Monday, May 30, 2011


Happy Memorial Day, Blogiverse!

I've again returned from an arduous journey tramping through the wilds of the Internet Jungle, collecting rare specimens to display here in my own little corner of the world.  I bring you...Link-a-Palooza!

First, in case you missed it, agent Mandy Hubbard took herself a little trip to New York and had a sit-down with dozens of editors.  What did she ask them?  The same question we'd all like to ask them:  What are you looking for?  And then she went and put it all in the Epic Post on YA/MG Trends.  Read, memorize, and go forth informed.  But remember--DON'T CHASE TRENDS.  This is just to help you know where to market your current projects.  Chasing trends will only end in heartbreak.

Next, agent Natalie Fischer (a.k.a. Princess Unicorn CEO) has some great revision suggestions with even more links to other revision posts on her blog.  Read it and weep.  Then do what she says even though you want to cry, because she's right.

The Intern continues to impress me with her thoughtful posts from the safety of anonymity.  Her Thoughts on Universals will make you think long and hard about what you're writing.  And you will be grateful.

If you don't already know Hannah Moskowitz, you obviously haven't been reading my blog very long.  But even if you're old pals with Hannah, you should read her post on creating the playlist for her latest book, Invincible Summer.  She has a particular fondness for covers in her book playlists and I found the greatest site for finding those amazing covers that just may inspire a new scene, book, or who knows what.  The Site of Awesomeness Covered in Awesome-Sauce is  Cover Me where you can find the most unusual covers you'll ever here.  Just be warned:  You may lose a lot of hours to browsing this site.

And finally, your moment of zen.  Watch it to the end.  Trust me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Awesomeness of J.A. Souders

This weekend, I got the only news I can think of that might excite me more than getting a publishing contract of my very own:

My awesome crit partner, best-friend-I-never-met, future-superstar, natural redhead, and all-around cool person Jessica Souders sold her amazing book RENEGADE to Tor Teen!!!

Seriously, I could not be more excited for her if she was chosen to be the Princess of Florida (that's a thing, right?).  And I could not be more excited that soon all you people are going to get to read her story.  This thing is going to blow your mind.

Here's the announcement from Publisher's Marketplace:

Jessica Souders's RENEGADE, about a female assassin in an underwater Utopia who realizes her memories have been altered and her mind and body aren't under her own control, to Melissa Frain at Tor, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, by Natalie Fischer at Bradford Literary Agency (World English). Translation: 
Are you in?  You're so in.

So now, your job is to go fan up.  Trust me, you're going to want in on this when this story hits the shelves.  You're going to want in on it early so you can make like a hispter and say you totally heard about it before anyone else.

Go to her website, follow her blog, follow her on Twitter, and Like the RENEGADE fanpage at Facebook.  Got it?  Great!

How was your weekend?

- Liz

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Who Should Narrate the Audio Book?

I am an audiobook nerd.  I love them, and I always have.  They remind me of the very act of roadtripping, because my family and I used to listen to them on our long drives down to Florida for Spring Break (when you're coming from Wisconsin, that's a LONG LONG drive).

Now, with the wonder that is, audiobooks fill my iPod just as much as music does.  Though, I must confess, my listening has dropped off considerably since I don't have a work commute anymore.

There are some books I actually prefer to hear rather than read.  The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, for example.  Her books are short and pure candy goodness.  So, I like to prolong the enjoyment by listening to the amazing Lorelei King read them to me.

In YA, one of my favorite audiobook experiences was HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE and its sequel ATTACK OF THE THEATER PEOPLE by Mark Acito.  The reader, Jeff Woodman (who, by the way, also reads John Green's books), not only created distinctive voices for each character, he sang all of the song references.  He sang them beautifully.  Reading the book would just not have been the same, because although I know these songs, hearing them in my head is just not the same.  If you haven't read these books, you really should consider taking a listen.  Pure joy.

So over at YA Highway today, the Road Trip Wednesday topic is Audiobooks, and who should read them.  I'd give a vital organ to have Jeff Woodman read one of my books, but if I had to pick a dream combination of reader and already-published novel, I think I'd go with Jodi Foster reading THE HUNGER GAMES.  I'd love her to use that soft West Virginia twang she hinted at in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to bring life to Katniss.  What a dream come true!

Now get over to the Highway and check out everyone else's suggestions!

- Liz


Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

To participate, just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link in the comments at YA Highway.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Summary: (from the publisher)
In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin.

Since her father’s death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she’s clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she’s standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers’ Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe who she really wants to be is a mortician.

This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn’t dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn’t know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting someone you love.

Jen Violi’s heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation—how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.

My thoughts:
The title of this book had me at hello.  The jacket flap sealed the deal.  The reading made me full of long and joy and delight.

From page one, I climbed into Donna's back pocket and was totally wrapped up in her journey though this book.  I haven't rooted so hard for a character in a long time.  I just wanted everything to be all right for her.  She makes some great decisions, some terrible ones, but they all seemed really necessary at the time.  

I loved the naked honesty of the narrative, and Donna's views of other people throughout.  She's very observant, even though she's stand-offish.  I even enjoyed the impact of Catholicism on the book, which I did not expect.  Normally, I'm not taken with religious characters.  But here, Donna's faith and relationship with religion were an integral part of her journey without defining her or constraining her.  Violi played her hand beautifully here.

The secondary characters in this book, especially Liz, were as real as Donna herself, and I really enjoyed how Violi kept them from being stereotypes.  Yes, Liz was the independent, free spirit, but she was not predictable.  Yes, her sister, Linnie, was the angsty goth type, but she turned out to be more open-minded at the end than almost anyone.
There were so many delightful things about this book, I could wax poetic for pages.  But I'd rather you just read the book and experience it for yourself.  You won't regret it. 

Recommended for:
I am officially putting this on the must-read Contemporary YA list for 2011.  If you liked Emily Horner's A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND, if you like Laurie Halse Anderson's style, if you still have a soft spot for Vada Sultenfuss from the movie My Girl--you'll like this book.

As always, let me know what you think if you read it!

- Liz

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Recommendation: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

BUMPED by Megan McCafferty

Summary: (from the publisher)

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. 

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job. 

Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. 

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. .

My thoughts:
The jacket flap does not do this book justice.  Since I read it, I've tried to describe it to a number of people.  Over and over I come back to this:  It's like a really disturbing sci-fi, maybe The Matrix, but narrated by Cher from Clueless.  I know...but trust me.

The pregnancy-dominated slang was hard to take at first, kind of hard to understand, but once I decided to just let it in and wait for answers later, I really started to enjoy it.  I couldn't believe how many slang terms McCafferty could come up with!  The language did so much for the world-building, I can't imagine the book without it.  

While the plot should have been far-fetched to the point of intolerance--I mean, identical twins separated at birth? Come on--but McCafferty made it work.  It all made sense in the weird world of Melody and Harmony.  The characters at first read more like caricatures than real people, but ultimately that felt like the point.

The whole purpose of the novel, I believe, was to hold a mirror up to the extremes of our culture and add a whopping dose of Miracle Grow and about 25 years to mature them.  Harmony represents the extreme of religious devotion, with an obsession for purity, salvation and conversion.  Melody represents the extreme of consumerism, with an obsession for status, micro-celebrity and commodity.  The duel pictures McCafferty creates are not so extreme they seem impossible, or even so very distant.

Give the world a progressive virus that causes infertility, and I could easily see this happening.  Way too easily.  And that discomfort is exactly the point.  Making pregnancy trendy?  Um, we're already halfway there.  But as another reviewer pointed out, McCafferty managed to deliver (ha ha, pardon the pun) this biting warning against such a society without being completely anti-sex.  You'd think the two would go hand-in-hand, but instead she managed to send a lot of positive messages about sexuality, and especially being in charge of your own.

Can't complain about that!  At least, I can't.

I'm not too surprised this book isn't getting the credit it deserves.  It's more satire than entertainment.  But if you are someone who reads for more than just escapism, I think you'll find something to like in here.

Recommended for:
Have you seen the movie Idiocracy?  If not, maybe check that out.  If you like it, you'll like BUMPED.  Also, the movie Heathers.  I apologize for all the movie references, but sometimes they're just easier.

Has anyone else read this yet?

- Liz

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Recommendation: Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

WRAPPED by Jennifer Bradbury

Summary (from the publisher):
Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock ancient (and not-so-ancient) history.

Maybe you think this girl is wearing a pith helmet with antique dust swirling around her.

Maybe you think she is a young Egyptologist who has arrived in Cairo on camelback.

Maybe she would like to think that too. Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.

This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.

Get wrapped up in the adventure . . . but keep your wits about you, dear Agnes.

Due out:  May 24, 2011
Click here to get a copy from Barnes & Noble.
Click here for the Kindle edition from Amazon.

My Thoughts:
I got this book from GalleyGrab, and I didn't know what to expect.  To be honest, the cover art did not give me much hope.  While it is beautiful as a piece of art, it really seemed more in line with the kind of covers I'm seeing on Middle Grade books right now.  More graphic novel than traditional fiction.  I thought the voice would be younger than it turned out to be.

Really, on all front, this book surprised me! After reading the jacket flap, I was expected paranormal. Instead, it was a delightful historical mystery and I completely enjoyed it. Agnes is an infectious main character--exactly what you want from a Victorian heroine: a little too smart for her own good, totally constrained by her society, and willing to tiptoe outside those social norms when adventure is at stake. The pace was just right, and kept me turning pages. I felt really immersed in Agnes's world, without too much explanation that would ruin the voice. 

Bradbury struck just the right balance between historical accuracy and creative license. I wanted to believe everything she told me, and her storytelling made that possible.

I won't ruin this for you all with spoilers, but if you have ever loved the Victorian era, you need to read this book. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking of Anne Perry's Pitt series, which I devoured in younger days. Agnes brought me back there, with a nice sprucing up for today's reader in the YA genre.

There had better be more where this came from, Jennifer Bradbury! More Agnes!

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes Historical Mysteries, especially Victorians.  Anyone who ever wanted to be Indiana Jones (like me!).  Anyone who liked Amy Adams's character in Sherlock Homes.

Let me know if you like it!

- Liz