship actually worked perfectly with the plot of the book. Ivy is forced to marry Bishop, a boy she doesn’t know. But she is not simply his wife; she has been coached to gain his trust, gather his family’s secrets, and then kill him in order to restore her own family to power. If all Ivy feels for Bishop is attraction, she can work around that--ignore it, smother it, even act on it--and still attain her goal. The problem lies in the fact that gradually, and almost against her will, Ivy begins to like Bishop. She likes the way he listens to her. She likes his calmness, his patience, his view of the world. And that is the one thing she absolutely cannot do. Liking Bishop is more dangerous to Ivy than anything else, because how can she kill a boy she likes, one who she is slowly coming to love?

Rysa Walker, "Time's Edge" Author, on Her Time Travel Favorites

TimesedgeRysa Walker, author of Timebound and the new follow-up Time’s Edge, discusses her passion for time travel novels and recommends a few of her favorites.

When I read, I want to experience things I've never seen, could never see, and might not want to see even if I could. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror—those are the books that jump off the shelves and into my hands. Contemporary slice-of-life need not apply.

Time travel covers multiple bases for me which is why I'm drawn to the genre as an author.  Writing Timebound and Time's Edge, the first and second book in the CHRONOS Files series, gave me a chance to combine a splash of historical fiction with a healthy dollop of sci-fi and roll it all together. 

Sadly, I've had to avoid time travel stories since I began writing the CHRONOS Files, simply because I don't want tesseracts, time-turners, or DeLoreans sneaking into my scenes. But here are a few pre-Timebound favorites that grabbed my imagination and landed on my re-read and recommend list:

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson My very first time travel book, I checked this out from the library in my early teens. No one else got a crack at it for months because I selfishly hoarded it. I later learned it was reissued as Somewhere in Time in 1980 and won a World Fantasy Award in 1976. All I knew back then was it made me cry buckets. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer didn't interest me. I grew up in the Deep South, and they were too much like kids I knew. Still, their presence on mandatory reading lists led me to this snarky bit of social commentary in a time travel wrapper. And this book pointed me toward Letters from the Earth. Those two alone earned Twain a spot on my list of favorite writers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle A trip through the tesseract is Time Travel 101 for many kids but I didn't stumble upon this series until my late teens. I wish I had found it sooner as it might have helped me weather the conformity of high school.  

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and time travel?? Yes, please.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Most readers know Lauren Oliver for her Delirium series. I liked those books but I absolutely loved this earlier standalone that reminded me a bit of the movie Groundhog Day. You can't help but pull for Samantha as she struggles again and again to finally get a critical day right.