The Compulsive Reader: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 Days of Winter Escapes: The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

I hope you all have been following the wonderful wonderful contest HarperTeen has put together for February. Today is the very last day, and I am featuring The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong, the last book in her Darkest Powers trilogy! Here's a summary:
My name is Chloe Saunders. I'm fifteen, and I would love to be normal.

But normal is one thing I'm not.

For one thing, I'm having these feelings for a certain antisocial werewolf and his sweet-tempered brother—who just happens to be a sorcerer—but, between you and me, I'm leaning toward the werewolf.

Not normal.

My friends and I are also on the run from an evil corporation that wants to get rid of us—permanently.

Definitely not normal.

And finally, I'm a genetically altered necro-mancer who can raise the dead, rotting corpses and all, without even trying.

As far away from normal as it gets.

Quite a teaser! The thought of waiting until the end of April to find out what happens may be torture, so here is a Q&A with Kelley Armstrong!

What’s your favorite winter activity?

I enjoy cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and I’ve even gone winter camping in a homemade igloo, but my favorite winter activity would be curling up by the fire with hot cocoa and a good book.

What inspired the Darkest Powers series?

I’d had a book idea that was inspired by one of my adult novels. It was about supernaturals just coming into their powers, though, which in my world happens at puberty, so it wouldn’t work for an adult series. That idea was in the back of my mind as I began getting email from readers I considered a little too young to be reading my other books! After a couple of years of toying with the idea, I finally decided to try writing the book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you could have any paranormal power, what would it be?

I would love to be a werewolf because I’d love to experience life in a different form. The secondary characteristics would be cool, too. Those “extras,” though, also make it hard for werewolves to blend, so if I was being very practical, I'd go with spell-casters. Their powers take work to learn, but overall they have fewer drawbacks.

Werewolves or vampires? Who would win in a fight?

Werewolves in my world have all the fighting skills, but it’s the vampires who get invulnerability. My werewolves can be killed any way that humans can, but my vampires need to be decapitated. . . and that’s not easy in a weapon-free fight. Nor would it be easy for a vampire to kill a werewolf with superhuman strength, agility, and senses. I’d say it would be close to a draw, and would probably come down to brains more than brute strength—which individual is smart enough to outwit the other.

What is your writing process like?

My process is constantly evolving. Being published means having a schedule, so it’s become very important to learn what methods work best for me. I’ve discovered I work better from an outline. So I have a rough, point-by-point plot outline. My finished novel never completely follows the outline, though. Better ideas come up as I’m writing, and I’m always ready to accommodate them. I’ve also learned that I’m happiest when I write the first draft straight through, without interruptions—taking a break to edit another book, for instance, really disturbs my flow and frustrates me. The first draft is a very intense process for me, and during that time, I’m rarely without my notebook. When the first draft is done, I ease back into a more relaxed editing mode.

Be sure to go and vote at the 28 Days of Winter Escapes Giveaway website for a chance to win The Reckoning!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Willow is in Paperback!

Hey guys,

One of my absolute favorite books of 2009 was Willow by Julia Hoban, and it is out in paperback this week! I seriously love this book, and Julia is so sweet, and the paperback price is easier on the wallet, so there are three good reasons to buy the book right there! Also, check out the trailer:

I really like it, but since I made it, I'm, um, a little biased.

Be sure to pick up your paperback copy now! It's pretty awesome!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie has always been the companion pony to her older sister Bailey's thoroughbred. So when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie feels lost, shut up in a house of grief that she can't leave, and plagued by memories and thoughts of "What if..." that she can't escape. There are two guys who make her life a little bearable: Toby, her sister's boyfriend and one of the only ones who understands what she's going through, and Joe Fountaine, a musical genius new to town that is able to distract her from her intense grief. But both make her feel guilty about moving on with her life, and will force her to somehow reconcile with her grief and learn to live without Bailey.

Stunning, gorgeous, exquisite...those are only a few words that can be used to describe Jandy Nelson's debut YA novel. The Sky is Everywhere starts out in a quirky, poetic way that will delight and entertain. The themes of loss and grief are deep and explored thoroughly, as well as forgiveness, betrayal, wanderlust, and of course, love. The many eccentric and authentic characters cause this novel to stand out, along with the dreamy and almost magical setting of California in the summertime. Add the poems and conversations that Lennie writes and leaves all over town and the many references to such classics as Wuthering Heights, and you have a deep novel that illustrates just how wonderful and confusing and painful life can be. Though it seems as though The Sky is Everywhere should have a dramatic climax in which some surprising twist is revealed, it never happens, keeping the plot realistic and the further illustrating the slow change that Lennie has experienced since the death of her sister. The Sky is Everywhere is a quiet, moving novel full of searing grief, simmering romance, and the more subtle nuances of life and love.

Cover Comments: This cover is beautiful! It caught my eye the moment I saw it six months ago, hanging on a wall in an office--my first thought was, "Whoa!" and my second thought was, "I MUST read that!" I love the colors and how nothing is quite perfectly symmetrical. The refractions of the light are a nice little touch, and the font of the title is fantastic. This is one stand-out book!

The Sky is Everywhere will be released from Dial on March 9th, 2010!

ARC received from publisher.

Also, check out the website for the book at theskyiseverywhere.com!

And here is the trailer:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Violet has always felt the echoes of the murdered, both human and animal, around her, and for as long as she can remember they have haunted her until she found them and gave them a proper burial. Only five people know about her morbid ability: her parents, and her aunt and uncle, and her best friend, Jay. When it becomes evident that a serial killer is at large in her community, Violet is certain that she can find the killer and bring him to justice. But even with Jay and her family trying to protect her, it may not be enough to keep her from the killer.

Kimberly Derting's debut novel about a girl attempting to use her unusual gift for good while caught in the throes of danger and first love is memorable and suspenseful. Derting's writing is sharp and detailed, and the frequent chapters from the unknown killer's point of view keep the story tense. Violet is a good, strong character who really will appeal to teen readers because of her well described emotions. Her fear of the serial killer is palpable, but her determination and sense of duty and justice even more tangible, and her confused and love struck feelings for her best friend Jay make her even more relatable and likable to the average girl. Derting will keep you on edge long after the final page with this action-packed romantic drama.

Cover Comments: I like the black and blue color scheme, and this blue flower. It's a very nice combination of eeriness and beauty, and the simplicity of the cover is just great. Very nice!

The Body Finder will be released on March 16th, 2010.

ARC received from publisher.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rosalind Wiseman Video

If you enjoyed Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman (author of the book that the movie Mean Girls is based off of), then check out her author video:

I have a copy of this sitting on my shelf that I MUST get to, but haven't had time to do so yet.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere Trailer

Check out this short trailer for The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which will come out next month. I finished this book a little while ago, and it is beautiful, so put it on your wishlists!

Also, stay posted for a review sometime this week!

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Sarah liked Ryan first, but that doesn't matter because he is now her best friend Brianna's boyfriend. And even though Sarah is well aware of the unwritten rule of friendship--you aren't supposed to like your best friend's boyfriend—it still hurts to see Ryan with Brianna. But then one night, at a party, things change for the three of them, and even as Sarah desperately attempts to be a good friend and do the right thing, she can't stop imagining what it would be like if Ryan were dating her.

The Unwritten Rule is one of Elizabeth Scott's most simple yet achingly realistic books. Though the issue at the heart of the book, liking your best friend's boyfriend, isn't exactly special or unique, Scott works her magic, making this book about so much more than messy love, but about friendship, how far loyalty extends, and familial relationships and their own set of complexities. Though for the most part The Unwritten Rule has the feel of a light, romantic book with its occasional predictability, Scott packs in plenty of emotion, and the reader can't help but feel more conflicted and empathetic with Sarah as she is drawn farther into Brianna's drama and a few things about herself and that friendship, true friendship, goes both ways. As always, Scott's magnetism will enthrall many, and her style is simple and convincing. This book is an open and excellent look at the drama and heartache involved in love and friendship.

Cover Comments: I always like how cute and bright Elizabeth's covers are, and this one is no exception! I do wonder though, if feet are becoming a bit of a trend in her covers...this is the fourth book by her with feet on the cover. Otherwise, very nice, simple, clean. I like it a lot.

The Unwritten Rule will be released by Simon Pulse on March 16th, 2010.

ARC received from publisher.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White

Laurel has been passing the time since her mother's death trying to cope and heal at Avondale School, her new boarding school and her mother's alma mater. On her fourteenth birthday, she receives a letter from her mother and mysterious bouquet of flowers that seem to ignite her special, intense feelings near flowers, and slowly she discovers her ability of Flower-speaking—magically enhancing the meaning of flowers to influence the lives of people around her. Laurel is giddy to discover her ability, an art that brings her closer to her mother, but she is still unskilled, and in a school full of girls, emotions and magic can spin out of control rather quickly.

Amy Brecount White has taken an intriguing Victorian art and given it a modern, magical spin in Forget-Her-Nots. The book is brimming with history and flower knowledge and meanings, which adds to the novel's appeal and sets it apart from other novels of its sort. Though Laurel is still grieving for her mother, she is also starting a new phase in her life at high school by learning to fit in and by making friends and crushing on a guy from the next school over, and it those details that make Forget-Her-Nots more relatable to its readers, and the magical and creative use of flower meanings make the book unique and fun. There are a lot of simple, but important lessons that go along with growing up in this novel, like learning to confront your issues on your own, dealing with mean people, and learning to hold on to the good memories while moving on that readers can appreciate. Along with the lively cast of characters dialogue and mishaps and triumphs with Laurel's ability, Forget-Her-Nots is a wonderful, light read for younger teens.

Cover Comments: I like how soft and pink and pretty this cover is--very nice!

Forget-Her-Nots will be released on March 2nd, 2010!

ARC received from publisher.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Am an Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler

I Am an Emotional Creature is, quite simply, a book of diverse monologues, told by young girls all around the world. Whether these girls’ stories are familiar or foreign to you, they all are confronting the complex issue of defining oneself in a world full of contradictions, where girls are told they must be polite and pretty and perfect to fit in, yet are encouraged to be strong and independent and to dream big at the same time. Every girl's story is unique and equally jarring, from the simple confrontation of peer pressure in the average high school to tales of girls sold for sex miles and oceans away. This book is filled with girl stories: those forced to undergo unwanted plastic surgery, working in far-away factories making Barbies, pregnant girls, anorexic girls, and girls just talking. Each story is surprising and alive.

I Am an Emotional Creature is a hybrid in the style in which it is told. Though most of the monologues are straightforward prose, poems and scripts are sprinkled throughout these fictional stories, made even more realistic by the many "Girl Facts" interspersed throughout the book. Ensler captures the essence of being a girl and being human without being trite or even touching on clichés, and the result is a bold, incisive, emotional, and achingly real testament to teen girls and their power and verve. This book will not only make you think, but also quite possibly change the way you think about teen girls today.

Cover Comments: I love the bold, colorful handwriting of this cover. It really works, considering the subject matter, and it just stands out. It's wonderful.

Review copy received from publisher.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Meg is rebellious and impulsive, and she bides her time until graduation day when she can skip town by partying hard and distracting herself from her home life. But one night, she crosses a line...John After's line. John may only be a year older than Meg, but already he is a police officer, and he is determined to stay in town and do his duty and protect. When he catches Meg and her friends on a railway bridge, he comes up with an unconventional punishment that he hopes will teach her a lesson...but instead it just throws them together, leaving them nowhere to go but too far.

Jennifer Echols' book is an intense, quick read that is brimming with action, sarcasm, and passion. Meg is a confident, pushy, and mysterious character whose voice is bold and quite unforgettable. John After is a very complex and intriguing character as well, and both he and Meg have old issues that make for plenty of drama as they sort through hot and cold emotions and long-withheld fears and resentment. Though it does require a slight stretch of the imagination, Going Too Far is a gripping, rebellious, and edgy read, and readers will be proud of Meg as her tough exterior slowly falls to reveal a strong, resilient, and sarcastically witty character they can admire. Great for teens who are reluctant readers, this is a great read for those who like a bit of danger to their reads, without forgoing a meaningful message.

Cover Comments: I like how this cover conveys the tension and the passion of Meg and John's relationship, but I'm not too fond of the eyebrow stud...I'm fairly certain that wasn't in the book. Also, I think the pink is an interesting choice, but yet it goes well.

Review copy received from publisher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene

Alva Jane's life is sweet at Pineridge, the gated Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints community in which she lives. Her mother is the favorite of her father's seven wives, and that means a nice home and plenty of food for her and her siblings, even if she has to contend with her father's spiteful first wife and her sister. Alva Jane looks forward to when she will become a woman and hopefully marry her crush, Joseph John. And for a little while, it seems like that might happen—until she is caught giving him an impulsive, innocent kiss. Her family and community strike back, beating her and forcing her into a marriage with a man old enough to be her grandfather. It's only then that Alva Jane realizes the true state of her community, and just how much she stands to lose if she would go against them again.

Michele Dominguez Greene has brought to life an unbelievable but strangely compelling story that will stop you in your tracks. Every detail of Alva Jane's life is carefully and meticulously researched and explained thoroughly by her foreign culture and religion, showing us a world that is hard to imagine, but true nonetheless. Alva Jane's complete assurance that she is living her life the way God intended her to live is disconcerting at first, especially as she details what is expected of her in the future and the way her mother and the sister wives live. But it gets even more suspenseful and chilling as Alva Jane soon learns the cruel side of her community and discovers that the price for disobeying even the smallest rule is brutality, and most people are too brainwashed to ever stand up for what's right. This is a tough, intense book about the often occurring horrors of forced, underage marriages, and the courage and the resilience of the women who do stand up for themselves and attempt to escape the abuse. Keep Sweet is an important book; please read it, but not without plenty of tissues.

Cover Comments: I love this cover, and the way the girl's hair is covering her face--quite symbolic. Somehow I don't think that the font the title is in fits in with the overall tone of the novel, but it makes for a very attractive cover nonetheless. Looking at it, I would not think that the book is about what it is.

Keep Sweet will be released from Simon Pulse on March 9th, 2010.

ARC received from publisher.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Win a Copy of The Body Scoop!

An authoritative yet girlfriend-friendly health book for teen and tween girls written by CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton

AS an ob-gyn specialing in adolescent care, Dr. Jennifer Ashton understands better than anyone that being a teenage girl these days is fraught with a special kind of angst. But in her practice she talks openly and nonjudgementally to her young patients like a good friend, answering each of their questions respectfully and with candor. Now she shartes this advice in a no-holds-barred guidebook, based on her passion to cut through the embarrassment that girls often feel about their changing bodies and to arm them with the knowledge they need to make smart choices. A comprehensive guide from head to toe, The Body Scoop for Girls covers the basics of puberty and beyond, including:

•Breast development and nipple bumps

•The decision to wait to have sex, and the benefits of waiting

•Birth control

•The lowdown on STIs

•Eating Disorders

•Depression and hormone imbalances

•Grooming, from hair removal to hygiene products

•Body piercings

Writing in a funny and fresh, girl-to-girl voice, Dr. Ashton has created a totally up-to-date health book that speaks directly to young women and the unique pressures they face today. From a doctor who "gets it," The Body Scoop for Girls makes the road to womanhood an empowering one.

All you have to do to win a copy is comment below! US residents only, please! This contest will be open until March 15th, 2010!

Win Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten!

I've got a fun giveaway for you guys: Wherever Nine Lies, which I loved, is out now in paperback, and to celebrate, I'm giving away three copies! First up, about the book:

Nina was beautiful, wild, and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But, one day, Nina disappeared. Two years later, everyone has given up home that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look. Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she’s got a chance—her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn’t planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth.

Click here to go to the book's website!

About the author:

Lynn Weingarten spends a lot of time writing in coffee shops while occasionally reading strangers’ laptops over their shoulders. In the past she has been a book editor, a barista, a counter girl at a bakery in Ireland, a waitress at a bar, and a seller of tiny homemade clay animals. She lives in New York City. Wherever Nina Lies was her first novel. Please visit her online at www.lynnweingarten.com.

Author photo by Jena Cumbo.

Now, the fun part: To win, all you have to do is comment below! This contest is open to US residents only, although you international readers can enter if you have a friend in the US who can receive your prize for you! Comment by March 1st! Good luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine With Bite: Carrie Jones and Alyxandra Harvey!

 We're celebrating Valentine's Day here at The Compulsive Reader with a few dangerous and romantic books, and by interviewing two awesome YA paranormal authors, Carrie Jones (author of Need and Captivate) and Alyxandra Harvey (author of Hearts at Stake)!

TCR: What were your favorite romantic scenes between your heroine and her guy?

Carrie Jones: Oh my gosh. I am such a sucker for anything romantic, but I guess right now at 10:34 a.m. on a Thursday my favorite scene is when he feeds her a cookie in the library. He made them himself! Swoon!

Alyxandra Harvey: Right now, one of my favourite scenes is between Quinn Drake and a girl vampire hunter in Book 3.

But I do think Nicholas is awfully sweet, especially keeping a picture of Lucy on his desk. Little things matter!

TCR: Are you a fan of love triangles? Why or why not?

CJ: Well, love triangles exist all the time in real life. They are painful and horrifying and scary and …. And…. And…. There’s usually someone who gets kicked out of the love triangle and that’s so sad. I hate that. I’m really pretty soft.

However, they are great dramatic devices. They increase tension, mystery, that eagerness to know what happens, plus they make the hero’s life a little more conflicted, which is always good in a story.

AH: I don't mind a good love triangle once in a while, as long as it's not excessively drawn out and the tension is believable. And really, if Johnny Depp and Jensen Ackles want to angst over their love for me, that's okay. ;)

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing the romance in your novel(s)? The easiest?

CJ: It was soooooooooo easy. It’s my favorite part. I’m a total mush ball. The hardest part was probably having to cut out so many romantic scenes in CAPTIVATE. I really piled them on pretty thick.

AH: I enjoy writing romance but I don't enjoy sappy sticky-sweet so I want to make sure there's some snark, some mystery, and a really good kiss!

TCR: What was your most romantic date?

CJ: Hm…. The most romantic date was probably when someone sent me text messages to my cell phone as a treasure hunt. I had to drive all over town following these random clues that had to do with places where we’d met or kissed and then it ended at the Home Depot parking lot. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound romantic. Stay with me. But I had to go to the second floor of one of those pre-constructed shed things they have and find an anklet and a note that said, “I know you prefer silver, but I think you deserve gold. Consider this a promise for future things.” Right there? That was totally sigh-inducing. Hold on. I have to go sigh now.


It was corny and awesome and romantic even if it did involve Home Depot.

AH: Eloping with my husband in New York! In a horse drawn carriage to get married in Shakespeare's Garden in Central Park.

TCR: Are any of your male leads based off of boyfriends past or present?

CJ: I do this. All. The. Time. I am a total cheat.

Tom Tanner and Dylan in TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND and LOVE AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE are both based on guys I liked and/or dated in high school.

In the NEED series, Nick is totally based on a boyfriend. So is Astley actually.

AH: Definitely not!

TCR: Do you have any piece of relationship advice you'd like to share?

CJ: It’s all about picking the right person.
Try to pick someone who makes the backs of your knees get all weird-feeling-jittery when you kiss and also pick someone who makes you laugh.

Then, you know, pick someone who doesn’t want to change you. They should love you for who you are even if who you are is a goofball who writes about human-sized pixies and slurs her s’s. Oh, wait. That’s me. See?!? If someone can love me there is hope for EVERYONE.

TCR: Thanks so much, you guys!

CJ: Thank you so much for interviewing me. Xoxo - Carrie

Be sure to check out both Carrie's and Alyxandra's book! They are all available now!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Interview with Angela Morrison!

Angela Morrison is the author of Taken by Storm, and the soon to be released Sing Me to Sleep! She was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions I had about her books and writing. But first, here is my review of her beautiful new book!

Sing Me to Sleep

Beth has always been the ugly one, cursed with the worst genetics when it comes to her appearance. But, she can sing beautifully, and it is her Bliss Youth Choir and her best friend Scott that help her make it through the cruelties of high school. When her choir is chosen to travel to Switzerland to compete in the Choral Olympics, Beth gets a complete high-tech makeover, courtesy of Meadow, a fellow, rich member of her choir. Finally feeling pretty for the first time, Beth attracts the attention of Derek while abroad, and they are ecstatic to discover that they don't live too far away from each other back home. But their romance at home is much more complicated--Scott confesses his love for Beth, but Beth loves Derek, despite the fact that he is hiding something big from her...he's dying.

Sing Me to Sleep, Angela Morrison's second novel, is simply told with an immense amount of depth. Beth's story is one that really grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go. Morrison writes mainly in prose, a slight change from her first novel, Taken by Storm, but song lyrics are sprinkled liberally throughout. Her descriptions are beautiful and accurate, making you feel as if you are right with Beth in Switzerland, on stage, or at the hospital. The romance in Sing Me to Sleep was perfect as well: it captured all of the passionate, pure feelings of first love and was steamy yet chaste. Through her relationship with Derek (and to a certain extent, with Scott too), Beth really did make peace with who she is and can be, and she learned that you don't have to be perfect to love or to be loved.

The emotions run strong in this book. Both bright and sorrowful, Sing Me to Sleep will have you sighing in content and crying. Grief is a kep part of the book, and as Beth learns, in love too. She must learn to let go, and to have hope. Morrison certainly makes you smile as Beth undergoes her transformation and then cry for her and Derek and their relationship. This sweet novel is touching, poignant, and hopeful, and for fans of her previous book, Morrison certainly does not disappoint. I'm breathless with anticipation to see what she comes up with next.

Cover Comments: I think this cover is beautiful--perfect for the book! The colors are soft, and the snow and the brushing hands just so lovely. It's such an accurate indication for what the story will be like.

ARC received from publisher.

TCR: In Sing Me to Sleep, Beth belongs to a choir in Ann Arbor, and their are a lot of mentions of other choirs throughout the book. Does your knowledge of such choirs stem from personal experience?

AM: My daughter sang with the Junior Amabile Singers (see www.amabile.com) in London, Ontario, Canada. My knowledge of the competitive youth choir world comes from watching her and volunteering with the choir. It was a fantastic experience. I took notes all the time because I thought it would some day make a great setting for a novel. Voila! That day is here.

TCR: There are so many different places described in Sing Me to Sleep; have you been to them all?

AM: I have. We lived in London, Ontario for years. Then we moved to Switzerland. We got to enjoy that gorgeous country for four years then we moved to Singapore. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP from our high-rise apartment in the tropics. I tend to go back to places I'm homesick for in my writing. My debut novel, TAKEN BY STORM, is set in my hometown and high school.

I've visited all the Michigan sites mentioned, but I don't know them that well. I researched them via the internet to fill in the holes of my memory. I found great video on YouTube, used Google Earth, and even real-estate sites to choose Beth's house in "Port," Michigan.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Sing Me to Sleep? The easiest?

Hardest? The lyrics. My first attempts were a disaster. I listened to tons of songs, started dissecting them. I made myself maps of the structure (rhythm and rhyme) and filled in the blanks--like you would a sonnet.

Easiest? Beth's voice. It was just there--pure and strong, talking in my head. Michael's voice, from TAKEN BY STORM, came to me like, too. But poor, Leesie, STORM's heroine. I couldn't get her voice right until I let her tell her side of the story in poetry.

TCR: In Taken by Storm, you wrote entirely in poems and a journal format, and then Sing Me to Sleep was simple prose with song lyrics sprinkled in. Do you prefer one format over the other?

Beth's voice was so strong that I let her tell the whole story in a strict, never to be violated, first-person narrative. That way the reader gets inside of the story and never has to let go. With a single, intimate first-person narrator, the reader experiences all the pain, embarrassment, love, frustration, and devastation along with Beth. It is the ideal way to write a coming of age novel.

TAKEN BY STORM started out as a dual first-person narrative. Much more challenging to pull off. Kind of a complex choice for my first novel. It took me many different drafts, experiments with changes to those viewpoints, loads of rejections, and finally one blessed EUREKA! moment to get to the collage format that really made the story work. I enjoy the intricacies of the collage, and I like that the reader must be complicit in the story-telling experience. Younger readers really connect with it. Older readers don't quite get it.

It was a nice challenge to go back to the same format this fall when I wrote the sequel for TAKEN BY STORM--UNBROKEN CONNECTION.

TCR: Is there anything that you can tell us about your next book? (Or what format you'll be writing it in!)

Oh, I just answered that, but to clarify . . . My next novel is UNBROKEN CONNECTION. Michael and Leesie are thousands of miles apart and they don't like it. They won't leave each other alone and wouldn't leave me alone. I'm waiting to hear if Penguin will sign it or not. Ah, the perils of being a writer.

I'm also revising two unsold manuscripts. MY ONLY LOVE--a historical coming of age romance that moves from Scotland to Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania's anthracite coal mining country. And, MY ASSASSIN, a time-slip adventure novel that I've decided to turn upside down. I'm adding a Bronte-esque Victorian heroine to the mix. So it's going to be something like Jane Eyre meets the Terminator--but my assassin is no robot.

TCR: I like the sound of that! I hope to read them in the future! What is one place that you would like to visit?

AM: I've never really toured the Scottish Highlands. We've been to the Low Lands. My ancestors emigrated from Kilmarnock so that was so cool. I even dragged my whole family down a coal mine outside of Glasgow. This summer my husband and I are going to the Highlands--just the two of us (and my gel ink pen and camera).

Thanks so much, Angela!

And now I'm offering you a chance to win Sing Me to Sleep! One lucky winner will win a signed copy of Sing Me to Sleep...all you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me where you would go if you could visit any place in the world!

Also, Angela will be stopping by all day today in the comments, so if you have a question for her, bonus entries for asking her one today!

Another way to earn extra entries is by posting the book trailer on your blog, Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter pages! Post the link in the comments with your entry!

Good luck! The contest will end March 5th, 2010!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine With Bite Tour!

Carrie Jones, author of Need and Captivate, and Alyxandra Harvey, author of Hearts at Stake, will be touring together in person and virtually this month! You can click here to check out their tour schedule, and then check back on Valentine's Day for an interview with both about romance and writing!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Friday, February 12th should be just another average day for popular, beautiful Samantha Kingston. But it's far from it--her ride home after a late-night party ends in a car accident, only when Sam wakes up, it's Friday, February 12th again. Forced to re-live the last day of her life seven times, Sam struggles to understand the meaning behind these experiences and the significance in her own life and actions. Because only when she can get her last day exactly right will she ever be able to take the next step.

With keen insights and startling candidness, Lauren Oliver's debut novel is a frank, if not at times brutal look at high school social circles and the careless cruelties and bullying that occurs on a daily basis. Sam is one of the mean girls, and she shrugs off her biting words and actions as something that just happens, collateral damage of living through high school. But through every complex and carefully plotted event, Oliver peels back the layers of Sam's life and teaches us all that every little deed has a consequence, and no act goes unnoticed. Though Sam is by no means a likable character at the beginning of the novel, as her character is revealed and she learns a thing or two about the things she has done in her life and the person she has become, she morphs into a true, selfless, and caring heroine, despite her many flaws. The story line is addicting and suspenseful. and as each "day" passes and Sam begins to get things right, the question that has been looming in the back of your mind since the end of the first chapter--What will happen to Sam?--becomes more and more urgent. Oliver is skillful at wielding suspense and heartbreak, making you think hard about the value of your own life and actions.

Before I Fall is a haunting and beautiful book. It will float around at the back of your mind long after you've read it.

Cover Comments: I think this cover is beautiful and eye-catching! I like the title treatment, and the way it is written in all lowercase letters. I think the girl's eyes are one of the most striking details, and will really make this one stand out!

Before I Fall will be released on March 2nd, 2010 from HarperTeen.

ARC received from publisher.

Also, if you live in the Michigan or northern Ohio and northern Indiana area, you should definitely think about coming to Lauren Oliver's signing at the Borders in Ann Arbor, MI on March 7th! I plan on being there, along with a few other book bloggers, and it should be a blast! Details are here. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Third Hunger Games Book Revealed!

Today Scholastic has announced that the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy will be...MOCKINGJAY.

It's a far cry from The Victors, which was a rumored title floating around the Twitterverse a few weeks ago, and the cover is quite a bit different from the prequels' as well--but I'm loving the light blue!

The cover is gorgeous, the title doesn't give a hint as to what the book's story arc will be, and there isn't a synopsis to be found...are you dying with anticipation yet? One thing that is nice to know that EVERYONE will get the book at the same time. Scholastic has decided not to distribute any advanced copies.

Do you have any theories? Share in the comments below, but warn us if you're going to talk about spoilers, please!

Edited to add: Also check out the Publishers Weekly article about announcement and some pre-release buzz going around! I'm quoted in it!

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Martin's life is never dull, despite the fact that summer vacation is winding down and her brother's production of Hamlet has finally closed, which means she no longer gets to see her crush, Eric, on a daily basis. But now that she's started school, her employer Mrs. Amberson, an agent, has acquired a new client, a rising Broadway star names Chelsea Biggs, and her aloof brother is Scarlett's new lab partner, and bent on making Scarlett's life miserable. To top it all off, each one of the Martin siblings are undergoing major changes themselves--Spencer's landed a job that has unexpectedly thrust him into the spotlight, Marlene is being disconcertingly nice, and Lola is making rash decisions--quite unlike her. With all the drama surrounding the Hopewell Hotel, Scarlett can barely keep it together.

Maureen Johnson's laugh out-loud hilarious sequel doesn't disappoint with its lightening-fast action, witty repartee, and off the wall jokes that captured readers in Suite Scarlett. Readers will get to know Scarlett a bit more as she returns to school and hangs out more with friends, and attempts to deal with Spencer's crazy antics surrounding his newest job. In addition, there is plenty of action as she is once again put through the wringer by Mrs. Amberson and her crazy requests, and attempts to sort out her feelings and insecurities when it comes to Eric, while fending off the attention of another very different boy. Lola's antics add the final touch of craziness to Scarlett's life, but also force her to confront issues she had been previously ignoring, lending Scarlett Fever an appropriate amount of depth. Though it did feel like Scarlett Fever was less plot-driven than Suite Scarlett, the never-ending laughs and crazy hijinks more than make up for the less distinctive plot line. Johnson is downright hilarious, and her books will keep you entertained and hanging in suspense!

Cover Comments: I like the purple pattern in the background and the key motif these covers have--very fitting with the hotel theme. Though it's not the most stand-out cover, it's cute and original.

Review copy received from publisher.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Interview with Lisa McMann!

Lisa McMann is the author of the bestselling Wake and Fade, and the trilogy is concluded with Gone, which just came out yesterday! She was kind enough to take a few moments to answer a few of my questions.

I'm sure most of us have heard the story of how quickly the first draft of Wake was written; were Fade and Gone written as quickly?

Heh. No, sadly, they both took longer, about five or six weeks each for the rough draft. I've found my method in that I plan the story in my brain first and maybe jot down a note or two over the course of a month -- not an outline -- and then I set aside about six weeks where my focus is on writing the rough draft. It's a marathon when I'm writing, but I love the feeling of that, really digging deep, immersing myself in it for twelve or fifteen hours a day, and belting it all out almost like it's one sitting. For me, that helps eliminate problems of pacing or inconsistencies of character, because I'm very focused during that time. I recently wrote my next book, Cryer's Cross, in that same fashion -- it'll be out in winter/spring 2011. Once the rough draft is finished, I do one immediate edit, then let it sit for a few months so I can return to it fresh for a few more edits.

Since I was born and raised in Michigan, I love how Janie's books are set there. Are you planning on having any other books set in Michigan, or do you think you might try other settings as well?

I will probably do another book set in Michigan eventually. In GONE, I take Janie and Cabel on a little side trip to a real town called Fremont, over on the west side of the state. I set that chapter at a tiny log cabin resort where I used to go when I was a kid with my family. Now it's no longer a rental resort, but the cabins are still there, owned individually and privately. I had a lot of fun writing that part of the book because it really brought back memories, so I'll probably do something like that again. But it's funny you should ask this, because I have a few more books I've written that readers will see eventually, and they all take place in M states. Cryer's Cross takes place in Montana, and Dead to You (spring 2012) is mostly in Minnesota and partially in Missouri. I guess Mississippi and Maine will have to happen eventually too!

Is there anything you can tell us about some of your upcoming books?

Sure! Next up after GONE is a stand-alone paranormal thriller called Cryer's Cross, about a seventeen-year-old girl named Kendall who lives in a tiny farming town in Montana. The story starts just after a girl in the town goes missing...and then someone else disappears too. The question is, who or what is making them disappear? Those who liked the Cabel part of the WAKE trilogy hopefully will not be disappointed with a stranger named Jacián who moves into the area.

After that, The Unwanteds (fall 2011) is my very first middle grade book, a dystopian fantasy about a society where at the age of thirteen, children are divided into categories. Those who are strong and/or intelligent are rewarded, and those with creative abilities are unwanted and sent to their deaths. I'm really excited about this one -- I wrote it nearly three years ago for my then 10-year-old daughter, who was at the time a reluctant reader. When I finished it, she sat and read manuscript pages for hours one day and finished the book in two sittings, which really gave me a lot of joy, since she just didn't like to read. She still calls it one of her favorite books.

Was it hard to let go of Janie and Cabel as you finished Gone?

YES. It was so hard that I didn't do it right the first time. I had to rewrite GONE because I think I held back the first time around. I hope people like it as much as I do. It really sheds some light on Janie and goes deep into her psyche...and Janie and her ability is really what the trilogy is all about.

You've got an amazing contest going right now on your website--what inspired it?

Yes, it's awesome -- $1000 prize. This is the second contest we've done like this -- last year's was an essay contest. This year, it's a short video blog. I have always been a compassionate person, and as a teen, saving for college was a struggle for me, so I decided that I wanted to help someone else. When I shared that with Simon & Schuster last year, they generously co-sponsored last year's prize with me. This year, S&S wanted to do another contest to celebrate the release of the FADE paperback, and they are covering this prize completely -- I am so proud to be with a publisher who believes in giving back to the teen community. All the details can be found on lisamcmann.com, including details of eligibility (US res, 14-18 yrs old). All you need is some sort of video camera and a way to upload it to youtube or the video hosting site of your choice.

Are there any books that you've read recently that you would like to recommend to your readers?

Sure -- some really great ones:
Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Nailed by Patrick Jones
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King, which, incidentally, is a Cybils finalist this year
The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (and the sequel, Goth Girl Rising)
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

What are your writing essentials?

A chair, a laptop, complete silence, and a Diet Coke.

Is there anything I didn't ask that you wish I had?

Well, since you asked, I'll be touring a lot this year! And hitting some new cities: Phoenix/Tempe/Chandler, San Diego, Los Angeles area, St. Louis, Decatur GA, southern Florida, Cincinnati/Dayton, and Toronto. Later in the spring I'll visit Pittsburgh and Rochester NY. Please come out to see me if you can. Road trip it! Last year in Cincinnati, we had people from seven different states in attendance -- some drove 7-8 hours. That was the coolest thing ever! Also, if you really want to make a trip out of it, come on down to Vero Beach, Florida for my Saturday, Feb 27th signing. Why? Because that's my birthday. And I'd love to spend part of it with you. Click here for more info:  http://lisamcmann.com/html/tour.php

Thanks, Lisa! Now go get Gone! It's out now!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gone by Lisa McMann

Today is the release day for the final book in Lisa McMann's amazing trilogy. It's a bit sad to say good-bye to Janie and Cabel, but you will certainly enjoy this book!

Ever since she learned the startling and dreadful truth about her abilities to visit other people's dreams, Janie has been horribly conflicted. She's torn between her love for Cabel and the want for companionship and her guilt at being such a hardship for those around her. The way Janie sees it, she has two choices, none of them good, but maybe one will give her some peace. But just when she thinks she's chosen her path, an unexpected person shows up...causing her to rethink everything.

The third and final book in Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy is a quick, engrossing read. Though it lacks the pulse-pounding action of Fade, Gone never lacks for excitement as secrets from the past are unveiled and Janie is forced to confront issues she'd rather bury. Written in third person present tense, Gone has a very realistic air that makes it very easy to become immersed into, even as most of the drama unravels in Janie's own head as she pieces together bits of her past in order to decide what she must do about her future. Some of the scenes that might have been more emotionally intense, like when Janie and Cabel finally talk through their relationship issues, are glossed over, and the ending may seem a bit anticlimactic coming right after the intensity of Fade, but the denouement wraps up nicely, leaving readers satisfied. Gone is a thoughtful, absorbing conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.

Cover Comments: I do like the drama of all of the covers in this trilogy, and I especially like how the green is used in Gone. The single chair is a very neat, almost chilling look, and it ties in with the story nicely. This cover is very modern and appealing, and I think it'll be popular for a long time.

ARC received from Simon and Schuster.

Check back tomorrow for a special interview with Lisa!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cover Talk: The Haunted Cover!

Last summer, The Hollow by Jessica Verday came out and caused a bit of a stir. Today I discovered the cover for the sequel, which is apparently titled The Haunted. I like it better than The Hollow's cover, what do you think?

I think this has a more sophisticated look, and I just love the colors used! The Haunted will be out in August.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

For centuries, the prisoners of Incarceron, the terrible living steal prison, have lived in darkness. They barely survive, staving off starvation through violence and trickery. Finn is a prisoner, but he knows that unlike the rest of the people in Incarceron, he was born Outside. Outside, Claudia is no freer than Finn. As the daughter of the Warden, she is doomed to be a prisoner in a loveless marriage to the over-indulged prince, soon to be in the clutches of the evil queen. But when Finn and Claudia each find a crystal key that allows them to communicate, and together they work to get Finn and his friends out of Incarceron in the hopes that their actions will free them both.

Incarceron starts out with a bang and doesn't slow down. This novel's world is very queer and fascinating, especially when it comes to the descriptions of Incarceron, but it felt as if at times Fisher didn't fully explain the situation or the history that led the society to where it is now, leaving some confusion. However, the characters of the novel are very well done--Finn is persistent and resourceful, determined to gain his memory back and learn what his life was like before. Claudia is daring and quick-witted, and a bit sharp at times, but she is relentless and just as determined as Finn. The story volleys back and forth between the two, creating palpable tension that propels the reader along, farther into the depths of Incarceron. Though it is a bit obvious early on in the book the who and why of the mystery, it is the how and the mystery of Incarceron itself that readers will work through to learn.

The ending is quick and surprising, and despite the length of this book, the conclusion to the conflict will have to be found in a sequel. I can hardly wait.

Cover Comments: I like how modern and yet medieval this cover looks. Since Incarceron really is a pretty cool mix of sci-fi and fantasy, it fits well, and the key and the title treatment is very cool. I like it a lot!

Incarceron will be released tomorrow, February 9th, 2010!

ARC received from publisher.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Know It's Over by C.K. Kelly Martin

Nick's world crashes around him when Sasha Jasinski, his ex and the girl he still loves, tells him she's pregnant on Christmas Eve, forcing him to re-live their unexpected summer relationship and bitter break-up all over again. Now both Sasha and Nick have to figure out what they are going to do...together, even though Sasha keeps making it clear that their relationship is over.

I Know It's Over is one of those books that stands out for being so simple and direct. The drama surrounding a teenage pregnancy is not often told from the point of view of a teen boy, and the change of perspective is refreshing and fascinating. Martin is extremely straightforward in her representation of Nick and Sasha's relationship as they begin to have sex, and she deals with the emotions and the issues that come with such a decision head on instead of trying to gloss over them or sweep them under the rug entirely. The novel is narrated by Nick, but there isn't one moment when his voice seems off or the reader isn't able to identify with him, and Sasha is just as vivid of a character.

Though Sasha's pregnancy is the central focus of the story, Martin balances out that drama with other issues Nick is confronting, like his parent's separation and his evolving friendship with one of his best friends, who is in the process of coming out of the closet. All of these things play off of each other, showing readers a candid picture of Nick's frustration and struggle to simply get through life as a teenager, and highlight his struggles anew as he tries to do the right thing with Sasha when he doesn’t have a clue as to what that would be. This powerful, tough, and important book about growing up, loving, and letting go will ask the hard questions and make you think.

Cover Comments: I like how both the hardcover (above) and the paperback (left) covers have the same font to give them a bit of continuity to them. Overall, I think I prefer the hardcover to the paperback because I like the greens in it, and I think the girl wlaking away from the guy on the bed gives you a glimpse of the more serious issues in this book. The paperback cover is nice, the clasped hands give you the impression that it will be more of a light hearted read than it really is. Nonetheless, both are nice covers, but I think they both are seriously lacking in guy appeal--which is sad considering the book is narrated by a guy and teen guys could really get into it.

Review copy purchased.

Click here to read my interview with C.K. Kelly Martin.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

Ludelphia Bennett’s life is full of chores and quilting and love with her family in Gee's Bend, Alabama, but then her mama falls ill. There isn't anyone who can help her, but Ludelphia isn't about to sit around and not do anything for her mama, so she sets out to leave Gee's Bend for the first time in her life to find a doctor to help her. As she gets farther and farther away from home, chronicling her journey with her quilt pieces, Ludelphia will learn an important lesson about love, courage, and helping others.

Irene Latham's debut novel is truly one that anyone of any age can enjoy. It's a quick, entertaining read and Ludelphia's voice is so genuine, compelling, and full of spunk, you can practically hear her words aloud. The rich historical details in Leaving Gee's Bend make the book stand out, from the fascinating stories of the residents' ancestry, the actual Red Cross drops during that time, to the beautiful and unique quilting traditions in Gee's Bend. Latham does such a wonderful job at conveying the struggles and resilience of the people of Gee's Bend, making this book a great one to teach to kids and an entertaining and educational one for older readers as well. I can't wait to see what she'll write next!

Cover Comments: I adore this cover! The colors are wonderful, and I love the quilt-like border separating the title section and the cover art; it really does resemble the quilts of Gee's Bend. And the way the cover model is lifting her foot and not just standing is so fitting--she's really leaving!

ARC received from Putnam.

Click here to read about the Irene Latham book signing I attended!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Libba Bray's New Series!

Thank you, God.

Publishers Weekly announced today the sale of Libba Bray's next series, entitled The Diviners. You can read the article here.

The Diviners will be another historical paranormal (yes!), only less gothic and more jazz. It's set in 1920's New York City, which is a setting definitely not familiar to YA territory and I am squirming in anticipation! I was much less a fan of Going Bovine than I was of her Gemma Doyle trilogy, so I'm happy to see that Bray is moving back toward a more familiar genre.

It'll be a four book series, and the first will come out 2012 from Little, Brown!

Let the ecstatic screaming commence!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

Beth has always been the ugly one, cursed with the worst genetics when it comes to her appearance. But, she can sing beautifully, and it is her Bliss Youth Choir and her best friend Scott that help her make it through the cruelties of high school. When her choir is chosen to travel to Switzerland to compete in the Choral Olympics, Beth gets a complete high-tech makeover, courtesy of Meadow, a fellow, rich member of her choir. Finally feeling pretty for the first time, Beth attracts the attention of Derek while abroad, and they are ecstatic to discover that they don't live too far away from each other back home. But their romance at home is much more complicated--Scott confesses his love for Beth, but Beth loves Derek, despite the fact that he is hiding something big from her...he's dying.

Sing Me to Sleep, Angela Morrison's second novel, is simply told with an immense amount of depth. Beth's story is one that really grabs a hold of you and doesn't let go. Morrison writes mainly in prose, a slight change from her first novel, Taken by Storm, but song lyrics are sprinkled liberally throughout. Her descriptions are beautiful and accurate, making you feel as if you are right with Beth in Switzerland, on stage, or at the hospital. The romance in Sing Me to Sleep was perfect as well: it captured all of the passionate, pure feelings of first love and was steamy yet chaste. Through her relationship with Derek (and to a certain extent, with Scott too), Beth really did make peace with who she is and can be, and she learned that you don't have to be perfect to love or to be loved.

The emotions run strong in this book. Both bright and sorrowful, Sing Me to Sleep will have you sighing in content and crying. Grief is a kep part of the book, and as Beth learns, in love too. She must learn to let go, and to have hope. Morrison certainly makes you smile as Beth undergoes her transformation and then cry for her and Derek and their relationship. This sweet novel is touching, poignant, and hopeful, and for fans of her previous book, Morrison certainly does not disappoint. I'm breathless with anticipation to see what she comes up with next.

Cover Comments: I think this cover is beautiful--perfect for the book! The colors are soft, and the snow and the brushing hands just so lovely. It's such an accurate indication for what the story will be like.

Sing Me to Sleep will be available from Razorbill on March 18th, 2010!

ARC received from publisher.

Also, stick around for a contest to win signed copies of both of Angela's books and for an interview with her later next week!

P.S. What do you think of the new cover for Taken by Storm? Which one do you prefer? It's so hard for me to choose. I really like the hardcover's water-stained journal look, which is very cool (and if you've read the book, you'll see how it ties in with it). However, the paperback cover is just so perfect and appropriate--I can't choose!



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Interview with C.K. Kelly Martin!

C.K. Kelly Martin is the author of I Know It's Over, One Lonely Degree, and the upcoming The Lighter Side of Life and Death. She was kind enough to take a few moments to answer some questions!

I Know It's Over is narrated by a male character, and One Lonely Degree by a female. Is one perspective harder to write than another? Do you have a preference, or is it the character that matters?

I don’t have a preference or find one perspective more difficult than another. I like to alternate. I really think of gender as a social construct (rather than something innate) that we’re all taught the rules about beginning the moment we’re born. It’s a shock to me that we’re in the twenty-first century and society is still circulating the idea that being a guy means being aggressive and otherwise unemotional and being a girl means being nurturing and naturally better behaved.

It *is* the character that matters but a reader’s expectations of a character will be different depending on which gender the character is and how all the other characters react to the main character will also be determined, at least in part, by the that character’s gender. So it’s a complicated balance for me as a writer because to a certain extent if I don’t show a reader what they expect a girl or guy to be like they might find the character unconvincing yet I think we’re all so much more complex than X and Y chromosomes which is something I want to reflect also.

I've noticed that in both of your books, your characters have parents that have already separated or are in the process of separating; why did you decide to make it an issue in your books?

It’s funny you should bring this up because in my third book the main character’s parents are divorced too (although it’s not really much of an issue there). I feel as though the main characters come to me with their issues already attached and that it’s not something I’m deciding on at all but I guess on a subconscious level, what with the marriage breakdown rate being so high in America and Canada (and possibly also because my own parents are divorced), divorce seems like a common state of affairs to me. That doesn’t mean it’s become an easy thing to deal with and I just try to reflect what a character’s reaction to this untangling of lives is – or the intertwining of lives, for that matter. In the upcoming book the main character Mason is perfectly fine with his parents being divorced but finds it almost impossible to get along with his soon to be step-sister.

Anyway, one of the difficult things about being a young person is that you don’t have a choice in what happens to your family. I think it’s scary to be an adult and be the one having to make those decisions but as a teenager you have very little control and that can also be very frustrating and scary. 

What is it that you would like your readers to glean from your books?

I would hope it would make them feel less alone if they’re in a similar situation – I’d like them to know that they can get through these things, like Nick’s dad says to him in I Know It’s Over. And if they haven’t found themselves in a similar situation I hope it would make a reader less judgmental of other people who are going through tough times. It’s not as simple as making good or bad decisions or being a good or bad person – life is shades of gray.

What are your writing essentials?

I need quiet and solitude to even be able to get started. Aside from that, If I had to I could get by with a pen, stack of lined paper, thesaurus and a nearby library for research purposes but because I have a computer I really only need that one thing (well, I still need the library – I’m addicted to my local library and usually drop by to pick up reading material at least once a week!).

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

The Lighter Side of Life and Death is mainly about sixteen year old Mason’s experiences with love and lust. When the book opens he’s having the best day of his life, having just starred in the school play, celebrated its success with all his friends and then lost his virginity to one of his best friends, a girl (Kat) he’s had a crush on for three years. He’s on a total high. But when Mason sees Kat again two days later she lets him know that she thinks sleeping together was a major mistake. In the fallout from this Mason’s other best friend Jamie becomes angry with him too and at home he has his future step-sister making life difficult. So he’s gone from feeling golden to feeling pretty crap…until he learns his newfound interest in a twenty-three year old woman just might be mutual.

If you could speak to any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Usually a writer’s books are enough for me and I don’t feel any real curiosity about the person behind them but because we currently have a Prime Minister in power up here in Canada that is exceedingly fond of doublethink and propaganda (in George Bush style) and is also proving extremely difficult to shake, I’d like a chance to talk to George Orwell and glean some information from him on how to cut through this guy’s mind games and bring him down.

Is there anything I didn't ask you wish I had?

Hmm, I’m not sure, but I saw this terrific comment on the online version of Canadian national paper The Globe and Mail a few days ago that really resonated with me so maybe I’ll take the opportunity to mention it. “Nothing in the world is easier - or lazier - than the perpetual sneer.” I won’t go into what the article is about because that comment can be applied to so many situations (both political and personal) but basically cynicism and apathy is a trap that a lot of people fall into – thinking things will never change, that there’s nothing positive they can really do for themselves or others. I think that’s something we have to guard against and although there are some bad things that happen in my books I never want to write a book that at its heart is cynical.

Thanks, C.K.!

Monday, February 1, 2010

28 Days of Winter Escapes: A Book a Day Giveaway!

If you are having the February blues, then you'll be happy to see that HarperTeen is throwing a 20 Days of Winter Escapes, and they'll be giving away a book a day! You can use this widget to check back and see what's going and keep track of the days!

And do come back on the 28th! I'll have a special Q&A with a certain author I know you'll want to see!

Interview with Jillian Cantor and a Giveaway!

Jillian Cantor is the author of The September Sisters and the soon to be released The Life of Glass! I'm happy to have her on the blog today to answer a few questions about her work and what she's coming out with next! First up, here is my review of The Life of Glass!

The last thing that Melissa's father told her was that it takes glass a million years to decompose. But while it may seem to her that glass lasts forever, Melissa's family is falling apart. Her father is taken by cancer, her sister acts like Melissa is a freak, and her mother is moving on with her life with her new cowboy boyfriend. And now, her best friend Ryan seems more interested in his new girlfriend than their friendship. Through it all, Melissa must learn to recognize inner and outer beauty and realize that sometimes, you can have both.

The Life of Glass is a very sweet, poignant coming-of-age novel that chronicles Melissa's journey as she attempts to live her life after the death of her father and learns to be comfortable in her own skin while living with her beauty queen mother and sister. As with her first novel, Jillian Cantor handles the many tangled emotions of grief and loss in a sensitive, skillful manner, making her characters come alive, and putting her audience under a spell at the same time. The Life of Glass deals with those basic, tough issues of growing up and moving on: making friends, dealing with guys, and finding your comfort zone. Cantor's second novel is sweet, sensitive, and compelling; Melissa will make you remember things about growing up you probably have forgotten.

Cover Comments: I like the blue color of this cover! It's very pretty. and the shattered glass seems quite appropriate as well. I don't see as there is anything that makes this one really stand out, but is is very nice.

The Life of Glass will be available from HarperTeen on February 9th, 2010!

ARC received from HarperTeen.

I love how you have woven in references and metaphors to glass in The Life of Glass; where did the idea to make glass an integral part of your novel stem from?

I wrote that first scene in the book, where Melissa finds the piece of glass in the wash and shows it to her father, months before I began working on the book. When I sat back down to write the rest of the book that piece of glass really stuck out and seemed so important to me – the last thing that Melissa’s father had ever touched, the last thing they’d ever talked about. And so the idea came to me to weave some of the glass imagery throughout the book, coming back to that one piece of glass from the first scene.

When I started out, though, I don’t think I intended to include as much of the metaphors and imagery as I did – I just felt compelled to hang on to that piece of glass from the first scene – as I believed Melissa would. Also, I had no idea the book would be titled The Life of Glass, until later – once the book was already written.

The Life of Glass has many poignant and sad moments, but also humorous ones as well. Was it hard to keep a balance between the two when writing this book?

Not really, no. It was actually much easier for me to mix the humor with the sadness, rather than keep more of a sad tone (like in my first book, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS). I think it’s because this is more the way I am in real life – I always try to find the humor, even in not-so-humorous situations. Plus, I had a lot of fun with Melissa’s voice and her sense of sarcasm, as I’m a pretty sarcastic person myself.

Your first two books have dealt with serious issues, like kidnapping, loss, and death, and while you write such issues so very well, do you plan on writing more light-hearted books in the future?

Good question! Well, yes and no. I would like to tackle something a little lighter, and actually I think my first book for adults (which will be out this fall) is lighter than my YA books to some degree. But I think I’ll always have those serious thought-provoking issues in my books, even if they fall more in the background than they have in my first two books.

But I will also say I’m a HUGE fan of romantic comedies, so I wouldn’t rule out trying to write something along those lines at some point.

Speaking of future books...can you share any information on any upcoming projects?

This coming fall my first book for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be released by Avon/HarperCollins. It’s the story of a woman who, after a fall from grace, begins dreaming things about her friends and family, only to learn that her dreams might actually be truth, and the truth she thought she knew might be a lie.

On the YA front, my next book, which is a love story that takes place on the US/Mexico border against the backdrop of illegal immigration, just went out on submission. Cross your fingers that it will soon find a good home!

What is it that you would like readers to glean from your books?

I would hope, overall, that readers enjoy my books, that they can become absorbed in the characters and the story. The best compliment I think I’ve received as an author is people telling me that they can’t put one of my books down!

For THE LIFE OF GLASS, in particular, I also would want teens to just think a little bit about their own ideas of beauty and to think about the fact that beauty has so many different definitions, both on the inside and the outside.

If you could have a conversation with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

That’s tough because there are so many I’d want to have a conversation with! But I’m going to say Meg Cabot. I think she’s a great writer, and I love that she’s been able to write middle grade, YA, and adult books and be successful in each genre. Plus, I read her blog and she seems like she’d be very fun to hang out with!

Thank you so much for the great interview and for inviting me to your blog today!

Thank you, Jillian!


Enter to win free copies of Jillian Cantor's books and cool prizes! One grand prize winner will receive two glass spirit stones (one for you, one for a friend) from Arizona, where THE LIFE OF GLASS is set, along with an autographed copy of each of Jillian's novels: THE LIFE OF GLASS and THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS. Two lucky runners-up will receive a signed copy of THE LIFE OF GLASS. To be eligible, send an email to contests@jilliancantor.com with the subject line "The Life of Glass Giveaway". All e-mail entries must be received by midnight (PST) on February 14, 2010. The winners will be selected at random on February 15, 2010. Be sure to include your name and e-mail address with your entry (If you're under age 13, give your parent's contact info). One entry per person. Jillian Cantor's complete blog tour schedule can be found at www.jilliancantor.com. Good luck!