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…




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!)
Bought (Kindle eBook)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yeah, maybe I'm not totally back yet.

**this is interesting for those who don't understand me when I say the uni admissions system in Brazil is so much different than in the US**

Current schedule for Steph:

Get up at six.
School at 7:30.
7:30-1:10 - six fifty period classes, with four five minute breaks and one twenty minute one.
1:10-2:00 lunch
2:00-4ish, some afterschool class, although not always, and the time varies
4:30 - get home
Study until 11:30 or midnight or maybe later.

Hoping to get into uni (we do entrance exams here, your hs transcripts have no value whatsoever - it's all test scores) this year. If not, next year will be revision all over again and that sucks. I want to go straight into university from hs (this is my last year and I graduate in Dec).

For those that are more interested, the program for the university I really want to get in is:

First phase: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Math, Geography, History, Sociology, Philosophy, and Art History.
Detail: While theoretically Phil and Soc are classes I have, we don't have any actual classes - just some leaflets (horrible stuff) and a test every quarter. So now I'm reading about Plato and Kant and Hume and Habermas and Descartes and Locke (not too deeply, it's not SUPER in-depth in the exam, but still, it's a lot given everything else) and I haven't even touched Sociology.
Detail x2: Art History was a class I had on my sophomore year. Don't remember much of it. Have to go back to the prehistoric times and work my way up. Not fun.

First phase is the same for everyone. In the major I'm trying to test in for, Medicine (which is an undergrad course that lasts six years here), it's 54 people per spot & only 10% of applicants make it past the first phase. I should've begun studying in the beginning of the year, but put it off and now I'm struggling to make sense of everything, but by god, I am doing my best.

Second phase: Med = 5 people per spot
Portuguese Lit and language arts, English, Chemistry and Bio (for people who want biology-related majors, like pharmacy, biomedicine, etc - each major group has its set of second phase subjects) + an essay

Oh boy.

This is a school in the south of Brazil so all their lit is different than the southeast, where I live. That means I'm also reading 9 books on their list, four of which are poetry collections, and a lot of which were written in like the 1600s and onwards. BUT! If you're a movie buff & you know Cidade de Deus (City of God), that's one of the contemporary books I'm reading. Cool.

Please wish me luck! I need it. Medicine is the most competitive major and thankfully math and physics are not predominant on the first phase, and disappear completely after that, so that helps. I need 70% to move to the second, and around 80% in the second to make it, and I think I can do it. But I need those 37908923874-hour study days, so I can't be doing much else.

This is a lesson to those of you who procrastinate. I wish I hadn't. I would be so much more chill now, and I would be so much more sure I could pass. My parents, boyfriend and best friend think I can still do it, but they're biased, eh?

So this is why I've disappeared. That and some other secret-ish stuff.

But I do plan on posting when I can! If anyone's still here, I mean.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It could always be worse.

That is such a beautiful way of looking at things. Ah, if only more
people (myself included) could think gracefully about the sucky
situations and remember that, the title thought, maybe the world
wouldn't have so many sucky situations in the first place.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"I dare you to steal my book."

Why, yes, Ms. King did go there. A blog post about having your book pirated and your effort made valueless by selfish people.

And I never noticed how "Miss King" is kind of an...oxymoron of sorts. You're awesome in all sorts of ways, Amy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So, Agatha Christie

I have a father who doesn’t share much about himself. They—father and mother—divided their work as such: big picture (him), details (her). He gives lectures, grounds us, does that sort of thing when there need be an intervention. Otherwise? He’s the one who works more and who handles more stress at work, leaving home stress to be handled by my mother, who also works, but not as much as him. (She’s full-time, he’s mega-time.) I love my father, but I don’t know much about him—about his childhood, etc. He just doesn’t share. So how ever do we bond?

Books. (Just when you think you’re running out of reasons why books are great…!)

We read Agatha Christie. And other authors, but mostly Agatha. We even have a routine for acquiring the titles, which consists of exchanging emails until we reach an agreement.

So, I thought I’d share some about Agatha Christie for YA readers who’ve never heard of/read her.

You’ll see her work go into free domain in your lifetime, that’s how old some of it is (1920s!). Glasses are referred to as “Pince-nez”. A sleeping aid is “Veronal”. You can tell the work is not recent, but it’s not dated—it’s chic.

God, I love it.

See, Ms. Christie didn’t write particularly well. But she was a hell of a storyteller. Sure, there are some less-than-stellar titles in her half-a-century-long career, but that’s to be expected. And even those are pretty enjoyable if you’re in the mood. Now, when she strikes the right note, though… WOW, there are some great mysteries in there.

In fact, yeah, her forte is her plotting. There’ve been very few books I have been able to guess the perpetrator, and I’m usually quite good at reader-sleuthing. She always picks the person you least expect it to be.

Now, what I truly love is how dramatic some of her work is. A mystery involving actresses, theater and deep, dark secrets, set in the 30s or so, with that kind of dialogue and so many, from our futuristic hindsight, charming timely references.

Also—a lot of the titles come from nursery rhymes. I love that.

In short, it is not hard to see why she has sold so many books. Even now, 84 years after her first published work.

If you’re looking for a place to start, here are some recommendations:

Five Little Pigs Lord Edgware Dies
And these two are hailed as her best, although I haven’t read them yet: Death on the Nile and And Then There Were None

Feel free to leave thoughts below and say what your favorites are if you’ve read them!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Contest Winners!

Winners for:

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff

Jonathan Arnston & Liviania

Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala

~The Book Pixie & Jenna

You have all been emailed. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone for participating!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Help me with Kindle selection!

Ahh, so my boyfriend, proving as always to be a world-class Steph expert is getting me a Kindle for our one-year anniversary. Which, for those of you who know, happened two months ago but he wanted to get me the new generation so he asked for an extension. We're not big gifts people so I didn't feel like I missed much... And then I found out he was getting me a KINDLE. AH!

BUT. Since there's the white option, and the graphite option, I have no idea which one to choose. He also knows this. He says graphite. My brother says white.

I'm so indecisive that I'm going to defer this to you. Help! There's a poll below so feed readers, please join in!

For those who haven't seen the new Kindle, click here!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (NO SPOILERS!)

This novel...



It’s epic in the way that makes you feel different, like you’ve aged, and tired, like you’ve trekked down a single road with no end in sight, and accomplished, like it’s made a ripple in you, affected you in some way. It makes you feel.

I came out of it not exactly crying, but kind of heaving a bit. The urge to cry was there, though. I just couldn’t make any tears come about. It hit me in a way that’s never happened before, like a huge emotional blow but not hugely emotional.

In The Hunger Games, Mrs. Collins creates a world we’re all captivated by, populated with characters we either love or hate, it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s clear that we clearly care.

In Catching Fire, she keeps us on our toes, pulls the rug from under us, and ends in a high note.

In Mockingjay, she recreates that world. She gives us more access to it. She spares no gruesome detail, makes not one thing neat, cuts no corners. She reshapes the characters, making them deeper and messier and more human. She breaks our heart, tugs at the strings of our imagination, makes it impossible for this world to not come alive.

She’s pushed the boundaries yet again here, and I am sure this will be hailed as one of the best series YA has to offer.

Mockingjay feels different from the other two. I’m immensely pleased with it, and yet it was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting something a little more…straightforward. Not that the previous two are straightforward in a linear way (not so), but they’re usually more earnest. This one’s careful, calculating. More mature in a way. Nothing’s light, nothing is inconsequential.

It also demanded my attention in a different way. I wasn’t reading for the action in and of itself, although that’s always a great motivator and there was plenty of that; I was reading because it was impossible not to. As I said on my Twitter, I love this, but not in a squealy and fangirly way. In a deeper way.

I’m not sure if I’ve said anything here, anything that entices anyone to read, as if there are many people at least in the blogging community who haven’t read it yet, but…there’s really not much to say. It’s useless trying to sell someone this book with an enticing summary because if you’ve come this far in the series, you’ll want to know what happens, and if you haven’t, you really should.

It is a GREAT read. It is a MONUMENTAL read. This is an example of how a novel can have a great ending without selling out, or making things too bright, or being stale to not cause waves. It’s an incredible example of an author whose imagination and whose work exceed her grasp. Who creates something so…wondrous.

Really, I’m in awe. This is a fucking powerful piece of work. Unexpected, breathtaking, hilarious, heart-wrenching, all the while graceful. Sometimes you get lucky to come across something like this.

Well, well, VERY well done, Mrs. Collins. And thank you, for a time well-spent, in a world I will be sure to revisit and, as much as I want to keep it to myself, will end up giving one-way tickets to, to anyone I can get to. Once in...never out. ;)

A. Easy. Five stars. 10 out of 10.

Scholastic | 400 pages | August 24th, 2010 | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

So wrong it's...still wrong.

I got a Kindle app on my boyfriend's iPhone and I was all excited about getting to read books for relatively cheap (compared to the prices we get here, it's a godsend) and I search for "young adult romance" with the results sorted with price: low to high in the Kindle portion of Amazon and you know what I get?


I wouldn't pay a cent to read that first novel. No, I would not.

Back to searching. Also, reading Mockingjay (also with the Kindle app -- ahh, don't have to wait up to six weeks to get it! Got it this morning!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm gonna splurge on an iPhone. But...which one?

A brief history of my cell phones:

First one was icky but cheap & I was a satisfied 11-year-old with a phone. Text messaging! AH!

Second one was when we moved to Brazil. Also icky, but hey, I didn't much care. It crashed and burned a year later.

Third phone lasted six months because I knocked it off the bathroom sink and into the toilet while blow drying my hair. I melted it trying to blow dry it. I BROKE A NOKIA. HOW?

Fourth phone was a gift from my brother-in-law (married to my sister), a phone he tried to give my sister but she declared it "too complicated" for her to use. It was a nicer-than-I-was-used-to Nokia, but it doesn't do much of anything.

I really want a nice phone. I'm 17, have my own savings, so I figured I might as well get what I want. Now...I don't know what I want! Which is where bloggers come in.

Since I'm international, I have to buy the iPhone at much different rates than US users. Here are the prices:

32gb 3GS = USD $420
16gb 4G = USD $750

I can afford either (been saving for a looong time), but I figured I should ask people who actually have one. Is the 4G so good it justifies the price? I have read the comparisons online but also "so and so tech spec is better by 40%" doesn't mean much to me. I'm talking about user experience. Which do you guys recommend?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Contest: Tell Me A Secret

Tell me a secret, and I'll tell you one...

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

Yesterday, you read Holly Cupala's Pub Story. Today, you get to throw your name in to win her book. I've got two copies available.

How to Enter
Simply comment with your email address. One entry per person.


+ 1 if you link to this contest
++ 1 if you also link to Holly's Pub Story when you link to the contest

US only. You have until the 27th to enter. Go go go!

Contest over. Winners announced here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pub Story: Holly Cupala

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's an awesome thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Holly: Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn't writing and contributing to readergirlz, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Ten percent of the author's proceeds go toward World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls.

The Pub Story:

I pretty much did everything you’re supposed to do when you want to be published—joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), took classes, formed writing groups, went to conferences and timidly offered up my pages for critique…

That is, until life dealt my writing path a fatal blow.

Up until that point, I’d been writing picture book manuscripts (horrid ones), craft articles, short stories, and had started a half-decent middle grade novel. I had a story in a Chicken Soup book and more stories on the way. And yet, I couldn’t write another word.

One devastating loss changed everything. Suddenly my writing seemed meaningless. I never
picked that novel back up, and I might not have ever written again if it hadn’t been for several key events.

A few months after, I attended an SCBWI conference, surrounded by encouraging friends.
We went to hear Libba Bray speak on shutting off your brain and getting to the heart of your writing…and suddenly there it was. The entire story raced through my mind like a movie trailer.

I knew I had to write it.

But I had no idea how. Delving into Miranda’s story of secrets and sister loss meant exposing sadness and difficult relationships, to break through to hope and even healing. I tackled it…one sentence at a time.

When I won an SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant from Judy Blume, it was a signpost—I wasn’t totally wasting my time and babysitting money! (By then we had a second daughter, happy and healthy.) Not only that, it was an open doorway…but one with an expiration date. So I doubled my efforts to finish the novel in time for a NY conference.

I didn’t quite make it, but I did make a lot of excellent contacts, and people were buzzing about the book. So I finished as fast as I could! I’d met a few agents up to that point and had come to the conclusion I should find one, so I started my search in earnest—the grant opened a lot of doors (or at least emails!), and at one point I had five or six agents looking at the full.

That’s when I met my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at another SCBWI event. I read my first 500 words, and he said, “W-w-w-wow.” (Which totally wowed me!) A few weeks later, both he and another agent made offers. But Edward and I had completely hit it off—plus he was really passionate about the story (which didn’t stop him from telling me it needed revision).

We spent three months getting it ready to go, and immediately he sold it in a pre-empt to our top choice!

It’s really surreal, for people to be reading a story so close to my heart, but the response has been kind of amazing. Over and over, readers tell me how emotionally invested they are in Miranda’s story (that, and they stay up into the wee hours reading it!). I’m pretty grateful, actually—that something so hard could become so hopeful. I’m thankful for all of you.

And thank you, Steph, for inviting me to Reviewer X!
Are you kidding me? Thanks to Holly for this great guest blog!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oh, Texas.

I used to live in Texas and while I adored my time there, this doesn't make me want to go back. Not at all. $*(^Y*& censorship.

Contest: Signed ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Says

A lot of people were surprised when it was announced that I’d have a new book coming out in Summer 2009, only a year after my last novel, Lock and Key. I can relate. It was kind of a shock to me, as well.

I wrote Lock and Key while I was pregnant, and edited it in the last few months before my daughter was born. Writing and editing is never that easy for me, and when you factor in the hormones and all the other fun stuff that comes along with carrying a baby, it was quite a wild ride. Suffice to say, I was more than ready to take a big, long break from writing to focus on being a mom. Or so I thought.

About three months after she was born, though, this idea started to come to me, bubbling up in my sleep-deprived mind. I was up at all hours, feeding the baby, trying to sleep or trying to stay awake, and it got me thinking about the night, and how it can seem so long or so short, depending on what you have waiting for you in the morning. I’d look out my window at three or four a.m.—times I was never coherent before motherhood—see a light on in the distance, and wonder who else was up, and why. There was a whole other world at night, one I’d been completely unaware of, and it made me start thinking about the people who chose to live in it, and how they found themselves there. That’s where Auden’s story began.

Some books are incredibly hard to write. Most are, actually. But this one, for me, was a little escape once in a while, and I was more grateful for it than I expected. I wrote Along for the Ride in my daughter’s room, while she slept downstairs, and in the guestroom, while she babbled to the babysitter. I stole half hours here, afternoons there, taking what I could get and using it to get more, and then more, on the page. And when I got stuck, I’d often look out the window and see one of my husband’s friends go zooming by on a bike, taking flight on one of the dirt jumps in my backyard. It was a crazy and chaotic way to write a book, and not at all the kind of structured, methodical approach I’d always used before. And you know what? Somehow, it just worked.

So I might be surprised to find myself here, with a new novel, so soon after the last one. But more than anything, I am grateful. This is the story I was clearly ready to tell. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Special Stuff

* My review for Along for the Ride (liked this one!)

The community and the summer promo promo put together by Penguin to celebrate a Summer of Sarah. Go on Sarah-Land ( in order discuss Sarah's book, enter contests to win signed books, Lock & Key necklaces and other goodies! It's all sorts of fun for people who just love Sarah.

* Another chance to win Along for the Ride (this time on Sarah-Land)

* For people who want to know more about the town of Colby, where Sarah's books are set when they're not set in Lakeview, check out Sarah's video on it.

* A cool badge like the one below to add to your websites - click here to make your own!

Visit Sarah-land

Giveaway Rules

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment answering one of the following questions (just one is enough!):

What was your favorite Sarah Dessen novel & why?

Who is your favorite Dessen character & why?

If you've never read a Sarah book (what!!), tell us how the heck did you manage that!

+ 1 if you link to this contest (if you tweet, use #sarahland)
++1 if you link to the contest up on Sarah-Land when you link to mine (located here)
+ 1 if you join/already are a member of Sarah-Land
+ 1 if you link to Sarah-Land

Please leave as many comments as you have entries. Like, for example, if you enter and then do three extras, that's 1 + 3 = 4 comments.

US only. You have until the 31st to enter! Good luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Glass Maker's Daughter by V. Briceland

This book has been listed as “currently-reading” on my GoodReads for well over a year, but I assure you it’s not because it’s so sinfully atrocious it can only be digested between well spaced intervals.

Rather, it’s because I’m a freak who can’t smell the awesome sitting on her nightstand for a whole freaking year. But--whatever, I could go on about this forever.


In Cassaforte, this little, medieval piece of the world unlike any other, magic abounds. The hierarchical society is divided into a king; seven royal craftsmen families who’re each specialized in a trade (ship building, glass making, book making, to name a few) and able to manipulate magic to enhance their creations; thirty socialite families who standby to become a member of the Seven should one of them fail to perform the rite of fealty; and the common folk. The rite of fealty is a daily tradition that pledges the Seven’s loyalty to the king and to the binding powers of Cassaforte, thereby keeping each family’s magic intact.

Our third-person journey with main character Risa Divetri, the youngest daughter of the glass makers, begins just as she’s about to participate in the Scrutiny, an event in which the children between the ages of eleven and sixteen of the noble families are picked by one of the two gods of Cassaforte to be interned at their respective insulas (universities). There, they learn to practice their family’s magic.

Just as it’s Risa’s turn to be chosen, both the god and the goddess tell her she’s not needed at either insula. And just like that, the unprecedented happens: Risa is left unchosen and, in her eyes and in the eyes of society, worthless. Her glass making is too different from her family’s and without the ability to enchant it, she might as well be an invalid. She resigns to cursing the gods and not knowing quite what to make of herself…until the old king dies and whispers of corruption emergent from the prince threaten the royal families and the integrity of Cassaforte. Then Risa realizes the gods may have had something else planned for her, and goes on to kick some serious ass.

Ah, where to begin, where to begin! This one is not without its faults, to be sure, but there’s just so much to love. I guess I should begin with the structure of the society and the world created herein. I thought the lay of the society was très interesting: the Seven and the Thirty are regarded as snobby, socialite families who look down upon everyone else. But as Risa explains the guards who come to safeguard her during times of peril, the Seven are craftsmen and too busy perfecting their art to be occupying themselves with the crap the Thirty do. I thought that was genius, creating a place where the royals actually do something.

Also, the concept of magic! I can’t really explain without spoiling it, but let’s just say it’s unique. The families each use enchantments to make their products cutting edge--the Divetri’s glass windows can’t be destroyed; the Catarre’s books need only be read once and you’ll know them by heart. As you get deeper into the novel, you learn about its secondary uses and the logic behind it all--well, it's nothing short of creative.

Risa is (really) hard to swallow at times, what with her whining and failing to see the big picture, but I came out appreciating what all she did. Like I said, she kicks some serious ass and she’s a strong heroine for all she withstood and all she accomplished not long after her world collapsed. What's interesting is, I didn’t connect with her, or with the supporting characters, at first, and I was already picturing my review: "The novel starts with the ball already rolling, but the characters are to be looked at, observed, but not felt or sympathized with." But as the novel progressed and the plot began moving… Let’s just say I learned to appreciate the many endearing members of the cast that, while not deep enough to classify this as a character study, could carry the plot and do it with flair. Oh, and Milo, a guard sent to protect Risa. He’d fill up a review all by himself--I just loved him.

And the plot had so many HEART moments. Some have called it predictable, and while I could see some things coming, there were just as many I couldn’t. I thought it was quite well thought out and, aside from being action packed and taking you places you didn’t quite expect, it also had this HUGE end twist at the end that changed my opinion of the novel from “liking” to “great”.

Two remarkable plot things: at one time, Risa is saved by Milo and his sister, another guard, when they use sword-fighting techniques they read about in a Catarre book. We should memo this to the #waysreadingsaveslives committee.

ALSO. There’s a subplot of romance between Risa and Milo and it culminates in a library. JUST SAYING.

So! I did come out with some minor questions, but this novel is just, to me, uninitiated fantasy reader and medieval kingdom enthusiast, great. I feel like I struck gold, actually. What a gem of a novel! There’s just enough fantasy, just enough plot, just enough spirit--in short, more than enough to make you fall in love.


ETA: It is part of a series! The second book is out! I AM SO GONNA FIND OUT HOW TO GET THAT.

Flux | April 1st, 2009 | 320 pages | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon | Author Website / Blog | Excerpt

Sunday, August 15, 2010

YA Fantasy Showdown

Oh, but this is awesome.

It started on 10th, and I'm only posting about this now because my email out-black-holes every other black hole in outer space. Here's what the ever patient Heather Zundel, from, the person behind all of this, had to say about this event:

Something is going down. Something big.

How would you like to see Edward duke it out against Hermione? Or Katniss and Katsa? Well, guess what? You can, in the first ever YA Fantasy Showdown. In celebration of Suzanne Collin’s final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, a group of bloggers are pitting some of the best-known characters in YA in the ultimate showdown. And you get to pick the winner.

That’s right. You read the battles, evaluate the characters, and vote for who has the honor of moving on to the next round. It’s a tournament like you’ve never seen before (because there’s more). The authors have been asked to participate and advocate their character in writing their own version of the battle. It’s going to be truly epic. Or at least a good way to pass the time until Mockingjay comes out. It all goes down August 10th.


And it seems that the first phase is out of the way and there are a bunch of sparkly winners, so...go!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ooooh, Mockingjay leak...

ETA 08/25/2010: since this still seems to be getting traffic: book review over here.

I guess this is to be expected with a release this big, but it still comes out as a big controversy. For those who don't know, Andrew Sims of somehow got his hands on a copy of Mockingjay this past week. He tweeted about it. He posted a picture of it (the one you see above). How did his get it? Scholastic has no idea.

Response to this has been varied. The general consensus is something like "he will/should get in a lot of trouble for this". Of course, just reading comments in this article shows the wide range of feelings people are having:

by Mel C. in August 11 - 5:29 pm

I’m not mad at all. He of all people should be the one to get it. Andrew seems trustworthy enough not to spoil us! I’m just a tad jealous, though!


by Jlpnyy on twitter in August 11 - 5:13 pm



by MikeMagpuyo in August 11 - 5:10 pm

Luck beyond measure. Wow. Hope the end is grand and fulfilling.


by darcy in August 11 - 4:59 pm

why would he tell every onne i dot think that was smart

Sims comment (on the Examiner link I gave above): Sims responded to a request for a comment, saying "I don't really have any comment and honestly I'm just hoping for it to pass. I didn't expect it to get such a reaction!"

My thoughts: Meh. I don't like to presume I know what others' intentions were, but what exactly did he think would happen if he tweeted about it? That not one of his 10000+ followers and their followers' followers and so on would notice he had the most anticipated book of the year, the one with no ARCs, the one not even its publicist (Sheila Marie) got to read? That people wouldn't question him about the fact he's not supposed to have it? Why not be discreet about it?

Personally, though, what happens or doesn't happen to him concerns me not one bit so long as he doesn't post spoilers (which I don't think he will). I'm with Sassymonkey on this: I want to read this book when everyone else will be able to and the discussion will be thrilling and exciting and everyone will be in a frenzy to post about it and AH it will be so awesome.

But seeing the hardcover like that kinda made me really excited. That book! Out on the 24th! In our hands! SO. COOL.

ETA: This Google Blog Search results page yields some interesting commentary on what happened.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Contest: The Absolute Value of -1

Annnd now for the second part of the Pub Stories ritual, we have a contest! If you didn't read Steve Brezenoff's pub story, you should. And if you want his book, here's a chance to get it.

The absolute value of any number, positive or negative, is its distance from zero: |-1| = 1

Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis—divorce, abuse, and a parent's illness. Yet as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once counted on, they slip—like soap in a shower. Noah’s got it bad for Lily, but he knows too well Lily sees only Simon. Simon is indifferent, suddenly inscrutable to his friends. All stand alone in their heartache and grief.

In his luminous YA novel, Steve Brezenoff explores the changing value of relationships as the characters realize that the distances between them are far greater than they knew.

Want? Comment (and leave your email address!)! You have until next Thursday, August 20th. USA & Canada only.
1 entry per person.
+ 1 if you link to this contest
+ 1 if you link to Steve's Pub Story
Leave as many comments as you have entries (so one entry, plus if do like fifty extras, you leave 51 comments), explaining what you did in each extra comment for those extra entries (links to where you linked and whatnot). Also, email addresses.

Contest over. Winners announced here.


Good stuff over at The Story Siren's LGBT Lit Days.

This, from a guest post by John from Dreaming in Books:

"Every day I walk through the school hallways, I think at least once that I don’t belong. I contemplate pretending to be straight. Running away. Ending my life. Questioning every little part of me one more time in the hopes that maybe – maybe – I’m not really gay.

I know that it won’t change anything, but living in the hetero-centric world that we do, it’s not like I can help it.


A coming out story. Depression. Angst. Anxiety. A protagonist that starts out hating him/herself. That has other people hating him/her. Tough times, a rough patch with the parental units and friends. It’s what coming out entails. And I get that. But I’m sick of having that be the only thing I read in YA."

(Read the rest.)

Like I said: good stuff.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pub Story: Steve Brezenoff

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Steve: Steve Brezenoff has written several chapter books for young readers, and The Absolute Value of -1 is his first novel for teens. Though Steve grew up in a suburb on Long Island, he now lives with his wife, their son, and their terrier in St. Paul, Minnesota.

You can have a look at some of Steve’s work for younger readers, including the popular Field Trip Mysteries series, here.


I didn’t go about this the normal way. In fact, I probably shouldn’t spread some of this around. I broke a lot of rules, and had lots of lucky help. I’d say trying to follow my path would probably put most people in the woods, clutching their manuscript, hiding from an angry mountain lion. Still, here it is.

I’ve been writing for a long time—I wrote my first “novel” when I was fifteen. It was a terrible Arthurian thing, with a sprinkling of Tolkien. I recall fondly when my creative writing adviser asked me what expertise I have in Arthurian legend. Had I done much research? The only answer I had was that I’d watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail . . . several times! She wasn’t happy with that answer. Still, I finished the colossal waste of paper. It is happily lost forever, much like the travelers who walked its pages.

My original major in college was creative writing. I gave it up, though, when I realized I had to write, often poetry, on someone else’s schedule. The nerve of those graduate students, asking us to create art on command. This is particularly ironic when you consider that most of the writing I do today is very much on command. It is even more ironic when you consider that I took a creative writing course my last year of college, and in that class wrote a short story called “Looking Down on Havoc.” I got an A, and worked on and reshaped that story for many, many years. It eventually became a novella of sorts, and one that several people whose opinions I respected found compelling. But still, I was not as serious as I should have been about polishing it, maybe growing it into a full novel, or submitting it for publication anywhere.

Here’s some luck: I got married. That’s lucky in a million ways, obviously. But the main thing is that my wife worked for a children’s publisher here in Minnesota, and when she and her boss needed a short book written very quickly, they came to me. So I wrote it. They liked it. Before too long, I was writing frequently for that publisher. These were “work-for-hire” jobs, mind you, so I wasn’t keeping rights on any of this stuff. I’ll never collect royalties, and I rarely came up with the concepts for these books myself. The point is, though, I was published now, so I joined SCBWI: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Of course, I could have joined SCBWI already; it’s an organization that happily accepts both published and pre-published writers. In fact, I’d guess the majority of members are pre-published. But I didn’t know that. By the time my first local conference rolled around, I had several work-for-hire jobs under my belt, and our son had just been born. If anything was the real impetus to get my butt in gear and work toward publishing my novel, it was my new son. Amazing how this little ball of child will give one a shot of ambition.

So, how to go about it? My wife and I did some thinking before I headed to the local conference, and we decided the best thing to do was . . .

(Here’s where pre-published writers need to go get the salt and take it very heavily with what I am about to say.)

. . . create a resume, sort of. On one side of the resume was a nice list of my work-for-hire projects that were out already or would soon be out. On the other side was essentially three query letters, one for each of my works-in-progress.

Let me repeat that: works-in-progress. Unfinished works. Things I was writing that were not done.

I made several copies of this resume. I approached all three speakers whose seminars I attended. I gave them a copy of this thing. They took it graciously. If not for one very understanding and open-minded editor, that would very likely be the end of my tale.

But, lo, that one editor contacted me as soon as the work week started up a couple of days after the conference. He wanted to see everything I had—which, if you’re paying attention, you’ll realize was nothing.

Again I say: works-in-progress. Unfinished work.

I thanked the editor in question for his interested, explained I wanted to polish up a thing or two in the young adult novel I’d described, and would send it along post-haste. In other words, I had to finish it, and fast.

I am mortified to no end as I tell this story, not for the first time.

So, I finished it—I finished that novella, the one based on a short story I’d written twelve years before. I sent it to him. He loved it. But, he told me, it wasn’t finished.

Over the next several months I added to the 35,000 or so existent words another 35,000 or so words. Then it was finished. And the editor still loved it, probably loved it more.

From there, the path was clear and much easier. With an incoming offer, I knew finding an agent wouldn’t be too difficult, and after speaking to Edward Necarsulmer IV from McIntosh & Otis, and discovering we shared a love of J. D. Salinger and the Grateful Dead, I decided to team up with him.

The short version is that I did everything backward. I married into published status. For my novel, I got an editor, then finished the novel, then found an agent. Do not try this at home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

$25 Amazon gift card contest winner(s)!

Wow, three entries short of 200 -- VERY cool. Thank you all for participating.


(Who won with only one entry...* wow. 2.5% chance she'd win. And she did! Cool.)

Also, I want an honorable mention to go out to Joanne J who had over 20 entries in. That's a lot of advertising she did & I wish I didn't randomize things, just so I could pick her. (No offense to Ana, I think you all get what I mean!) So... I can't do another $25 right now, but I'm sending you a $10 gift card. Thanks!

You should get your gift cards by tonight. Let me know if you don't.

Thank you, everyone!

*She entered twice but her tweet wasn't linked so I didn't count it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Well, SOMEONE thinks a little highly of themselves...

This. The most unabashed, fuckwitted author douchebaggery I have EVER seen.

Sorry for the language, but really.

(Via Leila)

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Not many people know this--actually, thinking about it now, NO ONE knows about this--but after I first read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, I got into this habit of writing letters between Ella and the prince about the widest range of (sometimes strange) topics. What made it so fun that I spent whole afternoons writing them was that I tried my hardest to make them sound as royal-ly and posh as possible. The result? Possibly the epitome of stunted prose, if there ever was any. I was parodying myself, so I guess I learned early on to enjoy the art of making fun of thyself. At least I did something right.

Anyway, I had actually forgotten all about that until I read this book… See, our main hunk, Lucius Vladescu, is in America on a mission. When he and Antanasia, a vampire roughly his age but from his rival clan, the Dragomirs, were born in Romania, they were pledged to each other. Meaning they would marry once they came of age in an attempt to join the power and reign all the vampires together peacefully. But then, when the worst happened and their vampire village was attacked and their parents killed, Lucius was sent to live with his family’s Elders and Antanasia was entrusted to an American couple on the scene who were there to study the Romanian subcultures until she became eighteen. The couple took Antanasia Dragomir, vampire princess, back to the States and renamed her Jessica Parkwoord.

So, Lucius came around right before Jessica’s 18th birthday. And when he shows up, her whole world comes crashing down. Jessica’s a self-professed logical person, and the idea of marriage pacts and the very existence of eternal creatures like vampires really set her off. But eventually, she can’t deny them anymore and she has to face the situation head-on. They say she has a choice about the marriage…but does she really?

So, anyway, what made me think about my old writer-doodles was Lucius’s letters to his Uncle Vasile, who practically his (very cruel) father. The letters, albeit containing very funny tidbits, had this sort of forced charm to them… I don’t know, it’s Lucius’s only first-person narrative in the book (the rest is all told by Jessica’s POV), so maybe there was some urgency to make sure we understood he was regal. But…

That was the first thing that annoyed me.

Now, what’s funny is the beginning of this novel as a whole didn’t work for me. I’ve never had a more serious reason to call it quits on the grounds of “been there, done that” (because of the letters), and yet I kept going…and going…and going until it got better, somewhere past page 60. That’s where this novel’s--Ms Fantaskey’s--good writing began writing in the tune of the actual story and things began moving.

That’s when I got sucked in. And this is where I tell you this won’t be an easy review to write.

First, the packaging is so, so wrong for this book. It BELLOWS “FLUFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!” when this novel is anything but. Sure, the beginning was pretty fluffy, but as far as I’m concerned, that beginning Never Happened. The rest of the novel took a very, very unexpected turn for the dark side of things, full of angst and all things gloriously worth reading about.

This was a most welcome change of pace. A beautiful, very touching scene of Jessica getting an old portrait of her mother, the queen, and almost having a conversation with her as she tried to figure out how to incorporate her mother’s royal spirit while also being Jessica. Several emotionally-driven scenes with Lucius who keeps her on her toes.

I really liked the Jessica we saw toward the middle of the novel. After months of going on and on about the pact, Lucius suddenly stops and has it in for another girl, one Jessica hates. (And it’s not designed to make her jealous. He just becomes interested in her.) She confronts him about it and when he’s dismissive, where other main characters would have just backed down in order to protect their already hurt feelings, she presses him about it. When he’s hurtful to her, she slaps him hard across his face. She doesn’t take his shit. I loved the spunk, LOVED.

And Lucius…he’s one volatile character. Brought up with strong morals, strong manners, and strong sense of loyalty towards his family. The same family who’s ruthless, never hesitating to pound the message home. He’s got two physical scars to show it and a god knows how many emotional bruises. He’s quick-tempered, but he’s also mesmerizing and charismatic and charming. But most of all he’s an arrogant prick whose snobbish outlook bothered me to no end at first and made him quite unsympathetic. Then I kind of just accepted it into his character and it became funny and sometimes endearing. He’s not my type, but he sure seemed Jess’s… :)

I also liked quite a bit about the marriage-pact plotting that I can’t talk about as it’s spoiler-y.

Anyway! This is a hard review to write because up to this point, save from a comment here or there, this sounds all positive, right? But there’s also a lot of negative.

I hate to be the one to be comparing yet ANOTHER vampire book to
, but some of the plotting evokes just that. When I finished the novel, I thought, “This is a pretty good idea of the direction Twilight should’ve gone.” It’s not a book without its faults, but at least the vampire mythology is creative and includes no sparkling. The main character takes way too long to get over her vampire incredulity, especially since she was brought up in a house of believers of all things weird and the fact Lucius is walking proof of it, but other than that she’s got a backbone and isn’t willing to face her man. And said man is not NEARLY as stalkerish as Edward. He can be a bit overbearing in his chivalry, but no “I watch you while you sleep”.

It’s not a retold version of Twilight. It has its own creativity, I think. It stands on its own.

What didn’t stand on its own were nearly every character aside from Jessica and Lucius. That was the second thing that annoyed me big time. Jessica’s best friend since she was four was oddly always off to the periphery, awaiting her cue that Jessica needed someone to fill a scene with or some help getting her hair ready. The parents…what parents? Same deal as the best friend: only pop in when the plot makes them help Jessica. She could probably send them off and host a huge-ass party at her house and they probably would never mention it. Jessica’s love interest? I liked him in the breakup scene. Wish he’d gotten more screen time. And I don’t get the bully. It seems Jessica is the only one targeted and it’s just…never explained.

Then some spoiler-y plot stuff toward the end felt messy in hindsight.

And although I liked the (admittedly hurried ending), I have to say, it reminded me a bit of New Moon. (Don’t kill me for bring up the comparisons again!)

And now for my closing arguments… I didn’t sleep at all last night and instead read this. It took my mind off the fact I needed to sleep but couldn’t. It got me into its story. It’s a flawed book, yes, very much more so than I would usually care for. But sometimes this happens--sometimes a book I can admit has a lot of problems turns out to be really, really enjoyable and worth the read. This one was one of those. If you’ve had that happen to you, and none of the review stuff sets you off, maybe give it a try?

As it is, I have to give it a 6.5. I do recommend, but not to everyone.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | February 1st, 2009 | 351 pages | Beth Fantaskey's site | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

*If you've read the book & haven't seen the extras (which contain spoilers!) on Ms Fantaskey's website, here it is.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Damage My Childhood Book-Eating Did

Nowadays, if you ask me what I want to be you’ll get one of two answers:

Pediatric oncologist
Children’s book editor

It’s tearing me apart, trying to choose. I’d take Mr. Frost’s advice and pick the road less traveled by, but just which one fit’s the bill?

On the one hand, medical school is tough and long and arduous and did I mention tough? Also, I don’t know (m)any 17-year-olds keen on specializing in something that will lead to watching many innocent children be forced to fight for their lives and, sometimes, despite their remarkable strength, lose said (and sad) fight. It really is depressing.

Then again, being that I live in BRAZIL, somehow migrating over to NYC to pursue a career in book publishing isn’t exactly easy either. Lots of immigration stuff to be dealt with, never mind I have no family in the vicinity. Also: Great Amazing Boyfriend has no plans of living in the States.

But, how did I land myself with these two choices?

Well, it all started with a bright-eyed, tiny two-year-old who loved bedtime stories her mother told her so much that she began somewhat reading at that age (2 or 3) and then progressed to reading fairy tales and then to Harry Potter in Portuguese. Then she moved to the US. As she was learning English at age 9, she began with easy books: Junie B. Jones, Pee Wee Scouts, Cam Jansen, Scooby Doo mysteries, A-to-Z Mysteries, and yes, eventually Harry Potter in English.

Then, when she hit middle school, she began reading Lurlene McDaniel and was introduced to the world of tear-jerkers and books about dying cancer kids who had uplifting endings but nevertheless reduced her to outright crying by their last pages. And that’s when she began getting so attuned to All Things Cancer and began studying a lot and then some more and then some MORE of that to the point where she could go on and on about many different forms of cancer and its treatments.

Her brother told her to consider becoming an oncologist. It had never occurred to her before.
She liked the idea. She especially liked that by doing medicine, she’d be able to do volunteer work in Africa and help the sick there, too. She loved that she’d be able to work with children with cancer. She wanted so badly to be a part of that world. This was at age 11 or 12 or so.

THEN this girl began reading a popular chick lit author. Eventually she read two bestsellers of said author and was inspired to began writing a third book in the series, as fan fiction, when she went to the writer’s forums and saw other people did that. So she did! And her fanfic somehow attracted many readers and built up her confidence to where she wanted to write her own stuff. So she moved over to the writing forum and began several stories, ended none, but that was fine because soon she became the an avid user of the writing forum, where she stayed for…three years. The writers there were all about her age and many had very interesting stories, so…

This made her do a LOT of reading and give a LOT of constructive-criticism. Just like that, a passion was born. This girl loved critiquing. She loved correcting people’s grammar, analyzing character motives and arcs, pointing out plot inconsistencies, all with the intention of seeing a more polished text. And the other writers did the same to her stories! It was a huge community thing. This started when she was 13 or so.

She began evolving in reading and growing into straight YA, starting with some Ro-Coms and then browsing around more the YA section at her local B&Ns. She moved to Brazil but she still loved reading in English.

Her interests as a writer also evolved and she began reading agent and editor blogs, especially those who represented YA, and learned what she could about the industry. She began learning about who represented whom, publishing terms, how book deals come to be…and she went to serious writer forums (both YA and general) to see what she could learn.

This goes on ’til today. She has a blog now and she studies YA more intensely because of it and also keeps herself up-to-date on all that’s happening in the industry. She’s made tons of contacts. This girl even managed to convince her mother to fly from Brazil to NYC and attend BEA in 2009. There met some agents and one editor and countless authors and loved every minute of it.

So, you see, books are what made her the person she is today. She loves books--not just the final product, but also the journey they took in order to get their behinds in stores. She loves the idea of working with authors who have the potential to change lives. She loves the idea of helping improve books that touch many. She wants to be a part of it.

Then again, she loves children. She also wants to be a part of helping these kids she admires so much. She wants to dress in bright colors and carry little gifts for them and try to help them maintain a positive attitude through what is so obviously a scary chapter in their lives. She wants to be a caring doctor, not a jaded one. She wants to do volunteer work and be able to offer medical help sick people in underprivileged parts of the world.

Damn you, books. See what you did to me? You make me want to do two things that I can't possibly do at the same time and I have no idea where to even begin choosing which is right for me.

But also... I thank you. I thank you for, firstly, teaching me English better than any ESL teacher could. I thank you for inspiring me. I know that in whichever path I choose I’ll be a passionate professional, and that’s one of my biggest goals: be in LOVE with my job. You made it possible for me, a completely directionless girl, to feel some sort of calling.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Two years ago, Kristi correctly predicted her father was about to walk out on she and her mom. Just weeks later, he does, going to Africa to start over fresh and escape his humiliation in the face of yet another medical malpractice suit. Kristi blames her mother for constantly putting him down and pressuring him about his career ambitions, so the two of them, who were never exactly buddies to begin with, are even further apart. And to make things even better, Kristi’s best friend, Hildie, decides the popularity afforded to her by her supernaturally good-looks is worthy of trading Kristi in for at the exact moment Kristi needs her the most. But like Kristi says, can you really blame Hildie for never looking back at her ugly ex-best friend when she could have the glamour of being in the In Crowd?

(I certainly can! But we’ll save Unabashed Judgment of Characters for later.)

Oh, and remember that little prediction about her father’s impending abandonment? That’s how Kristi found out she’s psychic. Kind of. She begins reading people’s minds after that. Of course, given she isn’t exactly popular and her un-stellar temperament after all the Shit Went Down, what people are thinking proves to be hard to swallow. Fortunately, the tough skin she developed helps her get through the day.

But nothing will help her face the father who abandoned her way back and who’s suddenly back in town, and with some not-so-pleasant news. It turns out Kristi may have been premature in blaming her mother, unjustifiably mean in the past two years to anyone she’s had contact with, and a little too self-absorbed.

Well, if nothing else, Kristi is a fantastically funny and witty narrator. She’s got wonderful, unique traits, like the fact she makes her clothes out of the most absurd materials--such as umbrellas!--and is great at it. Or how she’s obsessed with opera to block out people’s thoughts. Reading her account of what happens is oftentimes hilarious and I stopped MANY times to mark down quotes I like. Just so you have an idea:

*Jacob’s parents are English, but that’s not the reason they’re weird. They’re so pale that when you first see them, you think they’re dead, and when you get to know them, you wish they were.

*“Oh?” Brian asks, raising one eyebrow in delight. I guess he isn’t delighted enough to raise both eyebrows.

*David leans over Hildie and looks at her work. I’m pretty sure he’s smelling her work.
He’s a teacher? Mallory asks. [in a note]
He seems to think so, I write back.

*“You have a nice house,” Gusty says.
I shrug. “It keeps the rain off my head.”

That’s really, really great voice.

And yet…this novel was rather weak. It felt half-done, uncooked, not left out to marinate enough--whichever sounds best.

Right off the top of my head, the thing that most bothered me was that everything had this stereotypical feel to it, and in a really unpleasant way, to boot. It honestly felt like the school and some of the main characters were pre-made for cutting corners on creativity so as not to dig too deeply and thus complicate an otherwise very neat story. Like Jacob, one of the only students who was friends with Kristi. He’s so categorically nerdy: annoyingly overeager, spits too much, uses too big words to be cool and is naïve-bordering-stupid. Or the principal of the New Age-y high school, who’s a total hippie caricature and only seems to pop up to get students to “express themselves” or do some other--again with this term--New Age-y exercise. Or Hildie, the ex-BFF, who is evil and slightly slutty and whose motives for being evil are…never explained. Or The Father, who apparently suffers from Peter Pan Syndrome. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they weren’t defined by only those listed traits.

Bottom line is, almost no character is given nearly significant screen time so as to come to life.

And then the other very, VERY tiring thing in this novel is the amount of times we hear about guys staring at Kristi’s huge-ass boobs. And when I say huge-ass, I mean what I gather to be C-cups. Like I said, everything is so stereotypical that there doesn’t seem to be not even ONE guy who doesn’t drool over them. Of course, there is also not a chapter that goes by in which we don’t hear about how huge they are.

She seems to get more success with her C-cups than I get with my D-cups. What I’m saying is, that’s not exactly how it goes down. Not every single guy on the face of the planet--especially not your good friends whom see you every day--will be thinking very explicit thoughts about you 24/7.

Aaaaaand… there’s a lot more I could list that bothered me. How all of Kristi’s thoughts seemed to be about how ugly so-and-so is and how beautiful (and therefore stupid) so-and-so is and how this guy who happens to really like her is so ugly she can’t stand looking at him and how it’s okay for her to think like this but the moment one of the popular girls brings up his skin it’s “shallow” and how her father’s big revelation isn’t treated carefully enough and he comes out looking like a total ditz and that really cannot be how he is and it’s just another example of the stereotypes/too-simple-characterizations here.

Or I could bitch about how Kristi’s remorse progresses unevenly and culminates in a very lame and not meaningful enough way to be a hallmark of this novel, or how the Bad Skin Dude develops a sort of bond with one of the popular girls that is never fully explained, or how disgustingly Kristi’s ignorance of the seriousness of anorexia is excused when she admits she didn’t know “it could kill you”.

And then there’s the issue with the hearing voices thing. The idea of WHY is only very briefly presented and it’s quite interesting, but the author just kinds of leaves you hanging at the end in a very un-cool and frankly too-lazy-to-tie-this-up way.

All in all¾ loved the voice, but the execution could have been done MUCH better. I did finish the book, and since I did say it felt half-cooked, I will give it 5 out of 10 stars, which is what, like, a C-? D+? Hmm. I'd read more by this author for the voice alone, though. Like I said: funny.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 250 pages | October 6th, 2008 | Author Website | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book sightings in Brazilian bookstores!

My boyfriend and I went to the mall to browse today and we went into its TINY TINY TINY SHAME OF A BOOKSTORE and much to my delight and surprise and overall squeee-ness, I found MANY blogger favorites, in Portuguese.

For anyone who doesn't know, yes, I am Brazilian.

So, anyway, I got his iPhone and I began snapping pictures of all of the ones I could find. He's used to my antics so he didn't even ask. The saleslady, however, was looking at us with some contempt. To avoid staying conspicuous, I gave him the phone and asked him to get pictures of the House of Night series and he did, just like that, when the saleslady went to ring up someone else's items.

And that is the ultimate testament of how awesome my boyfriend, J, is.

The end result:

How awesome is THIS?

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
(Portuguese: Sussuro - which means "whisper")
*Didn't take a centered picture of it, but you can see The Vampire Diaries right beside it!

Shadow Kiss (loved the first in the series) by Richelle Mead
O beijo das sombras (Portuguese)

Wake by Lisa McMann
Despertar (Portuguese)

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (LOVE.)
Feios (Portuguese)

Stargazer (first in the series review) by Claudia Gray
Caçadora de Estrelas (Portuguese)

Blue Moon by Alyson Noël
Lua Azul (Portuguese)

Betrayed, Untamed and Marked by PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Traída, Indomada and Marcada (Portuguese)

And yes, there was Twilight too, but that's just so cliché nowadays that I thought I'd give the others a chance to shine.

As you can see, all are American bestsellers and most are about vampires. A bit unfair that that's the only selection currently available in Brazil? Well, yeah. Keep in mind this is a small store of a huge chain and I'll try to go into one of their larger stores when I go to a bigger city. HOWEVER, you should know that this is HUGE for Brazil. There has never been such selection beyond Harry Potter and Meg Cabot for teenagers, and I know contemporary authors like Elizabeth Scott are also due to come out here--so there's hope yet!