Monday, November 28, 2011

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed (Matched, #2)

Cassia has risked her citizen status and all the benefits- a long life, perfect health, a good job and a match with her best friend, Xander- to find Ky in the Outer Provinces. But when she finally gets there, he's just escaped into the borderlands and she can only follow the clues he's left behind.

I liked Crossed, and I think readers of Dashner's "The Maze" and Westerfeld's Uglies series will find plenty to keep them happy. However, Crossed didn't blow my socks off, and I've been trying to figure out why. The writing is good and the characters are vibrant, the setting is amazing, and everything is in place to transport the reader.

My best guess is that it's because the author flinched. There were a lot of potential conflicts that were avoided- the traders/farmers were gone when he and Cassia and their friends got there, so there was no problem with them rifling through their valuable papers and taking what they wanted. The closest the Society came to hurting them was dropping poison into the river, which killed a bunch of fish, but didn't actually hurt any people. A side character dies, but Ky and Cassia never seem to be in danger, except from dehydration. On paper, the stakes are high, but it always feels distant, even when the bullets are flying around the characters.

I loved Ky's POV. I love Cassia's determination. I liked the secret we learn about Xander, and I wonder how Cassia will feel when she finds out. Love triangles are hard to pull off without seeming cliche, but Xander and Ky are very different people and I can understand how Cassia could have feelings for either of them. I guess we'll find out who she chooses next year! I'll definitely read the conclusion!

Thanks to Around the World ARC tours for the chance to read Crossed!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

I've read a few steampunk books- The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld and Soulless by Gail Carringer- and now one for YA. Very enjoyable book, but as with other reviewers, I found some of the minor characters a bit flat. The number of POV characters didn't bother me so much, but I realized I skimmed over the ones that weren't as important to Nora and her story (there were 5 POVs). The most important parts of the book- the romance and the world building were excellent, though. Lots of fun dialogue as well.

Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1)

Nora Dearly has been in mourning for her father for the last year, and in New Victoria, that means wearing black and staying out of society. When she returns home from her finishing school after the term, she is attacked by the Greys, a zombie army that the government has been keeping out of the holo-news for years. She fights her way to the roof, where she meets another undead army, led by the not-entirely-dapper Captain Bram Griswold. She is rescued, but can't trust her rescuers, though these zombies retain their senses and their intellect, unlike the undead horde. Bram is as charming undead as he was alive, and Nora comes to trust him and to overcome her fear of his medical condition as they work together to stop the horde from destroying her home city and everyone she loves.

Okay, this was a really fun read. I will admit that the zombie thing is kind of confusing to me- isn't necrophilia gross to anyone else in this world?! But when I was reading it, I understood why Nora fell in love with Bram, and vice versa. It's juat when I stop and think about it that it's a problem.

Content-wise, there is some fighting, legs falling off, hands falling off, eyes being removed so they won't get lost during a fight, and all sorts of gross zombie body problems. There is some drinking and smoking, but in the main, the undead are very concerned about taking care of their bodies. A sweet romance, but, um, zombies can't exactly perform, so there's no chance of anything more. I don't want to read bedroom scenes anyway, but it's hard for me to believe that a young woman would settle for a romance where there wasn't some chance for a physical relationship in the future. If vampires couldn't have sex, I have no doubt that Bella would have wished Edward good luck, but goodbye. :)

Anyhow, fun read, I really liked it. I'll read the next one when it comes out. Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for the chance to preview this book. This book was released on Oct 18th. Happy Reading!

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Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, November 18, 2011

We Do Not Mourn As Those Without Hope

*written earlier this week*

It's been a strange week, full of many highs and lows. My mom was involved in a very serious car accident last Thursday when she was driving to visit me. I'd stayed up waiting for her until midnight, then felt too tired and went to bed. I was wakened to my cell phone about 1:30, and my mom told me she'd run off the road and hit a tree. She was incredibly blessed to have no serious injuries, only some deep bruises from the airbag and the seatbelt.

We talked for a few minutes, then hung up so she could call the police. Nathan and I got in a discussion, in the straight sense of the word, about what to do. I wanted to hop in the car and race to be with her, about an hour and a half away. He felt it was unsafe to be driving so late after receiving such a shocking phone call, and that there was no way he was going to compound the problem by letting me go, especially on so little sleep. I understood, but said there was no way I was going to send her to a hotel and see her in the morning. I needed to be there, asap.

We prayed together, thanking Heavenly Father for his mercy in answering our earlier prayers for my mom's safety. She'd been much on our minds and hearts, and I think that with family prayer, couple prayer and each of our individual prayers, we'd said 8 prayers for her safe travel. I wished that I'd called her at midnight before I'd gone to bed, like I'd intended to. I wished that I'd insisted that she stop at a hotel instead of just suggesting it. Still, she'd been protected and I was, and am, grateful.

There seemed to be no way that Nathan's concern for my safety and my desire to be there for my mom could both be satisfied. We said another prayer, again thanking God for her safety and asking that somehow this would work out.

I called my mom back, and she told me that a woman had stopped (after the police were already on the scene- how often does that happen?) and asked where she was going. Turns out the woman was driving right through Columbia, and offered to give her a ride. The woman said she'd felt "nudged" to pull over. She also offered to drive Mom back to Tampa on Sunday, which she did.

How crazy is that? Such a huge, tangible blessing. The woman stopped at 2 in the morning and stayed with my mom while they waited for a tow truck, arouns an hour an a half. Who does that?

I have felt this renewed sense of Heavenly Father's quiet presence in our lives, his gentle leading us through trials.

Tonight, we got a call from a close family member that their full-term baby had not had a heartbeat during their prenatal appointment today. Tomorrow morning, they will go to the hospital to deliver their little daughter, and bath her and say good bye. We are shocked and so very sad.

I am struck that the same God who heard and answered our prayers for my mom in such a bold and obvious way manner would answer this prayer in a way that we so little care to receive. It's a hard thing.

Comfort comes when I think on the great sacrifice of the Savior, and the resurrection and eternal life that all little children will receive. It is a blessing and a source of peace to know that these beloved children will be in our family for eternity, that they will not suffer or miss out on anything good about this life, though their time here be short. They will have the opportunity to grow up and make the covenant of marriage that will enable them to progress in the next life, and to enjoy the things that my heart most longs for- my husband and children, my parents, and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews. For the friends of my heart and the opportunity to enlarge the circle of those I know and love. How could God be just if these children were denied those things that make heaven heavenly? My heart tells me that He would not deny them these things, and latter-day scripture confirms it.

"The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were considered too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore if it is rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again....The only difference between the old and the young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable, wicked world. Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope." (Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, pgs. 176-177)

We do not mourn as those without hope. Much love to you all.

*Update- My sister-in-law safely delivered, and today is the graveside service.
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I'm so proud of myself for finally figuring out how to spell her name!

The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Not my first book by Ms. Steifvater, but my favorite because of the strong characters and a setting both wild and beautiful. One of my top 3 books this year, one of those rare YA books that doesn't feel trope-y.

Sean has raced - and won- the deadly horse races on the Island of Thisby for four years on the back of his sea horse, Corr. Corr is his heart, his future and his only love, but Corr has killed before, and Sean can never forget it. It's an uneasy truce, to say the least, but Sean hopes that if he wins the race this year, he will be able to buy Corr and gain independence from the horse breeder who seems to regard Sean as a possession right along with the horses.

Puck Connolly, sometimes called Kate, is desperate. Her parents are a year dead and she and her brothers struggle to hang on the their house and fill their bellies. When her older brother announces that he's abandoning them for work on the mainland, she enters the Scorpio races as the first girl to enter, on a pony named Dove, to boot. The islanders are sure she'll be dead on the wave-thrashed beach before the race even begins. For the sea horses, the Capaill Uisce, feed on flesh and will pull a rider under the waves if given the smallest opening.

Sean is a quiet young man, serious and strong-willed. I loved his gentle understanding of the horses and the way he and Puck grew to understand, then to love each other.

I loved the island, the water horses, the religious traditions from pagan to Christianity, the beautifully complex characters. Ms. Stiefvater created a story that I cared deeply about and was sorry to finish. It read like a standalone, but I'd be delighted if their were more to this story.

Content-wise, there is a lot of pub-going, some drunkenness. There are several bloody deaths and some fighting. There are a few kisses. I'd think that 13 and up could handle it.

Many thanks to Around the World ARC tours for giving me the chance to read the ARC:)

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Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Good morning everbody! Thanks to everyone who left a question for Dave Farland on Friday. I'm going to email him the questions and post his answers later this week, hopefully. I apologize on Dave's behalf, I'm sure he's simply overwhelmed with all that he's bitten off. 

So, moving on, I sign up for these books on Around the World Blog Tours, and some weeks or months later, the book magically appears in my mailbox. This time, I opened the package and was like, "Really? I picked a "Facebook" inspired book?" I chalked it up a rushed moment, a moment of great optimism where everything looked good. But, I said I'd read it, so I did. And I'm glad, because it was actually a good book. 

1996 and Josh and Emma are best friends, or they were until Josh misunderstood Emma's signals (or lack thereof) and tried to kiss her. Now they pass each other in the hall and barely manage to nod. It was a small moment, which shouldn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but it changed everything between them.

But when Emma loads AOL (100 hours free!) and a strange program called Facebook pops up, Emma calls Josh to come look. Emma of the future doesn't sound happy, but Josh is delighted to learn he's happily married to the school hottie. They have children together--which means they must have had sex at some point--how awesome is that? Emma is determined to save her future self from whatever mistakes she's headed toward, but Josh is desperate to make sure nothing at all changes, and that's when things get sticky.

It's a new twist on time machines, and I loved all the 90s references--discmans and nobody having cell phones--but it was the characters that made this book worth the read. I really enjoyed watching Josh and Emma struggle with their relationship to each other and their possible futures. I especially enjoyed how Josh felt as his future family gained and lost children because I think it would take a time machine to get most teens- esp boys- to consider that they will one day be parents.

My oldest just turned 11, and for a few weeks now he's kept coming up to me and telling me how weird it is to be old, because I've been letting him go on bike rides and to the school to play football with his friends. (I'll admit here it makes me nervous, but I know the other kids well, and Isaac isn't a good liar, and I've asked him some pretty direct questions about how everybody behaves without supervision. So far, so good.)

Anyway, the point was, I'm 33, and it's still weird. Anybody else surprised at how OLD they are? Read this book and feel really old, then!

Happy Reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Dave Farland and his new release, "Nightingale"

Today we (finally!) welcome Dave Farland to talk about his new book, Nightingale, about a teenaged alien who was abandoned to be raised by humans.

Kelly: I did a little internet research and found out that many birds, including the brown-headed cowbird, will lay eggs in other birds' nests. Did you ever, even once, consider calling the series "Brown-headed Cowbird?"

Dave: Of course that-was the first name that jumped to mind. There are over a hundred types of birds that practice brood parasitism, but when I thought of the title Nightingale, I just knew that it was special. I thought, “Bird lovers everywhere will flock to buy this book!”

Kelly: Hehe. Flock. Could you tell us a little more about Bron and the world he lives in. Who are the Aels and Draghouls?

Dave: Bron is a boy, age 16, abandoned at birth, and raised in foster care. He doesn’t want much out of life, except maybe to learn to play his guitar well and be left alone. But when he’s thrown out of his latest home, he goes to live in a small town in Southern Utah, where his new foster mother recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what her people, the Ael, call a “nightingale,” a child left to be raised by humans. The question in her mind is, is he an Ael—one of an ancient race that humans once considered to be minor gods, or is he a Draghoul, a descendent of her enemies. As Bron struggles to understand the mystery of his birth, he’s suddenly thrust into the midst of a strange and secret war that has been waged for thousands of years.

Kelly: The opening pages grabbed me because Bron doesn't even know he's an alien, which is so different from the alien invasion I've been waiting for;) Next question: You’re releasing this book in a variety of formats, from hardcover novel to audiobook, electronic book, and enhanced book. What makes an enhanced book, well, enhanced?

Dave: The enhanced novel is something like a movie. It has its own soundtrack, provided by James Guymon, president of the American Composer’s Guild, and I think that’s a real bonus, since it helps the reader capture the mood of the piece. It also has more than a hundred animations and illustrations, rather than just a single picture on the cover, which helps readers visualize the world. Last of all, if you want, you can access notes in the enhanced version, so that you can learn a bit about the genesis of ideas—which makes it sort of like having the writer in the room. Of course, most enhanced novels come as apps that you have to read on an iPad or something similar, but we have an emulator so that anyone with a computer can access it.

Kelly: That's so cool. Or is the word innovative? I think we all dream of seeing our characters come alive- I know I've done a casting call for mine, because it's fun to think about. I think it's fun for readers. Maybe one day we'll have people saying things like, "The enhanced book was way better than the movie!"

Let's talk about what's next for you. You've ranged across the fantasy genre, writing the NYT Best Selling series, "The Runelords," and for the Star Wars and Mummy series, plus some science fiction, as well. Last year your historical fiction "In the Company of Angels" won the Whitney Award for best novel, and now you're launching a series for young adults.

That's an eclectic list. Do you have some chicklit inside your soul, yearning to see light?

Dave: Alas, I don’t feel qualified to write chicklit. I have been accused of being a “rabid feminist” though. I deny being rabid. Feminist, definitely. I want women to be treated with dignity and respect. Men too. And kids. And people of all races and ages and intellectual abilities. And let’s not forget near-humans like the Ael and even the Draghouls!

Kelly: How many ideas do you have in development right now?

Dave: Seriously, I don’t keep count. Right now I’m developing a large world for a MMORPG, and that will lead to a fantasy series. I have a horror novel I’d love to do—first contact with nasty aliens. Then of course there’s the Nightigale series, and I have a YA fantasy series about a young Merlin, and a few others. But I’m focusing on getting the Runelords series finished up, and working on getting the movie made for it. Once that’s in production, I’d like to move Nightingale into production, too. I have a producer who wants to make the movie already. We just have to wait until the time is right.

Kelly: How long ago did the idea for Nightingale come to you and how did you develop it?

Dave: I’ve been thinking about doing something like Nightingale for about fifteen years. When I was teaching Stephenie Meyer at BYU, we once talked about what she’d need to do to become the bestselling YA writer of our time, and I remember wishing that one could sell a contemporary YA fantasy back in 2001, but there just wasn’t a market for it. The publishers weren’t interested. Stephenie caught the writing bug a couple of years later, and really hit just as publishers began to recognize how huge the YA fantasy market could be. It would have been nice to hit just after she did.

Kelly: How many outlines are you waiting for the time to write?

Dave: I usually don’t outline the novel until I start it. I’d say that there are a dozen novels that I would seriously like to outline right now, but I have several criteria for writing a novel. I have to be driven to write it, but I also have to feel that it’s marketable and a good investment of my time. In the Company of Angels was something of an exception. I just felt compelled to write it despite my better judgment.

Kelly: I loved In the Company of Angels, about the Martin Handcart company. I'd advise anybody to avoid reading the last half of the book in public places and to have a box of tissues handy. No smiley face. That means I just made a serious recommendation, okay?
Lots of my blog readers are writers trying to find an agent and get published, just like me. You advised me back in June to get a contract with a traditional publisher if I could and then think about self-publishing once I had some credibility and, hopefully, a fan base. Does your advice still stand, or have the changes in the market altered your opinions?

Dave: The markets are evolving rapidly. If you’re looking at trying to break into a big genre—thriller, young adult—then I think that it may be worthwhile to sell a novel in that genre and establish some credibility. But you should only do it if the publisher is going to push you big. If they aren’t going to push your work, you don’t want them. After all, you can put out your own novel without any push, and you’d probably do it with more loving care.

Now, here’s my caveat: Electronic sales are growing so rapidly that you should only consider New York for a few more months—maybe until next March. After that, I wouldn’t bother going to New York at all. Sadly, the industry is just too much chaos, with publishers demanding too much from authors, and agents doing things that are shameful.

Kelly: Yep. I'm nervous about the conflict of interest with some agents self-publishing their clients' work. I'm sure there are many well-meaning folks out there, but I'd be surprised if more than a few people don't end up with the short straw. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, Dave.

At Dave's workshop in June. I'm kneeling in black and white,
Dave is standing, near the middle in a black t-shirt with wings. I think it's wings, anyway. 

Anybody else ready to read their first enhanced book? I'm curious about the experience, and the illustrations I've seen are topnotch, along with the excellent story and writing.

And now for questions. Nightingale launches today, and Dave is doing an extensive blog tour, so he wasn't able to pinpoint when he'd stop in, but he has graciously agreed to answer some questions in the comments. So, if you get here before Dave does, leave a question and he'll answer it.

Also, if you check out the contest tab on the nightingale website above, you can learn about Dave's contest (with a $1000 prize) to write a short story set in the Nightingale world, and which will be included in the enhanced version of the novel. That could be a really nice jumpstart to someone's career, methinks. I'm brainstorming:) Happy writing!
Glutton for Punishment?