Writing Updates – February

I decided to do a monthly writing update for 2015.  You probably aren’t too interested in my writing goals, but I have found these posts keep me motivated and positive.  Read on if you’d like and feel free to check out last month’s post and get the details on my two works-in-progress!

1.  Title: The Pocket Guide to Surviving Grad School Or  Getting Through Three Years of Self-Inflicted Higher Education Hell

Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor

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My Status: I finished a very rough first draft of the pocket guide at the beginning of February.  My plan is to edit and have it out to beta readers by mid-March.  It’s pretty short so I should be able to get it done!

2. Title: Winter

(still in need of an actual title)

Genre: Mystery, Humor

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My Status: I have written about 2/3rds of the first draft and am soooooo ready to finish.  I absolutely love the story but I am ready to rewrite and edit.  I really enjoy editing!  I plan on finishing the first draft within the next few weeks and hopefully start editing.

Let me know about your writing goals!

Lindsay

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5 Fandom Friday

   So, Liz at Nerd in the City introduced me to 5 Fandom Friday.  A topic is posted each Friday by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick, and you list your top five answers.  I just couldn’t pass on this week!

5 Fandom Friday

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Characters I Would Name My Kids After

Mike and I will probably have kids some day.  I love fun names, but it has been decided that our eventual children will have family names.  Sigh…fine.  But, here are my choices if I could name my kids after my favorite characters!

1. Carter

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Jack Carter in Eureka will always be one of my favorite characters.  He is responsible for the crazy Eureka scientists and their often disastrous experiments.  He may constantly be in danger but he always tackles his problems with a great sense of humor.  Carter is my number one name choice for both a little girl and a little boy!

2. Myka

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Myka Bering is one kickass woman.  She is the moral compass for the Warehouse 13 team; always there to remind them what’s right and wrong.  She isn’t perfect, as she has a few issues of her own to deal with, but she always comes out strong and confident in the end.  Plus, she’s a bibliophile!

3. Karigan

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Karigan G’ladheon is the main character of Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series.  I have read this book at least 15 times.  Karigan stumbles into a job as a Green Rider, a king’s messenger, and is thrust in to a life of magic and adventure.  She starts out as a whiny and stubborn kid and eventually grows in to a strong self-sufficient woman capable of saving a king.

4. Milo

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Louis L’Amour’s Milo Talon; I love everything about this name!  Milo is a tracker journeying through the Wild West in search of a missing girl.  He is quiet, kind, and doesn’t take shit from anyone.  He is a man who follows his gut and thinks quick on his feet.

5. Cole

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Yep, two cowboy influenced names.  El Dorado will always be my favorite John Wayne western.  John Wayne is Cole Thornton, a sharpshooter who returns to El Dorado to help the drunken sheriff save the town from some slick city swindlers.  He may have no problem gunning down a man, but only for the right reasons.  Who can’t admire a man who risks his life to save a friend?

6. Pete

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I couldn’t just pick 5!  Pete Lattimer is the reason I love Warehouse 13.  He is kind, funny, and has a deep love of cookies.  He has plenty of his own demons, but he refuses to let that kill his happiness.  He has found his place at Warehouse 13, and he is determined to enjoy every minute of it!

Those are my choices!  Which characters would you name your children (real or imaginary) after?

Lindsay

All images are from imdb.com and Goodreads.

On What Grounds

On What Grounds

by Cleo Coyle

On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery, #1)

Introducing a delightful new series featuring Clare Cosi, manager of the historic Village Blend coffeehouse…

Clare arrives at work to discover the assistant manager dead in the back of the store, coffee grounds strewn everywhere. Two detectives investigate. But when they find no sign of forced entry or foul play, they deem it an accident. Still, Clare is not convinced. And after the police leave, Clare can’t help wondering…If this was an act of murder, is she in danger?

I have wanted to read On What Grounds for months, and I finally developed a decent excuse to pick it up.  I am currently working on my own mystery story, more on that tomorrow, and wanted to research the small details that make characters real.  Yep, I read On What Grounds for research 😉

I’m not going to provide my own summary because it would make my review way too long.  So lets jump right in!  Cleo Coyle is the husband and wife writing team of Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi.  On What Grounds is a debut novel and the first in the extensive Coffeehouse Mystery Series.  The writing style may feel a little underdeveloped for many readers, but I was pleasantly surprised by their detailed descriptions and scenery building.  The writing was so fluid that I was shocked that two people wrote it together!  I felt like I was in the Village Blend and I fell in love with the unique coffee shop.  I also had no problem connecting with Clare, the intelligent and stubborn Blend manager.  The mystery is different, with a few surprising twists, and Coyle had me guessing until the very end.  All the characters feel real despite their eccentricities.  You can expect to see more Coffeehouse Mystery Series reviews this year.

I was surprised to find that On What Grounds had received a few ‘beat down’ reviews on Goodreads.  I checked these out and was just plain irked at the reoccurring list of complaints.  Here are the three most common and what I have to say about them:

1. Too much description about the different coffees and how to prepare them:  I personally loved these details!  I learned so much and was ready to run out and buy everything I needed to make these drinks.  It is stupid to read a book centered around a coffee shop and be annoyed to read about coffee.

2. Clare is an idiot for hooking up with her cheating ex-husband:  She doesn’t hook up with him; she just makes-out with him for a second.  Plus, there are passages dedicated to describing their convoluted relationship and Clare’s continual attraction and love for her ex.  She spends the whole book fighting off his advances and her own demons.  Come on people; she’s only human!

3.  Stuff just happened too easily/Clare’s detective skills are unrealistic:  Ok, I agree that Clare’s detective skills are unrealistic at the beginning of the book, but it evens out as the story progresses.  Stuff should happen relatively easily in cozy mysteries.  That is why they are cozy mysteries and not extensive criminal dramas.  They need to be quick and fun to read; any so-called fan of the genre would know this and shouldn’t whine about it.

So, that ends my Goodreads review rant.  My negative points of On What Grounds are short and sweet.  I did not like the prologue.  I understand why it was used but I feel it hurts the flow of the story instead of helping it.  And it was very difficult to like Madame.  Nothing pisses me off more than family members, such as mothers and mother-in-laws, butting in on matters that do not concern them.  Her brazen attempts to get Matt and Clare back together just irked me.  There is no way I would have been as sweet and kind as Clare if it was me.  But that’s it!

I really enjoyed On What Grounds.  It is a fun cozy mystery that places readers in a unique setting, a coffee shop instead of an antique or clothing shop, with an enjoyably stubborn female lead.  I cant wait to start the next book in the series, and I have to schedule a writing day at the local coffee shop next week!  What do you think of the Coffeehouse Mystery series?

Lindsay

 

First Grave on the Right

First Grave on the Right

by Darynda Jones

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

This whole grim reaper thing should have come with a manual.
Or a diagram of some kind.
A flow chart would have been nice.

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

With scorching-hot tension and high-octane humor, First Grave on the Right is your signpost to paranormal suspense of the highest order.

 

I have spent 2015 fighting a persistent winter cold.  Its annoying, and I was pouting last week when a sicky resurgence kept me from doing my weekly workouts.  I needed something that would make me laugh.  My sweet friend, Jen, recommended Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series.  The description sounded fun, so I grabbed the first book from the local library.  I spent Saturday reading First Grave on the Right.

Charlotte ‘Charley’ Davidson is a grim reaper.  She is also a part-time private investigator specializing in solving the murders of dead clients.  First Grave on the Right finds Charley investigating the murder of three lawyers and unveiling the identity of the sexy, mysterious man who visits in her dreams. Her sharp tongue, ever present good humor, and ability to withstand a beating result in a fun and fast paced story.

First Grave on the Right is a really good debut novel that Jones has now developed in to a series of at least seven.  I instantly enjoyed reading Charley.  Her ‘devil be damned’ attitude and constant wit kept me giggling.  The same goes with her best friend and secretary, Cookie.  I mean, who couldn’t like a woman who has such a deep love of coffee?  And I can not get enough of Reyes!  His protective, alpha male tendencies left me swooning (see I do like some romance themes 🙂 )  I couldn’t put the book down and I spent Saturday soaking up sun in my bathing suit and laughing away my cold.  My favorite scene is when Charley tries to convince the third lawyer that his is dead.  His steadfast denial results in some hilarious dialogue.

The plot was very twisted and detailed, but I wish it had tied together better.  I chock this up to First Grave on the Right being a debut novel and Jones inexperience.  In the same vein, many of Charley’s reactions and witty comments were lost on me because the relationship between characters, namely Charley and Garret, lacked the necessary background descriptions.  I still have no idea why she considered Garret an asshole when he spent the whole book desperately trying to communicate with her.  I would have liked more backstory.  It is still a well written story despite these details!

First Grave on the Right was a great read and I will be picking up book two, Second Grave on the Left, from the library this afternoon.  Anyone else a Darynda Jones fan?  What books do you read when you need a laugh?

Lindsay

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

by Alysha Kaye

The Waiting Room

Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him? The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.

I tend to approach romance books like a 10 year old boy: Love!? YUCK!  It’s stupid really because I need love stories as a sub-plot to my murder mysteries, survival thrillers, and superhero stories.  My husband pointed out that I really do not have any so called ‘girlie’ tastes when it comes to books, TV shows, and movies.  Whatever, superheroes are awesome!  But I deviate…  I rarely read romance books, but reading new stuff is part of why I started Sand Between the Pages.  February is the month of love, so I picked up Alysha’s The Waiting Room.  Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t put it down!

Jude and Nina are happily in love with plans to spend the rest of their lives together.  But Jude dies and finds himself standing in the Waiting Room.  He is surrounded by dead people waiting to be reborn in to a new life, but Jude doesn’t want to go without Nina.  So, he waits and what follows is a tale of real love, faith, different lives, and how one life can make a difference.

I just want to hug Alysha Kaye, because The Waiting Room is such a unique and interesting story!  The pages are filled with the intense love shared by Jude and Nina, but the story remains real as Jude and Nina are far from perfect.  There are fights, tears, and overwhelming happiness expressed by Alysha’s focus on the small details of life. I enjoyed the writing format, but no details on that because I don’t want to spoil it for you!  Alysha pushes us to contemplate the afterlife, faith, and our own world without attempting to provide us with all the answers.  The evolution of the room, Ruth, Nina, and Jude provide a surprising sense of hope even in death.

I quickly connected with Jude and Ruth, the manager of the waiting room, but it was harder to emphasize with Nina.  This is due, in part, to her limited appearance in the beginning of the book.  I eventually grew to like Nina and appreciate her role in the Waiting Room, but Ruth is still my favorite character.  Also, the ending left me a tad frustrated.  The extra stories before the end reveal dragged on longer than I would have liked.  I wanted to hurry up and get there!   I also expected a tad bit more detail when I did turn the last page.  Don’t get me wrong, the end is great, but I was left craving more.

The Waiting Room was an interesting and inspiring read.  I look forward to more novels by Ms. Kaye.  Kudos to you Alysha for getting me excited about a romance novel!

Lindsay

 

Yukon Quest

You may have noticed that it has been a while since I posted a review.  This delay is a result of three things:

1. I’ve been sick as a dog for the past three days.  Make up your mind Florida!  Either Winter or Spring; you can’t continue to have both every week.

2. I beta read a novel for a sweet friend, and I can’t wait for her novel to eventually hit the shelves.

3. And lastly, I have been glued to my Twitter and Facebook watching the running of the Yukon Quest!

So for those who do not know, and haven’t had to listen to me gush about my new interest like poor Mike, the Yukon Quest is an international dog sled race that is run from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska.  The website provides this description, “The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and mail delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now comes alive each February with the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs. Up to 50 dog teams consisting of one human ‘musher’ and 14 canine athletes tread across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America.”

Ryne Olson arriving at Dusk in Circle.

My interest in dog sledding was sparked years ago by Sue Henry’s Murder on the Yukon Quest, and I decided to follow the race this year.  It started on February 7th and the winner, Brent Sass, crossed the finish line in Fairbanks on February 15th.  I am amazed that these mushers choose to live in the extreme cold, it was -50 degrees at the start of the race, and that they seem to enjoy every minute spent traversing the snowy landscape between checkpoints with their dogs.  I did my best to immerse myself in the race culture from my couch in Florida, and I would be jumping to participate next year if I wasn’t such a weeny when it comes to the cold!  The finish between Brent Sass and Allen Moore was a close one and I was one of many glued to the live tracker feed in the late hours on Monday.

Ed Hopkins’ dog at a checkpoint rest.

But my new found appreciation of dog sled racing is more than just the thrill of the race.  I am impressed by the community.  I like how friendly everyone seems, how so many people volunteer their time at the checkpoints, and how these people truly love what they do.  They adore their dogs and everyone, including the pups, are all smiles upon arriving at a checkpoint.  It is just refreshing in our world of professional athletes worth millions to find athletes who do something just because they love it.  Yes these mushers race with the best sleds available, and yes many run large dog kennels, but these people really love what they do.  Take some time  and browse the links below.  Watch some videos and listen to their encounters with wild life, watch them interact with their pups, and sing and dance!

Brent Sass at the finish line with two of his lead dogs!

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Brent Sass may have crossed the finish line but the race is still going!  Take the time to check out the mushers and look forward to more posts coming in the next month about the Iditarod.  (All photos are from the Yukon Quest Facebook page)

Lindsay

Julie

 

Julie

by Jean Craighead George

Julie (Julie of the Wolves, #2)

Julie’s decision to return home to her people is not an easy one. But after many months in the wilderness, living in harmony with the wolves that saved her life, she knows the time has come.

Julie is not prepared, however, for all the changes that she finds. Her father has forsaken many of the old Eskimo traditions. He has given up his sled dogs for a snowmobile, and now looks after the musk oxen that serve as the village’s income. He will do anything to protect them — even shoot any wolves that might threaten the herd. Julie knows that, like her father, she must find a way to reconcile the old ways with the new. But how can she do that without putting her beloved wolves in danger?

Note: There will be spoilers for those who have yet to read the first book in the series, Julie of the Wolves.  Please read it first and check out my review here!

Julie was published twenty years after Julie of the Wolves.  I was lucky enough to read them back to back as a kid, and I suggest new readers of the series do the same.  Julie starts where Julie of the Wolves ends and brings extra closure to Julie’s story.  Julie of the Wolves emphasizes the changing cultures of Alaska, from the native to that of the white man.  In the end, Julie makes the heartbreaking decision to stay with her father, who has become a gussak (white man) in her eyes, and abandons the life of the wolf and the Eskimo.

Julie outlines Julie’s adjustment to her knew life.  At first she is tormented by her father hunting via airplane and that her new step-mother is from Minnesota.  She has a difficult time accepting the CB radios, electric stove, and muskox industry that keeps the town alive.  Julie is stuck in a world that she does not wish to understand.  It takes birthing a muskox calf with Ellen, her step-mother, in the middle of a blizzard to teach Julie that both cultures can work together and adapt into something new.  This is the lesson of Julie, and it is one that her entire family must learn, including her wolves.

The second installment does not invoke the same raw emotional response as Julie of the Wolves but I feel it is a necessary read when teaching of the impact of cultural and environmental changes brought on by  ‘progress.’  It teaches young readers to be open, in both mind and heart, when encountering such differences.  Julie is a story of love; love between a father and child, step-mother and child, and Julie and her wolves.  It is a perfect ending, and new beginning, to Julie’s story.

There are three novels in the Julie of the Wolves series, but the third one focuses on the wolf pack and Kapu, Julie’s wolfbrother’s, journey as a leader.  Take the time to read them all!  What books influenced your childhood?

Lindsay

Last of the Breed

Last of the Breed

by Louis L’Amour

Last of the Breed

After U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack is forced down in Russia and later escapes from a Soviet prison camp, he calls upon the skills of his Sioux Indian forebears to evade Alekhin, the Yakut native and legendary tracker, on his trail.

My husband loves to learn about basic survival skills; I enjoy reading survival stories.  We both want to be prepared to live in ‘the wild’ if we must.  We aren’t doomsday preppers or anything, but we do fly small airplanes and live in an area frequented by hurricanes.  Things could happen, and these survival stories are for educational purposes!  Louis L’amour’s Last of the Breed is the one story that I just can not stop reading.  I have read it between 5 to 10 times in the last 13 years and each time I am riveted!

Joe Mack is a Sioux who is also a test pilot for the Air Force.  He is captured by the Russians and brought to Siberia for interrogation.  Joe Mack refuses to remain a prisoner and he quickly escapes.  But he now much survive a Siberian winter and it will require all his military and ancestral training to make it out alive.  (Now I want to start reading it again!)

Last of the Breed was originally published in 1986 and the writing style is somewhat different than current publications.  The language is often more telling than showing, which requires a vivid imagination to fill in all the glorious details.  Luckily, I have one of those, but many reviews complain that the novel drags on because of it.  L’Amour also has a tendency to repeat himself…a lot.  I blame the editing process because this should have been fixed before publication.  The only time it bugged me was when the next sentence would be a reworded copy of the previous sentence.  That is an editing issue.

Don’t let this deter you because the story is great!  I am enthralled by Joe Mack and his journey across Siberia.  Plus, L’Amour provides an interesting cast of supporting characters for you to both love and hate.  I hold my breath as Talya and her father rush to the Chinese border.  I whisper “yes!” each time Joe Mack escapes; and I curse Alekhin as he hunts Joe Mack down.  But, this is more than a story of sheer survival.  L’Amour also describes the mental strain of surviving and living on the run.  These passages left me with goose-bumps as the fear of being hunted courses through me while Alekhin closes in on Joe Mack.  I know how the story ends, but that doesn’t matter.  I feel like I am there in Siberia every time I open this book.

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Last of the Breed will always be one of my favorites and I plan to keep rereading it.  I mean, just look at my personal copy!  Why hasn’t it been made in to a movie?!  Anyways, happy survival reading everyone 😛

Lindsay

 

What to Expect – FEBRUARY

FEBRUARY

February is my kick-butt month!  The holidays are officially over and I am finally getting over my yearly winter sickness.  I am also coming out of the post-birthday funk.  I am now prepared to embrace adulthood, accomplish my dreams, and kick the new year’s booty!

I went over my planned reading list for this month and the only way I could accomplish it was to quit my job and just read.  Mike would not approve this, so I had to cut back some.  Here is what to expect during February:

1. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

2. A Time to Live by Jonas Lee

3. The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye

4. Other books that I have yet to pick!  Be warned that I am still on an Arctic Survival kick.

You may be shocked that I am not binge reading romance novels during the month of love.  February = Romance Novels; right?  Yeah, no.  I have never been a Valentines day person and I have always been a tad snobbish when it comes to romance books.  I would be far too embarrassed to be seen reading something with a cover dominated by scantily clad people!  I am a sophisticated reader!

Yeah, right… 😉  Luckily I found two bloggers who showed me how wrong I was; a number of these books actually have great plot mixed in with the smut.  So I am calling on them for advice.  romance4thebeach and kiltsandswords, would you each recommend a romance book for me to read?

Other readers, please feel free to recommend your favorite romance books!  I like female leads to be strong and independent, and the males can not be needy.  That’s it!  Hit me with your recommendations and best of luck with your Kick-butt February!

Lindsay

Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves

by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves (Julie of the Wolves, #1)

Miyax, like many adolescents, is torn. But unlike most, her choices may determine whether she lives or dies. At 13, an orphan, and unhappily married, Miyax runs away from her husband’s parents’ home, hoping to reach San Francisco and her pen pal. But she becomes lost in the vast Alaskan tundra, with no food, no shelter, and no idea which is the way to safety. Now, more than ever, she must look hard at who she really is. Is she Miyax, Eskimo girl of the old ways? Or is she Julie (her “gussak”-white people-name), the modernized teenager who must mock the traditional customs? And when a pack of wolves begins to accept her into their community, Miyax must learn to think like a wolf as well. If she trusts her Eskimo instincts, will she stand a chance of surviving?

Julie, also known as Miyax, is walking from Barrow, Alaska to Point Hope, Alaska.  She is alone on the Arctic tundra and is determined to get passage to San Francisco and a new life.  But she is lost and must rely on the teachings of her father and the help of a wolf pack to survive.  Julie adapts to life on the tundra but still struggles with her identity.  Is she Julie the Alaskan or Miyax the Inupiat?

I first read Julie of the Wolves when I was twelve years old.  I couldn’t put it down.  Here was a young girl (the same age as me) struggling to identify who she was (so was I!) all while surviving on the Alaska tundra.  Plus, she lived with wolves!  I don’t know about y’all, but my dreams at 12 included owning a huge horse ranch with my own pack of tamed wolves.  Yeah, this was the perfect book for me.  I loved it, but a post on The Misfortune of Knowing pushed me to read it again as an adult.  Plus, the story fit in perfectly with my arctic survival theme this month.  I couldn’t put it down!  My skin tingled with goose bumps and a single tear threatened to fall when I turned the last page.  I still love this book!

Now there are some issues with Julie of the Wolves.  The most notable is that it is marketed for 8-10 year olds but contains an attempted rape scene in Part Two.  Julie marries at 13 so she can go to high school.  Her husband, Daniel, has a learning disability but they are content acting like siblings until mocking at school pushes him to force himself on her.  The scene is not descriptive and all that really happens is Daniel rips her dress and pins her to the ground before his fear makes him run.  But, this is not something I would want to explain to an eight year old.  This one paragraph turns many readers away.  I don’t know if the attempted rape is a realistic event, but it fits with the culture and socio-economic issues that plague Julie’s world.

There are so many good lessons found in Julie of the Wolves.  Julie escapes domestic violence and manages to survive in one of the most extreme climates in the world.  She taught me that women could be strong, smart, and resourceful.  George shows the good and bad of all the cultures Julie is exposed to; the gussak (lower 48), the Inupiat, and the wolf.  She shows that it is prudent to hunt for food but wasteful to poach.  Julie learns that she must adapt to survive, both in the wild and in a village.  Julie of the Wolves teaches adaptation, survival, culture, and finding inner strength.  I definitely recommend it.  The good outweighs the bad.

Julie of the Wolves will always be special to me because of its influence on my youth.  What books influenced you during your preteen years?

Lindsay