Saturday, May 29, 2010

Guest Blog with Angie Frazier


About Angie
(bio from her site)
Angie lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two daughters, their big black lab, and a pair of highly destructive cats. Her debut young adult novel, EVERLASTING, is the result of an overactive imagination, an addiction to historical research, and dozens of vintage travel posters plastered to the ceilings of a cottage she rented one long, snowbound winter.


Find out more about Angie's debut here!
A Traveling Story
At the heart of it, Everlasting is an adventure. And to me, nothing embodies “adventure” more than traveling. To be able to immerse yourself in a new country, a new culture, and come away viewing the world with a different, widened perspective is a gift.

And while all travel presents challenges in some form or another, there are times when a trip dishes out way too many. My trip to Ireland when I was 19 was such a trip. It was my first time traveling abroad, and I went with my best friend, Sarah, also 19 at the time. We thought we’d had everything planned—until we arrived in Ireland and realized all of our plans had to be scrapped.

Youth hostels? Oh no, I don’t think so. Not once we saw them. Railway tickets? Turned out they were for Northern Ireland only. So, in some ways Sarah and I were stranded just as Camille and Oscar were stranded in Australia (minus the dead father, shipwreck, magic, and budding romance, of course).

We quickly realized we were going to have to fly by the seats of our pants. It would have been easy to complain and have a terrible time. Instead, we had one of the most amazing, eye-opening experiences of our lives. We traveled from coast to coast, figuring out bus and train schedules along the way, and not knowing—or caring—if we would find a B&B or inn somewhere with a vacancy. We were 19 and exploring and out to have fun, nothing else.

We traveled from Killarney on the West coast, to Dublin on the East coast, up to Carlingford near the Northern Ireland border (our favorite stop), and further up into Belfast, then back west to Galway. We rode horseback to Ross Castle in Killarney, slept in a room outside of Dublin that was totally pimped out with silky purple sheets, and went through ancient Navan forts in County Armagh. We visited the home of one of Sarah’s Irish uncles whose children were so excited to learn they had “American cousins!!” On Innismore Island, the largest of the Aryan Islands, Sarah and I rode bikes for approximately 10 minutes along the dirt roads before throwing them down and flipping them off! We saw the stunning Cliffs of Moher on a windy day, the beautiful Connemara mountains, and the filming location of one of my favorite movies, Far & Away.

Sarah and I have countless memories of our trip, and I think needing to ditch our plans and find our way on a whim made it even more enjoyable and meaningful. If we’d stuck to our itinerary, we wouldn’t have done half the things we ended up doing.

I haven’t been back to Ireland since then—over ten years now—and I know the next time I go, it won’t be the same. It was a once in a lifetime adventure…in a way, kind of like Camille’s (you know, excepting the dead father, shipwreck, magic, and budding romance).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Just as the rains come after ten long, dry years, a young wizard, Wayland North, appears, to whisk Sydelle Mirabil away from her desert village. North needs an assistant, and Sydelle is eager to see the country--and to join him on his quest to stop the war that surely will destroy her home. but North has secrets--about himself, about why he chose Sydelle, about his real reasons for the journey. What does he want from her? And why does North's sworn enemy seem fascinated by Sydelle himself?

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10!
Total Score: 68/70

Obtained: Gift from Elise (Thanks!)

Age Appropriate? PG

Cussing: Very little, if any.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some murder/graphic violence. Nothing too bad.

Review:

Definitely an adventure worthy of note. Brightly Woven was written with such startlingly vivid language and a brilliantly woven plot that I immediately fell in love with it! It was not at all what I expected. Somehow I had gotten it into my mind that this would be a "normal" tale, possibly involving fairies. Wow. I was so, so wrong.

This is fantasy at its best. This is what YA fantasy is about--romance, danger, magic! Alexandra Bracken blended the three with grace and skill and created a marvelously exciting world that I never, ever want to leave! It is perfectly balanced, not at all overwhelming, and just so addicting! Ah!

If you have any tiny trace of a fantasy lover within you--any at all--this is the first book you should read. You will not be disappointed. The characters are unique, wholly human, and simply fascinating. The world is beautiful. The plot is exhilarating. This is a masterpiece.

LINKS:

Alexandra Bracken
Backstories of the Book (coming soon on Alexandra Bracken's site)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interview with Lucy Christopher

Lucy Christopher is the author of Stolen, her debut novel, "written as a letter from a victim to her captor".
Visit Lucy's site here.
The Interview:

Why should the world read STOLEN?
The world should read STOLEN for three reasons. Firstly, to think more deeply about the influence of a really wild and isolated space on the development of self and the development of a relationship. Secondly, to think about the dilemma of being trapped in a relationship that is not necessarily the best one for you, and to think about how you might deal with this. And thirdly, because there is a nice moment with a camel in this book!

I also would hope that STOLEN is a good and interesting read too!

Is there a certain time, place, or atmosphere that simply inspires you to write?
Pressure, or when under the threat of a looming deadline, is normally the certain time or atmosphere that inspires me to write! But seriously, I have loads of places that inspire me to write. Traveling to anywhere really wild or remote or unique always makes me want to pick up a pen, and I’m generally more creative towards the end of the day (though I wish I were the other way round!).

What do you think is most unique about your writing?
Gosh, what a tricky question. Lots of other people have said that it is the emotional empathy that readers feel for my characters that really sets my work apart. Personally I like to think it’s the presence of nature in my work. But, who knows! Perhaps this is more a question for the readers!?

How do you choose the names for characters in your books?
Yes, I do actually think about this in depth, although when the right name pops into my head it seems to arrive from nowhere. I chose Ty as a name for a few reasons. I liked the connotation of being “tied”, whether it’s being tied to land (or feeling connected to it) or tied up (as Gemma is). I also wanted a name that was unusual and that looked good on the page. Ty seemed to work perfectly. I’m currently thinking hard about the right name for my protagonist in my third book. This process involves me looking at baby name books, and also thinking about the connotations of what a name actually can mean.

Outside of the wonderful world of literature, what do you do?
I do loads of stuff! I lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, I do lots of school visits about being an author, and I’m doing a PhD in Creative Writing. I also take time out to ride a grumpy chestnut mare called Topaz and to go traveling!

If you could have dinner with any person (alive or dead) or book character, who would you choose?
That’s too hard just to pick one! I know it sounds rather cliched, but I would love to meet Nelson Mandela. I’d love to talk to him about strength and humility; how he manages to have both of these things in such abundance. I’d also love to have dinner with Edward Cullen (though he might not eat much!), just to see what all the fuss is about in real life!

You saw me before I saw you.

A girl: Gemma, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.

You had that look in your eyes.

A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.

Like you wanted me.

She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it.

Wanted me for a long time.

He takes her, before she even knows what's happening. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him.

Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, this is Gemma's desperate story of survival. Ty has Stolen her body. Against every instinct screaming inside her, will he also steal Gemma's heart?

(Synopsis from ARC)



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known, and all she needs for happiness.

But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back.

Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling.

One night beyond the Barrier...

One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery...

One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past.


Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 10/10 (ah!)
Setting: 10/10 (also ah!)
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: Gift! :-)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: None that I can remember...
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: There may be mild drinking references, but nothing too extreme at all.
Sexual Content: Mild references only. One near-rape scene.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Fraught with gruesome, bloody images of zombies/living dead (they are rather horrifying), murder, re-murder (zombie killing--can get pretty icky), suicide attempts, depression, insanity (of sorts...), sacrifice, carnage, etc etc... You name it, this book has got it. Beware.

Review:

Goodness, what a ride! If you thought The Forest of Hands and Teeth was stressful, just WAIT until you read The Dead-Tossed Waves! Carrie Ryan wastes no time in delving into this story, and she wastes no pages providing a breather between deadly adventures, enormous plot twists, exhilarating advancements, and huge risks. The stakes are so high, it kind of makes you want to explode. Believe me--it is stressful. But completely worth it.

I found DTW a little hard to get into. The first hundred pages or so (while not at all boring) are rather miserable, and the undesirability of the world and the tense characters makes it unappealing at first. However, do not give up! If you can stick through it, you will be awarded with an adventure beyond your imagining as you experience the author's vast plot-devising skills at their best! Somehow Carrie Ryan makes the zombie apocalypse seem not at all cheesy and almost plausible...almost. :-)

Basically, for a high-quality, completely original story that will blow your mind and incite genuine fear of the undead in your soul, read Ryan's books. They'll make you shiver and keep you up trying to rid the despairing images from your mind...but in a good way. :-) I eagerly await the next installment, The Dark and Hollow Places, coming Spring 2011! Eeee!

TRAILER:



LINKS:

Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth Review

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

INFINITY release!


Infinity

Sherrilyn Kenyon's latest book Infinity the first book in The Chronicles of Nick will be released TODAY!




Download the song from the video here!


Read an excerpt and an interview with the author
here!

Some words from the publisher:

Note to Dark-Hunter fans. The Chronicles of Nick is Nick's real and true past.


"At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him."

The New York Times-bestselling with over 19 million books in print, Sherrilyn Kenyon is renowned the world over as "the reigning queen of the paranormal genre that she pioneered long before the world had heard of Twilight."

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Good Synopsis

What makes a good synopsis?
The synopsis has total power over a reader's choice to buy the book or not. So what do readers like to see in the jacket flap? What sells the book?

1: The First Sentence
The first sentence should be intriguing... It should be interesting enough for a reader to finish reading the synopsis. It's best if the first sentence does not dive straight into details, but rather introduces the strongest point of the story in an original manner.

2: Mystery
The synopsis should not be a plot outline. A reader does not want to skim the synopsis and be able to predict the entire outcome of the story. It's kind of a tricky situation... but there needs to be just enough info about the plot. Enough to get the reader hooked and wanting more, yet leaving some things unknown, establishing a mystery that the reader will only be able to answer by reading the novel.

3: The Love Story
Many readers like every book to have a little love story, especially in YA literature. So what's the best way to execute this? If the entire book isn't solely a love story... the synopsis should not give away the name of the love interest. It's so much more fun for the reader to watch the characters fall in love with out any pre-determined notions or feelings. If the love interest is described in the synopsis, it should not only use words such as "handsome, beautiful, striking", etc. Those descriptions lead the reader to believe the only substance to the relationship is physical attraction. Which, for some readers may be appealing, but not for readers like me. :)

4: Originality
There are millions of books, therefore millions of synopses. Something different is something appealing. If you look at all the jacket flaps for paranormal romances, you'll notice that pretty much all of them follow a familiar outline... eventually, the entire story can be predicted by reading the synopsis (which is not enjoyable for the reader). I have often encountered the phrase "inexplicably attracted", which not only gives away the romance element of the story, but is so overused that I am immediately turned off the book. I know it's difficult to make something stand out in a sea of millions, but the truth of the matter is that originality sells. Synopses are almost like commercials... people are annoyed with the product if the commercial is not original and entertaining. Seeing too many alike commercials is exasperating.

5: The Last Sentence
The last sentence is just as important as the first. Everything boils down to this one group of words. Its job? To sell. There are two kinds of ideal last sentences. One pulls into play the mystery factor; ends the synopsis with a question or thought-provoking idea that the reader won't be able to figure out without reading the book. The other states the strongest points of the story that will appeal to readers the most.
What is your idea of a perfect synopsis? What gets you hooked?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guest Blog with Sarah Darer Littman

Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman will be out July 1st.

Sarah Darer Littman is the author Purge, Confessions of a Closet Catholic, and her upcoming novel, Life, After. She is with us today to share about her own "Life, After" working with the manuscript of the her newest book.

Visit Sarah's site here.

LIFE, AFTER, my upcoming novel from Scholastic Press which releases on July 1st, holds a special place in my heart because it’s a book that came from rejection. I think of it as my “Phoenix from the Ashes” novel.

It started out six years ago as synopsis and three sample chapters for a book about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who was obsessed with the Civil War, which was rejected by my then editor. She suggested I rewrite it from the perspective of the boy’s sibling, but I’d just read an advanced reader’s copy of Cynthia Lord’s RULES (which subsequently won a Newbery Honor) so I knew that had already been done, brilliantly. However, one thing I’d observed with my son, who has Aspergers, is that in both elementary and middle school, he tended to make friends from foreign countries, primarily South America, and I wondered that was due to a shared feeling of “otherness.” For example, it’s common for kids with Aspergers to have problems with idioms and they’re expressions that non-native speakers also find puzzling, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. Try explaining: “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “She wears her heart on her sleeve” to someone who takes language very literally!

Meanwhile, I’d felt extremely frustrated by the perception of some of my fellow Americans that terrorism suddenly sprang to life on September 11th, 2001. Even as an eight year-old girl taking the Tube to school in London during the IRA bombing campaigns of the early 1970’s, I was aware of that risk and the need to be vigilant for unattended parcels or bags. I wanted to try, in some small way, to put terrorism into a global context; to shake that notion that it doesn’t become a major concern until it affects American lives.

That’s why I chose Argentina as the home country for my main character, Daniela. The 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center (A.M.I.A.) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds more, looms large in her life before she and her family emigrate to the United States as a result of the Argentinean economic crisis in 2002.


When I first started writing the book back in 2004, however, I couldn’t get the voice right. I ended up putting it in a drawer and writing what became my second novel, PURGE.


This book might well have never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for Claudette Greene, to whom it is dedicated. I met with a Mother/Daughter book group that had read my first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, and afterwards, Claudette sent me an e-mail in which she thanked me for being so normal (my first thought: “Clearly, she doesn’t know me very well yet!”) and explained that her daughter became interested in writing after she’d lost her father on 9/11. Claudette said that there weren’t many books for teens on the subject and had I ever considered tackling it. I sent her the synopsis that had been gathering dust in my drawer and she encouraged me to write the book. Fortunately my editors at Scholastic agreed, and I found that after meeting Claudette and hearing her story, I returned to the project with greater passion and was able to connect with my characters in a deeper way.


And so, many years later, from the rejected idea for a different project, comes LIFE, AFTER, which has gone through umpteen revisions, two titles and two covers before making it to the shelves.


The rejection of the original idea came at a terribly low point in my life, when I was going through a lengthy divorce, second book blues, and wondering if the publication of my first novel was just a fluke. Now, all these years later, the book arose like the phoenix from the ashes of that awful period and is about to hit the shelves. It will be my third published book, I’ve got a fourth on the way next year and I’m working on my fifth. Like the characters in my story, I’ve found the way to my own, Life, After.


I hope you'll think it's worth both the work and the wait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Interview with Cover Designer Christian Fuenfhausen

New York City-based cover designer
CHRISTIAN FUENFHAUSEN
joins us for an interview about his craft




Christian Fuenfhausen designed the covers to many well-known YA Fiction books.
See a slideshow of his work HERE!
You might be surprised at how many of your favorite book covers he's designed.

. . .

First of all, what YA covers that you have designed are you most proud of or do you think are the most successful?

The original Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, because I managed to get jackets that have neither the author's name nor the book title on the cover. And becuase they've sort of blown up (before I left Penguin I had been working on the first-ever merchandising line for one of their YA titles, involving the Vlad Tod "vampire smiley" logo I designed. Also proud of the twin jackets of "Paper Towns" by John Green (so-called "Happy Margo" and "Sad Margo"). Proud that our publisher went for the creepy/awesome photo of a cereal bowl filled with glass for "Rules of Survival" -- it's a terrifying story about these two kids whose mother is an unpredictable drug addict so every domestic scene, like just having breakfast, is fraught with danger. Also proud to be part of the success of "Thirteen Reasons Why", which is a great book.

What do you know about the book you are trying to design a cover for? Do you get to read it first?

This is the single-most often-asked question of book designers — "Do you read the book beforehand". And the answer is "most definitely", when possible. Sometimes there have been times when we just didn't have time to read the whole book, or the complete manuscript just wasn't available. In general, covers are designed far in advance of when the final book is done, so it's not uncommon for the finished book to be different (sometimes radically different) from the book I first read. But I try to get to know the book I'm designing for, as much as I can.

What do you try to capture about the book in your covers?

This is a complicated question. First off, the cover/jacket is the single-most important marketing tool that a book publisher has. People really DO judge books by covers. Or, at least, it can cause people to pick up or not pick up a book. We live in a world where there are so many different entertainment options — books have to compete with TV, games, DVDs, internet, among many many other things -- that the battle is just just to get someone to stop long enough to take notice and pick up a book. If you can get someone to stop and pick it up, you might get them to buy it. So the cover needs to try to sell the book.

Here's where it gets tricky: on the one hand, you want to be true to the book and the story, but on the other hand you want something that will maximally attract potential readers. These might not be the same thing. What if it's a "quiet" book, a story about friendship or something where there are no chases or things blowing up. But it's a great read. If you make a "quiet" cover, people might not pick it up. But if you make it a really exciting cover, you might alienate readers who find they've been duped by the cover-- that the book inside doesn't match the cover.

Sometimes you want to play down one aspect of the story and play up another. I worked on a book called the Eternal Ones at Penguin, and at first we were playing the historical angle. Then, for a bit, we were asked to play up the romance, in a big way. Finally, though, in an effort to get the most number of interested readers we went with a more "iconic" or general approach. When you see "mass market" paperbacks in the airport/supermarket, you'll notice that the covers tend to be pretty generic, the art at times cliche or nonspecific . . . the reason is that you get the most number of people by not alienating anyone. And because with those books, it's the author's name that is selling the book.

What is the standard process of designing covers, in your experience?

With a photographic cover, the designer finds and manipulates stock photography and typefaces to create a cover. I've done a ton of those and they can be done quite cheaply (which is why publishers, who never have a lot of money, like them).

What is the most important part of a book cover design?

Finding or creating something compelling and memorable. I know that's vague but that's the fundamental challenge.

Do you talk with the author or the publisher about what they want in their cover?

As a designer, I've found myself thinking of the design process as a kind of multi-way tug o' war at times. There are the interests of the designer and art director to produce something artistically/aesthetically pleasing. The interests of the editor to not only be true to the book but to have something compelling. The interests of the Sales department to have a cover they can sell a ton of books with. The interests of the author to have a cover she feels is right for her book. And the interest of the publisher who has to try to balance all these. The author and her agent are somewhat outside of the whole process, I've found. The process is different at every publisher, but generally I've found that the publisher and editor generally have some overall ideas/feelings about the kind of cover they want to see. Sometimes they don't, though -- they say, "come up with something awesome". Sometimes they know precisely what they want -- "we want a girl on the cover wearing X". At first the discussions are between the art department and editorial/publisher. Once those get hashed out and the designer comes up with something they can agree to show the Sales folks, it's brought to a cover meeting where we get feedback from Sales on what they think. Then it might be back to the drawing board, or it might be "move ahead". Basically, though, unless it's a huge important author, they won't be involved until the design/editorial/sales departments are all satisfied and happy. Then the editor will show the cover (just one) to the author with the idea that "we all here love this". Present a united front.

So. . . to answer your question, it's rare that I, as a designer, talk to the author. I have, to be sure, on some projects. Sometimes it's been really helpful, sometimes it's been a nightmare. Kind of depends on the author. The best authors are those folks, in my opinion, who are secure enough about themselves and have enough trust in their publisher that they're OK letting other people handle their "baby". Remember, authors (especially first-time authors) have been living with their story for a long time and can be quite emotionally attached to them. And they probably have a mental picture what they imagined the cover to be. So it's a tricky.

How long does it take to get a final design for a cover?

Depends. Could be a week, could be six months. Totally depends on how important the big is (more importance = more opinions about the cover, more anxious hand-wringing, more expectations, more stress), how easily the subject matter lends itself to a great cover, whether the designer/illustrator nails it right away, whether they suddenly change the title at the last minute and so the cover design no longer makes any sense. I've had "final" covers yanked from the printers just as they were about to be shipped to stores. They'd already been printed and everything. So for me, personally, I don't consider any cover "final" until I see it on a shelf at a bookstore.

How does the audience (say, young adults) affect how you do the cover design?

Well, in a more perfect world they would have more influence than they currently do. There have been times when an editor has shown some cover ideas to a group of students and gotten interesting feedback. Sort of an informal focus group. I think that's smart as far as it goes -- but you don't want focus groups to determine every cover; it's important to try out things that might seem risky. But it's sort of amazing, in my opinion, that YA publishers don't more actively solicit info about what teens want. Advertisers spend a crazy amount of money trying to figure out what they next hot thing will be, what teens really want. Not today, but what they'll want tomorrow. Publishers operate behind this curve, I think, or at least a lot of those I've worked with. Granted, publishing operates on slim margins, and the kind of info-collection that advertisers use is anathema to a lot of editors. But. . . we're selling a product that was first developed in the 15th century to kids who are super savvy about 21st century technology. If I were running things, I would hire some young adults just to do trend research. A better answer: young adults affect covers by making comments on blogs (editors/sales really do read them) and by buying books.

What is your favorite part of designing covers?

The initial phase, where I get to work on a bunch of different directions and see what's going to work best. Exploring a variety of different things, experimenting, trying out ideas, that's the most fun. And it's where you sometimes encounter happy accidents you hadn't planned on that can make great covers.

What are some of your favorite YA covers not designed by you?

Star Girl is brilliant. Is that YA? I don't think so, actually, but it's just perfect. Before I saw them everywhere and grew sick of them from saturation, I loved the cover for the Twilight books. It was sort of brilliant. Honestly, I try to avoid having my books look like other YA titles as I find a lot of them -- while well done -- not particularly interesting, design-wise. Too many closeup photos of girl's faces. Which, those sell. And lord knows I've done a few close-up-photo-of-a-pretty-
girl covers myself, but that doesn't make them interesting to me. Most of my favorite book covers are adult literature titles by art directors/designers like John Gall, Henry Sene Yee, Rodrigo Corral, and Peter Mendelsrund.

Are there any books you wish you could have designed the covers for? What books, and how would you do the covers?

I've never particularly been thrilled by the art of the US version of the Harry Potter series. And the UK editions are sad.


But it's hard to imagine them differently, right? This redesign is awesome. . .




Click the link for the rest of the designs! (it's worth it)

But not how I'd do it. I think I would do them as an evolving series that got darker and grittier as they went along. Like Ray Gun magazine (which continues to be my favorite design inspiration of all time and is still the magazine that best conveys the spirit of a rock band, in my opinion, and I see about a dozen bands a month here in NYC):

http://www.chris-ashworth.com/ray-gun-publish/ray-gun-magazine-covers/

CHRISTIAN FUENFHAUSEN was interviewed by READING ROCKS on MAY 17, 2010.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting


Grade: A

Synopsis:
(from goodreads.com)
"A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him."

Rating:
Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 54/ 70

Obtained: Library

Age Appropriate: PG-13/ R
Cussing: Some
Alcohol, drugs, etc.: Teen drinking
Sexual Content: None, but could possibly be implied
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Dead girls' bodies found in ominous places, serial killer, fight scene

Review:
With a thrilling plot, tantalizing love story, and relatable writing, Kimberly Derting's debut is impossible to put down.

Violet was an amazing, strong heroine that was wonderful to read about. However, I wish I had gotten to learn more about her. We know about her body-finding ability, her relationship with other characters, that she likes to run, and her feelings to the events that are occurring, but after that... there isn't much substance that made her an authentic person.

The plot was perfectly executed. The chapters in the killer's point of view were especially chilling, but balanced out well with Jay and Violet's budding romance. Derting's writing builds the suspense perfectly and at just the right moments.

In conclusion, The Body Finder is a very exciting book. The writing is easy to fall into and get stuck in. The whirl wind of events and emotions will take the reader for one heck of a ride!

LINKS:
Kimberly Derting

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with Hillary Frank


HILLARY FRANK
is the author of the YA Fiction novel
The View From the Top

which was published today!

Visit Hillary's site here.

INTERVIEW:


How does your work as a radio producer affect your writing?

Being a radio producer means I get to meet all kinds of people and hear how they talk. That helps me a lot in creating realistic dialogue. Also, when you're writing for radio you need to be concise. And visual. Both of those things are invaluable skills in fiction writing as well. Even though you have more space to say things in a novel doesn't mean you should take a long time to say it.

What have your experiences doing writing workshops across the nation taught you about writing?

The writers I've taught who have wound up being most successful are the ones who have taken on the hard work of editing their stories. I'm not just talking about one or two rounds of editing. I'm talking about rewriting over and over. Scrapping entire pages or concepts for the sake of making the story better. This is the most important piece of advice that I think I tell anyone in any of my workshops. THE VIEW FROM THE TOP was a completely different book before it became what is published. And before that version there was another version. It's hard to throw out something you've been working on for ages, but often if you do, you have the freedom to create something much better than what you had to begin with.

What do you prefer, writing for radio or writing novels?

I don't like one better than the other. I like to switch back and forth. Radio allows me to work quickly on a deadline and has the benefit of immediate gratification. Novels have the luxury of time. Time to create, time to edit, time to perfect. But writing novels is also a lonely endeavor. Sometimes I like that quietness. But sometimes I like to be out and about, interviewing people for radio. Novels also allow for way more procrastination, which can be a plus and a minus.

What do you do in your spare time, when you're not writing?

Well, right now I am doing a lot of breastfeeding and diaper-changing. My daughter, Sasha, was born in February, so I'm spending my time taking care of her. Before she came along I was knitting a lot. And learning to sew. And I watch a lot of TV. Right now I am very excited about the return of Friday Night Lights.

Why do you choose to illustrate your own books?

For most of my life, I thought I was going to be an artist. An illustrator or graphic designer. But when I was in college, my professors encouraged me to be a writer. I decided that I wanted to combine the two. And not for picture books. I wanted to write and illustrate books for older people. Each time I write a book, I try to think of a new way to incorporate my drawings--in a way that will add meaning to the text, not just be there for decoration. In THE VIEW FROM THE TOP, the idea was to accentuate the sense of loneliness in the book--the feeling that all of the characters have that they're isolated from everyone else.

What do you think is most unique about your writing?

The question I get most from my readers is, Why don't your books have happy endings? What I tell them is, in my experience, real-life conflicts don't end neatly. There are usually loose ends flapping around all over the place, even when a relationship is over for good. I think some teen readers find my approach to endings perplexing because they are used to stories with easy answers. A lot of teens read novels looking for answers to their problems. I know I did. And I actually think that open-ended endings can provide a lot of hope because the reader can fill in the blanks of what happens next.

HILLARY FRANK was interviewed by READING ROCKS on May 13, 2010.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

This book will be available later this month!

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

Heading off on her own to a big American city might have been a fun adventure for sixteen-year-old Molly McClure in the good old days before the Collapse, when nearly all the oil ran out; but in 2041, when family calamities strike all at once and Molly must leave her isolated farming island in Canada for the very first time, the world she meets is anything but fun. Food is in short supply, crime is rampant, and once-bustling cities stand abandoned and crumbling -- danger lurking around every corner.

No on is as they seem, and Molly has to make some fast, tough choices about whom to trust, especially when a dangerous crime organization sets her in their sights. Luckily, Molly is a determined, can-do kind of girl, and with the help of a handsome stranger, she may just make it home alive.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10!
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by author.

Age Appropriate? PG/PG-13

Cussing: Very little, if any.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: References and scenes of alcoholism and smoking.
Sexual Content: Mild references to prostitution and sex.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some mild child neglect, gruesome imagery, gang violence (sort of...), and illegal activity.

Review:

Overall, one of the best books I have read in a long time. It was a relief to read! While exciting, the narrative wasn't all-consuming, the plot wasn't stressful or over the top, and the characters weren't dramatic. It was easy to read, natural to get into, and realistically low-key. I loved how (for once!) not everything was a life-and-death the-world-is-ending situation. Problems were actually solved in a timely manner! Things got done!

The heroine, Molly, faced her issues head-on and didn't whine in her narration, and she accepted the events of the plot along with the reader. Best of all, it ended beautifully with a lovely conclusion that makes sequels unnecessary--so no waiting around to find out what happens next! Thank you! While I would welcome a chance to return to this awesome, if creepy, post-apocalyptic world (that seems remarkably likely to be our future), I'm glad that this story has a satisfying end.

As I said, I'm very impressed with the time period. While futuristic in some ways, Joelle Anthony did not exaggerate and created a very logical, honest outcome for our mistakes. This seems like a perfectly reasonable future for us if we don't watch out. And though the author doesn't push the message onto the reader, the environmental (and economical) message is there--we cannot continue on as we are. Yet Anthony creates a beautiful story from her predictions of destruction, so maybe there is hope. :)

LINKS:

Joelle Anthony

Reading Rocks Interview with Joelle Anthony
Trailer
Listen to the fiddle music from the book!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Interview with Joelle Anthony

Joining us on her blog tour is

JOELLE ANTHONY


author of the upcoming YA novel

RESTORING HARMONY
(May 13, 2010)


The year is 2041, and for Molly McClure, her life is pretty much the same as it’s always been. She was only six when the Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population knew it. When she is forced to leave the comfort of her home and small island in British Columbia to travel down to Oregon, Molly discovers how hard the Collapse has been on the rest of the world.

What starts out as a quick trip to the U.S. to convince her grandfather to return to Canada and be the island’s doctor, turns into a rescue mission, a test of Molly’s strengths, ingenuity, and sheer determination. Will a farm girl like Molly survive in this upturned world? Will she be able to return with her grandpa in time for him to help her ailing mother? And just how much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back to B.C.?




Follow Joelle's blog tour to the next stop at Cleverly Inked!

INTERVIEW:

What has influenced your writing the most in your life?

Other books. Reading is my first love and it’s essentially taught me everything I know about writing. Well, maybe not everything, but it is certainly the foundation of my writing.

What affect has your acting career had on your writing?

It’s been great for developing characters. When you’re acting, there’s nothing worse than a flat character so you have to add nuance and depth. The playwright gives you clues, but you really have to use your imagination to create a full character. When I write a character, I know a lot more about him or her than what is actually written down, but hopefully the reader gets a sense of this full life I’ve created in my head through hints and action.

What do you most like to write about?

After being on this blog tour for so many days, you’re probably thinking I like to write about myself! Ha! Actually, what I love to write about are average people rising up to meet challenging circumstances. And I try to find the humour in the situation too.

What are you most excited about concerning the upcoming release of your new book?

I think just having it out will be a big relief. There’s something about putting it out there and letting it do its thing that is so exciting. I feel like it’s a bird I’ve been holding onto for a long time and now I can just let it go and see what happens to it. Of course, it’s got one of those tracking devices on it so I can monitor it because authors can never truly let go of their books, can they?

Does living on a British Columbian island affect or inspire you as a writer?

It definitely gave me inspiration for Restoring Harmony because I love it here so much it was easy for me to know what Molly would miss the most and put that into the book. There are a lot of writers here on the island, so I guess it must be inspiring for writing in general too.

Besides writing, what do you most like to do with your time?

Did I mention reading yet? I like to cook and luckily, my husband loves to eat!

Why did you choose to write a book set in the future?

Before the idea of RH came to me, if you’d asked me if I’d write a book set in the future, I would’ve said, “Probably not.” It was more that I wanted to create a world that doesn’t exist now in order to tell Molly’s story, so the future was the only place to set it.

Are there any messages you are trying to get across to your audience with your writing?

I’m trying to tell a good story. For me, it’s all about the story. I’ve had people write to me and tell me they’re inspired to start growing their own food after reading RH, and that makes me happy because I personally think we all should be growing our own food, but it’s certainly not a message I set out to impart to the reader.

What is your favorite part of writing?

At the risk of annoying all those writers who think I’m crazy for saying this, I love the editing process. There is nothing more exciting to me than getting feedback from my critique group, agent or editor, and diving back into a story to make it better.

JOELLE ANTHONY was interviewed by READING ROCKS on MAY 3, 2010.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


Grade: A

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery sister Bailey. But when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.


Rating:
Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 53/70

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Lots
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Teen drinking and smoking
Sexual Content: Discussed
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Not really...

Review:
As I try to think of what to write in this review, my mind draws a complete blank. The truth is... I can't really decide if I liked this book or not. I loved the quirky voice, the adorable romance, and the unique setting, and I couldn't stop reading it. But when I sit back and try to make a decision: did I like this book? I don't know. And I don't really know why I don't know... that is what's making this review so difficult to write. Gah!

Okay. I'm just going to list what I do know about this novel:
  • Jandy Nelson illustrates how the journey through grief is different for everyone, and how sadness can drive people to do the craziest things.
  • Lennie was not confident in herself (which kind of annoyed me), but that changed over time.
  • The poetry Lennie wrote on everything was super cool.
  • I think this book sort of had a chick-flick feel about it... I dunno.

Well. This review is kind of horrible. But there you have it... my slim and scattered thoughts.


LINKS:
Jandy Nelson

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Grade: A

Synopsis:

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left--the most important decision she'll ever make.

Rating:

Character Development:8/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 57/70

Obtained: It was a gift.

Age Appropriate? R (eh)

Cussing: A lot and pretty foul.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: References to and scenes of teen and adult drink consumption and drunkenness.
Sexual Content: Quite a bit, though not very explicit and overly euphemism-ized (not a word, but oh well)
Disturbing Images/Violence: A ton of super-graphic blood and gore and hospital scenes.

Review:

Resonant. That is the word that comes to mind for me with this story. I would not describe it as beautiful, or suspenseful, or stunning, or strong. It made me cry. It was certainly impactful. The writing wasn't actually powerful, but its quiet, gentle honesty somehow pointed out all the flaws of life. It was kind of depressing. Not pleasant. Not lighthearted. But cathartic--yes. Thought-provoking--yes. Deep--yes, yes, yes.

Mia, the protagonist, I did not like. Most of the time. Her personality was different in her memories than in her narration. She recalled herself as a weak, sheltered, ignorant, blunt, whiny person with warped morals. I did not like that obnoxious girl. I did, however, come to love the Mia who observed it all, the here-and-now Mia who loved everyone and was so truly human.

The rest of the characters were interesting in an I-don't-know-if-I'd-like-them-in-real-life-but-from-here-they-seem-cool kind of way. The setting was fine. The author's execution of the devastating event that changes Mia's life was flawless. In short, if it comes into your possession, read it, unless you really hate depressing stories. Something about the narrative is mood-bashing. But that aside, it was a very well-written book.

LINKS:

If I Stay
Gayle Forman
Playlist - Music is an integral part of this story, and the book is infused with references and allusions to many artists. This playlist is directly correlated with the plot and the story.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Package of Books Contest Winners!

In honor of our one year anniversary as a book blog, Reading Rocks gave away four (rather awesome) packages of books to several very lucky readers. Congratulations, guys! And thank you to everyone who entered. You guys rock! :)



PACKAGE ONE
awarded to...

Lauren (Shooting Stars Mag)!



PACKAGE TWO
awarded to...

Jules!


PACKAGE THREE
awarded to...

Reagan!



PACKAGE FOUR
awarded to...

Debbie F!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Coming this MAY

Grade: A

Synopsis:
Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules – especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, this good girl is tempted to peek inside, because the contents just might be key to winning a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. As things heat up in the lab though, Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and will compel her to risk everything – even Tristen’s love – just for the thrill of being… bad.

Rating:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 6/10
Total Score: 57/70

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Frequently, but made sense with character and with situation.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Drinking of poisonous chemicals, one scene with teen smoking.
Sexual Content: Blatantly mentioned in conversation.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Murders, blood, gore, fights, insanity caused by grief, etc.

Review:
My low expectations for this book were smothered as soon as I began reading. Judging by the cover (yeah, yeah... I know you're not supposed to do that), I thought this book would be a light hearted (and possibly cheesy) read. I was wrong.

This book captures a turmoil of emotions from Tristen and Jill. Their voices were so authentic, their thoughts so believable, and their story so gripping. Fantaskey did an incredible job with these two characters. The secondary characters, too, were well crafted. You'll think you understand them... but soon discover you don't.

The writing and the plot keep you hooked to this truly addictive read. There are many plot twists, adding a wonderful dynamic to the story. Suspense keeps you turning the pages and builds up emotion in you... occasionally making want to chuck the book at the wall in anger... ahem. Told from the alternating perspectives of Tristen and Jill, the writing appeals to their characters brilliantly.

Overall, an excellent spin on the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Worth the read.

LINKS:
Beth Fantaskey's Site (includes the prologue of Jekel Loves Hyde, so check it out!)