Monday, August 29, 2011

Winners of BLOODLINES giveaway!

After tallying up all 77 entrants and the 243 entries, we officially have two lucky winners of our precious BLOODLINES ARCS!



Congratulations to...

Rebel & Titania86!

You are now the owner of an ARC of Richelle Mead's Bloodlines!  Keep an eye on your inboxes for more information!

If you didn't win, don't feel sad!  Bloodlines is available in stores now.  And we have another contest going on right now to win the totally awesome post-apocalyptic book of the fall, THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE!  Go check it out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE: Interview & Giveaway!

Today we're wishing an early Happy Book Birthday! to Jeff Hirsch and his debut YA, THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE, which comes out September 1st.  I picked up a copy at BEA, and it's definitely one of the creepiest, well-written, page-turniest post-apocalypse/dystopians I've read in a long time.

Here's the Goodreads summary:
"The wars that followed The Collapse nearly destroyed civilization. Now, twenty years later, the world is faced with a choice—rebuild what was or make something new. 

Stephen Quinn, a quiet and dutiful fifteen-year-old scavenger, travels Post-Collapse America with his Dad and stern ex-Marine Grandfather. They travel light. They keep to themselves. Nothing ever changes. But when his Grandfather passes suddenly and Stephen and his Dad decide to risk it all to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen's life is turned upside down. With his father terribly injured, Stephen is left alone to make his own choices for the first time. 

Stephen’s choices lead him to Settler's Landing, a lost slice of the Pre-Collapse world where he encounters a seemingly benign world of barbecues, baseball games and days spent in a one-room schoolhouse. Distrustful of such tranquility, Stephen quickly falls in with Jenny Tan, the beautiful town outcast. As his relationship with Jenny grows it brings him into violent conflict with the leaders of Settler's Landing who are determined to remake the world they grew up in, no matter what the cost."

Jeff was kind enough to answer some questions for us.  Read on to hear about his querying process, how he built his post-apocalyptic world, and what happened when he found out Suzanne Collins had blurbed his book!  (And don't forget to scroll down for a giveaway, too!)

1) How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

The opening image just kinda popped into my head one day. Two people burying someone late at night above the ruins of an old mall. Putting together the rest of the story was about answering for myself who these people were, what they wanted and what their world was like.

2) Did you consider your book a dystopian as you were writing it?  Did you worry about the saturation of the market with similar books?

I didn't actually. I started the book way back in 2006, a couple years before Hunger Games came out and really set off the current rush of dystopian books. I don't even consider it dystopian now to tell you the truth. Since it doesn't involve a functioning society I'd say it's probably more post-apocalyptic than dystopian.

3) Can you describe your agent querying process to us?  When did you know you were ready to send it out?  What were you looking for in an agent?

Well I wasn't 100% I was ready. I think I got to a point where I had received all the feedback I was going to get from early readers, and done everything I could think of to do to the book on my own. I literally didn't know what else to do other then send it! So I did a bunch of research and send it out to my top 5-10 picks. I was looking for someone who seemed to represent the kind of books I was writing and who also had a strong sales record. Once I got on the phone with a few agents I was hoping to find someone I had a personal connection with and who got what was working and not working with the book.

4) So many dystopians rely on a "Big Brother" or "Evil Government" set-up, but yours is refreshingly different.  Can you talk about the world-building process for your novel?

It was a very gradual process. As the book evolved I realized one of the things I wanted to talk about was the idea of wiping the slate clean and starting over. Is that even possible? That idea led to how the general devastation in the book is mixed in with little bits of the old world and this new world poking through. Are we going forward? Are we going back? Are we just doomed to this present? Most of the world building was sitting back and trying to center myself in that changing world and figure what might still exist and might not. However successful it is is because of draft after draft of me asking “Does this make sense? Is this possible?” and “Does this support what I’m trying to say?”

5) What are you reading right now?  What are your top 5 reads that we should all have on our shelves?

Right now I'm reading Lev Grossman's The Magician King and really loving it. My top 5of all time? For YA, I'd say Meg Rossoff''s How I Live Now, Geraldine McCaughrean's The White Darkness, The Hunger Games, David Almond's Clay, KL Going's St. Iggy and every book ever written by MT Anderson. Oops. That's more than 5.

6) Society, as we know it, has completely shattered in your book.  If the world was going to end, do you think it would happen similar to your book?

I think that a big dramatic “end of the world” is probably the stuff of fiction and movies, at least as a result of anything man made. What I think is more likely is more an “end of the world as we know it.” Societies rise and fall for various reasons. Economics. Politics. Environmental isues. It wouldn’t surprise me that if we looked fifty or a hundred years in the future we’d see a world and an America that, while present wouldn’t be anything we’d recognize as ours.

7) Be honest: How excited were you to find our Suzanne Collins had blurbed your book? :)

After selling the book that was without a doubt the most exciting thing that's happened during this entire process. I found out while at work and luckily I had gotten a few co-workers to read the books so they understood how huge it was for me. I think I was having heart palpitations. When I called my wife I was near incoherent.

8) Finally, can you offer us a little bit of advice?  Something you've learned from the writing process, the editing process, the querying process... anything that you learned between writing page one and publication that you think we should hold on to?

Without a doubt it's that no matter how much work I thought went into writing a book the reality was it took more. I can't tell you how many times I thought I was done only to realize that, no, I actually needed to do another draft, or tweak this chapter, or work on this character's arc. For me the key is to make sure you're so interested in your book that you're willing to go back to it again and again and again.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jeff!

Now, onto the giveaway!  We have in our possession one lovely ARC of this book, which you NEED to have in your YA Library if you're like me, and love a) disaster movies, b) Dystopians, c) Awesome books, or d) all of the above!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cover cousins?

These two beautiful and haunting covers totally remind me of one another.

Red-haired gal lying on her side on the ground...
Thick fog...
Air of menace...
Multi-word, mysterious title in caps...

If this is a trend, I like it!

Did anyone else think they were similar when they first saw them?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

World premiere of HUNGER GAMES footage!

In which MTV has guaranteed we'll all be watching the VMAs: 

World premiere of footage from the HUNGER GAMES movies at the VMAs this Sunday on MTV at 9pm EST.

OMG so excited. And nervous. I'm totally DVRing so I can watch and rewatch and analyze.

Fingers crossed that it's awesome!!!

(I feel like the biggest loser geeking out like this over a movie, but whatever.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

BLOODLINES by Richelle Mead Review +Giveaway!!!

Tomorrow, the epic of all epic spin-off series hits bookshelves with Richelle Mead's BLOODLINES!

Check out the summary from Goodreads:

The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy. 

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning. 

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

Now check out what I have to say:

O.M.G! I LOVED this book. Like I loved every book in Vampire Academy. 

Let me say right off the bat, if you've never read Vampire Academy (WHAT ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?) you can still follow along here pretty easily. Richelle is great at including all the info necessary to understand the world you're in, and makes pretty simple references to events in the other series. 

But...if you've read the Vampire Academy series (because you're AWESOME) then Bloodlines is like a really long love letter to all VA fans. All your favorite characters and complications are back in one way or another and the story picks up right where Last Sacrifice left off. And don't worry, everything feels fresh. Mostly thanks to being in Sydney Sage's POV.

Sydney was a fun narrator and I warmed up to her POV right away. She is definitely not the same character as Rose (sassy and kick-butt) but I love her just as much. Rather than rushing in to save the day and break a few necks like Rose would, Sydney is more the type to collect all the necessary clues, solve the mystery and then... find herself in the middle of a scene where necks need to be broken. For any Succubus Blues, Georgina fans out there (HIGH FIVE) Sydney reminded me a lot of Georgina in this way. Only... not nearly as depressed. Also, not a succubus.

We got to see a new perspective on vampires and a new world, and new situation to deal with. And though Bloodlines felt a little lighter in tone at times then Vampire Academy, I was every bit as absorbed.

Remember how I said Bloodlines was like a long love letter for fans of VA? Well, Bloodlines is like the most epic love letter you ever read if you're an Adrian fan. Even if you were Team Dimitri, you will LOVE him in this. Seriously. No, SERIOUSLY.

And the ending...all I can say is I can't wait for book 2! Reading Bloodlines was like getting to see all my friends at school after summer vacation.

Soooo Bloodlines is out this Tuesday, but...we happen to have 2 extra arcs that we need you to take off our shelves.

To enter, fill out the form below! This contest is open internationally.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The verse novel experiment: KARMA (Cathy Ostlere) and IDENTICAL (Ellen Hopkins)

Guys, I've been converted.

Somewhere along the way in my YA readership experience, I decided that I "didn't like" verse novels. To be fair, that may have been in high school, after I was assigned to read a really depressing, slow-moving, and semi-boring verse novel, and I decided that ALL verse novels must be depressing, slow-moving, and semi-boring.

Forgive my ignorance.

Way back in April, the delightful Cathy Ostlere wrote an excellent guest post on writing novels in verse, and I read an excerpt from her novel, KARMA ... and loved it.

The imagery! The lyricism! The emotion! The gorgeous, gorgeous details!

I knew I had to break my verse novel embargo. And when I do something, I do it right. So I doubled up on the verse novel awesomesauce with an audiobook of Ellen Hopkins' IDENTICAL.

I loved them both for very different reasons and highly recommend them.

Without further ado...

KARMA by Cathy Ostlere

KARMA just didn't let me go. I was unfamiliar with the backstory -- 1984 India, and the riots and political instability after Indira Gandhi's assassination -- but what drew me in were the characters and the writing.

One of my all-time
favorite covers.
Ostlere's words just flow along the page, and free verse was the perfect choice to highlight the urgency of the story. It's by no means a short book, but I flew through the pages, mesmerized by Maya's journey.

I love Maya. She's multicultural -- of Indian heritage, born and raised in Canada, half-Hindu and half-Sikh -- but she's a multidimensional, fully realized 15-year-old girl whose multiculturalism is just a part of who she is. She has crushes on boys, she's betrayed by her best friend, she wrestles with her parents' expectations, and she struggles to discover who she is in a ridiculously confusing and contradictory world. I connected with her immediately.

Her mother commits suicide, and she must bring her ashes to India with her grieving father. And then riots break out, and she's separated from her father in a foreign, dangerous place. Her traumas have only just begun.

Then we meet Sandeep, the other narrator, who speaks when Maya can't. I love Sandeep. He's impulsive and funny, charming, loyal, and desperate to prove himself. His family dynamics leap off the page, and his parts of the dual narration expose another layer of Indian culture and tradition, giving the reader a nuanced view of life in India during such a bloody, complicated, and divided time in its history.

Ostlere paints a vivid portrait of Maya and Sandeep's struggle to reunite Maya with her father and the development of their tentative love for one another in the midst of turmoil.

Do yourself a favor, and read this gorgeous, epic novel.

IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins

Wow. Certain parts of IDENTICAL were so difficult to listen to that I considered switching to the radio in my car, just so I could breathe and escape for a minute. It may have been the most difficult book I've ever read -- even surpassing Elizabeth Scott's harrowing but incredible LIVING DEAD GIRL.

But if you're up for handling the subject matter, then IDENTICAL is an incredibly worthwhile read. (Or listen, as the audio version is excellently narrated -- however, I do think you lose some of the impact and beauty of the printed free verse.) IDENTICAL centers on identical twin sisters, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, who alternate the narration of their supposedly picture-perfect lives.

In reality, their manipulative, controlling, alcoholic and OxyContin-addicted father has been molesting Kaeleigh since she was nine, and Raeanne's chosen to cope with the knowledge and her father's favoritism via drugs, sex, and bulimia. Their mother has abandoned them, emotionally and physically, in favor of her political career, and the girls' lives spiral further and further toward total disintegration.

Hopkins tackles the topic of incest without reservation. Kaeleigh and Rae have suffered so much psychological trauma and dysfunction since childhood that it's unsurprising they turn to cutting, eating disorders, promiscuity, and drug and alcohol abuse to escape. You want to scream at them to TELL SOMEONE, but you're so deep in their minds that you understand why they feel trapped in their world.

IDENTICAL is raw and disturbing, painful and powerful -- but Hopkins leaves you with shreds of hope. It's one of those stark, gripping novels that you'll never forget reading. A book you can't say you enjoyed reading, but you're glad you did, even though it took some time to pull yourself from its depths.

This book is not for everyone, but there are readers out there for whom this book will be a lifeline, and I respect Ellen Hopkins for telling this story -- I can't imagine how difficult it must've been for her to write.

Ok, guys! What do you think? Are you verse novel fans? Which ones do you recommend? Have you reviewed either of these? Leave it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Epic 4 Arc Giveaway for Team Kilt!

Hey Guys! It's Frankie, just wanted to let you all know that I'm holding an international giveaway on my personal blog FRANKIE WRITES where you can win 4 arcs (LEGEND, THE FUTURE OF US, FOREVER, EVE) by voting Team Kilt!

And if Zachary Moore (one of my all time favorite love interests) wins this tourney, I'm giving away personalized copies of Shade and Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready. So do the clicking thing and join TEAM KILT!

CLICK HERE to enter!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Comic-Con Un-Recap: What are YOU Reading?

Last summer, I went to San Diego at Comic-Con, and did awesome things like go to the Epic Fantasy panel!  And find out that Amber Benson, of Buffy fame, is now a writer!  And get ARCs of some of the fall's most anticipated titles, like Beautiful Darkness, Matched and The Replacement!  And stalk fangirl Heather Brewer and Penguin!

This year?  I'm working at a summer camp, while my husband went to San Diego and did awesome things like staring at the unwashed people who had been in line for the Breaking Dawn panel for the past 5 days, and getting the scoop on all the upcoming movies, and enjoying 70-degree-no-humidity weather while I sweltered away in 102 heat index 115.

I had a sad. :(

In his absence, I decided to do what I do best: curl up with a good book.  After the craziness of this spring, I'm 6 books behind pace in my goal of finishing 50 books this year.  So I put the hammer down on myself, and here are some of the books I've really enjoyed recently:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, due out 1018/11

I read this while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, which felt like a perfect setting for me.  The weather was cool and a little gloomy, and everything tasted like salt.  It made me feel like I was on Thisby, the small island setting of this novel.  Sounds like "quiet book", right?  Yeah, except add in killer horses, a super-sassy girl protagonist, a little bit of kissing, and a big dose of general creepiness, and it's not so quiet anymore.  Even though this book didn't have the immediate, slap-you-in-the-face agency that SHIVER did, I think I enjoyed it more.  This book is more complicated, which ultimately made it more satisfying.

Between by Jessica Warman, published 8/2/11

I picked this ARC up from Bloomsbury at BEA without knowing anything about the book.  I'll be honest, it was a total "Hey!  That's a cool cover!" moment when I grabbed it.  But I'm glad I did!  This story reminded me of THE LOVELY BONES and IF I STAY, but not in a derivative way.  I had fun following the main character Elizabeth as she unraveled mystery after mystery--although this isn't a light book.  Warman didn't shy away from putting in some pretty rough stuff in here, and I appreciated that, and felt like it really helped the story along.  It's out now, so go pick it up!

Populazzi by Elise Allen, published 8/1/11

I'll only say a little here, because the FNC is also on the blog tour for POPULAZZI, so you'll be getting a full review and an interview with her in the beginning of September, but let me say this: POPULAZZI is one of those "don't judge a book by it's cover" types.  On the outside it looked like a fluffy fun read, which is why I agreed to do the blog tour, but inside I found something deeper, a little darker, well-written and still fun to read.  Cara is a great protagonist, and Allen does a great job of not making her likeable all the time, but still have you root for her.  If you like Mean Girls, check this one out!

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, due out 9/13/11

My husband is a huge graphic novel lover, and really enjoyed THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, Selznick's first book, which is part of the reason I picked up WONDERSTRUCK at BEA.  I love this book for a few reasons: 1) The premise of having dual narrators and telling one story with text and one story with pictures was interesting and fun to read.  2) This is a really fat book--over 600 pages--but because of the pictures, I was able to read it in a few days.  I feel like making fat books accessible for kids in this way is awesome, because it takes away the intimidation factor of also tackling full-text fat books.  3) Even though I had guessed the twist at the end before it happened, it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book at all.  If anything, I enjoyed it more, because I was excited to see exactly how the twist would play out.  This is a great book for kids & adults alike!

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, due out 9/1/11

I admit to being a little skeptical when I first started this book.  As much as I love dystopias, I felt like they were all started to blend together a little and I wasn't sure if this one was going to give me anything new.  Of course, I was totally wrong.  THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE is halfway between dystopia and post-apocalytpic fiction, and simultaneously gives one of the bleakest and most hopeful views of humanity.  Also, the narrator is a boy--Stephen--and I enjoyed the change of pace and viewpoint.  Plus, it was blurbed by Suzanne Collins, so you know you're in for a good ride.  This book is great for the disenchanted lover of dystopias.

So that's what I've been reading.  And thankfully, my lovely husband DID bring me back some awesome books, so I guess it's alright he went without me.  But what has everyone else been reading and enjoying?  And is anyone else like me, and challenging themselves to read a certain number of books this year?  (My goal is fifty, and I've read 27 so far.  I'm still a little behind, but I'm getting there!)


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Escape Mix: Life beyond writing.

Since I've been a teenager, I've always been determined to have an interesting life.

That sounds kind of silly (and vague), but I made this promise to myself that I'd always be trying something new or having an adventure. Basically, constantly expanding my horizons.

I would do this via silly aspirations (learning to write left-handed), epic travels (studying abroad in Australia), serious goals (finishing a novel), and other random stuff (going whitewater rafting).

It became this ongoing list of mishmashed wonderfulness* that included making homemade bath salts and fostering a seeing eye dog, but my goal would be to check off at least two things every year -- even if I added five! -- so that I never get into a life rut.

And now, it's a blog. A Tumblr, to be exact.

I'm still going to be posting here, but I'm also going to post often on The Escape Mix about things I love, things that capture my interest, and things I've added to my life's to-dos. I've been so focused on writing for the past couple years that I need to make sure I don't forget to have passion for everything else in life. And this is my way to do it -- in fun, brief little posts.

The concept: Making every day a little more awesome.
(And for my fellow Nerdfighters out there, that's my nod to DFTBA, the best philosophy ever.)

The goals: Travel. Capture. Laugh. Eat. Discover. Read. Explore. Create. Listen. Indulge.

So that's my new venture (and my three minutes of shameless self-promotion). If you're interested, feel free to follow along!

Also -- what's on your escape mix / bucket list / whatever you want to call it? Share share share!

*What, you never heard of mishmashed wonderfulness? I almost named the Tumblr that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just put the book down, walk away, and no one will get hurt.

I used to be the person who always finished a book.

(Well, except for A Prayer for Owen Meany. Which I started because it was my favorite history teacher's favorite book, but I just couldn't get through it. Sorry, Mr. D!)

Then I just ... stopped.

I felt guilty at first, abandoning characters, sometimes mid-strife, for newer models. And then that stopped, too.

This mainly happened because, heck, I just didn't have the time to waste my life on books that felt like work to get through them. I mean, I had enough actual work to do, and books were supposed to be my escape from that.

This photo has zero to do with the post.
I took it on my honeymoon,
and I just think it's pretty.
I noticed this most recently because I felt like every. single. book. I finished, I really enjoyed -- even loved. As a reader, that was awesome. As a writer, that concerned me -- I mean, aren't I supposed to have a critical eye? What did that mean for my editing skills? Oh no!

(Ok, I wasn't that worried, but I did wonder. I didn't want to recommend you guys crappy books, after all!)

And then I thought of all the books I'd put down in the past few weeks after a hundred or so pages. (Yes, I do still give them that much time to woo me.) There was the one whose main character I wanted to throw off a bridge. The other one whose worldbuilding didn't feel believable. And the one whose writing style felt too dense and meandering to engage me. And that other one that just wasn't my cup of tea.

So it was no surprise, really, that everything I did finish, I liked. A lot! It had already passed my litmus test of goodness just by getting finished.

Not to say that I still don't feel guilty sometimes when I put down a book. And sometimes they're abandoned not because of any fault of their own, but because I'm just not in the right mood to read them. So I close their covers and shelve them and promise myself that I'll pick them up again one day. (And I usually do, though that day is occasionally two years later.)

But the great news is, I'm now able to evangelize about the truly awesome ones more frequently, because I'm not wasting time on the others.

So what type of reader are you? Do you feel obligated to see a book through to the end? (And if you are, what if the end's a cliffhanger?) Or are you content putting something down if it's not for you? (If so, where's your line?) Anyone have a guilt complex like me?

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