Awesome Authors #17: Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks

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Nicholas Sparks was my absolute go-to for romance novels for a long time. I own nearly every one of his books, and he was a defining author for me for several years.

In fact, I did my college senior thesis on his books. I studied the perceptions of love and romance from female readers. I would like to eventually publish it!

Born on New Year’s Eve 1965, Sparks was the second of three children. The family moved frequently while his father was pursuing graduate studies in Minnesota and California. Eventually, they settled in California after his father became a professor. On a track and field scholarship, Sparks majored in business finance at Notre Dame.

He married Cathy Cote in 1989, and they have had five children, three sons and twin daughters. He started writing in his early college years. His first publication was as a co-author in 1990. The book was titled Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding.

While selling pharmaceuticals in the early 1990s, Sparks wrote The Notebook. Literary agent Theresa Parks offered to represent him after finding it in her agency’s slush pile and liking it. She secured a $1 million advance from Time Warner Book Group in 1995. After its publication in October 1996, it made the New York Times best-seller list in its first week.

He lives in New Bern, North Carolina, where he donated $9 million to New Bern High School for an all-weather tartan track. He and his wife amicably separated in 2015, and subsequently divorced.

As of October 2018, he has published 22 books. He has published one book nearly every year since 1996, with two books being released in 2003, as well as 2005. Eleven books have been New York Times best-sellers. His most recent book is Every Breath.


A Walk to Remember (1999)

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I honestly can’t remember if this was truly the first Sparks book I read. But, I loved it, and the movie adaptation (2002) was very good. It was also incorporated into some of our Sunday School classes and youth group activities.

The Notebook (1996)

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I think I read this after the movie adaptation (2004) came out, but this is one of Sparks’s books that I treasure and re-read frequently. The movie adaptation is one of the best that’s ever been made, hands down.

Nights in Rodanthe (2002)

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I felt a special connection with this book, since Rodanthe, North Carolina, is only about two hours south of where I live!

I wanted to love the movie adaptation (2008) so badly, especially since I’ve visited the house that’s featured in it multiple times, but it wasn’t that great.

Safe Haven (2010)

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This book was a hard read for me. I myself was a part of an abusive relationship for several years, and this book brought back several memories. Thankfully, by the time I actually read it, I was several years into dating Al.

I’m pretty sure we watched the movie adaptation (2013) together. I liked it a lot, despite the subject matter.

The Last Song (2009)

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Image Credit: Goodreads

I waited for what seemed like FOREVER to get my hands on a copy of this from the library! I devoured it on a car trip either to or from Florida.

Most people hated / loathed the movie adaptation (2010), but I liked it.


What about you? Have you read or seen any of Nicholas Sparks’ work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #16: Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

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Chris Van Allsburg was practically a household name when I was younger. He has created some of the most beautifully illustrated books I have ever seen. Our future kids will definitely know about him, too.

Born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, in June 1949. Van Allsburg has an older sister. His parents moved a few times between East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids. After graduation, he attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan, where the art school was located at the time. After graduating in 1972, he went on to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he obtained a master’s degree in sculpture in 1975. He opened a studio. Struggling with time in the studio, he started to sketch his ideas and designs at home. His wife thought his drawings would be good for children’s books. His first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, was published in 1979.

He resides in Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife, Lisa. They have two daughters, Sophia and Anna. Van Allsburg converted to Judaism, which is Lisa’s faith.

He has received several awards, including two Caldecott Medals for U.S. picture book illustration. He was the 1986 U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christain Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for those who create children’s books. In April 2012, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater, the University of Michigan.


The Polar Express (1985)

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My parents have had a copy of this book since before I was born. It was a Christmas tradition for years to read the book and/or listen to the story on cassette tape. We even had a collector’s set with the book, cassette tape, and a silver bell. If you haven’t read it, you should.

Also, the movie adaptation (2004) is wonderful. We went to see it in theaters, likely the weekend it was released. We love Josh Groban in our house, so we also got the soundtrack and DVD. It’s a thing.

Jumanji (1981)

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I’m pretty sure I first read this book through either the Chittum Elementary School library, or the Russell Memorial Library. I remember the Reading Rainbow episode, too.

Like The Polar Express, the movie adaptation (1995) is awesome, with Robin Williams and a cast of characters. I think I saw it on TV first. It’s one of my favorite movies that will never get old. We also saw the sequel (2017) in theaters, and it was pretty good, too. We miss you, Robin. There was also a TV series that ran from 1996 to 1999.

The Wreck of the Zephyr (1983)

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This is one book that I hadn’t heard of! I need to see if the local library has it.

Zathura (2002)

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This is one instance where I saw the movie adaptation (2005) before I read the book. It’s always fun to think about and dream about space. We actually watched the movie again recently – It’s really well-done. Plus, it’s fun to see several actors when they first got their start in the film industry.


What about you? Have you read or seen any of Chris Van Allsburg’s work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #15: Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card

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I was first introduced to Orson Scott Card when I was entering high school. We were assigned to read Ender’s Game, something that I initially dreaded!

Born in Richland, Washington, in August 1951, he is the third of six children. He is a great-great-grandson of Brigham Young. His older brother, Arlen Card, is a notable composer and arranger. Card was raised in Santa Clara, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Orem, Utah. Raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, or Mormon church) church, Card was a missionary in Brazil, and graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU). He also attended the University of Utah, and spent a year at the University of Notre Dame in a Ph.D program.

Card started primarily as a poet. While a theater major, he began doctoring scripts, and eventually wrote his own one-act and full-length plays. Several were produced by faculty directors at BYU. He delved into fiction writing, and his earliest stories evolved into The Worthing Saga.

He was an associate editor at the Ensign, and moved to Salt Lake City. He currently teaches English at Southern Virginia University. In addition to writing under his given name, Card has written under multiple pseudonyms.

He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine. They have had five children, all named after authors their parents have admired: Michael Geoffrey (Geoffrey Chaucer), Emily Janice (Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson), Charles Benjamin (Charles Dickens), Zina Margaret (Margaret Mitchell), and Erin Louisa (Louisa May Alcott). Charles had cerebral palsy, and passed away just after his 17th birthday. Erin died the day she was born.

He has been awarded the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award multiple times, and has been the only author to win both science fiction’s top U.S. prizes in consecutive years. He was also recognized by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2008 with their Margaret A. Edwards Award, in which a writer and a particular body of work is recognized for “significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature.”


Ender’s Game (1985)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

This is one of the best science fiction books that I have ever read. Although it was assigned reading, I ended up re-reading it while still in high school. The movie adaptation (2013) was also very well done.

For someone who used to be a huge sci-fi skeptic, this is the book that turned it around for me.

Speaker for the Dead (1986)

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This is one book that has been on my radar, but have yet to read.

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1996)

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I’ve always been fascinated by alternate histories. This one looks interesting.


What about you? Have you read any of Orson Scott Card’s books or work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #14: Stephen King

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Stephen King has become one of my favorite authors. Originally, I avoided his work because of the horror elements. But, I like a lot of the work that he’s done. Read on to learn more!

Born in September 1947, he lived in Portland, Maine. His father, a merchant seaman, left the family when Stephen was two years old. His mother was left alone to raise Stephen and older brother David. They moved several times – Wisconsin, Indiana, and Connecticut. They eventually returned to Maine, where King’s mother cared for her parents until they died. He was raised Methodist.

King developed an early interest in horror, reading horror comics such as Tales From The Crypt. He contributed to his brother’s newspaper, Dave’s Rag. The first story of his to published was “I Was A Teenage Grave Robber,” serialized over four issues of a fanzine in 1965. He graduated from the University of Maine in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in English. His first child, Naomi Rachel, was born the same year. He married Tabitha Spruce in 1971, and also had two sons, Joseph King and Owen King.

He was nearly killed on June 19, 1999, when a distracted driver struck him while he was walking along the shoulder of Maine State Route 5. After five operations in ten days, and physical therapy, King was able to resume writing his memoir.

He has published 54 novels, and six non-fiction books. He has also written over 200 short stories. King has received multiple awards and medals, including Bram Stoker Awards, British Fantasy Society Awards, the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and a National Medal of Arts from the United States National Endowment for the Arts.


Carrie (1974)

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Carrie wasn’t the first book of King’s that I remember reading, but I do remember hearing about it for years before I read it. They even used the book as part of an episode on horror literature for Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? in the mid-1990s.

The Shining (1977)

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This is one of those books where the author has a different opinion of the movie adaptation!

Misery (1987)

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I knew King had written Misery, but I didn’t actually read it until I was in college. One of my friends was in my Museums in Paris class. When we went to Paris over spring break, she was reading it for her American Literature class. I read it after school let out for the summer, and I was cold the entire time!

The Green Mile (1996)

 

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The Green Mile is one of my favorite books. My parents said I was too young to see the movie adaptation when it came out in theaters in 1999. But, it’s now one of my favorite movies. Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan (May he Rest in Peace) give outstanding performances.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)

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King’s memoir was one of the first books that I read, and then immediately re-read. I originally borrowed it from the library and renewed it, but resolved to get my own copy as soon as possible. I think I first read this in either 2009 or 2010, when I was taking several fiction and non-fiction classes at Longwood.

This is one book that I will never give away. It’s incredibly valuable to me. In fact, I think I need to read it again soon.

11/22/63 (2011)

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The only reason I can think of why this book is still on my TBR is because it’s just gigantic. Like, 849 pages.

However, Al and I watched the miniseries adaptation on Hulu in 2016, and that was impressive.


What about you? Have you read any of Stephen King’s books or work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #13: Caroline B. Cooney

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I discovered Caroline B. Cooney through one of the libraries, either the school or the Russell Memorial Library in Chesapeake. I think I read her for the first time in middle school? It’s been a minute since then, wink wink.

Born in May 1947, Cooney grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. After high school, she attended several different colleges (Indiana University, Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing, and University of Connecticut), but did not obtain a degree.

Her first novel, Safe as the Grave, was published in 1979. Since then, she has written well over 30 stand-alone novels, a trilogy, and three different series. Her work has received multiple honors and awards, including several from the American Library Association (ALA). In 2008, her book Diamonds in the Shadow was named an ALA/YALSA Quick Pick, and nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award.


Driver’s Ed (1994)

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This was the first of Cooney’s books that I remember reading. I think I was in middle school at the time, because I specifically remember asking my mom lots of questions about what I would learn in driver’s ed.

This book haunted me for years, and I didn’t dare read it again until after I got my license!

Flight #116 Is Down (1992)

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Image Credit: Caroline B. Cooney

I’m so glad I didn’t read this one while traveling! I realize Cooney’s works are fictional, but she brings such realism to them, I was always left a little paranoid after reading them.

Flash Fire (1995)

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This book made me grateful we never lived in California or anywhere with a high fire danger.

Code Orange (2005)

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Image Credit: Caroline B. Cooney

I remember reading this book right after it was published. It was fascinating to me. She revealed the genesis of this book on her website – A librarian was going through donated medical textbooks and an envelope, at that time 100 years old, fell out. It was labeled “smallpox scabs.” What do you think happened next?

Cooney wrote the book in the context of a sixteen-year-old boy finding them in New York City. What could possibly happen?

The Face on the Milk Carton (1990)

I tried to read this one in middle school, but ending up waiting until high school. I do want to read the whole series eventually. It’s fascinating to read about Cooney’s research and writing processes – What if a girl recognized herself as a missing child on a milk carton?

Emergency Room (1994)

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This is one book I don’t remember hearing about. This is going on my TBR!


What about you? Have you read any Caroline B. Cooney’s books?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #12: John Green

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I first learned about John Green when I was assigned to read one of his books in my Young Adult Literature class during my final semester in college. He’s quickly become one of my favorites. I’m determined to eventually read all of his books.

Born in August 1977, Green moved several times during his childhood with his parents and brother, Hank. He graduated from Indian Springs School in 1995. He attended Kenyon College in Ohio, graduating in 2000 with a double major in English and religious studies.  Intending to become an Episcopal priest, he served as a student chaplain at a children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio, although he ended up not attending divinity school.

Green lived in Chicago, Illinois, for several years. He worked as a publishing assistant and production editor for the book review journal Booklist. In addition, he has written book critiques for The New York Times Book Review, and created original radio essays for NPR’s All Things Considered and Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ.

His first novel, Looking For Alaska, was published in 2005. Green has written four novels individually, collaborated with other authors on two more, five short stories, and several pieces written for donors to Project for Awesome (P4A). In addition, he is an active vlogger with his brother, Hank, a podcaster, and has had roles in the movie adaptations of two of his novels (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns).

Green has been honored with multiple awards since 2006. He received the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 for Looking For Alaska, the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Paper Towns in 2009, the National Author Award at the Indiana Authors Award ceremony in 2012, and the Visionary Award at the mtvU Fandom Awards in 2014.


Looking For Alaska (2005)

Looking For Alaska

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This was the book that started it all. I fell hard for this book in my Young Adult Literature class in the spring of 2011. Immediately after finishing the last page, I went through Longwood’s library, looking for more by Green. This is such a powerful book, almost more powerful than the others that he’s published thus far. It’s gripping, spellbinding, and heart-wrenching.

While researching for this post, I learned that Green based this book on his experiences at Indian Springs School near Birmingham, Alabama. Fascinating!

Paper Towns (2008)

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So far, this book is tied with Looking For Alaska as my all-time favorite of Green’s. I loved this book when I first read it, and I have my own copy now. I think I re-read it three times in one year. It’s that good. I loved the movie adaptation, too.

The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

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I reviewed this book in January 2016: Book Review #9: “The Fault in Our Stars.”

I was definitely late to the party to read this book, but I’m glad I waited until the movie hype was over. I’m glad I read the book – But, I still haven’t seen the movie. It’s a heart-breaker. Like Looking For Alaska, Green based this book on his experience as a student chaplain at the children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio, after his college graduation.

Turtles All The Way Down (2017)

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This has been on my TBR since I heard it was being published. Green drew from his own experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for this book, and from what I understand, it’s one of his best yet.


What about you?

Have you read / seen any of John Green’s work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #11: Ann M. Martin

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I first discovered Ann M. Martin in elementary school, when I devoured all of The Baby-Sitters Club Little Sister books from my local and school libraries. There were so many!


Ann M. Martin was born on August 12, 1955. She grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. The daughter of a pre-school teacher and a cartoonist, Martin loved creative writing starting in second grade. As she grew, she loved working with children, and decided to become a teacher. As a teenager, she spent summer breaks working at the Eden Institute, helping autistic children.

She attended Smith College, graduating in 1977, having studied early childhood education and child psychology. After graduation, Martin taught fourth and fifth-grade students in Noroton, Connecticut. Her students had a variety of learning challenges, including dyslexia and autism. She has said that working with special needs children influenced her writing.

Martin pursued publishing after teaching. Starting as an editorial assistant, she worked her way up to senior editor at several children’s book publishers, including Pocket Books and Scholastic.

Her first book, Bummer Summer, was published in 1983. She began writing The Baby-Sitters Club series in 1985. She now focuses on single novels, many of which are set in the 1960s.

Martin has been honored with several awards, including the Children’s Choice Award in 1985, and a Newbery Honor in 2003. She started the Ann M. Martin Foundation in 1990, which supports art, education, and literacy programs, as well as programs for abused and stray animals.


Bummer Summer (1983)

This is Martin’s debut novel. I definitely want to read this one.

Missing Since Monday (1986)

A girl is kidnapped. Sounds like my kind of book.

The Baby-Sitters Club series (1986-2000)

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Martin wrote the original 35 books, and the rest have been ghostwritten.

This is the most complete list that I have come across: List of The Baby-Sitters Club novels.

Baby-Sitters Little Sister series (1988-2000)

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This was the first series I completely devoured, although I don’t think I’ve actually read them all. I really identified with Karen, the main character, throughout elementary school.

The California Diaries

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This is one series that I discovered while writing this post. I definitely want to read them, since they are journals, and they deal with more mature topics than The Baby-Sitters Club typically covered.

A Corner of the Universe (2003)

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Image Credit: Scholastic

This was the book that received the Newbery Honor. Hattie turns 12, and her uncle Adam returns home for the first time in ten years. Adam has schizophrenia and autism, and while the other adults struggle to deal with his view of the world, Hattie wants to be a friend.


What about you?

Have you read any of Ann M. Martin’s work?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂