***OMGOSHJIMMYHAILER***

I have exciting news for you, friends.

Firstly, if you’ve hung around this blog for any time at all, you know that Australian author Melina Marchetta is my QUEEN. (See here, here, here.)

She is a master of characters, and my favorite crew of hers first appears in Saving Francesca: Frankie, Will, Siobhan, Justine, Tara, Tom, and Jimmy. After Saving Francesca, the crew reunites in The Piper’s Son, which is Tom’s story, set five years later. Everyone has been begging for years for Jimmy’s story.

Back in April 2013, in a Goodreads-sponsored discussion, Melina made my heart go BOOM when she teased:

Jimmy’s not going anywhere, but it’s just not his time yet. All I know about him is that he is the first of Frankie gang to start breeding (accidently).

In the four years since, she has posted on her blog about Jim from time to time. Earlier this month, she posted there was a forthcoming short story:

My short story is called When Rosie met Jim. It’s about a young woman who finds herself stranded in a Queensland town during a flood, where she meets a guy named Jim. (the title is quite literal, and yes, it’s him for those who know my previous work).

A couple days ago, she added this:

It will be a novel primarily about one house, four characters, five lives, and told through three points of view.

Jimmy is 23 years old in When Rosie met Jim.  In the novel, he’ll be about 25 because it takes place in Sydney about two years after the events of the short story. It’s not  YA, but regardless, I’m predictable. It’s a generational story and it’s character driven, relationship driven and pretty much about community, solace and the ties that bind. (and netball).

OH. AND THIS ALSO HAPPENED:

mm jim 2

Peeps, I read it last night, and it was everything I wanted it to be. More.

First, you don’t have to have read her other books in order to read this story. It’s brilliant even on its own, and of course, it has added meaning for fans who miss the Sydney crew.

Next, it works as a short story– yes, it is an excerpt (or something like it) from what will eventually be a full-length novel (PRAISE GOD), but it works on its own too as a short story. What I mean is that it’s got its own narrative arc; you won’t feel dissatisfied at the end (though you will feel so desperate for more).

Lastly, I don’t know how on earth she does it, but there is not one word extra in this, nor one word missing. It’s perfect and has the right amount of action and vulnerability to enamor you in so few pages. (Frankly, I re-read Marchetta’s books over and over, hoping that I will somehow take on her writing capabilities– and yet, every time, I’m reminded she is the master.) There is foreshadowing and the ideal amount of backstory to offer both grounding and intrigue. The characters are multi-dimensional, and … OMGOSH, I don’t know how to wait for the entire book. I guess if I survived the wait for Quintana, I will survive this too, right? Right?? (P.S. I bought the Australian edition of Quintana, since it came out 6 months before the American version. I am not excellent at patience.)

This issue of Review of Australian Fiction comes out tomorrow (er, um, maybe today actually, since Australia is ahead of the USA) and is available for only $2.99 at this link:

http://reviewofaustralianfiction.com/product/raf-152-volume-22-issue-6.

Go. Buy. Be delighted (readers) and envious (writers). While you’re at it, buy all her books. I promise you they are the best.

Love,
Jackie

Quick whatever-this-is: I want you to know this is not sponsored. I don’t get anything when you purchase this … except for the satisfaction of knowing I’ve introduced you to your new favorite author. Enjoy!

Book Heroines I Adore

unsplash90Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | Related
“The smartest witch of her age” and fiercely loyal, never gives up. Never.

Shazi from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and sequel)
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

Citra from Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Review
Whip-smart, deeply philosophical … but can also kick your ass.

Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | Review 
“She must have been a nurse. She looked a few years older than me. Pretty. Naturally pretty, the type that’s still attractive, even more so, when she’s filthy.”
So strong in the face of a thousand hardships

Roza and Petey from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby | Review
Each of these girls is so strong in her own way; I adored every character in this book.

Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Related
She can hold her own against any boy, she knows the power of words, and perseveres through tremendous loss.

Isaboe of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Related
Fearsome. Unwavering. Isaboe’s resolution and leadership are a thing to behold. She is her own boss. She loves with ferocity.

Quintana of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Review 
“‘Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso?’
The princess pointed a hard finger at her own chest.
‘Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others I’d have lain down and died waiting.’”
‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Even though I really loved Neal Shusterman’s Unwind Dystology (spoiler-free review), his new series wasn’t really on my radar. Then the first book– Scythe— kept getting rave reviews from my favorite book bloggers, so I knew I needed to read it.

scytheIT. WAS. SO. GOOD.

Here’s the set-up: it’s the distant future, and the internet “cloud” has accumulated all knowledge and become the nearly sentient Thunderhead. Because the Thunderhead now prevents things like disease, war, and even death, the only issue left is population control. There is a worldwide network of scythes who are given the power to glean life and to grant immunity. They are highly respected and rarely challenged. Citra and Rowen are two sixteen-year-olds chosen to become scythe apprentices. Then things get crazy.

I’m hooked. Just like the Unwind books, this series is so thought-provoking. I was especially captured by the question If men become immortal, what will inspire them to create? There is a scene where Citra and Rowen are taken to museum. These days, art has all been perfected via the Thunderhead, but they find that they actually like the “Mortal Age” art better … it is imperfect, but there is passion to it that is rare in their time. I have maybe 70 or 80 years on earth. In what ways does that drive my art?

That’s just one of the questions raised by this incredible book. It’s full of twists and the stakes are high. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

2017 Creative Goals

goals17titleFor this upcoming year, I’m keeping things (relatively) simple:

  1. Finish Salt Novel.
  2. Find the soul of Yes Novel.
  3. Read a book a week.
  4. Blog once a week.
  5. Learn something new every day.

We’ll see how this goes. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep up with #3 and #4, but I won’t beat myself up if I can’t do it. It’s a standard to shoot for, that’s all.

quick-and-curiousSalt Novel is well underway. Yes Novel has a first draft. I have a mountain of books I want to read. The blog needs some TLC. And I bought this super-cute, extremely relevant journal to keep track of my daily curiosities.

I have a lot of other goals for 2017, but I’ve decided (for now) just to share my creative ones. I will be writing soon about my one word I want to focus on this year.

Five little (ha!) goals. Salt. Yes. Read. Blog. Learn.

How about you? Do you set goals, creative or otherwise, for the new year? I wanna hear!

goals17

 

 

 

 

A Handful of Book Reviews

I’ve been traveling for work, and that means plenty of time for audiobooks, hooray! Here’s what I’ve recently read:


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | This is the sequel to Six of Crows, which I thoroughly adored. It was great to be back with Kaz, Inej, and the gang as they sought revenge and justice after the events of the first book. The characters are just so layered and complicated, something I admire and appreciate. This novel was a little harder for me to get into than its predecessor, probably because the heist didn’t seem apparent to me at first. Another difficult thing was having so many narrators to the audiobook. There were at least six, and while I LOVED some of them, there was one I couldn’t stand. And they all pronounced things differently, which, in a fantasy novel with unique names of people and locations, was especially confusing. All told, I did love it though and think Bardugo is brilliant. I am plot’s antihero, and I so admire writers who master it


Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | I absolutely adored Arnold’s debut novel Mosquitoland. I’d honestly never encountered a character voice as unique as Mim’s. Then I was on a panel with the author and he is just a lovely, hilarious, amazing person, which permanently made me a fan. Kids of Appetite was great, somehow both tremendously ambitious but also simple and straightforward. How Arnold managed the paradox, I’m not quite sure, but he did it well. This is the story of a boy named Vic who falls into step with a group of misfits and together they set out to accomplish Vic’s late father’s final wishes. There is mystery, romance, and GREAT imagery. The novel covers just one week, but it’s not unrealistic to see just how much Vic’s life changes in that short time. Very well done


Tell the Truth Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta | My favorite author, all time, hands down, as regular blog readers know. This is her first book in four years, so I was pretty much salivating for it. Although Marchetta most often writes YA, this novel was an adult crime novel. Let’s be honest: adult crime novels are not really in my wheelhouse. But Marchetta is, so there was no doubt I’d read it. It. Was. Masterful. Of course it was, she is the queen! At its core, this was still a novel about family, her trademark. And it was perfectly executed and I love the characters and it made my head spin and inspired me and intimidated me. And OH how relevant it is for right now. The story is about a British inspector named Bish (Bashir), whose teen daughter was on a bus when it was bombed in France. His daughter is shaken but unhurt, and all fingers immediately point to a girl on the bus whose grandfather was accused of terrorism. Bish gets pulled into that family’s life as he attempts to figure out who was really behind the bombing. The characters, you guys. I’m so in love. I would honestly read this woman’s grocery lists.

Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real—or if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it’s a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I’m not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.

 

 

Reading Slump

I’ve been in a reading slump for a week or two now.

Part of it is because I’ve resurrected my old novel and am pounding the pavement to pull together a working first draft to show my editor. Part of it is because I read a few really heavy books in a row, and I think I needed a little time to digest and recover.

love that literature sometimes requires recovery. Gosh, what power.

I pre-ordered a slew of books I’m especially excited about for this year, though the new Marchetta isn’t available for pre-order yet. Also, I’m literally having dreams about The Raven King. Woof.

I read some pretty outstanding work in 2015, including the 2015 Printz winner, Bone Gap. I maybe needed a little time to step back in appreciation.

This week I’m going to be busting my butt on my Ardor Novel manuscript, and I’m not sure I have the capacity to start reading something new, though I might re-listen to the audio of The Piper’s Son, which has been on my mind lately since it’s what inspired Ardor Novel.

How about you? Reading anything fantastic that I should have on my radar?

Review: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

bone gapThere’s been a lot of buzz about Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, and so I finally purchased the book and read it. It was great.

Bone Gap is the name of the small town where the O’Sullivan boys live on their own, their father dead and their mother having run off. Sean is the big, strong, brilliant one, and Finn is the “spacey” but beautiful one. Roza is the lovely Polish girl who appeared out of nowhere and disappeared from their lives just as fast. The story is mostly told from Finn’s and Roza’s perspectives.

What’s missing from that description is Petey. Priscilla “Petey” is the beekeeper girl that Finn falls for, and she’s my absolute favorite part of this novel, maybe for reasons I can’t quite explain. I’ll try anyway.

Petey is unusual. She’s not traditionally beautiful. She’s brave and feisty and strong and weak. I love her for all those reasons, and so does Finn, and it’s adorable.

Roza is incredible. Total badass Polish heroine.

Sean is strong and broken. I loved him. He frustrated me too.

Finn is lovely, precious, amazing, boyish in the best way. I want to put him in my pocket.

Bone Gap is classified as magical realism. It may or may not surprise you that I loved the realism and could have done without the magical element, though it seems that it works for most readers.

Read this. You will love it.

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

wrath and dawnThis book.

This book.

THIS. BOOK.

This is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. I require you all read it.

What’s it about? Here’s the official description:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and break the cycle once and for all.

As you may have perceived, it’s a re-telling of “1001 Nights.”

I’m still having a book hangover from this story, and I finished it days ago. The characters are what did it for me. Shazi is bright, sharp as a tack, incredible. I loved her to pieces. Sometimes she acts thoroughly like the 16-year-old she is– and sometimes so very, very much older (she is, after all, a wife, which we don’t see that often in YA). Khalid is … breathtaking. A tortured soul, a young man full of respect for his wife and with the weight of the kingdom on his shoulders. He has skyrocketed to being one of my absolute favorite book boyfriends.

I’ll leave you with this gem.

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.

“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.

“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Final Round!

My friends, we’ve come to the championship round as we discover the Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend! This week, I honestly don’t know whom to vote for. Jonah Griggs, that perfect tank who sneaks in your window and orders toast with marmalade for you on the hardest morning of your life? Or Sean Kendrick, who will tuck your ponytail into your collar, that young king of Skarmouth who brings bread for dinner? I can’t decide.

ultimate ya book boyfriend championship

Jonah Griggs vs. Sean Kendrick

“When I turn around, he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don’t know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don’t know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it already.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“Sean takes my ponytail in his hand, his fingers touching my neck, and then he tucks my hair into my collar out of the reach of the wind. He avoids my gaze. Then he links his arm back around me and pushes his calf into Corr’s side.”
Sean Kendrick of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater