Sunday, December 26, 2010

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

It’s chapter one and you get Charlie’s funeral and, through Vera, a very startling image of this said individual and his habit of scribbling stuff down on paper, popping it in his mouth, and chewing it. See, he’s not exactly six feet under, at least not where Vera’s concerned: he’s haunting her. Vera, the best friend who’s always loved him, as-of-late hated him, and who lost him twice: once to Jenny Flick (which might have something to do with recent animosity…) and the second time to God, if you believe that sorta thing. Things weren’t very settled when he kicked the bucket, and now they’re even less so.

Because Vera witnessed something that changes the entire circumstances of his untimely demise. Something that exonerates him from the hideous actions directly preceding his death, actions attributed to him. She’s keeping it a secret for now—but he won’t let her forget it.

Did you know this novel sold at auction? Did you know that A LOT OF PUBLISHERS were involved in said auction? Did you know everyone wants a bit of A.S. King?

As much of a rarity as that, in and of itself, is in publishing, did you know it’s even rarer to find a gem of these proportions?

See, Ms King didn’t just spin a new weepy tale about a girl (just like you and me) coming to terms with her best friend’s death and growing as a person and blah blah blah. She created characters that came alive, situations that felt very much real, and did so in writing that is just quirkily poignant, poignantly quirky, seesawing between the two (trust me, there is a difference).

Aside from the superb narrative, we have these very realistic characters. There’s Vera, who comes alive in her vulnerable way, someone trying to do the right thing but finding fault lines along the way and lapsing in judgment like any human being. There are her next-door neighbors—the man who’s just TERRIBLE and I’ll tell you what, we would struggle to find a human being more petty than he is. There’s the pizza delivery technician gig that serves as a base for a lot of anecdotal moments.

There are flow charts!!

Most importantly, there’s how Ms King handled the grief. Charlie, in his haunting, is present to us and we can see how tragic these two were—how they made such terrible mistakes that, because of what happened, can never be fixed, which makes them even worse.

And then there are a whole lot of other surprises. It’s kind of hard to account for it all and still be done in time for…well, the rest of life, I suppose (it’s a hyperbole! I’m quite hyper trying to cram all this detail in here to make you want to read this!), so I’ll leave you to it.

The one thing I was not very fond of was the whole James fiasco. I thought the novel was strong enough without it, and the way things worked out in the end… But, ya know, that’s a personal quibble.

Still, it’s…

Smart!

Wonderful!

Fantastic!

A fangirling sort of novel!

And yes, A.S. King is a friend. Yup, she is, she is. Just when you think you know the meaning of awesome, she goes and reinvents it. She’s an amazing person and I won’t keep the fact I think of her as such a secret. If I didn’t love her book I wouldn’t be reviewing it because a) that’s not what she deserves, b) I’m not like that (take my word for it, or check through two years’ worth of archives) and c) this is not what this space is about. I feel confident enough about that to post this very positive review of her work. Especially since there’s the fact she’s been doing this, oh, for almost two decades, her books are all going into auctions, and—oh yeah—she has like a gazillion stars for this one (count ’em—Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly…). Also, ELLEN HOPKINS blurbed it.

So, yes, A.S. King is certified in that she ROCKS.

Knopf (Random House) | October 12th, 2010, | 326 pages | GoodReads | IndieBound | Book Depository | Amazon
(Source: the author)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Honesty + Publishing; Or, Have You Ever Lied to Protect Your Reputation?

Miranda Kenneally, author of SCORE (Sourcebooks, 2011) posted this today: Walking on Eggshells in Publishing. ALL the Time.

She talks about fearing putting her name to an opinion because it might have a negative impact on her reputation.

That got me thinking, "So, if you get your book deal, that automatically means you keep your mouth shut so as not to offend anyone. Keep your eye on the ball."

Then I thought, "But wait, what about before that? When you're hoping to sign with an agent? Wouldn't you worry about offending one of them if you disliked something by one of their clients?"

I'm not saying any of these concerns are valid and would result in you not getting an offer you might've gotten otherwise. I can't see an agent being that fanciful, especially if your book has HUGE commercial appeal. (Business standpoint.)

But--well, that's something I'd worry about, because if I were querying, I would be obsessive and do everything down to the very last detail to ensure I didn't turn away an agent for some foolish reason.

And all of this just got me thinking how this can apply to anyone in publishing, not just authors. What about me? I think I might want a career in editorial or agenting some day. While I have never, EVER, and would never post a positive review for a book I hated just to please someone, I confess to holding back a couple of negative reviews because I know the agent or something.

Once, I posted a negative review of a book by an author I really admired and, against what I knew was right, I took it down. She was hurt and we haven't talked since, and that sucked.

The truth is, sometimes posting a negative review just isn't worth it. (Which, again, doesn't mean I change the rating, it means I don't review the book at all or give any public opinion on it.) And it's something to think about if you have a personal interest in the business. How honest can you afford to be?

I'm having second thoughts on publishing this because I don't want people to question my integrity. This is tricky. Oh, well, I'll just hope people take my word for it.

Anyway! I think Ms. Kenneally did a wonderful job of talking about her experience and opening up the discussion about the state of things. If you have any thoughts about this - is it right, is it wrong - please go over there. I don't want to hog the responses she would have gotten from that. My goal with this post is actually a bit of a followup...I want to hear about people who've found themselves in this situation and what happened. To sum it up: opinions, go here. Experiences, that's what I'm interested in!

Have you, a publishing hopeful, a writer (publishing or not), an intern, a professional, a blogger, ever found yourself in a situation where your opinion would be compromising? What did you do? Lie? And if not, how did it work out? Tarnished reputation or just nothing really happened? This can be about anything, not just your opinions on certain books. Regardless, I would love to get a sense of how common this actually is.

Feel free to post anonymously, because honestly, if that's the only way people will be honest, THIS BLOGGER doesn't blame you, judge you, or even really care - I get you. I care about the experience, not the name attached to it.

Not sure if I'll get any responses, but it's worth the try!

ETA: This ETA is like five minutes after I posted. I just want to clarify something before it comes back to bite me in the ass. Just because you know I've read your book and didn't review doesn't mean I hated it and don't want to come out and say so. There are a multitude of reasons I don't review certain books, and the main ones are: I don't think I can write a good enough review because I don't have all that many thoughts about the work, or I can't articulate them; I don't see a reason to review it; I read it just for fun; I tweeted about it and feel that's enough; and, this is the biggest one, I don't review every book I read as a rule, because it would severely cut into my schedule. There's only been one -- maybe two, but no more -- book I've withheld posting a review for because of, well, publishing politics. If you don't see a review for your book it is most likely because I haven't read it, though, as my TBR pile is just huge.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Oh!! This one is a fun one. Yes, yes, it is!

First off, if you’re anything like me, you wrote this book off based on the title and cover. Still not sure why Dutton decided to err to the side of bland/not special/sorta stereotypical instead of appealing to us, fabulous, smart readers this book just YEARNS for. So what I’m asking you to do is to put it back on your holiday shopping list. You NEED this book. It is SPARKLY. (Although I promise you’ll get something more substantive than that in just a sec.)

Anna’s bestselling author of commercial fiction father decides he needs to look more cultured to the world at large, so he forces a year of The School of America in Paris down her throat. Yes, forces. Unlike you, me, and pretty much every other girl in the planet, Anna isn’t sure about this. Not when her crush has the potential to be something more. Not when she has a fantastic job. Not when she’s got friends. Think about it. Would you want to spend a year abroad in a place where you don’t speak the language, when everything in your life is going perfectly?

That’s right about where she was. But no matter—she’s being forced, remember?

So when she gets there and bawls her eyes out when her parents leave her at SOAP (love this), a girl knocks on her door and is pretty nice and awesome and that’s Meredith for you. (Couldn’t help thinking of The Office Meredith every time. Not a good picture.) She quickly finds herself situated in Meredith’s group of friends—wherein a guy named St. Clair is also located.

Three inches shorter than her and possibly all the more charismatic for it, St. Clair is just…wow. And that’s when the plot thickens. Because although her heart races, and although it’s obviously something special, and although THEY. ARE. SO. PERFECT. FOR. EACH. OTHER--

He has a girlfriend. She has a love interest back in the States. Neither wants to rock the boat, and neither wants to let go.

All this is the makings for my third favorite romance book ever (behind these two). Now we’ll get to the why.

You know how we’re always talking about how YA books have that tendency to make love based on looks pass off as something normal, or love based on the author’s insistence that love exists even when it clearly doesn’t, or some weird mixture of the two? You know how it’s almost always said too soon or without reason?

Guys. Their friendship is just—wow. You know? Think that person you just connected with. Think the closest thing to a soul connection. Now imagine that coming off the page so strongly, imagine it seems like they’re your friends and you’re the third wheel.

And here’s the hallelujah for friends first.

I loved how this novel handled things. Honestly, it’s truly and divinely romantic, in a subtle way that goes about without trying to acknowledge itself. This is just the best sort of feel-good book that inspires you and makes your heart long for the feelings it brings, so much so that it aches. I couldn’t get it out of my head—not St. Clair, not Anna, and not their story, which is meritorious of all the praise for it’s received.

If you like romance, if you like contemporary, if you’ve lost your faith in love in books, then this one’s for you.

And here’s a bonus reason to check out the book: Anna’s father is totally Nicholas Sparks and Ms. Perkins did something REALLY clever there, which, if you disliked this interview as much as I did, you’ll appreciate.

Also—Stephanie! Namesake! And Perkins! As in perk-ins!

I love a good name.

Anyway, A.

Who’s waiting for Lola and the Boy Next Door?! You gotta love Julie Strauss-Gabel’s (the editor) taste in books. The woman never fails.

Dutton Dec 2, 2010 372 pages IndieBound GoodReads Author Website (No excerpt!)
Source:
Bought (Kindle eBook)