Tag Archives: teen fiction

Tortuga Bay Launches Isabella into Voodoo and Revolution

The official release date is set for Tortuga Bay, the sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay: September 5, 2015. We will be launching the book at the Decatur Book Festival (@DBookFestival) in Decatur, Georgia, September 5-6th. We will have a launch event in Tallahassee, as well, but the venue and date have not been confirmed yet. Take advantage of pre-release savings by pre-ordering Tortuga Bay and/or The Pirate of Panther Bay for $3 off the cover price! (Use coupon code READNOW.)

Tortuga-Bay-RGB-96-01I am very excited about Tortuga Bay. Isabella goes into very different and a very dark place as she grapples with voodoo and a nascent slave revolt on Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Lots of swashbuckling action takes place, but I enjoyed working some bigger issues into the plot and character arcs in this version.

It helps that I’m getting great early reviews! Here’s a sampling:

  • “Isabella sizzles in this swashbuckling sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay.  Her sword slices through oppressors from the first page to the last in an adventure that puts her daring and decisive stand against slavery at the center of a story that shimmers like its Caribbean setting. Unputdownable!” Donna Meredith, award-winning author of Wet Work, The Color of Lies, and The Glass Madonna
  • “In SR Staley’s sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, Isabella once again shows she is made of as much grit as any male pirate captain.  The action starts on page one and never lets up.  Through exhilarating battles at sea and the start of a slave revolution on land, Isabella fights for the success of her ship, safety of her crew, and survival of her lover, who happens to be a captain in the Spanish Navy — a sworn enemy.  At the same time, she is searching for the meaning of the Prophecy given to her long ago by her now dead mother.  Staley’s familiarity with ships of war and the history of the region helps readers feel they are part of the action. “ M.R. Street, award-winning author of The Werewolfe’s Daughter, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Rock Rescue.
  • “If you pick up Tortuga Bay you better strap on your seat belt because you will be transported back in time to an era of pirates and ships chased by the soldiers and sailors of Spain’s Most Royal Catholic Majesty. Isabella, continuing her role as The Pirate of Panther Bay from the previous book, is an intriguing character. By casting this young woman as a pirate captain Staley launches a frontal assault on all the female stereotypes so prevalent in literature, media and the entertainment world. He has done a remarkable job of mixing pirates, Royal political intrigue and Haitian voodoo into an entertaining tale.” Col. Michael Whitehead (ret.), author of The Lion of Babylon and Messages from Babylon.

Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to the release!

Also, keep track of my comings and goings on my website: http://www.srstaley.com

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The unrocognized depth of the Divergent Triology

By Claire W. Staley

Popular books often become the target of criticism simply because they are popular. The dystopian, young adult novel Divergent by Veronica Roth seems to have fallen into this camp. Now that Roth’s books have become popular movies, earning more than $300 million worldwide, they seem to be the subject of even more criticism: Some say it’s just a story about a boy and girl who fall in love while they fight an oppressive regime. Some say it is too violent.

However, before denouncing Divergent and shoving it aside, perhaps it is more important than previously believed. This young adult novel taught me many things about life, and understanding this might change a society that looks down upon YA fiction novels. Here are just a few of my “takeaways” from these novels:

  1. Tris and Four, the lead characters, are equals. They support, love, and challenge each other in equal measures and they stand side-by-side. There is no love triangle (though I have nothing against these if done properly), and their relationship problems come from within themselves. This gives this particular book diversity from many other books.
  2. The enemy is constantly moving from one person to the next, from one group to the next, and from the good guys to the bad guys. Everyone is up for game and no one is completely innocent. Everything expands and retracts, gets larger and smaller, until you have no idea who is the actual problem and who is the solution. It challenges your critical thinking and frustrates you to no end- helping you realize that nothing in life is secure. Things and people change, and people aren’t always who you want them to be.
  3. Both Tris and Four are incredibly strong and real. They are role models because they make the hard decisions. They make the choices they must, and they learn how to deal with that and move on. They learn for to forgive-each other and themselves. And sometimes they have to put aside their personal ethics to do what has to be done. And it never gets easier. They do not get used to killing others. They understand and accept that they must make choices with no good outcome. When they are allowed to make choices that protect their hearts, they do. That makes them strong.
  4. People can change. And anyone can influence one to do so in positive or negative ways. Once you believe that no one can change, that no one can make different choices than those they made in the past, hope is lost, as is compassion. Love and understanding thread through the characters, even between enemies, and that makes a difference.
  5. People in power do not always make the right choices, and it’s okay to forgive them for making mistakes, but they are not always virtuous. They do not always make the right choices for the right reasons. They can be bad. They can be good. And the people are stronger than the government for a reason. Because the people are mostly good, and they thus are expected to uphold that. Everyone has an honor to themselves and to the people they live with. That honor must be upheld or chaos reigns.

Perhaps Divergent is really an educational novel, capable of teaching readers about, love, life, and people, and perhaps it is not just another book to read for fun. Divergent, like many YA books published these days, can be much more than light entertainment if readers give them the space to fulfill those aspirations.

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Round 2 of modern fiction for the modern classroom

By Claire W. Staley

Earlier posts have discussed why incorporating modern fiction into the modern classroom is essential for promoting reading among today’s teens and the beginning of a list of novels that every teacher should consider (starting with John Green, The Hunger Games, and Divergent).  Today’s post focuses on three more books that teachers should consider adding to their required reading lists and classroom discussions.

  1. Crank by Ellen Hopkins. A good girl gone drug addict? This is totally relevant to teenagers today. Going beyond the physical and mental effects of addiction, this book could open discussions of rape, sexual assault, and their effects on a person. Discussions of how parental influence affects children, how and why a person chooses to love the people he or she does, and how to look forward again, can be used in classrooms. This book reminds me to take a look at where I want to be in the future and really think about how each of my choices are going to get me there.
  2. Uglies by Scott Westerfield. In a universe where a medical procedure makes everyone beautiful when they turn sixteen, two teenagers will figure out their place in the world. Corrupt governments, outlaws, and insiders collide to provide a cast of characters that are inspiring and different in a world of perfection. This is a roller coast dystopian YA novel that tests the characters strengths, fortitude, and courage constantly.
  3. Maximum Ride by James Patterson. This book attacks the whole “scientists were so preoccupied with if they could they didn’t think about if they should” problem. A group of kids go on daring quests to discover their pasts, their futures, and their purposes. Since beginning to read this series, I’ve convinced myself that the main character, Max, is a wonderful role model and her qualities of compassion, courage, and never giving up are a large part of deciding who I will be in the future.

I like to pick the first book in a series because if a student loves the first book they immediately know where to go for another one like it. If we would like children and teenagers to read more, perhaps starting them off with a first book in a series will help. If they liked the first, they have more to read, and from those books they can look for more. The domino effect is powerful, and in this case it might lead to a revolution in reading. For someone to read a complicated piece of literature, they must first enjoy the act of reading itself.

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Modern fiction for the modern classroom: Round 1

By Claire W. Staley

In an earlier post, I discussed why today’s students have a distaste for reading and why incorporating more modern fiction into the classroom would be a tremendous step forward in promoting reading among teens. Today’s post includes a few of my suggestions for modern books that can be used in the classroom. Perhaps, if more teachers took into account these next books, kids and teenagers would have a new outlook on books.

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Even teenagers who hate reading are reading this book. The Fault in Our Stars is a story about overcoming the vastness of the universe, finding your place in an unpredictable and unfair world, and finding happiness for those around you despite the horrible things that happen in the world. It’s modern, edgy, clever, and filled to the brim with enough symbolism and discussion points to keep teachers happy for weeks, if not entire semester. Plus, it’s well written, thoughtful, and has a good story with likable characters.

Positive role models: Hazel Grace, Gus, Hazel’s parents, Gus’s parents, Isaac, and etc…

  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A brilliant work of literature that delves into the worst parts of humanity with hope, inspiration, and intelligence. Unlike The Road, which is also post-apocalyptic and shows the worst of humanity, this story has hope in it. Collins, despite the horrific lives these people lead, infuses her words with a chance at a better future. She writes to illuminate and change, while creating compelling characters we can root for.

Positive role models: Peeta, Finnick, Rue, Prim, and Katniss (though I’m not convinced her literary job is to be a role model)

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Tris, the main character, taught me to be strong, courageous, to make a change, to believe in oneself, and to never give up. She battles rivals close to her and far above her, the entire time with kindness, compassion, and a clever head that is capable of making tough choices as well as loving her family and friends. I aspire to have some of her strength and her ability to adapt quickly and positively.

Positive role models: Tris, Four, most of the Dauntless initiates minus Peter, Uriah, and etc…

 

Next post? Round 2 in my suggestions for incorporating modern fiction into the classroom!

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The case for modern teen & YA fiction in school classrooms

by Claire W. Staley

Some people tell me that they wish they read as much as I do, but they either don’t have the time, or they don’t enjoy it. The way teenagers or college students see reading confounds me, especially when their faces are like most children’s when they are told to eat vegetables. Most students look at reading as a requirement for class, and most don’t even read those books. And yet, they want to read.

My friends believe they should read, and even have a desire to do so, but they haven’t had an experience with reading that makes them act upon this.

To enjoy reading, teenagers think they must enjoy all types of books, or, even worse, that they must enjoy the classic literature they are force fed from eighth grade onward. If students are not getting good books at home, the only experience with literature comes from school. I’m sorry to say that A Christmas Carol—or any other book by Charles Dickens for that matter—has done nothing to inspire me to pick up books and read them. And it has not inspired anyone else I know, either. If teachers honestly expect students to be avid readers after reading Shakespeare I think they are quite mistaken. I am not saying to this cut Shakespeare (or Dickens) out of the curriculum (I, for one, adore Shakespeare), but perhaps infusing it with modern YA books would create a new generation of readers.

Harry Potter got me started on books in fourth grade. The books taught me about the values of kindness, courage, intelligence, wit, reflection, loss, love, fortitude, standing up for my beliefs, and the power of a single individual. This is only a fraction of what I could say about Harry Potter, but there are a multitude of books that students love and are usable in the classroom. Divergent, Eragon, Artemis Foul, anything by Tamora Pierce, The Hunger Games, and countless others have created powerful role models that changed my life. When I have a problem I look to them. I look to Hermione, I look to Tris, I look to Peeta, I look to Percy Jackson, and I look to Hazel Grace. They always provide me with answers and support. They have never let me down, and I wonder why these characters aren’t a part of my education experience at school.

To pretend that John Green (The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns) is just teen fiction and has no basis in a classroom because his books are not “old” or about certain subjects is to deny every student and what they love. It reinforces the idea that there are good books to read and bad books to read, and that only one kind has value. Once teenagers find books with relevance to their lives and are well written, then they will read.

My next blog post will explore this concept even more as I discuss different books that I recommend for classrooms.

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