Required Reading

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Fell by M.E. Kerr

June 16th, 2008 · No Comments

When I was a girl, I had a little bit of a crush.

His name was John Fell, and all I really wanted to be was Keats, Fell’s sassy, wealthy girlfriend with whom he fooled around with in the back of his dead dad’s car next to the ocean.

Okay, so I was twelve. But upon a re-read, I consider this to be one of the more under-appreciated young adult books out there. It was published in 1987 (I was two!) which was a little bit of a dead period for the genre, I think, but this one is good I promise.

John Fell lives in a beach town where the only people who live year round are either insanely wealthy or just scraping by. After his father, Fell and his mother and little sister Jazzy are definitely rooted in the latter. But somehow, Fell has landed himself a girl who lives in an estate so large it has it’s own name, “Adieu.” Keats likes him, maybe even loves him, and all Fell really wants to do is work at the fine foods store after school and take Keats to her Prom. When Fell pulls up to Adieu to pick up his date, he’s met by the family butler, informing Fell that he’s been officially stood up. Fell barrels down the mile long driveway and accidentally hits an eccentric neighbor’s car, who then invites him into his home to get to know him. Fell quickly becomes involved in the lives of these strangers – Wood, his Japanese artist wife, and their nerdy, aspiring magician son. With Keats on the outs, and money tighter than ever, Fell starts to consider Wood’s strange offer to send him to a prestigious boarding school.

Okay, I just recalled that all without having read the book in a good four years. So forgive any small errors, and take that as a testament to how many times I read the book. Which should mean it’s quality, right?

Anyway, if you’re looking for class struggles, pre-Looking For Alaska and Prep boarding school drama, and a dash of social history (yes!) all covered in mystery, please pick up this book. It’s out of print I think, but visit your library to pick up a copy. If you like it, there are two sequels, often found packaged in a three book set.

But just remember, ladies. Fell is all mine.

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A Wrinkle In Time

June 9th, 2008 · 1 Comment

many wrinkles

As readers of this (and my other blogs) probably know by now, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is easily my favorite childhood book, and is probably my most favorite book of all time.

I was very excited to see that my favorite book was featured in Jezebel’s “Fine Lines” this week. (I was also very excited to see how much Meg Cabot *also* loved this book, because I heart Meg Cabot too.)

Happy day! :)

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→ 1 CommentTags: favorites · madeleine l'engle · reading · YA

Yarr! Here there be Pirates!

April 15th, 2008 · No Comments

I’m helping my friend Adam Selzer promote his new book, Pirates of the Retail Wasteland.

It’s the follow-up to his hilarious How to Get Suspended and Influence People, which I reviewed here. I also interviewed Adam in the same post.

I loved How to Get Suspended, and Pirates is definitely on my to-read list!

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Pardon our dust

April 5th, 2008 · No Comments

I changed templates because the other one wasn’t widgetized. I need to make a new header, but I don’t have time to do that right now…soon! :)

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Let’s skip the introductions…

April 2nd, 2008 · 1 Comment

or not :-)

I never pass up an opportunity to ramble about myself a little. So here goes: my name is Jessica, but you can call me Miss Shortskirt. I am the brand new co-blogger here at Required Reading, which is cool because

for the last 10+ years of my life, I have been reading 90% young adult books

Even when I was 10. Even when I was 17. Even when I was supposed to be reading War and Peace in ENG 262. Even now, when I am a ripe old 23-years-old.

It’s an addiction. A fixation. A deeply seeded love. I simply can’t get enough of it.

Take for instance, yesterday. I was feeling grumpy, and I had the day off, so I decided to pick up this book I checked out from the public library. Even though the story was predictable and the writing just a little too subtle for my grumpy attention span, I didn’t get up until I was finished.

That book was Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles


Since I’m just introducing myself here, I won’t go into a full-fledged review. It was entertaining. Dark. Confusingly tragic. Good, but not Top 10 Books Ever good. And you’ll have to trust me when I say that the following discussion paragraph is not a spoiler at all:

What’s up with tragic teenaged girls freaking out and ending up dead? I can’t even list them all because I’m afraid I might spoil a book for someone, but there are a lot out there. It’s making me wish there were more books about girls with their head on their shoulders instead of this influx of Ophelia-esque characters.

I’m looking forward to spending some time here at Required Reading, and a big thanks to Erin for inviting me :-) I blog on Livejournal about my life, books, and writing, so feel free to add me, or if you don’t like me but just like books, add me on GoodReads.


Happy reading!

Voraciously yours,

Miss Shortskirt



→ 1 CommentTags: books · jo knowles · reading · YA

The blog is back

March 30th, 2008 · No Comments

Yeah, it’s been a while, but I’m back, baby! And what’s more, I’m welcoming an awesome new co-blogger. Her name is Jessica, aka MissShortskirt, and she loves YA as much as I do! I’ll let her fully introduce herself, though. I’m really looking forward to getting things rolling here again.

In the meantime, here are the YA books I’ve read so far this year:

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Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Yay, I say…yay for more Stargirl!

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

I picked up this book because of the controversy surrounding it (and so close to home!), and I’m glad I did. I thought it was very, very well done. And, I’m happy to say, the Depew School Board ended up approving it unanimously. Yay for them, and yay for John Green.

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Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovich

I’m a big fan of the Minx line, and I’ve read every one of the books as they’ve been released. Good stuff.


Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci

I like Cecil Castellucci, and this book didn’t disappoint at all. I’m looking forward to the sequel to The Plain Janes.

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I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter

I love Alias, and I love YA fiction, so was it any surprise that I loved this book? The Gallagher Girls rock, and I’m very excited for the rest of the series. Sometimes, working in a middle school is very useful!

So, what should I be reading next? What are YOU reading? :)

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Countdown to ‘Deathly Hallows’ on!

July 19th, 2007 · 1 Comment

I know that a lot of people are as excited as I am, but it’s a little bittersweet, isn’t it? The thought of actually having to say goodbye to Harry, Hermione and Ron is a bit sad…but we’ll always have our books to read and re-read. And the movies! Sadly, I had a busy weekend and a busy week, and so I have not yet had a chance to see Order of the Phoenix. Soon, I hope!

I’m going to be visiting my hometown this weekend, so Amazon is shipping my book there. Not that I’ll have time to read it. It’s going to be one painful weekend!

Of course, as in the past, various media outlets and critics are nattering on about how Harry is crap and adults who read HP should be ashamed of themselves. To them, I offer a hearty “neener, neener.” Harry Potter is magic, pure and simple.

And just for fun, here’s a YouTube clip spoofing on Welcome Back, Kotter:

→ 1 CommentTags: books · favorites · harry potter · jk rowling

DC Comics-Minx

June 20th, 2007 · 1 Comment

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty excited about this new Minx line from DC Comics since I first heard about it.

The new titles are inspired in part by the fast growth of translated Japanese comics called manga. While gory and violent themes aimed at boys are staples of manga, fantasy and romantic storylines meant to appeal to girls have helped manga capture the attention of female readers, an audience comic publishers have long struggled to attract.

Since I happen to have my very own comic book geek handy, I’ve had the first two Minx books, The Plain Janes and Re-Gifters, delivered to me without even having to ask. Stuff for me on new comic day! Who’da thunk?

The Plain Janes was written by Cecil Castellucci, author of Boy Proof and The Queen of Cool. I’ve never read either of these books, but I’m definitely interested now!

The main character, Jane (of course), moves from the city to the suburbs after being injured in a bombing. Jane rebels against the fear and complacency of her new life by banding together with a group of misfits (all named Jane) to start P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods). Their escapades cause some trouble in the town, but the girls refuse to give up.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I found myself rooting for the Janes, hoping they would get through to their community without getting in too much trouble! My only complaint was that it ended a bit too abruptly, I thought. I wonder if the author was limited to a certain number of pages in which she had to end the story.

Re-Gifters was written by Mike Carey, a comic book writer who wrote the fantastically adorable My Faith in Frankie.

Re-Gifters is the story of a young Korean girl, Jen Dik Seong (Dixie to her friends). Dixie practices hapkido, and she has a crush on her fellow competitor Adam. She spends the money she’s supposed to be using to enter a martial arts competition to buy Adam an expensive birthday present, setting into action a series of misunderstandings and catastrophes that end with Dixie facing off against Adam in the finals of the competition.

Dixie is cute, spunky and utterly likeable. Of the two releases so far, I liked Re-Gifters better, but The Plain Janes isn’t without its merits. Looking forward to the new titles!

→ 1 CommentTags: cecil castellucci · mike carey · minx · YA · YA chicklit

Tantalize/interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith

June 12th, 2007 · 5 Comments

Earlier this year, I got a friend request on myspace from author Cynthia Leitich Smith, advertising her new YA urban gothic fantasy Tantalize. I made a mental note to check out the book.

Then, while flipping through the pages of my sorority magazine, the Adelphean, I saw Cynthia’s name. “Hey,” I thought to myself, “That sounds familiar.”

Sure enough, the author featured in my magazine and the one who friended me were one and the same! I promptly set out to get my hands on a copy of the novel.

Tantalize is the story of Quincie Morris, a 17-year-old girl who was orphaned at 13. She’s got a shapeshifting half-werewolf best friend, Kieran, whom she’d like to be more than a friend.

Quincie is left in the care of her uncle, and together, they’re trying to save the family’s failing Italian restaurant by reopening with a Vampire theme. But weeks before the restaurant opens, the chef (a family friend and surrogate father to Quincie) is brutally murdered, and Kieren is among the suspects

It becomes Quincie’s job to hire and train the new chef, Brad, in time for the restaurant’s opening. Before she knows it, Quincie is wrapped up in a dark mystery that doesn’t stop twisting and turning until the book’s final pages.

I think readers will identify with Quincie, particularly the way she struggles with her feelings for Kieren and her attraction to the older, mysterious Brad. She’s a fun, likeable character, full of attitude, although she frequently made me want to scream during the second half of the book. (“Quincie, nooooo! Are you crazy??”)

Tantalize was a quick and enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Is there a sequel in the works, perhaps?

Cynthia Leitich Smith writes for children, middle-grade readers, and young adults. She is best known for her Native American-themed stories, such as Rain is Not My Indian Name.

Check out Cynsations (Cynthia’s general YA lit blog) and Spookycyn (Cynthia’s “fang-friendly” fantasy, horror, gothic fantasy and suspense blog).

Cynthia was kind enough to take part in my “Five Lists of Five” interview:

Five favorite vampires

Excluding ongoing series, including my own books (though I love many ongoing series):

Five favorite foods (in honor of the book’s restaurant theme!)

  • sashimi (various)
  • turkey burgers with Gouda, lettuce, mustard, and mushrooms on whole wheat
  • Hunan shrimp and mixed vegetables on brown rice
  • whole wheat tortellini with Italian turkey sausage and parmesan
  • tortilla soup with chicken, guacamole, onion, tomato, and of course torillas

Five things you can’t live without

  • cats
  • my very cute husband
  • air conditioning
  • office supplies
  • iced tea with Splenda

Five people who have influenced you/your work

  • Annette Curtis Klause
  • Abraham “Bram” Stoker
  • Ovid
  • Judy Blume (first person voice)
  • Greg Leitich Smith (my first and most frequent reader)

Five songs that would be on Quincie’s iPod

  • Lil’ Red Riding Hood (for Kieren)
  • Strangers in the Night (remembering Vaggio)
  • Red, Red Wine (vampy)
  • You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Kieran again)
  • The Waiting Song (The Hudsons–an Austin-based band Quincie might hear at Waterloo Ice House)

→ 5 CommentsTags: cynthia leitich smith · interviews · reviews · YA

The Thief Lord

May 24th, 2007 · No Comments

Last year, I read and enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. I saw The Thief Lord in a teacher’s classroom last week, and I decided to pick it up.

It read very quickly–it’s shorter and less dense than Inkheart–and it was an enjoyable story, but it didn’t nearly captivate me in the way that Inkheart did. The Thief Lord is much more a middle-reader novel than a YA one.

The Thief Lord is the story of two young boys, orphans, who are trying to escape the aunt and uncle who have applied for custody of the younger brother, Bo, but want to send the older brother, Prosper, to boarding school.

Prosper and Bo flee to Venice, the city their mother used to tell them stories about. They fall in with a group of street kids with a mysterious leader, Scipio The Thief Lord. Scipio gives the kids a place to live and keeps them warm and fed.

The boys soon find themselves being tailed by a private detective, hired by their aunt.

The story is fun, and it takes some unexpected turns, and even an element of fantasy.

I have just learned, via Amazon, that the book was adapted into a film.

I gave this book 3 stars on my goodreads profile.

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