Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bookanistas: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

A beautifully crafted post-apocalyptic dystopian that reads like a delicious action adventure fantasy genre novel. This is the book I have been waiting for.
What the cover says: With New York City decimated by war and plague, most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.
What I say: 
Holy moley, I loved this book. I mean, unqualified love. It satisfies on every level. 

The world-building here is simply stellar, full of seamless and sensible detail. (You can tell that Ann Aguirre comes to writing YA through a science-fiction/fantasy writing background.) This is fully immersion in a very alien environment, for all that it exists underneath ‘our’ world, post-nameless-apocalypse. I loved discovering our own world through Deuce's eyes. The scene where she first sees the sun is wonderful, and when she tastes a can of cherry pie filling, it’s an extraordinary experience. 
 Even better, Aguirre accomplishes this without stopping the action. She only lingers over descriptions as they become important. 
Stuff happens.  A lot of stuff. Even though this is the first book in a series (of course it is), the characters are fighting battles and navigating untold dangers. It’s not merely the set up for the next chapter. There is a hard won accomplishment at the end of the book that satisfies, even though it’s clear that problems still exist. This is the Star Wars of Trilogies. The Empire hasn’t been destroyed, but the rebel base is safe and the Imperials are down one really expensive Death Star.
And still more stuff. I was exhausted by the end of this book. It is fight, slog, run, fight, fight, run some more. When things get tough for the characters, wait a minute, because they’re about to get tougher. Not only that, the extreme suck of this world is so gritty and tangible you can taste it. The Freaks are horrible, nightmare monsters, and they’re like the Terminator and the Xenomorphs (from Aliens). The just. will. not. stop. coming. 
This is the real deal. There is no manufactured conflict or any “why don’t they just...” solutions. 
Deuce is genuinely tough, but she has a heart. She begins the story ashamed of that heart, that weakness, and she is vaguely contemptuous of anyone who isn’t a hunter--even though she acknowledges they need builders and breeders, too, it takes her the length of the book to acknowledge there are other types of strengths than simply being the most bad ass fighter. 
The love story is subtle, taking a back seat to the survival story. I really liked that--even though Deuce and Fade develop feels for each other, they are partners in survival first. I found it just right. And considering how raw the violence is, the romance stuff was distinctly not. It was romantic, and very gently sensual. 
Past tense!  *hugs Ann Aguirre*   
A couple of things I loved that you might not:
The action is very violent. This is visceral, survival-level stuff. Much bone-crunching and gut-spilling. It’s not gratuitous, but nothing in this world is sanitized. 
Actually, that’s the only caveat I can think of. 

Don’t forget to stop by Myra McEntire’s blog for more awesome info on our first Bookanistas Give Back project
And, as for the rest of the Bookanistas…
Elana Johnson marvels at The Third
Christine Fonseca  takes a shine to Demonglass
Shelli Johannes-Wells scribes about The Story Board
Shana Silver is rapturous about Moonglass
Carrie Harris revels in Divergent
Rosemary Clement-Moore  adores Enclave
Stasia Ward Kehoe has Perfect cover love
Veronica Rossi enthuses over Enclave
Megan Miranda travels the pages of Blood Red Road 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The right word

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself. Anybody can have ideas---the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph." --Mark Twain

People seem fascinated by where writers get their ideas. The idea is the easy part. A good idea is a little harder. (Good idea = marketable, interesting, and sufficient to sustain a whole book worth of conflict.) But still... having an idea is not a problem. Trust me.

Putting it perfectly on the page... thats the tough part.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I blog therefore I am

If ever there was a love/hate relationship, it has got to be the one between me and Social Media Networking.

I’ve mentioned before that I love to blog and tweet--mostly tweet--but once you start calling it “Social Media Networking” it really takes all the fun out of it.

Once I start thinking about blogging and tweeting as networking, it becomes, well, work. And then I look at my Google Stats and I see that the search that gets the most hits to my blog are Richard Burton and Funny Dog Pictures and then I get depressed.

The thing is, I don’t blog or tweet or facebook to sell books--I use it to connect with my readers (as well as friends, colleagues, and random people I find funny and/or insightful). Sure I also use it to get the word out when I have book news, releases, or signings, but that’s part of that connection.

By far my favorite part is when I can interact with readers. I love to get email and comments. I am delighted that so many of my readers are as clever and funny as I try to draw the characters in my books. I used to be hesitant to respond to Tweets or Blog posts that came up in searches on my name (it seemed weird and a little egotistical), but a quick ‘thank you’ comment or reply has yielded some delightful exchanges. Like this one:

Caillie @darcybear When I was a kid they had lobsters in the tank at the store. I tried to free them when I was about 6... It ended badly.

darcybear @Caillie Because lobsters are Evil. They belong in a Maggie Quinn book by @rclementmoore.

rclementmoore @darcybear @caillie But.... I like lobsters. With butter, please. Potatoes on the side.

Caillie @rclementmoore You eat EVIL for dinner! #Isawed #andalittleconcerned

darcybear @Caillie It’s true. @rclementmoore DOES eat Evil for dinner.

rclementmoore I totally want this as my next cover blurb-> RT @darcybear @Caillie It’s true. @rclementmoore DOES eat Evil for dinner. #bestblurbever

Caillie @rclementmoore You totally should use it!

darcybear @rclementmoore @Caillie You SHOULD use it. I give you the Official Laura Authority to use my tweets as blurbs.

So I had to take her up on it:


For the record, this random exchange TOTALLY made up for finding a one star review that said my book was “so boring [she] wanted to die.” Which, you know, is the DOWNSIDE of Social Media Networking. (And Google Alerts.)

But when the Internet reminds me (painfully) that not everyone is going to like my books as much as my mother does, the same Infernal network allows me to connect with the people who DO ‘get’ me, and vice versa--lovers of books, cupcakes and snark.

But not, apparently, lobsters.


Bookanistas: Abandon by Meg Cabot

One of my favorite YA authors plus one of my favorite myths? Yes please!

What the back cover says: 

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.
What I say: 

Abandon is the first in a trilogy. I don’t know why I didn’t realize this right away, but I just went, Oooo, I love it when Meg Cabot gets spooky! and dived right in. I was even more excited when I quickly realized it was a modern twist on the Persephone myth.  (I don’t know why I love it, I just do; I know this seems counter to my feminist principles, but don’t judge me, okay!)
Anyway, Cabot confronts the passiveness of Persephone in her own story right away, and dispenses with it. Pierce, the Persephone in Abandon, dies in an accident, and because of hypothermia, is revived after an unusually long time, with no physical damage. But while she was dead, she traveled to the underworld and met John, who falls in love with her (of course) with that sort of epic instant destiny thing that is so popular nowadays. 

But it works here because (a) it’s based on myth, and (b) you can see why Pierce is just the sort of girl to get right to the heart of the sort of guy that John is. 
It helps that Cabot makes them so likable through her wonderful dialogue. In fact, John’s obvious vulnerability under his brooding exterior, and his temper and strength, were very appealing to me. (Translation: John is hot, and there’s a Beauty and the Beast vibe that I find irre-freaking-sistable. I do love a grumpy love interest.)
The book opens after the dying and coming back; this is told retrospectively as Pierce is trying to restart her life in a new place. While these flashback scenes were well done (especially the part in the Underworld), it’s really in the second half that the story started moving forward with the kind of drive I expect in a Cabot book. (I’m saying... stick with it.) 
This book is basically Act One of this story. An entertaining Act One, but you need to know it ends with story problems that won’t be answered until book two. 
So, a definite recommend, especially if you like Cabot’s Mediator series, or my personal favorite of hers: Avalon High. It was a refreshing read after all the dark dystopians. It was nice to see a heroine faced with saving a world that doesn’t suck, and falling in love with a young man that I found really appealing... in a brooding and slightly stalkery way. (I’m not sure how she pulled that off, but... yeah. That’s my favorite part.) 

Here's what the other Bookanistas are talking about today: 

Elana Johnson visits Dark and Hollow Places
LiLa Roecker gets silly over Spoiled
Christine Fonseca has a passion for Possession – with giveaway
Shannon Messenger marvels at Moonglass – with giveaway
Jamie Harrington adores Invincible Summer
Shelli Johannes-Wells is in the grip of Possession
Scott Tracey bathes in Blood Magic
Carolina Valdez Miller interviews Invincible Summer author Hannah Moskowitz
Jessi Kirby praises Playing Hurt
Bethany Wiggins delves into Divergent
Shana Silver presents a Guestanista gushing over Between Here and Forever
Carrie Harris sings out about Shift
Rosemary Clement-Moore applauds Abandon
Sarah Frances Hardy enjoys Me Jane
Matt Blackstone loves Like Mandarin
Corrine Jackson delights in The Duff

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ideas and Passion

This is a snippet from an interview with Luc Besson, writer and director of a LOT of great, cool movies, everything from Taken, The Transporter, and (one of my all time favorites) The Fifth Element.

As you say, it's the characterisation that makes those films so memorable. Which aspect do you prefer, then, in your career? The writing process, producing or directing?
Writing. Definitely writing.
How do you generate your ideas?
You need to have all your senses open. You need to keep yourself in life, real life... . Most of the rich people I've met are boring.
I have so much more fun with my boulanger [baker]. When I go at 6am for my croissants, the guy's so passionate about his croissants. "Oh, you must try this one, because this morning I changed the butter!" The guy's passionate.
Watching old people in the park, talking about their lives. That's where it comes, from food and talking. I sat on the plane over here with a guy who studied cancerous molecules. He talked for eight hours about it, and I was amazed - the science, and how they separate the molecules, you know? That's where it comes from. It's fed from all these people who come from life.

I especially like what he says about the boulanger (which is my new favorite word because "bread" is my other favorite word. I've always said, a character has to be passionate about something. If they're meh about their life and their problems, why should I be anything other than meh about them? 

For proof of how passion for something (something not even directly related to the plot) can take a character to the next level of realism, see Robin McKinley's Sunshine. (Ironically, also passionate about baking.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Dog

My mom has been dog-sitting for me while I've been traveling. Today she sent me this text: 
Your "sweetie" drank a whole glass of Coke while I was on the phone. Look at this face! So innocent.  LOL! Love you!

Let me tell you. The one thing that Penny (aka Penelope Pitstop, aka Princess Fang) does NOT need is sugar and caffeine. I'm glad Mom had to deal with the hyperactivity and not me. 

It's Thursday, so here's what the Bookanistas are up to this week: 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do you ever do that thing...

Do you ever do something kind of embarrassing, like yelling across a hotel foyer like a hoyden, and then you're mortified that you were so unprofessional, but then you kind of forget about it for awhile, until suddenly you remember doing it and you're mortified again a week later but you still want to die just like when you did it in the first place?

Yeah. That keeps happening to me.

I have nothing more profound to say that that. I'm at the Texas Library Associations conference in Austin. If you're here, come look for me on Thursday at the Author Area. I'm signing books at 2-3pm. Also, they have ARCs of Texas Gothic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bonus Bookanistas

Hey y'all. <--I'm getting my Texan on after being in California most of last week.

Because I was in California, and I couldn't get the internet to work on my computer (*grumble*) I didn't get the links added to Thursday's Bookanista review. Rather than add it now and bury it downstream, here are the cool book reviews from last week.

Los Angeles and Love Shack

Last week I went to Los Angeles for the RT Booklover's Convention, specifically Saturday's Teen Day. Here's my report:

The book fair was crazy. I met so many teen readers, it was amazing. Funny, smart, lovely girls who love reading. (And a couple of smart, charming boys who did, too, but mostly girls.)

(Cassandra Clare must have been dead at the end of things, because her line was in. sane. I feel like we are neighbors, Ms. Clare and I, because we so frequently share a bookshelf. Bookstore neighbors, so I can't tell you if she would throw raucous parties on a Saturday night, but I can say she gave one of the best answers I've heard to the "Do you ever get Writer's block?" question. I'm stealing saving it for the future.)

Many many book bloggers stopped by my table to say 'hi,' and I met even more! I think this whole Social Media Networking thing may catch on. I don't know. That's what folks tell me, though I'm just happy to use it as an excuse to whine on Twitter about Too Much Perfume Woman at my gym.

Lauren Willig and I may be secretly the same person, except that she's composed and adorable and lives in New York which automatically makes her a thousand times more cool than me.

Michele Jaffe made me laugh until bourbon coke came out of my nose.  If you have not read her Bad Kitty, pick it up and save it for when you're having a sad day. It is the Love Shack of books.

(It is impossible to be in a bad mood after Love Shack by the B-52s comes on the radio. This is a law of the universe, like gravity and the speed of light.)

Speaking of-- I had too much fun signing Karaoke on Friday, though it did give me a nice Kathleen Turner huskiness to my reading from Texas Gothic on Saturday.

And I don't know if it really never rains in Southern California, but man it gets cold. I was inadequately prepared for the freakish cold snap in Los Angeles. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the rather frigid wind... and the fact I brought one (1) sweater, and it was a thin one.

Question: What am I doing with my one day home?

Answer: Laundry. Tomorrow I head out to Austin for the Texas Library Association's conference. Yay!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bookanistas: Wither

by Lauren DeStefano
The Back Cover Says: By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with just 20. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote, desperate orphans roam the streets, crime and poverty prevail, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape her new life of wealth and illusion. Her husband, Linden, is in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. But not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?
What I say: The voice, the characters, and the intimate internalness of this journey are the major draw of Wither. It’s simply beautiful, from the cover to the complex relationships. The voice, the turns of phrase, the play of language, the elegant lines with which DeStefano sketches the characters through Rhine’s narration. The stark dystopia of her world, the one outside her luxurious prison walls, and the ones inside.
There’s also a horrific sense of possibility in the premise. I’m an optimist, generally, but it’s easy to see us doing something horrible to ourselves in the name of progress. As Ian Malcom says in Jurassic Park, We’re so busy figuring out how we CAN do something that we don’t always think about whether we SHOULD. 
That said, not everyone will like this book. Would say that it’s a love it or hate it book, except that I loved it, even with some world building problems that I stumbled over at first. DeStefano smoothed them over well enough well enough to satisfy, and really, I was enjoying the read too much to quibble. 
In fact, teens will probably enjoy this book more the way she deals with things rather than how I would--which is a much more pragmatic (and adult) view on how quickly humans will adapt their thinking to preserve a species. But the theme here is that a crappy life lived in freedom is preferable to a sham life in a gilded cage. Everything about Wither carries through this theme beautifully, so I’m okay with how DeStefano choses to paint this picture.
This is definitely Rhine’s journey. This book does not deal with saving the world (exactly). It deals with Rhine’s problem, and leaves the rest to tackle in future books. Like Matched and Across the Universe, Wither ends at more of a save point than a finish. 
Pick it up and read the first chapter. If it grabs you, you’ll love the rest of the book. If it doesn’t, you won’t. But do check it out. It definitely grabbed me, and I devoured the book. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Traveling Writer

Are you one of those people who can throw two pairs of pants, a couple of blouses and a sweater in a bag, breeze through the airport, and look marvelous every day of your trip? 

If so, stop reading, or you will lose all respect for me. 

Tomorrow I head for sunny LA. (Only it won’t be sunny, it’ll be raining.) I’ll be there for the RT Book Lover’s Convention, and seriously, if you are a YA reader and you live anywhere close, you should check out the Teen Day events on Saturday.  Panels, readings, “speed date the author,” plus a big, huge, massive booksigning. ($25 for the whole day, $5 for the book fair only.)
I haven’t traveled anywhere since the fall, when it seems like I traveled everywhere. I wish I could say all that travel has made me a better packer. It hasn’t. Here’s my problem: I tend to obsess about getting it right: not too much, not too little. If I need something, I want to have it, or something that will serve the purpose. I don’t want to buy or borrow while I’m there, because I’m... particular. I like my stuff. (And honestly, where toiletries and cosmetics are concerned, this is self-preservation. I’m sensitive to the most random things, and it’s taken years of trial and error to know what I can use and what I can’t.) 
This trunk would make me deliriously happy.
But with clothes... honestly, the way I obsess, you’d think I was a real fashionista or clothes horse. Just the opposite. I worry about how I look, but I don’t have the knack of throwing things together and being confident in it.  I have to plan my outfits just so. The right thing for the right event. Not too many things. Try and pick things that will all go with the same shoes. (Which is the part that really hurts, because I have some really cute shoes!)
Plus, going to a reader/writer convention, I have to think about the character I’m costuming: the quirky but polished, successful confident author. Professional but not pedestrian, eccentric but not odd.  And of course, all in one suitcase, because this girl has her Act Together. 
This is, of course, a complete lie. Which is probably why I obsess so much about the clothes I bring. 
Mom said to me the other day: “I don’t know how you turned out so neurotic. I worked so hard to keep you from turning out that way.”  
Mostly, though, I obsess about packing to keep from worrying about the plane plummeting from the sky. Or California dropping into the ocean during the five days I’m there. 
Crud. I thought about it 
Now excuse me while I distract myself with some packing.