Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Three Thriller Reviews

What better time than Halloween to get caught up on some reviews of thrillers I've been reading lately?



GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

So many people in my twitter stream were talking about this, I finally caved and bought it - and I'm so glad I did.  Nick and Amy Dunne are two of the most effed up characters I've ever read about.  These two should have never gotten married, and yet, they also rather deserve each other.

The basic set-up: On their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the prime suspect. Early on, he admits to the reader that he's told the police a bunch of lies, so what the heck is really going on?

This novel is full of jaw-dropping twists and behavior. Everyone will tell you, it's better to go in as unspoiled as possible and let the narrative take you on its crazy journey.  Some of said they didn't like the ending, but I personally thought it was chillingly perfect.

I also just have to say that I thought it was so fascinating the way Amy's parents exploited her life in their book series and the consequences that had on her personality. Whoa.

Find out more about GONE GIRL on Goodreads

FTC disclosure: Bought



THE LOCK ARTIST by Steve Hamilton

I'd had my eye on this one for awhile and when Maggie Stiefvater reviewed it on her blog, I finally shelled out the cash. It's a tight thriller with awesome characterization and I really enjoyed it.  It's not YA, but the protagonist is a teen and it has definite teen appeal.

The basic set-up: Mike is a lock artist, meaning he can open any safe he puts his hands on.  This gets him the attention of gangsters up to no good. Mike never speaks. Ever. Not since the horrible incident in his childhood where he became orphaned. The book opens with Mike in prison, pining for the one girl who understands him.  The mystery is both how he got to this point and what happened to him that caused him to never speak again.

I never knew opening safes could be so fascinating.  Great, touching story as well.

Find out more about THE LOCK ARTIST on Goodreads

FTC disclosure: Bought



THE MOST DANGEROUS THING by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is one of my go-to authors for smart literary thrillers. I haven't read many of her older novels, but I loved WHAT THE DEAD KNOW, I'D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE and LIFE SENTENCES.  This time around, I wasn't so convinced.  The story meanders too much and the payoff was just so-so.

The basic set-up: Five friends have grown apart but are still bound together by a terrible secret. The pressure is too much for Go-Go who kills himself, leaving the others to wonder if someone in their circle has betrayed them.

The story follows not just the five friends but their parents as well. In fact, nearly every one of the family members has a chapter from their (3rd person limited) point of view. While I was reading, many of these came off as tangents, writerly indulgences that are not essential to the plot. At the end of the book, when the entire truth is laid bare, it's clear to see that Lippman allowed us to view these various snippets to give us a full picture of Go-Go's state of mind as well as the state of mind of the other four children - and how their changing relationship and family dynamics allowed something so repulsive to happen in the first place. Still, this was definitely my least favorite of her books.

Find out more about THE MOST DANGEROUS THING at Goodreads

FTC disclosure: Review copy from publisher

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Return of Cat Tuesday (78)

Sorry Cat Tuesday has been inexplicably MIA the last month.  I guess I won't be posting every week anymore, but I will post when I have something cat-tastic to share.

Yesterday, Kaia refused to allow me to work on my latest picture book project with Daniel.  So, you know, I had to read instead.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Double Dip Book Reviews: Faithful Place and Broken Harbor by Tana French

After THE LIKENESS, I am a complete Tana French fangirl.  And while neither FAITHFUL PLACE nor BROKEN HARBOR eclipsed my love for THE LIKENESS (please, Tana, bring back Cassie!!), both were solid literary thrillers.



I'll start with FAITHFUL PLACE (which I read back in April).  I liked Frank Mackey in THE LIKENESS (he was Cassie's former boss in the undercover unit) and I liked even more here.  He hasn't spoken to his family for years (except for his sister), but when he gets a call that his former girlfriend Rosie's suitcase was found in a derelict house in his old neighborhood, he is sucked back into the dysfunctional family dynamics of his childhood.

As the story unfolds, both Frank and the reader learn truths about Rosie that have been long hidden - truths that will have consequences for Frank and his entire family.  I loved Frank's voice here - and the authentic feeling interactions he had with his parents and siblings.  There are also several very well executed twists that ratchet up the tension considerably.  I very much enjoyed this one!



BROKEN HARBOR focuses on Scorcher Kennedy, a minor character from FAITHFUL PLACE, and one that I didn't particularly like.  You come to understand him more in this novel, but he's at the bottom of my list of favorite Tana French protagonists.  Likewise, I found the premise and the story to be the least riveting of the four - although the setting (an abandoned estate of houses with only a few occupants) was super creepy.

Basically, Scorcher investigates a murder of a family that looks like a murder-suicide except that the wife is still clinging to life and the clues point to there being someone else at the scene. What follows is a tale rife with class differences and mental illness. Although I didn't like this one as much as her other books, it's still a cut above most thrillers, so if you like French, definitely give it a go.  I'd start with one of her others though, if you haven't had the pleasure of reading her work yet.

Very much looking forward to French's 2014 novel in this series: THE SECRET PLACE.

FTC disclosure: For review from publisher

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring GILT, a YA historical set in the court of Henry VIII.



GILT is the story of Catherine "Cat" Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, but it's told from the point of view of her friend, Kitty Tylney. If you know Tudor history at all, then you know Cat's fate from the get-go, so the narrative tension has to come from Kitty's journey. Kitty starts out the novel in Cat's shadow, and though her time at court allows her some time in the sun, she's still very much tied to Cat.

Kitty is a down-to-earth, awkward girl, and Cat is a preening, selfish drama-queen. Their friendship is very unbalanced in favor of Cat, and as a reader, you really root for Kitty to come into her own. I loved Kitty's voice and her astute observations about people and life.

GILT is full of palace intrigue, Tudor gossip, glitter and grit - not to be missed by fans of historical fiction.

And now let's chat with Katherine!


What is your favorite scene in the book?


My favorite scene in the book happens very near the end, when my main character, Kitty (who has seen, aided and abetted, but never contradicted or intervened), argues with a boy who has managed to get through life similarly. He says, “I did nothing wrong.” To which she replies, “No, you did nothing. And that’s not the same thing.” It’s a small incident, a fairly quiet moment, but to me it sums up the whole of the book. Are you an actor in your own life? Or an observer?

What is your favorite line in the book?

The above scene contains one of my favorite lines, but another occurs much earlier, and I didn’t even write it. Kitty’s best friend, Cat, is talking about all of the qualities she’s looking for in a man and comparing them unfavorably to her current boyfriend and his (ahem) anatomy. “The sword is no match for the scabbard,” she says, “if you catch my meaning.” I workshopped this scene with my critique group and my friend, Mark Hoyer, suggested that line. I’m eternally grateful.

What setting was most fun to write?

The Tower of London. I had visited it a couple of times as a tourist, and went back to research it thoroughly for a middle grade adventure book I was writing about the Princes in the Tower – the two sons of Edward IV, supposedly killed by Richard III. Legend has it that they were held in what is now called the Bloody Tower, near the Traitor’s Gate and overlooking the Tower Green where executions took place. Not wanting my research to go to waste (and because the vantage point was too good to pass up) I placed Kitty there during her stay in the Tower. The castle is so atmospheric, and visually distinctive – I loved walking Kitty through it, seeing it as it was at the time.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?

I’m a little bit in love with William and think it would be interesting to see the entire GILT story from his point of view. But really the most intriguing supporting character to me is Alice Restwold – she’s conflicted, flawed and self-serving, but ultimately wants to do the right thing. I’d like to know what happens to her.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?

Getting to know the community of authors that make up the Apocalypsies and the Class of 2k12. The debut experience is a roller coaster and being able to share the ups and downs has been priceless. Not to mention all the amazing books I’ve been reading this year…

Thanks Katherine!

GILT is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Provided by publisher for review

Sunday, October 21, 2012

YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes - Featuring Level 2



I'm so thrilled to be participating in the third and final YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes, a massive blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors, and prize packs that include books, gift certificates, swag, and more! If you haven’t yet been to the Apocalypsies website, please click here to start from the beginning and read the complete rules. Now on to the race!

NOTE: The race IS NOW OVER! Thanks to everyone who participated - you rock :)



ABOUT LEVEL 2

In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.  
Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved. 
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again. 
Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.
LEVEL 2 is book 1 of The Memory Chronicles and comes out January 15, 2013 from Simon & Schuster in the US (preorder here), Usborne in the UK (preorder here) and Allen and Unwin in Australia/New Zealand (more info here).  The sequel, tentatively titled LEVEL 3, is set for January 7, 2014.

BONUS CONTEST!

In addition to the prizes you can win by taking the quizzes, you can also win here! Enter via this form for a chance to win a pre-order of LEVEL 2 (Coming Jan 15, 2013) + swag pack incl magnet + signed postcards + more (meaning whatever swag I dream up for my launch party). Open internationally! Contest ends at midnight EST on October 28th, 2012.

For extra entries you can:

Follow @lenoreva on twitter
Like The Memory Chronicles on Facebook (which also allows you to read the first 4 chapters of LEVEL 2 online!)
Add LEVEL 2 to Goodreads 


READY TO MOVE ON?

Click here to go to the next stop on the YAmazing Race! (NOTE: THE RACE IS OVER!)


Friday, October 19, 2012

Latest LEVEL 2 Links and News

Less than three months before LEVEL 2 releases, and I have lots of news and updates!

1. LEVEL 2 got an excellent review from Kirkus! They call it an "Imaginative debut" and "An absorbing, sensitive read." Unless you're a Kirkus subscriber, you won't be able to read the full review until two weeks before pub date, but here it is: LEVEL 2 Kirkus review

2. The jacket of LEVEL 2 will feature three blurbs from amazing authors that I admire!

“A gripping debut! This utterly unique take on the afterlife poses fascinating questions . . . I can't wait to read the rest of the series to find out the answers!”—Megan McCafferty, New York Times bestselling author of Bumped and Thumped
“Appelhans brings the afterlife to a whole new level. . . . A high-voltage thrill ride through love, death, and memory that will leave you breathless.”—Jess Rothenberg, author of The Catastrophic History of You and Me
“Absolutely gripping. My heart pounded on nearly every page. You won't be able to put it down.”—Mary E. Pearson, award-winning author of the Jenna Fox Chronicles

3. LEVEL 2's UK publisher Usborne has put up the first chapter for all to read. Remember, if you want to read more, you can also check out the first four chapters at The Memory Chronicles Facebook page.

Level 2 UK cover flat


4. Usborne has also created this incredibly cool #nailart board on Pinterest. Felicia is big into painting her nails, so she'd love this! Plus - I finally joined Pinterest and you can find me here.

5. Author Meagan Spooner has a fab new feature called Write Space and she's featured me. You can check out where I do my writing and reading plus see the stack of paper I used while LEVEL 2 evolved. Also - there's a chance to win an ARC of LEVEL 2!! (Enter by Oct 30th)

6. Jessica of Confessions of a Bookaholic featured LEVEL 2 as part of her Haunted Halloween celebration. You can read three paragraphs of the Halloween scene in LEVEL 2 (I couldn't include any more than that because it comes pretty late in the novel and more would have been spoilery!) Here's another chance to win an ARC of LEVEL 2! (Hurry - ends today!)

7.  The sequel to LEVEL 2, tentatively titled LEVEL 3, is now up on Goodreads - add it to your to-read list!

8. Simon & Schuster added a tagline to the LEVEL 2 cover, so here's what you'll see in stores:


Only 87 more days!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring IF I LIE, a YA contemporary set at the end of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" era.



Quinn lives in a military town - branded the town slut after being caught kissing a guy other than her boyfriend, Carey, who is serving in Afghanistan.  If Quinn told the truth about her relationship with Carey, things might be easier for her, but out of a sense of honor (he asked her to keep his secret), she stoically bears the daily abuse rained down upon her by her classmates, Carey's family, and her own father (still reeling from Quinn's mother leaving him for Quinn's uncle, his own brother).

Because of its subject matter and themes, IF I LIE has a certain gravitas to it, but Cory's writing is so smooth and lovely, you'll feel like you're devouring chocolate rather than kale. I could completely sympathize with Quinn's struggle to define honor in light of her ruined reputation, her estranged relationship with her "fallen" mother, and her sweet friendship with an elderly war veteran. Her promise to Carey cost her so much, and yet she holds on to her integrity. Heartbreaking!

And now, here's Corrine!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
There's a scene in on of the latter chapters that breaks my heart. Every time I had to edit it or work on it, I cried. I don't want to describe it because it might give too much away, but suffice it to say that I think you'll know the scene when you get to it. The scene actually made me ache to write it.

I know exactly what you are referring to. Heartbreaking! What is your favorite line in the book?
"The only company Carey and I had were the cicadas rattling like a thousand rusty watches being wound." I didn't know what cicadas sounded like, and I listened to a lot of YouTube videos to get to that sentence. It's a simple thing, but there are some descriptions that you really have to work for.

That's so cool! I did that with bats for my book 2. What setting was most fun to write?
The hospital was so much fun to write. I'd been to a VA hospital and the hospital in IF I LIE became a combination of that place, the Fayetteville VA Hospital (based on online research) and imagination. I think the hospital was fun to write because George was there, and any scene with George was one I loved to write. Plus, the hospital was a haven for Quinn, and I liked how it became a second home for her.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
George is my favorite supporting character, but as an old Veteran, he would never get his own spin-off book. However, I had an epilogue planned for IF I LIE that I decided not to write. It felt like a book unto itself. I would love to do a sequel from Blake's perspective someday. Fingers crossed.

What about George as a teen? That'd be fun! What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
I think my favorite part was the call where my publisher made an offer. That day was so incredible. A close second would be the day I saw my cover and the book started to feel real. I couldn't believe it was happening and every step toward the actual book felt like getting pinched. In a nice way.

Thank you Cory!  

IF I LIE is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring VELVETEEN, a YA afterlife thriller set in purgatory.



So this is a really, really twisted vision of the afterlife, just as I expected! See, Velvet was murdered by a sadist named Bonesaw, and she slips through the cracks of purgatory back to Earth to try to take her revenge.  She's also the head of a crew responsible for tracking down trapped souls - and one day, this leads her to Nick.

Marks' vision of purgatory is crazy fun and the world-buidling details he includes are so imaginative. My favorite part of the novel, though, was the chemistry between Velvet and Nick.  Velvet is understandably pissed at the world and isn't the easiest girl to love. She's withholding, sarcastic, and obsessed with vengeance.  But Nick brings out a softer side in her, and their scenes crackle with sexual tension.

If you're like me and are intrigued by books set in the great beyond - you need to check this one out!

And now, let's hear from the author himself! Welcome Daniel Marks!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
Hmm. Tricky. I’m really partial to Velvet and Nick’s racy banter. I think their relationship is really fun and quite complex, as it’s not built on love (in my eyes) but rather blossoms from a complete and utter mistake. The moments following that “mistake” are some of my favorites. Also, I tend to read those scenes back to back at author events. Spoiler: there’s kissing and…other stuff.

What is your favorite line in the book?
“She walks a tightrope between psycho and smokin’.” It’s a snippet of conversation Velvet overhears and it really does summarize her pretty well. Plus, I think it’s pretty badass. I’d forgotten it, until a blogger friend, Pam from Bookalicious, brought it up to me. Now, I use it for my promo materials.

What setting was most fun to write?
Purgatory. Every time. I love the rundown nature of a place that’s built entirely of things we living folk wouldn’t necessarily miss if it was stolen in the night. I was absolutely fixated on paper with this book, from the intricacy of Mr. Fassbinder’s origami, to the effigies, to the pressed bricks of the buildings, I couldn’t cram enough of the stuff into the world. I actually took an origami class while I was working on the world, but the best I could fold was a lop-sided box. Sad.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
Logan. For sure. To paint your readers a—not-so-pretty—picture, Logan is a 12-year old gas-huffing card shark with violent tendencies. He also happens to be trapped in a Grover costume when he’s his ghost self. I love him, he’s brash and ballsy and has a way with a bear trap on a chain.

As far as spinning him off, I’m not really interested in spin-offs. Writing series are actually a stretch for me. I much prefer standalone books and worlds and the challenge of creating something new each time.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
Definitely meeting so many awesome people who are as enthusiastic about books, reading and writing as I am. Before I started writing eight years ago, I was a pretty solitary reader—never joined a book club or online forum and didn’t really discuss what I was reading with others. After I decided to give this a go, a whole other level of social interaction opened up for me. It’s funny because I’d never considered myself to be particularly introverted, but the engagement I’ve found with people I’ve met at conferences, readers and other authors/publishing folk have made me understand that I was more closed off than I’d let myself believe. I’m much happier, now. I wish the actual business end of writing had that same effect.

Thanks Daniel! VELVETEEN is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: NetGalley

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring SEND ME A SIGN, a YA novel about a girl who gets cancer, but it's NOT a cancer book.



See, I don't read cancer books.  My mother died of cancer when I was a teen, and I can't handle cancer in books to this day. But many friends assured me that SEND ME A SIGN is not about the cancer and that I'd I be fine.  

The first part of that assurance is pretty much true.  Mia is part of the popular clique at school, has sort of boyfriend Ryan and is about to start her senior year.  Her mother convinces her she can keep her cancer diagnosis secret - and Mia agrees because she doesn't want to be "cancer girl". The only person she tells is her best friend Gyver.  

So the focus isn't on the cancer, but much more about Mia's changing perception of her friends, family and the two main boys in her life, Ryan and Gyver. And I totally loved Gyver. 

However - I wasn't quite fine reading this. There's a very loaded emotional event towards the end that made me have to skip a whole chapter (it wasn't related to the cancer but to another of my deal-breakers in books, which I won't mention here since I don't want to spoil it).

Still, I'm happy I took a chance on SEND ME A SIGN. It's incredibly life-affirming and contains such a sweet, giddy-making romance.  

And now, let's give the floor to Tiffany!


What is your favorite scene in the book?

Without giving away too much, it involves pajamas, a hat, purple boxer shorts, a blush, and a dead sexy "C'mere."

What is your favorite line in the book?
“I figured the best way to cure her of being superstitious was to give her a black cat named Jinx on a Friday the Thirteenth.”

What setting was most fun to write?
This question made me mentally scroll through all the settings in Send Me a Sign -- and made me realize how much of this book takes place in a BED. There are the hospital beds, of course, but there are also significant scenes in Mia's, Ryan's and Gyver's.

I'm starting to think this must be my subconscious chastising me for all the sleep I sacrificed while writing.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
There's one character who HAUNTS me because he grew so much throughout the book and yet doesn’t get a happily ever after. I realize he's fictional, but there have truly been many nights where I've lain in bed and felt guilty. I tried so many different, happier endings for him, but none of them felt true.

I'd love to explore where he goes next. And maybe if I gave him his own book, he'd let me get some sleep?

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
This answer changes hourly! (ALL the parts are my favorite... eh, all the parts except waiting...) Today's sappy response comes courtesy of my toddler twins. They came bounding into the kitchen this morning each holding one of my author copies and proudly announced, "Momma book."

After I pried the books out of pudgy hands, checked for rips and sticky fingerprints, and moved the box out of reach, I had this moment of teary-eyed realization: They are ALWAYS going to think of me as an author. They're never going to know that I had all those seasons of doubt and will-I-ever-make-it?

Yes, that is “Momma’s book,” and I’m so proud of it.

Thanks Tiffany!

SEND ME A SIGN is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

Monday, October 8, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring TIME BETWEEN US, a YA gem that has so many things I love in a novel: it's imaginative, heartfelt and mixes time travel, foreign countries and music!



I was lucky enough to read TIME BETWEEN US earlier than most, and I've been excited for months for other readers to discover it - which they can finally do tomorrow! It was nearly a year ago now when I went to dinner with Tamara (and Veronica Rossi) and we all traded the first chapters of our manuscripts to read.  I was so hooked by the end of chapter 1, I cajoled Tamara into letting me beta read.

So what got me so hooked?  First, the book opens with a scene in October 2011 of an older Anna handing a letter to a 16 year old Bennett who doesn't know her. She hopes the letter might be able to change things. Next, we get a scene in March 1995. Anna's running at a track and there's a boy watching her. But when she turns to look at him again, he's gone. And when she goes to investigate, there are no tracks leading to or from where he's sitting.  How cool and mysterious is that opening?

I quickly became invested in Anna's character.  She has a world map and longs to stick it full of pins to show places she's been.  When she meets Bennett, he makes her world larger - and not only because of his big time travel secret.  Anna and Bennett are so sweet together - and the narrative is infused with such urgency because you want these two teens from different times to end up together.

And now, let's chat with Tamara!



What is your favorite scene in the book?

I have always loved the rock-climbing scene. By the time I wrote it, I felt like I really knew both Anna and Bennett as individuals, and when I placed them in that setting together, they came to life for me even more.

I really like the way the two of them interact with each other throughout the scene. And I love that Anna is completely out of her element. She’s not used to being vulnerable or having to rely on someone else, but when you’re climbing, your safety is literally in someone else’s hands. I liked putting her in danger and seeing how she’d react.

But I love that scene most because it’s really all about the moment the two of them start to trust each other completely.

What is your favorite line in the book?

Oh, I’d give so much away if I told you! Also, I’m going to cheat here, because my favorite line has to be coupled with another.

My favorite lines are the two that occur at the end of Chapter 27. I love the build up to those lines—the discussion, the kiss, the fact that the two of them are so in the moment—and those two simple sentences felt like the perfect way to punctuate the emotion.

Those sentences made me all tingly! What setting was most fun to write?

The scenes in Vernazza, Italy were my favorites to write. Vernazza is Bennett’s favorite place and one of my favorite places too, so every time I worked on those scenes I got to picture myself back there, sipping coffee in the square, walking cobblestone streets, people watching.

And those scenes were not only fun, they became hugely cathartic. In revisions, I had to dig deeper than I did at first, and I guess a big part of me was resistant because it took lots of rewriting before I let myself say what I was really trying to say. But now, I love those scenes even more because there's so much of my own experience in those pages.

We moved around a lot when I was young. When my parents decided to move again, right before I started my senior year of high school, my best friend’s family offered to let me live with them so I didn’t have to graduate from a new school.

In Vernazza, Bennett talks about finding a home with a family that isn’t his own. He finds comfort in the fact that he’s formed a connection not only with Anna, but also with the people in her world. Getting that down on paper was more emotional than I expected it to be and those scenes became incredibly personal. I realized I was talking about my own experience of feeling at home with a family that wasn’t mine.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?

I’m always smiling as I write Emma, but I have to keep her in check—that girl can be a bit of a scene-stealer! I love the way she’s been described in some reviews: Funny and quirky. A bit of a smartass. Someone who says what she thinks. But mostly, people love her—and I love her—because she’s so committed to Anna. I think the two of them are a great example of a strong, healthy female friendship.

Amen! What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?

Working with my agent and my editor. They have both been so supportive and brilliant with their advice. They completely get this story, these characters, and me.

They were exactly what I’d hoped for: coaches who would help me make this a better book, and help make me a better writer along the way.

Thanks Tamara!

TIME BETWEEN US comes out in hardcover tomorrow. Find out more about it at the author's website

FTC disclosure: Beta read a copy provided by author

Friday, October 5, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a legit creepy middle grade that gave me nightmares.



Victoria likes order, so she takes on the disorderly Lawrence as more of a project than a true friend. But when Lawrence goes missing and the people in town starting acting really weird, Victoria discovers that there's something sinister about the town's orphanage and she sets out to investigate and hopefully save Lawrence.

So why did this book give me nightmares? How about cockroaches, slimy chunks of mystery meat, dark spaces, and a surreal landscape of horrors inside the house.  Ms. Cavendish reminded me very much of "other mother" in Neil Gaiman's CORALINE with her eerie perfection and this type of villain always freaks me out. 

Fortunately I was so invested in Victoria's journey and her sweet but messy friendship with Lawrence that I was able to soldier on and let this trippy novel take me on its crazy ride.  And OMG - the ending. I may never sleep again.

How about I turn the blog over to Claire now?

What is your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene is not really an important scene whatsoever. It's in the second chapter, when Victoria loses her hair ribbon in the blustery wind on her way home from school (significantly, without Lawrence), and encounters Mr. Alice for the first time. This was one of the first scenes that occurred to me when planning Cavendish, and it always fills me with a sense of mystery and strange beauty when I think about it (despite the Mr. Alice creep factor).


What is your favorite line in the book?
Again, this is a relatively insignificant line, but it gave me such joy when I wrote it (and still does, when I think about it). It's from the first chapter, when we meet Victoria's father, Ernest Wright:

"Mr. Wright knew everyone in town, too, and was one of the richest men in Belleville, and some people were even afraid of him because he was so rich and perfectly toothed."

I've always had this image of Mr. Wright camped out in the bathroom, examining his teeth for half an hour. I imagine he would be somewhat of a dental floss aficionado.


What setting was most fun to write?
Maybe this is obvious, but my favorite setting was the Cavendish Home itself. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted with it--make it move and sigh, have rooms pop out of nowhere and look different the very next day, create secret passages. Secret passages! I've always wanted one for myself.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
My favorite supporting character, oddly, is Mr. Alice. I'm not sure why, as he's pretty disturbing (oh, wait, that's why). Also, he's kind of funny, in this weird, not-quite-right way, like he has glitches that make his speech, and the way he carries himself, just the tiniest bit off. I'm not sure he could necessarily get a spin-off book, but it would be interesting to explore his relationship with Mrs. Cavendish from his point of view. Or maybe it would just be terrifying. Yeah, probably that.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
The writing itself is still, fortunately, the thing that gets me up to work every day. For me, it's all in the language; I love seeing how words fit together, playing with them and twisting them, moving them around like puzzle pieces. But beyond that, it thrills me to see people's response to the book; I love hearing readers tell me how they enjoyed it (or how it gave them nightmares!).

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Review copy from the publisher

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Through to You by Emily Hainsworth



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring THROUGH TO YOU, an intriguing novel about parallel worlds by Emily Hainsworth that is definitely going to make my end of the year favorites list.



THROUGH TO YOU is the story of Cam, a high school boy who is crippled with grief over the loss of his girlfriend Viv. One day Cam meets Nina - a girl who claims to come from a parallel world where Viv is alive.  Cam is ecstatic - here's his chance to be with his one true love again - but Nina warns him away from this Viv. Why?

There is so much I love about this novel. It's fresh, genre-bending, thoughtful and completely immersive. We've all wondered at times how our lives might be different if we'd made slightly different choices (a la SLIDING DOORS or the fabulous Lionel Shriver novel THE POST BIRTHDAY WORLD), and Hainsworth deftly illustrates the way choices can profoundly shape our identities. 

As Kelly Jensen of STACKED points out in her review, THROUGH TO YOU explores some of the same themes as my novel, LEVEL 2 (may also be a reason why I love it so much) and although they are completely different books, they feel like good companions. This is one I'll reread for years to come.

And now, let's chat with Emily!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
I think the final scene is my favorite. I had it in my head from the first day I started writing Through To You, and when I finally got to write it, it just seemed right. I can't describe it without spoiling, though!

What is your favorite line in the book?
I have a few that I really love, but I'll go with this one: "Tomorrow is nothing after two months of never again."

What setting was most fun to write?
Hands-down the street corner where Cam finds a portal to the parallel world. The setting starts out as nothing more than a grungy sidewalk until he locates and starts to move through the green light into the other world. I loved writing what it was like for Cam inside that light.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
I loved writing Viv. It was tricky because there are two versions of her and you never actually get to meet one of them--you only learn about her through Cam's memories, which can be biased--but she had such a vibrant personality from the first moment. Every time she came on the page, I discovered more about her. I'm not sure she will ever see a spin-off book, but I guess you never know!

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
My favorite part ever happened today--my book came out and is IN stores everywhere! Some people may love it, some might not, but the fact that anyone will now be able to read, form opinions on, and discuss the book I wrote is just surreal in the best kind of way.

Thanks Emily!

THROUGH TO YOU came out this week in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: e-Galley via Edelweiss

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: The Monster Who Lost His Mean by Tiffany Strelitz Haber



Apocalypsies Love is all about me telling you what I loved about a 2012 debut book written by one of the amazing Apocalypsies. I also chat with the author to gain insight into their very favorite parts of their creation.

Today I'm featuring The Monster Who Lost His Mean, a delightful picture book written by Tiffany Strelitz Haber and illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds.




What happens when a monster loses the "m" in his name and becomes an "onster"? He loses his mean! In this imaginative picture book, Onster finds that without his mean, he doesn't really fit in with his monster friends anymore ... What's an Onster to do?

I love that the concept comes from an acrostic. It's such a creative way to start a story and has so many fun story time possibilities. Tiffany's word choice is also inspired, and the rhyme feels natural and fits the story - not so easy to do with picture books.

The illustrations by Kirstie Edmunds are bright and colorful with unforgettable expressions. 

We read this one many times to the son of my critique partner when we stayed with her in August and he loved it so much we had to leave it with him.  What better recommendation is there than that?

And now let's chat with Tiffany!


What is your favorite scene in the book?
My fave scene/spread is,
The Onster thinks,
"I'll throw some eggs at Mr. Landers Van!"
But winds up cooking brunch
for the entire Lander clan.

The reason behind this choice is two-fold. 1) I'm always partial to anything that even hints towards the comsumption of bacon. 2) The contrasting expressions Kirstie was able to capture on the Onster's face in the various images of the spread- are priceless.

What is your favorite line in the book?
"One day the Onster's M went missing. Gone without a trace. And all the Ms are custom made. the kind you can't replace." Pretty sure that was the very first line I wrote of the story...and from there it kinda all fell into place.

What setting was most fun to write?
I always like to write about characters searching for things. So, when The Onster was sort of tearing apart his room, and the town etc...hunting for the missing M...that was filled with opportunites for some really fun rhymes.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
The book is pretty "Onster-centric". Would love to tell some other stories about him. Maybe a prequel about his "Mean" days.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
There have been so many favorite parts along the way! It's kinda like having kids. At first you think- ohmygosh- THIS is the cutest age they will ever be! And then they get a little older, and things change and you feel like, ok definitey THIS age. THIS is unbeatable...etc. Getting word of my first sale was aboslutely amazing. Later on, when I first saw the ARC of the completed book, I nearly died. But now, I find that doing readings and signings and actually being "out there" with a book on the shelves, is the most incredible part of all!

Thanks Tiffany!

The Monster Who Lost His Mean is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin



I love reading fairy tale retellings and novels inspired by fairy tales, so when I heard that SINISTER SWEETNESS was loosely based on Hansel & Gretel, I had to read it.  And I loved it! Loftin is not afraid to "go there" and as a result, the novel, though middle grade, is pretty dark. Deliciously dark. 

Lorelei is struggling to adjust to the death of her mother and the new addition of a "stepmonster", when a new school opens up in town.  Lorelei becomes a student there, and is shocked by the focus on eating over anything else. Her new friend Andrew suspects the teachers might not have the best intentions and Lorelei slowly realizes this to be true.  But adults don't want to listen to her and her fellow students are caught up in how fun school is now - what can Lorelei do?

When I told my husband how much I was enjoying this story and gave him a quick summary, he asked me why I wasn't letting HIM read it.  Since he wasn't going to read a netgalley copy, I bought the hardcover, and it's now on his nightstand, waiting to be devoured ....

I know a bunch of other friends who would love this too. Ann and Jenny especially. Get it!



And because Nikki is an Apocalypsie (Debut Author 2012), we also get an Apoc Love interview to discover what she loves most about her own creation!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
Oh, I can’t answer this one! Not because I don’t have a favorite scene, but because it’s at the very end, and if I tell, I’ll spoil the story for those who haven’t read it.
So… second favorite? Lunch in the Splendid Academy cafeteria on the first day of school. I loved writing the setting – satin tablecloths, scurrying waiters, centerpieces of peacock feathers and gold and silver balls, chandeliers, and the food! Oh, all the favorite foods I could think of… It makes me hungry just writing this.
Sometimes I think I wrote this entire book because I have an overactive sweet tooth.

What is your favorite line in the book?
Again! The final line in the book is my favorite. And I can’t tell you that either. So… maybe from page 69. “… the next morning I woke up with a wet pillow, and a sick, twisting hunger that felt like teeth chewing at my insides.”
Wow, that’s a cheery one. Well, it IS a murdery sort of book, I suppose! ;)

What setting was most fun to write?
Definitely the cafeteria. I mean, all that food! I wrote in every snack I’ve ever loved, every food I ever fantasized as a child I could order instead of the sloppy Joe glop my school cafeterias served, every crazy dessert I never ordered in a restaurant. Petit fours, swan-shaped chocolate ├ęclairs, cashew chocolate clusters… chocolate sculptures on the tables and formal place settings… fabric hanging from the ceiling in between the crystal chandeliers… It was fun to keep adding stuff to this room!
The playground runs a close second, though. Seriously, zip lines, tree houses, climbing walls, and half pipes, as well as balance beams, see saws and carousels? What’s not to love?

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
Hmm. I think the easy answer is Andrew, since he’s the most fleshed-out character next to Lorelei. But, honestly, I think Molly the Stepmonster is the character with the most unexplored depths… of wickedness. (cue evil laughter) I would LOVE to write her into another Grimm re-telling.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
The friends. In the past four years, I have made some of the best, most compassionate, passionate, loyal, funny, and rambunctious friends I’ve ever had in my life! I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe – a group of people who care deeply about books and writing, and who support each other in all the stages of the publication process. (Of course, I live in Austin, Texas, which for some reason hosts a constellation of children’s writing stars. A great blessing!)

The best thing about loving the people so much is, even if the advance checks stop coming in, the big pay-off is permanent. Because of writing, I have found people I care for and who care for me who will always be open to have a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate, and talk about what we’re writing.

Thanks Nikki!

THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley