Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

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 MEANT TO BE a YA contemporary about a girl who goes on a class trip to London and finds romance in unexpected places.

Let me begin with a story: JUST A LITTLE BIT LOST is a book which has really stuck with me since my childhood.  In it, the main character gets lost on a school trip with the popular boy she has a crush on and once they have the chance to really get to know each other, they fall in love.  Perfect teen fantasy, right?

MEANT TO BE has a similar vibe. At the beginning of her trip, responsible, studious Julia (nicknamed "book licker") is not interested in Jason.  He's too irresponsible - and most importantly, he's not her MTB ("meant to be"), a designation she's given another boy who didn't come to London.

But -- Julia's teacher puts the two of them together as travel buddies, forcing them to interact regularly. Jason convinces Julia to go to a party with him, she meets a bunch of hot guys and ends up with a texting flirt over the next few days.  Jason offers to help. But is it really Jason that Julia should end up with?

There are so many fun scenes throughout the novel as Julia opens herself up to new experiences off the beaten path. And obviously I adore books about foreign travel and think there should be more of them.

And now, let's chat with Lauren!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
I love the initial interactions between Julia and Jason, particularly when he's inviting Julia to the party. I love their banter.

What is your favorite line in the book?
There's a joke about Czechoslovakia (actually in that same scene from the last question) that is awesomely nerdy, and I was so jazzed that it made it into the final manuscript.

What setting was most fun to write?
Writing all the locations in London was so fun, but I enjoyed writing the scene in The Tate Modern the most. I had a good time virtually exploring and learning about various pieces as research.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
Sarah Finder is a great character, because there's so much more to her than meets the eye. I can't say much more without giving away spoilers, but I think she'd make a sassy narrator in another book.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
Seeing my cover for the first time was the best. Heather, the designer at Random House, truly hit it out of the park. It's really eye catching and unlike anything else that's out there. I couldn't be happier with it. I wish I could pass on even half the compliments I've received. THANKS HEATHER!!!

Thank you Lauren!

MEANT TO BE is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

Friday, November 23, 2012

Young Adult Author Panel: Drama & Dystopia

If you'll be in Kansas City next Tuesday, consider coming to see me, Gennifer Albin (CREWEL) and Bethany Hagen (LANDRY PARK ex. Fall 2013) chat about Dystopian fiction.

I'll be giving away copies of LEVEL 2, swag and German chocolate.

Find out all about the event at the library website.

Hope to see you there!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough

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 DEVINE INTERVENTION a YA afterlife novel about a boy assigned to an afterlife rehabilitation program where he becomes a very unsuccessful guardian angel to a girl.

Shot through the head with an arrow by his best friend, Jerome ends up in purgatory where he must watch over Heidi in order to move on. Heidi has grown up her whole life with Jerome in her head, thinking she must be crazy. When Jerome isn't watching one day, Heidi falls through the ice and her spirit joins Jerome on the other side. Jerome knows he'll be in trouble if his counselors find out, so he tries to hide Heidi - but neither realizes what dire consequences this could have for both of them.

DEVINE INTERVENTION combines comedy (via Jerome with his bumbling nature) with pathos (Heidi and her yearning to be accepted and loved) to create a truly entertaining and rewarding afterlife story. The worldbuilding is imaginative and logical and the plot goes to surprising places.

I loved this quote:

"To even start to love someone, you have to know where you start and where you end. Where you are, and where you aren't, the shape you make in the world."

Just fair warning: There is animal death in this novel. I had to skip pages 46-47 because of the description of cat killing.

And now for my interview with Martha!

What is your favorite scene in the book?
Oh! That is such a good question. There are a few scenes I really like. One inspired the cover (although the cover is a daylight scene and the one in my book happens at night). It's where Jerome and Heidi, my two protagonists, are floating above the mall where the back entrance to heaven is secretly located. I also like the scene where Jerome visits his father in the middle of the night. And the ending, because I put my heart into that one—I think of it as a love letter to people who feel uncomfortable in their own skin, and to people who never got the chance to experience a Hollywood-style teen romance. It's awkward and sweet and sad, which I think is what high school is for a whole bunch of us.

The ending is magnificent! What is your favorite line in the book?
I don't know that I have a favorite line, but I do like my made-up swears. I sometimes say Chevy when I am thinking something far worse.

Chevy is perfect! Especially because I had a Chevy in high school that was worthy of a swear word. What setting was most fun to write?
Heaven, for sure. I have a few locations there—one that's like a principal's office, one that's used for group rehabilitation, and a couple of lobbies. Every guardian angel in heaven's soul rehabilitation program has a lobby, which is where he gets to hang out and recharge his celestial batteries while being surrounded by his favorite things. I wish I had a lobby of my own. Sort of like Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own," but with snack machines.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
Heidi has a best friend, Megan, who has no filter on her mouth or her wardrobe. I'd like to write a book about her and the villain, Howard, a sociopath who has one last chance at redemption.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
I've loved every second of it (although some of those seconds have made me nervous). Without a doubt, though, it's the people I've met: my agent, my editor, my readers, booksellers, librarians, other writers. For the first time in my life, I feel I'm with my tribe, people who love books and stories and words as much as I do. I could not be happier.

Thank you so much Martha! DEVINE INTERVENTION is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cover Reveal! Chick-o-Saurus Rex

Remember how I told you I also wrote a picture book in collaboration with my husband, Illustrator Daniel Jennewein?

Well that picture book, CHICK-O-SAURUS REX, now has a cover!

Check it out:

And here's the summary:

It's coming out on July 23, 2013. You can already add it to Goodreads and even pre-order it.

I've also gotten word that F&Gs are in (the picture book version of an ARC) so I'll give one away to someone who comments on this post (and leaves an e-mail address so I can contact you if you win) by midnight CST of Thanksgiving day. US and Canada only for this one.

I'll leave you with this picture of Daniel and me in front of a T-Rex skull.

Are you mighty enough?!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Apocalypsies Love! Book Review: Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini

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

Today I'm featuring TOUCHING THE SURFACE, a YA fantasy set in the afterlife.

It's no secret I love afterlife books (after all, I wrote one), and I'm always struck by how very different they are from one another. While they often share the theme of living life to the fullest and learning to let go, the author's vision of the afterlife is what sets these stories apart.

In TOUCHING THE SURFACE, Elliot is back in the Obmil (get it? Limbo written backwards?) for the third time. Which is ... not so good.  This is her last chance to get things right so she can move on to what's next.  But Elliot isn't much for self-examination and doesn't want to delve into her past life memories - that is until she discovers her connection with two very different boys and wants to solve the mystery of why one seems to love her unconditionally while the other hates her with a burning passion.

TOUCHING THE SURFACE is an example of a book that's pushing the boundaries of what YA can be.  In her third life, Elliot died as a teen, but in her first, she was a twin brother who died in his 80s and in her second she was a middle-aged woman with a marital crisis. Obviously as this is YA, the narrative concentrates on the particulars of Elliot's teen life, but we also get glimpses of the overall person she is in the afterlife, one shaped by all of her earthly experiences.  It's a fascinating and immersive examination of the consequences of our actions and choices.  

And now..... here's Kimberly!

What is your favorite scene in the book? 
Ha! There's this scene that takes place in a little boat and I just love the humor and tension between the characters. And then there's an epic scene that I can not name because it would give too much away. And the end always gets me--no matter how many times I've read it and… I'm gonna stop now. *bites lip*

What is your favorite line in the book? 
The dedication. It means everything to me. But if I had to pick a "line" from the actual story, I'd pick this one, which is really just a part of a line. "But all it takes is one small change in perspective…" I believe that so it resonates deeply with me.

What setting was most fun to write? 
By far everything having to do with the Obmil. My imagination is so thankful for the creative license. I think about the field of sunflowers often. I'd like to sit there myself.

Who is your favorite supporting character - one you could see getting a spin-off book - and why?
Julia Going because she has always been so elusive. I have had to tug her out of cracks and crevices to find out who she really is and I still think I haven't completely discovered everything there is to know about her. Perhaps she will come knocking on my door again some day.

What has been your favorite part of your publishing journey so far? 
Working with my editor, Anica Rissi and my agent, Michelle Wolfson. I've learned so much and I can't explain what it feels like to have someone love your book with the same passion that you do--its amazing. And ARCs of really good books. I LOVE it when I get to read an amazing book before it's out on the shelf. I feel like a special conspirator. Now if I could only read faster!

Thanks Kimberly!

TOUCHING THE SURFACE is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website

FTC disclosure: Review copy from publisher

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Level 2 News - The Photo Edition! (+Giveaway!)

Lots of exciting news to share lately!

First, I got a special package in the mail today. From Usborne.

What could it be?

Finished copies of the UK edition of LEVEL 2!

I think this calls for a giveaway, don't you?

Level 2 (UK edition) - Front and Back

I'll send one lucky reader a signed copy of LEVEL 2 (UK edition) + a magnet + 5 signed postcards.  Fill out this form by November 12, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. Open internationally!

You might have seen this on Facebook, but on October 15, I met Tori Amos before her concert in Berlin and gave her a galley of LEVEL 2.  I pointed out that I thanked her in my acknowledgements, and she told me she plans to read it with her teenage daughter.  How cool is that?!

To also file in the extremely cool fangirl file is this tweet from one of my absolute favorite authors, AS King.

You guys - AS King read my book. And she loved it.  *dies*

I also got a couple more blog reviews that I wanted to share.  Addie of Bookworm Recommendations says:

"Right when I thought dystopias were starting to get cliché, Level 2 brings in a fresh and intriguing new world, and I loved it!" (read the whole review)

And Tirzah of The Compulsive Reader says:

"Lenore Appelhans’ first novel is breathtaking, perfectly paced, and brilliantly written." (read the whole review)

Thank you so much for reading you two!!

And finally, you can listen to Jenna Lamia read an excerpt of the US version of the LEVEL 2 audiobook (from Listening Library) at Books on Tape. I love how she sounds and I can't wait to hear the rest.

68 days to go!

PS - the winner of my contest during the Apocalypsies YAmazing Race is: Kelly L. from The Well Read Redhead. Congrats Kelly!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rule of Three Blog Tour (Review, Giveaway + Playlist): Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Have you read BLOOD RED ROAD yet?  (My review) If not, what are you waiting for?  I'll admit, I had some trouble getting into the rhythm of Saba's (uneducated) voice in the first book, but once I got used to the writing, I found it wholly immersive.

In fact, when I started REBEL HEART, Young's writing pulled me in so immediately, it was like I never left the Dustlands.  In this installment, Saba has a bit of PTSD after what happened at the end of BLOOD RED ROAD.  She's on her way to meet with Jack, but new malevolent forces (the revived Tonton with De Malo as a leader) conspire to keep them apart.  There were a lot of scenes that threw me for a loop, and I was riveted by events and emotions.  That's why REBEL HEART gets the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for Writing.


For the Rule of Three blog tour, I got to create a playlist!  Because I chose songs to fit specific scenes, this playlist is slightly spoilery (no major spoilers, I promise).

Song: Desert – Other Lives 

Scene: Beginning of book. Saba, her siblings and Tommo in the desert.
Sample lyrics:

Desert reclaims the land,
and we return full in colour.
Oh I see, I see the fires ahead,
but in my mind it's turning cold.

Notes: This song has great atmosphere, and of course the lyrics are very fitting for the Dustlands setting.

Song: Terrified – Among Savages
Scene: Saba worried that her quest to find Jack is putting everyone she loves in danger.

Sample lyrics:

Cause I'm terrified and I'm ruined by this mess
Cause I needed you more than I needed what was best

Notes: In BLOOD RED ROAD, Saba had the "red hot" so we didn't see a lot of her fear.  Things are a bit different in book two.

Song: Dead Hearts – Stars 

Scene: Ghosts of the dead haunting Saba.
Sample lyrics:

Did you touch them?
Did you hold them?
Did they follow you to town?
They make me feel I'm falling down

Was there one you saw too clearly?
Did they seem too real to you?

They were kids that I once knew
Now they're all dead hearts to you.

Notes: Saba is feeling guilty about what happened to Epona, and she finds it hard to let go.

Song: Horse and I – Bat for Lashes 

Scene: Saba meets Auriel
Sample lyrics:
"Take her there, through the desert shores."
They sang to me, "This is yours to wear. You're the chosen one, there's no turning back now."

Notes: I love the mystical atmosphere of this song. Fits the scene so well.

Song: Rabbit Heart – Florence + The Machine

Scene: Saba realizing the new threat and preparing herself to take it on.

Sample lyrics:
I must become a lion hearted girl
Ready for a fight

Notes: This struck me because Saba is attempting to gain her courage from a deeper place now, whereas before, she relied purely on instinct and basic will to survive.

Song: Generator (First Floor) - Freelance Whales

Scene: In the mysterious hideout with the 3D movie house.

Sample lyrics:
We keep on churning and the lights inside the house turned on
And in our native language we are chanting ancient songs

Notes: I love this song and I was so thrilled that this scene existed so I could use it. This is where Saba first gets an inkling of how beautiful the world used to be in the "olden days".

Song: Apres Moi – Regina Spektor

Scene: De Malo explaining the rationale behind the Tonton's new world order.

Sample lyrics:
Be afraid of the lame, they'll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they'll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they'll inherit your blood
Après moi le deluge, after me comes the flood

Notes: Somehow perfect.

Song: Bliss – Tori Amos

Scene: (Highlight to see spoiler) Saba and De Malo in the tent

Sample lyrics:
Steady as it comes
Right down
To you
I've said it all
So maybe we're a bliss
Of another kind

Notes: OMG - right? I was seriously like WTF?!

Song: Ocean of Noise – Arcade Fire

Scene: At the Tonton stronghold. Saba's face-off with De Malo.

Sample lyrics:
No way of knowing
What any man will do
An ocean of violence
Between me and you

You've got your reasons
And me, I've got mine
But all the reasons I gave
Were just lies
To buy myself some time

Notes: I love the complexity of De Malo as an adversary for Saba.

Song: Something of an End – My Brightest Diamond

Scene: Final battle

Sample lyrics:
Because the earth starts shakin'
And yeah it's crazy
Heaven and hell come crashing down
And then the earth starts shakin'
And yeah it's so crazy
Heaven and hell come crashing
They come crashing

It's so beautiful and terrible
So beautiful and terrible

It was something of an end
Of a lovely and a wild thing
So beautiful in the morning
You're beautiful
So beautiful
You're beautiful in the morning

Notes: Again, this song speaks to the complexity of the conflict.

Song: Belispeak – Purity Ring

Scene: Saba thinking about everything that's happened.

Sample lyrics:
Grandma, my hands have wandered
my little legs are getting weak
bid lend me your wispy frame
guard my precious powers in its cage

Grandma, I've been unruly
in my dreams and with my speech
Drill little holes into my eyelids
that I might see you when I sleep

Notes: Sort of sums up what Saba must be feeling.

Song: Skelton Jar - Youth Group

Scene: Last scene of the book.

Sample lyrics:
I feel like hell, you feel like dancing,
You know this bar curtains a world,
Those empty bottles, like sentinels,
stand guard in the morning sun.

Notes: If you've read the book, you know how perfectly this song fits here.

Song: Highwayman – Willie Nelson + the Highwaymen

Scene: Nothing specific, just my tribute to certain characters who are no longer with us by the end of the book. Oh, also a nod to the scene earlier in the book with the old man, the camel and the cart.

Sample lyrics:
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again.

Listen to the whole 13 song playlist: (Note that some of these are live versions, and so if you can, you should really seek out the studio versions)

MusicPlaylistView Profile
Create a playlist at MixPod.com


Could you survive the Dust Lands?

One winner receives:

· A Dust Lands prize pack including a custom t-shirt, custom water bottle and copies of Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart!

To enter, fill out this form by November 18 2012 at 11:59 pm CST.  Giveaway open to US residents only.

The Rule of Three Blog Tour: Each Monday for three weeks, three sites will go live with unique content including guest posts from Moira, reviews/giveaways, and blogger-created fan features. Make sure to check out Moira’s other stops at The Book Smugglers and Books Complete Me.

Visit the Dust Lands website

FTC disclosure: Review copy provided by Big Honcho Media

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review + Author Interview: Ask the Passengers by AS King

I've been an AS fangirl ever since her debut DUST OF 100 DOGS. She's one of the most innovative writers in YA and ASK THE PASSENGERS is another winner.

Astrid is tired of all the labeling that goes on in her small town.  Why can't people just love without having to define it and put it in a box? So she spends her free time lying on the picnic table in her backyard and sending love to the passengers in the planes that fly overhead.

Something that characterizes AS King's work is a very authentic contemporary voice mixed with an element of the unexplained. Here it would appear that what Astrid sends out into the universe has an effect on someone in the planes overhead.  If it's love, that passenger might make a shocking declaration. If it's frustration, the passenger might react in kind.  It's a genius metaphor for reaping what we sow.

As Astrid struggles to find her place within her family (overachieving mother and sister, pothead father) and within her circle of friends she also falls in love with another girl and ponders philosophy deeply.  Her character arc is touching and inspiring.

ASK THE PASSENGERS is available now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

And now, as per our tradition, I interview AS King and she provides us with an embarrassing photo from her past.

What the craziest or most remarkable thing that has ever happened to you on a plane?
Smoking. Smoking is probably the craziest and most remarkable thing that ever happened to me on a plane. Seriously. How did they let us do that? And why did they ever think that there was a smoking "section" and a non-smoking "section?" We all knew that we all smelled like ashtrays when we walked off those flights, smokers or not. Also: it's a can of flying oxygen. I ask you: who thought smoking in a can of oxygen was a good idea?

I'm old enough to remember that - it was pretty insane. So I've heard that Socrates is your favorite philosopher. What are your favorite words of wisdom from a philosopher other than Socrates?
That's a tough one. Or maybe not. I think we can consider Buddha a philosopher, so here are some of my favorites from Buddha, who is so boss, it's not possible to measure his bossness:

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
The mind is everything. What you think you become.
What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?

You've read my book LEVEL 2 (thanks!). If ATP's main character Astrid were to land in Level 2, what memory would she play over and over?

Correction: I read and loved LEVEL 2.
If Astrid landed in Level 2, I'd say she'd play Memory #43254 over and over. (Tags: NYC, walks, when mom still cared.)
Mom and I take a walk all the way to Central Park to see the statue of Balto, the sled dog who delivered medicine to people dying of diphtheria back in 1920-something. She tries to tell me about diphtheria and she doesn't care when I don't listen. I'm six. We're taking a break from Ellis. We love Ellis, but she's a lot of work because she's three. Mom holds my hand, and when I make up a song about Balto, she asks me to tell her the words and we sing it together the whole way home. We laugh a lot.
Wow! I think I need a moment to recover from that awesomeness. Don't a get a photo?

In honor of our long-standing tradition, I will also include this awkward photo for you, Lenore.

I don't think I've ever shared this one before. It's me taking a free throw in 1987/8 as a senior on my basketball team. My right leg is like a robot leg. I had really bad knees back then. Plus, I was 5'10" and got pushed around a bit under the basket, so knee pads were a must.
I use this picture in some of my school presentations with this caption: Did I make this shot? Does it really matter?
For the record, I still take a mean free throw. But I am now 5'9" tall.

The placement of your opponent's hand is really ... awkward.

Best part: That hand is my best friend's hand. We've been BFFs since we were 4.

Thanks Amy!

FTC disclosure: Review copy from publisher (Thanks Mitali!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cover Reveal + Cover Story: The End Games by T. Michael Martin

Hey everyone! Back in August, I introduced you to T. Michael Martin and his book THE END GAMES (check out his preview interview). The cover for THE END GAMES has snuck out there and has been making its way around the blogs, and Mike wanted to share it with everyone himself, too. 

Here's Mike with a quick glance at the look at the creation of the cover.


The process of working with my editor (Donna Bray) and the team at HarperCollins was a dream, all the way through.

Last January, when Donna and I first met, we talked about our hopes for what the cover for THE END GAMES might be. I remember Donna saying that she wanted a dynamic, iconic design, with a powerful use of text. I remembering suggesting that we might look at the incredible work of Saul Bass and Olly Moss for inspiration.

And when we eventually came up with a prototype of the cover I'm sharing today, I nearly cried. Because it was better than I could have wished.

Inside this book is a journey, the cover seems to say. Here are two brothers, who care for each other with their whole hearts. And at this very moment, while you and I watch, they are traveling into country more dangerous than they could ever imagine.

Thank you so much for celebrating it with me!

THE END GAMES will be released by Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) on May 7th, 2013.

AND here's the cover:

Plot summary: 

"Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia—armed with only their rifles and their love for each other—the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of 'Bellows'—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules. 
And the brothers will never be the same. 
T. Michael Martin’s debut novel is a transcendent thriller filled with electrifying action, searing emotional insight, and unexpected romance."

Praise for THE END GAMES

“It’s full of both jaw-dropping action and heart-twisting beauty. It’s a thrill ride that makes you think and feel: terrifying and joyful, funny and moving. In so many ways THE END GAMES is the book I was waiting for and didn’t know it until I had it in my hands.”

—Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist

Preorder on Amazon
Preorder on BN.com
Add to Goodreads
Visit Mike's website
Follow Mike on Twitter: @tmikemartin

What do you think? Looks crazy thrilling doesn't it? Can't wait!