Jade Lee offers up her take on My Fair Lady with a Regency twist in her latest romance, One Rogue at a Time, in which two society outcasts team up to take on the Ton. We asked Lee to tell us about the inspiration behind her Rakes and Rogues series, and we got a few surprising answers.
What inspired me to write the Rakes & Rogues series? There’s all sorts of reasons, verging from the mundane (I had a contract) to the artsy fartsy (exploring themes of personal drive in a lighter context). But if you want the real answer, you’re going to have to guess at it first. So which of the following was the real reason I wrote One Rogue at a Time?
Answer: B and C. Elizabeth Hoyt did indeed leave me for family. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at this defection. Fortunately, we get together for writing retreats, but it’s not the same. (Cue pathetic sob.) In a desperate attempt to find more writing pals, I joined a local writer’s group that has a weekly writing prompt. We are given two random words and have 45 minutes to write a scene.
I once received the words “servant” and “pig.” I wrote this amazing opening where my hero and heroine are fighting with a pig so they can dig up a buried treasure from beneath the pig’s trough. They win, she opens the chest, and they discover her parents’ marriage certificate. She’s legitimate! And now she can go confront her aristocratic father and claim her heritage.
Great idea, right? Well, no, because it turns out that there were no marriage certificates in Regency England. Marriages were recorded at the church. But the core idea worked, and so I switched things around and One Rogue at a Time was born. I even kept the fight with the pig, although in a different context. I’ve kept that scene, by the way. Here it is if you’re curious.
As for the other answers, well, my daughter is in law school but she’s paying her tuition by herself. Three cheers for independent daughters! And although I’d love to hallucinate books, I’ve never quite managed it. And I certainly have no desire to experience pig suffocation to see if I could. There are some limits to what I will do for art!
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It's that time again! Leaves are falling, stores are decorated for Christmas (and have been since Halloween), and it's time to start speculating on what books will win big at this year's American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards.
Here's my pick for this year's Printz Award—the highest award in young adult literature—plus a few of my other favorite YA books from 2015.
A graphic novel won the Printz Award in 2007 (American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang), and another picked up both a Printz Honor and Caldecott Honor last year (This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki). So there's precedent for graphic novels taking home top awards—but even among these previous winners, Nimona stands out. On the surface it's a story of a shapeshifter apprenticing herself to a notorious villain. But it's also simultaneously an example of—and a deconstruction of—the entire superhero genre (which is, of course, traditionally associated with comics and graphic novels). And while it's busy deconstructing its own format and genre, it also challenges the need to define everything from interpersonal relationships to personal body shapes. Who's good? Who's evil? And why is there never anything edible in the fridge? Like the best graphic novels, this story could only be told with a combination of words and pictures.
As to my other favorites: High-profile books like The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (which just won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature) and Bone Gap by Laura Ruby are favored award contenders in many circles—and deservedly so. But here are three somewhat under-the-radar 2015 titles that really stood out for me.
I read the last few chapters of The Shadow Behind the Stars in a coffee shop, and this was a bad idea. Everyone around me must have thought I was drinking something so bitter it made my nose and eyes run. But would you expect anything less from a story narrated by the youngest of the three Fates? In shimmering, almost poetic language, author Rebecca Hahn tells an epic tale of love and death and life within the deceptively simple story of a forbidden friendship between a mortal teenage girl and the immortal life-weavers of Greek mythology.
I know, I know . . . another dystopia. I almost didn't bother with Lizard Radio because I thought, enough is enough already with teen girls overthrowing repressive governments. But this one is different: For one thing, the narrator doesn't identify as either a boy or a girl ("I'm a lizard," she once answered when asked to choose a gender). For another, Kivali's intense spirituality is unusual in both dystopias and YA lit overall: In addition to the daily religious services required at her summer CropCamp, she meditates regularly and is deeply in touch with an otherworldy presence. And there's the argot: Campers eat in an "mealio" and fear disciplinary "culpas." But my favorite part is the way author Pat Schmatz introduces the more unusual aspects of Kivali's world gradually, letting us join her and her fellow campers in making all the wrong assumptions.
Speaking of spirituality, my non-YA-lit life sometimes puts me in contact with a set of medieval Jewish texts called the Talmud. Although it predates modern computers by a thousand years, the Talmud is written in a form of hypertext: Pages of Talmud are arranged with a source text in the center of the page and multi-vocal commentary surrounding it. I'd just been wishing for a YA novel that worked like this when I discovered The Anatomy of Curiosity. Like the Talmud, The Anatomy of Curiosity contains multiple voices telling multiple stories (in this case, three novellas), and its page layout matters: The main text is printed in the middle of the page with authorial commentary in the margins. Meta-textual hashtags ("#theme") within the commentary add to the hypertextual effect. Although the format is similar to that of the authors' 2012 collaboration The Curiosities, The Anatomy of Curiosity extends and develops this format further—using it as a brilliant tool to talk to the text, talk to each other and, most of all, talk to the reader. I've never seen anything like this in YA lit.
What YA books particularly spoke to you in 2015? What are your predictions for the Printz and other major YA lit awards? (Be sure to check out the BookPage Best Children's and Teen Books of 2015!)
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. When she's not reading, Jill matches readers with books in a small library in southeastern Pennsylvania. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
Didn't see your favorite book on our Best Books of 2015 list? Tell us! Vote in our reader's survey for the best book published in 2015 and be entered for a chance to win a box of 10 books hand-selected to fit your reading preferences!
Click here for all "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
We've counted down, and now it's time to reveal the final 25 books that wowed the BookPage editorial team this year. Our #1 pick is Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, a second novel that was something of a dark-horse contender in a year studded with releases from marquee names like Franzen, Atwood and Smiley. An emotional tour de force that will steal your heart—right before it shatters it into a million pieces—A Little Life is a tender exploration of the ebb and flow of friendship over time.
Didn't see your favorite 2015 book on our list? Tell us! Vote here in our reader's survey for the best book of 2015 and be entered for a chance to win a box of 10 books hand-selected to fit your reading preferences.
As part of our Best Books of 2015 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Jennine Capó Crucet’s sharp, authentic debut is the coming-of-age tale of Cuban-American Lizet, who leaves her family in Miami for a prestigious Northeastern university, only to return home to an immigration battle inspired by the true story of Elián González. Crucet’s novel explores the “double vision” of growing up in two cultures while still allowing for flashes of humor. Click here to read her behind-the-book essay about Make Your Home Among Strangers.
Watch for our full list, to be revealed tomorrow. Click here for all "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
Have you heard the big news in the publishing world? Coloring books aren't just for kids anymore. They've grown up, and coloring has been proven to be better for more than just killing time. Here's a quick rundown of some of the biggest benefits:
Calming and de-stressing
Famed psychologist Carl Jüng began asking his patients to color in mandalas as part of his treatment plans in the early 20th century. The simple act of coloring can deliver some of the same benefits as meditation, relaxing the amygdala—the fear center of the brain.
Illustration from Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2015, Johanna Basford.
Get in touch with your creative side
Art skills feeling a little rusty and underused? Was your last foray with a colored pencil in a grade school art class? It's time to pick up some new markers and crayons and let those creative juices flow. As a bonus, you'll exercise your fine motor skills.
A fresh way to socialize
Wine and painting parties are immensely popular, so why not throw a wine and coloring party with a few friends? It's easy to color and chat at the same time, making it a perfect excuse to invite some people over.
Penguin Publishing Group President, Madeline McIntosh, and Associate Publisher-Editorial Director of Penguin Classics, Elda Rotor, getting in on the coloring fun.
Instant art for your home
Who says you can't hang your own masterpieces on the fridge? With intricate color-ready pieces from some of the world's most talented rising artists in coloring books like Outside the Lines, Too and top-notch designers like Joanna Basford publishing books filled with intricate pen-and-ink illustrations, your colored pages can be used for all kinds of crafts and decorating projects.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our feature on five of the biggest and best adult coloring books, from underwater scenes to the wizarding world of Hogwarts, right in time for the gift-giving season! Or read our interview with one of Penguin's leading coloring book editors to get the inside scoop on this growing trend.
In her novel The Hours Count, Jillian Cantor melds fact and fiction as she reimagines the lives of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Americans executed for espionage during the Cold War. Our reviewer writes, "It’s a tricky business blending fact with fiction, but Cantor—who imagined the life of Anne Frank’s sister in her previous novel, Margot—manages to do so beautifully in The Hours Count." (Read the review.)
We asked Cantor to tell us about three books she's been reading lately.
Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood
Greenwood’s Bodies of Water was one of my favorite books of the past few years, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy of her upcoming novel. Where I Lost Her is part family drama, part literary mystery and filled with beautiful, hypnotic prose. A woman sees a little a girl on the side of the road in the middle of the night, but no children have been reported missing and no one quite believes her. Was the girl real or imagined? I devoured it all in one sitting.
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
I picked this up before a long flight, intrigued solely by the flap description, and I loved everything about it. It’s a historical novel with a Sliding Doors feel. I loved the atmosphere of the 1960s that Swanson evokes, as well as her depiction of the truths and choices women had to face about their lives, roles and motherhood at the time. The book follows Kitty, who is single and a bookseller in 1962, and the woman Kitty becomes in her dreams, Kathryn, who is a married mother in 1963. Swanson’s beautiful historical details put me right in the 1960s, and wondering which woman was real kept me quickly turning the pages.
After You by Jojo Moyes
A bookseller gave me a copy of this novel when I was on tour last week, and since I could not fit one more thing in my over-stuffed bag, I carried it onto the plane and started reading it on my flight. I’m halfway through right now but loving being back in Lou and her family’s world and seeing what happens next. I was a huge fan of Me Before You, and this book has been at the top of my list to read this fall. Just in case, I will be prepared with tissues when I get to the end.
(Author photo by Alan Cantor)
As part of our Best Books of 2015 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Patrick deWitt’s second novel, The Sisters Brothers, put an original twist on the classic gunslinger sagas of the West. His anticipated follow-up is a delightfully fractured fairy tale starring a hapless hero who gets in over his head at the castle of a mysterious baron. Whimsical, smart and stylish, this is a charmer of a coming-of-age story.
Watch for our complete list on December 1. Read all our "Best of 2015" coverage on the blog.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers! Need a seasonal sweet to take to a gathering, but not quite up for the challenge of a pie? Try these spiced Molasses Cookies from Maggie Battista's Food Gift Love. They're also easy to handsomely package, so you can make a batch for your upcoming holiday gift exchanges as well!
MAKES: 90 TO 100 COOKIES // PREPARATION TIME: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES
Molasses Cookies are fall and winter favorites, providing just the sort of comfort and flavors to help us get through tough New England weather. The original recipe was shared by a local chef, but I’ve altered it over the years to suit my need for more molasses and more spice. I like more of everything, and after you taste these cookies, you will too. The cookies are dairy-free, so they are a flavorful option for folks avoiding the stuff.
Keep a kitchen towel handy as this dough is a little slick. If you have any Cinnamon Sugar hiding in your Food Gift Love pantry, then roll the dough in that before baking.
1. Cut two large (18x12-inch) sheets of wax or parchment paper. You’ll wrap the cookie dough in the paper.
2. In a stand mixer, add the eggs, canola oil, molasses and both sugars. Beat at medium-high speed until well blended.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the mixer, and blend at low-medium speed until combined.
4. Drop the dough onto one sheet of the wax or parchment paper, using your well-floured hands to press any extra dough bits into the big lump of dough, forming a round disk. Using a well-floured knife or pastry cutter, slice the dough in half. Slide one half of the dough onto the second sheet of wax or parchment paper. Shape both doughs into low round disks, and wrap them up in the paper. Place on a plate or in a plastic bag and let chill in the fridge 2 hours or up to overnight. If you’d like to make these in the future, this is the moment to place the dough in the freezer as is or pre-rolled into dough balls (see step 6). (Defrost the dough disks overnight in the fridge before baking, but feel free to bake pre-rolled dough balls from frozen.)
5. Reheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (not wax paper). Pour extra sugar onto a large flat plate.
6. Using a spoon, scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and form into a ball. Repeat until all the dough is used. Roll the dough balls in the sugar until well coated. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have flattened slightly and cracked a bit but are still soft to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack or new sheet of parchment paper to cool.
7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.
Cut a slip of parchment paper to fit the box. Place the cookies in the box vertically. Slide the box cover closed. Cut a long length of string and wrap it around the box several times. Tie a knot and trim any excess string. Slip a hand-written (or stamped) tag under the string.