January 29, 2010

Children's Choice Book Awards

Teenreads.com and the Children's Book Council are seeking nominations for the CBC's 2010 Teen Choice Book of the Year. Awesome books not on the list provided include BALLAD by Maggie Stiefvater, THE DEMON'S LEXICON by Sarah Rees Brennan (the reread was better than the first time), INITIATION by Susan Fine, ETERNAL by Cynthia Leitich Smith, and TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND by John Barnes.

But that's in my opinion. You have until February 1st (aka the weekend) to make your opinion heard. You can vote here.

ETA: Best memorial to J.D. Salinger.

January 27, 2010

Review: The Dark Divine

By Bree Despain
Available now from EgmontUSA
Review Copy

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It's odd how you can pick up a book and know exactly what you're getting, but at the same time have no clue. THE DARK DIVINE has a pretty typical paranormal romance set-up, with the innocent girl, the dangerous boy, and the people who are warning her away from the boy. It's a familiar recipe, and for the most part, THE DARK DIVINE hits all of the numbers. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing. If you haven't noticed, I read a lot of this type of book.) Like Maggie Stiefvater's Grace, Bree Despain's Grace escapes the clutches of Enfeebled Heroine Syndrome. And it's how she escapes that gives THE DARK DIVINE its unique and satisfying flavor.

Grace Divine is the daughter of a pastor. We all know what that means: repressed good girl waiting to break free. Er, not so much. Grace has faith. When she sings "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," all other concerns aside, she believes it. She's torn between her brother and her boyfriend, her own guilt in their break-up, and deciding on a truth to believe when everything she hears is subjective. But her real crisis is finding a course of action that allows her to maintain her principles while doing her best for those she cares about.

Christians tend to get a bad rap in contemporary secular fiction, particularly paranormal fiction. It's nice to see a community of Christians who have faults, but are basically nice people who believe in mercy and helping others.

This isn't to say that THE DARK DIVINE is perfect. There's one point where Grace becomes angry with Daniel, and I can see why she would be angry with him, but it seems like her anger was delayed. The bad guy is a bit obvious. But all in all, it's a page-turner, and I cannot wait for the sequel. (Particularly since Despain hinted at other things that go bump in the night, and I can't wait to see her expand the world since she did a great job of explaining a small bit of the mythology.)

If you don't like religion, THE DARK DIVINE probably won't be your thing. (And no, the book never says, "X has it right, everybody else is going to hell.") If you're open to a main character who is religious, and stays religious, in your paranormal, you'll probably enjoy THE DARK DIVINE. It's a promising debut.

January 26, 2010

Blog Tour: Advice from Claire Voyante of DREAM LIFE

As I said in a "Waiting On" Wednesday, I'm looking forward to reading Lauren Mechling's DREAM LIFE, despite my reservations about DREAM GIRL. Here to help me decide is main character Clair Voyante, a girl detective aided by her psychic powers. But she's not just here to promote Lauren's book - she also has some Twitter advice.

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Greetings and salutations, book lovers! I’m Claire Voyante, the main character of DREAM LIFE, Lauren Mechling’s rip-roaring detective novel (and no, it is not immodest to say that about a book you didn’t write but in which you star—I checked in one of my grandmother Kiki’s etiquette books).

DREAM LIFE is all about what happened after I found out my best friend Becca had just joined a super-exclusive, centuries-old secret society called the Blue Moons. I figured out how to wiggle my way into the club, and, of course, much drama ensued. I warmly invite you to check DREAM LIFE out—it’s available at select bookstores or an Internet site near you.

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When DREAM GIRL, the first book in the series, came out, my creator Lauren fielded questions from bloggers and journalists. Lauren is currently underground working on a secret project so I offered to step in and relief pitch. I’m taking a page from Ann Landers's book and writing an advice column. The questions came from fans of the series. The answers came from the heart.

(Warning: I don't have a degree in psychotherapy--use at your own risk!)

Dear Claire,

I’m having this weird problem. I joined Twitter a little while ago and not to brag, but I’m pretty good at coming up with amusing tweets. There’s this girl in my grade—we’ll call her “Tweety Bird”—and she isn’t officially “following” me but every time I update my account, she changes hers to say pretty much the same thing I just wrote.

I know they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I’m seriously irked. And simce she’s a million times more popular than I am, she’s getting all the credit. What can I do to stop her?


Winnie The Wit Who Hates Being Retweeted Without Due Credit


Wow—under any other circumstances I’d say let her copy you all she wants and that just knowing that her brain is empty should be satisfaction enough. But this situation seems totally unfair. This is intellectual property theft at its ugliest and I think the only proper response is a full-on reclamation campaign.

I am happy to help out. Why not enlist me to “follow” her and you can update me every time she copies your tweets. I will then happily retweet her updates, with “INSPIRED BY THE GENIUS TWEET OF @WINNIE (THE ORIGINAL) WIT” at the end. Should get Tweety Bird to stop chirping in no time.

L’amour toujours!


Dream Life by Lauren Mechling -- Trailer from Richie Williams on Vimeo.

January 25, 2010

Reading the Dictionary

The LA Times reported (from a story in the Menifee Local News) that the Menifee Union School District removed the dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 10th ed.) from its schools due to it containing objectionable terms like "oral sex."

"It's just not age-appropriate," said school spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the newspaper. "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature."

The school board will decide later whether to return the dictionaries to the classrooms. One board member told the Press-Enterprise that there are probably more objectionable terms in the dictionary.

Fortunately, only weirdos like me actually read bits of the dictionary, so they don't have much to worry about on that front. I feel sorry for those school board members, who will soon be presented to such frightening terms as "penis," "vagina," and "masturbation."

Here's to the fourth and fifth graders of Menifee Union School District, who will soon be Googling "oral sex" when they hear it on the bus or in gym instead of looking it up in the relatively benign dictionary.

The follow up article contained this gem:

The collegiate dictionaries were purchased several years ago to allow advanced readers in the fourth and fifth grades to look up words that they didn't know, Cadmus said.

Other less extensive and more elementary dictionaries remain available to students, she said.

As happens to often in our system, it is the best and brightest who stand to be punished. Let's hope cooler heads prevail at the review so that these kids can continue to enjoy their dictionary and perhaps get a couple of giggles when they accidentally (or, more likely, purposefully) stumble across a dirty word.

January 21, 2010

"Black" Covers and Me

 ETA: Years later, this is a post I've regretted writing. While I acknowledge my own privilege within it, I understand now how blind I was to the privilege of being able to go into any bookstore and see covers that reflected me and that I could instantly connect with. Nor was I fully aware of the privilege of being able to assume that the majority of characters I read about looked something like me. Since I wrote this post, many memorable covers featuring black characters have come out, and I can only hope that book covers continue to change and reflect the diversity of our world and showcase characters of all types for all readers.

Jaclyn Dolamore has responded to the kerfluffle about the MAGIC UNDER GLASS cover, which many people saw as an echo of the LIAR cover disaster.

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Dolamore's response points out one major difference: her character lives in fantasyland, not the real world. Justine Larbalestier felt ill-served by the LIAR cover because it caused you to doubt about the only thing about Micah that was undisputedly true. Dolamore feels that her story stands on its own, independent of cover image. (And there are plenty of cover images, no matter the content, which have absolutely nothing to do with the book.) There's also the fact that this isn't replacing a black girl with a white one.

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This isn't really about the MAGIC UNDER GLASS controversy. But thinking about writing about it got me thinking about black covers and my reaction to them. After all, one of the apparent reasons publishers are reluctant to design black covers is they believe they don't sell as well.

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I'll admit, I buy less books with black people on the front than white people. Part of it is a matter of genre. I've heard fabulous things about Coe Booth, the author of TYRELL and KENDRA. Neither book strikes me as my kind of thing. They look like the YA version of urban fiction, which I've never gotten into. Urban fiction tends to be too grim for me. It often features people who are in tough economic situations, people without choices - or at least without good ones. If you can't tell by reading this blog, I tend to prefer happy books. I read for fun, not to be beaten down by grim realities.

I know people who didn't have my life. I've spoken to a friend on Monday, who had to walk five miles to her aunt's house on Saturday because her parents never came home - they were in jail - and she got hungry. It happens disproportionally to black and Hispanic kids, but it happens to white kids too. It sucks, I know it sucks, and I try to do what I can. I don't want to read about it.

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One of my favorite genres is urban fantasy. There's magic, always a plus, and the women tend to be tough. The books are heavy on wit and action, light on stuff that will make me feel bad about my life. The only urban fantasy with a black main character I can think of off the top of my head is The Vampire Huntress Legend series by L.A. Banks. I read MINION and it wasn't my thing, and tried another book in the series later since I knew a bunch of people like the series. It isn't the black woman on the cover that keeps me from buying these - it's the hippy, New Wave paranormal stuff that also keeps me from buying Yasmine Galenorn's novels.

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So what did I buy, with a black person on it, that I enjoyed? Well, there's BAD KITTY by Michele Jaffe, which I utterly love. It's full of wacky hijinks in Vegas, so what isn't there to love? Of course, despite Jas mentioning that she's biracial multiple times, I didn't really register it until the fifth time I read the book - about the same point I realized that the cartoon girl on the cover didn't represent a chick with a tan. I felt rather willfully blind at that point.

I felt that too when I went searching for memorable covers with black people on the front for this post. The first book I thought of? HANGING ONTO MAX by Margarent Bechard.

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Turns out the cover has white people on it and is about white people. Clearly, my cover processing skills need help. With a little research, I think I was conflating HANGING ONTO MAX with THE FIRST PART LAST by Angela Johnson.

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Most interestingly, both profesional reviews posted on Amazon seem to think the cover is a selling point for the novel.

From School Library Journal:
The attractive cover photo of a young black man cradling an infant will attract readers.

From Booklist:
The great cover photo shows the strong African American teen holding his tiny baby in his arms.

Then I continued on to black covers that I not only remembered, but purchased. And it turned out that both were books I bought in spite of the cover because I liked the author. But the color of the person on the cover didn't have much to do with why I thought they were crappy covers. One of the books is STUCK IN NEUTRAL by Terry Trueman.

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Look at it! It's monochromatic, and that palatte is not bright or attractive. The overlay of the face looks messy rather than an artistic representation of being trapped in a useless body.

The other one turned out to be another one that didn't actually have a black guy on the cover. It turned out the cover was just ugly and in darker colors. Behold DARK ANGEL by David Klass, which received an extremely fortunate cover change for the paperback.

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In the end, poking around on Amazon did not help me discover much about whether I was more or less likely to buy a book based on the color of the person of the cover. Actually, it taught me that I apparently don't recall covers as well as I thought I did and that maybe I need a new pair of glasses.

I first heard about the MAGIC UNDER GLASS controversy on Jezebel. The linked article has a great summary of the YA blogs that first noticed the issue.

January 18, 2010

Review: Freaksville

By Kitty Keswick
Available now from Leap Books
Review copy provided by publisher
Read my interview with Kitty

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FREAKSVILLE is the story of Kassidea Maxwell, who can see the future. When the book opens, she sees a vision of the new guy (Josh Johnstone) in pain and decides to follow him so she can help. They end up running into a ghost, being cast as the leads in Romeo and Juliet, and there the book begins.

Kitty Keswick decided to write FREAKSVILLE in blog format, which I'm not sure works for me. Journals of any sort are tricky to pull of realistically. Kasey's blog entries are about ten pages each and often include long sections of dialogue. They are also dated like she's writing each entry shortly after events happen, but sometimes she's in a situation where that wouldn't be possible. Plus, she says sensitive information in her blog, which (judging by the comments) is completely open to the public and not concealed by psuedonyms. It might work better if her blog entries opened the chapters, which then went into standard first person.

Since Kasey learns the full extent of her heritage at the end of FREAKSVILLE, I hope that there's more world-building in FURRY & FREAKED. Kasey knows that there are paranormal/supernatural things in her world, but hasn't been educated about them. This makes it hard to tell what the "rules" of the world are, as well as what creatures even exist in the world. I was also sometimes confused about who knew about her powers and who didn't. (After all, in Kasey's day-to-day life she seems to keep them a secret, but then she tells all about it in her blog.)

On the other hand, FREAKSVILLE was fun, and not just because of the cute illustrations. Kasey has a strong voice, and I liked her habit of making lists. I liked her relationship with Gillie. The two girls supported each other without getting jealous of the other's relationship. I liked the background feud between the Maxwell and Johnstone families - I can't wait to see that expanded as Kasey and Josh further their relationship. The central action scene was tense, although I felt like the secondary villain came from nowhere.

FREAKSVILLE felt like a debut novel. The story worked, but there were problems in the telling. I did like the characters, so I'm sure I'll be back for FURRY & FREAKED.

January 15, 2010

Interview with Kitty Keswick

Kitty Keswick's FREAKSVILLE is not only her debut novel, but one of the launch titles for Leap Books. She's a California girl born on a Thursday, who began writing at a young age like so many authors. FREAKSVILLE is the story of Kasey Maxwell, who gets the role of Juliet in the school play, but didn't choose her role as a seer. Check back on Monday for my review.


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1. FREAKSVILLE, your first release, contains a number of paranormal elements. What drew you to the paranormal? What are some of your favorite supernatural stories?

It’s more like the paranormal was drawn to me. Writing about things that go bump in the night is in my blood. When I was small, I was told stories of Bigfoot and screaming banshees as bedtime cautionary tales. My grandmother had little “rituals” she’d do to help me sleep, salt on the windowsill to keep me safe and a glass of water on the nightstand to collect the bad dreams.

2. Kasey's story is told in blog format. Why was this the right format for FREAKSVILLE? Did you start writing it in traditional narration, or did you know it was going to be in blog format from the beginning?

The first words I wrote were Kasey’s innermost confessions. The story, in some cases, was directed at the reader, almost as if Kasey had pulled up a chair and started talking. I kept it in first person and, after the first draft, realized the confession style needed something more. A little structure. I didn’t want to do a diary format; I wanted something a little different. So, I started with the blog, and it bleeds into a typical story format. Characters add comments in some of the chapters to add to the mystery. In book two, FURRY & FREAKED, I take the blog a little further.

3. 2010 looks like a great year for YA books. What are some of the releases you're most excited about? What is it like to be part of an author group like the Class of 2k10?

I’m very lucky to be a part of such an amazing group of authors. I want to read every single debut in my “class.” I’m looking forward to re-reading Judith Graves’ UNDER MY SKIN, and Shannon Delany’s 13 TO LIFE: A Werewolf Tale because they’re wolfy chicks, too.

4. What is your day job? Do you think it has affected the way you write?

I was an Interior Designer. Having training in design helps me with story settings. Now, I write full time.

5. What are some of your hobbies?

I create jewelry. I live for movies. I love to read. But lately most of my time has been spent either writing or editing. A bit boring.

6. Kasey's blog is a good way for her to sort through her feelings, particularly falling in love with Josh and being freaked about all the ghosts popping up at the school, the mall, and her friend Gillie's house. Of course, many teens blog to blow off steam. What do you do after something (or someone) has really pissed you off?

Err…grit my teeth, gnaw my lip, turn up eardrum-piercing, angry alternative music, and, if they’ve really pissed me off, make them a villain in a short story and let the hero win.

7. How do you feel about the publication of your first novel?

I don’t have any fingernails left! I’ve gnawed them to the cuticles. It’s thrilling and a bit shake-in-your-boots frightening to finally have Freaksville out in the public. I’m not sure what people will think. I’ve enjoyed writing it, and I’ve grown as a writer from the experience. So I only hope that it will be well received. I write for the readers.

8. What's next? Are there any things you're going to do differently with future novels?

I’m working on the edits for book two in the Freaksville series, FURRY & FREAKED. I’ve taken it a little darker and stretched Kasey a bit. She grows up a lot in book two and really becomes a leader.

Also I have to finish writing book three, which is untitled. In addition, I’m working on a joint paranormal series, Origins, with Judith Graves.

I try to stretch myself as much as possible. I have some surprise plot twists at the end of FURRY. I hope the readers will enjoy where I’m taking the series.

9. Your Class of 2k10 profile says that you're an Anglophile, like protagonist Kasey Maxell. (And of course, love interest Josh is from England. Have you been to England? What are your favorite parts of English culture?

Yes. I went to England, Scotland, and Wales this past April. I love the small quaint English villages, the rolling luxuriant hills, and the small pubs filled to the brim with local characters. I also spent some time researching a certain area in Scotland for information I hope to use in the Freaksville series.

January 14, 2010

Review: Shiver

By Maggie Stiefvater
Available now from Scholastic
Read my reviews of LAMENT and BALLAD
Read Maggie's guest blog

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Sometimes (okay, all the time) I fall behind on my blog reading. While reading Renay's YA Fabulous, I came across this review of SHIVER by the Rejectionist. The Rejectionist's main issue with the novel is Grace, who she terms an Enfeebled Heroine, a la Bella Swan. To wit, "Grace has literally no interests outside of her werewolf boyfriend and COOKING[.]" I can totally get behind being tired of Enfeebled Heroines. But did I see Grace as one?

First, I love debating gender issues. My favorite show on TV right now is Dollhouse, which is fraught with gender issues. The setting is a high class brothel and the main characters are either high class prostitutes or pimps. There's an interesting blend of misogyny and feminism, the show getting some things oh-so-right and others oh-so-wrong. The stories are entertaining, but the discussions it engenders are the real treat: rich, combative, and multi-layered. What better tribute to a show that revels in perception, memory, and point of view? So when I normally don't address other's reviews, I thought The Rejectionist's was worth highlighting. It helped me think more critically about how I viewed Grace. And since some of the comments got nasty, I want ya'll to remember: both of our interpretations are correct, and neither of them are.

SHIVER opens with Grace being attacked by (were)wolves. Her behavior is inexplicable. She doesn't stuggle or panic. She simply relaxes and lets it happen. It's a creepy and off-putting opening. Maggie Stiefvater lets the reason for her behavior unfold slowly, and never shoves it in the reader's face. Sam picks up on the wrongness, but chooses not to push the issue. It's a unique treatment of the subject, as most books that contain it can't help but shove it into the foreground. To me, it's the key to Grace's character.

Grace is the victim of child abuse.

Her parents don't hit her. They don't tell her she's stupid, or a slut. She's got food, clothes, and a warm house. But she's alone most of the day. Her parents ignore her. They don't relate to her. Shortly after the attack, her dad forgets her in the car and she ends up in the hospital. Yes, parents make mistakes. Parents who pay attention to their children don't forget they're in the car.

Grace has grown up perceiving herself as unimportant. Before the attack, her only refuge was reading. She likes to do it outdoors, having developed a relationship with nature to replace the lack of human contact. After the attack, she focuses her attention on the wolves, particularly the one who saved her. The yellow eyed wolf saw her as important, something worth saving, which allows her to see herself as important. She has trouble making friends, but ends up with two close friends, one of whom shares her love of the wolves.

Then, when a peer's death puts the wolves in danger, she risks her life by going into the wood when the hunters are out in order to help them. The wolves are her family in a way her parents aren't. Throughout the novel she wants to save Sam and his pack. She sometimes works harder to save the wolves than Sam. She works to find Jack Culpepper, whose behavior puts the pack at risk, and to find the cure.

Let's count her interests other than Sam and cooking: reading, exploring nature, hanging with friends, saving the wolves. I think that's not bad for a teenager, particularly one in love. She's sometimes withdrawn and blank, but I saw that as a symptom of the abuse rather than a weakness of characterization.

Now we come to the main thing I focused on while reading SHIVER, the thing that had me thinking, "I can't believe this was published by Scholastic! Squeaky clean Scholastic!" SHIVER is sexy. Stiefvater's BALLAD and LAMENT are sensual. SHIVER is sexy. Sam is the reticent one in the relationship, the one who knows he doesn't have much more time as a human. Grace is the one who knows what she wants and goes after it. She pursues her relationship with Sam ardently. She's the agressor in the relationship, the one who pushes things forward. That's not the usual portrayal of teen girls at all. Am I entirely sure it's healthy for a young, emotionally fragile girl to become deeply involved with a boy, especially a boy who may be forced to abandon her? Actually, I'm pretty sure it's not. But it makes for an intriguing romance, particularly when Grace and Sam both approach it maturely and find healing with each other. (Sam's issues are another essay.)

I thought SHIVER was a sexy romance with an new style of werewolf and a supporting cast I looked forward to seeing more of. Grace was the understated center, working to save the wolves and become a normal girl, caught up in the newness of having her obsession obsessed with her when not even her parents thought she was worth thinking about. But I must admit, she doesn't kick anyone's ass. Then again, she's a bookworm junior in high school - not the type of person known for kicking ass and taking names.

January 12, 2010

Review: Bad Blood

By Mari Mancusi
Available now from Berkeley Jam
Review copy provided by publisher

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Since coincidence makes the world go round, a friend bought me the first three Blood Coven novels as a Christmas present a few weeks before I received BAD BLOOD. I'm happy that the series has been recovered, since the original covers were cute but lacked homogeniety. As for BAD BLOOD itself, I'm glad it focuses on Sunny rather than Rayne.

I'm not gonna lie; Rayne annoys me. I've always been a member of at least one subculture, but I have loyalties to a variety of groups. This usually leads to people claiming I'm not a real "_". And Rayne is one of those people. You've got to fit into her idea of what the subculture is, no deviations. And if you aren't a member, then you're contemptible. (She did get called out for it in GIRLS THAT GROWL, which makes me really happy.)

BAD BLOOD has my favorite book setting: Las Vegas. Sunny's boyfriend Magnus is required to blood a coruler, and Jane Johnson has been chosen. Now they have to go to a vamp convention in Vegas. But Sunny is suspicious of Jane, and takes the opportunity to visit her estranged father and his family. I enjoyed the family story and the mystery, but felt the romance was lacking.

The romance lacking, however, is a trend in the Blood Coven books. It got worse in GIRLS THAT GROWL and BAD BLOOD. The main couples treat each other badly, fight about it, then make up quickly in the end. I have trouble buying it. Instead of being a great love story, it feels like Mari Mancusi is afraid to break the characters up.

Once more, Mancusi ends with a reveal that sets up the next book. And yes, I will keep reading. The books are fun enough, but Mancusi (like almost all authors) has rough edges. Hers just tend to be the rough edges that rub me the wrong way.

January 11, 2010

Interview with Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin

I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Nicola Kruas and Emma McLaughlin, the fabulous authors of THE NANNY DIARIES, CITIZEN GIRL, DEDICATION, THE REAL REAL, and NANNY RETURNS. As I've read all of the above, except for CITIZEN GIRL, I was really excited to talk to them! I'm especially happy they went through with it even though they had a crisis earlier in the morning. Nicky did the talking and was extremely articulate. However, I was transcribing, which mean my copy of the interview was imperfect. I've reconstructed it (mostly I left out words like "the" and "and" as well as punctuation) and hopefully their publicist won't be sending my a nasty e-mail about how I've misrepresented them.


Liviania: So far, all of your releases are collaborations. What is the process? Who is in charge of what?
Nicky: It's completely even, 50/50 for every part – writing, outlining – except for cover design, which is not something I'm skilled with. We start with outlining and spend a tremendous time on that – six weeks. We take it and divide it so that each of us writes half the scenes. We fit that together for the first draft. We start from page one of the first draft and go over it word by word again and again until they – the publisher – rips it out of our hands. We're getting much more efficient.

L: My next question was if any of the books were easier or harder to write, but if you're getting more efficient I guess the later books were easier.
N: Each book is challenging in its own way. We're attracted to stories that star a confident heroine in situation that challenges her, with a different set of challenges for us. We're more efficient with process but the story presents new challenges.

L: Do either of you have plans to write solo?
N: No current plans to do anything separately. It would be very boring.

L: All of your novels have some element of satire, and on your internet bio it says ya'll speak to young women about gender issues in America today. What do you think are some of the big issues facing women today?
N: As a culture, we haven't figured out childcare or maternity care, or how for women to leave and return to the workforce. Or men. We were so close in the 70s for Montessori care from the government. It was vetoed and other issues were focused on. Younger women were troubled about not being able to go into an office and keep a job; that was easy to change.
Now it's the issues of older women. Women have full time jobs; they're caring for families and their parents; they're exhausted. Older women are a more disparate force, which is harder to unite to affect change. Culture has us over a barrel as to how to force change without a mass movement. It's something every woman faces as she tries to figure out how she going to have a family and how she's going to make it work.

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L: Your book, new in paperback, THE REAL REAL, is your first for teens. We're you initially writing for a YA audience? Did ya'll do anything differently?

N: We always intended for a YA audience, but didn't write any differently. We were more mindful of content – adult content as they say. The only challenge for us was restricting out use of swearwords. We try to be realistic with our dialogue, especially within the entertainment industry – trying to be realistic without the use of swear words; that was the biggest difference.

L: THE REAL REAL is critical of reality TV, but still an accurate depiction. Do either of ya'll watch any reality TV?
N: Oh definitely, like the rest of America. It's really fascinating and compelling, even when it's horrifying. In NYU, in the 90s, our friends were interns at MTV while we were nannies. It also comes from when we were 27 and suddenly thrust in the public in a very sudden way and seeing how not real even news shows were.

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L: Speaking of THE NANNY DIARIES, why did ya'll decide to do a sequel? Why set it much later . . . why the time skip?
N: We initially didn't see that there was going to be a sequel. We had determined Nan wasn't going to be a nanny again. As the economy began to implode, we followed economic and social, mostly social, schedules – the big decisions about money and healthcare. We saw men like Bernie Madoff, and his journey with his sons who turned him in, and his father – like Grayer X and his son. We were revisiting why it's so important as to how children of affluence are raised and what values are instilled in them. They're going to be men who make decisions for us. So we thought, what if he finds the tape Nan made on the Nanny Cam. What if he finds it when he's old enough to make some changes in his own life from his toxic family. Before sixteen, that would be almost impossible. So the story required the twelve year jump.

L: THE NANNY DIARIES clearly made use of your time as nannies, and you said something about your friends at MTV . . . did your work experiences affect your other novels?
N: Definitely. The two books most influenced by our work other than THE NANNY DIARIES were CITIZEN GIRL and THE REAL REAL. They make use of our experience with THE NANNY DIARIES – being thrust for a very brief second into media spotlight, seeing how manipulative news can be and what that feels like.

L: You've said something about that before. What was the most unreal moment during the media attention?
N: We were on a well-known talk show, and ostensibly asked to talk about our writing and experience. We were shocked the day before the show to be sent a script, not only of questions, it included questions and our answers – prescripted, that were not true. I'm proud to say we went off script on the show. It really confused them. You would be surprised; it was a very prominent show that you would not expect that from.

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L: Do either of you have a favorite?
N: THE NANNY DIARIES will always be special to us. It was our first, we learned how to work together, how to write. It's like having five kids: each is special for different reasons and we challenge ourselves differently each time.

L: Can I ask about your next challenge?
N: Our next YA is OVER YOU, that's out in 2011. We're also working on a romantic comedy script and we're starting our next adult novel in the spring.

L: How do you feel about THE NANNY DIARIES movie? Would you want any of your other books to be made into movies?
N: We would be thrilled! It's completely impossible for us to be objective about THE NANNY DIARIES movie. Compare to trying to be objective with your prom picture or wedding picture! You always see something different from other people. We were always excited about the cast and it was filmed in New York were we both live. It was exciting to walk past the set!
We've both done film and screenplay adaptation. We understand that it's a very different medium. The film is a romantic comedy, and a romantic comedy needs a happy ending. As you noted, THE NANNY DIARIES was a social satire. The big difference was the happy ending. We will always be eternally grateful for the movie; it was a once in a lifetime experience.

L: I've asked a lot of questions about your books and about writing, but I know you don't sit at your computer all day. What are your hobbies? What do you do when you aren't writing?
N: We have dogs. We love to take our dogs for walks and spend time with our dogs. Then there's the subway. Every time I've gone to Emma's house, I read on the subway. After reading on the subway on the way home, all I want to do is watch The Daily Show and go to sleep. I also do yoga, that's how I relax and come up with story ideas.

L: So I'm sure you've done a lot of interviews . . . if you could get rid of one question people ask, what would it be?
N: How do you two write together? Will you ever hire a nanny? Oh no no, it's, "Have any of the people you've written about tried to contact you?" They're looking for a sexy answer. But there's no sexy answer, it just never goes anywhere.

January 9, 2010

A Rant

I feel bad about writing bad reviews. I want to like the books I read. I want to share a love of books. I have no desire to say anything bad about an author, and saying something bad about someone's books often feels personal. I still wrote a review of FALLEN, which I thought was execrable.

(Here's the review in a nutshell: The characters show no signs of human emotion and the plot is lame.)

It led to this comment:

this review is terible, you simply tell us the whole story, no one needs to buy it now but you are also only telling the bads parts just because you personally think that it should have different parts. everyon would rewrite it differently but sorry to say you aren't the author, i found the fact tht he loves her so much to try and save her by staying away romantic. Otherwise he would simply go and kill her everytime and to the untrained eye like yours i believe yes it appears that Cam is a good guy but i saw it from the start which made me want to keep reading.

Thank you for explaining why you think my review is terrible. Next time sign with a name and use proper grammar. I happen to disagree with you, and I've responded why in the comments.

But here's why I'm posting this. It isn't to mock you. Maybe I'm being silly, but I felt offended when you said "an untrained eye like yours."

I am a student in one of the most prestigious honors programs at one of the most respected public universities in the United States. I will graduate a semester early, in December 2009, with a double major. I've received various accolades of merit, every single year.

One of my majors is English. I study literature. I am trained in critical analysis. And I am very, very good at what I do.

We differ in our opinions of Lauren Kate's FALLEN. That does not mean my eye is untrained.

January 8, 2010

Review: Kitty's House of Horrors

By Carrie Vaughn
Out now from Grand Central (Hachette)
Review copy provided by publisher
Read my reviews of the series

Book Cover

Once upon a time, when the dinosaurs (and my parents) roamed the earth, series weren't popular. Every once in awhile you'd get a trilogy, like The Lord of the Rings, but most titles were standalone. Now that everybody and their dog write series, certain qualities make authors stand out from the pack. I like Carrie Vaughn because she does things that I don't expect. But what I really respect her for after finishing KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS is her pacing.

The fifth and sixth books of the series (KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND, KITTY RAISES HELL) were the first too have a truly interweaving plot. Vaughn has been sowing the seeds of an overarching conspiracy, but first she takes the time for another standalone adventure that appeals to knew readers even as it rewards those who are caught up on Kitty's adventures.

Kitty is invited to participate in a reality show with various other paranormal celebrities. Then the participants begin to die. And boy howdy, does KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS have a body count. Kitty Norville 7 is on level with HP7 for characters death. Some of the people at risk are new characters, and Vaughn does well making them sympathetic quickly. But many at risk are triumphantly returning secondary characters, including two of my favorites: Jeffrey from KITTY GOES TO WASHINGTON and Ariel from KITTY TAKES A HOLIDAY. It both ups the suspense and makes the deaths more meaningful.

In addition, being part of the show separates Kitty from Ben. It's nice to see her on her own again, though I think their relationship is wonderful. It's also a breather from the relationship antics that will be back in full force in Kitty Norvill 8, considering that Cormac is up for parole and he and Kitty have some sexual tension to work out.

KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS was a good breather from the one-two punch of KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND and KITTY RAISES HELL. Vaughn put new characters into play and removed some old ones permanently in an exciting, if sometimes heartbreaking, way. I'm eager for the next book, but I feel like KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS was far better than most breather books. (I did miss the radio show. I always love the really weird calls.)

January 7, 2010

What's Going On

Here's some tidbits that have shown up in my inbox this week:

Chat tonight with Richelle Mead at The Watercooler, 8 PM EST. I haven't read her Vampire Academy books, but I think her Dark Swan series is fun.

INCARCERON widget! I like Catherine Fisher (CORBENIC, THE ORACLE BETRAYED) and look forward to her new books. Plus, I may have some copies to giveaway soon!

Robin Maxwell is holding a contest to celebrate the release of O, JULIET! in February. (There will be a review on IBWB.) The prize is a gorgeous necklace in addition to the copy of the book. As someone who has seen R&J at The Globe, I'm excited.

January 6, 2010

"Waiting on" Wednesday: A Conspiracy of Kings

Book Cover

Megan Whalen Turner's new book is coming out 23 March 2010. Any of ya'll are welcome to send it to me as a birthday present. I just can't believed that I've missed that it's coming out 'til now.

For those of you who haven't read the series, I highly recommend starting with THE THIEF. It'll still be good if you know how it ends (due to reading the other books), but you won't get the full force of the twist. Don't read the backs of the other books, as the blurbs contain spoilers.

Or, as the author herself puts it:

Many people have read them and enjoyed them entirely out of order. However, reviews and even the jacket copy for later books, will reveal major plot points for earlier books.

I'd like to think that finding out major plot points ahead of time won't ruin The Thief, but it will certainly change the experience.

On the other hand, I think The Thief spoils The King of Attolia. So there are pluses and minuses to any order you choose.

But whether you're smart enough to read the books for yourself or not . . .


January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

1. I want to be more organized than I have been this past semester.

My HOLD STILL/survey contest ended November 30th, and I'm just now announcing the winner! It's The Book Vixen!

I've been trying to keep track of stuff I need to review, but I've been shifting around a lot between my homes. If I owe you a review, please contact me.

Last year my blogiversary went well, but I want to do it even better this year. The first round of invites have gone out, to the Tenners and to the members of Class of 2k10 who listed their e-mails on their respective organizations' sites. The next round will go to authors who have previously guested on IBWB. If you are not in one of these three groups and would like to participate, please contact me.

2. I've always aimed for high quality content. But I acknowledge that one aspect of quality is turning out your product on a regular schedule. My goal is to post at least one review and one other post per week.

3. I want to complete at least two challenges this year. Last year I participated in two challenges.

The first was The V.C. Andrews Movement, hosted by Taren. My used bookstores never seemed to have the right VCA books on clearance. Eventually, I bought some at a three-for-five-pounds sale, but I never read them. I failed this challenged miserably.

I also participated in the '09 Debut Authors Challenge, hosted by The Story Siren. My goal was 30 books. At my last update, I had finished 21.

22. The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
23. The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais
24. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
25. The Hollow by Jessica Verday
26. Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

I owned more debut YA and MG books, but didn't get to them. I finished the year a mere four books short of my goal. So next year I hope to not just enter two challenges, but to succeed in them.

4. I hope to find a layout that both my readers and I like.


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