Wrapping Up The Year: Top 10 Books for 2012

2012topbooks

Doctor Who Xmas 2012 Promo Shot

Doctor Who has really nothing to do with this post, but I was looking around for something “December 2012”-ish and the Doctor Who promo shot for its Christmas special just spoke to me. We all know the Doctor loves books (except for those written by Amelia Pound in the past maybe…).

As all of you know, it’s December. Crazy, right? The year really ran away from me. Since it’s nearing the end, everyone seems to be doing top ten book lists. While I’d love to provide one, I just couldn’t. So I’ll direct you to the good ones instead.

Goodreads has announced it’s Choice Awards YA List. No surprise Veronica Roth and John Green dominate it (as they should, love their books). The wonderful Publishers Marketplace has announced their list as well:

Fiction

  1. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  2. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (Yay for a home town girl!)
  3. This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
  4. The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
  5.  Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
  6. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  7. Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
  8. A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers
  9. The Round House, Louise Erdrich
  10. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

Kansas City Star has a list of the top 100 Books of 2012, while Newsday has it’s own top 10, and Book Page has a Top 50 of 2012. New York Times annouced it’s top MG & YA of the year as follows:

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New York Times Top Middle Grade (left) & Young Adult (right) books

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t make my own top 10 list for this year. There are just so many books that I haven’t read yet (which just adds to my already massive To Read list…).

So, what are some of your favorite reads of 2012?

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?

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?

TERRIFYING TORA

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):

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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:

https://i2.wp.com/www.aceshowbiz.com/images/wennpic/chris-hemsworth-photocall-the-avengers-01.jpg

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

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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
Jennie
Jessica Nichollas

Bravery

There are a lot of books that I don’t like. Some are widely popular, others not so much. No matter whether I like the book or not, I always admire anyone who is willing to put their work out in the world. It’s brave, especially nowadays because there are are so many different places that your work might get reviewed (good reads, amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and all those blogs out there) plus if you’re getting published the traditional route there are going to be critiques/reviews by magazine and newspaper contributors. I bring this up because I was reading Goodreads recently and there were a couple not-so-good reviews that were just plan rude, too. Yes, I feel gypped if I bought a book and invested the time to read it but am I going to go on a rant about it on a review? No. I’ll just say why I didn’t like it and move on.

Sometimes that bravery is premature, there are a fair number of e-books that could have used one or two more edits and revisions, but even then it’s brave. Even when I come across those, I’ll mention that it could have done better with another revision, but there’s no point in being rude.

I think about what it’s going to be like when my book finally sees the light of day (well, hopefully) and I get nervous. What if it flops? I’ll be doomed and never write again! What if it’s a success? Thank goodness, I can keep writing! What if it’s somewhere in between? What if everyone hates it? What if this and what if that? But at the same time, it’s a good nervousness. It energizes me to do more.

The same can’t be said for TV shows or movies. I mean, sure, it could but I wouldn’t. When it comes to writing a book it’s almost exclusively up to the writer — if it fails, it’s all on her. A literary agent and editor might have some say but in the end it’s up to the writer. With TV shows and movies, there’s usually a couple screen writers, a director, producers, actors, and at least a dozen other people that have a say in it. So if it flops, it flops for all of them, and they can usually pick themselves up and move along. It’s brave for an actor to take the stage, but unless they also wrote the play/movie then they are redeemable. Maybe their acting is decent or even stellar but the movie/play is just horribly plotted. The actor will get a pass, it happens all the time.

For a writer…? It’s a great deal harder to recover from a flop. Hence, it’s braver for a writer. Perhaps I’m a bit bias (well, probably a bit more than just a bit). But I can’t be the only one that thinks like this, right? Do you respect the bravery of publishing a book and even if you don’t like it, when you review you stay civil? I mean, really, what good comes from a rude review? A one star is a one star, regardless if tear apart the author or not.

Books, Myths, Love, & More Books

Source: My Camerae

Usually, when I read books, this is how they end up. Highlighted, marked up, and posted-notes hanging out of them all over. It’s something I picked up doing in high school for obvious reasons and it helped in college a great deal since I had to read a lot of nonfiction and gather a lot of research information. Now? I just do it out of impulse. I find it difficult not to, it’s why I like actual books over e-books.

My Nook allows me to highlight and makes notes but it’s very annoying and doesn’t like to highlight when I tell it to. That aside, do you want to hear a sweet creation myth from New Zealand? I think it was my favorite.

There was no space for anything in the world, since Father Rangi (the sky) and Mother Papa (the earth) were always together. Their children, the young gods, wanted to make room for themselves and decided to push the two apart. Tane-mahuta, the gentle god of the forests, decided to push the earth and sky apart by standing on his head to push the earth and sky apart by standing on his head and pushing up with his legs, something like the way a tree grows. His shoulders touched Papa and his feet touched Rangi and slowly he pushed them apart. Trees still separate the earth and sky in the same way.

The parts of the gods screamed and groaned as they were pushed apart. But as the space between them enlarged, light and dark were separated. Now there was room for gods, for tall trees to grow, and for humans and animals to flourish.

Rangi is still saddened to be separate from Papa, and his tears form the dew every morning and sometimes even take the form of rain.

Most creation myths, that I read about, were just… I don’t know, not equal to that. That one ends with something sweet. It actually got me to say ‘aw’, which doesn’t often happen. I really liked that. Most of the posted notes in the book are filled with ideas for my WIP. Reading always helps me get ideas, not usually directly (like taking ideas from what I’m reading) but just because it gets my brain working in the right way.

I had another good reading experience recently. I read the Hunger Games trilogy this past week, it was so good! I was surprised, I knew it was popular and people kept telling me to read it but usually I hate dystopian society things. It was such a wonderful emotional roller coaster and I did like Kantiss a great deal. So if you haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, you should. It’s wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

So to sum it up read: Parallel Myths by J.F. Bierlein, 100 Characters from Classical Mythology by Malcolm Day, and the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. All these books will help get the inspirational juices start flowing in your head.

God Creepers

I got this book a little while ago because I’ve always been interested in various mythologies. I really wanted to take this Greek Mythology class in college but it never fit into my schedule. After I’ve read about all the gods/goddess and Roman/Greek heroes in this book I have one thought: gods are creepers. They watch people all the time and just pop down to have their way with woman they want to have momentary sexual encounters with whenever they please. Zeus, the worst offender, would chase women who didn’t want to have sex with him then force himself upon them (usually leaving them with child).

Also, if gods can pop out of nowhere (or Chaos, rather) then why can’t two unrelated gods pop out of nowhere? Why do all origins stories involve incests? Greek/Roman gods only came to be through relations between sons/mothers father/daughters sisters/brothers and so on.Everyone is related to each other and having children! How disgusting, right? I’m so glad I didn’t live in the Greek/Roman times because all the gods seemed to be incapable of taking the answer “no” from women. Gods forbid a woman doesn’t want to have sex, so they just do it with them anyway (and usually leave them pregnant).

Yeah, a couple of the goddess are sort of crazy (usually with jealousy) but that’s understandable. Women can go crazy with jealousy. The rest are just bad apples, I’d say that the goddess are a fair representation of women in general (for the most part, at least). But gods are just a horrible personifications of men, though there are a few decent (very few, though). Men aren’t that bad. Just imagine, if those were the stories of the great gods, how men must have been like back then… I shudder at the thought.

The stories are interesting, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of them are strange and unsettling. I suppose that’s the point of them, to teach people moral lessons and whatnot. But what lessons is to be learned when Zeus, one of the most powerful gods of all, is free to do what he pleases with women, even when they don’t want him to?

I loved the Heracles cartoon TV show when I was a kid and Zeus seemed like such a cool dad… apparently not. Apparently Heracles was kind of an asshole, too. It’s sad how our childhood heroes can be destroyed like that.

And as for the book (100 Characters from Classical Mythology: Discover the Fascinating Stories of the Greek and Roman Deities by Malcom Day), it’s a good read if you haven’t much knowledge of Roman/Greek mythology. It gets repetitive but it’s interesting nevertheless.

Compelling Characters

Compelling characters are a must, everyone knows that from readers to writers. If your main character isn’t compelling, then who is going to want to read your book? Pretty much no one. A while back, on tumblr, I watched a debate unfold between those who were pro-Bella Swan and those who were anti-Bella Swan.

Those against her thought Mrs. Meyers shouldn’t have written a girl that centers her whole world around her boyfriend and who would date a stalker. They thought she was teaching teens about bad habits, after all, one would hope that girls wouldn’t find it attractive if a guy watched her as she slept before they even really got to know each other. In the real world, that’s some scary shit.

Those for her said that Mrs. Meyers has the right to write a girl that bases everything upon her relationship and is kind of spineless (or they liked her character). One person in particular said, “everyone has the right to write a pathetic character if they want to. Mrs. Meyer’s doesn’t have to write a story that will teach teens about proper morals.”

I’m not going to get into the Twilight debate, it’s pointless and just goes around and around. The fact is, Twilight sold like crazy which means Mrs. Meyers must have wrote a compelling character. A character that people could invest themselves in.

I believe you don’t need to write a moral righteous book — after all, if you are blatantly trying to teach teens a lesson they’ll hate it. I hate it, too. It’s also true you can write an utterly pathetic, scum-of-the-earth, character if you so desire. But if you want the book to sell, your character still needs to be compelling for some reason. I think the greatest example I can use is the British novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

I read it in high school, mostly because a guy I had a crush on lent his book to me. I had no idea what it was about and I don’t think I would have ever picked up otherwise. The main character is Rob Fleming and he is probably one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever spent an entire book with. He cheats on his girlfriend, pretty much acts like a pathetic asshole the entire book, and yet I enjoyed it. And no, it’s not just because my crush recommended it.

Hornby managed to make an otherwise unlikable character likeable. Fleming was someone almost everyone can find a connection to. Most of us have that relationship that ended when we wound rather it not have, and if that certain someone came crawling back we might even fantasize about making them suffer a bit more. We all love something that we know will fade with time (for Fleming, it was records). Those are just the first ones that come time mind. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but I still remember how I felt reading it. That’s a sign of a good book.

Any type of character, even the unlikable, can become compelling. You just have to figure out how to do it.