Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday Words: Shout Out for Short Stories

This week's edition of Wednesday Words is going to be remarkably short because life got really busy on me and I didn't think of a topic in advance. Therefore, I just want to give a little shout out here to a type of book that I've been rediscovering lately and often gets overlooked: the short story collection.

Short stories are the literary equivalent of taking a test drive of a genre or author. In a much shorter word length, readers still get to experience a writing style, characters can still be built up, and strong feelings can be evoked. As the saying goes, bigger isn't always better. And as an aspiring writer, I've enjoyed toying around with writing my own short stories because I can't get lost in the fluff - there's just less room for it.

There are also a lot of great short story collections and anthologies for YA out there, too. I recently read the collection Up All Night and have checked out Corsets & Clockwork from my library which are all steampunk romances. Foretold, a collection of 14 stories exploring the realm of prophecy, came out yesterday, and if I'm not mistaken The Curiosities, a short story collection brought to you by the same authors of the Merry Sisters of Fate blog, is coming to bookstores very soon as well.

So if you've never thought about them before, I encourage you to give short stories a try. I recently have, and I haven't regretted it.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Side of Neverland: Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Harper Teen, 2012

*ARC supplied by The Book Cellar - thank you!*

I doubt that when J.M. Barrie first penned Peter Pan, he knew how exactly the world he built in Neverland would come to shape future generations of dreamers. The tale of The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up is something that many of us are familiar with in one form or another (many via the 1953 Disney adaptation).

But Peter and his lost boys aren't the only inhabitants of Neverland. There's the girl who Peter loved before Wendy was even in the picture, and her story is beautifully told in Jodi Lynn Anderson's newest novel, Tiger Lily.

Fifteen year old Tiger Lily is a free spirit, one who has never fully fit in with her tribe. She doesn't do the things a girl ought to - she hunts, runs, gets dirty, and not outwardly warm or conventionally pretty. And she certainly doesn't believe in love, that is, until she meets Peter Pan. The leader of the Lost Boys and with a personality completely opposite of her own - loud, loving, and impulsive - she is soon risking everything to be with him. But just because Neverland is magical doesn't mean it guarantees happy endings. With the arrival of some Englanders and Tiger Lily's impending marriage to a horrible man in her tribe, Tiger Lily must choose between the life she's always known or an uncertain life with Peter.

This book made me physically ache, my heart not having enough room in my chest for all the feelings that were coursing through it. There are so many things about this book that Anderson just did so completely perfectly. For one, the choice to have Tiger Lily be the protagonist but having Tinker Bell be the narrator was simply genius - Tink is a reliable narrator, and her abilities as a fairy give us a unique and special view of these characters we've all grown up with and this place that lives within all our imaginations. Primary and supporting characters are all distinct and well rounded, even if they aren't on the page for very long. The descriptive language is exquisite from top to bottom - reading this book was like looking at a painting.

But more than anything else, the character of Tiger Lily herself was so powerful. Normally all of the attention goes to Wendy Darling as the leading lady in Peter's life, but Tiger Lily was someone I could relate to and feel for so strongly. She keeps her feelings inside and everyone else at an arm's length, but just because she doesn't say much doesn't mean she thinks or feels any less. She's confused by the feelings Peter brings up inside of her, she doesn't always do or say the right thing, she's incredibly passionate, and she manages to both run wild and be strikingly still all at once.

Tiger Lily also confirms my belief that Peter Pan is the real original bad boy of children's literature - I think every girl has fallen for a Peter at least once in her life, that boy who has so much charisma, is so full of life and makes everything a little bit brighter, but in the end those are also the qualities about him that end up breaking your heart.

If you like retellings of classic stories, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Tiger Lily makes readers see that J.M. Barrie only told one version of the events of Neverland. If I were one to give books star ratings, this one gets a 5 without a second thought.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jodi Lynn Anderson on Facebook
Jodi Lynn Anderson on Twitter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Degrees of Wrong Blog Tour: Book Soundtrack and Giveaway

PhotobucketHello readers and welcome to my stop on Anna Scarlett's Degrees of Wrong Blog Tour hosted by Bringing the Epic!

Degrees of Wrong tells the story of Dr. Elyse Martin, a woman who is rescued (aka kidnapped) by the United Nations and hidden (more like imprisoned) on an undersea warship, given a lab, and recruited to find a cure for the HTN4 virus. However, her temper and insubordination don't exactly mix well with this military environment, and she captures the attention of the ship's captain, Nicoli Marek - young, smart, gorgeous, infuriating, and, oh yeah, engaged.

There was so much I loved about this book, so I jumped at the chance to put together my soundtrack to go along with it. And without further ado...

1. The Civil Wars - Poison & Wine
The perfect song about loving someone and not wanting to love them all at the same time. Just two voices and a piano - simple, honest, and raw.
2. Snow Patrol - Chocolate
This song has spunk to it, much like Elyse, and it does a great job capturing her vivacious attitude, the fact that her growing feelings for Nicoli unnerve her, and her deep love of chocolate.
3. Pearl Jam - Just Breathe
Elyse is a doctor fighting to save the world, but she's also a woman who has lost everything she's ever cared about. This song does a fantastic job illustrating how much she wants Nicoli, but wants to respect that he's engaged to someone else.
4. Norah Jones - Turn Me On
Nicoli immediately comes to mind with every line of this song. He is a man who knows what he wants, and he is determined to have Elyse. This song oozes confidence and is so sexy!
5. Josh Groban - My Confession
This song plus thinking about Elyse and Nicoli may make you positively swoon once you've read this story! This could be a confession from either of them and how if loving the other is wrong, then forget being right!
6. Shania Twain - That Don't Impress Me Much
Elyse is the queen of snark, so this should be her dating theme song. It definitely does a good job showing what she thinks of Nicoli at first (or at least what she's trying to convince herself).
7. Matt Nathanson - Mercy
This song illustrates the tension between Nicoli and Elyse so well! Plus a few lines feel like they were written just for this book: "I need less drowning and more land" and "tie your hands and demand a salute." Perfect for this novel!
8. Coldplay - The Scientist
This could easily be a conversation between Elyse and Nicoli - nothing about their situation or feelings is simple, and falling in love has a way of complicating things. She's a scientist, he's open about his feelings and never even tries to hide them.
9. Ingrid Michaelson - Sort Of
Right away from the official book blurb, readers know Nicoli is engaged. I imagine these lyrics aren't too far off from the thoughts going through his mind as he knows he's supposed to marry one woman, but his love for Elyse is so much bigger.
10. Alice Peacock feat. John Mayer - Bliss
A sweet song about two people who never expected to fall in love, especially given everything. This is the song that would play during the ending credits if this was a movie.

And those are my soundtrack picks! For today's other stops on the Degrees of Wrong Blog Tour, Kristi at The Story Siren is doing a character interview while Erika at Moonlight Book Reviews is posting a review of the novel.

And now it's time for the giveaway! You all have the chance to win an e-galley of Degrees of Wrong plus some seriously great swag - signed bookmarks and book-themed chocolate! The winner will have to set up an account with Samhain Publishing's website, provide me with the account info, and then I pass it on and they transfer you the e-galley. Sound good to you? All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. International entries are welcome, though the chocolate can only be shipped in the US =)
*Contest is now over*

Also, there will be a launch party for the book on Twitter all day on August 28th, so make sure to check that out. Anna will be giving away 15 ebooks of the novel plus swag. One way to enter for an ebook is to change your Twitter profile pic to the book cover.

Thanks again for Lynn at Bringing the Epic for letting me be a part of this tour. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Anna Scarlett on the Web
On Goodreads

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy #1)
Henry Holt, 2012

Fantasy novels sweep us off to places that are full of possibilities that seem so incredibly impossible after childhood. Magical abilities, strange creatures, the epic battle of good versus evil can capture us and make us consider questions that are still very much relevant in the land of ordinary people.

A proud member of the Harry Potter generation, I'm so glad that I grew up with fantasy and so much wonder around every corner. However, I must admit it was challenging to really find an equally gripping and still relatable fantasy story ever since.

But then I read Shadow and Bone, and I was back.

Jenn Bosworth (author of Struck),
me, and Leigh on the Fierce Reads Tour
The land of Ravka (think 1800s tsarist Russia) is plagued by the Darkness, an ugly streak across the land that destroys nearly everything that dares to try to cross it. But Alina, a plain and unremarkable map maker with the army, her handsome childhood best friend Mal, and the other soldiers have no choice - the Darkness stands between the main cities and the sea ports where supplies for the country are. During their unit's first attempted crossing, Alina unleashes a power she never knew she possessed and she's sent off to be trained as a Grisha, one of the elite and masters of the Small Science. Under the watchful (and hungry) eye of the Darkling, the one in charge of all Grisha, Alina learns about her special abilities, the truth behind the shroud of lies all of Ravka have been told, and that she may be the only one who can set her country free.

It's mind boggling to me that this is Bardugo's debut novel because it blew me away page after page after page. I mean, having the dark be the thing that everyone fears and needs to be fought and destroyed? Genius! It's something that's instantly identifiable for so many people. The world building was exquisite as well. I don't know much about Russia, but I had no trouble picturing this rich landscape, from the sparse orphanage where Alina and Mal are raised to the decadent palaces where the Grisha are. The characters are all well drawn, leaving me with strong impressions of each one. I identified so incredibly strongly with Alina so much so that I feel like Bardugo must have stolen my journal when writing this character.

And like I said before, this is fantasy that takes on the questions of ordinary people. Themes of beauty and how much your appearance matters are delicately woven into the story as are points like knowing who you can really trust, finding your inner strength, and what is worth fighting for. I wish I could say more about this amazing book, but for fear of spoiling it, I'm restraining myself and instead am giving it my highest recommendation.

This is the first installment in the Grisha Trilogy and I'm waiting in agony for what is to come next. If you like fantasy, trust me, Shadow and Bone is a novel you don't want to pass up.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Leigh Bardugo's Website
Leigh Bardugo on Twitter

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (11)

I explore the world of short stories in Up All Night, a collection of six stories by YA authors.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday Words: Want to be a Writer?

It's hardly a secret that I have my own dreams of becoming a published YA author someday. In fact, I have almost a whole blog dedicated to that here. However, that journey is a lot more complicated than a lot of people realize. Writing the book is only the first step, and it's not even the most difficult one.

There's a whole lot aspiring writers need to learn if they even want a shot at "making it" and unfortunately, these days information can come at a pretty high price. I'm not just talking about your time and your sanity, but literally price as in dollars. Writing conferences are great ways to make connections, learn about the industry, and practice your craft, but they can cost a pretty penny just to attend, not to mention travel expenses if they aren't local.

Fortunately, a group of people who love this book writing community of aspiring writers such as myself and have been successful have felt the need to want to give something back. The result has been WriteOnCon, a FREE online writing conference aimed at people who write children's, middle grade, or young adult books. Over the course of two days and a lot of forums, people share their work with people in this community and get feedback on their query letters, first 250 words of their manuscripts, and first five pages from other attendees. There have also been opportunities to participate in chats with writers, editors, and agents on a variety of issues in the publishing world today.

And did I mention that it's all free??

The conference is actually set to end tonight, but you can view all the forums from this year and previous years even after the event is over. This is my first year participating (or honestly even knowing about it - I'm a new writer, so it's forgivable) and while I haven't gotten that much feedback, I have been learning a lot and it's fun to see what other people are working on or trying to get representation for.

So if you're interested in experiencing a writing conference but don't want to fork over the dough quite yet, check out WriteOnCon. It's a good way to see what the aspiring writers community is like - full of people often trying to build each other up in a world where it's so easy to make things a competition instead.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tale as Old as Time: Beastly

Beastly by Alex Flinn
Harper Teen, 2007

I love the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. I grew up watching the Disney version which isn't quite like the original, but still, what's not to like? A heroine with a good head on her shoulders and for once it's the prince that needs saving, but as it turns out, they actually save each other. As a result of my love for this story, I feel pretty protective of it. If someone does a retelling or adaptation, I am watching with a sharp eye.

Alex Flinn did her her homework when she wrote Beastly, a modern twist on the classic tale told from the beast's point of view. Kyle is Manhattan's pretty boy who has it all, raised by his father to believe that a person's looks and popularity are the most important things in life. As a result, Kyle is a pretty ugly person on the inside. However when he crosses Kendra, a witch who is disgusted with him, she transforms him into a hairy, ugly, horrible beast and he's given two years to find someone to love who loves him in return. Exiled to Brooklyn, over the course of his sentence he comes to learn what true beauty is, especially when his former classmate Lindy, a kind girl if not the prettiest one, is sent to live with Kyle in a deal he makes with her drug-addict father.

All in all, I really liked it as a one-time read. Had I read it perhaps when I was younger, I could see myself combing over this one time and again, but at this point in my life, once was enough. Kyle is not a likable guy at the start (which is, of course, the point), and while it can be a challenge to then want to stick with his story, if you do it just makes the growth he experiences over the next two years that much more obvious. However, I felt his falling in love with Lindy to be too much, too fast. I had a hard time believing he could change his mind about her so quickly, whereas her feelings changed more gradually and realistically.

It was the supporting cast that I was most taken with. Will, Kyle's blind tutor, is a man wise beyond his years and has the patience of a saint. He wants Kyle to succeed and believes in him even when Kyle has given up all hope. I also liked that Kendra showed growth and remorse for her actions as well. I loved that there was much more to this angry witch than meets the eye initially, and it's an element of the story I found to be the most realistic.

So if you like fantasies, fairy tales, and retellings with a twist and you haven't checked out Beastly yet, I say it's worth the read if your library has a copy.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Alex Flinn's Website

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (10)

More of my thoughts on Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, because to me there is no such thing about doing too many posts on this book in one week!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday Words: Beautiful Book Trailers

I owe a lot to book trailers. They can be a huge tool in getting me interested in a story, right along with a well-written blurb. They also played a big role in helping me get my current job because I talked about the good they can do for more reluctant readers as they provide an audio-visual representation of a story that captures people's attention which is a huge accomplishment in today's technologically addicted world.

But mostly, they can be so much fun! If you're into making videos, they can be fun to make, and I can often lose hours on YouTube watching them and adding to my to-read list. It's a fairly new and still emerging tool in the publishing industry, but there are two in particular that I think are absolutely fantastic and deserve all the recognition and viewings they can get.

The first is for Struck by Jennifer Bosworth:

After I first saw this trailer, I wasn't surprised to learn that Jennifer is half of a writer-director duo - she and her husband have been involved in the film industry out in LA. I've actually read this book (review coming soon!) and can say this two minute video does a fantastic job capturing Mia, the story, and the apocalyptic world she lives in. It's obvious from this that the book contains action and that Mia's world is anything but simple as she covers her scars, sees her mother with a knife to her throat, and conjures up her own lightning!

The second is for 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a HUGE fan of contemporary stories and have a soft sport for well-written books that have at least a dash of romance (a la Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, and Stephanie Perkins). I've never read anything by Jessica Brody before, but added this book to my list when I read a blurb on it. Then as soon as I saw this trailer, I immediately started searching the catalogs of my local libraries to find out if any of them had this book because I wanted to read it ASAP! The music is fun, the visuals are appropriate for the target YA audience, and it gets the point across in under three minutes. Unfortunately, no libraries near me have this yet, so I'll be fill my waiting time with Jessica's other books that are already out.

So these are two of my favorite book trailers of the moment, and I'm sure there are plenty more out there. If you know of any, let me know! I'd love to check them out - comments here are always welcome!

**New info!** Just got this awesome tweet from Jessica Brody - turns out great minds are great friends and help each other out! Learn more about how book trailers get made with this fun behind the scenes video here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Do You Dare?: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
Speak, 2012

Imagine feeling lost in a family full of big personalities, or in a school where you're completely invisible except to your two best friends, or in your own mind sometimes when you're convinced that the love of your life is an artist who died almost 100 years ago.

Welcome to Ella's world.

In her novel The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, Melissa Jensen captures that everyday, ordinary, unfortunately normal feeling of not fitting into the world to which you belong. Ella is a junior on scholarship at the prestigious Willing School and knows two things for sure: one is that she can always count on her best friends Frankie and Sadie and that they often see her even when it feels like her own family is too crazy or wrapped up in their own thing, and two is that she is completely devoted to a little-known artist named Edward Willing who died in the early 1900s. But there are other things she knows, too. She knows that she hates the giant scar from the hot water burn she got when she was little. She knows that playing truth or dare with Frankie and Sadie is something sacred to her. And she knows that to pass French, she'll have to actually study and that means getting along with the ever-popular Alex, a guy she doesn't want to fall for, but can't help it.

This book had an incredibly strong start - right away, readers get into the middle of the situation. You feel as if you've known Frankie and Sadie all their lives, too, and that even though this is an elite high school, it's still very familiar. I could personally identify very well with Ella feeling a bit like an outsider as the quiet girl in a large and loud (but still quite loving) Italian-American family (story of my life!). She has a bit of a Mia Thermopolis a la Princess Diaries feel about her with her self-deprecating humor and sometimes being blind to what's obvious to others. The Alex situation was something we've seen in books before (invisible girl-popular boy setup), but it was told in a way that I felt was incredibly authentic. It's not like Ella's had this long and unrequited love for him by any means - she does not want to have feelings for him, but sometimes you can't help it. They are both flawed and I found that to be refreshing. And while I know others have criticized the fact that Ella has "conversations" with a picture of Edward on her wall, it didn't bother me. As an outer representation of Ella battling with her conscience, I felt that the technique was fine (and honestly, we all talk to ourselves. It happens).

My only criticisms come toward the end of the novel. I felt that a bit of trimming could have made the story a tad tighter (less excerpts from books on Edward, for example), and the ending a was a bit abrupt for my taste. I felt that the resolution came about just a smidgen too neatly and quickly, and I would have liked just a bit more explanation on some aspects of what was going on. (I'm being purposely vague so as to not give away any spoilers).

That being said, I really had a fun time reading this book. It's a great pick for a summer read or if you're looking for a light contemporary tale. After reading this, I hope to read Jensen's other novel from 2010, Falling in Love With English Boys, too.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Melissa Jensen's Website
Melissa Jensen on Twitter

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday Words: New Adult and Giveaway Winners

Chances are that if you're reading this blog, you're someone who is interested in the wonderful world of YA literature or at least interested in learning what all of the fuss is about. To be short, it's just awesome and is often criticized by people who don't give it a chance. This is often the result of generalizations: young adult is just teen books, fluff novels about high school, dating, no parents and no consequences. I'm not going to deny that some books are like that, but the spectrum of YA is much further reaching and deeper than that.

As a result, though, is classifying books as being YA too broad? First of all, it's a pet peeve of mine when people refer to YA as a genre - I think of it more as an age classification. There are still genre subdivisions under the young adult umbrella just like in adult fiction. But still, most of the time we just equate YA with teen books. And that's where the trouble starts. What is appropriate for a 13 year old and what's good for a 19 year old are worlds apart. When I took a YA lit class in library school, this was a constant topic of conversation - where oh where do we put the age cap?

Earlier this week I came across a blog post on Dear Author exploring the idea of a new age group - new adult. Simply put, if YA is meant for teenagers, then what about the books for people in their late teens or early 20s (the age group that people outside the publishing and book worlds think of as young adults)? Novels meant for this age are often difficult for people to place on their library or bookstore shelves. They deal with issues that maybe aren't quite right to include in a high school collection, but they don't exactly belong with the regular fiction either because they still have a specific target age group.

As an example, check out this Twitter conversation I recently took part in:

Personally, I'm in favor of this new classification. YA stories seem to have this sort of unofficial age cap on them that protagonists can never be older than the summer after their senior year of high school (because college suddenly puts them in adult territory). As someone in my young-mid twenties, I do wonder where the books are that are meant for an older YA loving audience.

But am I alone in this? What do you all think? Leave your comments below because I'm genuinely curious!

And now onto the moment I'm sure you're all waiting for, the giveaway winners! Yes, that's right, plural. Congrats to Jennifer - you've won the autographed ARC of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin!

It's exciting to have my first giveaway under my belt, and I really appreciate those of you who entered. There weren't that many of you, but most of you are loyal readers and it means a lot to me. So I've decided that as a special thanks, I want all three of the books I'd mentioned to get new homes. Therefore, further congratulations go to Erin - you're getting a copy of Ravenwood by Andrew Peters - and Anna - you're getting a copy of Please Ignore Vera Dietz! All winners check your email and I'll do my best to get those mailed to you soon =)

So that's it for this post! As always, comments are always welcome and happy reading!