Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

In a world where all other inhabitants have been reincarnated over and over again for thousands of years, Ana is a new soul (or as her heartless mother Li likes to say, a “No soul”). Once she hits 18, she sets out for Heart to find answers about the origins of her existence.   She’s not exactly greeted with open arms: Residents of Heart believe she threatens their survival, though she does make an ally in Sam.

INCARNATE is a utopia – that is if you disregard the sylphs and dragons that go on regular killing sprees through Heart.  Sam also believes that society has stagnated (and society thinks he’s too unfocused – trying out new projects every life). People fear change and though that makes most people fear Ana, Sam welcomes the inspiration and renewal she promises. 

It’s not the easiest thing to make a romance between a 5000 year old and teen believable, but Meadows more than hits the mark here. I also really liked the exploration of the concept of gender neutrality. In a world where a soul might be reincarnated in the body of a man or a woman, love and friendships persist no matter what skin the people are in.

The world building is inventive and made my imagination run wild. I can’t wait to see what Meadows has in store for the rest of the trilogy!

INCARNATE comes out January 31, 2012.  Find out more about it at the author’s website. Also, read her Dystopian August preview interview.

Zombie Chickens say: Something refreshingly different and exquisitely thoughtful.  Highly recommended.

Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Like a Virgin by Madonna. Sample lyric: “I made it through the wilderness”  (lol - couldn’t resist!)

Author Interview: Lenore Appelhans previews Level Two

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interviewed over 20 authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

After interviewing everyone else, now it’s my turn to answer my own questions! My debut LEVEL TWO is set for Fall 2012 from Simon & Schuster, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!

Here’s the teaser summary:

In Level Two, the liminal place between our world (Level One) and heaven, Seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward spends her days in her pod reliving her favorite memories - until she gets broken out by Julian, a boy she knew when she was still alive. There’s about to be an uprising in Level Two, and Julian wants to recruit her to the cause. But unsure whether she can trust Julian, and still in love with her boyfriend Neil on Earth, she finds herself torn between two loves—and two worlds.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to “dark” stories?
I’m so intimidated to answer this question after the amazingly eloquent responses of my guests this month! I most enjoy stories where there is a great deal of character growth during the course of the narrative, and nothing tests character and spurs personal growth like the darker times in life. I find survival stories so inspiring – they make me think about what really matters.

If LEVEL TWO had a theme song, what would it be and why?
I have a whole playlist, but the song I listen to the most when I want to get in the LEVEL TWO mood is Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National. Whenever it comes on, I always tell Daniel “That’s the theme song to LEVEL TWO!” and he scoffs that it has nothing to do with my book. But oh, it does, on so many levels. After you read it, let’s discuss!

What fictional character from another book would Felicia chose as her best friend and why?
Well, here’s the thing ... part of Felicia’s problem is that because of the nomadic nature of her upbringing, she unconsciously sees friendships as ephemeral and fleeting. She’s someone who has a certain trepidation about forming bonds with people and everything that entails. Any best friend of hers needs to be very patient and loyal – someone like Peeta from THE HUNGER GAMES.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
Now that I have to answer this question myself, I see how cruel it is! If you look at the list of dystopian lit I’ve read, you’ll see it’s over 100 books by now. So how to narrow it down? How about I go for most influential?

1984 by George Orwell because it still shocks me every time I read it.

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld because it got me hooked on YA and YA dystopias in particular.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins because I’ve never been so caught up in a book before that I literally could not (for anything) put it down. Also? #teambookpeeta

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER by Patrick Ness because it’s so complex, layered and philosophical but still so kick-ass. It may be the only time in the history of the universe that I’ve loved the middle book of a trilogy most of all (though I love the other two Chaos Walking books too).

And then for the 5th spot, I’m afraid I have to go with a 6 way tie **evil laugh** of the following books because they’re creative, inspiring and just plain entertaining:

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (for the passion)
BUMPED by Megan McCafferty (for the intricate world building & Jondoe)
WITHER by Lauren DeStefano (for the atmosphere)
LEGEND by Marie Lu (for dystopian lit's premiere power couple)
ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn (for its sheer inventiveness)
NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro (for ripping apart my soul)

(Do you like how I went for a gender balance there?)

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
Find whatever it is that will keep the world from ending and be the savior of mankind ;)

And if that fails – read all the books from the authors I featured in this interview series. I definitely want to have them in my memory edition collection in the afterlife.

How does your book stand out from others in the genre?
When I had the idea for LEVEL TWO and started working out the plot and themes, I was so excited because it felt to me like a very fresh spin on my favorite genre. I hope I’ve done justice to the dystopian afterlife thriller subgenre.

One of my favorite things about it is how Felicia is able to relive her memories of her life on Earth in order to help her make sense of the very stark and mysterious place that she's ended up.

Thanks me!

Follow me on twitter @lenoreva (and say hi so I'll be sure to follow you back!)
Become a follower of the group blog Brave New Words (I post twice a month about writing)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Upcoming 2012 Dystopian Fiction Sequels + Giveaway

A lot of the dystopian lit coming out these days is in the form of series books, usually trilogies, but sometimes even longer (6 books? Michael Grant? Really?).

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

Which ones I am inpatiently waiting for?

I loved Lauren Oliver's DELIRIUM (read my review), so I'd drop everything to read PANDEMONIUM (add to GoodReads).  Harper Teen/March 6, 2012

Lauren DeStefano's WITHER (read my review) was lush and melancholy, and I'm excited to find out where Rhine goes next in FEVER (add to GoodReads). Simon & Schuster BFYR/Feb 21, 2012

Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, an intriguing murder mystery in space, continues Amy and Elder's journey in A MILLION SUNS (add to GoodReads). Razorbill Penguin/Jan 10, 2012.

Loved the Africa setting of Michael Kinch's THE BLENDING TIME and look forward to more in THE FIRES OF NEW SUN (add to GoodReads) Flux/Jan 2012

Sequels without covers yet:  

Ann Aguirre's OUTPOST, the continuation of Deuce & Fade's adventures from ENCLAVE.  (MacMillan/Sept 2012)
Veronica Roth's INSURGENT, the second in the trilogy that began with DIVERGENT. (HarperCollins/April 28, 2012)
Paolo Bacigalupi's THE DROWNED CITIES, follow-up to SHIP BREAKER. (Little Brown/May 2012)
Megan McCafferty's THUMPED, the companion book to one of my very favorite reads this year BUMPED. (HarperCollins/2012)

And obviously, I am also excited for the 2012 sequels to books I reviewed this month including:

LEGEND by Marie Lu
ASHES by Ilsa J Bick
THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young

I think I'm hooked on series ... Which sequels are you dying for?

If you answered A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis, then do I have a treat for you!  I have 5 ARCs up for grabs for readers in the US and Canada.  For your chance to win, simply fill out this form by Sept 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST.  

Author Interview: Veronica Rossi previews Under the Never Sky + Giveaway

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interviewed over 20 authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Veronica Rossi is our last guest on this edition of Dystopian August. Her debut UNDER THE NEVER SKY comes out with HarperTeen on January 3, 2011. Are you excited as I am?! If not, you will be after reading this interview. Trust.

Here’s the teaser summary:

Exiled from her comfortable home, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland – called the Death Shop – are slim. Violent energy storms can strike suddenly, and even the very air she breathes might kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild, dangerous – a savage. He’s also her only hope.

Because Aria alone holds the key to his redemption, Perry needs her, too. Their unlikely alliance will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

The kick-ass US cover:

And the romantic UK cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
I think it’s the same reason our fears and failures become ingrained in our memory. We teach ourselves when we come out of darkness. We say, that was terrible, but we survived. Accessing darkness in literature and other art forms allows us to examine and then come to terms with our mistakes and imperfections, and those of the world around us. It’s how we learn, and how we appreciate the bright side of life, by having that contrast. Also, dark is cool.

If UNDER THE NEVER SKY had a theme song, what would it be and why?
There is a song that features prominently in the story, E Lucevan Le Stelle, an aria from the opera Tosca. If you asked my characters, that’s undoubtedly what they would say. If you’re asking me, then the answer is Just Breathe by Pearl Jam or The End by Kings of Leon.

What fictional character from another book would your main characters chose as a best friend and why?
Oh, this is a fun question. I have two main characters, Peregrine and Aria. For Perry, Gale from THE HUNGER GAMES. I was going to try to reach a little further in the memory bank for this, but I suppose the fact that it popped right into my head means something. I think those two are cut from the same cloth. I could definitely imagine them hanging out. Not saying much to one another, but that’s why they’d get along so well. For Aria, it would probably be Lyra, from HIS DARK MATERIALS, despite their age difference. Aria would love Lyra’s spunk and intelligence, and especially her wild-child side.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
There are so many good ones! If you’ll allow me to include post-apocalyptic works, then the books that come readily to mind are:

ENCLAVE, by Anne Aguirre – for great pace and lots of butt kicking.

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin – for incredible scope and detail.

THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy – for pure, concentrated literary power.

DIVERGENT, by Veronica Roth – for being as fast and fun as reading a summer blockbuster, but still thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.

THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry – for being the kind of book that can change you.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends?
I love to travel. I haven’t come close to hitting all the places I’d like to see, but if the world were going to end, I would probably stay put and hang with my family. Nothing beats that.

There is one thing… I have this fantasy dinner party I’ve been planning for a few years. I spend an embarrassing amount of time updating and perfecting my ideal guest list. I’d love to make that happen before the end of the world.

Here it is:

Alicia Keyes, Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Bigelow, JK Rowling, Jada Pinkett Smith, MT Anderson, Will. I. Am, Justin Bieber, James Franco, Robert Redford, and Brian Wilson

There is one empty spot for a female guest, so I’m officially inviting you, Lenore. 6 PM, my house. No need to bring anything. (Lenore's note: OMG! James Franco?! I'm so there! Thank you for the invite!)

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
Under the Never Sky is in told in alternating points of view, switching between my female and male protagonist. It's also in third person. (In my experience, it seems that most current YA is in first person.) So the delivery method of the story itself might set it apart a little bit. It's an adventure, but the romance also plays a significant part. Also, I know of no other stories that contain the following elements: opera, cannibals, and artificial worlds.

Thanks Veronica!

Visit Veronica’s website
Follow Veronica on Twitter @V_Rossibooks
Add UNDER THE NEVER SKY to your GoodReads wishlist
Veronica is part of Brave New Words, a group blog for YA sci-fi 2012 debuts

ALSO - I have an ARC of UNDER THE NEVER SKY that I can send anywhere in the world! To enter to win, fill out this form by Sept 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST.  Good luck!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

In a near-future America, Hannah wakes up a (red) Chrome after being sentenced for killing her unborn child. Abhorred by society, Chromes often don’t live out their sentence because they are hunted down by vigilante groups or feel so isolated that they commit suicide.  Shunned by her religious family and community, Hannah doesn’t know where to go or who to trust, but she’ll have to be strong if she’s going to survive.

WHEN SHE WOKE is a compelling page turner that takes the themes of Hawthorne’s SCARLET LETTER and explores them a political dystopia where criminals must literally wear their shame. Hester Prynne’s Puritans are Hannah Payne’s Evangelicals and Hester’s clergyman lover Arthur Dimmesdale is Hannah’s mega-church pastor Aiden Dale.  There are other shout-outs to the Hawthorne’s book too (for example when Hannah is forced to make and name a doll to represent her aborted child, she calls her Pearl), and the action stays very close to Hannah’s personal journey from quietly rebellious believer to tough, world-weary skeptic.

And what thrilling action it is – the story pulsates with constant threats to Hannah’s safety and we’re immersed in a fascinating and carefully constructed dystopian landscape of legalized morality. 

Really the only aspect that muted my enjoyment of this novel was the thorough and very unsubtle condemnation and vilifying of the religious establishment.  With the exception of a one scene walk-on of a sympathetic minister, every religious character is portrayed as sadistic, weak-willed or both.  I found this to be an unfortunate over-simplification in an otherwise thought-provoking narrative.

WHEN SHE WOKE is set for publication on October 4, 2011. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Zombie chickens say:  Could be more nuanced, but otherwise, highly recommended.

Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh. Sample lyric: “I will never forget the way you look tonight, lady in red.” (Ok, this is somewhat ironic, but also kinda fitting)

Thanks to Algonquin, I have 3 ARCs up for grabs for readers in the US.  To enter, fill out this form by Sept 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST.  Good luck!

Series Giveaway: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

The Escape from Furnace series follows Alex Sawyer, a petty hoodlum who gets framed for murder and sent to the hellhole Furnace prison from which no one has ever escaped.  It's a dystopia (limited)/horror blend that especially appeals to boys.

While I quite enjoyed the first book (Read my review of LOCKDOWN) the second was a bit too hardcore horror for me (Read my review of SOLITARY), so when I got a review copy of the third book (DEATH SENTENCE), I passed it on to my 27 year old brother in law who absolutely loves it.

For those horror fans among my readers (in the the US and Canada) I have a giveaway of the series today!

1 winner gets paperbacks of the first two books and a hardcover of the third.  Enter by filling out this form by Sept 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST.  Good luck!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dystopian August Week 4 Recap + News

We're entering the homestretch of Dystopian August.  But you know what? I still have so much content, that I'm extending it a few days into September until the end of this week.  Exciting yes?  That means you also have until September 3rd to get your links in for the big S&S prize pack (see details).

(recap week 1) (recap week 2) (recap week 3)

This week in reviews (click on book's name to read review):

THE WAY WE FALL by Megan Crewe

CROSSED by Ally Condie

THE FOX INHERITANCE by Mary E. Pearson (4 Zombie Chickens/Highly Recommended)

ASHES by Ilsa J Bick (4.5 Zombie Chickens/Highly Recommended)

SCORED by Lauren McLaughlin

AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

This week in author interviews (click on book name to read preview interview)

Megan Crewe previews THE WAY WE FALL (Hyperion/Jan 2012)

Antony John previews ELEMENTALS (Penguin/Fall 2012)

Alexandra Bracken previews BLACK IS THE COLOR (Hyperion/June 2012)

Demitria Lunetta previews IN THE AFTER (HarperTeen/Summer 2012)

Jennifer Bosworth previews STRUCK (FSG/Spring 2012)

Kristen Simmons previews ARTICLE 5 (Tor/February 14, 2012)

John Claude Bemis previews THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY (Random House/Spring 2012)

This week in still open giveaways:

CROSSED by Ally Condie (5 prize packs including ARC, poster and buttons)


ARTICLE 5 by Kristen Simmons (international)

This week in winners:

TRUTH by Julia Karr (random commenter prize)
Miss Lauren
Anna (Anna Reads)
Amanda (Diary of a Book Addict)
Candice (from AR)

Please contact me at lenore DOT appelhans AT googlemail DOT com with your address to claim your prize!

INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows
Casey W from IN

VARIANT by Robison Wells
Petra I from Germany

EVE by Anna Carey
Michelle K from IL

Amanda B from MN

Kelsey J from NJ

I'll send your mailing addresses on to the publishers. Congrats!

This week in news and links:

US residents who pre-order Ilsa J Bick's ASHES can win great prizes and swag.  All details at Jennifer Represents.  Hurry - this contest expires at midnight on Sept 5, 2011.

The Book Smugglers review Drew Magary's THE POSTMORTAL.

Brave New Shelf reviews Brian Falkner's BRAIN JACK.

Alyce from At Home With Books reviews READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (and I promptly snagged it via Amazon Vine - yay!)

Coming up this week:
My preview interview for LEVEL TWO, more book reviews and giveaways, a preview of upcoming sequels and more upcoming dystopian lit, and much more.  Dystopian August is going out in style!

Author Interview: John Claude Bemis previews The Prince Who Fell from the Sky

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interviewed over 20 authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy! 

John Claude Bemis is the author of the steampunk fantasy trilogy the Clockwork Dark, which includes THE NINE POUND HAMMER, THE WOLF TREE, and THE WHITE CITY – and now he’s tackling a post-apocalyptic adventure story – THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, due Spring 2012 from Random House.

Here’s the teaser summary:

A post-apocalyptic Watership Down in which animals have taken back their rightful place on Earth, and the journey that an eclectic band of animals - a motherly but powerful bear, a tough rat and a hopeful dog - must take to rescue the last human boy, and life as they know it.

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
Dark stories, as in dystopian fiction, often have worlds that are ripe with conflict. Conflict makes for fun stories! On a certain level as readers, I feel we want to see how others will navigate the absolute worst situations—whether that’s Hansel and Gretel being abandoned by the parents or the rise of a totalitarian regime in a futuristic world.

When I wrote THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, it began with the idea of a post-apocalyptic future where humans are gone and the wilderness covers the ruins of our civilization. What would be most terrifying about this situation? I imagined a child alone in this wolf-ruled, endless forest. This boy is the lone survivor of a crashed spaceship. Once he’s found by a powerful, motherly bear, she is the only one who stands between him and the armies of wolves that want this ancient enemy dead.

If THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Fun question! I use music to get my head in stories. I’d choose “Across the Wire” by Calexico. Although this song is really about immigrants crossing the desert from Mexico into the US, the lyrics are so fantastical and haunting. They put me in mind of the dangerous journey for the young boy in my book who is searching for a safe place in this menacing wilderness.

What fictional character from another book would your main character chose as his/her best friend and why?
My story is told from the perspective of the mother bear who finds this lost child. She grows to love him as her cub. As she searches for a safe haven to raise him, she wants to figure out how he arrived in her world where no animal has ever seen a human. I think she could find a certain kinship with Mrs. Frisby from MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Both are taking unimaginable risks for the sake of their “children.” (Lenore's note: Are you sure she wouldn't eat Mrs. Frisby?!)

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?

1. THE ROAD, Cormac McCarthy—This is the bleakest imaginable post-apocalyptic future, and one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. 

2. EARTH ABIDES, George R. Stewart—A seminal post-apocalyptic novel. I love how different it is from others in this genre. No marauding bands of cannibals. No blasted landscapes. Just a lonesome, quiet world where a desperate few try to go on.

3. MORTAL ENGINES, Philip Reeve—This series is so brilliantly bizarre with its roving, devouring cities. Not a single evil villain, but chocked full of complicated, fascinating characters.

4. THE GIVER, Lois Lowry—I devoted myself to becoming a writer after reading this book. What a message about the necessity for hardship and suffering in order for us to be caring human beings!

5. HUNGER GAMES, Suzanne Collins—What else can I say? It’s a page-turning romp that uses a brutal arena as a metaphor for the difficulties of being a teen.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends? (you know, in case it ends next year)
After writing THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY and imagining an end-of-world scenario where nature takes back over in our absence, I think I’d better brush up on my wilderness survival skills and learn how to read animal behavior. Until then, I’ll enjoy a few more lattes and hope to plan another family trip to Italy before it falls to the wolves.

How does your novel stand out from other dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction out there?
Rather than a twisted dystopian government or a bleak wasteland, my novel imagines a future that is a new Eden, a world returned mostly to its natural state. With humans gone, animals—especially the big predators—have taken back over. The perspective characters are all animals: the bear, a rat, and a dog. They can’t communicate with the child, and they struggle to understand how this lone human has returned and what his arrival might mean for them and their beloved world. Sort of a post-apocalyptic Watership Down or a futuristic Jungle Book.

Thanks John - sounds super interesting!

Visit John’s website
Add THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY to your GoodReads wishlist

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

In 2060, most people don’t get out much.  They live their lives inside, turning to virtual reality for their entertainment, friendships and education.  17 year old Maddie, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the US because he invented digital school (henceforth referred to as DS), lives a life of solitary luxury and has learned to accept it – that is until she meets anti-DS activist Justin who slowly awakens her to the real world.

There are many things to admire about AWAKEN, chief among them the message that we shouldn’t let our digital addictions stunt our connections to the physical world. There are some really well-done scenes that show how empty a virtual life is in comparison to a real life – for example when Maddie hears live music for the first time and dances in a crowded club juxtaposed with the sterile DS benefit she attends with her parents featuring canned music and virtual dancing.  I also enjoyed seeing normal things – like a sunset and a bonfire – through Maddie’s eyes as she experiences them for the first time.  It really makes you wonder how an entire culture would voluntarily sacrifice life’s pleasures and become hermits.

And that’s sort of my main problem with the novel – that I don’t really believe its premise.  It has a lot to do with the spotty and oftentimes contradictory futuristic worldbuilding.  Kacvinsky introduces a few neat gadgets here and there, tells us most real trees have been replaced with plastic ones, and writes of a mass of large-scale school shootings and bombings that ushered in an era of hyper-fear of social settings and the outdoors and mandatory distance education.  There is public transportation (almost no cars) but it’s practically empty whenever Maddie rides it.  How do people get to work? I know a lot of office-type jobs can be done virtually – but what about plumbers? Construction workers? Electricians? Etc?

Also, as a love interest for Maddie, Justin rubbed me the wrong way.  Sure, he brings chocolate cake into her life, but most of their conversations involve him preaching to her about the evils of computers.  It’s also clear that Justin is using Maddie for her connections to further his own aims, and the way he makes her depend on him against her better judgment is akin to brainwashing. All that makes him fascinating as a character, but because I disliked Justin so much in his role of romantic hero/ideal, I could never get into their building romance - a shame since it is a big focus of the novel.

AWAKEN is available now. A sequel, MIDDLE GROUND, is planned for Fall 2012.  Find out more about the series at the author’s website.

Zombie chickens say: A mixed bag, but most definitely ripe for discussion.

Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Digital Ghost by Tori Amos. Sample lyrics: “Hands lay them on my keys, Let me play you again, I am not immune to your net, Find me there in it.”

Author Interview: Kristen Simmons previews Article 5 + Giveaway

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interviewed over 20 authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Author Kristen Simmons is in the Dystopian August hot seat today. Her debut ARTICLE 5 is coming out with Tor Teen on February 14, 2012 – just in time for a post-apocalyptic Valentine’s Day!

Here’s the teaser summary:

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police — instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior — instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested don’t usually come back.

17-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. That life in the United States used to be different.

In the three years since the war ended, Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the Federal Bureau of Reformation. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And what’s worse, one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

The cover:

And the interview:

Why do you think people are drawn to "dark" stories?
Because they mirror the world we live in. They make the "light" more identifiable. They highlight our struggles and put them into the context of a hero's journey. And who doesn't want to be a hero?

If ARTICLE 5 had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Ach! Love it! A5 has a whole playlist actually, but if I had to pick one song, I'd probably pick "Imaginary" by Evanescence.

What fictional character from another book would Ember chose as her best friend and why?
Ember would probably be BFF's with Viola from THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO. I think they'd connect over both being thrown into radically new and dangerous situations after suffering the loss of their families and homes. Plus they'd be able to push each other to do whatever they needed to do to survive.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
I'm not sure all of these are dystopian...but I'm going to classify them that way anyway:

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO (the Chaos Walking Trilogy)
THE ROAD (it's adult, but it's so, so good)
(ok, that's six. Sorry).

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends? (you know, in case it ends next year)
Publish this book. Also see a castle. Also dance on Broadway.

How does your novel stand out from others in the genre?
One of the things that makes A5 different from other dystopian thrillers is its place in time. Ember's world is not run by machines or Skynet, there are no hover crafts or futuristic weapons. Her world is much like our own, with similar technologies, communication methods, and social issues. However, within this similar reality exists a very different political structure - a moral regime, governed by a set of faith-based rules which have replaced the Bill of Rights. A5 looks at what might happen to life as we know it should the separation between church and state be dissolved and the punishments for noncompliance be taken too far. And Ember, like all of us, is forced to adapt to that environment while remembering what it was like before everything changed.

Thanks Kristen!

Visit Kristen’s website
Add ARTICLE 5 to your GoodReads wishlist
Kristen is also a part of Brave New Words, a group blog for YA sci-fi debuts in 2012

ALSO! Kristen has an advanced reader copy of ARTICLE 5 she’ll send to anyone in the world. To enter, fill out this form by September 3, 2011 at 11:59 pm CST. I am very envious of the winner!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Scored by Lauren McLaughlin

Imani knows the only way for her to be able to afford college is to keep her score above the scholarship line of 90.  That means ditching her best friend Cady and only hanging out with other 90s to avoid a score drop by association.  It also means rejecting unscored Diego’s offer of co-authoring an essay that could win them a scholarship unrelated to score.  But is the score really the best thing for Imani and society as a whole? Or is it just a way for ScoreCorp to rule with an iron fist?

SCORED is one of those slippery slope near future dystopias you could actually see happening.  Set in a poor fishing town after the second great depression, the novel presents a society where your score defines everything about you – who you talk to and what you say, where you hang out and what kind of job you can get.  The score seems to offer upward mobility for the lower class – score well and you’re on your way to a bright future – but the consequences of one misstep can ruin your whole life.

Privacy is a big issue and Author McLaughlin explores it here in depth, showing us the effects freely opening up your life for public scrutiny has on a person, a peer group and a larger society.  Arguments for and against the score are presented lucidly and the plot - which pits score supporters and score haters against each other – clips along at a nice pace.  Though I can see some teens complaining that it seems too much like required reading/homework, others will be pleased by all the avenues for discussion it brings up.

SCORED comes out on October 25, 2011. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Zombie chickens say: Well worth reading! Also, props for putting a POC character on the cover. (Imani is mixed race)

Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: It’s My Life by No Doubt. Sample lyrics: “Funny how I blind myself, I never knew, if I was sometimes played upon, afraid to lose.”

Author Interview: Jennifer Bosworth previews Struck

For my spotlight on upcoming dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction series, I interviewed over 20 authors with novels coming out in the genre in 2012/13. These are exclusive first looks at exciting new works. Enjoy!

Dystopian August is thrilled to welcome Jennifer Bosworth. Her debut STRUCK is coming out with FSG (MacMillan) in Spring 2012 and the cover has just been revealed!

So let's check out that cover:

Here’s the teaser summary:

When Los Angeles is devastated by a catastrophic earthquake, seventeen-year-old human lightning rod, Mia Price, finds herself at the center of a power struggle between two fanatical doomsday cults, one that wants to save the world, and one that wants to destroy it . . . and she will be the deciding factor in which cult succeeds at their aim.

And the interview:

What do you think draws people to "dark" stories?
I’ve heard so many insightful answers to this question recently––due mostly to that infamous Wall Street Journal article and the ensuing backlash––I don’t want to make a blanket statement and try to encompass everyone. Instead, I’ll speak to what draws me to dark stories: addiction. Dark stories are my crack. They got into me at a young age, probably starting with one of those little Halloween picture books, or maybe with a movie like “Watcher in the Woods,” which was released from Disney, but is still one of the scariest movies I’ve seen. (Lenore's note: OMG - Watcher in the Woods! I still have nightmares from that!) As with most addictions, the more you feed them, the more powerful they grow. At ten, I started sneaking my parents’ Stephen King and Peter Straub and F. Paul Wilson novels and devouring them. Also, my dad owned a video store so growing up I got my hands on all kinds of delightful horror movies, the good the B and the gory. As far as drugs go, darkness was cheap and readily available.

At least no one ever tried to send me to rehab.

For me, there are two kinds of people: those who were exposed to dark stories as a kid and got the hunger, and those who were exposed and said, “Eeek. Not for me!” But what makes a potential “darkness” addict? Who knows? Maybe it’s in the genes. I believe what set me on the path was contrast. My life was safe. I grew up in a small town in Utah, where locking the doors was low priority, and nearly everyone went to church on Sunday. It was . . . pleasant. It was boring. I needed more than what regular life could provide. I needed conflict and danger.

I needed to see in the dark.

If STRUCK had a theme song, what would it be and why?
Thunderstruck, AC/DC. Yep, my old school rocker roots are showing.

What fictional character from another book would Mia Price chose as her best friend and why?
Mia’s a bit of a loner, so I think if the choice was hers she’d go for another loner, maybe Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series. I could see the two of them sitting around a campfire in the desert, staring in the flames and ignoring each other. But as Mia’s god and creator, I know what’s best for her, and I would choose someone more like Eddie Dean from the “Dark Tower,” a tenacious chatterbox who wouldn’t give her a moment’s peace. She’s spent too much time alone. She needs a loudmouth friend like Eddie.

What are your top 5 Dystopian lit recs and why?
1. “The Dark Tower” series, by Stephen King – I don’t know if you can actually call this dystopian. It’s more like a post-apocalyptic fantasy/horror western, but I take every opportunity I get to talk about how much I love this series. It begins with an aging gunslinger pursuing a mysterious man in black across the desert of a barren world that’s “moved on,” and takes you to so many places over the course of 7 ever-lengthening books that by the end––which is one of the greatest endings of all time, if you ask me––you feel like you’ve lived the books. 

2. Little Brother, Cory Doctorow – This book does not take place in a nightmarish future far, far away. It takes place in a nightmarish future that could happen tomorrow. Hell, it might already be happening now and we just don’t know it. Seventeen-year-old Marcus and his friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time during a terrorist attack, and are taken into custody by Homeland Security for interrogation. Marcus is released and warned never to speak of what happened because Big Brother will be watching him always. The problem is, Homeland Security didn’t release his best friend. This book redefined the way I think about technology, terrorism, freedom, and dissent. Unforgettable.

3. “The Long Walk,” Richard Bachman – This novella, written by Stephen King under the pen name Richard Bachman, has haunted me since I was eleven. It’s about 100 boys who enter a walking competition. All they have to do is walk. But if they stop for too long, they’ll be shot to death. The last one standing, or in this case, walking, wins. The rest of them . . . well, they lose. The situation was riveting, but learning what motivated the boys to enter such a contest was the part that really fascinated me.

4. “Z For Zachariah,” Robert C. O’Brien – Again, this is post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian, but it’s still about a crappy future. In the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, 16-year-old Ann is left completely alone in the geographically protected valley where her home is located. But when a dangerous stranger arrives in town, she realizes being the last person on earth wasn’t so bad. It’s a thrilling novel, and I appreciate the simple, straightforward writing, which doesn’t get in the way of the story.

5. “Blood Red Road,” Moira Young – This is the most recent dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read, so it’s fresh in my mind, but that’s not why I’m including it on the list. This book is simply incredible. It’s like “Mad Max” meets Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” It practically has its own language, which is at once harsh and poetic. Many words are missing one or more letters, and there’re no quotes to indicate dialogue. The heroine is a tough as nails warrior who could give Katniss Everdeen a run for her money, and she kicks an epic amount of ass. Also, there’s an ever so subtle supernatural slant, which is my favorite spice. I hope the YA reading public embraces this book.

What's on the top of your to-do list before the world ends? (you know, in case it ends next year)
Well, having a book published is on that to-do list, but whether STRUCK is released before The End is up to fate. Next on my bucket list is a trip to Romania. I’d also love to rent a haunted castle someday, just for kicks.

What sets your novel apart from others in the genre?
I’m so glad you asked this question. I should start off by asserting that STRUCK is not strictly dystopian, so that’s the first distinction. But post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories share so many themes and fundamentals that there isn’t much point splitting hairs.

There are two major elements that set STRUCK apart from other dystopian novels.

•Dystopian novels and post-apocalyptic novels are both about nightmare futures, but dystopian tends to make a jump ahead in time, usually of several decades, if not hundreds of years. STRUCK begins one month after a massive earthquake has destroyed much of Los Angeles.

Dystopian novels, by and large, are about the terrible places that fear can take us if we get on board. When you begin reading a dystopian novel, you’ve already arrived at the destination. In STRUCK, you get a glimpse of the kind of fear and chaos that puts people on a train to Dystopialand.

•The second thing that sets STRUCK apart is the supernatural thread that runs through the story. As you’ll surmise from reading my top 5 list, I’m a Stephen King fan of the Annie Wilkes variety. Okay, maybe not that obsessive, but I’m not ashamed to say I love the man. He’s inspired me and taught me more than any other writer. In many ways, STRUCK is my homage to his “Dark Tower” series.

Now, one thing I learned from Stephen King is that the supernatural has a place even in tales of gritty reality. What would “The Stand” have been without Randall Flagg and the shared dreams of the survivors? It would still have been a great book, but it wouldn’t have been, for want of a better word, magical.

STRUCK is a story of tragedy. It’s a story about what happens when a city crumbles in the space of three minutes. It’s a story of temporary insanity and religious obsession and what happens when people let fear take root, and when they let the wrong people do their thinking for them.

But it’s also a story about the mysteries of our natural world; about the destructive and creative potential of something as common as lightning. Magic is often the word people use when they don’t understand something, and there are few things more misunderstood or mystifying than lightning.

So, at its heart, STRUCK is a story about magic, and that sets it apart from other dystopian novels.

Thanks Jennifer - sounds so intriguing!

Visit Jennifer’s website
Follow Jennifer on twitter @JennBosworth
Add STRUCK to your GoodReads wishlist
Jennifer is also a part of Brave New Words, a group blog for YA sci-fi debuts in 2012

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Joint Book Review Discussion: Ashes by Ilsa J Bick

So Michelle of Galleysmith and I thought it would be fun to have a conversational review about a few of my dystopian reads this month. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a non-spoilery way. We've posted about a different book every Thursday, and our final book is ASHES.

Here’s the official summary:

It could happen tomorrow...

A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed."
Can one teen really survive on her own?

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...

Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom---a young army veteran---and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.

This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.
Also, because I loved the writing, I wanted to share a small excerpt (even though this from the ARC and could be different from the final published version):

What no one warned her about was that when you had no sense of smell at all, a lot of memories fizzled. Like the way the smell of a pine tree conjured a quick-brain snapshot of tinsel and Christmas lights and a glittery angel, or the spice of nutmeg and buttery cinnamon made you flash to a bright kitchen and your mother humming as she pressed pie crust into a glass dish. With no sense of smell, your memories dropped like pennies out of a ripped pocket, until your past was ashes and your parents were blanks: nothing more than holes in Swiss cheese. (p 13)

Michelle and I decided to discuss four topics: Genre classification, science, pacing/plotting and community vs individuality. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Galleysmith.

Genre classification


Since the electromagnetic pulse that devastates the US happens in the beginning of the novel, I guess this is apocalyptic more than post-apocalyptic. The first half is very much a survival story, with Alex on the run from zombiefied humans while trying to protect Ellie, a spoiled young girl she runs into in the forest while hiking. The second half finds Alex in a town run by some sort of cult (very dystopian) that has plans that Alex is not exactly down with. I enjoyed both parts, but maybe give an edge to the first half because I was literally at the edge of my seat reading. That scene with the dogs - I almost had a heart attack!


I’m right there with you on the classifications. Apocalyptic in the first third, post-apocalyptic as the survivalist stuff played out and then finally dystopian when Alex landed in Rule. I have some misgivings (which are addressed in the pacing section) but overall I think Bick did a fantastic job of infusing the three different genre focus overall.


Yes, the story flowed really well from one element to another and Alex’s journey was natural in its progression (except for one big decision the group made that seemed more plot driven than character driven). And this was one of those books where you have the feeling that anything could happen. Bick doesn’t shelter her characters. No one is safe. It’s high stakes which equals high interest for this reader.


What I also liked, that falls into the anything can happen category, is the cliffhanger at the end. Typically I’m not a girl who likes to be left hanging with something huge and unanswered but man I really liked how this book ended. It definitely makes me want to read the next as soon as possible. More than that, I totally didn’t see it coming! Not even a little bit. Total kudos to Bick for that.


I am not a fan of cliffhanger endings when I have to wait more than a year to read the next book, so that knocked it down at least half a zombie chicken in my estimation. But as far as cliffhangers go - this one was certainly a zinger.



I just finished the first season of FRINGE, and I find paranormal science endlessly fascinating. There is so much cool paranormal science in this novel. First of all, you know that Alex is 17 and has a brain tumor. The pulse causes pretty much everyone between puberty and menopause to turn into a zombie - except Alex’s brain tumor spares her for some reason - and gives her a special sense of smell. And there is so much more to this idea that you discover during the novel and every time Bick gave me a tidbit, my eyes lit up in excitement. I love stuff like this.


This was, by far, the best part of the novel for me. Bick’s use of science was uniquely crafted and was used in such an interesting way to further the plot. Most importantly, it wasn’t written at such a high level (with loads of medical jargon and geek speak) that readers won’t be able to relate to it. She brought it down to earth, made it relatable, and best of all made it an original and realistic catalyst for the outcomes of the EMP. Speaking of science, the EMP stuff was equally impressive. Again, Bick distinguishes herself in the genre by taking on a little used piece of science and growing a number of additional interesting plot angles off of it. There wasn’t as much exploration of this element but I didn’t mind because I tend to enjoy getting to the point and not banging a person over the head with stuff.


And what’s really impressive is that she eventually addresses and answers the science questions she brings up - and in a logical way that I totally bought. This is not at all easy to do. Also, her spin on zombies feels fresh - not like something I’ve seen a billion times before. Props!


Ditto that, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or put off by the science at all. It added to the value and intrigue to the story as opposed to detracting from it by getting too technical. I wonder if she’ll explore the science vs. humanity scenario later?


That would be a great avenue to explore. I’m also wondering if there could possibly be a cure.

Read the rest of our discussion over at Galleysmith!

Zombie chickens say: We’re in love! Highly recommended and we can’t wait to see where Bick takes us next. (4.5 Zombie Chickens)

ASHES comes out very soon on Sept 6, 2011. Find out more about it at the author’s website

Song for the Ultimate Dystopian Playlist: Headlong into the Abyss by We Are Augustines. Sample lyric: "To keep driving from dreary and dead, to make bets we could not afford to. Follow me down."

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore