Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review and International Giveaway: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

In a world where death and decay permeate day-to-day life, Araby seems to have it better than most.  She has a breathing mask to keep contagion away, she lives in a fancy tower and she spends her evenings at The Debauchery Club.  But Araby is borderline suicidal after the death of her twin brother Finn and drugs  herself to oblivion. Can Araby find something worth living for?

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH presents a bleak world where the plague informs everything about people's lives - from fashion (showing non-infected skin is in) to education (only the rich can afford the masks that allow their children to attend school risk-free).  Via the dark, foreboding atmosphere and vivid descriptions of rotting bodies (yes, seriously) I really got a sense for this crumbling society.  (side note: I've seen steampunk fans criticize the world-building, but since I have no experience at all with steampunk, I found the world-building fantastic).

I got less of a sense for the characters.  In the beginning, Araby is clearly primarily motivated by grief.  She even says that she's never kissed anyone because she made a vow never to experience anything her dead twin had not (heart-wrenching x 1000). But I never really understood why she got involved with Elliot's revolution against his uncle Prince Propero (to be fair, I don't think she understood either). Both Elliot and a Debauchery Club staff member named Will are enigmatic love interests who desire Araby but   aren't above using her. Prospero, Elliot's sister April, Araby's parents and the "Prophet" Malcontent are the other major characters - all with very murky connections to each other.

Maybe the best way to describe this novel is to say that I felt it deeply while I read it, but trying to remember it afterwards and sort through the plot in my head makes my brain numb.

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH comes out April 24, 2012.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

I'd like to pass my ARC on to one of my readers, so if you'd like a chance to read this, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST.  Open internationally.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher

Author Interview and International Giveaway: Elizabeth Richards previews Black City

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Debut Author Elizabeth Richards is here today to preview BLACK CITY, due November 13, 2012 from Penguin.

Here's the summary:

A dark and tender postapocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war 
In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection, that causes Ash’s long dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

And the cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
As a species, we’re very curious creatures and there’s nothing we love more than the unknown. Dark stories frighten us, take us out of our comfort zone and exhilarate us. They allow us to explore those primal places within us that aren’t acceptable to reveal about ourselves in normal society.

Plus the boys are always super hot, so that helps. ;-p

If BLACK CITY had a theme song, what would it be and why?
It would be ‘Freedom Fighters’ by Two Steps to Hell, a band I was recently turned on to by another YA blogger. The song perfectly encapsulates the theme of the book, where Ash and Natalie rise up to fight for their freedom. Every time I hear it, I play a mini movie-trailer in my mind, and can just see the burning ruins of the city behind Ash and Natalie as they march towards the enemy, ready to take on Purian Rose’s forces.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
It would have to be Katniss Everdeen! The girl seriously kicks ass, and if you’re planning on bringing down a tyrannical government, then you want her on your side. Although saying that, Natalie might get a little jealous of her...

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

The Handmaid’s Tale
Not only is it stark and evocative, the story resonates deeply with me as a woman. The thought of losing my human right to have freedom over my own body, to choose how many children I want and who I want to have them with, is quite frightening, especially when you consider it is not a right every woman on this planet currently has. It lingers with you for months after reading it.

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is fast paced, thrilling, and full of suspense. It’s the definition of a ‘page-turner’. When I first read the series, I devoured each book in a day. You can’t help but root for Katniss and Peeta, and no matter how many times I read the book, it continues to surprise me.

The Declaration
I just love the concept of this book. It has a similar vibe to The Handmaid’s Tale, and explores a world where people can’t age, and therefore no more children are allowed to be born to prevent overpopulation. It’s very thought provoking and all too close to the bone, as the western world continues to chase the fountain of youth.

The Passenger
I love this book because, like BLACK CITY, it mixes dystopian with the supernatural. It’s a thrilling road-trip story, with a unique take on vampire-lore. But more than that, it had an underlying political message, warning the world what could happen if we continued the war on terror. It was an interesting view point, and the bleak future he paints is very vivid and all too plausible.

Nineteen Eighty-Four
This book is just perfection. It’s chilling, dark, and continues to be very poignant in today’s society, where we are continually watched and monitored, and our right to privacy and freedom of thought and expression are being threatened.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Finish book 2 of the Black City Chronicles! I think my editor would have that at the top of her list as well.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Black City stands out because of the book’s supernatural element. It explores themes of interracial relationships, politics and war, but through the eyes of a Darkling boy and a human girl. Because of the paranormal aspect of the book, it also means I’ve been able to take the story down some unexpected routes.

Thanks Elizabeth!

Curtesy of Penguin, I have one galley of BLACK CITY to give away. For your chance to win, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally.  Additionally, the winner will be entered into a random drawing to win an illustration of the novel's main characters - illustrated by Elizabeth herself.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @theredpenofdoom

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Upcoming Dystopian Sequels (2012/13)

A lot of the dystopian lit coming out these days is in the form of series books, usually trilogies, but sometimes even longer.

And it can be FUN to follow a series, but it can also be frustrating to have to wait so long between books.

Which ones I am impatiently waiting for?

First let's look at 2012 releases:

It doesn't have a final cover yet, but I like the sound of OUTPOST by Ann Aguirre, sequel to ENCLAVE (see my review).  It's due Sept 4, 2012 from Feiwel & Friends, and you can see the summary and read the first two chapters at the author's website. Add OUTPOST to Goodreads.

I really enjoyed SHIPBREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi (see my review), so it's no secret I'm excited for THE DROWNED CITIES - due from Little, Brown on May 1, 2012. Add THE DROWNED CITIES to Goodreads.

Also no final cover yet, but I'm dying to read SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick, sequel to ASHES (see my review). It's set to release Sept 11, 2012 from Egmont. Add SHADOWS to Goodreads.

THE TWELVE by Justin Cronin, sequel to THE PASSAGE (see my review) is finally coming out Dec. 18, 2012. Add THE TWELVE to Goodreads.

After the stunning 2nd book PRIZED (see my review), I can't wait to read PROMISED by Caragh O'Brien (the final book in the BIRTHMARKED trilogy - due October 2, 2012 from Roaring Brook Press. Add PROMISED to Goodreads.

STARTERS by Lissa Price (see my review) was one of the most entertaining novels I've read in a long time, so all the better that we get the sequel this year too! ENDERS is set for December 12, 2012 from Random House. Add ENDERS to Goodreads. (No cover yet)

I've preordered my copy of INSURGENT by Veronica Roth (sequel to DIVERGENT), only a little over 2 months to wait for the May 1st release. (HarperCollins)  Add INSURGENT to Goodreads.

UNWHOLLY by Neal Shusterman, the long awaited sequel to UNWIND has a release date of August 28, 2012! (Simon & Schuster) No cover yet, but you can add UNWHOLLY to Goodreads.

FEEDBACK by Robison Wells is the sequel to the incredibly twisty VARIANT (see my review). On October 1, 2012, will we find out what the heck is going on? (HarperCollins) Add FEEDBACK to Goodreads.

BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young (see my review) surprised me by how much I liked it (see my review), so I'm very interested to see where REBEL HEART takes us. Due Oct 30, 2012 from Simon & Schuster. Add REBEL HEART to Goodreads.

BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD by Gabrielle Zevin is the follow-up to ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE (see my review) and I need to get my hands on this now! Due Sept 18, 2012 from FSG. Add BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD to Goodreads. (No cover yet)

And also:

REACHED by Ally Condie, third in the MATCHED series (due Nov 2012)
PATRIOT by Marie Lu, sequel to LEGEND (due Nov 2012)
SURRENDER by Elana Johnson, sequel to POSSESSION (due June 2012)
ONCE by Anna Carey, sequel to EVE (due July 2012)

2013 releases:

THE ESSENCE by Kimberly Derting (Sequel to THE PLEDGE) - Jan 1, 2013
SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis (last in the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE trilogy) - Jan 2013 
FUSED by Julianna Baggott (Sequel to PURE) - Feb 2013
UNRAVEL ME by Tahereh Mafi (Sequel to SHATTER ME) - Feb 2013
REQUIEM by Lauren Oliver (last in the DELIRIUM trilogy) - Feb 2013
FRAGMENTS by Dan Wells (sequel to PARTIALS) - early 2013

Plus, the sequels to
INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows
UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
GLITCH by Heather Anastasiu
WITHER and FEVER by Lauren DeStefano
THE WAY WE FALL by Megan Crewe

OMG - I'm going to be spending all my time reading sequels, aren't I?  What sequels are you most looking forward to?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Author Interview: Gennifer Albin previews Crewel

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Genn Albin is here today to preview her upcoming debut CREWEL.  It's coming out Oct 2012 with FSG.

Here's the summary:

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.  
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. 
ETA the cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to “dark” stories?
I think it's human nature to consider the worst case scenario, as if imagining it will prepare you if it actually happens. Dark stories are a natural extension of that. They allow us to explore strange worlds from the safety of the page.

If CREWEL had a theme song, what would it be and why?
That's really hard, but lately I've been digging the song "Make a Move" by Icon for Hire. My husband met the band at work and pointed me in their direction. But I've always felt "Rabbit Heart" by Florence + the Machine was an excellent theme song too.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as her best friend and why?
You like to ask hard questions!

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
1. The Hunger Games - The dread that novel elicits within the first chapter is palpable. I couldn't stop reading until I was through all three books.
2. The Handmaid's Tale - I've always enjoyed this particular story because of it's unflinching look at how far humans will go to propagate the species.
3. Matched - This novel has its strengths and weaknesses, but I found Cassia's journey of discovery compelling.
4. Memoirs of a Survivor - I read Lessing's novel in college and I'm still thinking about it. It was one of the books that truly initiated by interest in women's studies.
5. Brave New World - The book is so ahead of its time. It was my first experience with dystopian fiction and its had a lasting impression.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
More travel. I'd really like to go abroad. If I could I'd buy a boat and just start saling, but it would scare my mother-in-law to death. She's scared of pirates. No joke.

How does your book stand out from others in the genre?
Crewel isn't straight dystopian, it has sci-fi and mystery elements. But I think the setting of the world, which is sort of a futuristic Mad Men world, is what really sets it apart.

Thanks Gennifer!


Follow Gennifer on Twitter: @genniferalbin

Book Review & Apoc Love Interview: The Selection by Kiera Cass + swag giveaway

America Singer doesn’t want to be one of the 35 girls chosen for the selection, a process by which Prince Maxon will choose his bride.  She’s in love with Aspen, a noble young man in a caste below her who she is forbidden to love. But getting chosen for the selection would mean extra money for her family and possibly moving up from caste 5 to caste 1, so America reluctantly enters the lottery – and is not only chosen, but becomes a front-runner for the prince’s hand.

THE SELECTION is primarily a love story with a “The Bachelor” –like premise.  America has been secretly dating Aspen for two years and she desperately wants to marry him.  However, Aspen wants the best for America, and the best is not marrying down to servant class (caste 6), but trying for a prince.  So while all other 34 girls go gaga over Prince Maxon, America still pines for Aspen. Could her indifference turn out to be her secret weapon?

All three of our love triangle characters are decent people and I found America’s relationship with both boys well drawn. I honestly can’t tell you what “team” I’m on  – I could see America ending up with either one.

The dystopian elements do take a backseat here - but I was so caught up in the story, I didn't even care.  America tells us about the rigid caste system and the harsh consequences of her life (such as a lowly 6 being beaten for stealing food because 5s and below tend to go hungry). But she doesn't really act like you might expect a girl from a lower caste would. She’s bold, stubborn, and talks back to royalty without compunction. She snuck around with Aspen for two years of heavy make-out sessions without anyone – even her family – catching on.  If you’re a stickler for your dystopians making total sense, this one might bug you.  But if you’re looking for a fun love story with a high-concept premise, you've definitely come to the right place!

And lucky us - because the author is an Apocalypsie, we get an Apocalypsies Love! interview with her today.

What is your favorite scene in the book?
This is hard! I don't want to give too much away! Maybe Maxon meeting America. It was just the antithesis of everything he was expecting, and I love that about her. She's just who she is, and that person isn't necessarily very princess-like, so I dig that scene a lot.

What is your favorite line in the book?
I do have one! And it's an opinion I wish more girls had sometimes. But it comes close to the end of the book, so I'm just going to stay hush hush for now. Ask me in April!

What setting was most fun to write?
One of the highlights to me is mentally spending all this time in a palace! The lush gardens and opulent bedrooms and people catering to you all the time... it's just so beautiful in my head. Visiting that place never gets old. It's huge, and there are always new corners to see, new secrets to find.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
When I get a bit confused on how characters are acting, I try to jump out of America's head and hop into Aspen's or Maxon's. I have some scenes from their POVs, and I think I'll get to share that with people eventually. I really appreciate how honest they both are about where they are in life and what they want, and both of them are going for it with all they have. They're passionate, and I respect that.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
Just one? Are you kidding? I loved getting my agent, Elana Roth, and I adored getting my editor, Erica Sussman. These two women have made the whole process amazing! It's also been wonderful to get to know other authors and see that we all go through similar ups and downs. It's been fun to watch readers get excited, and the book is still two months away! And the whole adventure of translating The Selection to a television show has been a whirlwind of coolness. It's all been a blast!

Thanks Kiera! Congrats on the casting of Ethan Peck as Prince Maxon.  If I wasn't already excited about the show, that'd do it!

THE SELECTION comes out on April 24, 2012.  Find out more about it at the author's website.  Kiera is giving away one swag pack with bookmarks and buttons.  Enter via this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dystopian February Recap Week 4

February has just flown by hasn't it? Here's what happened this past week on #dystopianfeb - in case you missed anything.

This week in book reviews:

NOTE: In a policy change, I'm giving each book I review a merit badge in one of the following categories: World-building, Action, Romance, Twisty Reads, and Great Writing (see the merit badges here - they are ADORBS! and read more about the philosophy behind the merit badges here) so if you know you prefer world-building books over all else, you'll know which titles to look out for.

THE FORGETTING CURVE by Angie Smibert (Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for World-building)

MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Discussion with Michelle of Galleysmith)

STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth (Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Writing)

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers (Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Writing)

PARTIALS by Dan Wells (Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Twists)

This week in author interviews:

Mari Mancusi previews TOMORROW LAND (Digital release, Feb 2012)

Emma Pass previews ACID (Random House, early 2013)

Julie Kagawa previews THE IMMORTAL RULES (HarlequinTeen, April 2012)

Lydia Y Kang previews THE FOUNTAIN (Penguin, Summer 2013)

Apoc Love interview with Jennifer Bosworth about STRUCK

Joelle Charbonneau previews THE TESTING (HMH, Spring 2013)

Emma Trevayne previews CODA (Running Press, Spring 2013)

This week in still open giveaways:

Mari Mancusi prize pack incl. TOMORROW LAND, BLOOD COVEN and a $25 gift card (International)

Apocalypsies Starter Pack #5 - Dystopian Edition incl. STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth, ARTICLE 5 by Kristen Simmons, and THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass + lots of swag (International)

Win one of 2 ARCs of STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth

Preorder giveaway of THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers (International)

HarperCollins prize pack (International)

This week in winners:

The winner of PURE is:
#32 Louis H of CA

The winners of THE OTHER LIFE are:
#8 Abigail A of Oxon, UK
#14 Alisa F of Edinburgh, UK

The winner of STARTERS is;
#40 Lilian C of HI

The winner of the Macmillan prize pack is:
#34 Melissa B of AZ

This week in news:

EW offered an excerpt of Veronica Roth's INSURGENT

The sequel to Marie Lu's book LEGEND has a title: PATRIOT (via Between the Lines)

The sequel to Tahereh Mafi's book SHATTER ME has a title: UNRAVEL ME

Paolo Bacigalupi's SHIPBREAKER series will have a 3rd book: SEASCAPE in Fall 2014.

Ann Aguirre's Razorland trilogy will conclude with HORDE, set for Fall 2013.

The Book Smugglers review EARTHSEED by Pamela Sargent

CJ Redwine revealed her DEFIANCE cover

Caragh O'Brien revealed her PROMISED cover, third in the BIRTHMARKED trilogy

A great post about using YA dystopian lit in the classroom at Teach Mentor Texts + check out their whole series on Dystopian vs Post Apocalyptic

PANDEMONIUM, Lauren Oliver's follow-up to DELIRIUM comes out Tuesday, and Lauren will tweet the entire first chapter on Monday.  Tune in on @oliverbooks

Coming up this week:

Just 3 days of #dystopianfeb left - but still lots of content! My final recap of all of #dystopianfeb will be on Friday, March 9, 2012 after I return from my trip to Kuwait.

Author Interview & International Giveaway: Mari Mancusi previews Tomorrow Land

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Mari Mancusi is here today to talk about her post apocalyptic novel TOMORROW LAND, which should be available in the next couple of days from NLA Digital. It is an updated version of RAZOR GIRL, re-imagined for a YA audience.

Here's the summary:

Can true love survive the end of the world?

Imagine finding your first love, only to be ripped apart by the apocalypse. Peyton Anderson will never forget the day she was forced to make a choice--between her family--and Chris Parker, the boy she'd given her heart. And now, four years later, as she steps from the fallout shelter and into a dead and broken world, he's the only thing on her mind.

All Chris "Chase" Parker wanted was to take Peyton away and keep her safe from harm. But he waited for hours in the rain on judgment day and she never showed--breaking his heart without ever telling him why.

Now the two of them have been thrown together once again, reluctant chaperones of a group of orphan children in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead still walk...and feed. As they begin their pilgrimage to the last human outpost on Earth, can they find a way to let go of old hurts and find the love they lost--all the while attempting to save what's left of the human race?

"A high-stakes, high-octane tour through a devastating and deftly imagined future. This is Mancusi at the top of her game."
Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars

The cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?

We live in a dark world and it can feel really scary and out of control sometimes. Dark stories can feel almost comforting because you know, even though the heroes and heroines are facing insurmountable odds, in the end they will prevail and get their happy endings, giving us hope that we can do the same.

If TOMORROW LAND had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Since the book is a post-apocalyptic, zombie infested pilgrimage to Disney World, I'm going with "It's a Small World After All." (Yes, even the end of days can't stop those demonic dolls from dancing and singing.)

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
Remy King from Amanda Hocking's Hollowland. She's a kickass heroine who knows how to take on zombies. She and Peyton could do some serious damage together! They're both very driven and very protective of the people they love. And while they're both very guarded and cautious about new people, I think once they got a chance to know one another, they'd totally be besties forever.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
1984 - George Orwell
I read 1984 back in high school--my first ever dystopian, though I didn't know it was a genre at the time. I just knew it stuck with me in a way no other book had. Just something about the bleak, totalitarian world Winston lives in--eerily beautiful in its hopelessness. This is one story that doesn't have a happy ending or even an uplifting message about nonconformity. But it's an important book to read all the same.

Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
These are two separate books, set in the same world, but dealing with very different populations. They're cautionary tales about genetic engineering, global warming and corporate control. The way Atwood weaves her plot together in a nonlinear fashion is compelling and she's just such a beautiful storyteller with a wonderful way of words. These are books you want to read slowly and cherish every sentence.

Ashes of Twilight - Kassy Taylor
St. Martin's sent this one to me for a cover quote and I'm so glad they did. It's a dystopian YA romance with major steampunk elements. The world exists under a large glass dome, created for protection after a comet hits the earth and makes it uninhabitable. The main character, Wren, is a coal miner who spends her days in underground tunnels to provide fuel for the ruling class. There's adventure, romance, great world building, and a tiny canary that will steal your heart. This one comes out in November.

For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund
Another "to be released" -- this one in June -- Darkness is a dystopian retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. One, I love that it's Persuasion, one of Austen's novels I feel doesn't get enough love! And two, it's just a great book. Diana tells a compelling tale of intrigue and romance with a really unique dystopian backdrop that I haven't seen before. I think the book will have a lot of crossover appeal as well--regency fans will love it as much as dystopian fans. Also the cover is gorgeous!

Hollowland - Amanda Hocking
More post-apocalyptic then dystopian, I still felt it deserved a mention because it's such an awesome book. You can just tell Amanda loves zombies and zombie films the way she writes. Just like films such as Dawn of the Dead, the action starts on the very first page and the heroine, as I mentioned above, is just so kick-ass. If I could pick one person to be by my side during the zombie apocalypse, she would be the one!

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
As you might guess from reading Tomorrow Land, I am probably the hugest Disney fan you will ever meet. It's my dream to spend at least a day in every Disney park around the world. I've already done Orlando, Anaheim and Tokyo. So that leaves Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and, depending if the world ends after opening day, the new Disney they're building in Shanghai. And I might try to squeeze in a Disney cruise as well!

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Tomorrow Land is really two stories woven together as one, with alternating chapters of the pre and post apocalypse. So as you're traveling with Peyton and Chase through the zombie infested wasteland, you're also learning, as you go, what happened to bring about their society's collapse. I hadn't originally meant to tell the story that way--it was supposed to be all post-apocalyptic. But in the end I realized I couldn't tell one story without the other.

Thanks Mari!

Mari is offering one winner a digital copy of TOMORROW LAND as well as a $25 gift card to Amazon (or Book Depository) and a trade paperback copy of Blood Coven Vampires Volume 1, her paranormal vampire series from Penguin. To enter, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally.

Twitter: @marimancusi
Add TOMORROW LAND to Goodreads

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert

THE FORGETTING CURVE is the sequel to MEMENTO NORA (see my review). While it would help to read MEMENTO NORA first, I think the sequel stands on its own pretty well.

MEMENTO NORA was narrated by three different characters: Nora, Micah and Winter.  For THE FORGETTING CURVE, we once again get Winter as a narrator as well as Winter's cousin Aiden and Winter's friend Velvet.

Winter doesn't remember anything of the events of MEMENTO NORA, but before she was brain bleached, she sent Aiden copies of Micah's underground comic MEMENTO.  Aiden comes home from his boarding school in Switzerland to intern at his father's tech company - a company he increasingly suspects may be in bed with the TFC (Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic). Aiden has to put his hacker skills to good use to figure out what sinister acts are going down ... before it's too late.

THE FORGETTING CURVE goes even further down the rabbit hole -- and we start to get a picture of TFC's real endgame.  The implications are chilling. I loved all the musings on memory and how they worked into the overall plot. Very clever.  Take this line:

It was the old Forgetting Curve thing (...) Memories fade over time - unless you periodically reinforce them.

Seems relatively innocuous by itself -- but trust me, context is everything.

Like in the first book, the world building details really immerse you in a near-future world where companies take advantage of people's fears to make money. To me, Aiden was an utterly believable hacker, and his voice was markedly different to Winter's (and Velvet's).  I hope he'll be back for book 3.

THE FORGETTING CURVE will be available May 1, 2012.  Find out more about the series at the official website.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: I read an eGalley of the book provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Author Interview: Emma Pass previews Acid

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Today, Emma Pass introduces us to ACID, coming out with Random House Children’s Books in early 2013.

Here's the teaser summary: 

This action-packed novel introduces us to Jenna Strong, a truly kick-ass heroine who is serving time in an all-male prison for the murder of her parents. With the story set one hundred years in the future in a Big Brother style society, Britain is now under the control of ACID – a terrifying, all-seeing police force.

And the interview: 

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
There’s so much scary stuff happening in the world for real that I’ve often found myself wondering ‘what if x or y did actually happen? What would I do?’ For me, dystopian fiction is a way of exploring these horrors, facing up to them and making sense of them in some way. There’s also a strong element of survival, and therefore hope, in stories like this, which makes me feel that even if the worst happens, things might just turn out okay in the end. I find them very inspiring!

If ACID had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Drop Zone by Michael Woods. Because ACID is so urban and futuristic, I’ve been listening to a lot of trance and electronica while I’ve been writing it, and this one is my favourite.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
I’m not sure. The things that Jenna has been through have made her into kind of a loner, so to be best friends with anyone she’d really have to trust them first. And even then, she’d probably find it hard to let them in.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
Argh, I can only choose 5? Okay, then…

1) THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness. It’s so original. Every time I read it, I’m blown away by it.

2) DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, and…

3) HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff. I love both of these for their strong female leads.

4) NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR by George Orwell - the idea of a Big Brother-style society, where absolutely everything you do is watched and analysed, has been a huge inspiration for ACID. And last but not least…

5) TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN by John Marsden, the first in a series of books which were originally published back in the ‘90s, before YA or dystopian were hot genres. It tells the story of a group of teens in Australia who go on a camping trip, and while they’re away their country’s invaded. Almost the only free citizens left, they must go to war and fight for their people’s freedom. Marsden is a fantastic writer, and all the books are a master class in how to write suspense.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Hmm… I definitely need to tackle my TBR pile. At this moment, it’s 40+ books high, and it keeps growing! I also want to go to as many author and writing events as I can squeeze in. And finish writing the next book – I’d better not forget to do that!

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Yikes, that’s a tricky question! I guess I’ll have to go with what sold it to my publisher in the first place – I live in the UK, so ACID is set in Britain. And as the summary says, Jenna, the protagonist, is truly kick-ass!

Thank you Emma!

Visit Emma's blog:

Follow Emma on Twitter:  @EmmaPass

Add ACID to Goodreads

Check out ACID’s Pinterest board: 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Apocalypsies Starter Pack Giveaway #5: Dystopian Edition (International)

2012 is upon us and that means lots of great Apocalypsies debuts including a little book of mine called LEVEL 2!

All through the year, I am giving away starter packs so you can get reading some of these fabulous novels. Starter pack #4 was won by Iris from the Netherlands and today I have Starter pack #5 on offer.

Starter pack #5 includes:

STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth (ARC)

ARTICLE 5 by Kristen Simmons (ARC)


+ Chapter sampler and 5 signed bookmarks from Lissa Price's STARTERS
+ 5 ARTICLE 5 postcards

ALSO, because this is the Dystopian February Edition of the Starter Packs, you get the following dystopian (non-Apocalypsie) swag:

- 5 bookmarks from Megan Crewe's THE WAY WE FALL
- 5 signed bookmarks from Beth Revis's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
- 3 bookmarks from Suzanne Collins' MOCKINGJAY
- 1 signed bookmark and rubber bracelet from Mary E. Pearson's THE FOX INHERITANCE


2 runners-up will get:

+ Chapter sampler and 5 signed bookmarks from Lissa Price's STARTERS
+ 5 ARTICLE 5 postcards
+ 1 THE WAY WE FALL bookmark

To enter, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally. Shipped by me.

Author Interview: Julie Kagawa previews The Immortal Rules

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Julie Kagawa has a series starting with THE IMMORTAL RULES. It apocalyptic with vampires and it's out April 24, 2012 with HarlequinTEEN.

Here's the teaser summary:

My vampire creator told me this:
"Sometime in your life, Allison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. The question is not if it will happen, but when. Do you understand?"
I didn't then. Not really.
I do now.

The cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
I think morbid curiousity plays a big part; we want to see what could happen if the world suddenly ended or if there was a masive, worldwide catastrophy. And let's face it; humans are drawn to catastrophy. But I think we also like to imagine ourselves in those situations, to see if we could survive the end of the world. How many people have Zombie Survival Plans, just in case the apocalypse happens tomrrow? More then you would expect. ;-)

If THE IMMORTAL RULES had a theme song, what would it be and why?
I like "Forsaken" by Within Temptation because of its dark, haunting atmosphere, but also "Awake and Alive" by Skillet, because I think it captures the struggles of the characters perfectly.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
Allie is a fierce, wary loner, so she would probably be drawn to someone who is pragmatic but can also hold their own, like Katniss from The Hunger Games.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
I actually haven't read many dystopians, but I'm sure that will change with all the awesome looking dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels coming out this year. The very first dystopian I read, which continues to give me shivers, is Animal Farm by George Orwell.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Visit Japan. I've always wanted to go, and it would be much easier to see Kyoto when it isn't underwater or swarming with zombies.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Unlike many post-apocalyptic novels, THE IMMORTAL RULES is more then a survival story. Allison, the protaganist of the novel, starts out human but becomes a vampire early in the novel. Not only must she learn to survive a hostile, dangerous world, she has to fight to hold onto her humanity and not become like the deranged, zombie-like vampires that infest the ruins and the wilderness. Trying to fight the monster within and retain what makes her human is her greatest struggle throughout the novel.

Thanks Julie!

Visit Julie's website:
Visit the iron fey website (Julie's first series):
Follow Julie on twitter: @jkagawa

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review Discussion: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

So Michelle of Galleysmith and I thought since our joint reviews were so successful last August, we'd do it again. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a non-spoilery way. We'll post about a different book every Thursday, and our last book is MONUMENT 14.

First, the summary (from Goodreads):

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

Six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids are trapped together in a chain superstore. Together they build a refuge for themselves inside, while outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapon spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

Michelle and I decided to discuss four topics: Genre classification, Audience, Characters and Living Conditions. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Galleysmith.

Genre classification:

I find it tough to really classify this one. The freak hailstorm that puts the kids on lockdown inside the superstore and the subsequent news that a tsunami hit the US east coast makes it seem like it could be a bit apocalyptic, but it’s really more disaster fiction. It is definitely in no way dystopian. Ok - so we have a disaster - but by and large, these kids are sequestered from outside contact. They’re living in an oasis where their needs are mostly met. Sure they grumble from time to time about missing their parents or their “minitabs” (like a mini-computer), and they do have some traumatic experiences - but compared to characters in other such books, they have it easy. MONUMENT 14 reminds me of a much less brutal GONE (by Michael Grant).

I tend to agree, it felt a bit like the Breakfast Club on very hard times! Definitely a bit of a must read for the disaster movie lovers in the crowd. I do wonder if it will be discovered in the next book that much of what was happening with the weather was a result of the government. I could see that being the case given the mentions and role the nearby government facility played in what happened.

The NORAD/Chemical spill element was the most clever aspect of this book in my opinion. One of the characters, Braedon, mentioned that his father worked there, so I kept hoping for some sinister reveals. Based on the ending, it seems the next book might well take a more global view and perhaps uncover a conspiracy. I mean, for what purpose could they have be developing such a specific mix of chemicals?

Yes! I can’t imagine there won’t be more to be revealed there. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Braedon knowing more than he let on while trapped in the store. But, this all comes back to the idea that it felt like there was something large missing from this book. It created a definite sense of anticipation but so much so that when nothing actually came of it the whole story felt somewhat anti-climatic. Sure, there was some action and there was even some interesting character interaction but that still doesn’t go too far into giving a definitive classification for the book.

I had so much trouble deciding which Zombie Chicken Merit Badge to give MONUMENT 14, I ended up not giving it one. And that’s not to say it’s without merit, it just doesn’t fit in any of my categories. While it does have some action scenes, much of the novel meanders along focusing on mundane tasks such as cooking (omg there is so much food prep in this book) and making the store homey. Our narrator Dean has a crush on Astrid, but this is not a romance. There are one or two small twists, but nothing really that surprising. The writing is fine but doesn’t stand out. And the world building is minimal. It takes place in 2024, but except for the TV sets being different, all the products in the store are exactly what we have today including PopTarts, HotPockets and Pull-Up diapers.

Again, I agree. This definitely felt like an upper middle grade book to me. Might be a bit too scary and violent for the younger readers but it was fairly predictable for the adult YA reader. Though it was fairly entertaining I wasn’t surprised by a whole lot of what happened. I think it will get the best reception from a very small group. I’ll also add that this book felt like a whole lot of set-up for the next. Particularly given how it ended.

From the narration style and “cozy catastrophe” plot, I’d say this feels most like a middle grade. However, there are several sexual situations (I’m thinking the peeping tom scene in particular) and incidents of teens getting drunk that would keep me from giving this to anyone under 13.

Definitely, this one is not for younger eyes but then the older will likely find it less compelling. It’s too bad really because I do have a feeling that the second book will be far more interesting. The problem is it may not hook readers in enough to bring them forward.

Don't miss the rest of the discussion over at Galleysmith!

Series order:

MONUMENT 14 - out June 5, 2012
Untitled Sequel - release date unknown

Visit the author's website for more information.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: The publisher sent me this book for review.

Author Interview: Lydia Y Kang previews The Fountain

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Welcome to Lydia Y. Kang, here today to preview her debut THE FOUNTAIN (the title is most likely  going to change) which will be released in Summer 2013 from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin).

Here is the summary:
17 year-old Zelia has a fatal flaw, and it’s not being a lab geek or dressing like a small troll. If she forgets to breathe, she’ll die.

Zelia has suffered from Ondine’s Curse since birth, a malady that makes every breath a conscious effort. Yet after she and her younger sister Dyl are orphaned, it’s not Zelia’s misfit status that causes trouble. It’s her sister. Dyl isn’t just pretty and sweet—she’s illegal.
In the year 2150, DNA must be pure by law, and anyone with enhanced genes face death. Before an underground foster family can offer the sisters sanctuary, Dyl is abducted by people determined to profit from her trait, whether she’s alive, dismembered, or dead.

Zelia's only allies are the freak-show inhabitants of her new foster home. Along with the unexpected love of a very strange boy, she will need her flaws, their illicit traits, and every single breath to save the only family she has left.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
I think everyone wants to believe in happy endings. Seeing a character suffer and go through unbelievable odds ignites a very primal instinct of survival. And because people are by nature empathetic, we desperately want to see those characters succeed.

If THE FOUNTAIN had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Waiting for the End, by Linkin Park. I listened to it endlessly during the writing of this book. There are so many lines in this song that perfectly match what Zelia, my MC, is going through.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
Wow, you ask hard questions! Ok, hold on...
June, from Marie Lu's Legend. Zelia and June are both brilliant women and I think they would just "get" each other without trying.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
Being a reader and a writer, it's hard to get lost in books now. If anything pull me out of a book because of pacing, or poor editing, or whatever, I notice. So if I can be totally lost, I'm thrilled. Here are some that have done if for me.

Legend, by Marie Lu.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
Shipbreaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi
Wither, by Lauren DeStefano

I know that's only four, but technically the trilogy is three so...

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Hmm. Live until I'm 100? Just kidding. Not really.
Travel like crazy. I want to see the Galapagos and New Zealand and Hobbit holes and so many places. I want to hang out in a Paris cafe and do absolutely nothing for a day. Basically, I want to see a lot more beautiful things and fill my memory banks until they overflow.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Many of the characters in my book have mutations, but they're not superheroes. They are not the X-men. Sure, they're crazy weird and fun, but having a background in science and medicine, I had to have fantastical elements that made sense to me. Some of the spoilers will be so cool for those who have any biology or genetic classes under their belt. But I also made it super accessible to those who are afraid of the science stuff. Basically, it's for everyone.

And who doesn't love a good romance, on top of all that?

Thanks Lydia!

Visit Lydia's blog, The Word Is My Oyster
Follow her on Twitter @LydiaYKang
Add THE FOUNTAIN on Goodreads
If you want to see some inspirational photos from the book, check out Pinterest
Become a fan on Facebook

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review, Giveaway and Apoc Love! Interview: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

17 year old Mia Price is a lightning addict living in Los Angeles in the wake of a devastating earthquake. She's caught the eye of two opposing factions: The Prophet and his followers who predict the end of the world and a secret society of seekers who want to use her to stop it.  Then there's the mysterious hot guy Jeremy - who warns her to stay away from both sides.  

Though it takes place in a quake torn city, STRUCK is not really a post-apocalyptic tale - more of a pre-apocalyptic set-up, if that makes sense.  Yes, conditions are bad - but schools are still open and serving lunch, most of the rest of the world seems to be getting along ok, and Mia's family is traumatized but not desperate.  The crux of the plot is Mia's role in bringing about a coming apocalypse, and in that it reminded me a lot of HARBINGER by Sara Wilson Etienne (tarot cards play a major role here too).

What really works for me here is voice and the ability to get inside the head of someone who has been struck by lightning so much she winds up craving it.  Via the writing, I could feel the lightning - which was quite a unique reading experience.  I loved how effectively TS Eliot's epic end-of-the-world poem The Wasteland is integrated.  

The religion aspect was ambiguous to the point I wasn't sure what the message was - or if there was supposed to be one at all. The major characters seemed simultaneously good and evil for most of the book, which made it difficult to know who to sympathize with until the end. I'm still processing how I feel about that. 

Because Jennifer is an Apocalypsie, we also get an Apoc Love! Interview today:

What is your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite favorite scene in “Struck” comes near the end of the book, so I won’t tell you that one because it’s a spoiler. Instead I’ll tell you my favorite scene from the first third of the book. In this scene, my protagonist, Mia Price, who is living in post-earthquake Los Angeles, goes to a tent city that’s been set up on Venice Beach to buy black market medicine for her mom. Bad things happen . . .

What is your favorite line in the book?
The very first line: “When you’ve been struck by lightning as many times as I have, you start to expect the worst pretty much all the time.”

What setting was most fun to write?
Ah, that’s a tough one. The most fun to write was the tent city (aka Tentville) on Venice Beach. If you’ve ever been to Venice Beach in L.A., you know that it’s a pretty crazy place already. After the earthquake, it’s a thousand times crazier because it’s where all the displaced who’ve lost their homes take up residence. The displaced are starving and desperate for clean water and supplies and medicine, and many of them will do whatever it takes to get those things. There’s a black market drug dealer who sets up shop in Tentville, and he is like the king of the beach. He’s the one my protagonist, Mia, has to deal with to get the meds her mom needs.

My other favorite setting is destroyed downtown Los Angeles, where all of the skyscrapers have fallen except for one, the tallest building which is called the Tower. I loved the idea of this city skyline with only one building left standing.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
The sexy bad girl of the book! Katrina Kale is one of Mia’s main antagonists. She’s a member of a doomsday cult called the Seekers, and she wants Mia to join them because she believes Mia is the key to an end of the world prophecy made by one of Katrina’s ancestors. The thing I love about Katrina is that she’s unapologetically ruthless, manipulative, and single-minded about her cause. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Hehe - Katrina was pretty awesome. What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
My first glowing review from a complete stranger. That was when I realized “Struck” was out there living a life of its own. I felt like I’d raised it from a baby, got it through it’s awkward years, and sent it off to college. That was nerve-wracking and gave me a bit of empty nest syndrome, but when I got that first awesome review I knew my creation was going to be okay out there in world. That some people were going to love it.

Thanks Jennifer!


STRUCK comes out May 8, 2012, but I have two ARCs up for grabs for those who want to read it early.  To enter, fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. US and Canada only. Books donated and shipped by the publisher.

Find out more about STRUCK at Goodreads. 

FTC disclosure: The publisher sent me this book for review.

Author Interview: Joelle Charbonneau previews The Testing

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Joelle Charbonneau is here to preview THE TESTING, out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's in Spring 2013.

Here's the summary: 
Welcome to the United Commonwealth – a group of 18 colonies in North America that survived the brutal effects of biochemical war and natural disasters. Every year the Commonwealth selects the best and the brightest graduates from each colony to be candidates for attendance at the University where they will use their talents to help restore the earth and help the Commonwealth thrive. As the youngest graduate in the smallest colony, mechanically inclined Cia desperately wishes to be chosen for The Testing, but she knows her chances are slim.  
And yet – four are chosen and Cia is one of them. But her elation is short lived for her father believes the testing isn’t as it appears. Students who don’t pass are never heard from again and those that do move on can no longer remember what happened during those fateful days. Now Cia must decide who to trust and hope that her wits are enough not only to get a passing grade, but to keep both her and her friends alive.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?

While I am a fan of both light and dark stories, I think dark stories appeal to readers in for the same reason horror films draw huge box office crowds. We like to be scared. We also like the feeling of triumphing over our fears. Dark stories allow us to walk in the shoes of the main characters as they are pushed into extreme situations. While we take that journey with them, we get to explore themes and story questions that are relevant to our own lives. I think it is the combination of watching characters triumph in adverse situations and the ability of the reader to confront their own fears while walking in the characters’ shoes that make dark stories impossible to resist.

If THE TESTING had a theme song, what would it be and why?
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police. The instrumental part of the music is a lovely, power ballad. Which seems innocent enough. Until you listen to the lyrics. Those are downright creepy. When THE TESTING opens, Cia Vale thinks the world is a lot like the instrumental side of that song. Then she starts paying attention to the lyrics and begins to realize that everything is not what she thought it was.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
Huh…this question made me really think for a while. If Cia had to choose a best friend from another novel, I think she’d pick Benny from CIRCLE OF FRIENDS by Maeve Binchy. Cia values loyalty above all else. While Benny isn’t the most self-assured or assertive character around, she is incredibly loyal to her friends and family. She also has an understated sense of humor and a quiet intelligence that Cia would greatly admire. Now we just have to arrange for the two of them to be in the same country and the same year for this friendship to get off the ground.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Because it belongs on everyone’s Dystopian lit recommendations.

BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takami: A Japanese precursor of THE HUNGER GAMES, this book really delves into how fear makes it difficult to trust—even when you have known the people surrounding you for your entire life.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess: This book was assigned to me as a senior in high school, and I’ve read it at least a half dozen times since then. The language the author utilizes is unique. The story is disturbing. You might not enjoy the story, but I promise you’ll come away having learned something from reading this book.

RESTORING HARMONY by Joelle Anthony: The fact the author is named Joelle is a compelling reason all in its own, but I loved this book because it is so different from most of the Dystopian fiction out there. It is a sweet story filled with adventure and music.

THE RUNNING MAN by Stephen King: While the movie is entertaining, it is not even close to being similar to the story that inspired it. I read this story years ago along with all the other books King published as Richard Bachman. It resonated with me then, but has pulled even stronger feelings with me in the past couple of rereads perhaps because of the rise in popularity of reality shows.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
I want to see the Cubs win the World Series. (Honest! I do!)

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Dystopian young adult is a hot genre right now. There are a lot of really great books out there for readers. But I do think THE TESTING is unique because almost every reader can relate to the fear that comes with taking a standardized test—especially the SAT and the ACT. The pressure that comes with taking those tests and with the entire college application process has gotten more extreme with every generation of students. THE TESTING delves into what it takes to deal with the pressure of needing to pass an exam as well as question whether the people who operate best under that kind of intense, competitive pressure are really the people we want to be leading our country.

Thanks Joelle!

Visit Joelle's website:
Become a fan on Facebook:
Follow Joelle on Twitter: @jcharbonneau
Add THE TESTING to Goodreads
Joelle also blogs every Sunday at Do Some Damage ( and on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at The Stiletto Gang (

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review and Pre-order Giveaway (International): This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Sloane and her older sister have always said they’ll escape their abusive home together, but when her sister leaves without her, Sloane decides she wants to die. Then a zombie virus breaks out and only by fighting for her life does Sloane discover she might actually want to live.

THIS IS NOT A TEST is far from your typical action-driven zombie novel. The way it focuses on the complex personal relationships of its characters reminded more of THE WALKING DEAD than DAWN OF THE DEAD. Sloane has the most dramatic character arc – some of her moments of personal growth made me weepy-eyed – but all the main characters are fleshed out and fully human by the end.

I don’t want to say a lot, because I think it’s more powerful if you go in knowing as little as possible. But know this: I make it my mission to read everything Courtney writes. Her style is to strip-down to the emotional truths of life and I love that kind of honesty in fiction.

THIS IS NOT A TEST doesn’t come out until June 2012, and I don’t have an ARC I can offer, but because Kelly J of STACKED blog offered to donate a pre-order, I decided to match her offer and thus can give away (2) preorders to anywhere The Book Depository ships. Just fill out this form by March 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST for your chance to win.

Find out more about the book at the author’s website.

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Author Interview: Emma Trevayne previews Coda

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interview authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Today I have an interview with Emma Trevayne. Her novel CODA comes out with Running Press in Spring 2013. It's the second book I've previewed this month with LGBT themes.

Here's the summary: 
Citizen N4003--Anthem, to his friends--hates the Corporation that rules his city with greed and guns, despite their best efforts to keep him and the rest of the population too high to care. Tracking is the drug of the 2200s: all it takes is a pair of headphones or nights in a neon-lit club, letting the music encoded with subliminal messages into a powerful drug take over your mind…and slowly kill you.

Someone has to take a stand; after a series of tragedies and out of fear for his little brother and sister, Anthem decides it's him. With the help of the illegal, underground band he fronts, he sets in motion a cascade of events that endanger his family, his friends, and the girl he loves.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
There's a really cynical way to answer this question, but I I think it's actually more out of optimism than pessimism. The characters usually triumph, and that's inspiring. Our own personal difficulties may be nothing like theirs on the surface, but we cheer for the underdog because we want someone, somewhere, to cheer for us. The increase in media availability brings more of the world's darkness to our attention; we know more than we used to about what's happening down the street or halfway across the planet. We see little flares of dystopian themes, like the Occupy movement, tyrannical regimes, predictions of the apocalypse, SOPA. And I think that science fiction is, more than ever, becoming predictive rather than speculative. So we want the hope that we can win.

OK, that was more about dark sci-fi, but the first part applies to any kind of dark story, so it counts, right?

If CODA had a theme song, what would it be and why?
OH BOY, this question. CODA is about music, of course, and not a single word of it was written in silence. I can't write at all without music playing. Every scene in the book has a theme song, which together make a soundtrack no one but me has heard yet. It will be shared at some point, I'm sure. There are many songs I could list, but some would give away the plot or resolution. So, for now, Prodigy's "Voodoo People." It was that, and its effective use at setting the tone in a movie I was watching, that caused the very first spark of inspiration for CODA.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
This is an amazing question. I'm going to go with Nothing from Poppy Z. Brite's LOST SOULS. Anthem isn't half-vampire (there's nothing supernatural in CODA) but there are similarities. Cute goth boys with a love of eyeliner, guitars, and classic literature. Both look for truth in a world that starts out very false for them, and while I wouldn't say either of them have questionable morals from my own perspective, they're both attracted to things forbidden or frowned-upon by the societies in which they live and less afraid to pursue those things than they probably should be.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
I'm going way old school for some of these, not because I don't love the more recent additions to the genre, I do, but they get talked about a lot. 

1. William Gibson's NEUROMANCER, and all of the Sprawl trilogy. They're not YA, or dystopian in the way we view that as a genre in itself these days, but dystopian societies are a definitive characteristic of cyberpunk, and this is THE seminal cyberpunk work. It's just brilliant. almost prophetic. I reread it recently and have a hard time believing it was written almost 30 years ago. Also, it has maybe one of the greatest opening lines I've ever read, a masterclass in setting tone for a book.

2. Ayn Rand's ANTHEM. Surprisingly, my Anthem isn't a reference to this novella at all (he's named after a specific song, and also the concept of anthems generally) but I love this story and I think, in hindsight, it was a bigger influence than I realized while writing CODA. The themes of reinvention and self-discovery feel particularly relevant. This is a stunning example of using the right language to tell a story; the lack of "I" or "me" throughout almost the whole first-person narrative, to reflect the enforced denial of individuality in the society, is genius. You really feel it.

3. BRAVE NEW WORLD, by Aldous Huxley. Funny story: there was a twitter game sometime last year involving dropping one letter of a novel's title in order to create an entirely different book. "RAVE NEW WORLD" popped up in my feed and I thought, "Hey, I wrote that!" I RT'd it and three friends said, "HEY, you wrote that!" But, about BNW, it's challenging, disturbing, and the idea of genetically creating a caste-system society is all too easy to picture.

4. ORYX AND CRAKE, by Margaret Atwood. I love all of Atwood's novels, her ability to play with structure and theme, and I love me some bioethics in my sci-fi. It's sometimes confusing and a little uneven, but it's still (I think) one of the greatest novels of its kind.
5. M. T. Anderson's FEED. I didn't read this until really recently, though it's about 10 years old. When my agent offered me representation, she said CODA reminded her of it, so of course I had to check it out. It's a perfect example of what I was talking about above, the shift from speculative to potentially predictive, and uses something we already know--the pervasiveness of advertising and consumerism--as a downfall into dystopia.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Wishful thinking: there's a long list of musicians who unknowingly help me get my books written, I'd like to buy them all a drink and thank them.

Not-so-wishful thinking (I hope!): Own a pair of Louboutins.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
It has a male protagonist, which is the minority across the board for all YA. Also, he's bisexual, which isn't a major aspect of the plot but is a major aspect of his character. That wasn't intentional, in order to back up my soapboxy feelings about diversity in YA, but he decided he was and I went with it. In terms of sci-fi, the genre tends to explore loss of freedom in some respect, the idea that technology can limit as much as it can liberate. It was fun to do that through the window of something so ubiquitous--and seemingly innocuous--as the music we all listen to every day.

Thanks Emma! Very exciting!

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