Flashback Friday: Welcome to the First Class You Will Ever Fail

Flashback Friday is a feature I did in 2011 when I first started this blog.  It was a way to practice my writing by sharing stories of things that happened in my life.  This feature is what inspired the name of my blog.  This short story is about a class I took in college where I got the first F of my life and it was quite shocking.  Hope you enjoy it.

“Welcome to Piano Literature! I’m Professor Beekman and we will be studying the wonderful world of the Romantic period.  Lizst, Brahms, and Chopin are just some of the great composers we will get to know this semester.  Please take one syllabus and pass them down.”

Professor Beekman seems nice.  He’s young unlike most of the piano professors.  He’s average height and has a gentle smile, unlike the head of the piano department who is short, terrifying, and smiles in a condescending way.  Professor Beekman also still has all of his hair which is a nice bonus.

“Are there any questions before I hand out the music?”


I’m about to raise my hand but I look around the room first.  Two students are sleeping, four are staring off into space and the girl next to me is taking detailed notes.  Great, I’ll be the idiot freshman who wants to know “What IS piano literature?”  I don’t raise my hand.

During the noise of CDs being passed around the class along with huge notebooks that contain the scores to the CDs with at least 100 pages in them, I turn to the girl next to me who was taking notes.  Her name is Maggie.

“So…what is piano literature exactly?” I try to seem curious and not dumb by slouching a little and twirling my pencil casually.

“I don’t really know, either.” She shrugs with a small smile.

That’s okay.  I’m sure I’ll do great in this class even if I don’t know what it’s even about yet.


Here’s the short version of what piano literature is: it’s the class from hell.  The long version: It’s a class to help you recognize all of the major piano works just by listening to them and learning about the lives of the famous piano composers.  To accomplish this we have to take tests that are so laughably hard that my friends thought I was kidding when I described the tests to them.

For our first quiz, Professor Beekman plays 30 second clips from the four hours of music the we have been listening to.  And he doesn’t play the main themes of the pieces that everyone recognizes.  Oh no. That would be too easy. He takes way too much delight in playing the very obscure, transitional parts of the music.  I can’t remember the names of any of the pieces.  I should have memorized them.  You know that charming, beautiful music from the romantic period? It all sounds the same.  I end up getting 2 out of 5 right on my first quiz.  The seniors that were sleeping on the first day of class all get 4 out of 5 right.  That should be me.  I slept through calculus in high school and still got an A. Something must be wrong.

I talk to my professor after class about my grade and explain that I correctly identified the Hungarian Rhapsody.  “I can live with a C if I get this one more question right….”  He smiles a little and says “But the title of the song is Hungarian Rhapsody NUMBER 2.”

“But you didn’t say we had to list the whole title of the song.”

He helpfully suggests that he’ll announce it in class next time and now I know.

He must have been Snape in another life.  He walks out the door but he sees me crying before he gets there and says some quote from Tolstoy about how everyone is unhappy in different ways.  THANK YOU THAT’S VERY HELPFUL.

I have to come up with a plan to pass this class.


I can feel my husband watching me as I cram my portable CD player, my bulky headphones, my CD wallet, and a ten-pack of batteries into my backpack.

“What are all the batteries for?”

“I have to listen to my CDs to study for piano lit.  My portable CD player eats batteries for breakfast.”

“But….10 batteries?”

“I know.  I hope it’s enough to get through the day.”

The study by osmosis method didn’t work.  I thought I could just listen to the music over and over without really paying attention since I can memorize tons of radio songs that way.  Learning this music is going to take more work.  I listen to my piano lit CDs for at least an hour and a half every day.  And now I know that he loves transitions.  So I pay special attention to the strange parts of the pieces.

The professor hands back my first test.  I got 35 right out of 100. How pathetic is that.  It’s not even enough for random chance.  It’s like my brain is trying to get them wrong.  At least I didn’t cry this time.

And then.


He passes out four more CDs with FOUR MORE hours of music to learn.  We get a new set of music at the end of each month.

I can’t breathe.  How is everyone else passing this class? Why did I decide to be a piano major?


“It’s okay. I didn’t do so well on my test either,” Maggie says as she looks at my test.  I glance at her paper.  She got a C. I’ve never gotten one of those either.  I went from an A student right to an F student.  It would have been nice to pass through mediocrity first before I went straight for failure.

“A bunch of us are going to study together.  Do you want to join us?”

Heck yes I do.  I’m no longer Hermione. I’ve officially become the Ron of this study group.

The study group gives tips for remembering transitions that sound similar in songs.  I also notice that all of them have copied the over 100 pages of the scores for the music.

“How do you even copy 100 pages of music?” I ask Maggie at one of our study sessions.

“Oh it’s easy actually.  They have a tray the feeds the paper for you.  But you’ll need to get a copy card to copy that many pages.”

Between the batteries and the copy card, this class is costing me a fortune.

I stare at the pages during the study sessions like everyone else.  I’m not exactly sure what they are looking for.  I memorize all the names of the pieces and ask my professor if I can write them down on a piece of paper before the test starts.  Maybe the confidence of having options to look at will help.  It’s clear from the look on his face that in all the years he’s taught this class,no one has ever asked him that but he says it’s fine.

I get 40 out of 100 right this time.

I’ve gone from a straight A high school student to completely failing a class.  Half of my grade is an F.  After lots of calculations, I figure I can get a C- if I get 200% on the next two tests.

“I shouldn’t be a piano major.” I tell Maggie as we leave the classroom.  “I suck at it.  No matter how much I listen to the music, it just falls out of my head.”

“No, you don’t suck! Everyone just learns differently.  We’ll study  more and you’ll do great.”  Maggie then gives me a hug and a big smile.

She’s annoyingly chipper.

At the end of the day, the broken record of “I’m a failure” and “Everyone learns differently” is still playing in my head when I realize something.


I have almost photographic memory for things I read and see but I’ll forget the beginning of a conversation by the time I get to the end of one.  Especially if the person yammers on a lot.  I remember learning in psychology that some people are visual learners and some are aural learners.  Now that I think about it, I realize that I am definitely a visual learner.  I can totally pass this class if I find a way to make piano lit visual instead of aural!

Right. I have no idea how to do that. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to make a listening test visual because it’s, you know, a LISTENING TEST.  But I need to do this for me.  No matter what grade I end up with at the end of the semester, I can’t help thinking that I haven’t failed until I give up.  This is a class for my major.  If I don’t pass, I can’t be a piano major anymore.  Besides – what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll get another F?  The thought makes me laugh for a moment before it turns into a sob.


“What are you doing?” my friend Maggie asks.

“I’m studying for piano lit.”

“Ok. But what’s with the crayons.”

I look at my score spread out before me.  There are blue circles, green lines, and red dots just on this page alone.

I shrug. “The colors help me remember the themes. Hopefully.”

It’s the last test of the semester.  I’ve been studying 3 hours a day for this class alone.  I spent the last of my money on a brand new iPod Mini just for this class that even has a built in quiz function.  I think my classmates are a little jealous of it.  At my desk, I furiously write down my song list before he begins the first clip.  I am so ready.

I get 60 out of 100 hundred right.  OH YEAH!!! That’s more than half right! Which means statistically it wasn’t just guessing!  I so rocked that test.


My professor calls me into his office later that day.  He invites me to sit. I’m so sure that he’s going to congratulate me on my score that I don’t understand what he says at first.

“I’m a little concerned about your grade.”

“….Oh. Well I got 60 right this time.” A huge smile spreads across my face. I can’t help it.

He purses his lips together and gives me a look full of pity. “That’s a D.”

My smile deflates.  “Oh. I guess it is.” Some people just don’t look at the positive in life.  I see it as more than half right, he sees it as almost half of them wrong….

“Look I know you’ve been studying hard.  I’ll take that into account for your final grade.  You can do some extra credit and your writing tests should help bump up your grade a little.”

My final grade that semester was a B-.  I’m crying because I’m more proud of that B- than I was of all the other A’s I had earned combined.  Next semester we studied 20th century music which was mostly glass and nails on piano strings and other disturbing things.  But I had my study methods down to an art.  I was getting 90 out of 100 right on my tests.  Remember those sleeping seniors? They had never heard any of this so-called music and wanted to learn our studying strategies.  So I got to be Hermione again by helping them study.  And that was a wonderful feeling.

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria SempleWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Published: August 14, 2012
330 pages
Genres: Adult Fiction
Source: Library

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
5 Stars

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a literary book that is full of witty, intelligent humor.  The voice of the teenage girl, Bee, who narrates this book is delightful and sarcastic especially about some of the crappy things that happen to her.  I love the humor of the unpopularity of Bee’s dad working at Microsoft where they are “acronym-happy (pg. 123).”  Bee has a sweet personality, too.  She is collecting letters, emails, transcripts, and blog posts in this journal that she is writing about where her mother went.  I ADORE the blog post that Bee puts in the book that is 500 words long and literally all the post says is that it’s going to rain.  Ah to love something that much that you could write 500 words about the smallest detail.

The writing is amazing in this book.  I don’t think there is a single cliche thing said in the entire book.  There’s a scene where people freeze as they stare at an argument.  But does she just say that they froze? No.  She describes them as this:

Nobody had moved.  Some hands were frozen in midair, in the middle of doing a fold.  It looked like a wax museum diorama of an origami presentation.

– Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette pg 275

I love it.  This was an example of the ultimate show not tell with everything from the unique structure of emails, faxes, and letters, to the writing itself.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette was very entertaining and full of personality.

The crazy small community that this story is set in was hilarious and it kind of reminded me of the small town charm and quirkiness of Gilmore Girls.  This book was full of interesting characters.  Literally all of them exaggerate.  We get to see different perspectives and how each character tends to bend the story a little in their favor to make themselves the victim.

I learned so much from the character of Bernadette.  She showed me that creativity is sometimes found within extreme limits.  I admired her ability to use her interpersonal skills to help her thrive in the male dominated professions of architecture.  Remember to embrace your talents – even the weird ones – and use them to do something you love that no one else can do.  I also loved the theme of Bernadette getting lost literally and figuratively in motherhood which I found very relatable.  Even though Bernadette doesn’t say this particular quote, I think it describes motherhood perfectly.

I felt so alone in this world, and so loved at the same time.

– Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette pg. 199

Overall, it was a impeccably written and hilarious story full of fascinating characters that taught me a lot about embracing your talents – even the weird ones.

Content Rating: High, for some strong language – about a dozen or more f-words.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Maria Semple

Maria Semple

Maria Semple's first novel, This One is Mine, was set in Los Angeles, where she also wrote for television shows including Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Ellen. She escaped from Los Angeles and lives with her family in Seattle, where her second novel takes place.

Book Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Book Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSnow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Published: October 14, 2014
432 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: For Review

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
3 Stars

The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book.  The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool.  Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year.  The Season Kingdoms and the “Rhythm” Kingdoms don’t like each other.  That’s a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in.  The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times.  Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out.  I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities – Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli.  But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche.  The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity.  The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes.  It’s fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.

The magic system grew on me.  I did not like it at first.  From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel).  I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, “Duh.  That’s obviously a stupid idea.”  Many, many chapters later it’s explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it.  The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil.  It was actually pretty interesting.  Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn’t been explained yet, I was not impressed.

The writing wasn’t the best I’ve read.  It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out.  Villain motivation is very important to me.  This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason.  That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have.  I mean, at least have a reason for all this power.  Maybe he’s always wanted all the things because he never had the things.  Please.  Something.  I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted.  They just called him “evil” the whole time.

Meira is a strong, spunky female lead.  I liked her character and reading about her.  She wants to be a soldier, not a princess.   As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron.  I thought he was the best character in the book.  He was so far from cliche that I don’t think Theron and cliche have ever met.  Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:

“There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future.  The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all.”

-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)

Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.

Content Rating: Medium, for some violence that is mildly graphic.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links.  I received this book for review from the publisher, Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. I was not told what to say, I was not paid to write this review and all the opinions expressed are my own.  I read an Advanced Reading Copy for this review. 

About Sara Raasch

Sara Raasch

Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then -- her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, is coming out Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures. She is represented by Charlotte Sheedy Literary.

Laini Taylor Book Signing

Laini Taylor Book Signing


Laini Taylor at the Salt Lake City Library. September 27, 2014

Laini Taylor came to the Salt Lake City Library on September 27, 2014 for the kick-off of the Utah Humanities Book Festival.  Laini’s presentation was beautifully written just like her books.  It’s one of the best author presentations that I’ve been to.  She didn’t lecture or even read from her novel.   Laini turned what she’s learned into an entertaining story – like a true writer.

Story Cat

Laini Taylor began her presentation with a story about a guy who happens to be descended from Samual Morse (the guy who invented morse code and the telegraph).

SIDE NOTE: Laini couldn’t help going into the back story of Samuel Morse and why he invented morse code.  Samuel was originally a painter and he got a letter while working on a portrait that said his wife was sick but by the time he got back his wife had died AND had been buried. That event was the inspiration to invent the morse code.

But this story is about Finley Morse who one day writes like crazy while a cat sits in his lap even though he doesn’t like cats.  When he finishes writing, it feels like he woke up from a dream.  He doesn’t really know what he wrote.  When he reads it and sees that it’s a very strange romance he freaks out and burns the story because he usually writes Important Literary Fiction.

Later he meets this girl that wrote the exact same story but in her own words.  Wondering how they have the exact same story, he asks her where the story came from.  She says she thinks it came from a cat.

MORAL OF THE STORY – get a black cat. Find the story cat. It will write the stories for you.

Obviously the story isn’t true but Laini talks about how she wants it to be that easy.

What Writing Is Like For Laini Taylor

  1. Write a sentance
  2. Read the sentence
  3. Die a little over how inadequate the sentence is
  4. Attempt to leave it there and lay another sentence behind it.  This is what one does when writing – accumulate sentences.

(Then she feels the urge to delete the sentence.)

I think that describes what writing is like for a lot of people (including me).

BEST QUOTE from Laini: “Learning to operate my brain has been the work of my creative life.”

When she said that, I think angel’s descended with epiphanies on their wings.  If I want to be an author someday, I need to do that too.

Laini said that she always wanted to be a writer but struggled with perfectionism.  She could write plots in massive outlines, she could rearrange sentences and words to make them interesting but she couldn’t figure out how to combine the two.  Transforming ideas into language is the art of storytelling and is a skill that you can learn that combines the plot and the pretty language.  She mentioned the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as a place that she learned a lot about writing.

Growing Up Laini

IMG_1059.JPGLaini Taylor is the only book signing I’ve been to where the author spoke about their life of reading and writing and it was completely fascinating.  As a kid, she loved buying notebooks and candy and writing in them.  She loved writing maps and creating worlds. She wrote stories for her friends as gifts.  There was the “Choose Your Own Adventure” story gift and one with a lot of French because she was “the most pretentious teenager that ever lived.” LOL.  She read some hilariously bad writing that she did as a teen.


One of the most moving things about her presentation was her journey to respecting her teen self and what she wanted back then.  As an adult, she still loves the same things she did as a teen.  Even though her teen writing wasn’t very good, mostly because she didn’t know the difference between good and bad taste, she could still see herself in her writing.  And I found that idea so beautiful.  It’s easy to look back at our teen selves and see hormones and mistakes and bad decisions.  Our teen selves shaped who we are as adults and there was nothing wrong with going through that phase or who we were back then.  Teens are passionate because their brains are made that way – they can’t make rational decisions, weigh consequences, control emotions or impulses.

Europe: Daydreams vs. Reality

Laini went to Europe alone when she was 17. She had expectations about Europe that mostly came from books.  It was a great summer but nothing like she imagined in her daydreams – no heartache or squalor or mystery.  Books can cause what she calls “readers dissatisfaction with reality syndrome.”  She was sad to realize that as an adult her daydreams wouldn’t just happen.  She had to make them happen.  Fiction is a way that we can essentially live more than one life.  The Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the daydream Laini wanted to live as a teen.  It also explored the idea of what she would be like as a teenager if she was growing up now.

The Fictional Dream


Like all good writing, there is an unexpected twist.  And since this presentation was written so beautifully it also contained an unexpected twist.  The magic of writing – the secret of writing – is that it CAN be like the story cat in real life.  Laini talked about John Gardner’s idea of the fictional dream which is the feeling of being so fully immersed in a book that you no longer notice the words on the page and you feel like you are in the story in this dream-like state.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.  I would describe it more like a movie playing in your head but I knew it was the exact same thing.  John Gardner says that the better the writing, the better the dream.  I love that idea.  It turns writing from this chore about rules into this amazing experience that I usually have while reading books, but, since I’m writing it, now I’m in charge.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorI related to her struggles with writing.  She would stare at a blank screen a lot.  She was an intense plotter because she didn’t want to waste any effort or time.  She was scared of making a mistake.  One day after struggling with a novel that wasn’t working, she decided to write for fun.  She started with nothing and the experience felt like the story cat.  She loved everything she wrote.  That story turned out to be Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  When I read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I could tell that it was something that the author had put their heart and soul into.  She didn’t outline the whole series.  She would try new things and because she had gotten to know her brain and how it worked, she slowly discovered where the story should go.  She spoke about her brain as if it was a person in such a detailed and charming way that I wanted to get to know my brain in the same way.

This whole presentation was very inspiring to me.  I want to study writing, and get to know my brain, and write something that feels like a dream I wish I could live.


Biggest mistake as a writer?

Staring at a blank page. To fix that, she has a working document where she can make mistakes and be messy and then her final story page.  Daydream on the screen.  Brainstorm, free write, write the scene several ways and discover what will happen.  Remember there is no one right way to write a book.

Since Laini knows her perfectionist brain so well, she allows herself to rewrite a little as she goes along.  She does that because she needs to get attached to the story and if it’s all crap, she won’t love it enough to move on.  But she also has to keep in mind that she does need to actually move on.  She compared it to swimming to buoys and then staying at the buoy for a little while and then swimming on.

How do you make the leap as a writer when you have financial concerns?

You can only be an artist by giving it your all. Don’t have a backup plan because you usually end up living your back up plan.  It’s scary and sometimes you just have to take the risk.

My Question: how did you write Daughter of Smoke & Bone as a trilogy if you didn’t outline them and yet they all connect?

She couldn’t see very far ahead in the plot.  She knew she wanted the epilogue of the last book but didn’t know how to get there.  She brainstormed for the second book because she knew she needed a “thing.”  The “thing” was the scene between Ziri and Thiago at the end of the second book.  She had to to rewrite it a lot.  I liked her advice to do more work than will ever show or that your readers will know about.  Outlining is probably more efficient but it doesn’t work for her.  Some things just came together that weren’t planned like the mythos of the last book.  Luckily, she didn’t write herself into too many corners.  She said it was a little scary to work that way (um yeah!) and she didn’t know if it would work out.

I’m glad it did work out because I thought the whole series was beautiful.


Jessica and Laini Taylor at the Salt Lake City Library. September 27, 2014.

My signed Daughter of Smoke and Bone!!!

My signed copy Daughter of Smoke & Bone!!!

About Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor

Hi there! I'm a writer of fantasy books for young people, but my books can be enjoyed by adults as well. My 'Dreamdark' books, Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger (2009) are about faeries -- not dainty little flowery things, but warrior-faeries who battle devils. My first young adult book, Lips Touch, is a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award! It's creepy, sensual supernatural romance. . . about kissing. I am also an artist with a licensed gift product line called "Laini's Ladies."

Top 5 New Books for October 2014

Top 5 New Books for October 2014



by Ally Condie

Release Date: October 28, 2014

Rio has waited her whole life for the opportunity to leave the sheltered, underwater city of Atlantia for life on the surface. It has been said that life on the surface is harsh and unforgiving, but offers the promise of something more than the life Atlantia provides. But when Rio is forced to remain below, she is left with increasingly dangerous questions about the complex system constructed to govern the fragile divide between land and sea.

My Thoughts: I loved Ally Condie’s Matched Series and I’m really excited for her new book. It sounds like a Little Mermaid retelling of sorts but the title makes me wonder if it’s also about the lost city of Altantis or something.


Chasing Power

Chasing Power

by Sarah Beth Durst

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Sixteen-year-old Kayla was born with the ability to move things with her mind—things like credit cards and buttons on cash registers—and she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again . . . which would mean grave danger for them both.

When she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel—a boy with the ability to teleport—he needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family—and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive . . . or survive.

My Thoughts: This kind of reminds me of that 80’s movie Escape from Witch Mountain. But it also has a kind of Jedi vibe that I think sounds really cool.


Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes

by Sara Raasch

Release Date: October 14, 2014

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Secretly training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king, Mather—she would do anything to help Winter regain its source of magic and rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers and fighting enemy soldiers just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics—and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, and never has been, her own.

Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy is a lightning-fast tale of loyalty, love, and finding one’s destiny.

My Thoughts: I’ve read this one. It was good. I liked the idea of kingdoms being a season. It seemed a little like a YA version of Frozen, but it was a great fantasy that just took a while to get into.


Catalyst by S J Kincaid


by S. J. Kincaid

Release Date: October 28, 2014

This exhilarating, explosive, and heartrending conclusion to the Insignia trilogy brings Tom and his intelligent, passionate, and brave young friends stunning tests and dangerous confrontations and through to an impossible future they could never have predicted.

Tom Raines and his friends are eager to return to the Pentagonal Spire to continue training for the elite Intrasolar Forces, but they soon discover troubling changes: strict new regulations and the revelation that the Spire is under new military control. What begins as an irritating adjustment soon reveals a dangerous shift in reality. Those now in control are aligned with corporate sponsors and their ruthless agendas. And when the military academy begins welcoming new cadets with suspicious neural processors, the first step in a plan with horrifying worldwide ramifications, Tom is desperate to stop it, even if that means keeping secrets from his closest allies.

Then a mysterious figure, the other ghost in the machine, begins fighting against the corporations, but with methods even Tom finds shocking. And when the enemy comes for Tom, how much can Tom endure in the battle to save himself? He must decide if he can still fight when the odds of success seem to be sliding from his grip.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Insignia.  The final book is coming out this month!


Stitching Snow by R C Lewis

Stitching Snow

by R.C. Lewis

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

My Thoughts: I love fairy tell retellings and this one looks like an awesome dystopian/sci-fi retelling of Snow White.


Honorable Mentions