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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Author Insight: Creating Characters

When you conceptualize a character does personality or physicality come first or does a complete person instantly form?

"Usually a line of thought or dialogue comes first. I am extremely attuned to sound, so I tend to hear my characters before anything else, and then everything else falls into place. I hear their inner monologue typically, and that tells me something about their personality, which gets fleshed out, so to speak, over time. As for physicality, I really don’t focus on the physicality of my characters. I have no idea what Rafe from Openly Straight looks like. He looks like me at 17 sometimes. Other times, he looks like me only cuter. I’m sure no two people reading that book would choose the same actor as his likeness." - Bill Konigsberg, author of Openly Straight

"It depends on the character. I have had characters spring into my head fully formed, and I have had to drag others out, characteristic by characteristic, kicking and screaming. There's no 'normal' for me on this one." - Aprilynne Pike, author of Life After Theft and Earthbound.

"The first thing that comes is an attitude, a point of view. Then, they begin to form physically. More pieces come into play as they’re needed. Sometimes, it takes the whole story before I know who that person really is. And then comes a rewrite." - Lex Hrabe , co-author of Quarantine: The Loners

"Personality always comes first for me, then I have to ask myself what they look like." - Victoria Scott, author of The Collector.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Screen Free Week begins today!

Screen Free Week is here!

Yes, I realize the irony in announcing this on a blog but bear with me. In our jacked-in society it's  getting infinitely more difficult every day to shut off the smart phone, TV, tablet, computer, etc and harken back to a simpler time. 

You've heard those rumors about days when kids used to read for entertainment, write their own stories, create art or *gasp* go outside? Well they're true, and this week is your opportunity to try it on for size. Just unplug and be productive. (But finish reading the post first.)

During Screen Free Week Random House is encouraging everyone to UNPLUG & READ. Unplugging even for a short time can provide perspective on just how huge a role media plays in our lives.
Screen Free Week is the annual celebration from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) that encourages turning off screens and turning on life.  CCFC’s Screen Free Week is a creative response to growing public health concerns about the unprecedented time children spend with entertainment screen media—television, computers, video games, and smart phones. Studies show that Preschoolers spend as much as 4.1 to 4.6 hours per day using screen media. Including multi-tasking, children 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours per day with screens. Unplugging for one week provides an opportunity to reset media habits, establishing a healthy, sustainable tradition of media consumption in households and schools.

Inspired by Dan Yaccarino’s Doug Unplugged (On sale February 12, 2013) about a robot who discovers that the real world trumps the virtual, we are launching Random House Unplugs: A Screen Free Week promotion.  We are committed to supporting teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents in their efforts to encourage children to UNPLUG & READ during Screen Free Week from April 29 – May 5.

manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Sometimes the most dramatic scenes in a high school theater club are the ones that happen between the actors and crew off stage.

Seventeen-year-old Tyler Darcy's dream of being a writer is starting to feel very real now that he's sold his first short story to a literary journal. He should be celebrating its publication with his two best friends who've always had his back, but on this night, a steady stream of texts from his girlfriend Sidney keep intruding. So do the memories of his dream girl, Becky, who's been on his mind a little too much since the first day of high school. Before the night is over, Ty might just find the nerve to stop all the obsessing and finally take action.
This is my first Tom Leveen novel and I am head over heels for his writing. You can bet after reading this slim but superb novel about a young man chasing a vision of what he wants instead of appreciating what he has that I will be adding Leveen's other novels to my shelf.

Manicpixiedreamgirl opens on Tyler Darcy and his friends Rob and Justin celebrating after Tyler sells a short story to a literary magazine. After three years of pining for Rebecca, Tyler's forced to decide whether it's time to act or time to move on.

I can't say enough about this book. It's 256 pages of real people with real emotions, actions and reactions that is nothing short of absolutely compelling.

Every character is unique and steps outside of some of the stereotypical teenage characters you see in fiction. For example, Tyler's friend Rob is constantly evolving, changing his look and trying new things but never trying to become someone else. Vignettes that showcase this evolution are a testament to the teenage search for self that everyone goes through in high school.

Voice is the thing that gripped me most about manicpixiedreamgirl. Tyler tells his story as it happened. For the most part it's his unembellished, true account of what happened down to his self-doubt and reflection on his actions or lack thereof. His honest review of his past during a single day of his present is what made this novel so difficult to put down.

Tyler's obsession with Rebecca is lost on his girlfriend and two best friends. Rob and Justin wonder why Tyler put her on a pedestal and why he hasn't given up the dream, especially when Sydney is right in front of him.

Sydney is convinced that maybe Tyler will eventually realize what he has. All he needs is time and she's willing to be patient, but that day might be further away than Sydney thinks.

If you're looking for a fantastic read that nixes the melodrama of high school and overblown archetypes associated with it then your search ends with manicpixiedreamgirl. Simultaneously quick-witted and achingly real, Leveen's latest work is not to be missed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Kissing Booth Giveaway

Thanks so much to Random House for offering me a copy of Beth Reekles debut novel to giveaway. I'm in the midst of reading this right now and it's super cute and extremely enjoyable. The main character and her best guy friend have the same type of easy going relationship one of my guy friends and I did in high school, right down to the biting jokes and level of physical comfort with each other. And well, let's just say the romance is intense...

Trust me, you don't want to miss The Kissing Booth! 

The Kissing Booth 
by Beth Reekles

Release Date: May 14, 2013 Publisher: EmberPre-order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBoound

A cool, sexy romance novel written by seventeen-year-old British sensation Beth Reekles.

Meet Rochelle “Elle” Evans: pretty, popular—and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile—and a total player.

When Elle decides to run a kissing booth at her school's Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer. This romance seems far from a fairy tale.

Is Elle headed for heartbreak or will she get her happily ever after?

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More Author Insight: Peculiar Recaps

NOTE: My apologies that this post is a day late. I didn't catch that it hadn't posted until late Thursday evening. We will be back on schedule starting Tuesday. 
What is the weirdest way someone (possibly you) has recapped your book?

"From San Diego Comic Con: 'Partials is like Battlestar Galactica meets The Stand, starring Hermione as a medical genius.'" - Dan Wells, author of Fragments. 

"I think I heard it described as 'The Sopranos, but with a teen girl and superpowers' once." - Natalie Whipple, author of Transparent

"Well, I just read somewhere that I was the 'force behind Lauren Kate’s Fallen series.' I WISH!! Sadly, not true." - Page Morgan, author of The Beautiful and the Cursed

"My books are kind of weird to begin with, so when I find a recap of one that makes it sound straightforward and ordinary… well, it freaks me out. One time, one of my books was called “chick-lit.” I was horrified but mostly amused." - Nova Ren Suma, author of 17 & Gone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-galley
Source: NetGalley
Series: Pushing the Limits #2
Pages: 462
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

Dare You To is one of those books I’ve been all grabby-hands about since the moment I finished its companion novel Pushing the Limits last year.  Katie McGarry’s debut gave me a couple to root for in Noah and Echo, but I knew I’d love to hear Beth’s story.  Turns out, not only do I love Beth even more than I did before, but I think Ms. McGarry has added herself to my “Insta-buy List” from this day forward.

Beth Risk is the definition of someone who makes you work for it.  The girl has had a hard, gypsy-style life of moving and hiding and taking care of her mother. Her dad left them both long ago, for something that Beth claims was her fault, and she’s been the one to take care of them ever since her dad’s brother Scott abandoned them to become a Yankee (like the baseball team, not the Doodle Dandy).  Ryan Stone is a golden boy of Groveton—he’s a baseball star, his dad’s well-known and well-respected, and his older brother helped his high school football team win many a game.  However, he’s got his own family troubles hidden beneath the layers.  He and his buddies are in a constant Dare War, which is how Our Boy meets Our Girl in a Louisville Taco Bell.  The rest, as they say, is a compelling, heart-meltingly romantic tale of redemption, wall-busting, and love with a capital L (for “Lawd, this book is h-o-t”).

I really, truly adored Beth in Pushing the Limits.  It was so clear that she had a big heart and that she needed someone to love her the way she deserved to be loved, but she wouldn’t and couldn’t tear down those walls of hers.  I spent so much of Dare You To with a deep crease between my eyebrows and a lump in my throat.  Dear, sweet Beth.  I wish I could hug her and tell her it’s not her fault.  I wish she had had a true childhood without any of the harshness that she saw.  I felt for her in a deeper way than I previously did for Noah and Echo.  This isn’t to say that I didn’t care about them, but there’s just something about Beth that gets under your skin and demands your attention.  I blew through this in one sitting, and I could’ve read 450 more pages easily.

And Ryan.  A jock with depth.  One of my favorite aspects of this novel was its turn on the tradition of bad boy/good girl into bad girl/good boy.  That’s something I don’t see often enough, and it’s done so well here.  Ryan and his buddies are boys in all the boyiest ways, which you know I love to bits.  Have I said that I love well-written male POVs before?  Oh, only about a gazillion times? Well, all right then.

Honestly, I have been in such a reading rut lately.  Nothing has been able to bust me out of it.  I’m so happy to say that Beth and Ryan may have been just what I needed, so thank you Dare You To for being the book I needed.  The only problem?  Now I have to wait for Isaiah’s story!  Dang it, McGarry!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Author Insight: Peculiar Recaps

What is the weirdest way someone (possibly you) has recapped your book?

"It was the first sentence of my first-ever review of my first novel, Out of the Pocket, by Kirkus. 'In this unusual hybrid that juxtaposes hard-hitting, play-by-play football action with scenes of psychological soul-searching…' I remember reading it and thinking: Was that weird? Am I weird? It didn’t seem weird to me… Luckily, in four-plus years since then, not a single person or reviewer has said to me that they thought it was weird that a book about a football player being outed against his will would include both football and soul searching." - Bill Konigsberg, author of Openly Straight

"Brandon Sanderson christened my faeries in Wings, 'Veggie-Faeries.'" - Aprilynne Pike, author of Life After Theft and Earthbound.

"I can’t think of any weird ones. We were lucky that we stumbled across an idea that was pretty easy to pitch: a high school gets quarantined, and after a year inside, the social cliques devolve into gangs that battle each other at bi- monthly military food drops. I’ve noticed that there’s always someone that gets distracted by the virus that prompted the quarantine. I understand why certain readers might place expectations on that, but for us, it was always just a starting point, a device to justify the world we wanted to create inside our high school." - Lex Hrabe , co-author of Quarantine: The Loners

"The Collector– Sexy jerk, meet likable nerd." - Victoria Scott, author of The Collector.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Series: Hundred Oaks #3
Pages: 320
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

It took approximately 17 pages for me to put down Miranda Kenneally’s third book Things I Can’t Forget and take to the Twitter to rave about it.  Miranda just gets me.  She writes about girls and situations that I can relate to so easily without having to relate to it completely.  It’s like she somehow met Teenage Jessica and wrote about her, only her versions are more interesting and the girls play sports instead of the clarinet.

This time, our Hundred Oaks High protagonist is Kate Kelly.  She’s an exceedingly strict and devout Christian, and she’s a member of the Forrest Sanctuary Church (previously seen in last year’s StealingParker).  However, when her best friend Emily asks for her help to get an abortion, Kate begins to fall apart with guilt and shame.  She sinned when she took her friend to the clinic that day, and she really needs Emily to pray with her and ask forgiveness for what they did, the thing she can’t forget.  Hopefully, you can see why that’s a bit problematic.  Their strained relationship forces Kate to be a counselor on her own at Cumberland Creek Camp, where her fellow counselors and campers show her that not everything in life is so clear cut.

My girl Miranda writes some fabulously flawed and compelling female characters.  Jordan, Parker, and Kate are nothing alike, except for the fact that they are incredibly real.  It’s been a challenge for me to write this review (though I clearly enjoyed the novel), because Kate’s story hit me in a very personal and true way.  Kate is a difficult character to love.  She says so many things that smack of self-righteous judgment, and yet, every time I felt close to disliking her, I heard her words in my own teenage voice.  Granted, I was younger than Kate when I was at my most self-righteous, but it sure sounded like the ghost of Jessica Past.  I read this book with the perfect vision of hindsight, and I found myself wishing that I could hop in the TARDIS (with Ten and Rose, obviously) and put this in Teenage Jessica’s hands.

The most important aspect of Kate’s personality, to me, is that she actually and actively listens to those around her, and she truly puts thought into her decisions.  She isn’t just going along with the crowd to fit in.  Kate chose a hard path for herself, and it’s beyond commendable to see her stick to her guns, especially in the face of a grade A hottie like Matt.  Oh me oh my.  Miniature Poodle Matt Brown.  Teenage Jessica would’ve loved him too, with his guitar playing and no-shoe-wearing and easygoing awesomeness.  Miranda knows how to bring the hotties too, which you’ll already know if you’ve read her other two books.  Speaking of, all your favorite Hundred Oaks characters come out to play.  Who wouldn’t love more time with Parker and Corndog?

Things I Can’t Forget is sweet and painful, honest and thoughtful, hilarious and heart-breaking.  I know I’ll recommend this book again and again.  It’s the perfect read for Jessicas Past, Present, and Future.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

More Author Insight: Personal-Professional Separation

Do you feel a need to divorce your personal life from your writing career on social media, etc. or are they too difficult to separate?

"I tend to keep the most controversial topics to myself, though I'll mention them occasionally--things like religion and politics have a tendency to start arguments, and I have no interest in that online, so I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid it. The rest of my life is pretty much an open book, because that's what makes social media interesting. When an author's twitter feed is pure business, with nothing but launch dates and book signings and retweets of reviews, I lose interest very quickly; when an author shows a bit of who they are, all the fun extras that make them cool and interesting, that's what makes social media cool." - Dan Wells, author of Fragments. 

"More and more, I want to keep my personal life to myself. It was a lot easier to share when there were less people looking, you know? The internet gives this false sense of knowing someone, when you really can’t see anything but what they put out there. So it can cause a lot of assumptions and possible misunderstandings. Right now, I would rather not have people conjuring a picture of my personal life that isn’t true." - Natalie Whipple, author of Transparent

"Using a pen name this time around has made separating personal stuff from writing stuff very easy." - Page Morgan, author of The Beautiful and the Cursed

"I might be thrown out of the kidlit community for admitting this, so please realize this comes with some risk to my personal safety: I have never read the Harry Potter books… or seen the movies, or have any burning desire to do so. I feel bad mostly because all the references to the series—and wow, are there many—go straight over my head. Sometimes I smile and nod though, and I guess now you’ll know I’m faking it." - Nova Ren Suma, author of 17 & Gone.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (46)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 
that highlights eagerly anticipated books.

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Author Website: http://amytintera.com/
Pre-order: Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes & Noble

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Why can't I wait? 
An interesting and unique premise that sounds like just the right mix of sci-fi and dystopian. I'm all about the powerful girl/weaker guy trope.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Author Insight: Personal-Professional Separation

Do you feel a need to divorce your personal life from your writing career on social media, etc. or are they too difficult to separate?

"I find them very difficult to separate. I have separate personal and fan pages on Facebook, but they overlap greatly, and I tend to accept fans as friends readily. I think this isn’t a great idea, as my readers can become perhaps too familiar with me before reading a book, but that’s where things stand now." - Bill Konigsberg, author of Openly Straight

"My family is so incredibly supportive of my work, and my personal life is so all-encompassing for me, that I find it nearly impossible to keep them separate. Nor do I try. I talk about my kids and husband online just like I talk about my work around the dinner table. They really are a blended whole for me." - Aprilynne Pike, author of Life After Theft and Earthbound.

"I pick and choose the personal things I put online. It’s always a challenge what to put up. It’s less about my personal life, because I don’t really think anyone’s interested, and more about how much to reveal about our writing process. I want to be available to all of our readers, but I also don’t want to show so much behind the curtain that it detracts from the experience of reading our books. If you know too much about how story decisions were made, I think it dilutes some of the magic." - Lex Hrabe , co-author of Quarantine: The Loners

"Too difficult to separate. I had to finally merge the two and then monitor how much information I give out online." - Victoria Scott, author of The Collector.