I think it’s safe to say my books are character-driven, because my stories always grow from the characters- who they are at the beginning, the choices they make (good and not so good), and how they grow. I love creating the main characters of my books, but I really enjoy developing the secondary characters, too. They often surprise me and end up being the funniest or most memorable characters, according to a lot of my readers.
For instance in THE REPLACEMENT CRUSH, there’s a rock star who ends up playing a significant role in the story. When I first drafted the book, he didn’t even have a speaking role, he was just a guy on the beach to drool over and provide comic relief for my heroine and her bestie. He had other ideas, however, and I’ve heard from so many readers about him, as well as other secondary characters. I’m often asked if I’ll write another story set in Shady Cove, giving a couple of the secondary characters their own romance. That’s always a good sign, when readers want more of a setting and characters!
In PLAYING THE PLAYER, though the book is a romance, much of the story focuses on friendship. Both Trina and Slade, the hero and heroine, have best friends (Desi and Alex) who are the types of friends I love- honest, supportive, funny, and kind. Desi and Alex call out bad behavior and push Slade and Trina to be better people. They also know when to just listen, and laugh. And when Slade and Trina’s opposites-attract summer romance hits a rocky patch, it’s their best friends who encourage them not to give up, and to stop being stupid.
This book also features two crazy little kids, who often steal the show. When I first wrote PLAYING THE PLAYER I wasn’t sure how readers would respond to a story about two teen nannies dealing with two crazy kids, but I was in love with the idea, and really in love with those little kids, so I wrote it anyway. Fortunately it was a big hit with readers, and I’m so happy I trusted my intuition.
As a mom, I like to write books that include parents as well, because teens don’t live in a vacuum- but I don’t ever want to write “lecturing” books. I strive to create relatable parents who aren’t perfect but aren’t horrible, either, just real people who love their kids. In some cases the parents make painful choices, like in my first book HOW (NOT) TO FALL IN LOVE, when the heroine’s father leaves the family rather than deal with problems he caused, and the mom doesn’t cope with the abandonment very well.
However, I’m a firm believer in redemption and resilience, so this book ends on a hopeful note, and both parents are inspired to do better by their daughter’s courage.
Our real lives are peopled with amazing characters, and I hope to the same with the imaginary worlds I create, inventing characters who come to life, and who you’d like to meet in real life.
Hi everyone! First, I want to thank Melissa for having me on her blog today, and for featuring My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century. This book was so much fun for me to write, and my main character, Cat Crawford is a hoot! Today, she’s here to give us all some quick and easy tips for how to dress in the Renaissance. It’s important to note that she’s a twenty-first century girl, so her opinions may not exactly be shared by her sixteenth-century cousins (*grin*).
Take it, Cat!
Fashion Dos and Don’ts of the 16th Century with Cat Crawford
Okay peeps, as you may know, I recently returned from a time travel adventure to the past. Like, 500 years in the past. And there was a lot to love, but I also spotted some major faux pas going on. So today, I’m here to share Quick and Easy Renaissance Fashion 411 for all future time travelers.
And Finally, Don’t:
I really enjoyed My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century! It was lots of fun overall, especially if you like art from Renaissance times. There were some fun surprises in this book related to the Renaissance and things Cat was able to see on her magical trip back in time, and while there was some cheesiness in that “magic,” it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I thought Cat’s Renaissance family was fascinating and well written, Lorenzo was beyond dreamy, and I loved the clash between modern and Renaissance society as Cat tried to fit in. I actually laughed out loud at some of the situations she got herself into, and some of the modern language she used, that resulted in awkward, funny scenes.
Check it out on Amazon (where it’s currently on sale for $.99 on kindle!)or at your favorite book store. :)
On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze. Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?
I am always, always, always up for a good Sherlock Holmes retelling, and Eulberg’s Shelby Holmes story is a perfect middle grade entry into the Sherlock world.
In it, Shelby Holmes is a 9 year old sixth grader with all the brains, sass, and social awkwardness you’d expect from a character based on Sherlock, and John Watson has just moved into the building. John, whose military parents have just gone through a divorce, is in need of new friends and sort of falls into Shelby’s crime solving world when a classmate of theirs discovers that her prize-winning dog has been stolen.
Shelby and John are both well-written characters who work together in their own quirky ways, and they have depth to them that goes far beyond the crime to be solved. With John’s family situation and Shelby’s trouble making friends, there’s plenty here for readers to identify with and cheer the characters through.
The mystery itself is both clever enough to be worthy of a 9 year-old Holmes and solvable enough for a middle grade audience. The Great Shelby Holmes would be perfect for readers as young as 4th grade and I can see its appeal going up through middle school. Also, for those adults (like me!) who love Sherlockian literature, it’s a really fun look into the classic characters as modern day kids. Elizabeth confirmed for me that there will be at least two more Shelby Holmes books, and I’m already looking forward to them!
Confession: I’ve wanted to read Tell Me Three Things for quite a while (because of the heart shaped waffles on the cover, to be completely honest), but it’s one that I wasn’t able to get my hands on in ARC form, so I (stupidly) waited to buy it and now I’m late for the party. If you, like me, missed it when it first came out… you gotta get it now.
In this, 16 year-old Jessie is trying to figure out life without her mom (she passed away two years ago) and with an entirely new city and step family (her dad moved her suddenly from Chicago to Los Angeles when he eloped with his new wife). On top of all that, Jessie’s now attending a prestigious private school that is beyond difficult to navigate as the new girl.
So, when she receives an anonymous email from a classmate calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN for short) in which he offers to be a spirit guide to help her adjust to the school, she reluctantly accepts his help out of desperation. When their initial anonymous exchange develops into a friendship, the mysterious SN is still reluctant to meet, even though he clearly knows who Jessie is and they’re developing real feelings for each other. They start asking each other to “tell me three things,” and so these great lists of things are included in their messages back and forth. The identity of SN isn’t revealed until almost the end of the book, and while I did have a good idea of who I hoped it would be, I was guessing until the end just like Jessie was. I was so happy with who it was that I actually went back through the whole book and reread their messages. They just made me happy.
It may sound simple and potentially sad (dead mom, etc.), but Tell Me Three Things is honestly one of the most engaging, emotionally beautiful novels I’ve read this year. It’s NOT sad – Buxbaum’s author’s note made it clear that she wasn’t aiming to write a book about the death of a mom but instead wanted that to be a part of the character’s story – but the way Jessie learns from and deals with her grief is a very real and compelling. The hope she finds in new friendships and eventually in her relationship with her dad is ultimately what the reader feels at the end of the story.
Because I’m a teacher and I can’t turn that part of my brain off when I read YA, I do have to say that I think it’s appropriate for upper high school ages. There’s some language, but it doesn’t feel excessive or showy – it’s mostly coming from grief and truly hard situations. The profanity didn’t bother me in this book like it does in some others. There’s also a significant subplot involving one of the main character making the very grown up decision of whether or not she’s ready for sex. Again, that story line can bother be in some books if it’s not treated with care, but it’s done pretty carefully here, and that’s a topic I wish parents would talk more about with their kids anyway.
It’s been a long while since I’ve read a book that has set in and stuck with me throughout several days like this one did. It feels to me like everything that a book written for teens SHOULD be – not cheesy, full of real life situations, hopeful, fun, relevant, and engaging.
Find Tell Me Three Things on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. Enjoy!
Love Me Never (Lovely Vicious, #1) by Sara Wolf
Now 99 cents! Go get your copy today!
Read the book that Kirkus Review called: “A complex, witty page-turner, ideal for YA fans of scandal and romance.”
Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to Buttcrack-of-Nowhere, Ohio, to help her mom escape a bad relationship.
All the girls in her new school want one thing―Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.
Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.
The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.
The game board: East Summit High.
The reward: Something neither of them expected.
Previously published as Lovely Vicious, this fully revised and updated edition is full of romance, intrigue, and laugh-out-loud moments.
The Lovely Vicious Series continues:
Forget Me Always
Remember Me Forever – Summer 2017
All warfare is deception. Even in high school.
It’s been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about him. The boy she can’t quite remember. She’s stuck in the hospital with a turban-size bandage on her head, more Jell-o than a human being should ever face, and a tiny bit of localized amnesia. Her only goal? To get out of this place before she becomes a complete nutjob herself.
But as Isis’s memories start to return, she realizes there’s something important there at the edges of her mind. Something that may mean the difference between life and death. Something about Sophia, Jack’s girlfriend.
Jack Hunter―the “Ice Prince”―remembers everything. Remembers Isis’s purple hair and her smart-ass mouth. Remembers that for a little while, Isis made him feel human. She made him feel. She burned a hole in the ice…and it’s time to freeze back up. Boys like him don’t deserve girls like her. Because Jack is dangerous. And that danger might be the only thing protecting her from something far more threatening.
Previously published as Savage Delight, this fully revised and updated edition is full of hilarity, drama, and heartbreak.
The Lovely Vicious Series continues:
Remember Me Forever – Summer 2017
Sara Wolf lives in San Diego, California, where she burns instead of tans. When she isn’t pouring her allotted lifeforce into writing, she’s reading, accidentally burning houses down whilst baking, or making faces at her highly appreciative cat.
First, the official blurb:
Becca Hanson was never able to make sense of the real world. When her best friend Charlotte died, she gave up on it altogether. Fortunately, Becca can count on her books to escape—to other times, other places, other people…
Until she meets Max Herrera. He’s experienced loss, too, and his gorgeous, dark eyes see Becca the way no one else in school can.
As it turns out, kissing is a lot better in real life than on a page. But love and life are a lot more complicated in the real world…and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed.
Life after Juliet isn’t sad overall, though it has some sadness in it. Ultimately there’s hope and encouragement pouring out of this. I loved Becca and Max and literally hugged this book to me after I finished it. Life After Juliet is a great book for teens dealing with any sort of loss or sadness that holds them back, and I found it to be both encouraging and challenging for me as an adult, too.
I haven’t read the companion novel, Love and Other Unknown Variables, but I’d like to. After loving this book so much, I’m all in for anything else Shannon Lee Alexander writes! Find Life After Juliet, here on Amazon or order it from your favorite book store.
I’ve spent this week getting my students excited about our upcoming Scholastic Book Fair, and a book preview video for No Fair! No Fair! has made me (AND every single one of the students who have seen it) chuckle every single time I’ve watched it. The author describes defending his portion of the backseat against his sister’s “expansionist backseat policies” and makes up rhymes about the ridiculousness of having to wear pants to school. I really can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough based on what I’ve seen so far.
You can see the video with the author here. I promise, Trillin’s deadpan reading will make you laugh and, hopefully, it’ll make you want to read the whole thing too. Enjoy!
The Sound of Us is one of those books that does a great job of encouraging readers to stick with their dreams and stay true to who they are. That’s enough to make me love it – I just don’t think that message can be given to teenagers (or adults, frankly) too much.
Kiki Nichols is a fun, introverted fan of a popular geeky sic-fi show who also happens to be an aspiring opera singer. She heads off to an exclusive summer camp at a college known for its music program. She has two main goals for the summer: one, be cool and make friends, and two, be one of the top students at the end of camp, which would earn her a scholarship to study opera at the university. But, of course, stuff happens and Kiki’s derailed from her goals a few times… and one big distraction comes in the form of a hot drummer (and fellow sic-fi show fan) she’d like to spend more time with.
Kiki is a great character, and I love her growth throughout the story. The supporting characters are all really well written and they definitely make the book richer, with the exception of Kiki’s parents and brother who seem sort of one dimensional and annoying (until one conversation at the very end, I guess). A little bit of language and some content would make me uncomfortable with having this in my middle school classroom, but it’s fine for high school. Overall, there are some great messages here for teenage girls (and guys) about being happy with who you are and going after your dreams instead of settling, and I enjoyed reading this one.
Find The Sound of Us here on Amazon or order it through your favorite bookseller!