Young Writers Workshop – Alpha 2017

Young Writers Workshop – Alpha 2017

Alpha, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Workshop for Young Writers (alpha.spellcaster.org) is a summer workshop held every July-August.  This genre residency young writers workshop is set in Western Pennsylvania, in the USA.  Attendees are selected based on a written submission.

It is an amazing experience, and if you are fortunate to be selected twice as one young member of WhyToRead was, it will be an absolute highlight of your teen years.

Applications typically open around March/April.  Dont wait till applications open to start writing.  Get busy now.

Alpha is an absolute powerhouse of writing talent, from young teen students, author guests to talented staff members. (some who are ex-students).

Here’s a look at a few of the best of the best books to have been published by Alpha authors.

1. Lara Elena Donnelly

Who is Lara? Dressing the part in stylish suits and dapper fedoras. Living the part in the reaches of New York City where jazz was king. Researching back through time to an early 20th century that never was to make believers of us all. Lara is a former student and now a staff member at Alpha.

Lara Elena Donnelly - Amberlough

Amberlough

Amberlough is real. Reading about it is like coming home, if your idea of home includes absinthe, espionage, burlesque and live music round the clock in a city that is bustling night and day. Amberlough is a state of mind. When lovers who find they are on different sides in the upcoming coup secretly try to help each other, comedy and intrigue are king. Cyril DePaul is a government agent. Aristide Makricosta is a smuggler. Throw an outrageous burlesque queen from the seedy side of town between them and you have a stage set for cabaret and thrill. The writing is lush and will challenge you. The characters will defy expectation and make you fall in love with them, flawed as they are. And when the book cover closes, you will want more.

2.Seth Dickinson

With his background in psychology, could we expect anything less from Seth than a thriller that explores the inner workings of the human mind? Seth started as an Alpha student, but now is on board as an instructor.

Seth Dickinson - The Traitor Baru Cormorant

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

Follow the money. Who would think a book written about an accountant would be so engaging? Baru is a savant. She manipulates numbers and people, can scry evolving shapes in shipping and financial records of a country well enough to find traitors to her high, faceless masters at the Empire of Masks. Baru’s idyllic childhood powers her goal of protecting that way of life. What she does with the information she gathers through her spy network will cause you to never again doubt the power that comes from understanding the way wealth moves.

3. Karina Sumner-Smith

From a quiet, wooded retreat in Ontario Canada, Karina Sumner-Smith rebelliously ignores the trends in YA literature. She is as fierce as any of her powerful, determined protagonists when defending her right to publish without including the standard, tired tropes. It’s refreshing to get to the end of a novel and realize that the tale told was truly unique.
Karina Sumner-Smith - Radiant

The Towers Trilogy 1 – Radiant

Upon finishing this book, readers will feel radiant. It is an uplifting tale of overcoming vast differences to find commonalities and friendship. It may be a debut novel, but the Nebula-nominated author was already many rungs up on the craft ladder and with each project reaches new heights. Xhea has no magic in a land and sky full of it. Floating cities harbor the gifted magic users and to the Lower City fall the dregs, its people living the best they can in a harsh environment. Completely non-magical people are unheard of, but Xhea has one gift that stands between her and starvation: she can see ghosts. The gritty, harsh reality of her young life would overcome most, but she’s developed a distinctive toughness to compensate and somehow survive. The breathe-of-spring, living ghost Shea enters her life with devastating consequences and the unfolding story of their friendship sings. Highly recommended. The only complaint? Their names seemed too closely related and could cause some confusion: Xhea and Shai.
Karina Sumner-Smith: Defiant

The Towers Trilogy 2 – Defiant

Reading these books in order is recommended – the world is too complex, the situations too nuanced and the characters too jump-off-the-page real to start mid-story. Xhea and Shai, after being hunted by the Upper City’s assassins, are now dealing with the physical injuries Xhea sustained while escaping. Shai stays in the Lower City to help, only to see her shattered life through new eyes and gain a perspective that she can neither accept nor change. While Defiant is an immersive, well-built, unique, second-world fantasy, the human story is authentic and poignant.
Karina Sumner-Smith: Towers Fall

The Towers Trilogy 3 – Towers Fall

A rousing conclusion to the trilogy – not to be missed. Rich. Inspiring. Exceptional. Xhea comes into her own and, after a long struggle to deal with her injury, learns a measure of control over the magical forces streaming into the Lower City. Will it be enough? Trust comes hard for her, but she must overcome her fears and open her heart or the war of the haves and have-nots will devastate her people. Xhea and Shai, pledged to fight together to the end, still have surprises in store. Trilogy endings that feel this good should be illegal.

4. Tamora Pierce

Tammy has come to Alpha every single year, since the very first workshop in 2002.
She is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, heralded as a fantasy writer who empowers girls. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1954 to a poor, proud family of hillbillies (coal stove for heat, outhouse, a water from a well, regularly beat up and bullied at school for looking like a “refugee from a rag bag”). Tammy has published about thirty books and a dozen short stories. Her books are a departure from decades of male-dominated science fiction and fantasy. They explore the range of human diversity and show young girls of all types realistically growing into powerful women, leaders and fighters, with heart. Her female protagonists (frequently knights and warriors) wrestle with the pain of coming-of-age. Many thousands of dedicated fans adore Tammy for changing their lives.
Tamora Pierce - Terrier

TerrierBeka Cooper series 1

In the magical medieval realm of Tortall, a tough young girl joins the Provost’s elite guard called the Dogs. Beka Cooper’s puppy status as the newest member of the team ruffles some fur, but she keeps at it, magically seeking out just the news needed to forestall an underlord power struggle. Told in journal style, the book allows readers to see Beka’s writing skills blossom in tandem with her maturity and sense of belonging. The page-turning action continues in the sequels, which pick up the story line almost immediately.

Tamora Pierce - BloodhoundBloodhound – Beka Cooper series 2

Beka has made the leap to first-year Provost’s Dog, replacing her novice puppy status in Terrier, and has a new partner and her very own four-legged dog companion. Together, they travel outside Totall’s capital city to Port Caynn to attempt to stop a counterfeit coin smuggling ring. It’s one hard choice after another for Beka, who struggles with differentiating between the letter and spirit of the law. She trusts her magical ability to hear voices of the dead more than she trusts her new-found friends. We read the coming-of-age action played out in the straightforward delivery written down in Beka’s diary. Kudos to Tamora, who has crafted this traditionally-difficult style with mastery, lending the story immediacy and high tension.
While each of these books (as well as the final one, Mastiff ) can be read as standalone novels, they are much richer if read in chronological order, especially with the help of the appendix of characters and a glossary.

That’s only a few of the novels coming out of Alpha students, staff and guests. Here’s hoping more Alpha novels will be forthcoming  – WhyToRead.com will definitely be reviewing more in the upcoming years. Be on the lookout.

Amazing Psychology Books for Your Journey

Amazing Psychology Books for Your Journey

Psychology  is a broad topic around the science of the mind.  This list of amazing psychology books is very diverse.  It travels from pain to love and creativity, greatness and history, society to religion and more.  Many are easy reading – the first is even a graphic novel. Every one will benefit from learning more about how they and others think and behave.  Take an emotional or intellectual journey through this list.

These amazing psychology books certainly deserve some attention just for the length of their titles.

1. On Purpose: Lessons In Life and Health From The Frog, The Dung Beetle, and Julia – Victor Strecher

Amazing Psychology Books - On Purpose
When Victor Strecher lost his daughter, his life changed forever. But instead of asking why this happened to him, he decided to write the book. He called it On Purpose and published it as a graphic novel. Writing it gave him a powerful sense of meaning. Strecher discuss the meaning of life purposes, and how his tragic experience changed his beliefs about death, life, purpose and many other related things.

This graphic novel is highly emotional read on one hand, while on the other it is entertaining and full of valuable ideas that will make readers think about life and its purpose. Strecher combines nicely ancient and modern philosophy, psychology and neuroscience thus producing an interesting confession; self help guide and textbook all in one. A must read for everybody and especially for those who want to learn about transformative power of pain.

2. The Course of Love – Alain de Botton

Amazing Psychology Books - The Course of Love
Alain de Botton is a famous British philosopher. He writes about things like art, work, love, our social status, etc in deeper and very profound way.  He combines philosophy, art, literature, psychology and more. Most of his works are non –fiction, but this one is a fiction book.
It is a story of love. But not just foolish romantic love. It is a story about the marriage. Divided into five thematic units: Romanticism, Ever After, Children, Adultery and Beyond Romanticism, it tells a story about Rabih and Kirsten. Starting from the moment they meet and fall in love, it goes further. The story provides an answer to what it means to have life partner and at the same time it questions what it takes for marriage to survive all the trials and tribulations and how to maintain love. This is a must read story about love for every married or soon to be married couple.

3. Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe – Mario Livio

Amazing Psychology Books - Brilliant Blunders
Most of us hate making a mistake.  But even the worlds best make mistakes.  And just as well, because if they didn’t some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs would never be achieved. For this fascinating book Mario Livio did in-depth research about the work of five the biggest and the greatest scientists in the human history: Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein. Ultimately, without errors there would be no science, because science advances when ideas are false. This book also presents the origins of some of the world biggest theories that would not be, without the biggest mistakes.
Brilliant Blunders is not an easy read and it takes time to read it and to fully understand it. But it is definitely worth the time. Because it tells us that mistakes are important in order to achieve something great.  And that we should not be afraid of them but embrace and learn from them.

4. The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness – Todd Rose

Amazing Psychology Books - The End of Average
What is average, if we all are different? Why is everything around us built and designed for average people when no one is average? If no one is average and our society is built for average people than it serves no one. Todd Rose in his book The End Of Average is questioning the concept of “average” and how it influence our lives in negative way.
The author claims that every aspect of human life from education to medical treatments should be customized. In customization i.e. in viewing each person as an individual, lays success in the long run. This is very interesting book that questions the accustomed view of the world and turns it upside down.  A great book for anyone who is working with people.  Or is just tired of not being “average”.

5. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything – Joshua Foer

Amazing Psychology Books - Moonwalking with Einstein
Does technology make us stupid, or we just rely on it so much that we do not use our brain to memorize things? Joshua Foer used to be one of the people who forgot things and one day he decide to take memory training. After the whole year of intensive training he became finalist in the U.S. Memory Championship. In Moonwalking with Einstein he describes his journey into a world of mental athletes and beyond. During his journey he met a lot of interesting people who use different memory techniques in their daily life and work.

This book is amazing on so many levels. Foremost because it remind us that we have a mind and that we are not using anymore. But on the other hand it shows us how to start to use it again and how to master it.  This is amazing psychology.

6. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith – Jon Krakauer

Amazing Psychology Books - Under the banner of Heaven
Religious fundamentalism is a scary thing, and in his book Under the Banner of Heaven, investigative journalist Jon Krakauer reveals the life in one of the American’s most isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities. Krakauer writes a story about community in which polygamy, domestic violence and sexual abuse of children are normal things. As a starting point he takes a murder of a woman and her baby girl and around it he builds the story of a disturbed community that has it beliefs rooted in faith. This is a very disturbing read that should not be avoided. It exposed one of American’s fastest growing religions that do things most of us would not accept, covered under the veil of faith.

7. Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America – Robert Whitaker

Amazing Psychology Books - Anatomy of an Epidemic
This book should be read by all the people who are treated for ADHD, anxiety and depression.  Actually it should be read by everyone who is interested in mental health.  And we all should be interested in our mental health.  It investigates a very interesting mystery – the rise of mental illnesses in the United States.  It is also the first book that investigates the effects of long–term use of the drugs used in treatment.  Whitaker outlines the  assumptions that lie behind the use of the treatments of these mentioned mental illnesses and questions them.

This is a history of the epidemic of mental illness that will definitely not leave you indifferent. It is documented with personal stories and it tries to answer a very important question: do psychiatric medications create or fix chemical imbalance in the brain?

8. A Renegade History of the United States – Thaddeus Russell

Amazing Psychology Books - A Renegade History
Napoleon said that history is written by the winners, and that is true, most of the time. It is true that winners dominate history books and they shape how history is written. But every now and then a historian writes about those others, who are neither winners nor prominent historical persons. That is exactly what Thaddeus Russell does in his intriguing and highly provocative book A Renegade History of the United States.

Thaddeus Russell claims that people from the bottom of social strata like drunkards, slaves, prostitutes were the true reformers and freedom fighters. These people refused to live by following the rules and they decided to live free.  In that way they shaped an untold  part of US history. You might not agree with everything written in this book, but nevertheless it is interesting to read a different approach of how US became great.

9. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Steven Pressfield


Steven Pressfield is a bestselling writer of historical fiction. It took him seventeen years to make a breakthrough in writing and to earn his first paycheck. Once he succeeded he was unstoppable. Then based on his experience, and his not so easy path to success he wrote The War of Art.

Paraphrasing the title of Sun-Tzu masterpiece The Art of War, Pressfield provides solutions on how to finally succeed in a creative space. This short, to the point and very interesting book, is not just for writers.  It is also for business people, artists and for all those who do creative work. It shows how to overcome the creative blocks which are not solely reserved for artists and writers.  An amazing psychology book for everyone.

Psychological Thrillers for 2017

Psychological Thrillers for 2017

Some people like to be scared – in a controlled way.  The best psychological thrillers will hold you on the edge of  your seat and keep you turning the pages long into the night.  If you are more a warm and fuzzy, or romance novel reader, then stick clear of this list.

Psychological Thrillers

1. Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

Pyschological Thriller - Apple Tree Yard
Yvonne Carmichael has it all: a beautiful family, a husband who loves her and a career in a field in which she excels. Then an affair with a nameless man changes her life as something unexpected and horrible happens. When she is brought in for questioning, she tries to piece together what went wrong.

Yvonne doesn’t have only to figure out what happened but also to find herself. I loved this book because the characters are well developed and they reveal themselves and their internal struggle as the story progresses. It is beautifully constructed, full of suspense, a real psychological thriller.

2. Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris

Psychological Thriller - Behind Closed Doors
Jack and Grace are the perfect couple: elegant, charming, happy and always together. Or so it appears. But behind closed doors their story is very different. Behind Closed Doors explores the life of Grace, the quiet, jovial wife whose life is far from perfect.

B.A. Paris writes an emotional thriller full of turns and twists that keeps you wanting to know more with every page, as you discover the real story. The characters are beautifully revealed as the story progresses, which makes this book even more amazing.

3. The Grownup – Gillian Flynn

Psychological Thriller - The Grownup
The Grownup is a story full of ghosts. The main character, an aura cleanser, meets Susan Brooke an unhappy woman with a disturbed teenage son. When the psychic proposes a house cleansing, Susan jumps to the opportunity. And soon the three embark in a thrilling ride full of past demons and ghosts.

Gillian Flynn has a trademark: a woman who is manipulative and cunning and makes you feel sorry and root for her. And this book has it. Also, the characters are dark and have hidden agendas that won’t be revealed until the end of the story. The element of gothic horror added to this short story gives it an eerie air that supports and embellishes the mystery surrounding this thriller story.

4. Sister:A Novel – Rosemund Lupton

Psychological Thriller - Sister: A novel
Nothing compares to the relationship these two sisters have. When Beatrice finds out that her sister, Tess, is missing, she starts investigating on her own. Their bond is put to a test when she discovers that Tess’s life has changed from what she knew. When everybody accepts Tess’s loss, Beatrice doesn’t give up and digs for the truth to come out.

Sister is a psychological suspense thriller that is written with a fresh perspective. Tess and Beatrice’s diary entries give you a sense that they are communicating which thickens the plot. The sisterly bond theme is also interesting and well expressed. You feel yourself suffering the loss of a loved one. Follow Beatrice, as she tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance in this baffling thriller.

5. The Girl Before – J. P. Delaney

Psychological Thriller - The Girl Before
One Folgate Street is an odd, minimalist house built by a peculiar architect who is looking for the perfect tenant who will submit to his rules about living there. Emma and Jane are both protagonists of this novel, each one with her point of view. They both move into this amazing house, although at different times. They both have their own story, that it begins the same: they need a fresh start and One Folgate Street seems the cheap and safest choice.

Jane discovers the fate of the house’s previous tenants and she starts investigating the cause of their death, as she lives the same terrors as the last tenants did. I loved this book. The journey of solving the mystery of this intelligent and also creepy house and its tenant’s death kept me glued to the pages.The bizarre concept of the rules of the minimalist house was intriguing and kept the atmosphere thrilling and engaging. This is more of a crime story, but the different points of view, the house and rules make it unique and earns it a place in this list of psychological thrillers.

6. The Secret Place – Tana French

Psychological Thriller - The Secret Place
Detective Stephen Moran wants to join the Dublin Murder Squad. He gets his chance when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey, a student at St. Kilda School, brings him a photo with Chris Harper’s dead body with the caption “I know who killed him”. Moran, along with the caustic detective Antoinette Conway, try to solve the mysterious murder as they go deep into life of high school cliques.

Tana French writes a dark novel about how dangerous high school life can be for those who attend. It puts emphases on how unimportant these games look from an adult’s point of view until they really listen and observe the young people’s lives. This mystery is like a maze full of unexpected situations, reigned by a gruesome murder. A combination crime novel and teen psychology thriller novel.

7. As Time Goes By – Mary Higgins Clark

Psychological Thriller - As Time Goes By
Start-up journalist, Delaney Wright is offered the opportunity to cover the trial of Betsy Grant, just as she is trying to discover who her birth mother is. Betsy Grant, who is accused of murdering her husband, doesn’t want to take the plea because she thinks a trial will prove her innocence. Meanwhile, Delaney’s friends, who offered to look into finding her mother, find a dark secret that now they don’t want to share with her.

Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels, and this book makes this title more evident. The two mysteries: finding Delaney’s mother and finding the murderer of Betsy’s husband. Two intriguing and crossed paths with Delaney as the common denominator. The ending it is not what you would expect. Clark apparently wrote this book as two separate puzzles with different types of pieces but the same image. The characters are complex and until the end, everybody’s a suspect. The clues are contradictory so you will get a real thrill of guessing who might have done it.

8. The Loving Husband – Christobel Kent

Psychological Thriller - The Loving Husband
Fran and Nathan Hall are living with their two children on a farm at the periphery of Fen Edge. When Nathan goes missing, Fran starts looking for him. The findings are gruesome and puts her in the middle of a police investigation. As she tries to prove her innocence, she digs up more and more secrets about her husband. Leaving her to question if she really knew him.

The Loving Husband is a psychological thriller that centers on a wife who, after the death of her husband, finds secrets about the man she loved that make him out to be very different from what she knew. This thriller kept me glued to the pages because I was so curious what she would find next. The characters are well developed. The struggle to keep a good memory of a loved one is always present throughout the book, even though the facts are against it.