12 and up



                               

I’d be willing to wager that most of you are familiar with David Baldacci’s work as a best-selling fiction author. Even if you haven’t read one of his legal thrillers, it’s likely that someone in your family has, or you’ve at least seen his books featured in airport bookstores, grocery stores or on the bestseller list. I was thrilled to be able to participate in a group conference call interview with him last week.

the finisherThis year he published two books The Finisher for older middle grade readers and young adults, and The Escape, a John Puller novel. I was curious about the switch, not only in genre but in the target age group.

Baldacci spoke passionately about this new direction:

I’ve always felt that a writer, if you don’t stretch, you sort of wither on the vine. So, for me, it was a challenge to get out of my comfort zone and write in a genre and in a way that I’d never written about before. It was just a new direction for me. But, unlike most other occupations where you get really good at something because you do it over and over again and work all the errors out of it, as a writer, you get better when you do something different. I get to use my imagination.

I’m prolific because I’m just a kid. I’m a seven-year-old boy looking at a blank piece of paper, exercising my imagination. And that’s really what I do. And I call it a job, but it’s really not.

The Finisher is hard fantasy, not just some sort of magical or fantastical or futuristic elements within the context of an otherwise realistic world. There are new words, jargon, history. So we asked how that process was for him:

It took me five years to do this book, and four and a half years was sort of banging my head against the wall and trying to get the story and the characters and everything right so I could really sit down and write this book the way I wanted to write it.

I wrote the name down, Vega Jane, and I knew she was going to be the lead character, but I didn’t know what she was going to be doing. And it took me over four years to finally figure out the world that I wanted to place her in, what her role would be in that, and what the total story, plot, and narrative would be and what the other characters around her would be like. I knew that I wanted to create an entirely new world. I didn’t want to just place an individual in the world as we know it now. So, when you build a world like that, it takes a lot of time and effort and thinking. And I had to put a lot of research into that, because in The Finisher a lot of the terms and references come from mythology, classical works of fantasy, religion. I wanted to build this world in a smart way. I didn’t want to start naming stuff for the habit of naming something.

In putting the whole world together, I tried to do it as meticulously and carefully as I could. And what I did was, I didn’t create a huge world and address is superficially. I built a very small world, a village and a Quag around it, and that was it with a limited number of characters. But, I gave great depth to everything that I wrote about.

David Baldacci knows that he is a writer, because when he was a kid, he was a reader — a “library rat,” as he called himself. He loved reading fantasy, when he was growing up and then later with his kids as they grew up. Please click over to my companion piece at 5 Minutes for Mom and read about the books David Baldacci enjoyed reading as a child and books he read with his children.

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Guys Read: True Stories

Spiders, shipwreck, elephants, dental care, singing the blues: you’ll be wiser about all of these topics when you read Guys Read: True Stories, the newest collection edited by Jon Scieszka. This is a collection of nonfiction works, which my 5th grade son happily devoured. As a part of his curriculum, they have explore different kinds of reading which includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. This was the first book I suggested, and the short small bites of informative writing whetted his appetite for me. He’s been surprised to find that he enjoys biographies “as long as the writing is good.” The collection has “good writing” from Scieszka, Nathan Hale, Candace Fleming, Nathan Hale, Thanhha Lai, Sy Montgomery and more. And just like the writers aren’t all
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Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata #Giveaway

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata is a heart-warming and honest story. Twelve-year-old Jaden was adopted from Romania four years ago from the orphanage where he grew up, when he was abandoned by his mother. Although his parents are loving and kind, Jaden doesn’t feel love, either from them or for them. Of course the truth is that he doesn’t know what love is, but hearing it through his own thoughts brings a new perspective. That’s one of the things I love about reading middle grade and young adult fiction. Skillful authors like Kahohata do such a wonderful job of capturing those thoughts and emotions of that particular moment in time, leaving behind the filter of adult experience. When Jaden’s parents go to Kazakhstan
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David Baldacci Books for Everyone in the Family #Giveaway

David Baldacci is a familiar name to many adult fans of the legal thriller genre, but did you know that he has also written for tweens and teens? On 5 Minutes for Mom, we’re featuring two Baldacci novels as part of the ongoing Christmas Giveaway Event. While The Escape is his latest for adult readers, older tweens and teenagers are the target audience for The Finisher, released earlier this year. To read my full review and enter to win copies of both books, along with a $25 Visa card, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom. While you’re there, be sure to browse all the Christmas Giveaways going on this month.
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Books for Little Women (Tweens and Teens) #Giveaway

I’ve written so much about this series, the Mother-Daughter Bookclub by Heather Vogel Frederick, that I don’t even know what to say anymore. That’s not really true. I get more and more excited, to be honest. Check out the related posts list below to find out more about mine and my daughter’s love for this series. I am beyond thrilled to be able to give away the complete set (well–as of now, since she’s announced that she’s writing another one, even though she thought it was over!), as well as a beautiful picture book, Little Women Christmas, AND her brand new novel (which looks wonderful and I hope to review within the next few weeks). Read my review of A Little Women Christmas over at
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Revisit Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer with Penguin Classics

When was the last time you read Mark Twain’s classics Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? I’m fairly certain I read Huck Finn’s story way back in high school, but I don’t think it really struck a chord with me until a few years later. I attended Elmira College, a small school in western New York located in the town in which Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) resided for many summers with his wife’s family who hailed from Elmira. Every day, I would walk past an octagonal study relocated to campus from the land on which the family lived, and it was thrilling to know that Clemens wrote some of his best work inside that little building, including these two novels. Each of the new Penguin Classics editions feature an introduction
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5 Books to Read with Your Teenage Daughter {Friday’s Five}

I’ve read some passionately written posts in which the blogger gets very upset about the fact that grown women are devouring Young Adult literature. Oh my. And many of them are mothers, no less. It’s scandalous! My teenage daughter would describe those kinds of people as ‘judgy’. We don’t like when people are judgy. We like to read what we want, and we like to share stories with each other. If she doesn’t think it’s weird to read the same novels as her already weird novelist mother, then why would I complain? I write my novels for the future adult in her, so the least I can do is read the ones she already loves right now. Here are five of our favorites: Walk Two
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The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys

At first I thought The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys was a little too cutesy and contrived, but that feeling didn’t last long. I was immediately taken back to 8th grade (or even better, the fun fictitious version of 8th grade), as I got lost in the story of Maya and Finley. Things are changing, like the fact that they aren’t super-close with all the girls they grew up with. Another thing has really changed, and is constantly changing, and that is the boys. Maya and Finley started classifying the boys in Finley’s science notebook, aka The Amphibian Life Cycle. The tadpoles are those boys who still burp and fart and act like 6th graders. Croakers have voices that croak, showing some sort of
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The Swap

Ellie is a 7th grade girl. Her “best friend” won’t stop badmouthing her. She’s not sure how she’s going to get through this year. When she overhears Sassy’s hurtful words when they’re changing for gym, she runs out and ends up in the nurse’s office. Jack is an 8th grade boy, also known as The Prince. He’s polite, super cute, and a good athlete. But that day, he can’t take a kid’s mouthing off, and he hits him. Before going to the principal, he ends up in the nurse’s office. Somehow before they get up to leave, they’ve swapped bodies! Maybe that new nurse has something to do with it. They’ve just got to get through the weekend, then they’ll make her switch them back.
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Just Call My Name

I read I’ll Be There to get up to speed on the characters whose story continues in Holly Goldberg Sloan’s new book Just Call My Name. The first book was fine. The characters certainly intrigued me, but I wasn’t 100% wowed. Wanting to follow the characters, and especially knowing there was another book hat was going to continue the story kept me reading. This book had a stronger pacing than the first one. Maybe it’s just because the scene was set, and I already knew the characters and the situation. The characters each had a lot of growth during this novel, and new characters were introduced as well. The background from the first novel that led into the story is this: Seventeen-year-old Emily is singing
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Deep Blue

I frequently enjoy YA books, as they may be meant for teenagers but still appeal to the kid in me, too. Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly felt more like a book that needs a teenage girl to truly appreciate it. This first book in the Waterfire series is set under the ocean and features the world of mermaids. Serafina is the princess of Miromara, and she is getting ready to celebrate her Dokimi, which is a series of tests that prove that she is ready to take on the mantle of ruler one day once her mother dies – as this is a matrilineal society and the men don’t rule. It is also when her betrothal to a prince from another kingdom will become official. In
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Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Choose Your Path Book #Giveaway

Recently I received Greek Mythology’s Twelve Labors of Hercules: A Choose Your Path Book (Can You Survive?), which I read and reviewed over on 5 Minutes for Mom. The publisher was kind enough to send the rest of the set, and while deciding between “Dracula,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” pretty much everyone in my family said I should read Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the next one to review. I’ve always been a fan of vampire stories, but have never read this classic novel, so it didn’t take much for me to agree. Like the other Choose Your Path books, “Dracula” starts out with you as the main character, beckoned by a classic book. You’re then suddenly in the story as the
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