Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This” YA Books

It seems lately whenever I bring up one of my favorite books/series, people respond with a blank stare, a careless shrug, or, worst of all, an “I’ve never heard of it” type of comment. AHHH! So, I decided it’s time for me to give you the heads up on some books you MUST read if you haven’t.

Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This?” YA Books

1. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112On average, I read a book a week. AKA, I read a lot. However, no matter how many pages I turn, or how many stories I finish, Daughter of Smoke & Bone remains one of my favorites of all time. And it’s troubling how few people are even aware of it. No offense to Hunger Games  or Twilight, or even Divergent, but I wish the mass population would revere this story. Simply put, it’s awesome. Daughter of Smoke & Bone has everything a reader craves: intrigue, romance, humor, and, of course, adventure.

So go read it! And be sure to spread the word how awesome it is.

Check out my full review here!

2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

11235712Sighhhhh…Just…God, just go read this series, okay? I can’t even begin…I can’t even tell you…AHHH! Just read it. Goooo.

Check out my full review here!

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

136251Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who haven’t read Harry Potter. *cue gasps* Every time I encounter one of these rare beings, they usually tell me, “Well, I tried watching the movies, but I just wasn’t into them.”

…That’s all I have to say about that.

*clears throat*

READ HARRY POTTER!

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

19063-1When people ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” I first glare at them, and then I tell them I don’t have a favorite (what book nerd does?). Then, when they still won’t leave me alone, I spout off a handful of memorable titles. The Book Thief is always on the list. Always. And it should be on yours!  I promise, it’s a tale you’ll never forget.

Check out my full review here!

5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

6050678Barking spiders! You haven’t read the Leviathan series? Are you mad? What’s not to like? A round-the-world adventure? A would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne? A commoner girl disguised as a boy? Daring deeds? Fun? AMAZINGNESS!

Hey, all you sods, I can fly and you can’t! A natural airman, in case you haven’t noticed. And in conclusion, I’d like to add that I’m a girl and you can all get stuffed!

…Hmmm, I think even I need to go read this–again. So much fun!

Check out more about Leviathan here!

6. Legend by Marie Lu

9275658Amongst all the dystopian books out there, Legend is my favorite. Think Les Miserables set in the future with a deadly virus, two badass protagonists, and lots of rip-roaring action.

In a nutshell, Legend is…

Read more about Legend here!

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128Have you ever read a book as slow as possible? Because you’re dreading the end? Because you know when you turn that last page, the story will be over and you’ll be sad for days and days? Well, that’s how I felt while reading The 5th Wave. Although I’m not a huge fan of stories revolving around aliens, this one is both awesome and terrifying. It actually made me stop and think, “Oh crap. What if this actually happened?”

Dun, dun, dun…

I dare you to read it…Okay, forget the dare. I’m telling you to read it. Scoot, scoot.

Check out my full review here!

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Rainbow Rowell is officially one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing which of her novels to recommend. The truth is, I recommend all of them (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments). Rowell is a master at character development and writing stories that have meaning and relevance. Trust me, you won’t be the same after experiencing one–or all–of her books.

Check out my full review for Fangirl here!

9. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

7171637Adventure. Wit. Tears. Mystery. Romance…The Infernal Devices has it all! This prequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments is a MUST-READ! Especially if you’re looking for a new giddy book crush.

Oh, Will Herondale

“How rude. Many who have gazed upon me have compared it to gazing at the radiance of the sun.”

Jem still had his eyes closed. “If they mean that it gives you a headache, they aren’t wrong.”

Read more about The Infernal Devices here!

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

1217100I could easily list thirteen reasons why you should read this book, but I’ll only give you one: it’s life changing. So read it!

Check out my full review here!

Okay, I have about a hundred more books/series I could list, but I’ll end things here. Just take my word for it, these are books you MUST read! You won’t regret it.

What about you? What books make your “How Have You NOT Read This” YA book list?

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Confession: I love when books are made into movies

It’s true. I love it when a book gets adapted for the big screen. Gasp! Ugh! WHAT? Yeah, yeah. I know, I know! But, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Whenever I find out one of my favorite novels has made it to Hollywood, my heart does a giddy leap and my feet do a happy dance.

Oh, and, er, I like Katy Perry, too…

*throat clear*

Yeah…Apparently, this is gonna be “one of those” confessions (brutally honest and slightly shameful). You better prepare yourselves…

On Sunday night, I watched the Golden Globe Awards (wow, two seconds in and already another confession: I love Awards Season; love the glitz and glam, the Red Carpets, the golden trophies, all of it!). Anyways, as I watched Sunday’s show, I realized how many of the films nominated this year are based off books (12 Years a SlaveCaptain Phillips, Philomena, Labor Day). How cool is that? Well, it was cool enough to prompt me to write about this debatable topic.

The moment I hear one of my favorite books is going to be adapted to screen, I think, “Yes! At last, I get to see this awesome story brought to life!” Then I proceed to tell everyone in the world about it. Like, everyone. Example: When I discovered The Book Thief was going to be made into a movie, I almost peed my pants (almost!), and then I went on to blog and Tweet about it, and share the news on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest…

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I admit, I went a little crazy with the news. But, I couldn’t help it. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time…Of course, it’s not the only book I’ve ever shouted, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” for. I’ve done this with countless novels, including The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesBeautiful Creatures, Catching Fire, Divergent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, The Help, If I Stay, The Maze Runner…Sheesh, there have been/will be a lot of quality books put on the big screen. And, yes, I plan on seeing them all (if I haven’t seen them already).

Unfortunately, not all book-to-film projects succeed. Far, far from it (don’t even get me started on Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief or Eragon). That’s why I always try and keep a level head when I enter a theater to watch these adapted films. As I sit down and dig into my popcorn and Peanut M&Ms, I give myself a firm mental slap and tell myself, “Jenna, this isn’t the book. It’s the movie version of the book. Things are going to be changed and slashed and rotated and implanted and screwed up! So don’t get your hopes up.” And, thanks to that personal pep talk, I’ve saved myself from innumerable broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking right: A bad movie means bad press for the book, which means the book will lose readers in the long run. On some level, I agree with you. If a movie bombs at the box office, there will surely be people–many people–who’ll never read its book. But, if you think about it, even if a movie does an amazing job, there’s a good chance people still won’t read its book. It’s sad, but there are (and probably always will be) more people in this world who’d rather watch a two-hour movie than read a 400-page book.

So sad. So disappointing…

Okay, let’s move away from the negative and look at these positive facts:

First, movies raise awareness. How many people would even know about certain books if they didn’t have a movie made for them? We’re not all book nerds. Heck, I AM a book nerd and even I don’t always get the memo, not even for big blockbusters like Harry Potter (yeah, go ahead and mark that down as shameful confession #500 in this post). Movies help draw attention to good (and not so good) books and promote them to the non-reading masses. And, more and more often, they seem to spark an interest in books, especially in younger audiences.

Second, movies can make books more likeable. I can’t tell you how many I’ve read that I just didn’t like and/or didn’t get.

Then I saw their movie version and was like, “Ohhh. Got it!”, followed by, “Ohhh, I like it!” Sometimes, you just need to “see” a plot unfold, or “watch” a character develop, or “hear” a story told. And thanks to movie magic, those things can happen and book epiphanies can take place. Stories that didn’t translate so well on paper can be appreciated on screen (same story, different format).

Look, there are plenty of reasons to love or hate Hollywood for adapting our favorite books. Perhaps you think movie versions discourage people from reading? Perhaps you think a book should be left in its purest, most natural form; it’s a piece of art that shouldn’t be tainted with brutal editing and iffy casting? Perhaps you just don’t like movies?

Or perhaps you’re like me and you think movies honor books? Perhaps you think they take the characters you loved so much on a black and white page and give them life–moving, breathing, colorful life? Perhaps you think movies are a celebration–a giant congratulatory pat on the back to the author who wrote a great book–a double thumbs up for a job well done?

Okay, go for it: tell me what you think. Are you pro-adaptations? Or do you think it’s a crime against nature when Hollywood gets their hands on your favorite book?

Don’t forget to “Like” Jen’s Pen Den on Facebook!

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Writing update with a side of Friday funny

Happy Friday! Hope you had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend. I know I am. My plans are pretty simple: Go see Catching Fire and then write, write, write! I plan on hitting the 50,000 NaNo word count later today or early tomorrow (YAY!), but I still have half a book to go, so my journey isn’t over yet.

Plus, as the month of December approaches, I have a couple of other projects I need to temporarily shift my focus to. One is a short story for an open call submission for an anthology about ghosts. This will be a challenge since I’ve never written a ghost story, but what the hey, right? A bigger challenge will be my second project: Writing/creating two children’s books for my nephews. Each Christmas, I write them a story based on their life and then manipulate real photos of them in Photoshop to use as illustrations (here is the one I created for my nephew Dane last year). Writing children’s stories doesn’t come naturally for me, and with all the Photoshopping and book designing involved, they take me FOREVER. But, they’re worth it when I see the reaction from my family on Christmas morning. And, more importantly, the reaction I hope to see from my nephews someday when they’re older and can look back at the colorful series about their lives.

So, as you can see, even though NaNo is over for me, my weekends will continue to be mini writing marathons. But, I can’t complain. How can I? I LOVE writing!

Anyways, to send you off for your weekend, I thought I’d share one of my favorite How I Met Your Mother moments. It made me laugh this morning, so I thought it might make you laugh too.

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Have a great weekend!

What is the best YA novel of all time? Round one

Go vote!

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Synopsis

“From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park.
A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?”

Jen’s Review

I loved Fangirl. It was better than great. It was fantastic and poignant. Endearing and smart. Touching and sweet. Fangirl tells a tale that most of us can relate to on some level (er, some of us more than others). Dealing with insecurities. Facing fears. Coping with disappointment. Escaping reality. Being used. Being abandoned. Being accepted. Being loved…Few books have touched my heart–my soul–the way Fangirl did. As I read it, I could feel Cath’s misery, her anxiety, her uncertainty. She was more than just a character on a piece of paper. She was a friend. She was a sister. She was me, back when I was an awkward freshman that felt lost and terrified of leaving my comfortable present for an unknown (and uncomfortable) future.

“It’s okay if you’re crazy,” he said softly.
“You don’t even know-“
“I don’t have to know,” he said. “I’m rooting for you.”

Of course I loved the entire Simon Snow aspect of the book, too. Not only did it add dimension to Cath’s story and make it even more endearing, but the excerpts themselves were genuinely entertaining. In fact, during the longer Simon and Baz snippets, I’d forget I was even reading Fangirl. I’d get so lost in Simon Snow’s Harry Potter-esque world, that it would take me a moment to re-acclimate to Cath’s less than fantastical reality (and I’m saying that in the most positive, I-love-this-book kind of way).

If you’re looking for a story that’s a perfect combination of funny and serious, and has a dash of fantasy to it, this is it!

“Don’t make me angry-kiss you.”
“Give me the laundry.”
“Tempers rising, faces flushed…This is how it happens.”

Jen’s Rating

5 Star

To read more about Fangirl, click here!

Hermione Wins

Good job everyone for voting for Hermione! My brother and sister-in-law are having a baby girl! Her name will be Rees (not Hermione ;-)).

As you can see, my entire family was shocked. We’d all truly expected to see blue cookies, not PINK. But pink is good–great–exciting! And we couldn’t feel more blessed.

IMG_9410IMG_9411

Guess it’s time for teddy bear tea parties, Barbie dolls and dress up…Unless Rees ends up loving trains and planes like my nephews. But, whatever. I don’t care. I’ll love her no matter what!

Last call for votes–Harry or Hermione

Tonight’s the big night! In just a few hours, I’ll find out if I’m going to have a niece or nephew come February. So, if you haven’t told me yet which gender you think I should vote for at the reveal party, do so now (or forever hold your peace and whatnot).

It’s been a bit of a landslide so far, but it isn’t too late. Which should I vote for?

Harry or Hermione? (Boy or girl)?

harry_potter_grows_01Question_mark_(black_on_white)Hermione-Granger-hermione-granger-20053436-936-1197