Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funny Story from the Office

Monday evening the flower delivery guy comes up to the office and gives me a huge and beautiful assortment of pink lilies. I sign for them, check the card to see who they're for and take them into the agent's office. Another agent sees the flowers and asks who they're from so I sneak a peak at the card.

I'm thinking two possible scenarios.

Agent's spouse sent them.
Or
A happy client whose book just sold sent them.

Neither.

Someone who is querying the agent sent the flowers.

While this is a nice gesture and the girly part of me is saying "aw, I love flowers," the rational part of me is saying "um, that's kind of creepy and over-reaching." Bribes will not affect how much or how little an agent likes a story idea, nor will it influence whether they request the book from a query.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Contest Winner - Kissed by An Angel

The Kissed by an Angel contest has now officially come to a close and I'm excited to be giving away the trilogy by Elizabeth Chandler (who - I heard first hand from an editor at Simon & Schuster - will have an updated re-release of her Dark Secrets books some time next year). After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...


Congratulations Kaila! (And btw, I love that picture of Buffy and Angel :) I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ellen Hopkins Does it Again With Tricks - Review + Contest

A Review for Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
(release date: August 25th)

"When all choice is taken from you, life becomes a game of survival."

Five teenagers from different parts of the country. Three girls. Two guys. Four straight. One gay. Some rich. Some poor. Some from great families. Some with no one at all. All living their lives as best they can, but all searching...for freedom, safety, community, family, love. What they don't expect, though, is all that can happen when those powerful little words "I love you" are said for all the wrong reasons.

Five moving stories remain separate at first, then interweave to tell a larger, powerful story -- a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up. A story about kids figuring out what sex and love are all about, at all costs, while asking themselves, "Can I ever feel okay about myself?"

Hopkins says in an author's note at the end of the book that the average age of a prostitute in the US is 12 years old - 12 years old! That statistic drew her into this story and this book, and she does a hauntingly poignant job bringing the issue to light.

The five main characters - Eden is a preacher's daughter whose parents send her to a home for troubled teens, Seth is having trouble dealing with his mother's death and his father's distance (especially because he doesn't feel he can tell his father that he's gay), Whitney, feeling ignored and living in the shadow of her sister finds affection wherever she can, Ginger feels betrayed by her mother who's a prostitute, and Cody goes from all-American kid to the one who has to hold his family together when his step-father gets sick and his brother starts acting out. All five of them have different circumstances that lead them to the same horrific place - simple survival is their motivation for selling sex for money.

Despite the fact that the story is told from the point of view of five different characters, they became so real to me I sobbed for them. Hopkins' has a brilliance when it comes to creating real characters and getting inside the minds of real teens. At over 600 pages, I couldn't put the book down. I devoured it in only a few short hours. Fans of Ellen Hopkins' earlier books will love Tricks as much if not more. She's realistic - no sugar coating the subject matter, and she weaves the stories of five total strangers together - albeit slowly at first - and creates a truly heartbreaking look at what survival can mean to ordinary teens.

I loved it - as I love all her books - it takes someone truly gifted and talented to create such a tapestry of human emotion and do it in-verse. So...since I loved it, I have to share.

Contest!

I have an extra ARC of Tricks by Ellen Hopkins to give away. You want it? Here's what you have to do -

Comment with your contact info to enter
+1 for new followers
+2 for current followers
+2 for linking back/posting about this contest
+2 for answering the question, "What's the one book that moved you the most and why?"
+3 for referring someone to the contest
+3 for being the person referred

Be sure to tell me specifics otherwise I won't know how to tally up the points! Contest is open to anyone and it ends 8/5.

She's the bestselling living poet in the country - Visit Ellen Hopkins' myspace page or her website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Great and (not) Terrible Heroine: The Gemma Doyle Series

A Review of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Series

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Book #1)

Sixteen year old Gemma Doyle has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Then she’s sent back to England and enrolled at Spence, a girls’ academy where her mother also went to school. This Victorian boarding school has a mysterious burned-out East Wing and a clique of gossipy girls, including the powerful Felicity and beautiful Pippa, both of whom snub Gemma when she first arrives — until she blackmails herself and her scholarship roommate Ann into the clique. To make matters worse, Gemma continues to have visions of tragic things that come true, and she can’t control them, and Kartik, a teenage Indian boy warns Gemma to fight off the visions she keeps having. The visions continue, however, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order, an ancient group of women who maintained the realms and regulated their power, and how two students unleashed an evil creature from the realms by killing a Gypsy girl.

Gemma has the magical abilities of this Order — she and she alone can open the realms where magical powers can make anything happen and where her mother waits to instruct her. She allows Ann, Pippa, and Felicity to come with her into the other-world realms of her visions to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out others with the same power and rebuild the Order.

I picked up A Great and Terrible Beauty on a whim because it seemed interesting and different — a Young Adult novel, part historical fiction (it takes place in Victorian England), part fantasy (the magical realms), and part horror (Gemma’s mother is killed in the first chapter and something equally bad is after Gemma). My curiosity was definitely rewarded. A Great and Terrible Beauty is one of the most beautiful historical and gothic novels I have ever read. Libba Bray is a gifted and talented writer, and her descriptive prose kept me enthralled from beginning to end, despite the fact that this is not an action-packed story. In fact, it is often slow-moving with not much action.

A Great and Terrible Beauty contains so many elements and layers that make the novel compelling and engrossing. The backdrop of Victorian England and the way women were viewed and what was expected from them in those times is portrayed perfectly, and the characters are both flawed and complex which makes them sympathetic and likable despite their faults. Gemma, especially, is a great heroine. She has the sort of confusions and issues that modern girls can relate to and her first person narrative voice has a unique naïveté which is brilliantly written.

The first book in a trilogy, A Great and Terrible Beauty will not disappoint fans of beautiful writing, gothic fantasy, and magical realism.

Rebel Angels (Book #2)

In this sequel to the Victorian gothic fantasy A Great and Terrible Beauty, sixteen year old Gemma Doyle continues to pursue her role as the one destined to bind the magic of the Realms and restore it to the Order--a mysterious group of women who have been overthrown by a rebellion. She is determined to find and destroy Circe, but first she must find the Temple and bind the magic she released into the realms when she destroyed the runes. Gemma uses her magical powers to transport herself and her two close friends from Spence Academy, Felicity and Ann, to the Realms, where they search for the lost Temple, the key to Gemma's mission, and comfort Pippa, their friend who has died and been left behind in the Realms and who may or may not be corrupted.

Meanwhile, a mysterious new teacher may actually be Circe, and Gemma is torn between her attraction to Kartik, the teenage guy from India who followed her to England and whose mission is actually to make sure she gives the power of the Order to his magical order – the Rakshana, and the handsome but clueless Simon Middleton, a young man of good family who is courting her. The complicated plot thickens when Gemma discovers a woman in Bedlam madhouse who knows where to find the Temple, and her father's addiction to laudanum lands him in an opium den.

Like A Great and Terrible Beauty, this is a remarkable dark young adult fantasy steeped in Victorian sensibility - as the girls fight to bind the magic and hopefully work toward destroying Circe, they are also seduced by London society and the temptation to be proper young ladies who will grow into proper young Victorian wives. Gemma, Ann, and Felicity are perfectly written as complex young women in a world poised for change, uncertain of their places. All the characters have so many layers which are revealed even more in Rebel Angels than in the last novel, especially in regards to Felicity and Ann. Readers can see just how much Ann desires to be a proper, upper-crust young lady, and Felicity has multiple motivations fueling her desires to obtain her own magical powers. In Rebel Angels as well as A Great and Terrible Beauty, I often found myself wondering if Felicity, Pippa, and Ann would be Gemma's friends if it weren’t for the realms, which adds a certain depth to the story that most young adult novels lack.

In many ways, this novel surpasses the first. The descriptive and lyrical writing never falters, and the many revelations and twists in the plot only strengthen the characters. Libba Bray is a master of clever foreshadowing, and though she leaves clues to the mystery of Circe, many times I thought I had it all figured out and was still caught by surprise. Bray tightens up the loose ends left in the previous book but leaves new story possibilities for the third and final installment (The Sweet Far Thing).


The Sweet Far Thing (Book #3)

After binding the magic to herself at the end of Rebel Angels, Gemma Doyle returns to Spence - Gemma and Felicity prepare to enter society while Ann gets ready to become a governess. All the while, they are trying to figure out what to do about their oh-so-scripted futures, not to mention troubles with family members – Gemma’s father is still addicted to Laudanum and her brother is still hopelessly hooked on trying to become important in society. Gemma worries over her feelings for Kartik as she tries to make sense of events in the Realms and the warnings she is receiving in visions.


I spent the first three quarters of this book tense, waiting, and at some moments annoyed. I wanted to yell at Gemma - about trusting all the wrong people, misusing the magic she holds, and missing all the clues to figuring out what to do. Gemma does all three, for hundreds of pages. I understand it – to a point. One of the strengths of Gemma’s character and the story is that she has been given far too great a responsibility, and it's hard for a 17-year-old girl to know what to do when everyone around her is clamoring for the power she has. And she has to learn to trust in herself and figure out what is right and good rather than what is easy.


But the book is over 800 pages long, and to be honest, sometimes it felt like it. Though the writing is good, the plot dragged at times, and I often found myself tempted to skim to get to the good parts. And most importantly, it took Gemma far too long to untangle the webs of deceit and figure it out - there are several interesting twists, including three people in the realms who are not as dead as they should be, yet I figured them all out much earlier than Gemma and therefore was not surprised.


Despite its problems, there are some moments of sheer brilliance. One particularly amazing moment for me was when Gemma and her friends stand at the gate of the Winterlands and in order to enter, they must answer the gate’s demand – to know each girl's greatest fear and greatest wish. Gemma's answer: "I don't know! I don't know what I want, but I wish I did. And that is the truest answer I can give" sums up her greatest inner struggle throughout the course of all three books.

The ending is bittersweet for Gemma and I’ve seen numerous reviews where many readers have a difficult time with this. I can understand the sentiment, but it would be far too unrealistic for Bray’s dark and gothic world to have a fairytale ending.


Though the story is too long and not as clearly plotted as her first two books, much of what makes Libba Bray’s writing appealing is still present in The Sweet Far Thing (the prose has some enchantingly beautiful metaphors). The series as a whole was a very enjoyable read, though the second book, Rebel Angels, was clearly the best.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

THE TBR Pile(s)

After seeing the lovely Victoria Schwab's journal about her TBR pile, I decided perhaps to post a picture of my own...only I have more than one pile which equals more than one picture.


















Here are the books hiding between my bed and the wall in an attempt to keep anyone who comes into my room from complaining about how I have too many books (there is no such thing).














The overflow of books, especially those from BEA that don't fit behind the bed.














The boxes of books still unpacked from when I moved from CA in October.














Oh and two new books that just arrived and haven't been opened yet!


And the best part is...this doesn't include any of the books recently shipped to my office which are under desk OR the books on my Kindle!

On Top of the Pile: The Ever After, Once Dead Twice Shy, Shiver, and The Immortal

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rachel Vincent's My Soul to Take - Definitely Worth Taking

A Review for My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Sixteen year old Kaylee Cavanaugh lives with her aunt and uncle and annoyingly perfect cousin Sophie. Her dad has been absent and in Ireland for most of her life, and she knows there's something wrong with her. See, when someone is about to die, Kaylee sees them covered in shadows and a scream starts to build in her throat and nothing, nothing except distancing herself from that person can make the scream stop if she opens her mouth. And she can't warn the person about their impending death - sure, they might think she was crazy, but it'd beat feeling like she was letting people die without doing anything - but if she opens her mouth, she can't say anything just scream.

Nash Hudson, the hot guy at school known for being a player, suddenly shows an interest in her, and doesn't freak out about the whole knowing someone's going to die thing, and he seems to know way more about what's wrong with her than he should. But the worst of it is that three girls have dropped dead for no apparent reason and with no warning in three days, and Kaylee needs to find out why.

My Soul to Take is Rachel Vincent's first foray into the Young Adult market, and she's done an awesome job. I like the Soul Screamers Series (this is book 1) even better than her adult urban fantasy series (Stray). Kaylee is a likable character who is normal - except for the screaming thing of course - but she handles everything that's thrown at her with a lot of maturity for someone who's sixteen. Nash is also likable and funny, and it's easy to see why Kaylee is drawn to him and vice versa.

The plot is fast moving, and though it's not too complicated, it's also got a few surprises and interesting twists. The minor characters have unique personalities and quirks, especially Tod the friendly hospital reaper. And Rachel Vincent has taken a new route within the YA paranormal romance genre. Out of all the signed books I got at BEA, this is one of the ones I'm happiest with (and Rachel Vincent was so sweet when she signed my book - she wrote "May the banshee wail...").

Check out Rachel Vincent's site here or check out the site for her Soul Screamers series here.

Download the prequel My Soul to Lose as a pdf document, click here. Or download it for free to your Kindle through Amazon, click here. The novella is about 84 pages long, and an interesting story - though not quite as good as the novel. It gives interesting insight into Kaylee's character and history - the only thing it's missing is Nash :)

This is the first book from Harlequin's new teen imprint to come out. The ebook is available through Amazon or at Harlequin's site, and the actual book comes out August 1st. Check out Harlequin Teen's new site, click here.

Five Random Things About Me

Because I was thinking today about how odd I am...

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.


2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.


3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.


4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to over come it.


5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HP6!

Some movies are worth talking about...

Just saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and it's actually (I'm a little ashamed to admit, the first Harry Potter movie I've seen where I've read the book first).

Truth is, I was kind of old when the books first came out. And reading children's books really wasn't all that cool at the time. I tried to read the first book at one point but couldn't really get into it too much since I had so many other great books to read. But as time went on and I went to see the movies and I kept hearing about them I decided to read them. And I'm glad I did.

But I probably would have liked the movie better had I not read the books - because let's face it - it's just not as good as the book. I did really like the movie, but the book is better.

The two things that bothered me: they cut out a lot of the memories that Dumbledore and Harry sift through to learn about Tom Riddle, which were some of my favorite parts of the book. Those memories (that backstory) is what really allows us to see who Tom Riddle really is. Those scenes in the book give us how behind Lord Voldemort's history. That said, I understand why the director or script writer cut those scenes and they did have to cut something. But I also didn't like the way Tom Riddle was portrayed in the flashbacks. In the book, with the exception of the first time Dumbledore meets Tom in the orphanage, Tom Riddle was a charasmatic kid, a talented wizard, and a well-liked student - he wasn't creepy. In the movie - he comes across as creepy. To me, that distinction is important. If Tom was so creepy as a kid, all these intelligent wizards should have known or guessed how he'd turn out. They didn't because he fooled them. That's just not apparent in the memories.

For anyone who hasn't read the books - probably not many people reading a book blog, but just in case - beware. This isn't an action adventure with a feel good ending - it's dark. Darker than the previous movies - though they were headed in this direction. And the ending is reminscient of Empire Strikes Back - you know there's more coming and the good guys aren't winning right now. It's not exactly a kids' movie anymore.

Because My Dad Drives Me Crazy...

Here is a an all too familiar interaction with my dad.

It's 10:30, and I'm standing in my parents' kitchen talking to my mom, who has just informed me that the swim meet my dad is coaching at this weekend is four hours away and he will be as a result gone all weekend. We share a whispered "YES!" And then she talks a little more about the meet.

Then Dad comes down the stairs. He does not say "hello" or any such nicety. In fact, he does not even acknowledge my presence at all. He looks at my mom and asks her if she washed the clothes he needs for the meet. She nods and goes off to the laundry room to find them. Then he looks at me.

Dad: There's something wrong with the printer.
Me: Okay...
Dad: It won't print color even though I just changed the cartridge.
Me: Um, okay, do you want me to look at it?
Dad: Yes.

I head upstairs, check a few things with the printer, take the cartridge out, check to make sure it's in right, all the little plastic strips have been taken off, I try running and test page and a troubleshooting page, but it's not working. Dad comes upstairs.

Dad: Did you fix it?
Me: No, I'm not really sure what's wrong with it.
Dad: You barely even looked at it. You're giving up with it awful quick.
Me: I checked a couple things, but I really don't know much about that printer.
Dad: I obviously would have checked all the quick things already.
Me: Okay, but I don't think I really know anymore than you would.
Dad: Well I think we want a colored printer in the house which means you better fix it.
Me: All right...

Oh, and PS I HAVE A COLORED PRINTER OF MY OWN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kissed by an Angel Review + Giveaway

A Review for Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler

This is a trilogy reprinted from three YA books that originally came out in 1995. As a result, there are a few things in terms of dialogue that are a little outdated, but (despite the 700 page length) the trilogy is a quick easy read which sucked me right in and had me breathless over it for two days.

When Ivy's mother gets engaged to Andrew Baines, the wealthiest man in Stonehill, Ivy and her eight year old brother are uprooted and moved to the new town. A junior in high school, Ivy adjusts better than her brother even though the last thing she wants is to move into the Baines mansion with her new stepbrother Gregory, who's also a junior. Then she meets Tristan Carruthers, the popular star of swim team and guy of all the girls' dreams, and he's going to every length possible to try to win her over. But after only a few short months together, on a date to a nice restaurant Tristan dies in a car accident, and comes back as an angel, a guardian angel with a mission. Because, as he soon learns, the car accident wasn't an accident, in fact, someone is trying to kill Ivy, and it's up to Tristan to stop them, even if that means, he'll finally lose her forever.

In the beginning, Ivy's belief in angels bothered me - it just didn't seem authentic and realistic for a teenage girl to believe in angels and pray to them quite the way she does. The belief is okay and praying to them is fine, but the way that she does it is just awkward. "_." Also, the angels have names like "Tony" and "_" rather than actual Biblical names. Elizabeth Chandler had a great opportunity to incorporate angelic mythology - and probably be the first YA author to do so (this was 1995 and pre-Twilight) but there's no real backstory or history to the angels at all.

Once I got over Ivy's dialogue and the way she believes in the angels and accepted it as a character "quirk" I definitely believed her. Her anguish over Tristan's death and her struggle to try to accept it, understand it, and ultimately go on living without him really came through her actions, and I struggled along with her. I also believed and adored Philip, Ivy's younger brother, who clung to her belief in angels and tried to use them as a line of hope when Tristan died. Definitely believable.

I found myself wishing more times than once, especially when he was trying to get Ivy to notice him, that I had known more guys on my swim team in high school like Tristan. He's charismatic, funny, kind, and inventive - the way he befriends Ivy's brother because he's lonely and goofs around to cheer him up, melted my heart just like it did Ivy's. That said, he does get a little wishy-washy with all the "I need Ivy to know how much I love her" monologues once he becomes an angel. It does start to get a little annoying, but the Elizabeth Chandler must have anticipated that because the angel Lacey is there to tell him how annoying he's being. And Lacey, as a character is hilariously unique and witty - definitely the comic relief amidst all the suspense. However, I didn't necessarily buy into Chandler's insinuations that Lacey falls in love near the end.

As for the more minor characters, Will, Suzanne, and Beth are all original, complex, and interesting characters that I understood and liked (well, Suzanne most of the time). Gregory's arrogance but softer side when Ivy needs a friend kept me conflicted about whether I liked him or not, and Eric was successfully both creepy and so messed up I felt sorry for him.

The pacing of the plot for all three parts of the Kissed by an Angel trilogy was consistant, and Chandler has done a good job building the suspense over the course of the three books. Though I had my guesses about what was happening throughout the course of the novels, the guesses shifted and changed as I learned new information, and sometimes I was right while other times I was wrong. Though, there weren't any major twists or shocks which had me gasping, like some other recent mystery/thrillers I've read, but I found myself addicted and on the age of my seat for all 700 pages, which is quite a feat. At the end, I still wasn't quite completely convinced of the villain's motivations - I understood them, but wasn't completely sure I bought into the extent the villain was willing to go for those motivations (sorry for the vague statement, but again, I don't to give anything away).

Despite those two reservations (the villain's motivation and Ivy's character quirk), I really enjoyed reading Kissed by an Angel, and since this book was actually around when I was in high school, I'm mad I didn't know about it. Perhaps if it had been marketed then, like Twilight was a few years ago I would have heard about it. Because truthfully, if I read it back then, it'd probably be one of my favorites. But enough of that, here's...

THE CONTEST

I'm giving away a copy of the Kissed by an Angel trilogy by Elizabeth Chandler to one lucky winner.

To win, post a comment by 7/25. For extra entries:
Let me know you’re a follower – or become one (+1)
Tweet about the contest on twitter (+1)
Blog about it (+1)

Monday, July 13, 2009

FantasyLiterature.net

I've been asked to come on board as a reviewer at Fantasy Literature, which is a great source for fantasy (paranormal and urban fantasy) reviews (for both YA and adult literature). There are already 14 regular reviewers, and a few guest reviewers who drop in as well. In addition to my reviews, I'll also be contributing to their blog, posting discussions on the publishing industry, great books, and the fantasy genre.

Click the picture below to check it out!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Awesome New Urban Fantasy: Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

Thursday afternoon I left work with an ARC of The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay, book one of a new urban fantasy series that comes out November 24th from Pocket Books. I cracked it open around three o'clock this afternoon and had a hard time putting it down later in the evening when I had to head out and meet some friends, so I promptly picked it back up again when I got home and stayed awake until it was finished.

Divorced mother of one, Charlie Madigan, lives in a world where the beings of heaven and hell exist among us, and they aren't the things of Sunday school lessons and Hallmark figurines. In the years since the Revelation, they've become our co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens.

Charlie works for ITF (Integration Task Force). It's her job to see that the continued integration of our new "friends" goes smoothly and everyone obeys the law, but when a new off-world drug is released in Underground Atlanta, her daughter is targeted, and her ex-husband makes a fateful bargain to win her back, there's nothing in heaven or earth (or hell for that matter) that Charlie won't do to set things right.

So I've read a lot of urban fantasy with the kick-ass heroine, but what I liked most about Charlie Madigan as a character was that though she fit that mold, but she was also different and unique. Throughout The Better Part of Darkness, Charlie has a tough exterior as a result of numerous different experiences she's undergone - a few of those are reasons she became a cop, a few of them result from her career choice - but she also has a lot of real fears and insecurities. A few times, when everything appears as if it's falling apart and she knows she has to be strong, she still breaks down and loses it before picking herself back up again.

Another unique thing about Charlie is that she's a mother. Pregnant and married at 19, Charlie's now the divorced, single mom of a 12 year old, and she takes that seriously - even more seriously than her job as a cop. I can't think of any urban fantasy that I've read where the tough as nails female protagonist had a kid, and it's a realistic portrayal of a single mother who's also a cop. She's desperately trying to balance the needs of her job - fighting bad guys and saving the world - with the needs of (and promises she makes to) her daughter. And her daughter, Emma, is always in the back of her mind.

The other characters in the novel also have distinct personalities. Will, Charlie's ex husband, has definitely made his share of mistakes, and even though I was annoyed with him at times, I also felt sorry for him too. (Can't go into it more without giving something away.) Charlie's partner and also a siren, Hank, is funny, charismatic, and definitely a guy I could fall in love with during the span of several books. (One thing I particularly enjoyed about the minor characters was that while there were plenty of hot guys Charlie had to work with, they weren't all in love with her, and they weren't all potential love interests - which tends to happen in this genre.)

The plot is packed with action - so it moves quickly even though there is a lot going on. The "world" Kelly Gay has created draws upon Greek mythology with a twist giving the urban fantasy genre a whole new set of paranormal beings, rather than relying on the typical vampire and werewolf varieties, and it holds up against scrutiny. There are still a few of the paranormal "species" that I don't have quite a clear image of in my mind, but I also have to admit that I was reading fast because I was in page-turning mode and dying to know what was going to happen next.

Fans of Kim Harrison's The Hollows series (Dead Witch Walking) and Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac Series (The Scent of Shadows) will love The Better Part of Darkness.

Check out Kelly's website here or visit her blog.

GIVEAWAY

After much deliberation, I'm going to part with my ARC to one lucky winner - the book doesn't come out until November so the winner will be very lucky indeed.

To win, post a comment by 7/30. For extra entries:
Let me know you’re a follower – or become one (+1)
Tweet about the contest on twitter (+1)
Blog about it (+1)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Contest Winner: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

The Hush, Hush contest has now officially come to a close and I'm excited to be giving away the signed galley by Becca Fitzpatrick (which I received at Book Expo). After using the Research Randomizer, the winner is...


Congratulations Sara! I've sent you an email. Send me your address within the next 48 hours so I can ship your new book!

Katherine Howe's Physick Book Delivers

A Review of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Book Description:

A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history – the Salem witch trials.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials in the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue and revelation.


I picked up The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane at BEA on a whim when I was at Hyperion's booth mainly because anything that has to do with witches is worth a closer look. Then it came out and hit the NYT Bestseller List, which is pretty spectacular for a debut author so I pulled it out of my never ending stack of books I want to read and set to it.

That was four days ago.

It took me four days to finish this book, which for me, is a lot. Not because I didn't like it, but because I kept going back and re-reading or pausing to contemplate. This isn't a light beach read like a lot of summer books. It's not a thrilling urban fantasy. I've seen a couple negative reviews for this book, and I think they're mostly a case of mistaken genre - readers think they're getting something light, and they're not. It's deep beautiful prose that happens to reflect on the the witch trials in Salem, and the main character, a contemporary Harvard grad student named Connie, happens to find out she is a witch.

Katherine Howe does a convincing job portraying Connie as an aggressive, ambitious intellectual striving to achieve her goals and impress her advisors, and despite her obvious intelligence, she is still filled with insecurities and worries just like the rest of us. As a character, Connie is likable. I wanted her to succeed - I wanted her to find out about Deliverance Dane, recover the ancient spell book, fall in love, and impress the world of academia with her knowledge. Her love interest, Sam, is equally complex and even more likable. He's a preservationist - or a steeplejack as he calls himself - and when Connie first meets him, she mistakes him for a handyman until he surprises her - he was a grad student once himself.

Deliverance Dane, her daughter Mercy, and granddaughter Prudence are all equally interesting despite their only minor appearance in the occasional chapters. They all appear to be strong women stuck in a time that doesn't appreciate or understand them, and of course, the well known history of Salem and the horrors of the town's history add a certain gravity to the tension of the plot. We know from the beginning Deliverance Dane most likely died in the witch trials, which is emphasized by incorporation of other "real characters" from the trials. Deliverance's conversations in jail with Sarah Good and the way she sits next to Rebecca Nurse at her trial enforce the fact that we know she's going to die. Yet still, we hope she'll somehow rally against her fate.

The pacing is slow during the first half of the book. Though intrigued by the story and enamored with the beauty and depth of Howe's prose, I read slowly and paused frequently, and then about 156 pages in, I stopped pausing. A hundred pages later, I was fully hooked, and near the end of the book, when the pace quickened and each chapter alternated between Connie in the present and Deliverance in the past, I actually got so absorbed in the book I missed my train stop. And when I finally closed the book, I felt like I was on a high - the high that comes from reading something truly extraordinary.

Katherine Howe has done an amazing job crafting this amazing story, but The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a novel that needs to be savored and read slowly and appreciated as great fiction and great writing.

To learn more about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, check out the book's website, here. And to check out Katherine Howe's website, click here. (She has one of the coolest author sites I've seen.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top Three Things Driving Me Crazy About Queries...Today

3. Commands. Why do writers want to try to make an agent do more work than necessary? They send a one paragraph query and then say "go check out my website" or mail in a paper query with no SASE and say "email me your response." Why? Don't they realize the default answer on a query is "no" - the idea of query is that it should pitch the idea and do everything in its power to make the agent pause and say - oh wait, that might be interesting.

2. Have you ever... Rhetorical questions remind me of when I was teaching and I said repeatedly: "Don't use rhetorical questions to start off your essay. Seriously. Don't. Most of the time, they said ridiculously cheesy. The rest of the time, they just sound bad." It's also true for queries. (Same thing goes for Imagine... Don't start out that way either unless you're trying to make me think of the John Lennon song.)

1. Agent Search Engines that submit queries. Unpersonalized queries are plain unprofessional - If they start out "Dear Agent" or "Dear Literary Executive" or worse "To Whom it May Concern" I'm already annoyed they didn't take the time or effort to research what agent would be interested in their ideas. (Sure it's not me, but it makes my job easier, thinking "okay would [Agent] like this?" But even worse are the search engines! They send the emails out to 3475934857 agents at a time. It's like spamming - well it is spamming. And most of the time, the search engine sites have the wrong information - for instance, my agency does not rep poetry - no poetry, yet I always get at least one query a week for some sort of poetry or novella. And don't even get me started on the screenplays. Sell-A-Script drives me crazy.

And all this of course leads me to the number one thing that drives me crazy about queries no matter the day:

Blatantly Avoiding Directions. And really, all of the above can be factored into this one idea. There are websites and forums and blogs out there that tell a writer how to write a good query. They're not perfect and it'll take time for a writer to sift through all the information, but it's possible. And really, if a writer has taken the time, blood, sweat, and tears to write a novel, they can afford to take the time to follow an agent's directions.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?