Monday, December 31, 2012

Best/Most Memorable Reads in 2012

I read just over 100 books this year (including rereads of the Hunger Games trilogy) and by and large, I was happy with my reading choices (see my list of books read in 2012). Here are some of the most memorable aspects of what I read:

Memorable Dystopian Moments
Thanks to two whole dystopian theme months, this was my most read genre. I already pointed out my top 5 2012 faves at The Book Smugglers (you'll have to go over there to see which I picked), but really most of my dystopian reads were awesome.

Memorable Debuts
My other big goal for the year was to read as many Apocalypsies' books as possible, and I read over 50. Check out my Debut Author Challenge list for the lowdown.

Most memorable first line
'I should probably start with the blood.' From Robin Wasserman's THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW. And it only gets bloodier from there!

Most memorable first chapter
Nothing drew me in this year more than the beginning of TIME BETWEEN US by Tamara Ireland Stone. What a hook!

Most memorable laugh
REUNITED by Hilary Weisman Graham, for the squirrel scene alone. Also, MOTHERSHIP by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal for its dark humor throughout. Trevor's ever-changing shirt slogans were also great comic relief in TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini.

Most memorable cry
The end of CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. Gutted.

Most dramatic character arcs
Sloane in THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers. Elysia in BETA by Rachel Cohn.

Most memorable male leads
Jondoe in THUMPED by Megan McCafferty, Gyver in SEND ME A SIGN by Tiffany Schmidt, Julian in PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver.

Most memorable couples
A and Rhiannon in EVERY DAY by David Levithan, Freya and Garren in YESTERDAY by CK Kelly Martin, Travis and Harper in SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Dollar.

Most swoony kisses
Finn and Cate in the secret passageway in BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood, Noah and Echo in PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry. Aria and Perry in UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi. 

Most memorable supporting characters
Jane Fonda in THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily Danforth, pretty much all the characters in REMARKABLE by Lizzie K. Foley (the pirates, the dentist, grandpa, the brother ... oh just read it!), Zu in THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken.

Most memorable locations
Backpackers' Guatemala in WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard,  the Mexican coffee plantation in BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD by Gabrielle Zevin, the Pentagonal Spire in INSIGNIA by SJ Kincaid, Heart in INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows, the picnic table in ASK THE PASSENGERS by AS King.

Most memorable WTF
Umm... how about pretty much the whole of GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn? Other novels that brought the crazy this year (in a good way) were VELVETEEN by Daniel Marks, SHADOWS CAST BY STARS by Cat Knutsson, PURE by Julianna Baggott and HARBINGER by Sarah Wilson Etienne.

Most memorable animals
Hamloaf in THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg. The adorable toy poodle in CRACKED by KM Walton. Baruu in STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff.

Most memorable outfit
The dresses in THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass.

Most memorable scene that gave me chills
Towards the end of THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth - twisty twist!

Most memorable scene that gave me chills (in a good way)
The last scene of FRACTURE by Megan Miranda.

Most memorable scare
THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Clare Legrand was the creepiest novel I read all year. I had to hide under the covers to read it!

Most memorable villain

Most memorable cover

Lizzy Bromley wins again this year with her innovative design for Lisa Stasse's FORSAKEN.

Best dress on a cover

I need this red dress in my life. (EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton)

Most memorable unexpected reveals
The twist at the end of STARTERS by Lissa Price which was also ewwwww. PARTIALS by Dan Wells also had some awesome reveals.

Most memorable backlist reads
I hardly read any backlist this year - shame on me!

Most time spent on describing mundane tasks
MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne - we know how they prepared every last meal.

Check out my memorable 2011 reads.

Tell me - what were some of your memorable reading moments in 2012?

2012 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

2012 Movies I saw this year

Hunger Games (twice in the theater, 3 times on the plane)
Cabin in the Woods
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (on demand)
This Means War (plane)
Snow White and the Huntsman (plane)
Moonrise Kingdom (plane)
Rock of Ages (plane)
The Five Year Engagement (plane)
Life of Pi
The Dark Knight Rises (plane)

Total of 13 (5 less than last year)

Since the English language movie theater closed down, I've been less likely to want to go see films in the theater (because I have to see them dubbed into German). Action movies like Prometheus are okay in German, but comedies don't translate. I usually save movie watching for my visits to the US or the plane, which limits their frequency considerably. My favorite movies this year were The Hunger Games and Looper.  I thought The Dark Knight Rises was incredibly boring (though I did like Anne Hathaway as Catwoman), and Snow White and the Huntsman was very WTF.

Notable movies I saw in 2012 that were released before 2012

Like Crazy
The Help
Source Code
Crazy Stupid Love
In Time
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Sixteen Candles

2012 movies I still want to see

Les Miserables (need to see this!)
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Cloud Atlas

TV series I watched in 2012

Germany’s Next Top Model – Season 7
The Vampire Diaries - Season 3
Homeland - Season 1 and 2
Revenge - Season 1 and 2 (so far)
The Walking Dead - Season 2 and 3 (so far)
Big Bang Theory - Season 5 and 6 (so far)
Mad Men - Season 5
Dexter - Season 6
Subpurgatory - Season 1 and 2 (so far)
Battlestar Galactica - Season 1 (rewatch)
The Mindy Project - Season 1 (so far)
Person of Interest - Season 1

I watched the first episode of quite a few new shows (Revolution, Arrow, Beauty and the Beast) which didn't inspire me to watch more.  I am really enjoying The Mindy Project. She's so hilarious. Revenge is not as good as last year, but I'm sticking with it for now. Walking Dead is better - and the mid-season cliffhanger is killing me. Subpurgatory is hit and miss. Some episodes are brilliant and others fall kind of flat - but it's always fascinating somehow. 

How was your year in movies and TV?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review: Music

I haven't done a year in music wrap up on the blog before, but I bought 180 new songs in 2012 and find myself really getting back into discovering new music in a way I haven't since I was in my early 20s.

Many times this year I'd come across a single I just loved to pieces, but the rest of the band's songs didn't immediately speak to me.  Sometimes I come back to them, give them more chances.  For example, I'm slowly learning to love all the tracks on The National's High Violet, on Mumford & Suns Sigh No More and on Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.

But those are all older, so let's talk about stuff released in 2012.  Here are some of the new songs that were on heavy rotation this year (in no particular order):

Anna Sun - Walk the Moon This is so infectious - always puts me in a good mood.
Dear Fellow Traveler - Sea Wolf I'm a big Sea Wolf fan, and this was my fast favorite from his new album
All the Rowboats - Regina Spektor I'm in awe of Regina's lyrics. Saying art is imprisoned is an interesting thought.
Stubborn Love - The Lumineers So much emotion
Madness - Muse I heard this on the radio in LA without knowing who it was and loved it.
Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It - Stars Perfect feel good anthem.
Abraham's Daughter - Arcade Fire (from The Hunger Games Soundtrack) OMG, I got chills when this started the credits. Perfect fit to the movie.
She Owns the Streets - The Raveonettes I got into the Raveonettes in a big way this year, and this is my favorite from the latest album.
Love Love Love - Of Monsters and Men  This is one of the saddest love songs ever.
Born to Die - Lana Del Rey Kind of a guilty pleasure, but Lana's songs are super addictive.
We Are Young - Fun. I know this was a big radio hit - and I never got tired of it!
History's Door - Husky Has kind of a Fleet Foxes vibe which is good for chillin'
Closer - Tegan and Sara  Much more commercial than most of their stuff, but very upbeat and fun.
Cutty Love - Milo Greene Love the atmosphere of this one.

And then there are some older songs that I just found this year:

Here in Me - Saint Saviour (2011) My current obsession.
Tamer Animals - Other Lives (2011) This entire album is amazing.
Starlight - Rachael Yamagata (2011) Love the groove.
Shake Me Down - Cage the Elephant (2011) I could see this being the theme song to a apocalyptic zombie movie.
Lights - Ellie Goulding (2011) Sunlight and sprinkles captured in song form.
Timshel - Mumford & Sons (2010)  Now vying for my top M&S song spot.
I Say Fever - Ramona Falls (2009) I listened to this on repeat all summer long. Gothic and dramatic.
Hannah - The Freelance Whales (2009) Quirky
Lazy Eye - The Silversun Pickups (2006) The beginning is soooo good.
What Else is There? - Royksopp (2005) Also a current obsession.

I also made it my mission to seek out more live music this year. Here's what I experienced:

Florence and the Machine - Houston, TX - April (Highlight: Shake it Out)
Tom Petty with Regina Spektor - Wichita, KS - April (Highlight: Free Fallin and The Party)
Scala and Kolacny Brothers - Frankfurt, Germany - May (Highlight: Creep)
Book of Mormon on Broadway - NYC, NY - August (Highlight: Baptize Me)
Tori Amos - Berlin, Germany - October (Highlight: Gold Dust)
Owl City - Frankfurt, Germany - October (Highlight: Fireflies)
Florence and the Machine - Frankfurt, Germany - December (Highlight: Drumming Song)
Stars - Frankfurt, Germany - December (Highlight: Take Me to the Riot)
The Raveonettes - Frankfurt, Germany - December (Highlight: Gone Forever & The Christmas Song)

Special shout-outs to my top music recommendation sources:

Twitterati such as @jpchanda (#songonsunday), @brokeandbookish @mstiefvater and @catagator
The Glitter Pox
Free Single of the Week on iTunes
My brother Nick

Now that you know my tastes, do you have any recommendations for me? I will love you forever!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our Favorite Picture Books of 2012 + 2013 Preview

As a writer and illustrator team, Daniel and I are always on the lookout for amazing picture books to inspire us.

Admittedly we weren't exposed to as many 2012 picture books as we probably should have been, but of those we read, these were the standouts.

I Don't Want to Be a Pea by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty
Hugo Hippo and Bella Bird are looking for a couples costume for a party, but each suggests something that puts them in the starring role and the other as a merely a prop. Can they find a costume that lets them both shine?

Lenore says: I love the pairing of a hippo and bird and Hugo and Bella's squabble is sweet, realistic and funny.  Favorite line: "I think you look rather nice orange." "Thank you. But I will still not be a pumpkin."

Daniel says: The dialogue between Hugo and Bella is great. The stylized, reduced illustrations fit the tone of the story perfectly.

Oh No George by Chris Haughton
We've all known a dog like George, one who just can't keep himself out of trouble. George's owner asks him to be good while he's gone ... but he's not (hence the title).

Lenore says: George's eyes say it all. Watch how they change from page to page (tempted, guilty, excited, remorseful). And the ending is up to you to decide - has George changed his ways? Or not?

Daniel says: Beautifully designed with striking colors.  I love the character designs of George and Harry.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
A twist on Klassen's bestseller I Want My Hat Back, this book tells the story of a little fish who dares to steal a hat from a much bigger fish. Will he get away with it?

Lenore says: It's pretty rare these days to have a such a blatantly "unhappy" ending in a picture book, and that's what I love about this.  The humor is dry and the text deceptively simple.

Daniel says: A tight story with beautiful art. Great details throughout.

The Amazing Hamweenie by Patty Bowman
Hamweeine bemoans his fate as the coddled pet to a very attentive little girl.

Lenore says: I would have never found this gem if it hadn't been for the new releases shelf at Mrs. Nelson's Bookstore in Greater Los Angeles. The text and illustrations work together so well. My favorite page has to be where the girl has Hamweenie bundled up in a stroller and the accompanying text says "Fate has been cruel to Hamweenie."  A great laugh for anyone with spoiled cats.

Daniel says: Extremely funny. The exaggerated language is used to great effect and Hamweenie's expressions are priceless. There are so many fun details to find in the illustrations.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Annabelle lives in a cold town where everything is white as snow or black as soot - until she starts knitting colorful sweaters from a box of yarn.

Lenore says: I'm a sucker for stories about bringing color into your life, and this one's a visual stunner. I love the way the sweaters look on the animals (especially the cat - so cute!).

Daniel says: Beautifully rendered.

Where is Fred? by Edward Hardy, illustrated by Ali Pye
Only available in the UK (sadly). Fred is a fluffy white caterpillar who is very, very good at hiding. This frustrates Gerald the Crow to no end, because how can he eat Fred if he can't find him?

Lenore says: I love all the creative places Fred hides and the bumbling nature of Gerald. My absolute favorite scene is when Gerald shows off his fluffy white "scarf" to his crow buddies. Ha!

Daniel says: I wish I had come up with this idea. Very funny. I love the story and the rhythm it has to it.


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

(FTC disclosure: We bought all the books mentioned in this post except Big Mean Mike which I got at BEA)

Bonus! Here are some books we're looking forward to in the first part of 2013:

That is NOT a Good Idea by Mo Willems
Mo Willems is a picture book powerhouse, and this one looks to be very fun and interactive. (HarperCollins, April 2013)

I Am Not a Copy Cat by Ann Bonwill, illustrated by Simon Rickerty
Yes - the sequel to I Don't Want to be a Pea (see above). This one, about sychronized swimming, is even cuter than the first Hugo + Bella book (if that's possible). (Simon & Schuster, May 2013)

The Three Triceratops Tuff by Stephen Shaskan
This dino retelling of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" pits a villainous T-Rex against the clever Tuff brothers. Made me laugh out loud. (Simon & Schuster, April 2013)

Giant Dance Party by Betsy Bird, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Betsy is a picture book expert (and blogs over at Fuse #8), so we've been looking forward to this one since the sale was announced. (HarperCollins, April 2013)

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea
How hilarious is this cover? Can't stop smiling. (Hyperion, May 2013)

And don't forget Chick-O-Saurus Rex! (Simon & Schuster, July 2013)


The Monstore by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks
Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne

Any recommendations for us? What outstanding picture books tickled your fancy this year?

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Debut Author Challenge

In 2011, I read at least 32 of the 2011 debuts:

Rival by Sara Bennett-Wealer
Possum Summer by Jen K Blom
Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Bumped by Megan McCafferty (YA Debut)
Momento Nora by Angie Smibert
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Legend by Marie Lu
Dead Rules by Randy Russell
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Possession by Elana Johnson
Those That Wake by Jesse Karp
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Forgotten by Cat Patrick
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
The Predicteds by Christine Seifert
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Eve by Anna Carey
Variant by Robison Wells
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough
Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison
Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Enclave by Ann Aguirre

And I set the bar even higher in 2012, reading 52 2012 debuts, mostly from the Apocalypsies.

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle
Remarkable by Lizzie K Foley
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
Chained by Lynne Kelly

For 2013, I'm not going to be quite so ambitious (I have a more balanced, varied reading year planned - more on that later), but I've already read 2 2013 debuts:

And I plan on reading at least 10 more.  Here's my tentative list:

Hooked by Liz Fichera
The Culling by Steven Dos Santos
After Eden by Helen Douglas
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
Taken by Erin Bowman
Coda by Emma Trevayne
Reboot by Amy Tintera
Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCullough
Pretty Girl 13 by Liz Foley
Pivot Point by Kasie West
The End Games by T. Michael Martin
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
Acid by Emma Pass
Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook
Control by Lydia Kang
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Gilded by Christina Farley
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher

Sign up for the DAC! And consider adding Level 2 to your list ;)

End of the Year Mini-Reviews (of 11 books!)

Before I get to all my year end best lists, I wanted to make sure I say a few lines about all the books I read this year that I didn't get a chance to review.  So here you go!

SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart

In this sun-drenched character study, Kenzie goes to live in Spain where she plans to give up her baby after its born. As usual, Kephart has a keen eye for details and prose you can get lost in. I loved the foreign setting and Kenzie's slow realization that she's the master of her own destiny. (acquired: bought)


Sequel. Mara and Noah are back and the story gets even crazier.  This installment is loooong, with most of the thrills coming in the second half. (acquired: review copy from publisher)

34 PIECES OF YOU by Carmen Rodrigues

After a popular girls commits suicide, three teens (her brother, her best friend and her best friend's sister) try to piece together why she did it.  Out of the 3 POVs, I was most interested in Jake's story. This is a pretty dark book, but the writing is lovely.  I ended up passing it on to a fan of Ellen Hopkins. (acquired: BEA)

TEN by Gretchen McNeil

A teen retelling of Agatha's Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, TEN is horror-lite, in the vein of Christopher Pike (and just as implausible as those books). Great atmosphere building on the island, some truly messed-up secondary characters and a decently sympathetic heroine make this a fast, thrilling read. (acquired: BEA)


I just had to see what this whole "new adult" genre was all about, didn't I? In this case, "good girl" Abby makes a bet with "bad boy" Travis and ends up having to live with him for one month. Although Abby and Travis's relationship - if it existed in real life - would be considered about 99% disaster (he's violent, possessive and gives her a horrible nickname) and maybe 1% beautiful, I have to admit this was compulsively readable fiction. (acquired: borrowed)

SURVIVE by Alex Morel

All Jane wants to do is take a lethal mix of pills when she flies home for Christmas, but then her plane crashes and she fights to survive with a boy named Paul. This was a very touching romance/survival story that reminded me a lot of the movie Titanic. (acquired: review copy from publisher)

SCARLET by Marissa Meyer

Sequel. Due in 2013. A certified page-turner, SCARLET cemented my love for this series. The way Meyer incorporates the original fairy tales and yet updates them to this crazy futuristic world with Lunars is brilliant. (acquired: review copy from publisher)

SEVER by Lauren DeStefano

Third book of trilogy. Due in 2013. I thought this was a surprising and worthy end to this series. The plot flows as steadily as the River Rhine before hitting some major rapids and careening us off a cliff at the end. (acquired: review copy from publisher)

No cover yet


If you've read Leila Sales' other books, you know that she's funny, with impeccable comic timing. This one is darker and more raw than her first two books - it's about a teen outcast who creates a suicide playlist after all - but Leila imbues Elise with such genuine warmth and offbeat humor that despite the depressing particulars of Elise's life, you can help but smile at Elise's keen observations and turns of phrase. Destined to be a fave of 2013! (acquired: review copy from agent)

OVERRIDE by Heather Anastasiu

Sequel. Due in 2013. OVERRIDE continues the adventures of Zoe, Adrian and their crew of rebels against the system.  Zoe has a big disadvantage to overcome - her severe allergies - if she's going to be of any use to the rebellion.  This is an entertaining installment which sets up the final showdown in the last book well. More during Dystopian February. (acquired: review copy from author)

STARGLASS by Phoebe North

Debut due Summer 2013. Terra becomes part of a plot to overthrow the ruling elite on her generation ship, but falls in love with her target. You'll hear more raves from me about STARGLASS next year, but for now, know that I loved the depth and originality. (acquired: review copy from publisher)

And with that, I'm all caught up! 100 books read for the Goodreads Challenge 2012. Woo hoo!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

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.

I hope you've enjoyed this feature over the past year - I've spotlighted nearly 50 Apoc books this way, and now we come to the very last one. Though I'm sure I'll read more Apoc books, it's time to retire this particular feature.

Today I am talking about UNRAVELING, a sci-fi YA about a girl who is brought back to life after a car accident and the boy who saved her who has a big secret. Oh, and there's a countdown to the world ending.

UNRAVELING starts out with a bang - Janelle's death and resurrection - and then carefully sets up all the pieces and players in the first half as well as some pretty massive stakes.  The second half is where it gets really exciting. The revelations come fast and furious as Janelle, her friends and the law enforcement agencies attempt to stop the end of the world.

The ending - whoa! Can't wait to read the next installment.  Definitely a must for fans of FRINGE.

And now let's chat with Elizabeth!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene in Unraveling is the end. It was actually the first scene that I wrote. I knew right from the beginning, where Janelle and Ben's story was going to end up. When I finished the first draft, and I got to the ending, I was rewriting some of it and I got really emotional. I feel like that's always a good sign.

What is your favorite line in the book?
One of my favorite lines in the book got edited out, because Janelle was awfully sarcastic in the first draft and my editor wisely helped me cut some lines to make her more sympathetic. (I've always had a thing for unlikable characters I guess). But my favorite line in the finished version is: "Life is a fragile thing. I guess the whole world is too."

What setting was most fun to write?
San Diego was such a great setting to write. When I was writing Unraveling, I had just moved to New York. Writing a story set in San Diego was how I dealt with missing it. I got to write about places that had been important to me.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
My favorite supporting character in Unraveling is definitely Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay. He doesn't necessarily get a spin off book, but he gets a bigger role in the sequel, Unbreakable. I like him because he's different. He's a little older than Janelle and has had so many different experiences than what she's had, and yet they still have certain things in common. I think he's a character that has a lot of great backstory that makes him unique.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
I do have to say that one of my favorite things about having my book published is seeing what lines other people really like. My best memory was the first time I read a quote from Unraveling on tumblr. I had a moment where I started reading the quote and thought, "That sounds so familiar..." and then I realized. It was because I'd written those words, and they meant something to someone else. There's just nothing better than that.

Thanks Elizabeth!

UNRAVELING is available now.

FTC disclosure: ARC from the publisher

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

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 am talking about OUT OF REACH, a contemporary YA about a girl who searches for her drug-addicted brother, hoping to bring him home. OUT OF REACH was a finalist for the National Book Award.  

So OUT OF REACH hit kinda close to home for me, and because of that, I could totally identify with Rachel's situation and even her oddly unemotional reactions to events (such as what happened with her car).  It's also an interesting POV, since you don't often get books about addiction as seen from a family member dealing with it.

I really enjoyed the interaction between Rachel and Tyler, the friend of her brother who goes with her to look for him. Tyler has always existed in Rachel's periphery, and I loved how their day together made her really see him for the first time.

And now let's hear from Carrie:

What is your favorite scene in the book?
I have two actually. I love one of the flashback scenes of Rachel and Micah when they are in Jr. High and Micah saves her from a drowning. He ends up carrying her all the way home, a mile at least, and she thanks him because she knows she could never do the same for him. It's a scene that reveals much about their relationship and is heartbreaking because so much has changed for the both of them.

I also love the scene with Tyler and Rachel in the church. I didn't really know they would end up there, but when they did, it was perfect. It fits the confessional voice of Rachel, and Tyler, well, he really comes through.

What is your favorite line in the book?
Tough one... maybe, "Safe places exist only where people aren't."

What setting was the most fun to write?
The book is primarily set in San Diego county in Ocean and Mission Beach. I've spent some time in both spaces and know the area. It was fun to try and convey not only the look, but the atmosphere, the emotion, I guess, attached to places that offer so much beauty on the surface and so much darkness underneath.

Who is your favorite supporting character--the one you could see getting a spin-off book--and why?
I'd say Tyler. Tyler is interesting to me because he comes off as this confident, talented kid, but he's got some darkness there with his family that he's struggled with. He has his own pain from Micah's spiral into addiction, and since they were such good friends, what is it about Tyler that caused him to make different choices. I'd also like to know what happens with him and Rachel from his perspective.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
By far the favorite part was getting that National Book Award nomination. That was crazy, awesome, surreal, all those words wrapped up together. But I could also say the moment I realized my agent was taking me on. Or the moment I found out Out of Reach would be published. They are all the firsts, and I'll never experience getting a book published again in the same way. So I have tried to slow it down.
Thanks Carrie!

OUT OF REACH is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: For review from agent

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Level 2 News - 4 More Weeks to Go!

With less than 4 weeks to go until publication of LEVEL 2, I have lots of news!

First up - if you'd like to preorder a signed, personalized copy of LEVEL 2, you can order it until Jan 14th at Watermark Books where I'll be having my launch party on Jan 16th.  Once you put in your cart,  use the "order comments" input field to specify who you want the signed copy made out to.  The first 50 preorders via this channel will also get a limited edition LEVEL 2 magnet - so order soon!

Lots of reviews popping up lately.  Here are excerpts of some of them:

Lisa is Busy Nerding put Level 2 on her year end survey as one of the most unputdownable books of 2012!  She also said this in her review: I don’t care if you like contemporary or scifi or fantasy or whatever - this book is for YOU because it combines all of the things in a way that no matter what your flavor, you’ll devour it in no time. The creativity is astounding and your commitment to the characters as a reader is instant. (read entire review)

Sarah from The Book Life said: Level 2 is such a unique story. I am certain I have never read anything quite like it. It’s so well written, I was drawn into the story almost immediately, but in the first few chapters I had no idea where she might be taking the story and I don’t think I could have imagined exactly what it ended up being. (Read the whole review)

Cassie at Citrus Reads said: Level 2 was a quick, face paced read, but it never seemed too short. Given the length, this is definitely a plus. And with that twisty, cliff-hangery (yet satisfying) end, I am dying to read more! (Read the whole review)

Vivienne from Serendipity Reviews said: On the whole, this book was an excellent, fast moving thriller through the heavenly plains. I thought the plot was ingenious and well paced, with lots of surprises to keep me reading more. An excellent debut. (read the whole review)

Read Alert (State library of Victoria, Australia) said: What I love most about Level 2, however, is its perspective on adversity. Three-quarters of the way through the story it clicked with me. I finally understood what Appelhans was trying to say about Felicia’s journey, and it resonated. Such a moment is magic, and deeply personal. It’s the difference between a good book, and a favourite book. (read the whole review)

There are also a few new interviews up:

An interview with LS Murphy (Banshees,  Books and Baseball) - Read my embarrassing Monkees/Beatles story ... and more.

Debutante Ball With Badass Bookie. On Day 1, I share my fantasy debut dress. On Day 2, I talk about names in LEVEL 2 and there's a LEVEL 2 giveaway.

And here's my S&S studio interview about LEVEL 2 (recorded in May, just after BEA).

I guess I'd better start posting cat photos again ...

If you have a Kindle, for a limited time only, you can read the preview edition of LEVEL 2 (first 11 chapters).

And finally, you have a chance to win one of 2 autographed copies of LEVEL 2 before the release date -- at this Goodreads LEVEL 2 giveaway.

26 more days!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

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 am talking about PRETTY CROOKED, a contemporary YA about a girl who becomes the robin hood of her fancy new school, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

PRETTY CROOKED starts off very breezy and fun, but gets a bit darker as the novel goes along. Willa's artist mom moves them to Arizona and enrolls her in Valley Prep after selling some of her paintings for big bucks at auction.  Willa is immediately taken into the "Glitterati's" fold, and enjoys her new ability to buy new clothes and hang out with the queen bees. But then she sees how her new pals treat the scholarship students, those who can't afford to wear designer outfits - and she hatches a plan to even the score.

At first it seems a bit silly that Willa's idea of fairness is to steal money from the rich and give Prada to the poor.  But at Valley Prep, you really are what you wear (and if even J Crew and Banana Republic are looked down upon, well, I'm in trouble). Willa's heart is in the right place, even if she does make spectacularly bad decisions. 

There are a bunch of subplots that will (hopefully) find resolution in the coming sequels (for example: Willa's mom seems to be involved with a scary dude), and I am definitely looking forward to more!

And now, let's talk to Elisa!

What is your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene would have to be the first heist, in French class. I remember when I sat down to write it, my heart was actually racing, like I was living the moment vicariously through Willa. Plus, I got to brush up on my French a little bit.

What is your favorite line in the book?

I am kind of partial to "The breadstick on my plastic tray seemed to form a finger of blame, and it was pointing in my direction." Willa's guilty conscience starts to catch up with her!

That's a hilarious line! Love it. What setting was most fun to write?

I had a great time describing Valley Prep. I went to a private day school, which provided me with some basics, such as the terminology like headmaster and Lower School, but it was really fun to go over the top and give this school stuff like an archeology wing, ice skating rink and coffee bar. I especially enjoyed writing about the gourmet cafeteria. Sushi for school lunch? If only!

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

I happen to really love Tre. He's only a small part of Pretty Crooked, but he comes to play a more serious role in the next two books of the trilogy. I'm working on the third book now, and really enjoying exploring his character in greater depth. I could see him carrying his own story because he has his own secrets, with a whole previous life before coming to Paradise Valley that puts him at odds with this new setting. Like Willa, he's an outsider and that gives him some insight on the affluent, at times hermetic world of this town. And he's pretty hot, so I'd love to throw a few girls in his path.

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

Hands down, it has been connecting with other people—my savvy agent and editors, lovely readers, amazing teachers and librarians, generous bloggers and of course, all of the incredibly talented and dedicated fellow writers in the Apocalypsies (e.g., you, Lenore!). These relationships have made the journey truly meaningful. Thanks for including me on your superb blog.

Aww - thanks! Flattery will get you everywhere ;)

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

FTC disclosure: Bought

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

A inhabits a different body every day. It's always been like this, and A has always gone with the flow. Until now. Because A has fallen in love with a girl, and A wants the girl to really know who A really is.

I read EVERY DAY this summer and fell deeply in love with it, so I didn't want the year to end without posting a review.

First, I love the QUANTUM LEAP-esque premise. It's high concept and the perfect vehicle to get across some universal truths about human nature while at the same time telling a thrilling story.

Levithan's prose is deceptively simple.  He makes statements that immediately sound like aphorisms, like something we should have always known is true, we just never realized it before.  That makes the book immensely quotable.  Some examples:

"We all contain mysteries, especially when seen from the inside."
"Beneath every peripheral girl is a central truth."
"We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough."
"It's as simple as that. Simple and complicated, as most true things are."
"I only have a day to give - so why can't it be a good one?"
"The moment you fall in love feels like it has centuries behind it, generations - all of them rearranging themselves so that this precise, remarkable intersection can happen."

And these are all just from the first chapter.

I also loved the bittersweet romance with Rhiannon - that agony of wanting something you can never truly have but reaching out for it anyway. And I thought it was brilliant the way Levithan used the Nathan character to give the plot urgency.

EVERY DAY is an all-time favorite. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Chained by Lynne Kelly

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 am talking about CHAINED, a contemporary middle grade about a boy and an elephant in India who are both enslaved in a circus.

10 year old Hastin's sister is deathly ill and in order to pay for her hospital bills, Hastin accepts a one year employment offer as an elephant keeper in a circus.  It's only when he arrives in the jungle that he realizes how cruel his employer is to animals and that this evil man never intends to let him go back home.

Hastin forms such a sweet bond with Nandita, the elephant poached from the wild to be the circus' main attraction. He also has an ally in Ne Min, the elderly cook who teaches him how to care for the mistreated Nandita.  

There are so many highlights of this affecting novel - the interaction between Hastin and Nandita, the enlightening backstories of Ne Min and the mean animal trainer, and the bravery that Hastin shows through his entire ordeal.

As a reader sensitive to animal cruelty, I'm glad to report that this is kept at the bare minimum and never gratuitously. Still, I did shed some tears.

And now, an interview with Lynne!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
In chapter 27, when Hastin is talking to Ne Min in his house, and we find out about Ne Min's history, why he's been keeping it a secret all along, and how he knows so much about elephants.

What is your favorite line in the book?
I admit I still tear up a little when I read the line, "Never in my life have I been so afraid, but here I stand."

I teared up too! What setting was most fun to write?
I do love the jungle scenes but I think my favorite setting was Hastin's home in the desert with his family. It was a good challenge to make it seem special-- to us it's a small dirt hut in the desert, but to him it's home.

Who was your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spinoff book - and why?
Ne Min turned out to be my favorite character to write, because of his tragic backstory, wisdom, and compassion for other people and for elephants.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
That's easy--getting to know so many other authors along the way! I can't imagine going through this alone, and I've met so many awesome people, in person and online, who I'm so thankful for.

Thank you Lynne!

CHAINED is available in hardcover now.  If you'd like to purchase it as a Christmas gift for someone special, Lynne offers details on how you can get a signed copy or a free signed bookplate.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Daniel Approved Christmas Tunes

Every December for the past couple of years, I've made it my mission to find Christmas music that Daniel likes so that we can listen to it together.  It's taken me hours and hours of playing him samples from hundreds of versions of songs to come up with the following 20 song playlist.  And since he was the first person to put on the Christmas CD this year, I consider it a rousing success.

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman - Aimee Mann
A very stripped down vocal with some nice music effects. At just over two minutes, it's short and sweet.

2. Carol of the Bells - The Bird and the Bee
I adore this song and can listen to it in most incarnations, but this is the only version that is Daniel approved, probably because it sounds so modern. And it's short.

3. The Christmas Song - The Raveonettes
I love this rock/folk version of this song so much, I could listen to it all year round.

4. Star of Wonder - Tori Amos
This reworking of the Christmas classic is a nice mix of the familiar and Tori's flight of fancy.

5. O Come All Ye Faithful - Weezer
The whole Weezer Christmas album is a winner in Daniel's eyes, but this is the one that I chose for the playlist because I have good versions of most of the other songs from other singers.

6. Rudy - The Be Good Tanyas
Daniel likes this song about "Rudy the Red-Nosed Wino" who dies on Christmas Day more than I do, but I tolerate it for him.

7. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
The classic Christmas song for holiday music haters.

8. Good King Wenceslas - Loreena McKennitt

9. O Little Town of Bethlehem - Elvis Presley
Still haven't found a version we like better than the King's.

10. Away in A Manger - Sufjan Stevens
Most of Sufjan's Christmas catalogue is a good bet for people who don't like traditional Christmas music.

11. When the Bells Start Ringing - My Morning Jacket
This is a good Americana slice of Christmas.

12. O Come O Come Emmanuel - The Civil Wars
The best version I've found of this song, though I also really like the Tori Amos version.

13. Gabriel's Message - Sting
Daniel enjoys pretty much the entire If On A Winter's Night CD from Sting and I do too. This is my favorite though.

14. Ding Dong! Merrily On High - Chanticleer
Perhaps a surprise for this list considering it's quite traditional. But it's well done, and very short.

15. Blue Christmas - Johnny Cash
Perfectly acceptable!

16. What Child Is This? - Josh Groban
I was surprised that Daniel likes this, but he does. Groban's clear voice is a stunner on this simple version of the song.

17. Rockin Around the Christmas Tree - She & Him
I must have listened to 100 versions of this song before Daniel finally accepted this one. Whew! I had to have it on my list.

18. O Holy Night - Emmy Rossum
This is my favorite Christmas song and the only version so far that doesn't make Daniel's ears bleed (well, besides the Weezer version, but you can only have so much Weezer on a playlist).

19. The First Noel - Leigh Nash
 This is my second favorite Christmas song and the only version so far that doesn't make Daniel's ears bleed (well, besides the Weezer version, but you can only have so much Weezer on a playlist).

20. River - Glee Cast Version
My guilty pleasure on this list, and Daniel hasn't complained. Yet.

Do you have any suggestions I might add to this list?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mini-Reviews: Three YA Thrillers

Are thrillers the next big thing in YA? I know I can't get enough of them! Here are a few I've read lately.


Pitched as THE DA VINCI CODE for teens, this novel features Nora, a normal girl who gets caught up in a centuries old battle between rival religious factions who all want to get their hands on a device said to allow one to communicate directly with God. Because of their superior Latin skills, Nora and her friend Chris are asked to help with a translation project. Nora is given the less important task of translating a pack of letters from the daughter of the subject of interest, but soon uncovers some startling secrets that set in motion a chain of events that result in Chris's death and the disappearance of her boyfriend Max.

Nora is one of those unlikely book heroines who is a whiz at cracking puzzles and putting together the most obscure of clues - but is also terrible at reading people and their intentions. Nora's nature is what drives the plot and many of the twists and turns of the narrative, an interesting thing to ponder since one of the themes is guilt and taking responsibility for your actions.  In any case, THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW was an exciting read - one of those few that I stayed up late to finish because I HAD to know how it all played out.

FTC disclosure: Bought

ADAPTATION by Malinda Lo

ADAPTATION has a legit creepy opening: Reece, her debate partner (and longtime crush) David and their teacher are waiting for their plane when they get the news that all air travel is grounded because of a rash of bird strikes that have caused crashes around the nation. They end up renting a car and after a bird strike drives them off the road, Reece wakes up in a locked-down military hospital - one month later.

Once she gets home, the world has changed in subtle ways, but most alarming are the vivid dreams Reece is having.  She confesses these both to David and to the manic-pixie-dreamgirl (Amber) she crashes into on the street one day. The middle section of the book concentrates on Reece's growing alienation to her ho-hum life and attraction to all things Amber. And then ... things get really weird, really fast culminating in a jaw-dropping climax that opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the next book.

FTC disclosure: NetGalley

PERCEPTION by Kim Harrington

The sequel to CLARITY, PERCEPTION brings back psychic teen Clarity in a new mystery.  Clarity is getting secret admirer letters - are they from her ex-boyfriend Justin, from estranged crush Gabriel or are they of a more sinister nature altogether? When a girl from Clarity's school disappears, Clarity starts to suspect it must be the latter.

One thing that surprised me in CLARITY was Clarity's lack of female friends (see my review). Well, in this installment, Clarity is not only courted by the popular girls (who hope to exploit her psychic ability) but also gains a (slightly creepy/unhinged) new BFF.  Her sassy voice continues to shine here, the new mystery is properly compelling, and the on-again/off-again romance with Gabriel provides some great swoon.

FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy

What others thrillers should I move to the top of my reading pile? Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Buzz Review and Giveaway: Impostor by Susanne Winnacker

Have you heard of IMPOSTOR yet? It doesn't come out until July 2013, but I have an ARC that I want to pass on to a reader because it's so much fun!

Let me tell you a bit about it.  Tessa is a variant who can change her appearance and become anyone. Rejected by her family, Tessa is recruited for a special branch of the FBI (full of variants with different special powers) and sent on a mission to impersonate a murder victim (a girl named Madison) and catch a serial killer.

I was super excited to read this because it's like a girl with the powers of X-Men's Mystique (but without the evil intentions) in a set-up similar to THE LIKENESS by Tana French (one of my favorite books ever).

IMPOSTOR's plot very much in the mystery/thriller vein - the story presents a bunch of likely candidates for Madison's murderer and Tessa has to narrow them down, before it's too late. But at the heart of the story is Tessa's desire to belong and her sweetly awkward romance with a fellow variant.

Intrigued?  For a chance to win an ARC of IMPOSTOR, simply fill out this form by Dec 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally!

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

FTC disclosure: ARC from author

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Level 2 News - Finished Hardcover + More!

Not an hour after I arrived home from my trip to the US, the doorbell rang.  It was a delivery man with my LEVEL 2 hardcover - hot off the presses! (I would have documented this event, but PJs + jetlag + suitcase unpacking explosion = hot mess).

So once I slept a few hours, I took this photo:

That was yesterday. Today, now that the light is better, I took a bunch more photos so I can show off the PRETTY.


Back, including blurbs from Megan McCafferty, Jess Rothenberg and Mary E. Pearson

LEVEL 2 gets its day in the sun

LEVEL 2 undressed: the spine is silver foil.

LEVEL 2 on my dystopian fiction shelf!

"There must be more to [a cat's life] than this." Lu shuns the tagline.

Also, in review news, VOYA calls LEVEL 2 "Immensly layered", and Romantic Times says: "The way Appelhans mixes memory with plot is exceptional."

And now for some links!

Jacqueline Trotter recaps the Drama & Dystopia library panel in Kansas City from Tuesday.  We raffled copies of the LEVEL 2 arc as well as chocolate from Germany and the audience actually chose the book over the chocolate!

Novel Sounds invited me to soundtrack my life and I reveal the theme songs for LEVEL 2 and the sequel.

So thrilled that so many bloggers chose LEVEL 2 as one of their most anticipated reads for 2013. Thank you!

I'll be over at Badass Bookie on December 4th and 5th for her awesome 2013 Debutante event.

A chance to win a LEVEL 2 arc over at A New Kind of Ordinary!

The winner of the LEVEL 2 UK version is Carina Olsen.

44 more days!