Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dystopian August 2012 Recap

Ok, this is unforgivably late - but I'll say I'm sorry anyway.  For the first half of September, I was finishing up a draft of LEVEL 2's sequel and then I went to Kyrgyzstan.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.

In any case, here's what went down in the second half of dystopian August. (First half recap here!)


Receiving the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Action:

Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

Receiving the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Romance:

Surrender by Elana Johnson

Receiving the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Twists:

none this time

Receiving the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Worldbuilding:

Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Receiving the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Writing:

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

No badge:

Diverse Energies short stories collection


J. Barton Mitchell previews Midnight City (St. Martins/Oct 30, 2012)

Elsie Chapman previews Dualed (Random House/Feb 26, 2013)

Cat Winters previews In The Shadow of Blackbirds (Amulet/Spring 2013)

Melanie Crowder previews Parched (Harcourt/June 2013)

Brandon Sanderson previews Steelheart (Random House/August 2013)

Amy Tintera previews Reboot (HarperTeen/Summer 2013)

Polly Holyoke previews The Neptune Project (Disney-Hyperion/Summer 2013)

Bethany Hagen previews Landry Park (Penguin/Fall 2013)

Amy Christine Parker previews The Silo (Random House/Fall 2013)

Peggy Eddleman previews Through the Bomb's Breath (Random House/Fall 2013)

Phoebe North previews Starglass (S&S/2013)


Winner of the 5 marked-up novels is: Melissa of One Librarian's Book Reviews

Winner of What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang is:

Jen P in MA

Winners of Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse are:

Agnieszka K. in Poland
Vi in PA
Desiree in OR
Bethany in RI
Maria S in TX
Cordelia F in GA

Winners of Possession and Surrender by Elana Johnson are:

Casey S in PA
Beth D in VA
Stacey H in KY
Mary D in IL
Jessy B in PA

Winners of Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson are:

Christina F in GA
Rachel H in MS
Ephrielle M in OR
Kelly R in NS (Canada)
Jen H in OH

Winner of Unwind and Unwholly by Neal Shusterman is: Addie R.

Winner of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is: Jasmine R in WA

Winners of the Diverse Energies short stories collection are:

Alicia E in AL
Heather Z in UT

Winner of All These Things I've Done and Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin is:
Anne B in NM

Winner of Crewel by Gennifer Albin is: Kelly L in NY

Winner of the Birthmarked Trilogy by Caragh O'Brien is:  Carina O in Norway


Thanks to all your comments and tweets, I had a blast during this year's Dystopian August.  Because LEVEL 2 will be fresh out in the world next February, I can't commit to a full month of dystopian activities ... but the merit badges are not going away! You'll see them again ... and Presenting Lenore will always be a place to discover and discuss dystopian works.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Return of Cat Tuesday (77) - Special Video Edition

Sometimes, as a special treat, we'll get the kitties some cat grass.  As you can see from the video below, they're wild for it.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Level 2 Sweepstakes + more!

Last week I shared the LEVEL 2 Facebook Page with the four chapter excerpt, this week I have more exciting news! Simon & Schuster is running a sweepstakes with tons of lucky winners getting a pre-release copy of LEVEL 2.  Good luck!

If you've read the excerpt, let me know what you think!!

For a chance to win a *signed* copy of LEVEL 2 + a magnet + signed postcards, check out this contest at Steph Su's blog! It's open internationally!!

Also, check out this interview about LEVEL 2 on A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust. I talk about why I thanked Tori Amos in my acknowledgements and much more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Return of Cat Tuesday (76)

Since it's been awhile, how about 3 photos - one of each cat?



and Lu

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First 50 pages of LEVEL 2 online!

So at - the brand new official Facebook page for LEVEL 2 and whatever comes next - you can read the first four exciting chapters of LEVEL 2!

And you can grab a countdown widget!!  Only 123 more days ...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BBAW Interview Swap: Andrea from The Busy Bibliophile

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is in its 5th year! One of the best parts of this celebration is discovering new blogs and getting more insight into the bloggers behind the blogs.  My interview swap is with Andrea from The Busy Bibliophile and you can read her interview with me here.

Welcome Andrea to Presenting Lenore!

To start us off, tell us a bit about your blog - why and when did you start it? 
I started The Busy Bibliophile in August of last year, after reading a book I wanted to share with the world. I didn't know anyone personally that read young adult novels, so I figured I'd start my own book review blog and tell strangers what they should read.

You bestow the Golden Owl on books you particularly love (DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver, for example, which I also love beyond words) - if you were to give out Golden Owls to book bloggers who'd be on the shortlist?
Reading Teen, XPresso Reads, Book♥Soulmates, Me, My Shelf and I, Letters Inside Out, Smash Attack Reads, these are a few of my faves.

As a Busy Bibliophile, you cram reading in whenever you can. What is the strangest place you've ever pulled out a book? 
I don't think I've ever read in a strange place, just your average everyday places: the car at a stoplight, the kitchen table while eating, waiting in a really long line... Any time I have a few minutes, the book comes out.

Not only do you read a lot, you also find time to write. Can you tell us anything about your WIPs? 
I have very little time to write, so they've been WIPs for a long time now... All 3 are for adults (which is weird considering I only read YA, but I digress). 2 are actually started and organized in their own binders, while 1 is an idea that I haven't put on paper yet. I tend to get these bursts of inspiration and really work on them for a few weeks, then I get distracted and shelve them for a while.

Ok lightening round! 

Tell us a favorite -
YA bad boy love interest: Alex from Delirium
Setting: Paris (Die For Me and Anna and the French Kiss)
Villain: The Seeker from the Host

Recommend a -
Beach read: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Audio book: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Halloween read: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Best book nobody else is reading: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Thanks Andrea!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review + Giveaway: Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Note: This is my last review of Dystopian August. A recap with winners list to come on Sept 26th.

BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD is the second book in the Birthright series that began with ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE (see my review).  Scroll down for the giveaway if you haven't read the first book yet and don't want to be spoiled.

BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD opens with Anya in Liberty detention center, about to be released.  After the dramatic events of the first book, Anya is determined to go legit and put chocolate and the illegal family business behind her. She has small, immediate goals like finishing high school.  Win is now dating someone new and his father Charles' campaign is in full swing. Charles' competitor uses his bitter history with Anya to her advantage and Anya is forced to flee to Mexico where she come to realize that chocolate is in her blood and that she'll never really escape it.

The reason I'm giving this novel the writing merit badge is because of the way Anya seems like an old friend to me. Zevin writes in a sort of faux-memoir style with asides and notes to the reader. Judging by reviews on Goodreads, this method bothers some readers, but I love it because it makes me feel that much closer to Anya.

There are some developments that seemed odd at first and others which seemed almost too contrived, but in the end, I enjoyed how everything played out and how it all sets us up for the third book which promises to be fascinating.

Two big ideas are at play here - one is that alliances are ever-shifting and yesterday's enemy can be today's friend and visa-versa. The other concerns the nature of love. As Anya says, some kinds last forever and other kinds don't, "but even the ones that weren't necessarily everlasting were not without meaning," and "who and what and that you loved was your whole life."

Also? I love Win. Sometimes he seems far too good to be true, but I don't care.

BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD comes out on September 18, 2012. Find out more about the series at the publisher's website.

I have one prize pack up for grabs that includes copies of ALL THESE THINGS WE'VE DONE and BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD. US and Canada only. Enter via this form by Sept 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST for your chance to win.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: Review copy from publisher

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just for Fun: My HS Senior Photo

I came across one of those albums on the web comparing pictures of celebrities' high school photos  with how they look now.  This is how my entry would look (you know, if I were in any way a celebrity to anyone other than my cats):


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Midnight City by J Barton Mitchell

Ten years ago, earth was conquered by aliens. Today, earth’s major cities are home to giant obelisks that attract all adults infected with “the tone” leaving only children and “the heedless” (humans unaffected by the tone) left roaming around. Many have banded together – either in roving gangs or fairly organized societies (such as Midnight City) – but Holt is a loner, accompanied only by his dog. Until he meets Mira (a “freebooter” wanted by Midnight City) and Zoey (a strange young girl who has no memories but knows that she needs to get to Midnight City).

MIDNIGHT CITY is an action-packed page-turner that shows what earth might be like at the mercy of aliens. It definitely hits some familiar post-apocalyptic beats – such as Holt’s daring supply run into a flooded drugstore – but adds a supernatural element in the form of artifacts from “The Strange Lands”. “Freebooters” like Mira are experts in making useful combos that can get them out of scrapes and in collecting artifacts that can fetch high prices at market. But it can also be quite humorous (such as Holt and Mira’s “meet cute” in an abandoned house where Mira is taking a hot bath) – so it’s not your typical gloom and doom.

Yes, the narrative is very plot driven, but the characters don’t suffer in the least for it. Holt’s gruff resourcefulness and Mira’s scrappy charm pair well and Zoey was awesome in every way. Three loners + a dog (‘the Max”) = excellent team. That’s just good math! Also, I’d be remiss not to mention the villainous Lenore. The book world can always use more villainous Lenores IMHO.

As the start of a series, MIDNIGHT CITY answers some of our burning questions (where did Zoey come from? What did Mira do to get banished from Midnight City? Will Mira and Holt finally kiss?) and brings up other questions to be explored later (why do the aliens want Zoey so badly? Why is Holt on the run from a gang? Will “the Max” find an everlasting gobstopper to satiate his sweet tooth?)

MIDNIGHT CITY comes out October 30, 2012. Find out more about it at the author's website.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: NetGalley

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Author Interview: J Barton Mitchell previews Midnight 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!

Today I have J. Barton Mitchell on the blog to talk about MIDNIGHT CITY, his post alien invasion novel that rocked my socks off (my review later today). It comes out with St. Martin's Press on Oct 30, 2012.

Here's the summary:

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. The human adult population is gone, having succumbed to the Tone—a powerful, telepathic super-signal broadcast across the planet that reduces them to a state of complete subservience. But the Tone has one critical flaw. It only affects the population once they reach their early twenties. Which means that there is still one group left to resist: Children. 
Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It's not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn't something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a mysterious, young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey. 
As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she, as impossible as it seems, may just be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.

The cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to “dark” stories?
I think fear is a part of being alive. I also think that with the self consciousness that comes from being human, we all have a fear of...being afraid, ironically. We don't want to be scared, mainly because we don't want to show our fear to others, so there's something cathartic about “dark” stories set in frightening or disturbing places, because, I think one of the main reasons people love reading, is the ability it grants us to become someone else for a time. We all project ourselves onto the main character, and doing so with someone who is living in a dark world with dark repercussions and yet isn't inhibited by fear is very alluring. It feels good to go through these experiences as the main character and triumph over them...or, at least, be unintimidated by them. It's comforting and exciting at the same time.

A vision of Midnight City - the scorewall

If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
That's an interesting question, because I generally write to music. My go-to soundtrack for the book has pretty much been Daft Punk's score to TRON: LEGACY. A lot of that music is too electronic to really fit, but the orchestral stuff is amazing. The “Overture” to that soundtrack, to me, really captures how I see the story; it has a Copland-esque pastoral feel to it, which fits with a lot of the scenery in book one, especially the first half, but it still somehow hints at the kind of epic, Tolkien-like adventure the series strives to encompass.

What fictional character from another book would your main character choose as his/her best friend and why?
The series has three main characters, but book one concentrates the most on Holt Hawkins, who's a bounty hunter and a strict survivalist, which isn't unusual in that world. He throws off all opportunities for connection with other people, believing his self-sufficiency is the key to his survival. Things happen in the story, however, which make him question that conviction. I don't know about “best friend”, I'm not sure Holt would see having a close friend as an advantage when the story begins, but he's had partners in the past, people who shared his viewpoint and were wholly focused on survival. I think he would choose someone like Allan Quatermain or Duncan Idaho. Characters with a comparable skill set, who can survive in really difficult landscapes, and know how to live by their wits. They're also older, with lots of experience and things they could teach Holt, which he would also see as valuable.

The Strange Lands

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recommendations and why?
One of my favorite novels of all time, by one of my favorite authors. The first in William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, NEUROMANCER, while it didn't create the cyberpunk genre, certainly solidified it, and is considered the archetype of the genre. Full of amazing ideas, uncanny futurist predictions, a brilliantly conceived world, a fascinating and complex (to say the least) villain, and a twisting, sci-fi noir plot line that's riveting. Read all three if you haven't.

If you've read this unique post-apocalyptic tale, it won't come as a surprise that the Zone, created by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, was an influence on Conquered Earth, the Strange Lands specifically. This is a visionary piece of post-apocalyptic fiction, with a still wholly original setting that continues to inspire numerous creators today.

Everyone's favorite Stephen King book, and for good reason. A very original post-apocalyptic world, with an urban fantasy story that feels like H.P. Lovecraft mixed with EARTH ABIDES. King wanted to do a Tolkien-like epic fantasy adventure story, but with a contemporary setting, and his success here illustrates why Dystopian story worlds are so compelling: they allow for a variety of imaginative story forms, while still letting you have the sense of realism you miss out on with traditional fantasy or far future settings.

Not strictly a book, but a brilliant comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan, and well worth reading. The series follows the only man to survive the simultaneous death of every male mammal (barring the same man's pet monkey) on Earth. Really cool, unique, deceptively obvious premise, and a post-apocalyptic story world that continually evolves in unexpected ways. This series got Vaughan a gig writing for LOST, among other things (including adapting Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME for Spielberg and Showtime).

George Miller's masterpiece. Not a book, I know, but still a huge influence and something all fans of Dystopian stories should experience. Anything gritty, low tech, post-apocalyptic owes something to this movie. Violent and dark, realistic in some ways, absurd in others, like all greatly imagined worlds should be. Tremendous action, awesome wide screen photography of the Australian outback...and a main character who, in spite of his anti-hero nature, you still root for. The ending monologue is classic. “He lives now, only in my memories...” Try hard to see it on the big screen.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Actually win a game of Words With Friends. Seriously, you'd think I'd be better at it. Beyond that, probably travel, which is one of my passions. There are a lot of countries I haven't visited yet. I'd like to see as many of them as possible before the invasion begins.

Hiding from the aliens

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
I think there are several genres in play in Conquered Earth, the most obvious being post-apocalyptic and alien invasion. For me, the uniqueness of the series as a whole comes mainly from the fact that it's set almost a decade after the invasion. Typically, in alien invasion stories, the narrative takes place either during the invasion or immediately following it, and tends to focus on the resistance aspects; characters who are trying to overthrow their alien overlords.

With MIDNIGHT CITY, it's clear that isn't so much the case. The idea of a revolution is pretty much dismissed at the beginning of the story, the Assembly are just too powerful, and the characters have, for the most part, settled into a new existence, post-invasion, and in their own ways are trying to rebuild the world. The story has a lot of WAR OF THE WORLDS in it, to be sure...but also a lot of LORD OF THE FLIES as well. I was always fascinated by the idea of a world where kids and young adults were left in charge. What would they do? What kind of world would they build? The books explore those ideas in depth.

And while the series is technically post-apocalyptic, it's rarely, I think, a depressingly dark story. It has moments that are grim, but I always wanted to create a world that, despite its inherent darkness, was still fantastical with a sense of wonder and imagination that made you want to live in it. All my favorite worlds have had those elements, even if they were Dystopian.

Thanks J!

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