Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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July 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

The formatting is screwy in this post, but ah well…

Read on!

SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by Walter Dean Myers

From Goodreads: A powerful…novel about the heroics and horror of war…Operation Iraqi Freedom, that’s the code name. But the young men and women in the military’s Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

This is a sort-of sequel to FALLEN ANGELS, which took place during the Vietnam War and was from the perspective of Richie. In SUNRISE, Richie’s nephew, Robin aka Birdy, has joined the military.

There were a few editing issues (example: Birdy references Jonsey on one page and then a few pages later, they are introducing themselves, as if for the first time), but nothing so large as to overshadow the story.

Myers did a tremendous job with the ambiguity of the situation – Birdy’s confusion over what the “right” thing is, plus the frustration and fear over constantly changing rules of engagement.

He also showed, as Birdy wrote in a letter to his uncle: “that the guys who fought in Nam wouldn’t even recognize today’s army.” (pg 1)

Key word back then being GUYS.

I didn’t connect as much as I did to FALLEN ANGELS, probably because my dad was in Vietnam so it felt more personal, but it definitely made me think.

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GHOST BOY by Martin Pistorius

From Goodreads: In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick…within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin’s parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.

This is a memoir, about how Pistorius regained awareness and found his voice through the use of speech devices. It’s part hopeful and part horrifying and was an interesting and insightful read.

My one complaint, as with the above book, is the editing. It felt a bit uneven without any real references to time and some of the sections near the end were a bit rambling and written like it was an entirely different book.

Still, it’s worth the read, but be prepared for tough subject matter.

20160713_100941SUMMER SISTERS by Judy Blume

“Adult” Judy Blume book that follows friends Vix and Caitlin from their first summer together on Martha’s Vineyard in 1977 through their adulthoods and separate paths.

This was a very “beachy” read for me although, sadly, I did not read it while on a beach. It dealt with some serious issues, but always from a distance, as if I was a neighbor, peeking in on the dysfunctional household next door. I liked the format a lot, focusing mostly on Vix, but gaining insight into other characters’ mindsets, and it was cool to grow up with the girls and see how they turned out, but I really disliked Caitlin. I’m not sure if I was supposed to like her or not, though.

All in all, a bittersweet read that successfully captured the aches and pains of being young, but made me extremely glad to be a grown up without someone like Caitlin in my life.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN by Vaddey Ratner

Adult fiction, based on the author’s own childhood experiences in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia.

I’m only halfway through this book because real-life has slowed my reading time, but so far it’s heartbreaking and beautifully written. OMG, the writing, seriously, it’s gorgeous. There are times I feel swept away by the mythical legends the main character’s father tells and then I’m yanked back to the horrible reality of the atrocities that are happening.

Side note: Growing up, my older brother was one of those kids that read history books for fun. I’d leaf through them sometimes and I still remember an  image detailing the number of deaths Pol Pot (Khmer Rouge leader) was responsible for: 1.5 million. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend this number. As an adult, I still can’t.

Books like this are so, so important. We shouldn’t ever forget and we should learn from history. Just forty years ago, a megalomaniac and the group that blindly followed him attempted to “take back” their country, separating people by their religious and ethnic backgrounds, forbidding minorities to speak their own languages, and trying to make everyone the same.

One and a half million people died.

That’s terrifying. 


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RTW – Lovefest!

This week’s topic is: It’s (the day before) Valentine’s Day! Let’s jumpstart the lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing (and/or reading)!

I love all the great memories I associate with reading and writing.

-Being a kid and my mom taking my older brother and me to the local library. I know I’ve mentioned it once (or a dozen) times on the blog that bro and I would check out every single copy of Three by the Sea, just because we could.

-My elementary school librarian reading to us in the library “pit.” I can still picture the ugly green carpet.

-Getting permission in high school to complete a special senior year project of writing a novel because my creative writing teacher was the most awesome, supportive woman ever. She even had several bound copies made for me.

-My creative writing classes at community college, which were the first times I shared my work with people not my age. My classmates included a pastor and a retired farmer. Or at least in my frozen teenage memory, he will forever remain a farmer who wrote such a great character observation that it still sticks in my mind.

-Swapping books with my family. I’m helping my dad clean up his enormous collection of books this spring and I can only imagine how many I’ll end up with before all is said and done. Some he’ll insist I read, but others I’ll take because I won’t be able to help myself.

-Seeing a whole new generation fall in love with reading. One of my friends told me her one-year-old has started bringing books to her and her husband to read to him.

-Which reminds me of my older brother “reading” to me when we were kids. He’d start off out loud, then trail off after about a page and continue on silently. So it’s more like he’d read and I’d sit there beside him, waiting for the story to start up again.

-Finally, cats and YA.

The Cat Recession


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Things I Love – Family Edition. Now with 20% more books!

The other week my dad called to tell me about a publishing article he saw in a magazine that he thought I’d be interested in reading.  Of course, he didn’t actually have the article in front of him, so I had to sit and wait patiently (while I was at work) as he dug around to find it.

But that’s my dad and I would expect nothing less.

In addition to sharing articles, we also swap books.  Usually non-fic because I’ve yet to convince him to read YA.

No worries, though, because YA book-swapping is what my mom and I do.  And my older bro and I used to sit around, reading about those incorrigible twins from Sweet Valley.

My younger bro and I have also swapped books – he’s the one I borrowed the entire series of Harry Potter from.  In turn, he borrowed my hubby’s Wheel of Time collection.  I attempted to read the first WOT book.  It took me a month.  Sorry high fantasy.

You’d think the book-love would end there, but it doesn’t!

Bully! (in a Teddy Roosevelt sort of way)

When my older bro and I were kids, one of our cousins used to give us gift certificates to the local bookstore for Christmas.  I thought he was THE coolest person EVER.

Bully! (in a standard bullying sort of way)

My dad and his sisters exchange books.  Sometimes I get to be a part of this.  We are a stubborn, argumentative lot, so it’s not so much:

“I think you’ll like this,”

it’s more of:

“You WILL like this!  Read it!  And as quickly as possible, because someone else is waiting!”

But I kinda like that.  It’s like we’re in this one-upmanship Game of Book (which would be a whole lot more like The Westing Game, nothing at all like Game of Thrones).

How about you all – what family member is your “book buddy?”  Or is your entire family book-crazed like mine?


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SummySeries Book Reflection

I’ve read SOOO many books this summer, how can I pick just one or two to talk about???

I already gushed about Anne Shirley, so I’ll refrain from doing that again.

You’ve heard of Movies in a Minute?  Here are my Books in a Sentence:

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard: Beautiful writing, great imagery, liked the focus on an unlikely, painful-at-times friendship as Grace tries to find the place she belongs.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers: Snarky MC (who I actually liked even though I’m not sure I was supposed to), a sweet dog, a new guy, self-destruction/unraveling as Parker tries to come to terms with the horrible thing she did.

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler: Great theme of starting over/finding yourself when your dream is taken from you, the great outdoors, insanely smexy times with an emotionally damaged guy, a family reconnecting during summer vacation, satisfying realistic ending.

What is everyone else reading?  If you’ve got a good recommendation, lemme know, I’m always up for suggestions!