Monday, September 30, 2013

Banned Books Giveaway Winner!

Thank you SO MUCH to all who entered and tweeted about my giveaway and subscribed or followed me and shared your favorite banned books! You. Are. AWESOME. And I wish I could pick all of you to win.

But since I can't, *sigh* I let the random number generator pick the winner...
Winner of the $15 Amazon Gift Card

(lbandj on Twitter)

Congratulations! Please email me at alisonmiller20 (at) gmail (dot) com so I can get your prize to you!

Thanks again, everyone! Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Up Wednesday (19): Book Crush Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. J
What I'm Reading:
I spent the week with Raven Boys which was pretty much the best reading week I've had all year. J I reread THE RAVEN BOYS first. This girl does not reread books, but last year I kind of sort of DEVOURED THE RAVEN BOYS and I really wanted to go back and SAVOR the story this round. And did I. It was as much if not more phenomenal on second read.  
And while the story's beyond amazing, the Raven Boys? Hoo boy. After the initial read last year, I could most definitely conclude
I have an incredible crush on Gansey
I mean, how can you not? He's loyal, thoughtful. Compassionate. He wears aggressively green polos and "boat shoes." Then there's his passion for Glendower and his car. And oh, his CAR. (PS—there's a line in THE DREAM THIEVES that made my heart kick up ten notches—it's about his beloved Pig—you'll see). And when I reread THE RAVEN BOYS, I was still completely enamored with Gansey. But my reread also taught me
I have a bigger crush on Adam
And I don't know that it's because I have a Gansey need to take care of him. Or because I feel bad for all the crap he goes through. I just think it's HIM.
THE DREAM THIEVES confirmed my crush. I'm not going to lie—it hurt me to realize this. I ranked Gansey up there with Heath Luck and Peeta, but when my heart fluttered and fractured in moments they probably shouldn't have, I knew by the end of THE DREAM THIEVES that

I have an indelible crush on Adam
And I won't say anything else for fear of spoiling the series for you. But if you have read the books, you'll know how my heart's faring right now. Gosh—and now I have to wait A WHOLE NOTHER YEAR for the next book. I don't think my heart can take the wait!
Also, you will notice I am not telling you much of anything about either one of these books (other than my silly little book crushes J) and that's because I don't want to spoil them for you if you haven't read them yet. But I will say just a few things…

1) I LOVE how much a presence Ronan has in THE DREAM THIEVES. I love this boy. LOVE him. And while I have major book crushes on Adam and Gansey, there are some things teen Alison would like to do to this boy that I will not say here. Also, Noah. NOAH. There was a moment in the story where I legit clapped for this guy.
Clearly, I love all the Raven Boys. Even Kavinski sent my heartbeat askew.
2) I can't mention THE DREAM THIEVES without mentioning The Gray Man. And the Greywaren (what an AWESOME concept). And the puzzle box. And the incredible psychics (even Orla. And how I love Calla!) and non-psychic at 300 Fox Way. And how all their stories tie together. And Cabeswater.
Notice, I'm just mentioning these things. You'll have to read the book to see why I love them all SO MUCH.
3) A little while back I read this amazing story called SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. I rated it 20 out of 5 stars and deemed it my best read of the year. I pretty much knew THE DREAM THIEVES would usurp that title, but OHMYGOSH how much! Guys, this story is just . . .  just read it. I just can't even describe it's incredibleness without spoiling it for you. (I know that sounds incredibly lazy, but it's true)
And that wraps up my book review gush.
How about YOU? What are you reading this week?
What I'm Writing:

Um . . . my grocery list? 

Since I finished draft one of the blob last week, I'm on a self-mandated break from it until next Tuesday. I guess I could be writing other things—short stories, flash fiction. But instead I pulled out my baby. That first project (well, in my case second. The first was a fanfiction and that's all I'll say about that J) that is full of not so great writing yet has characters and a story that will forever take up an enormous space in my heart. I'm sure you have one too. Anyway, after having it tug at my thoughts for too long this summer, I decided to take a look-see. It's been a good couple years since I looked at it. Here's what I discovered

1) The writing's not that horrible 

2) The story's kind of awesome. And I'm falling in love with my characters all over again. 

3) It still makes me laugh. It still makes me swoon. It still makes my heart sing. 

4) I think I might  

I'm revising it.

I don't know when (I'm definitely working on the most recent project first) and I don't know how long it will take me (there are some serious issues I need to address and a possible POV  and tense change in its future), but I just can't let this one go.

What are you writing this week?! 

What Inspires Me Right Now:
Maggie Stiefvater. She crafts amazing stories and develops incredibly layered characters that I can't help but fall in love with and root for and her writing is so incredibly  exquisite and beautiful yet so haunting and so incredibly full of voice. I aspire for even just an ounce of her talent.
Again, if you haven't read THE RAVEN BOYS, I cannot cannot CANNOT emphasize enough WHAT YOU ARE MISSING.
What Else I've Been Up To:

One of my former students asked me to teach her a tap dance and well, I just told her that sounded too awesome and fun to pass up. And it IS fun! I'm choreographing her a dance to "I Can Do That" from A Chorus Line. We just started, but I'm already having so much fun creating and tapping and *sigh.* I really miss dancing.
Also, I'm celebrating Banned Books Week—with a giveaway (Amazon gift card toward your favorite banned book). Click here to participate!

Finally, I received this last weekend

My birthday book haul. J It's a little research; a LOT of pleasure. My next couple of weeks are going to be filled with some pretty amazing stories.
What's up on YOUR Wednesday?!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Banned Books Week (with Giveaway!)

It’s Banned Books Week! 

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. (American Librarian Association)

My take on Banned Books:

I have a fourteen-year old daughter who reads just as much if not more than I do. We share books, but there are certain YA books that she will definitely wait to read. Is it because I want them banned? NO. It’s because she’s not ready to handle some of the older YA content. But one day she will be. And I want her to have accessibility to these books. She’ll read them. I’ll encourage her to read them. And hopefully mother/daughter discourse will ensue.

There are so many valuable, wonderful, amazing books out there for teens—ones many should read. Just because of the slight explicit content in Thirteen Reasons Why should a library ban a book that I believe should be a required read for every freshman in high school? Just because teenagers who’ve only known each other for a week have sex, should Twenty Boy Summer be banned reading? Should candid discussions of sex be the reason Shut Out never makes it to a high school’s library shelf?

If you don’t like the content in a book, don’t read it. And parents, if you’re concerned as to what your kid’s reading, then read with them. And while you’re at it, make sure you monitor every movie and television show and YouTube video and Xbox game and Instagram pic . But don’t get a book banned from a library that could save another kid’s life. Like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Or Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

This week,
I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Mary at Bookhounds are hosting the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop. And, in honor of it, I’m giving away a $15 Amazon gift card for the banned book of your choice .

To win the gift card, all you have to do is comment on your favorite banned book (you can see listings here and here. Also, here.) Extra entries can be obtained as follows:

+1 follower of the blog

+1 follower on Twitter

+2 tweeting about the giveaway (@alisonmiller20)

And for the undying love of your favorite math geek, please tally your entries and mention that in the comments. Contest is open internationally and ends September 28 at 11:59 PM EST. The winner will be announced Monday September 30!

PS - there are so many particpants! Check out the list

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's Up Wednesday (18): The !!!!!!!!! Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. J
What I'm Reading:
This past week I read ON THE ISLAND by Tracey Garvis Graves. Here's the good reads blurb
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.

Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
Guys, this book was INCREDIBLE. It reminded me a lot of the movie Castaway (with Tom Hanks and Wilson), but different. And possibly . . . definitely better.
Currently I'm finishing up a reread of THE RAVEN BOYS so I can start reading this
A week of reading about Gansey. Pure bliss.
How about YOU? What are you reading this week?

What I'm Writing:
I posted this picture on Instagram the other night


Monday I was so close and I knew I was so close so I sat down and wrote 5000 words, banging out the end. It's ROUGH. And messy. And way too long. But the first draft of the blob is done. Now I just have to force myself to stay away from the WiP for a few weeks, giving my subconscious work-time until October 1. And then, I'm in REVISING mode. J 

What are you writing this week?! 

What Inspires Me Right Now:
Cool mornings. Rainy afternoons. Incredible stories with just as incredible writing. My kids. My husband. Me. My stories. My writer and non-writer friends who are incredibly supportive and encouraging.
Clearly, lots of things. J
What Else I've Been Up To:
This past weekend we had six soccer games. My son played in three; my daughter, two. My husband coached three (doing the math? ;) he coached 2 of my daughter's games). One might think I'd be sick of soccer, but nope! I love it! What made the soccer even better? My daughter scored! It was off a PK, but so what! First score for her in over four years. SO PROUD.
Also, I mowed the lawn last Friday for the first time in well over ten years. WHEW
Finally, this Sunday I'll be participating in this 
It will involve a giveaway on my part. Make sure to stop by!
What's up on YOUR Wednesday?! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What's Up Wednesday (17): The Picture Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. J

What I'm Reading:
This past week I finished these

Both issue books with characters I wanted to reach through the pages and HUG. LEONARD PEACOCK really got me. I mean, I just felt bad for EVERYONE. Anyway, after reading two books that made me cry and now these two books that made me sad, my heart's exhausted. I need something light. And fluffy. Any recommendations?
How about YOU? What are you reading this week?

What I'm Writing:
This week I wanted to work on my WiP's finale and write at least 5000 words. I worked on the finale. I wrote about 8000 words. I am a scene and a half away from the climax. Yes. The CLIMAX. Is it wrong that I'm kind of sad about that? I mean, I know I have a LOT of revising to do, but this story's been so fun to write and a part of me doesn't want it to end. But a bigger part of me wants to finish so I can start revising the heck out of it. Maybe this week. 

What are you writing this week?! 

What Inspires Me Right Now:
These awesome writer friends who just finished stories they worked so hard on this summer. SO PROUD, guys! And it's inspiring me to push through to THE END of mine.
What Else I've Been Up To:

A lot.

First, I'll try not to be too obnoxious, but MY EAGLES WON MONDAY NIGHT!!!!! Oh, and my favorite football hottie Brent Celek had an awesome touchdown.
*swoon* I love football.

Second, it was my birthday last Friday and I just wanted to thank everyone for all the sweet birthday wishes on Twitter and facebook. I really don't think too much about the birthday, but that was very nice and wonderful and thank you.  J Also, I got carded on my birthday. That made this 43 year old VERY HAPPY.
And for my birthday, I got tickets to see these guys

I took the fourteen year old to see them last night and THEY WERE AMAZING. Adam started the set with my favorite FAVORITE song, "One More Night," and it just got better from there. AWESOME concert!
Oh, and I have an Instagram now. Guys, I am not a picture taker, but the daughter insisted I get one since I now have an iPhone and well, I posted my virgin Instagram pic last night.


Finally, today I am remembering 9/11. I post about it every year so today I shall just link back to one of them (click HERE). It's my plan to not just remember and honor those who lost their lives on September 11, but how to honor them EVERY DAY.

What's up on YOUR Wednesday?!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What's Up Wednesday (16): The Musical Edition

Before I get into my What's Up Wednesday update, I have WINNERS to announce. First, THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who participated in any way shape or form with Ready. Set. WRITE!!! I started the summer wanting to write and wanting people to write with (and hold me accountable!) and I was so grateful and honored and HAPPY that you all chose to write with us this summer! I hope it was productive and FUN!

Anyway, my awesome RSW co-hosts (Jaime, Erin, Elodie, and Katy) had a giveaway of first ten-page critiques and now we have winners! Yay!

Liz Parker
Carrie-Anne Brownian
Dawn Allen
Robin Moran
Prerna Pickett

Please email the first ten double-spaced pages to Katy at katy (dot) upperman (at) live (dot) com by October 31. Yay!

And now for What's Up Wednesday!
What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. J
What I'm Reading:

I re-read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (John Green) for my IRL book club and was reminded HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!

Sorry. Was I screaming?

If you have not read this story of awesome, well . . . please fix that. ASAP.
I'm currently reading FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK (Matthew Quick) which is a tough read. Not tough as in hard to get through. Just tough issues. My heart is breaking for the main character and for his interesting cast of friends.

How about YOU? What are you reading this week?
What I'm Writing:

This week I wanted to write my Black Moment. I did that. Doesn’t feel as impactful as I hoped it would be, but that's what revisions are for, right?

I also plotted out the Finale. Yes, that's right. THE FINALE.

O. M. G.

Also, I blogged a few weeks ago about the ridiculous number of cheesy Star Wars one-liners in my script. Well…there are a fair amount of Grease ones too. In the course of two days, one scene CALLED for both of these 

You can't just walk out of a drive-in!


Alexandra Reed will not go to bed with anyone until she is legally wed.  

No one else may ever like this story, but I LOVE it!

This week, I'd like to work on the finale. And write at least 5000 words. What are you writing this week?!

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Music. I think I've mentioned this before, but my current WiP is very musical. There are way too many Show tune references and lyrics and just as many eighties rock mentions. The latest musical inspiration is "Berzerk"—Eminem with undertones of "The Stroke." The lyrics may not completely fit the WiP, but considering I have as many Billy Squier references as I do Grease and Star Wars one-liners, Berzerk has become a relatively new addiction. 

What music inspires your writing?

What Else I've Been Up To:

We are official parents of the Gracelings!
Our newest family members are Australian Shepherd/Boxer mixes and they each have one blue eye. How neat is that? And they are AWESOME dogs. I tried to get a pic of both of them, but Jax is super hyper and won't sit still for Mommy's slow picture taking so, here's Tyson!

Also, saw We're the Millers the other day with a few friends. SO FUNNY!
Finally, I'm just enjoying my SAHM-ness. Walking my nine-year-old to school, packing lunches, somewhat fixing dinner, cleaning the house. Attending a lot of soccer games and now tennis matches. Many of the same things I did last year, but now—I don't know—I feel like I can really enjoy them. Not that I didn't before. I'm just less stressed. And in a way better frame of mind.
Congrats again to our RSW winners! What's up on YOUR Wednesday?!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Before I get started with my SECOND CHANCE SUMMER review, I would like to wish a very Happy Book Birthday to the fabulous Cristin Terrill! ALL OUR YESTERDAYS hits the shelves today and I've heard so much amazing buzz about this book! I can't wait to read it! 

And now for my YA Book Club review of SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. Here's the amazon blurb…

Sandwiched between two exceptional siblings, Taylor Edwards never felt like she stood out—except for her history of running away when things get too complicated. Then her dad receives unexpected, terrible news, and the family makes the last-minute decision to spend the summer together in the cramped quarters at their old lake house.

Taylor hasn’t been to the summer house since she was twelve, and she definitely never planned on going back. Up at the lake she is confronted with people she thought she left behind, like her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry Crosby, her first crush, who’s all grown up…and a lot cuter. Suddenly Taylor is surrounded by memories she’d rather leave in the past—but she can’t run away this time.

As the days lying on the beach pass into nights gazing at the stars, Taylor realizes she has a second chance—with friends, with family, maybe even with love. But she knows that once the summer ends, there is no way to recapture what she stands to lose.

Don't you want to read it just based on that?!
I finished this story a few weeks ago, and this is what I initially had to say about it: And just when I didn't think my summer reading could get any better, I read SECOND CHANCE SUMMER (Morgan Matson). It's part of the YA Buccaneers Reading Mutiny this month and it’s also the YA Book Club read for August. I'll post a review on September 3 for YA Book Club and thank goodness because right now my review would probably look like this

Guys, if I could give this book 20 out of 5 goodreads stars, I would. BEST book I read all year.

I figured I needed a bit of distance from the book so that my review today would be a little calmer and not so exclamation pointy. Here goes…
Yeah. No chance of that. Here's what I LOVED about SECOND CHANCE SUMMER

1) A completely relatable and likeable main character. I connected with Taylor immediately (who hasn't felt like they wanted to run away from it all?!) and was definitely hooked when her father enters the scene a couple pages in. Their relationship is one of the best parts of the book, and I just loved and rooted hard for them from the first chapter.
2) Family dynamics. This family's not a close one. Older brother Warren's invested in his pre-law, younger sister Gelsey in her ballet. Taylor's trapped in the middle of these two extraordinaries—she's more laid back, more down-to-earth. More ordinary. Not so driven and focused. But because of a horrible situation, they are drawn together for one last trip to a place they last vacationed five years ago. And just like the blurb says, they grow closer because of it. I loved watching and experiencing every page of it.

3) Characters you get to know WELL, and everyone from Warren to the couple next door to Leland—even characters that enter mid-script or in the last hundred pages—they are so incredibly developed and have their own individual arcs and I just loved all of them.
4) So much emotion and feeling in every scene. Every page. I laughed. I got angry. I was embarrassed for Taylor when she made her first movie introduction. I think I may have clapped when she and Lucy make up. And yes—I cried. Just so you know—I  don't cry much with books. Movies, yes; books, not so much. And with this story, I teared up a lot. Swear, the swag for this book should have been KLEENEX.
5) The nuances—Warren's obsession with facts, Dad and Taylor's punny joke banter, the classic movies and records. The orange-and-white-scarfed stuffed penguin. EVERYTHING.
6) Well-placed flashbacks revealing what really went down with Taylor and Henry and Lucy that add so much to Taylor's compulsion to run away from things and to the story as a whole.
7) The setting: while the Poconos are a very real place, Matson's Phoenix Lake is not. Doesn't matter, because I felt like I was THERE. From Doggone It! to Borrowed Thyme to Devil's Dip to the beach, Matson's descriptions had me walking through woods and shivering in a concession stand and riding my bike up and down hills. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I vacationed in the Poconos a few times—during the summer actually. And while I don't remember staying at a lake (we always took rides on the ski lifts and went down waterslides), it was a also a very welcome trip down memory lane.
8) Murphy. I can't discuss this book without talking about the mangy dog that greets the Edwards when they first arrive at their summer house and how effectively he played into the story. How Warren who, initially is as skittish around dogs as they are around him, grows attached to Murphy for um…well, you'll have to read to see why. How Murphy ties into Henry's back story. And how he attaches himself to Taylor's dad. LOVEABLE character (almost my favorite) and an incredible add to the story.
9) Henry—I think . . . nope, I've definitely fallen in love with stories about the good boy next door.
10) Romance? This story delivers. It’s more sweet than it is steamy, but oh so hot.

11) Finally, the story's awesome. It's extremely well-written with characters I loved and a story that touched my heart, and for all those reasons this book does sit atop with my other great reads this year, but what sets this one apart is that it touched my heart in a way no other book could. Thirteen years ago, I could very much identify with Taylor. Our Murphy was Pepper and while my father didn't have stage four pancreatic cancer, he did have old age disease. And I did grow very close to him that summer. To quote Matson and Dickens, it truly was the best of times and the worst of times.
Reading this book,  I cried. A LOT. Cathartic might be a bit of an understatement. But that just serves as testament to Publisher's Weekly's review of SECOND CHANCE SUMMER: "Beautiful and true."

Yes. Yes, it is.

If you read it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you haven't read it, please do. And then pop around to all the other YA Book-clubbers to check out their reviews!