Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NaNoWriMo and other news

Hey, all! November is approaching, which means it's almost time for National Novel Writing Month. The short story: we attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. It won't be pretty, and it certainly won't be publishable (yet), but at the end of the month we can call ourselves novelists.

This is perfect for writers who can't finish a story. Before NaNo-ing, I'd never finished a novel-project before. However, I've won the past two years! It's an amazing experience and people really get into it. And if you win, you get a pretty button like this...So if you even think you want to try it out, go to www.nanowrimo.org and sign up. I'll see you there!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

"All sixteen-year old Cameron wants is to get through high school - and life - with a minimum effort. It's not a lot to ask. But that's before he's given some bad news: he's sick and he's going to die. Which sucks.

Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possilbe hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure - if he's willing to go in search of it. With the help of Gonzo, a death obsessed, video-gaming dwarf, and a yard gnome who just might be the Viking god Balder, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America of smoothie-drinking happiness cults, parrallel-universe-hopping physicists, mythic New Orleans jazz musicians, whacked-out television game shows, snow-globe vigilantes, and disenfranchised, fame-hungry teens into the heart of what matters most."

I had to take that directly from the book jacket, because nothing I said could describe it better.

Going Bovine is pretty trippy, and you can't go into it expecting a serious read. Cam is living a whirlwind of lifedeathtruthlies that just don't contribute to sense. But at the same time, everything makes sense: once I found the pattern, and went back to reread, every hyper-crazy moment became clear.

And for the record, since I didn't know it myself before reading: Bovine=cow, which is perfect because everything starts with Cam getting mad cow disease.

The Bottom Line: Read it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Soulstice by Simon Holt

What do you fear?

The second book in The Devouring picks up six months after Reggie saved her brother from the Vours. With the summer solstice approaching, Reggie thinks she's safe from the fear-demons...until someone from the past reappears with grim news. The Vours are not done with Reggie; not even close. She must overcome new challenges - and not all are mythical - if she wants to survive.

The Devouring series is one of few horror novels in YA. These are the books you want to read in the dead of night, but for Soulstice, the dead of night is needed to keep it scary. It certainly has the creepy factor, with haunted house-like settings and descriptions, but it didn't quite measure up to its predecessor.

Reggie ventures into not one but two horrorscapes in this installment, and the psychology of it all is mind-boggling. What are the terrors of a person? The fearscape moves from basic childhood horrors to deeper, darker fears, fears that are locked away so that they can't be found consciously.

In addition, while she's battling the Vours, Reggie must also deal with the humans around town. Quinn's disappearance has police swarming the town, and Reggie's dad still thinks she's acting out. Also, she's not the only one who knows the Vours exist...

Despite this review being somewhat neutral, Soulstice is definitely a book to pick up this month.

Monday, October 12, 2009

After by Amy Efaw

Devon is on trial for the worst of crimes: attempted murder of her newborn baby. No one expected it - not even her. That's right; she didn't know she was pregnant. As she faces trial and a life behind bars, Devon slowly recalls fragments of the last nine months and, through the help of a determined lawyer, understands why she did what she did.

This is a heavy topic, no doubt about it. The concept of abandoning a child is heinous to us, but the first person POV helps to explain how sincere Devon's claim is. She is expected to be perfect in every way, and getting pregnant doesn't even make a blip on that list.

The majority of the plot takes place in jail. It's fascinating to see the juvenile system, as well as all the psychological stuff she has to go through. We only see the trial that decides which court she will be tried in - juvenile or adult - but that in itself is extensive and emotional.

After is amazing. Devon is the type of character who you form emotional attachments to because she feels so real. This isn't just another teen pregnancy novel - it's a story about self-discovery.

A note on the cover: The illustration is deceivingly simplistic, but it represents Devon's situation. There's the self she thinks she knows, and the self that she's been hiding from, that's being thrown into her face now. (incidentally, I didn't notice that her reflection was pregnant until after I finished reading. The eye sees what it expects...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meeting Steve Vander Ark

So, if you're love of Harry Potter ever took you online, you may recognize this:

The HP Lexicon is the first and largest fansite for Harry Potter, and it was all started by a book nerd. Steve Vander Ark was a library media specialist when he first read the series, and found himself making lists: lists of spells, lists of places, lists of people...essentially, anything that Jo might have returned to in a later book. When he put it all on the internet, a haven for fans was born.

This weekend, I got to meet Vander Ark at a small author event for his new book, The Lexicon. It is not the same as the site; instead, it is literally a big, huge, list. Think of a dictionary or encyclopedia for Harry Potter, and this is your book.

He began with a bang, telling everyone that we were going to have fun tonight. It wasn't about a lecture; it was about exploring Harry's world. He actually talked more about his other book, In Search of Harry Potter (available in the U.K. --darn!) because for it, he toured Britain to find the exact real-world locations of places in Harry's world. The results were astonishing. He showed us pictures of the Leaky Cauldron, found between a music and record store on a particular street - just as Jo described it. He found a real place called the Burrow, in the correct spot. And the most extraordinary part? Hogwarts. Really, truly. Though there was no castle in sight, everything else was perfect.

You should be getting an idea of how the night went. My friend and I agreed that we could have listened to his stories for hours. It was completely obvious that he was as much of a fan as any of us, getting giddy over HP discussion and skirting spoilers for audience members who haven't finished book seven. At some point he mentioned that he's read the whole series at least 40 times!

Just think...without the internet, none of this would have been set into motion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Erin has spent most of her childhood in the psych ward of the hospital. Whenever she is under extreme stress, her violent alter-ego Shevaun takes over and paves a path of destruction, which Erin can never remember later.

But Shevaun is more than a part of Erin's imagination. She exists as a powerful, centuries-old vampire. Shevaun is fierce, independent - so nothing good could come of the two actually meeting.

Nearly 10 years after her first novel was published at age 15, Atwater-Rhodes is still going strong. Persistence of Memory is not labeled as part of a series, but it ties together the Kiesha'ra and Den of Shadows with a few well-planned characters. I had that "aha" moment in one particular scene that said, "Yeah, shapeshifters and vampires and witches all belong in the same universe."

As far as the characters and plot are concerned, I was captivated. Erin and Shevaun are totally different people - thus the alter-ego horror - but there is actually a strange similarity to them. In addition, the supporting cast have complete backgrounds and personalities, which are fit comfortably into the main plot. And the plot? Loved it. Go read to see why.