home           about           reviews           author insight           review policy

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm a blogger big sister!

A few months back I got asked to be part of a Blogger Big Sib/Little Sib program, and now I have a blogger baby sister. I'm so excited to introduce you to my little sis, Julia AKA...

Isn't she adorable?

She's a voracious reader who loves YA books and dinosaurs, and she's just started to carve out her niche in the blogosphere. She reads almost every genre, but sadlly doesn't share my deep love of the paranormal. Ahh well. We wouldn't be siblings if we were exactly the same. (Beside, I forgive her for being so misguided. *grin*)

I had the opportunity to chat with her on the phone recently, and she's pretty darn awesome. Very colorful and bubbly. Her blog also has great voice, which can be hard to find. I can't wait to get to know her better! Make sure you click on her banner above to visit her site and leave her some love. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Author Insight: The Public Eye

How do you balance life and writing and all the obligations that come with being an author?

"Just the idea that I'm 'out there' is enough to make me break out in hives. Again - shy little introvert, over here. The idea that people are talking about me and my work makes me very nervous, but I keep telling myself, "What other people think of you is none of your business." I'm slowly internalizing that." - Lia Habel, author of Dearly Departed.

"Not doing everything, because everything is too much.  If you lose energy for writing, your career is done, anyway.  I've had some tough times in the last year (my father died after a long illness) and I've had to say to myself on multiple occasions: slow down, stop worrying about every last detail, take a breath, go ahead and grieve, otherwise you'll lose the sweet mental space where you can actually write (I did lose it a few times)." - Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast.

"All the lens solution that gets dumped on you every time the public eye needs to fix its contact. Seriously, the most difficult part is finding the right balance between the public activities (events, blogging, social media), writing, and one's personal life." - Sarah Beth Durst, author of Drink, Slay, Love.

"It requires a certain amount of bravado, I think, to assume that other people are interested in what you have to say. I don’t always feel terribly fascinating, or particularly qualified to give writing advice. I try to tweet or post about things that I think my friends would be interested in: cute dresses, amazing books I’m reading, how to juggle life with writing." - Jessica Spotswood, author of Born Wicked.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Buy: Fountain Bookstore / Amazon
Description: Goodreads
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

The one sentence review? Tahereh Mafi shattered me.

Quite honestly, Shatter Me totally blew me away, threw me for a loop, and crashed me right back down to Earth, only do it all over again. Everything about it- the characters, the story, the prose, the promise of what’s to come- totally worked for me. There was very little about this book that disappointed me. It was equal parts romantic, supernatural, and action-packed- a thrilling and successfully ambitious debut.

I immediately supported and liked Juliette. With as much as she had been through- abandoned and unloved by her parents, discarded by almost every person she ever met, locked up and isolated for almost a year- she was understandably broken. This could have easily become the thing that defined her, but she didn’t let it. She chose to keep her heart open. Despite everything she had been through, Juliette chose to believe that there was good in this new, desolate world. She never used her power to hurt others unless forced, even with the effect it has on her own physicality. She may not have been the best fighter, but she still fought for what she thought was the right side, and that was what mattered.

Juliette’s intense voice exploded from the page, right from the beginning. Mafi’s writing style was certainly unlike anything I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It was all extreme metaphor, aching simile, the wild and winding prose of Juliette’s inner monologue. Each description was so distinct and heart-breaking- it begged to be savored. You can literally flip to just about any page in the book and find something out of the ordinary- an unusual sentence structure, a peculiar comparison. Personally, I ate it right up. The voice matched the way I felt about Juliette as our heroine, matched what truly would be going on her in mind. My personal favorite part was the use of the strike-through. I’m not usually a fan of strike-through because I find it tends to distract from the point. In this case, it was used as a device to display another side of Juliette’s thoughts, the side she thinks she has to hide. The more confidence she built in herself, the more she learned to trust herself and the people she kept close, the more the strike-throughs faded. Very subtle. Loved it.

And speaking of the people she keeps close… Adam. Oh boy, Adam. I’m a sucker for a swoon-worthy love interest, and Adam completely fit the bill. He was sensitive but manly, strong yet sweet. He was the brightest hope for Juliette, a literal bird of freedom. And did I mention he was smoking hot? Like actual gasping for breath, knees knocking together hot. Adam’s hotness was well-documented, something that can pluck the nerves, but again, it fit with Juliette’s voice, so I didn’t mind. (Plus, hottie!) I don’t want to reveal too much but seriously? I won’t be surprised when he tops all the YA Heartthrob lists.

My one nitpick would be the ending. There was so much going on, all that what-will-possibly-happen-next kind of action, that when the ending finally came, it fell a little flat. Knowing that there are more books to come (YAY), it made sense to set up the new set of characters for #2. However, too many characters were introduced, giving the ending a cluttered, almost awkward feel. It was like, “Look at all these people you haven’t known or cared about for the past 300 pages! You love them now, okay?” I’m positive we will love them in Book #2, but I would have preferred it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, especially because there was an easy set-up for one. All of this aside, I do understand the reasoning behind it. And if that’s my only complaint, that’s impressive.

I think it’s beyond safe to say that the buzz around Shatter Me is deserved. It’s got fantastic writing, original and likeable characters, and a gripping story that keeps you turning the pages. I can’t wait to see what Tahereh Mafi hands us next.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Author Insight: The Public Eye

What is the most difficult part of keeping yourself and your book in the public eye?

"Writing a book people want to seek out. I am not one of those writers with the talent or inclination for self-promotion. My only strength is in my writing, such as it is. So my only hope of gaining fame is to keep writing. A lot. As well as I can." - Amy Kathleen Ryan, author of Glow.

"The fact that it is in the public eye at all is the hardest part to get used to. For so long, I was blogging and tweeting into the wind - which is like spitting into the wind, only less moist - and nobody took note. Now suddenly people are listening. So I have to watch more of what I say." - Brodi Ashton, author of Everneath.

"Do you mean trying to keep myself there, or trying to live with the eyes on you? Keeping myself there is an issue I’m still struggling with. Being there hasn’t been a problem so far. First off, there hasn’t been that much – nor will there be, if other author’s lives are any indication. But otherwise, I’m an amateur actress, so I love the attention and the limelight." - Anna Sheehan, author of A Long, Long Sleep.

"I think the biggest trick is in walking the line that divides persistent from annoying. No one likes someone who is "look at me" all the time. I think the way to get around that is to a) regularly promote people than yourself and b) spend most of your time not promoting anything at all just being funny, interesting, and honest. If you do that, I think people forgive you when it's time to promote your book." - Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Iron Knight Twitter Party

Julie Kagawa's Iron Knight releases tomorrow, and we're celebrating with a Twitter party that will take you right up to the official moment! Join Harlequin Teen, Julie, and a panel of Iron Fey-crazed bloggers tonight from 10p.m.-12a.m. EST to celebrate along with us.

There will be Team Ash/Team Puck/Team Grim questions, awesome giveaways, behind the scenes exclusives, and a super-special announcement from Julie. Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch), Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine), Beth Revis (Across the Universe), and Christine Johnson (Claire De Lune) will all make special guest appearances throughout the night. Ash's never before seen letter to Meghan will also be revealed.

Here's what you need to know to follow the action...

 Hashtag: #IronKnightParty

Host: @HarlequinTeen
Julie Kagawa: @Jkagawa


Learn more about the Iron Fey series at http://www.ironfey.com/.
Hope to see you at the party tonight!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Release Date: October 12, 2010
Paperback Release: August 2, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 416
Series: Bright Young Things #1
Buy: Fountain Bookstore / Amazon
Description: Goodreads
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.
I’ve had a fairly hard time figuring out how to review Bright Young Things. It’s not that I didn’t like it. It’s more that I have few strong feelings about it one way or another. There were portions that I enjoyed, like descriptions of the gorgeous 1920’s attire or the different vibe from an older New York; other portions, not so much. So, let’s go through this by singling out each of Anna Godbersen’s threesome: Cordelia Grey, Letty Larkspur, and Astrid Donal.

Cordelia’s story gave me the strongest feelings of any of the plots in Bright Young Things. She came to New York to confront famous bootlegger Darius Grey, claiming to be his daughter. Without so much as a call to the 1920’s Maury Povich, he accepted her. Immediately, I questioned this, wondering why Darius never said or did anything throughout the rest of the novel to officially prove that he was, in fact, Cordelia’s father. However, I did value the time she spent with her father once he took her into his extravagant home. What angered me more about Cordelia’s tale, though, was her relationship with rival bootlegger’s son Thom Hale. Cordelia established herself as a head-strong girl who couldn’t be tamed, but the moment she began to think with her heart instead of her head it proved to be disastrous. Her story has a ton of unanswered questions for the follow-up novel entitled Beautiful Days, especially pertaining to her all-but-forgotten husband back in Ohio, so I look forward to seeing just how that plays out.

Letty did not win me over the way I thought she would at this story’s beginning. She traveled from Ohio to Manhattan with her best friend Cordelia as a poor country girl with a large talent, naively hoping that she would magically become the next Mary Pickford. It was this naivety that drove me a little batty, to be honest. So much of her character arc developed too predictably for me- everything from her friendship with the obviously-gaga-for-her Grady to her oblivious acceptance to “perform solo” for a well-known theater owner and lothario unfolded quite obviously to me. I tried to warn her, but that was the reading equivalent of yelling, “Don’t go check in the basement!” to the blonde baby-sitter in a slasher film. Part of this is because, growing up so many decades after these events would take place, I have the curse of knowledge. Hopefully, Letty will learn from her past mistakes, grow a bit, and win me over yet.

While Astrid did not appeal to me as a narrator at her beginning, she grew on me over the course of Bright Young Things. Her spoiled tendencies and elitist attitude raked my nerves, but as I read on, I started to feel pity for the girl who, quite frankly, didn’t have anyone that truly cared about her. Her only family was her debutante mother, and she was too busy husband hopping (or new husband shopping) to notice anyone but herself, and her boyfriend Charlie Grey was far too self-absorbed. When she found a stray earring in Charlie’s room, I thought we were looking at a simple case of Sleazy Cheater Boyfriend, but I liked how this arc took an unexpected turn. I also liked her relationship with Cordelia, mostly because a genuine girl like Cordelia would be the best kind of person for Astrid to befriend. I am most interested to see how Astrid’s story develops in Beautiful Days.

Overall, while not my favorite, Bright Young Things managed to entertain me, and I think it would make an excellent Saturday afternoon movie. Moreover, it made me ache for a wardrobe filled with seamed stockings, adorable shoes, tweed cloches, and swishy dresses. I now anticipate the continuing adventure of these three dames (and someone to accompany me on a vintage dress shopping spree).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Author Insight: Cover Designers

If your cover designer retired, whose would you steal to design for your books?

"I love the cover of Leanna Renee Hieber's upcoming book! It's so sparkly and pretty!" - Lia Habel, author of Dearly Departed.

"I love lots of covers, but Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children just dang kills me. If I ever write that mystery series I've been talking about (that I never start), I want that designer!" - Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast.

"I love my covers! Drink, Slay, Love (my new book) has this brilliant red drip of blood that is sliding down the side of the soda bottle onto the 'R' in the title.

But if I didn't have any of my cover designers... Some gorgeous covers that I've seen recently are on: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (which is also a gorgeous book), Pegasus by Robin McKinley, and Huntress by Malinda Lo." - Sarah Beth Durst, author of Drink, Slay, Love.

"Anna Godberson’s cover designer for The Luxe series. Such gorgeous dresses, with such a luscious, rich historical feel!" - Jessica Spotswood, author of Born Wicked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison

Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
Description: Goodreads
A modern retelling of the German fairytale "Tristan and Isolde", Tris and Izzie is about a young witch named Izzie who is dating Mark King, the captain of the basketball team and thinks her life is going swimmingly well. Until -- she makes a love potion for her best friend Brangane and then ends up taking it herself accidentally, and falling in love with Tristan, the new guy at school.
I'll cut to the chase. Tris & Izzie was a huge disappointment for me. That being said, it's no fault of Mette Ivie Harrison, who is a beautiful writer. The book well-written and an easy read despite the issues I had. It also has some very nice moments in it, including a realistic mother-daughter relationship (magic aside), true friendship complete with fights, and a commentary on love triangles that made me chuckle.

The problem lies in the marketing of the book. It set expectations, and the book itself was something completely different. It goes against everything I thought I "knew" about the book.

Every mention I heard of this book simply said it was a modern retelling of Tristan & Isolde, which is something I was all for. Then at ALA this year, I learned that there was a love potion involved and I thought, "Excellent! Tristan & Isolde with 15% magic. Sign me up!" After all, in the original story Isolde practices herbalism and, well, potions aren't a far cry from that, so I could buy a little magic.

I had seven chapters of bliss -- sweet love story complicated by an accidental love potion -- before things got weird. That was when I was ambushed by a high fantasy plot, which was clearly a major part of the story and something Harrison intended to be a thrust of the book. I don't think it would have bothered me had I had any inkling that this book would be something more than Tristan & Isolde with a little magical twist, but I felt like I was led astray by the publicity.

Swords and kings I could have handled. I was in no way prepared for elemental sorcery, virgin human sacrifice, two-headed talking dogs that eat magic, and invisible swords that can make you fly. I was dumbfounded by it all and even more astonished that anyone could forget to mention it when talking up a book.

If I had read it expecting more of a high fantasy novel or with no expectations at all then my opinion might be entirely different. Part of me wishes that I could have reviewed this book on it's own merits and leave the marketing out of it, but I was excited about the prospect and the potential this book had based on the pitches I heard. The sad fact is that expectations have a role in our final opinion, and Tris & Izzie just isn't what it was initially made out to be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Author Insight: Cover Designers

If your cover designer retired, whose would you steal to design for your books?

"I love the silhouette designs on The Penderwicks books. Then again, I love everything about those books." - Amy Kathleen Ryan, author of Glow.

"Anne Geddes. Is she the one who takes all those pictures of babies in, like, pea pods and lily pads? I know it's a very 90's thing to admit, but I love those pictures. Next thing you know, I'll be pegging my pants.

I just realized you probably meant which authors have covers that I admire. I would probably steal Becca Fitzpatrick's (Hush, Hush) designer." - Brodi Ashton, author of Everneath.

"Oh, whoever did my German cover. I loved that cover." - Anna Sheehan, author of A Long, Long Sleep.

"This guy: http://pottercriterion.tumblr.com/" - Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More Author Insight: The Balancing Act

How do you balance life and writing and all the obligations that come with being an author?

"Very carefully. I'm introverted and shy and easily tired by a lot of social activity, so I have to be a little bit choosy for my own peace of mind. I try to participate in absolutely everything I can, from cons to blogs - especially when it lets me interact with readers, which I love! - but I am learning early on the value of  'no, sorry.' As it is, I write full-time, so my life and my writing career are really indistinguishable." - Lia Habel, author of Dearly Departed.

"I drink a lot of coffee and I eat nicotine lozenges (I used to smoke) and I overeat and then exercise a ton and wake up in the middle of the night totally freaked out by all the junk I should be doing that I'm not and twice a day I sit back and think, 'Holy crap, I am so lucky to be here,' because I love this life." - Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast.

"Everyone is busy. Even people who aren't actually busy think they are busy because free time is like closet space -- you fill it up with towels, clothes hangers, and a stash of Halloween candy that you're saving for non-Halloween emergencies. (Um, that last one might be just me. Really should check the expiration date on that stuff.)

Anyway, the point is... If you want to be a writer, you can't wait until you have that glorious stretch of uninterrupted time to commune with your muse. You have to steal the time and tell the muse that if she wants to show up, you'll be at your desk writing your story and she's welcome to join you whenever she's done munching on old Halloween candy." - Sarah Beth Durst, author of Drink, Slay, Love.

"Oh, this is a very pertinent question for me at the moment! I don’t know! I’ve only been writing full-time for two months, and I don’t feel as though I’ve come up with a good sane schedule yet. I loved Sara Zarr’s talk about crafting a sustainable creative life at SCBWI-NY last year. I’m trying to figure out what that means for me. So far I’ve realized that it needs to involve exercise, meditation, reading, dedicated writing time, dedicated non-writing time, date nights with my husband, date nights with my best friends, date nights with my writing friends, lots of tea, and naps with my cat." - Jessica Spotswood, author of Born Wicked.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Savage Grace Puzzle

You might need these...


...because Bree Despain has created a puzzle of The Savage Grace's cover on her website.  But she's spread the pieces across the interwebs, so before you can get to the puzzle and put it all together, you need to go find the pieces and unscramble a password.  (Don't worry.  You don't need to copy and paste the puzzle piece images or do anything too technical.)  This password will grant you access to the full cover image, and give you a chance to enter to win one of three ARC copies of The Savage Grace!

A troubled soul. An impossible choice. A final battle.

Wrestling with the werewolf curse pulsing deep inside of her, Grace Divine was finally able to find her brother, but it nearly cost her everything.

With her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf form and Sirhan's death approaching, time is running out for Grace to stop Caleb Kalbi and his gang of demons. If she fails, her family and hometown will perish. Everything rests on Grace's shoulders.

The final installment in The Dark Divine trilogy brings Daniel and Grace's love story to a breathtaking conclusion. 
Description from Egmont.

Here's what you do...

1. Each group of puzzle pieces has been assigned key letters. Gather the groups of pieces by collecting these letters from the following blogs:

(But you're already here so that's one down!)

2. Once you have all the letters, unscramble them to find the password. (Keep the theme to the Dark Divine trilogy in mind.)

3. Now that you have all the pieces and have deciphered the password, you can gain access to the full puzzle HERE.

4. Enter the password when prompted in all lower-case letters.

5. After you finish the puzzle, click "View Image" to see the cover completed.

6. Don't forget to fill out the form on the left hand side of the puzzle page! That's how you enter to win an ARC of The Savage Grace.

7. The contest is open until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, October 13th. Winners will be announced on Bree's blog on Friday, October 14th. Contest is open internationally.

Remember, when you're done stop by and leave Bree some cover love at her site. Hope you enjoy the game!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Author Insight: The Balancing Act

How do you balance life and writing and all the obligations that come with being an author?

"When I’m drafting, my rule is that I have to write a certain number of pages every day, depending on how busy I am. I write more pages if my schedule is open, fewer if I have lots of demands on me. These small, attainable goals help me stay productive on a daily basis." - Amy Kathleen Ryan, author of Glow.

"I don't. But I did read somewhere that balance only comes when you neglect everything in your life a little. Wait. That doesn't sound right. I'm totally messing up the quote, because that sounds kind of like a jerky thing to do. But maybe it's true. I'm finding balance right now by neglecting to look up the actual quote." - Brodi Ashton, author of Everneath.

"It hasn’t been much of a problem for me so far, probably because I built my life around my career. I decided at an early age what I wanted to do, and built a life that would enable me to do it easily." - Anna Sheehan, author of A Long, Long Sleep.

"I'm kind of an obsessive planner and scheduler. I think that's key. It may occasionally drive some people in my life a little nuts but I think if I didn't plan things out, sometimes hour by hour, I just wouldn't make things happen." - Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon
Description: Goodreads
Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Last year, I read this book by Stephanie Perkins called Anna and the French Kiss. You might have heard of it… I’d read countless rave reviews about it, so I decided to listen to the hype and check it out. It’s quite an understatement for me to say to that I loved it with the fire of a thousand suns. Since then, I have been anxiously awaiting the release of the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door. And now… in my post-Lola world, all I can say is "OMG HAPPY RAINBOWS LOVE SPARKLES SWEET UNICORN FIREWORK CAKES."

…Let me try to translate that for you.

I absolutely, entirely, wholeheartedly, 100 percent adore Lola, in a completely different and brand new way than I adore Anna. While Anna’s story was all about first love, Lola’s is about second chances. Lola Nolan once loved the boy next door named Cricket Bell, who broke her heart and left town before she could properly get closure on her feelings. Now that he’s back, along with his twin sister and Mean Girl Calliope, Lola has to deal with her old feelings of rejection, her new boyfriend Max’s jealousy, and her confusing I-like-Cricket-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-do emotions as well.

The main reason why this book works so well is Lola, just as she is. No matter how unique and off-the-wall Lola seems, she remains tangible and authentic from beginning to end. I would never be able to pull off about 98% of what she wears, but I love the fact that she wears it. I love that she sees every moment as an opportunity to express herself and she continues to show her true, vibrant colors. I also love that she makes true teen-girl decisions. Anyone can see that Max is a total dillhole from the very beginning (her two dads and her best friend Lindsay certainly see it), but Lola is so starstruck, it takes months for her to notice his true identity. I especially love the moment where she describes how she wants Cricket to see her again out with her super-cool-rocker boyfriend, and when that moment happens, it doesn’t feel like she expected. She’s conflicted, she struggles, and she does this in a very real way. Lola is so cool.

Also, I gotta get this out: CRICKET! I adore Cricket Bell. Hoo boy. There is a character type that gets bandied about in pop culture known as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I feel this is the first true case of the Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He’s like a nerdy girl’s dream come true. He’s sweet, caring, funny, sensitive, smart as a freakin’ whip, and just the perfect blend of awkward confidence and shy grace. I just… can’t even explain it. There’s no one quite like Cricket.

Now, Stephanie? May I call you Stephanie? Girl, you can write. I mean, holy crap. The story is fantastic, but what truly makes Lola great is the effortless way it unfolds before your very eyes. It’s brilliant. Every description explodes in your mind’s eye so the reader can’t help but picture it in just the right way, from Lola’s incredible ensembles to the Castro neighborhood to the inner struggle of Lola’s deepest thoughts and emotions. It’s vivid, magical, delicious prose at its very best. Certain phrases made me gasp, grin, and cry (one line made me do all three simultaneously). I want to bake a pie out of these words. Hopefully City Pie Guy can handle that kind of request. And deliver to the East Coast.
Oh, and Anna Oliphant and Etienne St. Clair? Love you guys. For real. Don’t ever change.
I can’t think of anything else to say about this except STOP READING THIS REVIEW and go read Lola and the Boy Next Door instead. The characters are truly wonderful, the story is delightfully fun, and the writing is Word Heaven. Sparkly, giddy, blissful word heaven.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Author Insight: Fictional Fights

What is the worst fight you've ever had with one of your characters?

"I've never fought with one of my characters, because they're all under my control. I personally don't buy that whole 'characters are separate entities from the authors' thing - they're my toys, they do what I say. Even when I do experience those moments of, 'Oh, I didn't know you'd choose that route, Character! That's amazingly infuriating!' I know that's just my unconscious mind spitting out those ideas and making those connections. This is an unromantic view, I know." - Lia Habel, author of Dearly Departed.

"My main character, Felton, won't shut up.  He won't.  I essentially barf words with him.  I'm constantly having to cut, cut, cut, because he wants to talk about everything. (Everything.)" - Geoff Herbach, author of Stupid Fast.

"I used to think it was a little bit precious when authors would talk about their characters taking control of the story and refusing to cooperate and yada yada. You're the author; it's your story. But then, it happened to me. I was working on Enchanted Ivy (my magic-at-Princeton novel), and I needed my protagonist to leave Vineyard Club and cross into the alternate magical Princeton with the were-tiger guy. And she would not leave the room she was in. I wrote the scene. And rewrote the scene. And rewrote it again. But it didn't work, and I couldn't move forward because Lily would not leave the room. It was not consistent with her character to budge.

So I finally had to stick another character into a coma so he'd stop talking to her and she'd leave.

Moral of the story is: don't mess with the author, or she'll put you in a coma." - Sarah Beth Durst, author of Drink, Slay, Love.

"Hmm. I don’t think I fight with my characters. When I get stuck, it’s usually because I’m overthinking, trying to plan out what happens next instead of just listening to them. When I get still and quiet and focused and can hear Cate, that’s when it all falls into place." - Jessica Spotswood, author of Born Wicked.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Release Date: July 21, 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 260
Buy: Amazon
Description: Goodreads
Lexi is cursed with a dark secret. Each day she goes to school like a normal teenager, and each night she must swim, or the pain will be unbearable. She is a siren - a deadly mermaid destined to lure men to their watery deaths. After a terrible tragedy, Lexi shut herself off from the world, vowing to protect the ones she loves. But she soon finds herself caught between a new boy at school who may have the power to melt her icy exterior, and a handsome water spirit who says he can break Lexi's curse if she gives up everything else. Lexi is faced with the hardest decision she's ever had to make: the life she's always longed for - or the love she can't live without?
Those of you looking for The Little Mermaid or something like it, turn back now. Ripple is anything but. It's dark and somewhat frightening, harkening back to the sirens of old. The ones who would drown a man sooner than kiss him.

Lexi discovered that she was a siren two years ago, and she's understandably having trouble coping with what that means for her and how it will affect her life. One person has already died because of her and she's not about to let it happen again. She closes herself off to the world, keeps people who used to be her friends at a distance, and has removed herself from the ocean entirely, retreating to a lake deep in the forest where no one could be in danger.

But one boy is encroaching on her territory and her life. Cole is determined to help the girl he used to know resurface, and he won't let her go easily. In a school full of tormentors, Cole is the only one she can turn to but letting him in could be dangerous, if not deadly.

Mandy Hubbard weaves a careful mesh of fantasy and reality, crafting a melancholy tale about a single secret with the power to destroy families, friendships, love, and lives whether it stays secret or not.

Uncovering the story behind the cursing alongside Lexi was one of my favorite parts of this story. Instead of asking us to believe whatever she told us was going on, Hubbard showed how the curse came to be through diary entries in which she tells the story behind the story. Through those entries, Lexi also gets the chance to learn about her mother's past.

Cole is the friend  who wants to be more to Lexi. I fell in love with him myself for the way he's always looking to slip through a crack in Lexi's glacial facade and obliterate the wall she's put up over the years. He wants her to take comfort and confide in him, and he doesn't back down even when she tries to drive him away.

Okay, I won't say too much, but Cole isn't the only boy in this story. (Of course not, right? It's modern YA!) Erik transfers to their school and tells Lexi that loving him is the answer to all her problems. Naturally she's wary, but she'd try anything to get her old life back. And forcing yourself to be with a guy who looks like a Greek god can't be all bad.

Their relationsip intrigued me because it was a classical case of "we look good on paper" syndrome with a paranormal twist. You know, Boy and Girl share common traits and similar lifestyles so its not hard to imagine the two of them dating, getting married and have 2.5 children and a dog. But as much as you want it to work, there's no chemistry. No spark.

If you're searching for steam, you won't find it in Lexi's love life. The love triangle in this book is admittedly tepid, but watching Lexi decipher her relationship with Erik and her feelings for Cole really gripped me. There are a few very poignant moments where Lexi realizes that no matter who she chooses she'll have to sacrifice.

I feel like a lot of people missed the boat with Ripple. Early on it seemed that people were excited and then the buzz just died off. I can only guess that people expected a pretty, paranormal mermaid novel and not the emotionally wrought story of a murderous siren plagued by her own existence. Regardless, I'd like to see this well-written, engaging piece of fiction get noticed for more than the scales on the cover.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Author Insight: Fictional Fights

What is the worst fight you've ever had with one of your characters?

"Since I am their creator, and I have total power over them, they don’t tend to put up much of a fuss." - Amy Kathleen Ryan, author of Glow.

"I have a character I love who keeps doing things I hate. It breaks my heart. We're in couples counseling." - Brodi Ashton, author of Everneath.

"Oh, lords. I remember when I got to a certain point in my novel A Long, Long Sleep and Xavier had to dispel some unpleasant illusions Rose had had about her life. That was hard to write, because Xavier didn’t want to do it. I remember him asking me in my head if I couldn’t just kill him, instead, because it would be easier on him. When I basically said no and set down to writing it, I developed an actual allergic reaction. My eyes started getting all puffy and painful and tearing up, and it gave me a headache, and I couldn’t write at all until the next night. I always thought it was Xavier punishing me for putting him through so much hell." - Anna Sheehan, author of A Long, Long Sleep.

"I've definitely had side characters that fought hard to take over a story. Generally I  let them have their way for a bit, get the tantrum out of their system, and then go back and delete the mess they left behind. Sometimes it's good to go down the wrong story road awhile. You never know what you might stumble on that's useful." - Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.