Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy December!

Hello, everyone! Can you believe it's already December? Crazy! I hope you are all jumping into the holiday spirit! How'd you guys do on NaNoWriMo? I have a confession. I didn't win this year, but that's okay! I had some other things that needed to come first so my novel got put on hold for about a week, and by then, I just couldn't catch up. Am I still going to finish the novel? Of course! I don't regret taking part in NaNoWriMo. Even though I didn't complete it, I learned some things. But that is a story for another post.

I wanted to be really cool and recommend a book with a Christmas setting this month, but I, uh, didn't read one... Every year on Christmas Eve, my family watches "A Muppet Christmas Carol." I absolutely love it! Michael Caine as Mr. Scrooge was a brilliant choice. You should all watch it yourselves this holiday season if you haven't seen it already! For awhile, I've been wanting to read the book, but I just haven't got around to it. So my goal for this month is to read it. Perhaps that will be next month's recommendation!

Instead of reading new books, lately I've been rereading some that have been sitting on my shelf untouched for quite some time. The lastest of these was Gail Carson Levine's "Ella Enchanted." (I told myself I needed to recommend more than young adult fiction too. Don't worry. I'll get some other recommendations for you.) I decided to reread the book because I remembered liking it, but I could only think of how the story was told in the movie (which was okay, but lacking in some aspects... but definitely not my favorite movie). So while I was traveling back from Colorado, I read the entire thing.

I enjoy the book much better than the movie's adaptation. There are quite a bit of differences. Don't get me wrong. I'm not comparing the two mediums to say the movie sucked because it wasn't the exact picture of the book (again, that's a subject for another post). What I'm saying is if you're decided whether to take the time to read the book or save some time by watching the movie, you should definitely go the book route.

Here's a Peek:

That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose. "My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient..."

Ella of Frell must always do as she's told, for that is the "gift" that was given to her at birth. Strict obedience doesn't seem like that bad of a thing... not until you really think about it. If someone told Ella to jump, sing, dance, clean, or hold still, she must do it. She tries to get around the spell, but things still continue to get worse and worse. When her mother dies, Ella's father remarries, and Ella gets two new step-sisters, one of which discovers her need to always be obedient. At the same time, she becomes friends with Prince Char. With horror, Ella realizes that danger she is to the prince. If someone were to order her to kill him... Ella sets out with determination to find Lucinda and demand that she remove her "gift." But what if Lucinda won't take it back?

Gail Carson Levine has crafted wonderful characters just like she does in her other books. It's character is unique and you'll love each of them (even if you love to hate some of them!). It's a great story of an ordinary girl with a not so ordinary gift. Ella feels real as do her problems, making her relatable even though none of us have been cursed with the gift of obedience.

Overall, it's a delightful story. I always love to read these sort of "fairy tales revisited" stories. What's great about this story is that even though you can see the connection with the traditional "Cinderella" story, it is so completely unique that it stands on it's own. It's a completely different story, one that I feel deserves it's Newbery Honor.

As a special welcome to the Christmas season, we are going to have a free giveaway! That's right. You can get your own copy of "Ella Enchanted" right here! Here's what you have to do. Just follow this blog by hitting the follow button in the left hand margin. Then leave a comment to this post. Those who are already followers but wish to enter just need to write a comment to this post. The comment should just be something simple like, "Hi! I want to win the free book giveaway!" I will then pick a name randomly using a random name picker from That person will be the winner! I'll announce the winner at that time. The deadline to follow and leave a comment is December 31st! Good luck!

Want to write next month's recommendation?
Here's how it works. Send an e-mail to with your recommendation (put it in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment). Make sure the subject of the e-mail is something to the effect of "Book Recommendation" so I don't mistake it for junk mail. Your review should be at least a couple paragraphs long and should include a short description of the book and why you think others should read it. Then include a short biography of yourself and a picture to go along with it. If you wish to remain annonymous, that's fine as well. I need all entries by December 28th. Depending upon how many entries are received, your recommendation might not show up right away. If I decide to use yours, you will receive an e-mail telling you so. Thank you for your contributions!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Your Writing Environment

Hello everyone! I'm spending a few days in Colorado with a good friend of mine, so if you don't hear from me in a bit, that's why. Also, I've been devoting a lot of time to NaNoWriMo (which I'm now behind in again since I'm having too much fun).

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, for all of you writers out there (whether it be creative, technical, analytical, or just a paper assigned for class), have you ever paid attention to your ideal writing environment? It's different for every writer. If you find out what works best for you, it can make the writing process more enjoyable and more easily...flowable? That's right. I'm making up words.

The environment in which you write can encompass a few different things: place, music, food, time of day, etc. As far as place is considered, I generally hide away in my room, sit on my lovely padded swively chair, and my computer and I get to work. I've heard of a lot of people liking to write in cafes or coffee shops. Seems like a good place to go, but if you have trouble focusing in that sort of atmosphere, it's probably not the best choice for you.

Music is another thing that varies. The first thing that came to my mind was how Muse was on Stephanie Meyer's playlist when she was writing Twilight. When I write, I try to stay away from music with lyrics just because it can be very hard for me to control the urge to sing along. So for me, I choose to listen to movie soundtracks--and I don't mean Disney movie soundtracks either. Once again, far too distracting for me. Instead I listen to things like the Stardust soundtrack or the Robing Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. I'll also listen to things like Enya, William Joseph, and occasionally, if I can cope with the distraction, I will listen to things like Goo Goo Dolls or whatever else I'm in the mood for. But in general, I stick with the soundtracks.

I like listening to music while I write because it seems to help me focus, especially if I've got my earbuds in. It helps me go into my own world that I'm creating and ignore the distractions around me. Some people might not like to write with music on at all, and that's fine. Just find what works best for you.

I don't pay as much attention to food or time of day. I like to have a water bottle handy, but that's about it, and I'll write pretty much any time of day. The real challenge is just getting myself to do it and not getting distracted by the internet...

Good luck discovering what works best for you. And happy writing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Hangman's Row Enquiry: November Book Recommendation

Alas, Halloween is now officially over. Today marks the beginning of November, which means a couple of things. First, we have now entered NaNoWriMo! You better all be scribbling away! Second, the deadline for our Shakespeare Short Story Contest is drawing near. I hope you will all take some time to submit something. Third, it's time for a new book recommendation! This month's recommendation was submitted by the lovely Beth Adams. Take a look at what she's got to say.

The Hangman's Row Enquiry: A Must Read for Any Mystery Lover

The Hangman's Row Enquiry by Ann Purser is a spin off of the Lois Meade Mysteries, one of her more well known series, and it is the first book in the Ivy Beasley Mystery Series.

Ivy Beasley, a character threaded throughout the Lois Meade Mysteries, is a cantankerous spinster. She wants to be seen as a proper lady, to be in control of her world, and to be able to do things, but now she's been put into an exclusive assisted living home at the insistence of her cousin, Deirdre.

Perhaps the back of the book introduces the story best:

Ivy Beasley may have been moved to assisted living, but she has more interest in assisting her new partners in an amateur-sleuth business. She teams up with Gus, a mysterious newcomer who can't resist a little excitement even as he strives to keep his past secret, and her own cousin, a widow with time on her hands and money in her purse. Together they're determined to solve a local murder...

In one of the houses on Hangman's Row, Gus's elderly neighbor has been found with a bread knife sticking out of her chest. Local gossip has it that there was no love lost between the victim and her daughter, but Ivy and her fellow sleuths soon discover no shortage of suspects--or secrets--in the small English village of Barrington...

All of Ann Purser's books are well developed and contain engaging mysteries. In this particular book, it is a delight to be able to watch these new characters develop friendships and reveal their personalities to the reader as they join together in a common goal to find the real killer. This book is labeled a British Cozy, which makes me think of a good book to read in a cozy little corner on a rainy day whilst sipping my hot cocoa with little marshmallows in it...and maybe a side of toast!

I love this particular Ann Purser story, especially at this time of year, as it allows me to take a much needed  mental vacation in between the hectic moments in preparation for the holidays..

Although this book's plot is centered around solving a murder, there are moments of great humor and camaraderie between the characters. There's cleverness throughout the pages. You're still left wondering about certain characters, such as Gus who never has a full explanation as to why he showed up in the first place (something that will hopefully be answered in later books). But those little mysteries just make me want to jump into the next book of the series and join the characters once again in an engaging, fun, and thrilling mystery.

I love mysteries! I so enjoy the little puzzles you get to piece together along with the characters as you make your way through the story and to the end. What makes a truly enjoyable read, no matter what the genre, is that you end up with friends by the end of the book. Such is the case of The Hangman's Row Enquiry.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

Beth Adams is the mother of four fabulous children. She's been involved in her church programs, PTA, school board, band and choir, and whatever else her children decided to try out. Her father was in the navy, serving in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, while her mother was a teacher. She enjoys her life as a stay at home mom. She currently resides on the rainy side of Washington state, where we need to read a lot of books so we can escape the stormy whether and our longing for a bit of sun! Some of her favorite activities include: spending time with family, going on walks, going to the movies, and visiting with friends. She also enjoys a clean house...although she doubts she'll ever have one!

Want to write next month's recommendation?
You can be featured just like Beth! Here's how it works. Send an e-mail to with your recommendation (put it in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment). Make sure the subject of the e-mail is something to the effect of "Book Recommendation" so I don't mistake it for junk mail. Your review should be at least a couple paragraphs long and should include a short description of the book and why you think others should read it. Then include a short biography of yourself and a picture to go along with it. If you wish to remain annonymous, that's fine as well. I need all entries by November 25th. Depending upon how many entries are received, your recommendation might not show up right away. If I decide to use yours, you will receive an e-mail telling you so. Thank you for your contributions!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding Connections With Characters

You know one thing I love about reading? I love how you can make connections with characters. Not just the sort of connection where you're like "Oh hey! I've experienced that too!" but the kind of connection where when you decide to re-read a book for the hundreth time you feel like you're revisiting old friends and catching up.

Am I insane, or do other people feel the same way? Both is also an exceptable answer to that question.

I am currently re-reading the whole Harry Potter series in celebration of the release of part one of the seventh film coming out next month. Yesterday, I finished the fourth one. (I'm assuming all of you have read it yourselves or seen the movie, but if not, skip the next few lines so I don't spoil anything for you.) I was reading along, trying to remember the answer to the sphinx's question during the third task, and then I reached the end of that chapter where Cedric and Harry decide to share the victory and both take hold of the cup turned portkey. You know what happened then? I should probably be ashamed to admit this but my eyes totally started watering and wouldn't stop! I was hoping I wouldn't break out into full blown out crying (I'm proud to say I managed to contain myself), and this was all happening because I knew Cedric was about to die.

After I finished the book, I tried to think about the last time Harry Potter made me teary. I'm sure there must have been some moment in the sixth or seventh books, but the one time I actually remember was when I first read the fifth book. I actually had to put the book down. I couldn't believe it! I'm sure you all know what moment I'm talking about.

Anyway, it just made me appreciate that I can even make these connections with fictional characters. I don't go to the extreme and pretend they're really or compare my boyfriend to Edward Cullen or things like that. It just makes reading so much more fun, enjoyable, and worth while when you can make that connection. I still love Harry Potter even after all these years. And did I mention how excited I am for the movie next month?

Until next time. Happy reading! I hope you can all find characters to love!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Books That Inspired You To Read

The past couple of days, I've been trying thinking about some of the first books I ever read (or in some cases, were read to me). That train of thought turned into another thought: what books or experiences with books inspired me to start reading?

These thoughts came back to mind yesterday when I was talking to my chiropractor and he told me how he never enjoyed reading. He had to do so much reading for school that it just wasn't an activity he wanted to do in his spare time. It wasn't until his wife gave him a copy of The Firm by John Grisham that he truly had the desire to read.

It got me thinking. My mother, on the occasion, noted that certain books fit certain people, and each person individually has to find the right book for them. (I, being the nerd that I am and being very Harry Potter oriented as of late, immediately thought back to that moment in The Sorcerer's Stone where Harry goes to buy his wand. "The wand chooses the wizard." Okay, enough of this side note....for now.)

I certainly belief there's truth to that. Every child has a different reading style, and it doesn't always take the same steps for each child to start reading (let alone enjoy the process). I was also reminded of a YA fiction class I took a while back where we discussed how sometimes children are given certain material too early, and therefore their thirst for reading could be in danger of being quenched permanently! I realize that's a bit dramatic, but in some cases I'm sure it's true. You may recall in an earlier post how I mentioned my experience with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Here's a brief summary: my middle school language arts teacher urged me to read the book. I did. Absolutely hated it. Thought it was long, boring, no point, dry humor, that sort of thing. Read it again. Liked it a little better. Read it again. Realized it was brilliant. Today it is one of my favorite books ever!

I had a similar experience with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That same LA teacher that encouraged me to read The Hobbit told me I should read Austen's classic novel. Her language was very difficult for me to understand. I remember going pages and pages without a clear idea of what was happening. I also remember thinking, "Oh that's rather convenient! There's that Mr. Darcy...AGAIN! I mean really... This sort of thing would never happen." (Said the girl who read strictly fantasy if she could get her hands on it.) I read it again about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. The humor. The tension. The strong female protagonist. Brilliant. Once again, it has become one of my favorite books.

From these experiences, I learned that sometimes I need to give books second chances. There are exceptions. For example (no offense to anyone who loves this book) I didn't care for Blood and Chocolate. For those of you who don't know the story, it's sort of a teen werewolf romance novel. They even made a movie off it in case you're too lazy to read the book. I would actually recommend both so you can see the differences, but that's branching off into another topic that I'll save for later. For me, I just didn't feel a connection with the characters, and I'm still not sure I'm happy with the way it ended. It was kind of sweet, but also kind of weird. But you don't have to take my word for it. The point is, that book just wasn't one for me (it wasn't the perfect wand!), but it can most definitely be the right book for someone else.

So, I want to know what first got all of you into reading. Here's a little of what's been going through my mind the last few days as I've considered my first experiences with the written word.

My dad isn't much of a reader. He'd much rather watch the movie and call it good. (I always get a kick out of the fact that as we are watching movies based on books, he'll sometimes turn to me and ask, "Was it like that in the book?" or "Did the book give more information?" or something along those lines.) Mom, on the other hand, loves to read. Her genre of choice is mystery, a genre I appreciate simply because a good portion of the TV shows I watch are crime based, but I've never really gotten into reading that genre. So, if the love of reading were genetic, that love would come from my mom.

My first memory of reading a book outside of school involved Dr. Suess' The Cat In The Hat. I distinctly remember sitting on my grandfather's knee and struggling to remember what all those letters on the page sounded like. I would read, and he would help as I needed it. I still have yet to add any Dr. Suess books to my shelf, but believe me, it will happen someday.

I remember other children's books from school: Pink and Say, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, My Father's Dragon and the like. Good found memories. But these weren't books that came to my head right away.

Two books that did come to mind right after The Cat in the Hat were Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and A Wrinkle In Time by Madeliene L'Engle. I can never remember if my first encounter with Where the Red Fern Grows was in second or third grade as I had the same teacher both years. Part of me really wants to attribute my love for reading to her simply because of all the stories I was introduced to and still love because of her. (Thank you!) She read Where the Red Fern Grows to us and it was probably one of the first books I re-read once I found the incentive to go out and find my own books. It was also probably one of the first books I ordered from one of those book orders after she read it to us. For some reason, that memory is very fond to me. If you haven't had the chance to read that book, you should.

When I was in fifth grade, I was of the opinion that although my teacher was a very nice man, he wasn't cut out to teach fifth graders. Ouch. I apologize. But I was only ten and eleven at the time. What did I know really? Well, I knew how to get away with reading a book under my desk instead of actually listening to the teacher. That's how I spent a portion of my fifth grade education. I was becoming so in love with books that I couldn't stop to take time to listen to my teacher! I had to finish the story. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the books I remember doing this with. I believe it was recommended to me by the same friend who got me hooked on Harry Potter in middle school. (Speaking of middle school, I feel it's only right to also thank the teacher who made me read The Hobbit and Pride and Prejudice and encourage me to take Honors English in high school no less! Thank you!)

I really think what it comes down to is a love of story itself. Even young children love a good story. Before I was even gobbling up books as fast as I could get my hands on them, my grandpa used to tell me and my siblings his very own Winnie the Pooh stories before we went to bed. Sometimes he would start telling the story in Spanish. We would all whine, "Grandpa!" He'd laugh and then continue the story in English. Grandpa has always been quite the kidder.

So I suppose there are multiple things that eventually pushed me into my love for reading: great teachers, family, friends, love of story itself, the whole shabang! It's because of all of those people that I have an overstuffed bookshelf quite contently sitting in the corner of my room. Thanks you guys. The books and myself really appreciate it!

Now tell me what it was that first got you into reading? You can leave it in a comment, or, if your story is long as mine turned out to be, you can send me an e-mail. Maybe I'll even feature some of your stories in coming posts, eh? How's that sound? In either case, I loved to hear from you.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


National Novel Writing Mo (NaNoWriMo) is an event that takes place every year during the month of November. I first heard of this event last year when one of my friends decided to take the challenge. I didn't take part in it myself as I "didn't have the time" what with school work and other social activities that took up my time (plus I probably spent way too much time clicking the refresh button on Facebook, waiting for something exciting to happen). Although I still have things to occupy my time, I've decided to take the plunge. I just created a NaNoWriMo account, committing myself to at least attempt to reach the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. I'm going to do it. And you are more than welcome to try it with me :)

Some of you may be wondering what all of NaNoWriMo entails. I'm still learning about it a bit myself, but I'm having fun exploring their website. Well, first off, you can find out all about it under their What is NaNoWriMo? page. As I mentioned above, the whole goal of this event is to spew out 50,000 words in 30 days giving about 175-pages worth of your very own novel. In case some of you think this is an easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy process, let me assure you that writing takes a lot of work and it never comes out perfectly on the first go.

One of the beauties of NaNoWriMo is that you don't have the pressure of writing a perfectly formed ready-to-be-published novel by day 30. It's just to help you get out a draft that you can go back and edit later and then send it out to your hearts content if you so wish. One rule you must keep in mind as you slave away at your typewriter (or laptop as the case may be) is that you can't stop to edit. We all have what is referred to as the inner editor, that little voice inside us that makes us crazy wondering if we wrote everything correctly (is it who or whom sort of madness), and well the inner editor is all well and good, it also can hold us back and keep us from ever finishing a full length novel as we keep telling ourselves that the beginning just wasn't perfect. So set your inner editor aside and produce a novel!

Another great feature of NaNoWriMo is that you don't have to go at it alone. They create an online community where you can discuss and gain support from other NaNoWriMo participants. In some cases, there may also be groups that get together in your area that you can meet with.

The site also gives encouragement and suggestions to go about writing your novel.

During the process, you can upload bits of your writing so everyone can see what your word count is. (Don't worry. They have protection so no one will be able to steal your novel.) On November 30th, you submit your novel for the final word count. If you made the 50,000 word mark, you're a winner!

Take a look at the site and consider joining in. The site is

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

William Shakespeare Short Story Contest

That's right. We are officially holding our first ever contest here at Spiral Staircase Books! Want to get in on the action? Of course you do.

Here's what you can win:
A New Folger Library Edition of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Free shipping on your next order
And your story will be featured on the site

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
281 Pages

The play ends on page 243, but the text of the play is only on the right page, so it's really half that length.

Probably one of his most well known plays, Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two young lovers whose families would never let them be together. Thus begins family feuds, swashbuckling action, and the intricate plan of escape that goes horribly awry.

The Back Cover:
Completly re-edited, the New Folger Library Edition of Shakespeare's plays puts readers in touch with current ways of thining about Shakespeare. Each freshly edited text is based directly on what the editors consider the best early printed version of the play. Each volume contains full explanatory notes on pages facing the text of the play, as well as helpful introduction to Shakespeare's language. The accounts of William Shakespeare's ife, his theater, and the publication of his plays present the latest scholarship, and the annotated reading lists suggest sources of further information. The illustrations of objects, clothing, and mythological figures mentioned int he plays are drawn from the Library's vast holdings of rare books. At the conclusion of each play there is a full essay by an outstanding scholar who assesses the play in the light of today's interests and concerns.

Contest Rules
So here's how it works.Write a short story adaptation of Shakespeare's famous play, Romeo and Juliet. Your piece should be no longer than ten pages double spaced. The deadline for the contest is November 15, 2010. The winner will be announced at the end of that month.

E-mail entries to:

Do not send as an attachment. Put your story in the body of the e-mail. Include a short bio and picture of yourself to be included with your story on the site should you win the contest. Make sure the subject is something to the effect of "Shakespeare contest entry" so I don't accidently regard it as junk mail and delete it.

Thank you for your interest and participation!

Here's our little video companion to advertise and explain the contest. Remember to share with family and friends!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New Stock!

I've got some more books for you!

Here's a few peeks at some of the new titles!

Paging Aphrodite
By Kim Green
Four women. An exotic Greek island. A novel about love, life, friendship... and finding Dionysus, wherever he may be...

Wicked Witch Murder (Just in Time for Halloween!)
By Leslie Meier
With planning the town's annual Halloween Party, the drought wreaking havoc on her garden, and her brood of four children, Lucy Stone's got her hands full this fall... Lucy's more concerned about the costume competition, pin-the-nose-on-the-pumpkin, and baking three dozen orange cupcakes and Beastly Bug cookies. But as the October moon rises, a killer plans a lethal celebration of his own--and Lucy's the guest of honor...

By Charlotte Bronte
A moving tale of repressed feelings and subjection to cruel circumstance and position, borne with heroic fortitude. Rising above the frustrations of confinement within a rigid social order, it is also a story of a woman's right to love and be loved.

The Freedom Writers Diary
By The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell
As an idealistic first-year English teacher... Erin Gruwell confronted a room of "unteachable, at-risk" students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust--only to be met by uncomprehending looks...With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell, The Freedom Writers Diary is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.

By Jack Weyland
Stephanie Bradshaw leads a double life. Outwardly she's a funloving, vivacious teenager who attends church regularly with her family and seems to be well adjusted in school and at home. But when she's alone or with her friends, she can't wait for the highs she gets from alcohol and drugs. This story is one that is all too real, one that affects the lives of many young people and those who love them.

Other new titles include but aren't limited to:

A Shawl and a Violin by Randall L. Hall
The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
On My Own...And Clueless by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd
Families and Society by Scott Coltrane
And More!

Thank you for your support of Spiralstaircase books! Keep checking back for new stock!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Commercial!

Remember my friend Breanna Angus? If you've forgotten, check out my last post about this month's book recommendation. I already knew she was awesome, but today, right now, she just earned a whole gob of brownie points! Why's that? She surprised me with a video that she just posted on youtube. That video is a new commercial for the lovely Spiral Staircase Books. Check it out!

Hope you enjoyed it! I know a lot of work went into it. Don't forget to share with your friends. Let's spread the word! Thanks again to Breanna!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pendragon: Recommended Book of the Month

Today marks the beginning of an new month! October is a time for dressing up, scaring the pants off those pesky neighbor children, and stuffing yourself with tons of candy! It doesn't get much better than that. To top things off, it's time to give you a new recommended book of the month! I know you've all loved hearing from me, but I want to give you all the opportunity to share some of your thoughts and writing too. This is a place for book/story lovers to come together as one. So I've asked a good friend of mine if she would like to write the recommendation for this month. She gladly accepted! So please, read on!

Calling All Adventurers
By Breanna Angus

There are many adventure stories out there to be read by children, teens, and adults alike, but one of my favorites is the Pendragon series by D. J. MacHale. The first book in the series, The Merchant of Death, is the book I have chosen to recommend to you readers.

(Click to Enlarge)

The Merchant of Death is a new and wonderful twist on the classic adventure story and it is perfect for kids, teens, and adults. D.J. MacHale’s writing is superb and reflects well on his storytelling capabilities. The reader can feel easily and tremendously connected to Bobby and his quest from the very first page. His struggle to find his place in the world, and the many other worlds he did not know existed before, is reflected on the struggles of the reader. His fears and weaknesses, his strengths and confidence, all fits with our own lives.

Bobby is a brave young protagonist thrown into a new role, a new world, and a new knowledge simply by taking a seat on the back of his uncles motorcycle. He is destined for a greater role in the universe that will ensure that he will never be the same again…and neither will the reader. As Bobby tells his story through journals (sent to his friends back home) you will find yourself believing that it was you he sent his journals to. It is you, the reader, that are responsible to remember what happened to Bobby Pendragon. It is the responsibility of the reader to learn from him.

D. J. MacHale knows how to capture his readers and give them a thrill and a lesson all in one sitting. Needless to say, The Merchant of Death is the perfect start to a 10 books series that just cannot be put down.

Breanna Angus is an aspiring YA author and filmmaker living in a small town near the rocky mountains in Colorado. She is 22 years old and she spends a lot of her time writing and being creative and a lot more of her time reading. She has gained a lot of insight and experience with YA and children’s novels as an avid reader. She loves to share her love of these books with the world as the Boulder Young Adult Fiction Examiner and as the owner of

Want to write next months recommendation?
You can be featured just like Breanna! Here's how it works. Send an e-mail to with your recommendation. It should be at least a couple paragraphs long and should include a short description of the book and why you think others should read it. Then include a short biography of yourself and a picture to go along with it. If you wish to remain annonymous, that's fine as well. I need all entries by October 30th. Depending upon how many entries are received, your recommendation might not show up right away. If I decide to use yours, you will receive an e-mail telling you so. Thank you for your contributions!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

English Faculty Book Picks

Are you ready for two really long lists?

During my final semester at BYU-I, I had an assignment to pick one book from three lists and then put together a presentation for each of the three books. The lists were comprised of books in the canon, recommended books, and nonfiction books related to English/writing. My professor put the lists together by asking all the English faculty what one book in each category they thought everyone should read. So, looking for a good book to read or perhaps just wondering what books you should read before you die, here's some titles to consider.

Recommended Booklist

·         The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth
·         The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
·         The Ambassadors by Henry James
·         An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
·         Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
·         Arabella by Anonymous
·         Best American Short Stories
·         Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
·         The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
·         Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
·         The Brothers K by David James Duncan
·         Bungay Castle by Elizabeth  Bonhote
·         Candide by Voltaire
·         Century of the Wind by Eduardo Galeano
·         Collapse by Jared Diamond
·         The Color Purple by Alice Walker
·         Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
·         The Conjure Woman by Charles Chestnutt
·         The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
·         Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
·         Field Guide by Robert Hass
·         Five Skies by Ron Carlson
·         Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
·         Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop
·         The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
·         God: Stories edited by C. Michael Curtis
·         Good Omens:  The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaimon and Terry Prachett
·         The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
·         Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
·         The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
·         How to Read Literature Like a Professor:  A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines  by Thomas C. Foster
·         In Memoriam A.H.H by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
·         Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
·         The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
·         The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
·         Language as Symbolic Action by S.I. Hawakawa
·         The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
·         The Light Princess by George MacDonald
·         Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
·         Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
·         Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard
·         Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
·         Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
·         The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
·         Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery by Richard Selzer
·         Mrs. Mike: The Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
·         My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
·         Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
·         Night by Elie Wiesel
·         The Octopus by Frank Norris
·         A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
·         Persuasion by Jane Austen
·         The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
·         A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
·         Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams
·         Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
·         The Road by Cormac McCarthy
·         The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
·         A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
·         Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler
·         The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·         Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
·         The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
·         The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
·         Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
·         Story by Robert McKee
·         Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
·         Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard
·         The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
·         The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber
·         The Tree of Man by Patrick White
·         The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday
·         The World is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman
·         These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prince by Nancy E. Turner
·         This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
·         Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
·         Translation by Brian Friel
·         Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
·         Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver
·         White Boys by Reginald McKnight
·         Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
·         Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
·         Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre

The Canon

·         Absolom, Absolom by William Faulkner
·         Adam Bede by George Eliot
·         The Aeneid  by Virgil
·         All My Sons by Arthur Miller
·         Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye
·         Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
·         Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
·         As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
·         Beloved by Toni Morrison
·         Beowulf
·         Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
·         Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
·         The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
·         Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
·         The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
·         Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
·         Crucible by Arthur Miller
·         Cry, the Beloved Country  by Alan Paton
·         David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
·         Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
·         A Death in the Family by James Agee
·         Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
·         Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri
·         A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
·         Dream Songs by John Berryman
·         Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede
·         The Efficacy of Prayer by C.S. Lewis
·         An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen
·         For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
·         Frankenstein   by Mary Shelley
·         Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
·         Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
·         Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
·         Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
·         Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift
·         Hamlet  by William Shakespeare
·         Collected poems of Thomas Hardy
·         Collected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Heart of Darkness  by Joseph Conrad
·         Holy Bible
·         Huckleberry Finn  by Mark Twain
·         Illiad   by Homer
·         Imagining America: Stories From the Promised Land edited by Wesley Brown
·         Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
·         Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
·         Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë
·         Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
·         Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
·         Collected poems of John Keats
·         King Lear  by William Shakespeare
·         Life and Times of Fredrick Douglass in His Own Words by Fredrick Douglass
·         Life of King Alfred by Asser, Bishop of Sherborne
·         Light in August by William Faulkner
·         Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (If you choose this option, the play to pair it with would be Ah, Wilderness)
·         Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth
·         Macbeth by William Shakespeare
·         Merchant of Venice  by William Shakespeare
·         Middlemarch by George Eliot
·         Midsummer Night’s Dream  by William Shakespeare
·         Moby Dick by Herman Melville
·         Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
·         Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf
·         My Antonia by Willa Cather
·         Odyssey  by Homer
·         Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
·         Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
·         One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
·         One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
·         Othello by William Shakespeare
·         Paradise Lost  by John Milton
·         Playboy of the Western World by J.M. Synge
·         Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
·         The Prelude by William Wordsworth
·         Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
·         Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
·         The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
·         Riders to the Sea by J. M Synge
·         Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
·         Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
·         Scarlet Letter  by Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·         The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
·         Selected Tales and Sketches by Nathaniel Hawthorne
·         Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
·         Silas Marner by George Eliot
·         Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
·         Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
·         A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
·         Tempest by William Shakespeare
·         Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
·         Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
·         Till We All Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
·         To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee
·         To the Lighthouse  byVirginia Woolf
·         Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
·         Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
·         Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
·         Walden by Henry David Thoreau
·         The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen
·         Winesberg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
·         Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
·         Collected Poems of William Wordsworth
·         Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

That should keep you going for awhile :)

Actually, come to think of it, looks like I've got a lot of reading to do!