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).


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:


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


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!

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I love the writing rhythm I’m in right now. It feels good to sit down nearly every night and hammer through something. It’s been quite varied: some nights I will sweep through two chapters and others I will spend all evening on just 250 words. It all feels good. I am just now running into the part of my story that I have the least experience with; I am trying to tap into raw emotions over situations I’ve never been in. It’s intimidating, to say the least. But I keep rotating between my desk and my prayer journal.

I just binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix and quite enjoyed it. (And I don’t even enjoy being scared … but I do love a good psychological thriller.)

Waiting for my copy of Melina Marchetta’s new book Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil to arrive. In the meantime, I re-read Saving Francesca and its companion novel The Piper’s Son. (P.S. Salt Novel, my current work-in-progress, was born out of The Piper’s Son + a “what if.”)

Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found on a farm in Paynesville, MN. His abduction hit way too close to home for those of us who grew up in central Minnesota, and this has been a question that people my age have had for most of our lives. I remember when he was abducted in 1989. I was seven years old, and St. Joseph, where he was taken, is only about 20 miles from where I lived. Paynesville, where he was found nearly 27 years later, is about the same distance. The man who led them to the body was living in Annandale, just 11 miles from my parents’ house. This case has changed both MN and national laws, and while it is a heartbreaking ending to this decades-long mystery, I hope it will somehow bring the family some closure.

I am sleeping much better (and with NO sleep aids)! The insomnia doctor I’ve been meeting with is the kindest, gentlest, sweetest man. I am so grateful for the way he has thoughtfully pursued answers to my long-standing issues with sleep.

Work has been insanely busy– due in part to the last-minute closing of another private school in Minnesota (we ended up with maybe 8 or so of their students transferring to UNW and registering late) and in part to the implementation of new software in my office. But I feel good. I feel like I’m doing some of my best recruiting I’ve done in years. I am overflowing with creative ideas. It’s like a dam burst.

I’m thinking ahead to next month– which includes OCD Awareness Week– and planning to meet with the OCD Twin Cities team to plan a special event for it. (Anyone have ideas?)

My parents’ dog had puppies! Five purebred German shepherds– four chubby dark-colored male pups and one little all-white girl pup. In all our batches of puppies over the years (to different dogs), we’ve never had a purebred white shepherd before!


Well, I’d better get back to the manuscript. It’s being fussy.


P.S. What’s going on in your worlds? I always love to hear from you, friends.



Melina Marchetta & the St. Sebastian’s Crew

Look, friends. I know that by now you think I’m a professional Marchetta evangelist, but I HAVE TO BE. She is the best YA writer out there (six reasons I love her!), and if you’re not reading ALL THE MARCHETTA, your reading life has an abysmal hole in it that you need to fill.

Today I want to just pause for a moment to relish in the masterpieces that are Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son. Every time I re-read one or the other, I come away thinking, Yes. This. This is what a perfect book looks like. No one does characters as well as Marchetta.


In Saving Francesca, we first meet the crew. It’s the first year that St. Sebastian’s, a traditionally all-boys school, has admitted girls, and it’s not going well. Francesca is miserable … but as she goes through the year, her life is changed by the people she encounters at St. Sebastian’s: Justine, Tara, Siobhan, Thomas, Jimmy, and Will. Will. *heart eyes*

Then in The Piper’s Son, we catch up with the group five years down the road, only this time the story centers around Thomas and it’s his life that’s in shreds. This book. These characters. They mean so much to me that I don’t even have words.

If you need a good book recommendation, I will always, always start with Melina Marchetta. And these two books are an incredible introduction to the wonder that is our queen.

I have only two things more to say: 1) You’re welcome. 2) What are you waiting for?

Top Ten Bookish Wishes

1. My first wish of the bookish genie is actually a TFIOS spoiler (highlight if you wanna see): Augustus LIVES.

2. That The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh was out NOW.

Rose and Dagger

3. To meet Melina Marchetta.


4. I get to go to Hogwarts.


5. This as my writing cottage (more here).


6. To discover unpublished Narnia books.

narnia map

7. To write full-time.

8. To write books that matter and create characters people love.

9. To never lose the joy of fiction.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand …

10. To find the perfect mash-up of Silas Hart, Asa Bertrand, Sean Kendrick, Will Trombal, Jonah Griggs, Augustus Waters, and Khalid Ibn Al-Rashid and have him love me.


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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

Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Round Three

ultimate ya book boyfriend round III

Jonah Griggs vs. Tom Mackee

“He stops and looks at me. ‘I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“She’s tired and leans her head on his shoulder, which is the resting place for all their heads, but when Justine and Siobhan and Francesca use his body so shamelessly he doesn’t feel the need to turn his head and press his mouth against their hair.”
Tom Mackee from The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Gilbert Blythe vs. Sean Kendrick

“You do love me, Gilbert? You haven’t said you loved me in so long.”
“My dear, I didn’t think you needed words to know that. I can’t live without you.”
Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Montgomery

“Sean reaches between us and slides a thin bracelet of red ribbons over my free hand. Lifting my arm, he presses his lips against the inside of my wrist. I’m utterly still; I feel my pulse tap several times against his lips, and then he releases my hand.
‘For luck,’ he says. He takes Dove’s lead from me.
‘Sean,’ I say, and he turns. I take his chin and kiss his lips, hard. I’m reminded, all of a sudden, of that first day on the beach, when I pulled his head from the water.
‘For luck,’ I say to his startled face.”
Sean Kenrick in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Best Sequels Ever


10. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare | Wound up tight for the final book in this series!

9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi | Oh Perry.

8. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness | Reviewed this series here!

7. Anne of the Island by Lucy Montgomery | Oh Gilbert.

6. Fire by Kristin Cashore | Oh Brigan.


5. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli | Such a difficult book for which to create a satisfying conclusions– but Spinelli pulls it off!

4. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta | After reading Finnikin of the Rock, you just can’t possibly imagine that you could grow to love Froi.  And then you read this book.

3. Prisoner of Azkaban by Jo Rowling | I love books like puzzles!  This is where the Potter books really started getting great.

2. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta | It is just unbelievably satisfying to see how the Saving Francesca gang has grown and changed!

1. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis | The best of the best!

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

jellicoeI just recently re-read Jellicoe Road for the trillionth time, and you need to read it too.  For the last couple of years, this has taken the spot of my #1 most suggested book.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jellicoe Road is a hard book to summarize, but let me give it my best shot:

There’s a territory war happening between the boarders (at the Jellicoe boarding school), the townies (from Jellicoe/Jellicoe High School), and the cadets (the military academy students who are camping on the boarding school property for the next six weeks).  While the three “factions” negotiate, Taylor Markham– the leader of the boarders– is trying to work out where Hannah, the woman in charge of her boarding school house, has disappeared to, using Hannah’s disorganized manuscript for clues.  The manuscript tells the story of five teens– three boarders, a townie, and a cadet– and Taylor is starting to wonder just how much of the manuscript is fiction.

There.  I know, I know: my description probably doesn’t make you want to run out and read it, so you’re just going to have to trust me.  Let me lay out my reasons why you should read this book:

1) The characters.

Taylor, the vulnerable leader of a boarding school community; Jonah, the cadet with whom she has strange history; Chaz, the townie enemy with a soul; and Raffaela, who sustains them all with her strong beliefs.  Not to mention Ben, the violinist; the Mullet Brothers; Anson Choi; Jessa and Chloe P.; and Richard, who wants to stage a coup.  (And beyond that … the five fascinating teens in Hannah’s unfinished manuscript!)

2) The dialogue.

Melina Marchetta is a master of teenage dialogue.  It’s so funny and spot-on and meaningful and good.

jellicoe23) The masterful writing.

A couple, non-spoilery quotes for you:

‘Guess what?’ Fitz said.
‘I don’t know,’ Jude said. ‘What? Narnie smiled?’ He glanced at her for the first time.
‘When you guys see a Narnie smile, it’s like a revalation,’ Webb said, gathering her towards him.
Jude stopped in front of her and, with both hands cupping her face, tried to make a smile. Narnie flinched.
‘Leave her alone,’ Tate said.
‘I need a revelation,’ Jude said. ‘And you’re the only one that can give me one, Narns.’ 

What kind of freak is this kid who’s giggling hysterically with the girls in the neighbouring beds, each with a crush on the other for being the same age when the rest of the world seems so old?

For reasons he couldn’t understand a sadness came over him and it was then he saw the girl standing on the other side of the dirt road, her eyes pools of absolute sorrow, her light brown hair glowing in the splinters of sunlight that forced their way through the trees.

jellicoe34) The mystery & the way it all fits together like a puzzle.

This book is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, so at first you won’t understand just how everything fits together.  But it does.  Oh, how it does.  In fact, after you read it once, you might do what my sister did, and immediately re-read it to catch everything you missed the first time.

5) Did I mention it’s funny too?  

There are parts that will make you want to laugh aloud!

So, all in all, Jellicoe Road is deep, funny, sad, poignant, fascinating, original, and well-written.

What are you waiting for?

Bookish Superlatives!

Jamie at the Perpetual Page-Turner is at it again!  I love her fun bookish surveys.  You should do one too.



Most Likely To Change The World

Aslan from Narnia
(Is that cheating? :-))

Cutest Couple

Will Trombal and Francesca Spinelli from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

“Come here,” she says.
“No, you come here.”
“I said it first.”
“Rock paper scissors.”
“No. Because you’ll do nerdy calculations and work out what I chose the last six times and then you’ll win.”
Will pushes away from the table and his hand snakes out and he pulls her toward him and Tom figures that Will was always going to go to her first.

However, Eleanor and Park sure applied the pressure.

Class Clown

Jace from The Mortal Instruments series

Most Likely To Become Famous For Their Athletic/Musical/Artistic Abilities

Athlete: Rudy Steiner from The Book Thief
(Go, Jesse Owens!)

Musician: Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere
(“This is what happens when Joe Fontaine has his debut trumpet solo in band practice: I’m the first to go, swooning into Rachel, who topples into Cassidy Rosenthal, who tumbles into Zachary Quittner, who collapse into Sarah, who reels into Luke…”)

All Around Good Person

Webb from Jellicoe Road

Biggest Flirt

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Most Likely To Be Fought Over

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Mostly Likely To Be Friends Forever

Chaz and Raffy from Jellicoe Road
Frankie and Justine from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

Most Likely To Have Their Own Reality Show

Conner and Risa from Unwind.  It would be called “Inside the Graveyard.”

Most Unique

Stargirl Carraway from Stargirl and Love, Stargirl

Most Likely To Survive An Apocalypse

Katsa and Po from Graceling

Most Likely To Be A Villain

Tom Riddle from Harry Potter
(or Dolores Umbridge!)

Biggest Wallflower

Conrad from Ordinary People

Most Likely To Break Your Heart

Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars

Most Changed

Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles

Most Likely To Get Arrested

Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road

Self Proclaimed God/Goddess

Jace from the Mortal Instruments series

Best Person To Bring Home To Mom & Dad

Will Trombal from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son


Most Likely To Make You Cry

Duh.  The Fault in Our Stars.

Dares To Be Different (in world, plot, storytelling, etc.)

Everyday by David Levithan (fascinating, gender-bending premise!)

Best Dressed (pretty cover!)


Most Likely To Make You Swoon

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Loveliest Prose

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
tied with
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
tied with
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
tied with
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Most Likely To Be A Favorite Of 2013

(Very much anticipating the following:)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Most Likely To Change The World (or change your life)

The Fault in Our Stars really *did* change my life because it showed me that I wanted to write YA fiction!

Book You Are Most Likely To Keep Putting Off


Most Likely To End Up As Christmas Gifts For Everyone You Know

Jellicoe Road for everyone!

Most Likely To Be Thrown


Most Likely To Be Reread More Than Once
(I’m an avid re-reader!) (No, really.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Most Likely To Make You Read Through An Earthquake Because It’s THAT Engrossing

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Most Likely To Be Passed On To Your Children


Most Likely To Break Your Heart Into A Million Pieces

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Most Likely To Brighten Up Your Day

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
(There has to be a reason I’ve read it six times in the last six weeks, right?)