Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Contest- Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash + Interview

Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash
"Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.

Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved Banash's Elite series and was excited to see new books being released from her. I never got a chance to read White Lines (her book from last year) and so jumped on the opportunity to read her latest book. The subject matter interested me because I find school shootings fascinating and tragic and there's so much to be mined from that subject. Banash picked an interesting angle to come at, telling the story from the perspective of the shooter's sister. Alys is such a wonderfully depicted character and I really felt and understood her struggle as she tried to grasp at the reality of the situation and deal with the aftermath of it all.

The vast majority of the book focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, with the actual event itself taking place within the first 30 pages or so. Banash has a beautiful, atmospheric way of writing that really brings the reader into the story and into Alys' life. The ripple effect of this event is immense and deep and while she still has a long way to go toward getting better, there is a hint of hope at the end of the book and the story ends in just the right place.

Overall, a fantastically written book that's extremely compelling and engrossing. I may have to read White Lines soon to get more of a Banash fix. I highly recommend this book- go out and get it now!

and here's an interview with Jennifer:
1) How did you get the idea for Silent Alarm?

I got the idea for Silent Alarm from reading about the 2012 school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. One article mentioned that the shooter had a younger sister and that fact stuck with me--I started obsessively wondering what it was like for her to be related to him and have no idea what he was capable of, to live in the same town. Although the girl in question didn't actually attend the same school as her brother, my wheels began to turn, imagining the possibilities. It's funny because I was slated to write a completely different book altogether, but this story took hold and wouldn't let go. I'm just thankful that I have an editor who, without missing a beat, told me to go for it, to write the story I needed to tell. The result was Silent Alarm.

2) What are you currently working on? Can you tell us anything about it?

I'm pretty superstitious when I'm working on a project, but I can tell you that the next book I'm writing is about a relationship between two high school students that begins online, and then moves into the real world with all of its problems and complications. It's also tangentially about bullying and catfishing, but I don't want to give too much away . . .

3) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't like those, what kind of snack do you like to have while writing, or as a reward for writing?

I actually (don't hate me) am not the biggest fan of jelly beans. I much prefer chocolate, and the darker the better. I eat it in vast quantities when I'm working on a book. Basically, my eating habits go right out the window and by the time I'm finishing a novel, I'm usually eating frozen M&M's straight out of the freezer and calling it dinner (I mean, it IS, right?). Writers are not always the healthiest of people!

4) What book(s) are you reading now, or are about to start?

I just finished We Were Liars, by E.Lockhart and loved it, and Afterparty by Ann Redisch. I'm also rereading Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth right now. I love to either read or reread one classic a month, and I adore Wharton's descriptions of the problems and perils of high society. I'm really excited about the memoir from Kim Gordon from the band Sonic Youth that's coming out later this month, Girl in a Band, not to mention the new biography of Stevie Nicks. I love stories of strong, creative women. I find them really inspiring, and I find that often, after I reach a certain point in a manuscript, it helps to read things that are unrelated to whatever I'm working on.

I have a signed hardcover of Silent Alarm to give away, thanks to Penguin. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post stating why you want to read this book. The contest is open to US/Canada residents only and will run until Monday, April 6 at 9pm EST when I will pick a random winner. Good luck to all!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes towards funding contests.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Discussion- AV Club vs. My Heart & Other Black Holes

So yesterday afternoon, I saw that Jasmine Warga's debut novel "My Heart and Other Black Holes" was optioned to be made into a movie. That made me very happy because even though I have yet to read it, I love any YA book being made into a movie. I read the article on Deadline, then while perusing one of my favorite sites, The AV Club, I saw they had posted about the movie option too. I read the article, laughed at it, and forgot all about it. Then, right before I went to bed last night, I saw some tweets about stuff going down on Twitter- a book was being attacked. I asked about it, and someone pointed me to look at Anne Ursu's twitter feed for links about people saying mean things about a book. I went and checked it out and, to my surprise, the article in question was the AV Club's article about Jasmine Warga's movie option.

I was dumbfounded. What was wrong with the article? I didn't remember any crazy horrible things being said about the novel, but apparently there was. I went back and re-read it, and I could potentially see where these people were coming from, but I knew how the AV Club worked in general and they are sarcastic about every topic. It's just their M.O. It's not malicious, it's not saying "serious topic itself = hilarious" but they find ways to include humor in many of their articles, no matter what the topic is. Personally, I don't see them saying that people dealing with suicidal thoughts is hilarious (or that they are only written just for novels because what would be the point in writing something that wouldn't resonate with people?), but rather this progression of YA trends (and we can all agree that there are trends, whether or not authors are specifically writing for them, which I do not think Warga was doing anyway). I also wonder if this would've ended differently if the author of the article had read the book before writing that newswire piece but still wrote it the same way. Does reading/watching/listening to something somehow make a difference in how we can talk about it?

I love being part of the YA community but this is a time when I am embarrassed to be a part of it (the same goes for the gay community when they get bent out of shape over some stupid little thing that doesn't matter in the long run instead of saving it for a more worthwhile opponent/topic). Does no one know what humor is anymore? Has everyone suddenly lost their sense of humor? I feel like this happens to me a lot- I laugh at something, then find out later there's an outcry about it and I have no idea what the problem is. Perhaps it's just because I have no filter, say offensive things all the time, and am rarely offended by jokes myself (even if they deal with an aspect of myself)? I also don't take YA too seriously - there are problems when it comes to marketing, how often books suddenly have sequels or everything bought is part of a trilogy, there are money-making trends, etc. That's where the humor in this article is coming from, and it's the same sort of things that I discuss and make fun of with my fellow book blogging friends occasionally. It doesn't mean I love YA less or anything, it just means that I know a real attack when I see one and this is not one.

But I do feel like I'm in the minority on this one (as I usually am, it seems), and I would love to discuss this further in the comments, so please leave your thoughts on it in a comment below. Comments have to be approved by me (as they are for every post, not just this one), but I will approve every single one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here by Gayle Forman
"When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question."- summary from Amazon

You can't go wrong with a Gayle Forman book and she does it again with her latest. It's a poignant look into the aftermath of suicide and how it affects various people. Forman handles this subject matter very beautifully, as she always does. Cody is an interesting main character and there's a lot going on in her life even before this whole thing happened and this event changes everything.

As you can tell by the summary, a guy factors into her healing, but I believe the romance is mainly on the backburner for most of this novel as it should be. Romance can definitely help healing but it is not the only reason Cody is able to move past this trauma and become better. Uncovering what Meg went through and seeing what her life was like at college helped her understand more and heal.

Overall, Forman is just amazing and I cannot wait to read more from her. I highly recommend this latest book from her.

FTC: Received ARC from friend (Thanks Courtney!). Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blog Tour- The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

A heartbreaking yet uplifting story of grief about a boy who has lost everything, but finds new hope drawing in the shadows of a hospital. Features a thirty-two-page graphic novel.

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family.

Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F.

Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance future.

Amazon |B&N |IndieBound | Goodreads |Powell's

I am so glad I took part in this tour because this book was simply amazing. If you want to know more, keep reading; if just my saying that it was amazing is enough for you, then stop reading this review and go get this book (and then come back and leave a comment)! I could not put this book down. First off, Hutchinson writes so beautifully and inhabits the character of Andrew so extremely well that he feels so real and so easy to sympathize with.

Not only that, but he writes such an engaging and cute romance. Andrew and Rusty's romance isn't necessarily big sweeping gestures or a love tour de force, but rather one that builds slowly through a few quiet moments together as Rusty recovers and as Andrew becomes more involved with the people in Rusty's life. Also, that ending? Have a few tissues ready because the ending was so perfect and emotional and while I am not usually a person who cries while reading a book, I did cry at this one.

The added aspect to this book is Andrew's comic book, which he discusses in the book and which we as readers also get to see snippets of throughout the book, which really adds a fantastic dimension to the story as a whole. It really gives the reader a sense of who Andrew is and how he thinks.

Overall, again, simply a fantastic book and, while I already wanted to read Hutchinson's previous books, this made me want to even more. Please go get this book, read it, and spread the word. It's such an unconventional book but deserves so much praise and is a wonderful new entry to the list of GLBT YA books.

I’m Shaun David Hutchinson, you can call me Shaun. Or Hutch. I’ll respond to anything. I’m the author of books for young adults, the first of which was The Deathday Letter, and the most recent of which are The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley (out 1/20/2015) and the anthology Violent Ends (Fall 2015).

I was born in West Palm Beach, FL, and grew up in Jupiter, FL where I’ve lived most of my life save for a couple of adventures in Atlanta and Rhode Island. I always knew I wanted to be a writer but it took me a long time to figure out I could be one. I’ve been a database developer, managed a wine company, slung coffee at Starbucks, and once spent a creepy month working in a statuary. Luckily, that was before I’d seen the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who. I studied literature in college where I fell in love with Beowulf and Chaucer and gothic literature. I also studied emergency medicine at one time and insurance at another. Currently, I work in IT and fill my remaining hours with freelance web design, database design, and editing.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd
"After killing the men who tried to steal her father's research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet's secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor's own walls.

Then she uncovers the truth about the manor's long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—which forces her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. Juliet must decide if she'll follow her father's dark footsteps or her mother's tragic ones—or make her own."- summary from Amazon

Shepherd really knows how to end a series- this final book in the Madman's Daughter trilogy goes out with a bang and she pulls no punches when it comes to the plot and the characters we've grown to love over the past two books. I could not put this book down; Shepherd's writing is just so compelling and beautiful. It was wonderful to be back with these characters again as they continue on their crazy journey, now in the Scottish moors. Elizabeth's mansion there is suitably creepy and reminiscent of Frankenstein a bit (of course). This final book is full of twists and turns and readers will be on the edge of their seats trying to turn pages as quickly as they can.

Overall, absolutely loved the ending and I highly recommend the entire trilogy if you're a fan of historical fiction (or even if you aren't, as I'm not but love these books). I can't wait to read Shepherd's next book, the first in a new trilogy which will be out in May!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profits go toward funding contests.