Libraries Are Awesome: LEVEL 2, CREWEL, & LANDRY PARK

Everyone pretty much already knows that libraries are awesome, right? I happen to live in a lovely county that has a lot of libraries and they are all very, very nice. I was away for a while (college… then that year in Australia) and just recently got my library card back. I’ve kind of gone crazy with it lately. I have ten books checked out now and a couple on hold… but they are all really good books and I’ve been dying to read them. If only there were more hours in the day! (Or, preferably, I didn’t have to work…)

OK, aside from the amazing selection at my library, yesterday they hosted a panel (Drama & Dystopians) which had two YA debuts. Really, it was three because the person who set it all up and was asking questions — while a librarian — is also a debut YA author herself. Her book is coming out later than the other two, though. Which is unfortunate… because it sounds really good.

The first debut author was Gennifer Albin author of CREWEL. I already saw her (and got her to sign my copy of CREWEL!) in an earlier author event. CREWEL was amazing to read and while I was listening to her talk about it last night, I kept thinking how much I wanted to re-read it. Luckily, I will be able to do so with a little different twist to it. At the end of the panel, they pulled a few names to give away early copies of LEVEL 2 and the new British release of CREWEL. While I would have loved to read LEVEL 2 for the first time, I was equally happy to get the British copy of CREWEL. It’s just so fun to see how different a British book is from an American one–all the weird spellings and formats.

I’ve heard some about LEVEL 2, it’s a debut that sold in a major deal to Simon & Schuster. How amazing is that? It’s a thriller set in the liminal place between our world and heaven, about a 17 year-old girl who spends her days reliving her memories from the security of her pod until she gets broken out by a boy from her past life. I cannot wait to read this book! The author of LEVEL 2, Lenore Appelhans was the other debut author at the event. Her experience with the querying/selling process was similar to Albin’s. They both got stellar agents fairly quickly, then sold the books within a week of sending out proposals to editors. Both of those aspects of the publishing process are highly unusual, but it’s always fun to hear about. Both Albin and Appelhans are represented by agents from Foundry Literary + Media (which sounds like a really stellar agency).

This is the British cover for CREWEL. Isn’t it beautiful?

Bethany Hagen put the panel together. She wrote LANDRY PARK which has been pitched as “Gone with the Nuclear Wind”. She, too, has an agent at Foundry Literary + Media (keeps sounding better and better, doesn’t it?) and sold LANDRY PARK in a major deal to Dial. Hagen talked some about her book and even read from a part of it. It sounds amazing.

Even though the panel was called Drama and Dystopians, I don’t think that any of these books are just dystopians. It’s just a trope within them, like how not all books that have romance are romance books. CREWEL was pitched as Mad Men meets Hunger Games (which I didn’t get when I read the book) but it’s not either of those stories. It’s so different from Hunger Games that, aside from strong female leads and a evil authoritarian government, nothing else really is the same. And those evil authoritarian governments? They couldn’t be any farther from each other and how they formed. LEVEL 2 is more speculative fiction than dystopian, from what I hear, but I haven’t read it… though I’m dying to. CREWEL is more sci-fa/drama and while I haven’t read LANDRY PARK, I wouldn’t restraint the story by labeling it as a dystopian either.

See, aren’t all that libraries offer amazing?

Recommended? If you’re looking for a funny, action packed, book then this book won’t disappoint you. Plus, there are a ton of comic book references that are fun to find.

Mike Jung spoke at my regional SCBWI conference. He was funny, energetic and a debut author with a very impressive story (and editor! Arthur Levine — the American editor of Harry Potter!) so, of course, I had to pick up the book. I loved hearing him talk about how he became an author — those are always my favorite parts. It wasn’t instant. He rewrote Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities quite a few times — like, completely sometimes. Originally it was told from Polly’s POV, now it’s in Vincent’s. Even though I generally don’t read MG, Jung won me over. If he was that funny in person, I couldn’t wait to see what his book was like. And, really, I’m not a fan of funny books, so the fact that he made me want to read one was pretty remarkable.

Synopsis from GOODREADS:

A SUPER funny, SUPER fast-paced, SUPER debut!

Can knowing the most superhero trivia in the whole school be considered a superpower?

If so, Vincent Wu is invincible.

If not (and let’s face it, it’s “not”), then Vincent and his pals Max and George don’t get any props for being the leaders (and, well, sole members) of the (unofficial) Captain Stupendous Fan Club.

But what happens when the Captain is hurt in an incident involving BOTH Professor Mayhem and his giant indestructible robot AND (mortifyingly) Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent totally has a crush on?

The entire city is in danger, Vincent’s parents and his friends aren’t safe, the art teacher has disappeared, and talking to Polly is REALLY, REALLY AWKWARD.

Being the only girl in my family, I’m very familiar with comic books. My brother particularly love them, so I had no choice but to read them, too. Well, that’s not true. I could not, but I was always boyish growing up (all boy cousins and only brothers will do that to you). I found myself highly amused with all his comic book tie ins (like the school names, Xavier, and such). Aside from that, the voice, the plot, and the funniest of it all pulled me in. I understood Vincent, Jung really nailed a MG boy. He reminded so much of my brothers at that age. And the little boys I tutor at the library.

Except, none of them know a superhero. That would have been cool. Polly’s a big player in this book–and as a girl who is generally extremely critical of female characters–it means a lot that I liked her so much. She was intense, strong, clever, and believable. I adored her. I totally wish I was as badass as she is when I was her age. Plus her story, her tie in with the plot, was brilliant. Who would have saw that coming?

This book’s an easy read. Not just because it’s MG, but the plot keeps going and never lags. It wasn’t a challenge to finish it in one day. I’m glad the ending leaves open a possibility for something more. I’d like to see where Vincent and Polly’s story could continue to. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any future books by Jung. He’s made a fan out of me.

The Next Best Thing

This is the first meme I’ve done on this blog, but it seemed like fun and I got tagged (by Larua Wardle) so I decided why not?

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea for the book come from?

It’s going to sound a little silly, but I work with cash at my day job and sometimes when I turn my back on the customer to get out the cash I can’t help but think ‘Man, it’d be so easy for them to just shot me or something right now‘. I’m generally not a paranoid person and doubt that will ever happen to me, but my mind tends to jump to rather horrific situations from the most mundane tasks. Not out of fear, probably out of the fact that I read/watch a lot of horror/deadly stories.

Anyway, that idea just came alive one day at work. I thought it’d be interesting to have a character that always had horrific thoughts invading her head, thus Tora Kuragawa was born. I wanted a new story to write for NaNo 2012 and the rest of the plot just flowed out after Tora got into my head.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Paranormal Thriller/Suspense

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is really hard for me. I never think about actors/other people when I’m thinking about my characters… So, this question took the longest for me to figure out.

Tora Kuragawa would be a young Aoi Miyazaki (like, Virgin Snow Aoi Miyazaki):

The second main character is Delaney Gunvald and I really can’t think of anyone, and after doing some searching, the only one I can think that would sort of work would be a teenager Chris Hemsworth:

Guy would be Logan Lerman, just imagine him constantly having a really bad case of bedhead and then you’d have Guy:

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence…? That’s so hard. Here’s my best go:

As a victim of an unnatural death, sixteen-year-old Tora Kurosawa is stuck in the In-Between and is forced to play the reapers’ game: conquer her death and let go of her life and they’ll let her crossover, fail to do so in seven days and she’ll be banished to the Netherworld for an eternity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by an agency. I’ve always thought of going the traditional route. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, it’s just not for me.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About seven days. I didn’t realize until I was done how fitting that is (since Tora only has seven days to save herself). It was for NaNo2012 and I had a pretty thorough chapter-by-chapter outline so I didn’t have to wonder what to do next? Now it’s time to revise, revise, revise. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would say it’s like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD / GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake in the horror quality of the book and because of the Gunvald family.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Kendare Blake, I really loved her books and it inspired me to try something horror-esque. Also ASHES by Isla J Bick, which also has a lot of horror in it and just the burning desire to keep reading until the very end of that book stayed with me. Except the ending really irked me (freaking cliffhanger…). THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers is a thriller/suspense (with zombies, which is awesome) inspired me as well. I really loved it. Summers’s voice is just so there and the pace of that book was remarkable. I loved it from start to finish. I would also say POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil. I loved her voice in that book and it was probably the first YA Paranormal Thriller that I consciously read because of the genre.

Plus, the classic Stephen King (CARRIE, IT, THE SHINNING). One of my favorite horror writers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Tora can’t control where her soul stays, if someone thinks about her hard enough she’ll be pulled to them. Her parents never bother to mourn for her, but a stranger cries for her constantly. A boy that she saw right after her death, the boy that let her die. At least, that’s what he (Delaney Gunvald) believes. The only other person who pulls her is her murderer, where she is forced to watch him torture other innocent girls.

And now I get to tag some people…

Delancey Stewart
Jessica Nichollas

NaNoWriMo 2012

As many of you might know, this month is National Novel Writing Month. This year is my first entering it and I think I’m doing pretty good. I read a lot of posts on how to prepare for it (Publishing Crawl has a good one). For the most part I followed them, even without thinking.

But, as you can see, I’ve already achieved the recommended 50,000 words. So, technically, I win, I guess. How did I manage this in just seven days?

First I didn’t write all of October. That was pretty rough. I don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire month without writing or revising one thing or another — well, at least, not for a long, long time. Instead, I spent all the time I would be writing reading instead. The story I’m working on now, Terrifying Tora is the working title, is a paranormal thriller. I guess. I’m not 100% sure on that. I want it to horror elements, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s horror in genre. So, I read a lot of horror stories. October, the month of Halloween, seemed like a great time to catch up on all the horror stories I wanted to read.

I love zombies. They’re my guilty pleasure, so I read Rot & Ruin, This Is Not A Test, Ashes, and a few other zombie/people-turning-into-zombie-esque-things stories. Reading such great books always makes me want to write… but I resisted the urge and picked up another book. I also read a few fantasy YAs (such as the amazing Daughter of Smoke & Bones).

Maybe it’s not fair to say I didn’t write at all in October. In September I got the idea for Terrifying Tora and started outlining the story. I worked on that outline throughout October so that I had a pretty thorough one. I knew how I wanted to start it, the main ideas I wanted to get to in each chapter, and how to end it. That’s a form of writing, right?

Honestly, out of everything, I think that outline helped me the most. I didn’t have to wonder “What next?” because I always knew. And once November hit I finally allowed myself to write, so I wrote… a lot to make up for the fact that I didn’t write at all. I also set the whole first weekend of November aside to write — I’m lucky my life isn’t as hectic as some. I barely looked at the word count and then when I finally did it was pretty high already.

The stories not finished yet, I still have a couple chapters to go but I’m getting there, thanks to NaNoWriMo.

Crewel: Gennifer Albin

Recommended? Yes, just yes. Anyone who enjoys YA will love this book. It’s fantastic. It’s really original, the prose is brilliant, and there are so many layers to this story it’ll keep you thinking for ages.

I read this book a while ago. A local Indie bookstore had a book signing for this debut author, Gennifer Albin. Some of you might have heard about her book, CREWEL. It’s been talked about a lot because she’s a debut but got a major offer for her trilogy. Here the concept, straight from goodreads:

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

This book was an amazing read and remarkable when you consider it’s a debut book. It is instantly interesting and the stakes are so high it’s hard to put the book down. Really, really hard. But at the same time I couldn’t keep reading it. I was so, so, so not looking forward to being done with it. So it took me a couple of days to finish it. I just… knew that once I was done I’d have to wait for the second book! And at the book signing Mrs. Albin mentioned she was still working on the second book so… ugh. It’ll be agonizing to wait…

The main character, Adelice, is stellar. She’s funny, prideful, and all around likeable. The writing is great and the romance — though subtle, which is what I like — is just so heart-tugging. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it. One surprise followed another, I barely ever could really guess what was going to happen next.

And then the way it ended…? Wow. Simply wow. I cannot wait for the second one. I really can’t. It’s going to be so painful to have to wait…

Mrs. Albin was extremely nice, too, and it was so nice to hear how well a debut author in the YA market could do. She’s the exception, but her book is amazing. It’s so original. It’s been spun as Mad Man meets the Hunger Games. Though I don’t see it like that. It’s just so different.

I predict this will be the next big thing in the YA market. If it’s not, then there’s something wrong with the world.