Category Archives: Guest Post

Author Kristi Charish Guest Post

Edutainment: Science Literacy Hail Mary or Slippery Slope of No Return?
by Kristi Charish

How do we learn?

It’s one of those questions constantly floated around academic educational circles in an attempt to determine how best to teach students and it’s a particularly charged topic around the subject of science literacy.

Science literacy is loosely defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes. More specifically, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines scientific literacy as “the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen.”
This requires a scientifically literate person to:
• Explain phenomena scientifically – recognize, offer and evaluate explanations for a range of natural and technological phenomena
• Evaluate and design scientific inquiry – describe and appraise scientific investigations and propose ways of addressing questions scientifically.
• Interpret data and evidence scientifically – analyze and evaluate data, claims and arguments in a variety of representations and draw appropriate scientific conclusions.

So how do we match up against these criteria? Available statistics vary – remember we’re dealing with a qualitative assessment of skill which is trickier to do that determine if someone can read or perform math but in general they suggest North Americans are doing about as well as everyone else. In other words, not great (For more detail on the data start with Science Daily News via John Miller at Michigan State University back in 2007 and in an 2010 article on Science News). One finding from 2007 that stuck out was that although Americans scored marginally better than their European counterparts, 70% of American were still unable to read and understand the science section of the New York Times. On many levels that could pose a serious societal problem on our horizon. Does it matter how many scientific wonders and advances you achieve if 70% of the population in unable to comprehend how we got there and what we’ve actually done?

How did our science literacy end up here? At what point does a society whose very existence depends on the scientific advances of the past 150 years and which is in the throws of unprecedented technological advances get to the point where a majority of the population is no longer literate enough to understand a report in a newspaper?

Theories range from the acceleration of scientific discoveries making it impossible for the general public to keep up to the deterioration of public science education, and the failure of scientists and news to properly communicate and decimate accurate information. Take your pick. I’m not certain it really matters what the cause is at this point, the outcome is the same. We’ve got more wonders of science around us then at any other point in history and some of our reactions mimic those of dark-age townspeople on a witch-hunt (Vaccinations and genetically modified organisms anyone?). Any solutions to the above problems posed would require a major shift in societal behavior- something we as humans aren’t particularly good at.

There is a possible Hail Mary for science literacy that doesn’t necessitate the engineering of massive social change, an area of educational research that has gained some attention in academic education and science literacy circles, and not always for positive reasons. Learning through narrative.

Learning through story narrative (whether it’s novels, TV, or videogames) isn’t anything new; it’s a process that’s been going on for millennia. Ever since we started painting hunting scenes on caves depicting how, where, and when to hunt, we’ve been telling stories through narrative. Humans like stories. We remember things told in a narrative better than something told as a singular fact. Stories give ideals and detail context, and the more entertaining the better. Good stories engage us by resonating on an emotional level, and that in turn brings details to life.

Continue reading Author Kristi Charish Guest Post

The Tree of Water Excerpt and Giveaway

THE TREE OF WATER
by Elizabeth Haydon
Starscape, 2014

1
To Go, or Not to Go

The human boys had an expression back in the faraway city of Vaarn where I was born. It went like this:

Curiosity killed the cat

Satisfaction brought him back

I am a curious person. I was just as curious back in my early days in Vaarn as I am now, perhaps even more so, because my curiosity had not yet been given a chance to be satisfied.

The first time I heard this expression, I was very excited. I thought it meant that my curiosity could make me feel like I was dying, but it would let up if I discovered the answer to whatever was making me curious.

I told my mother about the rhyme. She was not impressed. In fact, she looked at me as if I had just set my own hair on fire on purpose. She patted my chin, which was woefully free of any sign of the beard that should have been growing there.

“That’s very nice,” she said, returning to her chores. “But just in case nobody told you, you are not a cat, Ven. Unlike you, cats have whiskers.”

My pride stung for days afterward.

But it didn’t stop my curiosity from growing as fast as my beard should have been.

My name is Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme, Ven for short. Unlike the human boys in Vaarn, I am of the race of the Nain. Nain are somewhat shorter than humans, and grumpier. They live almost four times as long as humans, and tend to be much less curious, and much less adventurous. They hate to travel, don’t swim, and generally do not like other people. Especially those who are not Nain.

I clearly am not a good example of my race.

First, I am very tall for a Nain, sixty-eight Knuckles high when I was last measured on the morning of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve already mentioned my uncontrollable curiosity, which brings along with it a desire for adventure. I have been blessed, or cursed, with quite a lot of that recently.

But as for the curiosity, while I’ve had a lot of satisfaction for the questions it has asked me, it doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as one burning question is answered, another one springs to mind immediately. As a result, I am frequently in trouble.

Continue reading The Tree of Water Excerpt and Giveaway

Author Jamie Metzl Guest Post

Building a Better Baby
Freezing eggs opens the door to a future where every birth could be genetically engineered.

By Jamie MetzlAuthor of GENESIS CODE: A Thriller of the Near Future

Recent reports of Apple and Facebook now offering to cover the costs of their female employees extracting and freezing their eggs has touched off a national debate. Proponents have said this new perk expands options for women and helps them balance career and life goals. Others have argued it gives women the wrong message about work-life balance and binds them even more intimately to companies primarily interested in their unimpeded work product. But while the debate over egg freezing is important, it misses the bigger point. In the not-distant future, all advantaged women will freeze their eggs in their twenties, and an ever increasing number of babies will be born through a process involving both in vitro fertilization and genetic selection. This revolution will have huge implications for our societies and our species, but we are hardly talking about it.

In labs and clinics around the world, doctors are already using the preimplantation genetic diagnosis process to extract a single cell from and genetically screen each of the five day old embryos in IVF prior to implantation in the mother. Currently, the preimplantation genetic diagnosis process is used to screen for single gene abnormalities like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease and sickle cell anemia and, in more limited cases, gender. Each one of the cells extracted in that process, however, carries the full genome. As our ability to understand the genome continues its exponential growth, it is inevitable that parents will be able to choose from thousands of genetic predispositions for each embryo, not just for single gene variations like eye color, but, over time, for more polygenic traits including intelligence, athleticism, robustness and more. If they have fifteen embryos to choose from in IVF, for example, they will be able to choose which of their natural offspring to implant based on their particular value system.

After that, it is extremely likely that scientists will be able to generate eggs from stem cells, making human eggs a potentially unlimited resource (as human sperm already is). At this point, instead of choosing from among ten or twenty of their own embryos, parents would be able to choose from among hundreds or thousands, whatever they can afford. Beyond that, genetic engineering to add DNA from sources other than the two parents will be our reality.

The idea of turning the most beautiful part of the human experience over to scientists will be terrifying for many and, no doubt, constituencies will emerge calling for restrictions or an outright ban. These restrictions might even work in some jurisdictions. But governments and insurance providers will certainly have a strong incentive to support genetic screening, if it proves safe, because the cost of screening will almost certainly be less than the cost of treating what will then be seen as avoidable genetic abnormalities.

Whatever people’s reservations, competition within and between societies will drive this technology and its application forward. Within societies, parents will not want their children to be disadvantaged once the science is deemed safe. Between societies, different attitudes and world views will lead to different rates of technology adoption. Even if Christian-majority countries like the United States, for example, might someday join the Vatican and others pushing for restrictions, other countries such as China and Korea (whose worldview is based less on the concept of a divine plan) may well continue to be more comfortable moving forward with human genetic selection and engineering, as some polling data has shown. And even if all countries opt out, which is unlikely based on current behavior, motivated individuals and non-state actors will have full access to this technology.

With whatever mix of catalysts and first movers, it is almost impossible to believe that our species, which has embraced every new technology – from explosives to nuclear energy to anabolic steroids to plastic surgery and beyond – promising to improve our lives but also carrying potential downsides, would forgo chasing advances in a technology that has the potential to eradicate terrible diseases, improve our health and increase our life spans.

Given the emotional charge of these issues, and the fact that heritable genetic manipulations will have the potential to spread across populations through reproduction, some people and countries will likely become hostile if others elsewhere are changing the human genetic code in a manner that will impact them. Would countries banning heritable genetic manipulations screen people for such mutations at their borders or make it a crime for their citizens to procreate with them? What might some countries do to try to stop others from altering the human genome in ways likely to drift into their own populations?

While these scenarios may seem far off to some – and there are still serious scientific hurdles to be overcome – our altered reproductive future is approaching far faster than most people think.

Because the science is moving forward more quickly than our consciousness, it is critical that we begin a national and global conversation on the ethical and national security implications of the genetics revolution and start thinking about what a preliminary global regulatory framework that both supports important research and prevents the worst abuses might look like.

Egg freezing is a first step in a process that will transform our concepts of nature, reproduction and genetic choice. We owe ourselves and our progeny, a much broader and deeper conversation about our species’ reproductive future.

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Jamie Metzl is with a global investment firm and is a nonresident Senior Fellow for Technology and National Security of the Atlantic Council and author of the 2014 novel Genesis Code. He served in the National Security Council and U.S. State Department during the Clinton administration. Follow him on Twitter @jamiemetzl. This editorial is partly derived from his October 2014 Foreign Affairs article, “The Genetic Epidemic.”

Author Karen Akins Guest Post

Akins, Karen_CREDIT Jonna Nixon_Red House Photography

Music/Books/Films that inspired LOOP
by Karen Akins

First up, music.

When writing, I rely heavily on my book playlist to nail the mood that I’m trying to establish in each scene or for each character. Sometimes, in revisions, I’ll even go back and revise the playlist if I realize that I’ve gotten off track, emotion-wise.

LOOP’s playlist is on Spotify:

If I had to pick a theme song for LOOP’s main characters, Bree and Finn, it would be “I’m Going to Make You Love Me” by the Jayhawks. It’s one of the few songs that’s stayed the same from the first draft all the way through the publishing process. It contains this hopeful determination that Finn naturally has and that Bree desperately needs.

Books.

Well, I’ll tell you what didn’t inspire LOOP…any time travel novels written in the last four years. I had to stop reading any other time travel once I started writing it. There are so many similar themes that run throughout the sub-genre, and I didn’t want to be overly influenced by anyone else’s worldbuilding. And let me tell you, my time travel ban has been hard. As soon as I finish final edits on LOOP’s sequel TWIST, I am going to go on a time travel binge. J

In terms of inspiring the “specialized ability in a unique setting” of LOOP, I’m going to give huge props to Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY series and Ally Carter’s GALLAGHER GIRLS series. As I was reading their stories, I kept thinking, this is what I want to convey in LOOP more than anything…fun!

Very astute readers will pick up on some similarities to Pride & Prejudice. I looooosely based my plot on P & P. (And I’m always happy to discuss those similarities once you pick them out.)

Films.

One comment I’ve received from several readers is that LOOP’s action gives it a movie feel. One sweet reader actually said, “I kept craving popcorn while I was reading, and I realized it was because I felt like I was watching a movie.”

I’m a huge sci-fi fan. Some of the gadgets and general sense of optimism for the future have a Star Trek background. And, not to be too spoilery, but one of the scenes in LOOP was most definitely inspired by the final one of The Matrix.

Thanks again for having me! I hope everyone enjoys LOOP. <3

Colleen Gleason Guest Post and Giveaway!

Victorians, Steampunk, and Séances
by Colleen Gleason

The second book in my young adult steampunk and adventure series, The Spiritglass Charade, has a plot that revolves around a popular Victorian pasttime: séances and spirit-talking. Gathering around a table in a pitch-black room and calling the spirits, usually via a medium, was all the craze—and not just in Victorian England, but also in the United States. In fact, two of the most famous mediums—the Fox sisters (who, by the way, later confessed to be frauds)—were American.

While the first book in this, the Stoker & Holmes series, featured another Victorian interest (Egyptology), I decided it would be utterly fitting to combine my cog-filled, mechanics-driven steampunk world with that of the spiritualism fad. It made a lot of sense, and the more I researched Victorian England, the more I realized how absolutely perfect a fit this was.

Start with the two protagonists in my series—Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) and Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram, descendant of vampire-hunter Victoria Gardella). They are so different, I knew they’d approach the idea of attending a séance from completely different perspectives. Mina, of course, would be filled with the need to explain the rapping sounds and ghostly writing on a slate, and Evaline (being a hunter of supernatural creatures) would have a much more open mind and be willing to take whatever comes.

As the book progresses, we shift from the perspective and opinion of one to the other—seeing Mina’s pragmatic point of view, and then understanding why Evaline argues the opposite.

And then there’s the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who was great friends with Bram Stoker—how’s that for a coincidence?) had a life-long belief in spiritualism and séances. He was fascinated by the idea of the after life and other worldly life, and spent much of his time attending séances. In fact, he and Harry Houdini (who was firmly in the opposite camp, and spent his time debunking spirit-talkers) were very close friends for many years until they had a falling out over this very subject. Doyle strongly believed in the afterlife, and Houdini had spent so much of his life conducting the very tricks false mediums used during their events that he couldn’t believe in it at all—although he truly wanted to.

It made sense to me to feature séances with fraudulent mediums…and perhaps not-so-fraudulent mediums…in this story. I learned about all of the ways the (mostly women) spirit-talkers conducted false examples of spirit-talking—from learning how to crack their toe and knee joints loudly enough to sound like ghostly rapping—to sleight-of-hand tricks to do ghostly writing on slates or table-shifting, etc. Initially, I thought it would be necessary for me to use the steampunk element of fancy gadgets and amazing devices in order to create the effects of a false séance, I soon learned from my research that it wasn’t necessary: the Victorians had it covered with their own creativity and simple mechanisms.

Yet during my research I also found examples of mediums who were never debunked, even through the Society for Psychical Research (directed by Harvard professor and William James)—including Mrs. Nellie Titus and Leonora Piper. (For excellent reading on the subject, try Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters.)

So did I “take sides” in the debate in The Spiritglass Charade? Hmmm…no comment from me! Whether or not there are truly ghosts and spirits that talk to people is up to you to decide…


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Courtesy of Chronicle Books, I have a copy of The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends November 7. I’ll draw a name on November 8, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Colleen Gleason Guest Post and Giveaway!

Guest Post: Jamie Schultz on Seeing the Future

Seeing the Future
By Jamie Schultz

There are a million stories about seeing the future—speculative fiction is thick with them, and with good reason, since there’s nothing more speculative than cracking open the future and having a look around in there. Arguably, that’s what the word means, at least once you couple it to a great deal of uncertainty. They come in technological versions, magical versions, oblique and direct and everything in between. I’m fascinated with these kinds of stories, in large part because the future is one area of exploration that is walled off to us, which of course makes one wonder about it that much more.

There are lots of different ways to classify “seeing the future” stories, but one of the most fundamental is by malleability. One branch, dating back to the Greeks and the story of Cassandra, is your basic “the future is fixed, and you are screwed” kind of story. These can be fantastic stories, but they lend themselves to one of two approaches: straight up horror, where everything foreseen comes to pass, and you basically sit back and watch as every terrible portent unfurls itself into an unavoidable series of events; or a sort of ironic approach, where, despite foreknowledge of some terrible event, the protagonist’s effort to prevent said terrible event ends up causing it or proving maddeningly irrelevant. The film 12 Monkeys comes to mind as an example of this kind of story. Massive amounts of effort, and in the end, it all ends up being beside the point. That doesn’t make them bad stories, but that does tend to create a kind of desperate or, at best, ironic fatalism.

In the other main branch, the future can be affected. These are the types of stories that really appeal to me, in part because of their flexibility, and in part because they tend to be less fatalistic. There’s an undercurrent of optimism in these stories that may be bleak, but at least the moral of the story is not that the optimism is fundamentally misguided. A classic example is Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, in which the protagonist sees a terrible vision of disaster befalling the world after a particularly awful politician gets elected, and sets out to stop him, permanently, heedless of the consequences for himself.

Of course, one of the sources of dramatic tension can be playing a guessing game with the audience of which kind of story they’re experiencing—is the future fixed, or not? In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death or Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, much of the tension comes from just this—wondering whether or not the awful thing that has been prophesied will actually come to pass.

This ties in to a crucial element of “seeing the future” stories, something so obvious that there would hardly be a story without it: The would-be prophet always sees something bad. The question is usually, then, whether the bad thing can be avoided, and if so how. One of the more interesting approaches to handling this is in Asimov’s venerable Foundation series. The fascinating thing about this is that the future is “seen” through statistical science, and the prophet, Hari Seldon, not only sees the grim future that looms over humanity, but also sees a better future and a path toward achieving it. That is, not only is the future malleable, but those with enough knowhow can look ahead and figure out how, specifically, to change it for the better. There’s a sort of optimism about the capabilities of technology for leading humanity to utopia, or at least out of the desert, that is fairly uncommon. And, of course, even Asimov and his contemporaries were less than sure that the technological predictions of the future would be universally positive—witness Minority Report and even one of Asimov’s own stories, where a block-sized supercomputer can pick out would-be criminals, a task so depressing it makes the computer attempt to kill itself.

Speaking of the suicidal supercomputer, one of the interesting things about prophecy stories is that viewing the future is almost always regarded as a bad thing for the prophet. In many cases, this is due to the burden of the gift itself—seeing things that the prophet would rather not, or afflicting the prophet with a responsibility to act, a responsibility that is itself a gigantic weight. It can come with other burdens, too. In Wendig’s Blackbirds, the protagonist, Miriam Black, can see when somebody is going to die, and she can’t do anything about it. This ends up having the effect of alienating her from humanity, leading her to a seedy existence between the cracks of society, even without burdening her with additional responsibility. All the way back to the Old Testament, prophets were regarded as having a tendency, if not an outright requirement, to go mad.

Part of the reason viewing the future is typically coupled with dire side effects is, I think, from a not-so-latent fear of the category of things we don’t know, and therefore are labeled, “Things we are not meant to know.” It’s a staple of fantasy and science fiction (and, hell, literature in general) that knowing things we are not meant to know is harmful if not outright fatal. Another reason is likely that of dramatic necessity—any character that knows the future and isn’t somehow crippled by that knowledge would be godlike, and either remove a whole lot of the drama from a story or render it pointless (or at least in any type of story where the future is malleable).

Probably due to a relatively modern suspicion of concepts like destiny, as well as a conscious attempt to avoid lapsing into fatalism (my writing can be dark enough already, thank you) I write malleable futures. In my novel Premonitions, the futures glimpsed by the main character are eminently malleable, and in fact she changes them all the time. The hard part is that, as in reading entrails or listening to the voices of gods on the wind, her visions are difficult to interpret, and in some cases extremely metaphorical. They also tend to crowd out her experience of present-tense reality, if not carefully managed—a callback to those mad Old Testament prophets, and, like those prophets, she lives perpetually in unsteady balance on a knife edge between sanity and insanity. As a result of trying to manage this, she—again, like a mad prophet—has ended up living outside regular society, though in her case, due to the need to pay copious sums for the black market concoction that controls her visions, she has become a criminal rather than a hermit.

I doubt I’ve added anything to the canon, in terms of the wealth of fantastic “seeing the future” stories we have. I do hope, though, that I’ve drawn on the rich history of these kinds of stories and managed to put my own interesting spin on them.

Author John L. Campbell Guest Post

John L. Campbell, author of Ship of the Dead, joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about the popularity of zombies…

UNDEAD ROCK STARS
by John L. Campbell

I was in line at a deli the other day, and the young man behind the counter made a comment about zombies. Always on the lookout for a chance to promote my work, I asked, “Do you like zombies?” He looked at me as if I was slow-witted and said, “It’s 2014, man.”

He’s right. In recent years, zombies have become such an integral part of our culture that the question isn’t, are you into zombies, but, how deep are you into zombies? They have shambled their way into mainstream advertising, video games, film and television, apparel, special edition weaponry and products, and of course, books and graphic novels. These days you can’t throw a stick in the air without it landing on a zombie, or someone who loves them. It’s gone beyond trend and into the realm of phenomena.

As a zombie and horror author, how exciting is it to be in the center of this cultural whirlwind? Zombies have been cool for a long time, and Mr. Romero has sat at the head of the table since he dragged their dead flesh in front of a camera so many decades ago, but they’ve never been as hot as they are now. Why are we seeing such a resurgence in the zombie tale? And why are fans devouring them like never before? Authors tend to be opinionated, so I’ll share some of my own thoughts on the matter.

The attraction to the genre exists on several levels, and appeals to people for different reasons. Some of it is what I call the Video Game Mentality (and that’s not a negative…I love video games, though my system has been disconnected for over a year, since no one is paying me to play Xbox, and for me, it’s a huge distraction from writing.) This attraction involves the ability to kill without consequence or moral question. Who is going to challenge you about destroying mindless predators trying to eat your family?

The next level of appeal is the Everyman Factor. A great deal of zombie fiction, my own included, involves characters who are not super soldiers or trained survivors; they’re everyday folks hurled into extreme situations, and this connects with readers. Perhaps more than any other genre, zombie apocalypse stories compel the question, “What would I do if…?” When I read a Jason Bourne story, I know he’s a highly-trained, professional killer, so when he’s put in peril, I’m confident he can handle it. But what happens when Kyle, the kid who can’t decide if he should stay in college or keep working at the gas station, is suddenly faced with the terrors of surviving ravenous hordes of the undead? Is he smart enough? Fast enough? Will he try to help others, go it alone, or simply give up? This brings a new level of suspense. Also, this is where the reader says to himself, “He was stupid, I wouldn’t have done that.” That’s true engagement.

Freedom rings a bell with readers, and by that I mean the freedom that comes with a zombie apocalypse. No more job or annoying boss, no more commute or worrying about bills, no more longing for the things you cannot have. You can simply take them…if you’re quick enough. It’s about surviving, and we all like to think we’re smart enough to pull it off. (Most of us, myself included, would be wrong, and thus the growing ranks of the undead.)

Finally, there’s the Reset Philosophy. We’re steadily growing disconnected and faceless in our society, becoming drawn into the Horde by technology that makes it no longer necessary to connect with people in person. The velocity of life in general is accelerating, and many people are finding it difficult to keep up, to remain relevant, to have a voice. Confidence in government and corporations is low, fear of foreign and domestic threats is high, and we see aspects of our lives and culture spinning out of control (random violence, hate crimes, economic instability and fears that maybe we’re not getting an honest accounting from the people we’ve elected to positions of responsibility.) An apocalypse hits the stop button, and the survivors are the reset. Will they make the world a better place this time around? Maybe. First they’ll have to avoid being eaten. The central and perhaps most attractive element here is hope, and who doesn’t want that?

No matter how you explain it, there’s no arguing that zombies are back, dominating popular culture, and show no sign of going anywhere. Will they hang in for the long run? Have vampires? Glittering and angst-ridden bloodsuckers aside, they’re still pretty popular.

But zombies are much cooler.

Caragh O’Brien Guest Post and Giveaway!

Recommended Reading by Caragh O’Brien

My tastes in reading run all over the place, from outer space to contemporary prisons, hot and cold. I tend to relish characters who invite me to see the world in a new way. For this list, I’ve limited myself to 7 Young Adult novels I have loved this year and heartily recommend.

Trail by Fire by Josephine Angelini. In an alternate universe, Salem is run by witches while scientists are persecuted. Lily from our world meets her double, Lillian, and discovers hidden powers within herself. Especially cool: the connections between chemistry and magical medicine are ingenious.

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely. An altar boy battles with the secrecy, shame, and anger from an abusive relationship with a Catholic priest. Especially cool: the writing is heartfelt and Aidan’s character is vividly real.

Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern. In this story about a high school senior with CP and her peer helper, a quiet guy with OCD, the two minds of the protagonists completely sucked me in. Especially cool: the play between how Amy thinks, her partly honest typed speech, and how she is perceived by Matthew, who sees her through his own insecurities, is fascinating.

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci. This pure sci fi adventure takes place in outer space, with a deserted human girl who has to face ruthless and often putrid aliens all alone. The succinct, telling prose perfectly matches the chill and brutality of deep space. Especially cool: Plucky Tula Bane is a heroine for the ages, right up there with Princess Leia.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu. In this contemporary story, five high school students tell their perspectives on the accident that killed the high school quarterback, and the girl who supposedly caused his death. Especially cool: the slut shaming invites outrage, and the mean girl is so mean, I’m still mad at her.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. This intriguing, nostalgic graphic novel set in the recent past at a shoreline vacation community captures a time when Rose is stuck between the tension of her estranged parents and the charged sexuality of older teens. Especially cool: the drawings are incredibly expressive, as when the flip-flops whisper words of complicated disapproval.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I hardly know where to begin. This novel is told from the points of view of an escaping princess, a prince who wants to school her, and an assassin who wants to kill her, but when the princess meets the two men, she doesn’t know how their jobs match their names, and neither does the reader. Especially cool: it’s a clever mind game for the reader.

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About the Author:
Caragh M. O’Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O’Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She recently resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels.

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Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, I have a copy of The Vault of Dreamers for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends October 3. I’ll draw a name on October 4, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Caragh O’Brien Guest Post and Giveaway!