Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giveaway! 4 Books, 4 Moods, 2 Winners

When choosing my next book, my first consideration is what type of story I'm in the mood for. Do I want a fast-paced dystopian, a sweeping fantasy, a lighthearted romance, or a tense thriller? Do I want a quick, addictive read or one that I'll savor? I often find that, no matter how much I want to read a book, if I'm not in the mood for it, back to the shelf it goes after less than a chapter.

Here are four books for four very different moods, and two lucky winners get the two books of their choice!

If you're in the mood for something... Captivating
BOOK 1: WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang (ARC, HarperCollins)
Debut about a world where everyone's born with two souls in one body... but if you don't "settle" with one dominant soul, you're deemed an illegal hybrid. Addie and Eva never settled, though Eva lost her physical control over their body, but they're willing to risk everything for a chance for Eva to move again. I was most fascinated by the push-pull of the girls' relationship, and Zhang's skillful handling of the unique dual narration of the girls.

If you're in the mood for something... Satirical
BOOK 2: BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray (Scholastic)
What happens when a plane full of Miss Teen Dream contestants crashes onto a supposedly-deserted island? If you're a fan of satire, feminism, and analyzing our meaningless, consumer-driven lives (bonus points for movie reference), then (1) you should be a Communications (or Women's Studies) major and (2) you should read this book.

If you're in the mood for something... Atmospheric
If you're looking for a lush, poetic, and dark story told through multiple narratives, this book's for you. Lanagan uses selkie lore to weave a haunting tale about an island where the men's wives are actually seals transformed by a witch into enchanting women. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill YA. I'd read this book with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

If you're in the mood for something... Forbidden
BOOK 4: VENOM by Fiona Paul (ARC, Philomel)
Two words: Renaissance Venice. And not just any Renaissance Venice, but the one you find in the middle of the night, hidden in the shadows. With secret societies, grisly murders, grave robbing, and illicit romances, VENOM has everything you need for a delicious guilty pleasure read.

Hailey R. and Susan H.!
We've sent you an email to claim your books.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing Exercise #3: Character Bedroom

The third weekly writing exercise that Sara sent is all the delightful blend of setting and character, and how they complement one another.

Exercise three - Character Bedroom

From Sara's email...

Think about your MC's room (or living space, if they don't have a place that's solely their own.) What does it look like? How have the decorated it? What are the important possessions? Is it clean or messy? Think about what the space says about them. If the setting itself is significant to your story, talk about that, too—why do they live there? Do they enjoy living there or would they rather move? How long have they lived in the same space? If there was a fire, what are the possessions they would save?

I like this exercise because I remember my room being so important to me as a teenager. It was like my own personal art canvas—my clothes were on the floor on purpose, I'd decorated my door with tons of stickers, I had emails from friends printed out and taped to the walls, I always had music blaring. So now talk about your characters' own art canvases!

Poor Harry and his cupboard!
Not much room for decorating...

This has been our favorite exercise thus far, and it's even inspired some new scenes in our WIPs!

Let us know how you like it, and don't forget to tell us about your teenaged bedroom in the comments! (Don't even get me started on my Buffy the Vampire Slayer and David Boreanaz posters, and I totally had a save-the-diaries plan in case of fire!)

Previous exercises:
Exercise one - Character Profile
Exercise two - Character Theme Song

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing Exercise #2: Character Theme Songs!

We've all been hard at work on our WIPs, and Sara has been sending us weekly writing exercises to help us think more broadly about our novels.

Our first exercise, a Character Profile, can be found HERE.

Second exercise (taken directly from Sara's emails to us!): Character Theme Songs!

Consider some things that remind you of your characters or get you in the mood to write about them. One of my favorite things to do is to give my characters a theme song of sorts that either reminds me of them, or a specific part in the story, or their mindset.

Pick/tell us about your character's theme song (for as many characters as you would like.) Explain why you picked the song—include lyrics or YouTube links if you think they'd be helpful!

(Look, a productive excuse to watch YouTube videos!)

For some insight into our answers...

Sara chose Florence & the Machine's "Heavy in Your Arms" to represent a super creepy relationship in her WIP:

Frankie chose Marina & the Diamonds' "Are You Satisfied?" as her antagonist's theme song:

What do you think of this exercise and our choices? Share in the comments your example, if it worked for you, if it didn't, or if there's another exercise that really helps you out with your writing.

Stay tuned for the next exercise, and happy writing!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why THE RAVEN BOYS stole my heart.

I'll always have a certain affection for writing recommendations for Maggie Stiefvater's books because one of the very first reviews we wrote on this blog was for SHIVER, Maggie's first "big" book. I've developed so much as a writer, reader, and blogger in those years, and it's been so much fun watching Maggie's books and career evolve as well.

Maggie has a way with character and atmosphere that gets you totally invested and drawn into her books, and THE RAVEN BOYS doesn't disappoint.

Summary from Goodreads:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
     Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
     His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
     But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
     For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
     From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
I became so fascinated by Blue's story and the strange way of living that's normal for her and her clairvoyant family. I loved the small-town feel and the distinction between the locals and the Aglionby students. Blue starts off an outsider when she meets Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The boys have a familiar, nuanced dynamic that just enchanted me, and when they welcomed Blue into their inner circle, it's like they welcomed me into it as well.

As for the paranormal part of the story, THE RAVEN BOYS is a lot less about the whole "you'll cause your true love to die" thing and way more about awesome old legends and the hunt for ley lines that leaves this series open to some very, very cool sequels. Without a doubt, I'll follow the Raven Boys wherever they go.

Though THE SCORPIO RACES is still my favorite of all of Maggie Stiefvater's books, THE RAVEN BOYS is quite the contender, and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

I received an ARC at BEA, but my copy had already been pre-ordered. Lucky for you, THE RAVEN BOYS is available now from Scholastic!

Have you read THE RAVEN BOYS? Link to your review in the comments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm a little obsessed with THE CROWN OF EMBERS.

I'm having so much of a fangirl moment right now that it's almost difficult to write a coherent recommendation for Rae Carson's THE CROWN OF EMBERS.

First off, it's the epically awesome sequel to THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS*. No snoozeworthy middle-novel-syndrome here; this book rocks.

It sets such a high bar for high fantasy, and Rae Carson has established herself among the ranks of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore.

What's THE CROWN OF EMBERS about? (Summary from Goodreads.)
In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her—except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

This series has everything you want:

- The main character is made of awesome. (Hi, Elisa!) She's intelligent and strong, but she's still coming into her own as a queen, so there's plenty to root for. There's this whole business about her being The Chosen One in an all-important prophecy, but she doesn't let that get in the way of her getting. stuff. done.

- The stakes are high. Basically, everyone wants Elisa dead, and for a number of reasons. Everywhere Elisa turns, there's an enemy, and some come to her under the guise of friendship. All she wants to do is lead her kingdom in the right direction, but all these attempts to undermine, de-throne, and assassinate her make that a little difficult.

- The swoon is SO swoony. In THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, I never knew what Rae Carson would do in terms of Elisa's love interest, because that person changed as Elisa's situation changed and as she grew as a person. By the end of the book, I knew who made me the swooniest, and in THE CROWN OF EMBERS, I was happy to see that Elisa was feeling the same way. But of course, there are the inevitable obstacles that lead to the most delightfully torturous romantic tension.

- The worldbuilding is excellent.  The story is set in such a richly-developed world, and we get to see even more of it in THE CROWN OF EMBERS. I love when a setting — from Elisa's bedroom to the streets of the city to a ship — is more than just a backdrop. Everything from food to clothing to language to religion add depth to the world.

- The end. All I can say is, I read it in literally one sitting, finished the last page, put the book down, and yelled, "I have to wait A YEAR for the last one?! I can't wait a year!" And then I'm pretty sure I whimpered in distress at the thought. Is it time to pre-order yet?

All in all, THE CROWN OF EMBERS is a book I'm recommending to everyone I know. It's definitely worth the purchase, and I officially consider Rae Carson a must-read author. Go buy this book!!

Anyone else as enamored with this series as I am?

* I just went back and re-read that post recommending FIRE AND THORNS for the first time since I wrote it, and it's crazy how similar it is to this one! I was equally blown away by my fangirly love for the first book, and I read it just as obsessively quickly — now that's the sign of a great series.
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