Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: The Girl Who Was On Fire ed. by Leah Wilson

My inner nerd was thrilled to read THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE, a book of essays by YA authors that discuss THE HUNGER GAMES series in thoughtful detail. Reading the book gave me great ammo to use against anyone who dares say that the series isn’t deep enough – that it isn’t really literature but merely throwaway entertainment.

In one of my favorite essays, “Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist: Love as a Political Act in the Hunger Games”, Author Mary Borsellino compares themes in HG to George Orwell’s 1984 and shows how love was able to conquer hate in Katniss’ case where it did not for Winston. How’s that for deep?

But the essays on topics that range from PTSD to reality vs unreality to the science behind the books are not merely intellectually engaging, they are also fun to read. Sarah Rees Brennan, Jennifer Lynn Barnes and others bring the same relatable voice and humor that they do in their fiction offerings.

I’m not going to give THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE a Zombie Chicken rating since it is secondary dystopian lit, but I will say, if you are A HUNGER GAMES fan, you need this book in your collection.

THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE will come out in April 2011.  Find out more about it at the publisher's website.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Grace by Elizabeth Scott

I asked readers pick a book for me to read and review during Dystopian February, and GRACE came out the winner!

GRACE is not necessarily a dystopian - in fact, when I spoke to the author about it last May, she confirmed that it wasn't written as a dystopian.  It's a story that could very well happen today in one of the many oppressive societies around the world. 

The basic premise is this: Grace has been raised to be a suicide bomber and to die showing despot Keran Berj that the People will never be ruled by him.  Once she is given her assignment however, she chooses to live instead and has to go on the run.  The story takes place mainly in a dilapidated train car with Grace sitting next to "her brother" Kerr, a young man also trying to escape.  During the train ride, Grace forms an uneasy bond with Kerr as they recall the horrors that brought them both to this point.

GRACE is a very dark story.  Both Grace and Kerr are killers, their minds warped by propaganda from both sides.  They've lived through sexual abuse, ostracism, starvation, cruelty. They've be programmed to live for others ideals, and they've both decided to be selfish, to live for themselves and to stay alive no matter the cost.

Scott limits her scope to these two broken souls and the barest of pertinent details.  It's an effective choice - by not diluting Grace's story, it hits harder.  Still, I did find myself wishing for a bit more (especially towards the end).  Similiar to LIVING DEAD GIRL (Scott's spare novel about a kidnap victim), GRACE is not going to appeal to the squeamish.  But those who don't shy away from the darker, deeper questions of the human condition will find much to think about and discuss here.



GRACE is available in hardcover.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Spotlight: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn



Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.


ELLA MINNOW PEA is one of the most inventive novels I've ever read. It's starts out with a crazy premise - on the island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina there is a community who reveres Nevin Nollop the writer of the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog".  When letters start falling off his statue, the island's council takes it as a sign that Nollop doesn't want them to use that letter anymore and it is banned from all speech and letters on threat of explusion from the community.

The novel is all letters Ella writes to her cousin Tassie and Ella has to be increasingly creative with the language she uses as the alphabet at her disposal decreases.  At first, it is merely annoying, but Ella is always able to find alternative ways to say what she needs to.  But towards the end, her letters look like this:

Thangs 4 telling me oph what happen to Mr. Mannheim. Yew are right. We were inteet worging together.

In any case, Dunn explores a totalitarian dystopia that seeks to limit freedom of expression with wit and wisdom.  A fun novel for anyone who loves language and is looking for a book in the genre that goes beyond the doom and gloom.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dystopian Mash-Up #2 by Guest Blogger Megan

In interviews with authors this month, I've been asking them to do a dystopian mash-up with their characters and other books (or other characters in their books).  I extended the challenge to fellow bloggers as well, and Megan from Posey Sessions has the floor today!

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My favorite novel of all time is THE GREAT GATSBY and I have pondering the ways that Gatsby would fit into a dystopian society. He is already used to a rigid class structure, so functioning in many dystopias wouldn’t be that different from his current understanding. In many futuristic societies class is the new race. It is the way we can discuss race in a way that also suggests we have transcended the constraints of race. Sometimes I see Gatsby as more of the man behind the curtain type. I think he would be much happier in Oz than he ever was in West Egg. I see him pulling the levers and having joy in the controlling of everything. Gatsby doesn’t really want control though he is very controlling about his surroundings in West Egg, though in a jovial way.




It is curious to ponder in which dystopian societies Gatsby would thrive and which he would fail. If Gatsby were in the world of DELIRIUM, he would definitely be diagnosed as being ill. But would be cured? How would his drive be able to manifest itself within his cured brain? I do not think he would fall to pieces and be incurable. I do not see him acting idiotic and throwing away his chances at life. There is something so calculated about his choices in THE GREAT GATSBY and how would that translate? I think that if Gatsby lived in the world of DELIRIUM, if he was a resident of Portland, Maine, he would conform, he would rise among the ranks. He would strive for power, seize power, and when he gained it he would only use it to match himself with the woman he loved, who he could never otherwise be with. Gatsby isn’t interested in the resistance or the freedom of the people. He is inherently selfish, and while he has the appearance of jovial conformity he motivations are rooted in his self.



But I wonder, what would happen to Gatsby once he got what he wanted? If he were to have Daisy, what then? Wouldn’t then his life become pointless? But within the world of DELIRIUM attaining his love would be the ultimate achievement because he would always know he had the power over the system.


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Interesting thoughts Megan!  What do you all think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

On her 16th birthday, Beatrice has to choose the faction she wants to be aligned with for the rest of her life. There is Abnegation (the faction she grew up in), Dauntless (the one she wants to join), Amity, Candor and Erudite. But when she takes her aptitude test, Beatrice finds out that she’s a divergent – someone with the strengths of multiple factions. And that divergents are in grave danger.


I heard so much great buzz about this one that I traded someone on Twitter a box full of German chocolate for it. Was it worth it? Oh yes! I do have to admit, though, that at first, a city divided by such seemingly arbitrary factions felt a bit too artificially constructed to me. But soon enough, I was completely sucked in by Beatrice (aka Tris), her struggle to survive life as a dauntless initiate, her search for answers about what it means to be divergent, and her complex relationship with her trainer Four.

DIVERGENT may remind you a bit of THE HUNGER GAMES or CHAOS WALKING trilogies because it is unapologetically bleak in places. It’s a high-stakes, clever, compelling novel and I can’t wait to continue Tris’ journey in book two.



DIVERGENT comes out on May 3, 2011. Find out more about at the author’s blog. Also, check out the starred review in PW!  And remember, you could WIN a copy of DIVERGENT (and other fab books and swag) by posting a review of a dystopian novel this month and linking it up here.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (19)

Kaia was really cuddly this week!  Here she is with her paws hugging Lu's neck.




And she even braved the crabby Emmy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Short Story Spotlight: Examination Day by Henry Slesar

Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.


Have you read Examination Day already?  It's very short, so if you haven't, read it now and then come back for a discussion!

What I like best about Examination Day is the ending, which comes as a total shock.  See, sure, we are all a little apprehensive about taking tests, and surprise tests are probably the least fun, but no reader expects the test to be as serious as it turns out to be.

Mr and Mrs Jordan don't even mention the test to their son Dickie until the day he turns 12.  Turns out that all kids have to take some sort of intelligence test, and though the Jordans seem nervous about it, they are not terrified or anything.

We see a little about what sets Dickie apart from his parents.  He is inquistive about the world around him and sensitive to others' feelings.  His father is annoyed when Dickie asks questions and doesn't even look at him when he drops him off at his test, let alone give him a hug or affection.

And then comes the PHONE CALL! Not only is the content shocking, the business-like, bored tone of the government official tells us that such phone calls are par for the course in this decidedly dystopian society.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dystopian Mash-Up #1 by Guest Blogger Emily

In interviews with authors this month, I've been asking them to do a dystopian mash-up with their characters and other books (or other characters in their books).  I extended the challenge to fellow bloggers as well, and Emily from the blog What Book Is That?  So, let's give her the floor!

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Emily here! I will say here at the onset that I seriously underestimated the challenge that is a dystopan mashup. I think it's because I'm a serious fan of books of any genre that feature a hero or heroine that can handle their business in any situation. What would be the fun of putting a no-nonsense person with good common sense, survival skills, and the will to succeed in a dystopian setting? They'd just carry on with business and that would be that!




No, the mashup that tickles my fancy the most works in reverse, by speculating how someone who managed to survive a dystopia would do in a different setting entirely. One of the first characters that popped into my head was Claudia from INCARCERON and SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher. Her clever navigations of the politics and drama at the court and her experiences as the daughter of the Warden of the Incarceron prison left her wily, creative, clever, and scheming to a fault. What would happen if she were dropped into another royal court, but this time stripped of her power and position and completely dependent on another person for her survival?

After all, that's pretty much what would happen if she were to suddenly find herself dropped into the world of Ixia in POISON STUDY by Maria V. Snyder. The politics and fighting between factions in Ixia would no doubt feel pretty normal and status quo for Claudia; somehow being the poison taster for the Commander seems like something that would not go down easy for her.



And let's not forget the romance! While Claudia's relationship with Finn in INCARCERON and SAPPHIQUE is heavily defined by her ability to guide him in the strange new world outside of Incarceron, what would happen if she were in another, different relationship and found herself totally dependent on that person? One dose of Butterfly's Dust in POISON STUDY is all it would take.

I think it would take some adjusting, but Claudia is nothing if not resourceful- she could make a life for herself in Ixia. Whether that life would be good for anyone else, though, is another story entirely.

Many thanks to Lenore for letting me be a part of the Dystopian February festivities!

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Thank YOU Emily!  If you have a dystopian mash-up to offer, you can either post in on your own blog and leave your link in the comments, or you can submit it to lenoreva at hotmail dot com with the subject line Dystopian Mash-up.  Just keep in mind that I can't promise to publish all entries.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Short Story Spotlight: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.


One of the most memorable dystopian short stories I've ever read is The Lottery.  If you haven't read it, head over and read it now.  Then come back for a discussion.
 
Probably the creepiest part of the whole story is the tone.  The people in the village act like the lottery is completely normal, acceptable part of village life.  Check out this sentence for example: 

The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities.




As early as the second paragraph, though, you get a sense that something's not quite right when the boys busy themselves by gathering stones.


I think it's really effective how Jackson introduces Mrs. Hutchinson, the main character. She's late.
Just as Mr. Summers finally left off talking and turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. "Clean forgot what day it was," she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly.
Doesn't bode well for her, does it?  Of course, there's also the fact that Mrs. Hutchinson is just as into it as anyone until her family is chosen.  And when she's the one in her family who gets the penciled x, it is chilling how her children react.

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.
 FREAKY!

So what do you think?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Those That Wake by Jesse Karp

After an event known as the Big Black plunges NYC into darkness for two weeks, people in the city prefer to keep their heads down and communicate via technology. Mal is a foster kid. Laura has been raised by loving parents in the suburbs. Circumstances throw them together as they face off with a nameless corporate evil that is trying to erase them from the memories of everyone they’ve ever known.


This novel got off to a very promising start. I was fascinated with the concept and the characters were well developed right off the bat. Near the end of part 1 one, though, things took a turn for the paranormal and baffling. To be honest, I am still not quite sure what actually happened! So I’ll just chalk this one up as not for me.

2 Zombie Chickens – Entertaining but not essential




THOSE THAT WAKE comes out next month on March 21, 2011. Find out more about it at goodreads.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tell me which dystopian YOU want me to read and review!

I put together a short poll here where your voice can be heard :) Tell me which book from my pile I should definitely read and review before the end of this month.

Thanks!

Book Review and Pre-order Giveaway: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

16 year old twins Melody and Harmony are meeting for the first time, and their ways of dealing with their world – a world in which a virus has made everyone over the age of 18 infertile – clash considerably. Melody has a lucrative conception contract, but Harmony thinks pregging for profit is a sin. Hilarity ensues.


I gulped down the pages of BUMPED while on a long plane ride and the story and characters so entranced me that I couldn’t bear to read anything else for days afterwards and break the spell.

McCafferty fully immersed me in her world, pulling me in immediately with a scene at a mall that showcased the conflicting personalities of her twin protagonists. Melody may be only 16, but she’s already jaded and world weary. Thanks to her more sheltered religious upbringing, Harmony is more na├»ve. When world famous Jondoe enters the picture to knock up Melody, both twins’ worldviews are challenged.

I loved the word choice, the scene construction, the cast of characters (especially Jondoe and his mysterious motivations), the themes…everything just came together into a damn near perfect reading experience.


BUMPED comes out on April 26, 2011 and since I can’t bear to part with my personalized ARC, I am offering up one copy as a pre-order from amazon (so US only this time). Just fill out this form to enter!

Also, read my interview with Megan.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Author Interview: Megan McCafferty discusses Bumped

I am so excited to welcome Megan McCafferty to Dystopian February today.  I'll be reviewing BUMPED later today (spoiler: I LOVED it!), so for now, I give you the official summary:

WHEN A VIRUS makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents must 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 search 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 convince Melody 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.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty comes a strikingly original look at friendship, love, and sisterhood—in a future that is eerily believable.


I loved the opening chapter of BUMPED so much – it at once transports you to this world where teens would try on baby bumps at their local mall for fun. I especially liked the advertising jingles and slogans – what was your process to come up with these?

The image of girls trying on “FunBumps” in the dressing room was the first that popped into my head when I came up with the concept for the novel. The slogans were just a natural extension of that scene, just thinking about how corporations would try to sell pregnancy to teenagers with sexy marketing.

Considering one of the twin main characters comes from a church background, there is a lot of religious content in the book. Was this difficult to write? How did you approach this aspect of Harmony’s character?
BUMPED explores the dangers of extreme thinking, and I wanted to make sure that I was equally critical of the behaviors and attitudes on both sides of the ideological divide. The Church in BUMPED is a fictional amalgamation of faiths, but is primarily inspired by the Amish. I researched BUMPED for a year before I began writing it, and a lot of that time was spent reading books about various religious communities. I also watched hours of Christian teens’ testimonies on YouTube, read religious blogs, had theological discussions with friends. It was so gratifying when an early reader who grew up in an evangelical household asked, “Did you read my diary?”

I grew up in an evangelical household too, and I agree about it feeling very authentic! You’ve compared BUMPED to A Handmaid’s Tale, so I am going to assume it was an influence. Would you say any other dystopian classics have left a lasting impression on you?
I love FEED by M.T. Anderson, especially the way he used satirical humor to make his point about media overload and conspicuous consumption.

Ok...Mash-up time! What character from another book would you like to see navigate the world of BUMPED and why? And what book would you love to drop one of your BUMPED characters into to see how he or she would handle it?
I’d like to see Melody and Harmony do a switcheroo with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from SWEET VALLEY HIGH. But it has to be the original 80s version of SVH, so there’s all sorts of anachronistic hijnks and shenanigans.

And I could just see Jessica and Lila competing to sell conception contracts to the highest bidder.  Awesome! Thank you so much for joining us today Megan!

Visit Megan's website.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (18)

Kaia is using Lu's hind leg as a pillow!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Spotlight: The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper

Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.


As a teen I read quite a bit of sci-fi and Sheri Tepper was one of my favorite writers.  I first discovered her writing when I picked up her novel BEAUTY at a used book store (The Green Dragon in Wichita, KS) and fell in love with it.  THE GATE TO WOMEN'S COUNTRY was probably one of the first dystopian books I ever read and though it's pretty hazy by now in my memory, I do know that I enjoyed it immensely.
 
The story is this: 300 years after a nuclear holocaust, Stavia lives in the matriarchal dictatorship called Women's Country. Here, in a desperate effort to prevent another world war, the women have segregated most men into closed military garrisons and have taken on themselves every other function of government, industry, agriculture, science and learning. Stavia's son has reached the age where he can make the decision to become a warrior and live outside the community, cut off from her, or to serve the women in a peaceful capacity.
 
Tepper is a very feminist writer and discusses such topics as the causes of human violence and eugenics. Definitely worth a read or a reread!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Spotlight: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.


I've just finished watching the movie adaption of NEVER LET ME GO.  Though not entirely faithful to the novel, it was pretty close and captured the atmosphere of dread and inevitability very well.  It's funny, but when I read the novel, about a group of special children growing up a boarding school, I got so caught up in the story that I never asked questions, I just accepted the story as presented. 

For a dystopian novel, NEVER LET ME GO is very quiet yet still very powerful.  The movie is as well, but perhaps because watching is a less active pursuit than reading, my brain started asking questions such as "Why didn't anyone, ever, try to escape?!"  It's something that nags at me now, so perhaps watching the movie wasn't the best course of action since I adored the novel so much.  It's one of my all time favorites, in fact.

I liked this quote from the movie which I don't remember from the book (but that doesn't mean it wasn't there): "We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time."

"C'mon everyone! Order the same thing!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Wired by Robin Wasserman

WIRED is the final book in the triology that started with SKINNED.  I reviewed both SKINNED and CRASHED together, and now after having read WIRED, I have to say that the series gets progressively better. 

SKINNED introduces Lia, a popular rich girl whose brain is downloaded into a new "mech" body (think cylons from Battlestar Galactica - the human looking ones) and is all "woe-is-me" for the remainder of the book.  I enjoyed CRASHED much more because we really start to get a feel for the post apocalyptic world at large and Lia becomes less anoyingly self-obsessed.  WIRED is the twist-filled pay-off I had been hoping for all along.

That's not to say it's perfect.  I didn't always understand individual character motivations enough to completely buy into them  - i.e. sometimes they seemed to do what they did purely for plot reasons.  Fortunately, the plot is engaging and original enough that I didn't mind (too much). The ending is bizarre, and yet fitting.


SKINNED is available in hardcover now.  Find out more about it and the rest of the series at the author's website.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Breaking News: Daniel and I have an agent! (And what that means for Dystopian February)

Most of you probably don't know this, but Daniel and I have been working on various humorous picture book manuscripts together and I have been working on a YA novel.

Today we signed with Super Agent Stephen Barbara of Foundry Literary + Media.  We met Stephen in Bologna in 2008 and I love his taste in books (some of the authors he represents: Lauren Oliver, Leila Sales, PJ Bracegirdle, Betsy Bird, and Jack D. Ferraiolo).  So I was floored when I got the *best e-mail ever* from Stephen this morning (I am printing it out and framing it).

This is amazing news!!

But....it also means I have a very tight deadline now and will have to concentrate on writing until Feb 28th.  The downside of that is that I'm going to have to reduce the scope of Dystopian February.  I will still be offering giveaways, reviews and interviews this month...just not as many as originally planned. 

The upside is that there is now a very real chance you may one day get to read my books!  And that is incredibly exciting.

And in case you are wondering what the YA is about - yes it has dystopian elements.  How could it not?!  More will definitely be revealed in time.

For now....YAY!  I am a writer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Nora's glossy existence is challenged when she witnesses a car bombing and subsequently meets Micah at a TFC (forgetting clinic). Together with Micah and his friend Winter, Nora puts together graphic novel issues to remind people that some things are worth remembering.

I really liked this one - the conspiracy theory plot works well even for such a short novel and the three points of view are distinct enough I always knew who was narrating. I loved the details interwoven throughout. And I think the theme (incapsulated in what the play on words the title references, ie Memento Mori = Remember you will die) of "remembering Nora" (the person who self-actualized through the events of the novel) is brill.  Though it ultimately didn't succeed in utterly taking my breath away, it is solid effort from a debut author and definitely well worth reading!


MEMENTO NORA comes out on April 1, 2011. Want to read it earlier? I have 1 copy to give away today to one lucky reader anywhere in the world! Just fill out this google form by Feb 28th, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST for your chance to win.

Read interview with the author
See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

Author Interview: Angie Smibert discusses Memento Nora

I'm so excited to welcome debut author Angie Smibert to Dystopian February! I'll be reviewing MEMENTO NORA later today, so for now, I'll give you the official summary:

Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.



And now on to the interview:

In MEMENTO NORA, the main characters Nora, Micah and Winter put together a graphic novel of memories they feel should not be forgotten. What are some moments of your own life you'd never want to forget?

It would be easy to say I'd never want to forget all the good moments--falling in love, selling my first short story, watching my first Shuttle launch--but I wouldn't want to forget some of the darker moments either. It all goes into who you are.


Winter loves the kinetic sculptures of Tinguely (I've seen some of his work at an exhibit in Germany), and designs such art herself. Was there a particular reason you gave Winter this hobby?
Lucky you! Winter uses art to deal with everything that's happened in her life. I think I picked kinetic sculpture for her--rather than say painting or pottery--because it combines her technical talents with her artistic ones. Also, she repurposes junk and obsolete electronic to make her sculptures, which is an act of rebellion in itself in a world that values consumerism even more than we do now.

Conspiracy theory is a big part of the plot. Which actual conspiracy theory do you think is most likely to be true?
That's a tough question. I'd like to say it's the one about ancient aliens visiting early civilization and teaching us to make pyramids and such. But no, I think we probably accomplished that stuff all by ourselves. Do I think there's some sort of Illuminati / New World Order-type of secret organization out there running the world? Nope, but there are a lot people and organizations working toward the same end: making money.

How has dystopian literature influenced your own writing?
As a long-time science fiction fan, I've read most of the classic dystopian fare--1984, Brave New World, Handmaid's Tale, etc. So that has no doubt influenced me writing a dystopian story.

Mash-up time! What character from another book would you like to see navigate Nora's world and why? And what book would you love to drop Nora into to see how she would handle it?
I'd drop the Doctor (the David Tennant one) into Nora's world because he'd sort it all out in less than an hour (including commercials). I would drop Nora into To Kill a Mockingbird. And maybe I'd drop Scout into MEMENTO NORA. She'd be unafraid to ask questions.

Thank you so much Angie!

Visit Angie's website.  Visit the MEMENTO NORA website.


Return of Cat Tuesday (17)

The kitties are glad to finally have us back! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Spotlight: Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Readers who answered my Dystopian August survey said one of the things they'd like me to do is to spotlight books I've read in the past but not reviewed.

Today I am going to talk about INTO THE FOREST by Jean Hegland. This is what I had to say in my amazon.com review (written Sept. 28th, 2001):

A story of what would happen if all our modern technology would no longer be available to us. Once I started, I stayed up all night to finish this one. The two sisters have a realistic relationship, and I felt rather sad at the end, as if I was saying goodbye to good friends and couldn't be sure if I would ever see them again. After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, I thought again of this book - and that the premise of the book might not be that far out of the question. Highly recommended!

It has been a long time since I read this, but I can still vividly recall the sisters Eva (who wants to be a ballet dancer) and Nell (who wants to go to Harvard) and many of the scenes.  Eva and Nell live an isolated existence in Northern California in a self-sustained house, so when society begins to crumble (due to war, terrorism, climate change, etc.), changes come about very gradually.  At first, they have to come to terms with not being able to go into town anymore.  This is hardest for Eva who has to give up her ballet classes, but as long as the electricity runs, she is determined to keep in shape for when things "return to normal".

I'd definitely be interested in rereading this one of these days.

Find out more about the novel at the author's website (some spoilers).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Once in a while, you read a book that gets under your skin so relentlessly, it stays firmly in your thoughts and refuses to be dislodged even by the hordes of books you read after it.  Wither was such a book for me. I was initially intrigued by the premise (because of some medical tinkering, all females now die at 20 and all males at 25), then sucked in by the stark first chapter (our main character, Rhine, is trapped in a van with  many other girls, waiting to be sold or shot), and slowly but surely made to care deeply about Rhine and her sister wives and empathize with them even when I didn't always agree with them.

See, Rhine ends up at a cushy mansion in Florida, married to gentle soul Linden along with the older Jenna and younger Cicely. Despite the luxury afforded her, Rhine has the powerful urge to return to the hovel she occupied with her brother in New York, constantly hounded by human traffickers and bombarded by rats. Jenna won't give her captors her heart, but she's resigned to living out the short time she has left in relative safety and comfort.  Only youngest wife Cicely fully embraces her new situation and can't understand why Rhine would ever want anything more.

There are few highly dramatic set pieces here, yet even the quietest of scenes chilled me and thrilled me. An amazing accomplishment. 5 Zombie Chickens.


WITHER comes out March 22, 2011.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book Review: Outside In by Maria V Synder

Last Dystopian February I reviewed INSIDE OUT and I loved it.  I gave it 5 zombie chickens and declared my love for Riley.  (Read review).  OUTSIDE IN is the sequel, so if you haven't read INSIDE OUT, you'd best skip this review since there are necessarily spoilers for the first book.

It took me a few chapters to sync with the characters after so much time away from them.  There's a scene early on where Trella and Riley are VERY happy to see each other, and Riley came off as kind of pervy.  It probably would not have seemed that way to me had I read the two books together, since it's a pretty natural progression of their relationship from the first book.

In any case, things are not happy and rosy despite Trella "freeing" the scrubs and finding more levels to inside to expand to.  There is a power vacuum and vital tasks are not being done.  There's also an exciting new threat (which I won't spoil) and Trella has to find the reluctant leader within her to vanquish it.  Again, it's hard to know who to trust which ratchets up the tension.  No lack of action here folks.

The conclusion makes it sound like this could very well be the end of Trella's adventures, but you never know. I'd certainly be happy for more.

I really enjoyed OUTSIDE IN, but not quite as much as the first book.  I give it 4 zombie chickens.



OUTSIDE IN comes out on March 1st.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Drought by Pam Bachorz

Ruby has lived over 200 years with her congregation, forced to gather water everyday for a sadistic overseer.  Ruby dreams of escape but she holds a secret - only her blood is what is keeping her people going.  Without her, they would all wither away.

Let's get a few things straight from the get-go: on the surface, DROUGHT is a slow building narrative (maybe too slow for some) and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions which will be frustrating for many.  However, when you dig a little deeper, you'll find much to mull on in regards to faith, duty, and the importance of love.

The main conflict here is Ruby's self-actualization vs the needs of the community as it becomes clear that the two are mutually exclusive. Ruby has been emotionally stunted by the drain of her duty to her mother and the congregation.  When a kindly guard enters the picture, he offers her a glimpse of another world - one in which she would be able to "find herself" and the idea is appealing (as is getting frisky with the guard), especially as Ruby begins to have a crisis of faith.  Her mother has been preaching that Otto will save them from their backbreaking work for over 200 years, but Ruby's patience is running out.

Belief in the saving power of Otto obviously has some religious parallels which you see in the congregations communion (they drink of "his" blood once a week) and their willingness to turn the other cheek and endure beatings in the name of their savior.  You come to find out just how twisted the whole arrangement is via the character of Ruby's mother.  She is at once a pieta figure (takes the punishments due others upon herself) and a iron-willed megalomaniac who would see her family and friends suffer needlessly for centuries just so she's not alone.

I wouldn't have minded a bit more excitement and explanation, but since there is so much to sink your teeth into here, I think it's a novel well worth reading and give it 3 zombie chickens.




I also have 1 copy to give away today to one lucky reader anywhere in the world!  Just fill out this google form by Feb 28th, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST for your chance to win.


Read interview with Pam Bachorz
See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Author Interview: Pam Bachorz discusses Drought



Today we welcome Pam Bachorz to the blog.  Pam's debut novel CANDOR was released last year (read my review) and she's back with the just released DROUGHT.  I'll be reviewing DROUGHT later today, so for now, I am going to give you the official summary of the novel:


Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from the backbreaking work of gathering Water. Escape from living as if it is still 1812, the year they were all enslaved. 
When Ruby meets Ford--an irresistible, kind, forbidden new Overseer--she longs to run away with him to the modern world, where she could live a normal teenage live. Escape with Ford would be so simple.
But if Ruby leaves, her community is condemned to certain death. She, alone, possess the secret ingredient that makes the Water so special--her blood--and it's the one thing that the Congregation cannot live without.
Drought is the haunting story of one community’s thirst for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it.


Let's get started!




DROUGHT's main character Ruby is 200 years old, yet she has matured physically so slowly that she still looks like a teen. Would you say her way of life has kept her from maturing emotionally past the age of a teen or would that also be due to her unique physiology?

Well, maturity definitely depends, in part, on physical development. So Ruby’s emotional growth has simply been as slow as her physical growth. However, her mother still treats her like a child –the entire Congregation does—and that is a big part of her still feeling “teen” too.


Both DROUGHT and CANDOR concern dystopian societies that are limited in nature. Is there something about this limited scope that appeals to you more than a widespread dystopian society?

Limiting a story to a single place helps to add to its claustrophobia and the pressing need to escape. But it’s funny you ask; the project I am working on now is a much wider world. But I do like starting with a smaller place and exploring it thoroughly. Perhaps that will change as I write more books.



Which dystopian works influenced and informed your writing?
I think everything I read influences what I write, whether it’s dystopian works, realistic fiction, or historical fiction! Probably one of the biggest influences on my writing was the science fiction of the 1980s, aimed at teens, like the novels of Lois Duncan and Mildred Ames. I have never forgotten how excited I was to find these books: something different, with slightly changed worlds, that still had “real” characters.


Ooh! I loved Lois Duncan too! Which upcoming dystopian works are you looking forward to?
I haven’t gotten to pick ACROSS THE UNIVERSE yet and I’m psyched to read it. I am also looking forward to the conclusion of the MAZE RUNNER trilogy. I’ll also be checking out BUMPED and ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE.


Great picks! Ok...Mash-up time! What character from another book would you like to see navigate the world of DROUGHT and why? And what book would you love to drop Ruby into to see how she would handle it?

I’d like to see Piper McCloud from THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY stop by. The whole flying thing could be a real handy talent in Ruby’s world… maybe they could team up and soar around Earth to find Otto. Plus I think Piper’s plain country self would get along very well with Ruby.

I’d like to give Ruby a weekend in the world of THE PRINCESS DIARIES. Poor girl deserves a break and I’m sure Mia would show her a good time!

Thank you so much for dropping by Dystopian February Pam!  

Visit Pam's website.  There you can read the first two chapters of DROUGHT, listen to a playlist and more!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Giveaway: Marked up copy of Delirium by Lauren Oliver + Tote Bag



Today I have some very special to give away.  Lauren Oliver is marking up a copy of Delirium with juicy behind the scenes tidbits just for one lucky reader of Presenting Lenore.  She's throwing in one of her limited edition Delirium tote bags too!  I am VERY envious of the winner of this one.

To enter just fill out the form here.  US and Canada only.  Deadline is Feb 28, 2011.



Visit Lauren Oliver's blog!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review: Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

I can still remember the first Choose Your Own Adventure book I ever experienced.  My 3rd grade teacher  read it to us and I was gobsmacked at how cool the concept was. For a few years there, I read every CYOA book I could get my hands on.

CAN YOU SURVIVE THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? is not a book for kids or young teens, but it bring me back to the magic of that first time in 3rd grade.  The premise is that you are a 20 something slacker at a job in NYC when a zombie virus breaks out and takes over Manhattan.  The choices you make will determine whether you survive - or not.  There is only one THE END (which I found on my second try) but there are many AN ENDs, some where you survive, most where you die in some gruesome fashion.

You might find yourself rolling with the Hell's Angels, shooting at Zombies from the observation deck of the Statue of Liberty, running through the tunnels of the NYC subway, smoking pot with a neighbor, or attending a conference where you can't determine the real zombies from the zombie fans made up just to look like zombies.  It's a fun ride written in a breezy, irreverent style.

CAN YOU SURVIVE THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? comes out February 8th.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

I'm giving it four Zombie Chickens!



See index of all dystopian lit reviews on Presenting Lenore

Dystopian Novels Out Now (Reviewed last August)

Part of the fun of my dystopian months is getting to read and review new dystopian lit months ahead of time.  I thought a little reminder post was in order...because now you can actually buy these books or borrow them from the library!


First up is a novel for which I have a burning passion - DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver.

Summary: Lena can’t wait to get the surgery, that at 18, will cure her of the disease that took her mother – the highly contagious delirium nervosa (or in layman’s terms: falling in love). Lena’s main concern is passing the exam that will determine her future status in society. But then she meets Alex and soon becomes “infected”

What I said then:  "And DAMN, if I may say so, Lena’s scenes with Alex sizzle, making the novel soar to dizzying heights of emotion." Read entire review. Read my interview with Lauren.  


It came out yesterday!  Get it!






THE UNIDENTIFIED by Rae Mariz


Summary: 15 year old Kid lives in a dystopian future where corporations run schools, using kids for market research and taking ownership of all of their creations. And if you don’t play by the Game’s rules, it’s GAME OVER for you and your future. Kid’s never really thought about the implications of all this corporate power over her life until one day she witnesses a prank by an anticorporate group called The Unidentified. As her interest in the group grows, she attracts the attention of the corporations, who want to repackage Kid and The Unidentified to fit their own agenda.


What I said then: Though the plot is minimal, the setting and world building shines with perceptive insights into the effects of social media and branding. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the Game, and following Kid’s journey from introverted wallflower with low scores to empowered, conscientious consumer.  Read entire review.






Next we have MATCHED by Ally Condie.


Summary: Cassia lives in a society that decides everything for its citizens for the greatest good of them all – even who you marry. When Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, she is thrilled. But when viewing her matching card, another face flashes on the screen – that of mysterious classmate Ky. This seeming glitch awakens an awareness of forbidden desires within Cassia, and for the first time she begins to question a society where the individual has no right to choose.


What I said then: "MATCHED is without a doubt a well constructed novel, hitting all the expected beats of a YA dystopian. And while there may be few surprises for avid readers of the genre, there are some genuine discussion-worthy developments."  Read entire review.  Read my interview with Ally.






And then there's THE WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher.


Summary: Vera lives with her family in the Republic of Illinowa – what’s left of the Midwestern US in a future where the politics of water determine whether you have enough water to thrive…or not. Vera’s family is just getting by. And then she meets Kai, a boy who seems to have a limitless supply of water. When Kai is kidnapped, Vera convinces her brother Will that they need to rescue him, and the two set off on the adventure of their lives.


What I said then: Stracher is able to weave a convincing portrait of how people would adapt to a world where water is the most precious resource around.  Read entire review.  Read my interview with Cameron.






THE BLENDING TIME by Michael Kinch.


Summary: Jaym , Reya, and D’Shay are all about to turn 17 in the year 2054, and because none of them have any of the right connections, they are at the mercy of a government that can send them anywhere for dangerous work service. When they are sent to Africa to be blenders, at first they think they’ve lucked out – at least they aren’t getting sent to the canal zone and almost certain death. But they are about to find out that Africa doesn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for blenders…


What I said then: Debut Author Kinch touches on a lot of hot topics – from the terrible conditions of refugee camps, to interracial tensions, to the naivety of global bureaucrats when it comes to local problems – which adds depth to what is essentially a survival/adventure story. Read entire review.




I'll also mention ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre which I reviewed in August when it was called RAZORLAND.  It isn't out until April 12th, but here's the new cover regardless. Read review.



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dystopian February Kick-off

So...after Dystopian February 2010 and Dystopian August 2010, I am embarking on my 3rd month here at Presenting Lenore dedicated solely to dystopian and post apocalyptic fiction.  And perhaps appropriately, I am stuck in Philadelphia due to the monster storm that is raging throughout the US.  Imagine me in a crowded hotel lobby (no wireless available in the room).

Anyway, I do hope you'll join me in celebrating dystopian lit this month.  Pull out those books in your TBR and get reading! Grab the button below for your sidebar if you plan to participate




Here's what I have on tap:


Reviews of over 20 dystopian novels, past, present and future - complete with my infamous Zombie Chicken Ratings. (Refer to my index of dystopian reviews for latest updates and past reads)


Interviews with authors of dystopian fiction.


Dystopian Mash-ups - These are fun posts where readers imagine their favorite characters dropped into other books.  Could Elizabeth Bennett survive THE HUNGER GAMES?  Would Katniss be best buds with Frankie from THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU BANKS? You tell me! I'm accepting reader contributions to this feature at lenoreva at hotmail dot com.  Just put Dystopian Mash-up in the subject line.


Previews of dystopian fiction coming out later this year and beyond.


Contests and book giveaways and more!


Speaking of contests, I've put together a fun one to start us off! 

You could win (one winner takes all):
1 signed copy of THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.  I just got this signed last weekend at SCBWI NY conference and it is very special!
1 hardcover copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis
1 arc of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
1 surprise book in the dystopian genre
1 magnet featuring the classic cover of BRAVE NEW WORLD
Assorted dystopian related swag including signed bookmarks

 All you have to do to enter to win is read and review at least one dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel during the month of February and then link to your review via Mr. Linky (if you review it on your blog) or via the comments (if you review it on a review site such as GoodReads because you don't have a blog). Challenge and contest is open worldwide, so get reading! Please only post one link per review. And make sure to mention in your review that you read it as part of Dystopian February.






Return of Cat Tuesday (16)

Kaia is a math genius!  Via osmosis of course...


Don't worry - Dystopian February kick-off is later today :)