Completed in the last two weeks: I finished Cress by Marissa Meyer, Scowler by Daniel Krauss, and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi all on audio. Scowler won the Odyssey Award for audiobooks and it is well deserved. Look for a post on the creepiness that is Scowler coming soon. A few hours ago I finished Barry Lyga’s The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl in hardback. I was pleasantly surprised by Lyga’s story although I’m not sure it is appropriate for my middle schoolers and I KNOW Scowler is only for older audiences. Hell, I was a little disturbed sometimes. All of these titles were well worth my time.
PUBLISHER: Viking Juvenile
LENGTH: 400 pages
SOURCE: ARC from ALAN convention
SUMMARY: For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?
REVIEW: Once again Anderson has out done herself with her newest book about PTSD and its effects on the victim and his family. Hayley and her father are doing what many families do in the face of an impossible-to-comprehend situation: they are maintaining. Sometimes running, and sometimes bracing for impact, Hayley and her father are dealing only with the fallout from his PTSD episodes. To Hayley’s credit, she tries to persuade her father to seek help but, much like with addicts, it is impossible for Hayley to manage a permanent solution until Andy wants to help himself.
Andy has brought them back to his hometown so that Hayley can attend school on a regular basis. But the school schedule seems to be the only “regular” thing in their lives and Hayley never quite knows to whom she will be coming home in the afternoons. Will it be the loving, patient father she knows is at Andy’s core or will it be the trauma-ravaged soldier who has trouble remembering what is still good in his life outside the haunting memories of war. Hayley is a down-to-earth teen in an impossible situation. Enter Finn, who challenges Hayley’s belief that change is impossible and forces Hayley to look at what is manageable and what needs managing in her life.
Anderson’s portrayal of Hayley’s coping techniques is brutally honest, making readers want to simultaneously hug and shake Hayley into believing in the power of healing. Thinking that she and her father are irreparably broken, Hayley begins to give up and shuns the proffered assistance from one of her father’s old girlfriends and even from Finn. Anderson does not shy away from the hard truths of alcohol and drug use in both victims and family members to numb the pain and provide escape. In the end, Hayley must make a choice: stay locked in the cycle of painful memories she and her father share or break the cycle, perhaps at terrible cost to herself and her father, in hopes that they can start over in the town they both so desperately want to call home. Watching Hayley navigate the painful minefield of memories she and her father share, readers are brought face to face with the reality that healing takes time and emotional wounds leave scar tissue that has to be taught how to bend in order to make everyday life bearable and meaningful. Another novel that compels readers to keep turning pages until the emotional climax, Anderson continues to give her readers a glimpse into the pain and perseverance that make her protagonists unforgettable.
Author Name: Kate Scott
Book Title: Counting to D
Length: 228 pages
Publisher: Elliott Books
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Have you always been a writer? If not, when and why did you start?
No. I’ve always had an active imagination, but I’ve also always been a very bad speller. For a long time, I didn’t believe writing was something I was capable of. I started writing fiction seriously in my mid-twenties. As for why I started, I think it comes back around to always having an active imagination. I love making up stories. It just took me a while to realize writing them down was something I could do.
How did the idea for Counting to D come to you?
I am dyslexic, and I knew that I wanted to write a book with a dyslexic main character. It took some time for me to figure out how to write that book, but the general idea has been with me ever since I was a teenager.
Do you have a particular writing schedule or routine? Could you briefly describe it?
No. I write when I feel like it, and I don’t write when I don’t feel like it. Now that I’m working on my second novel—and know it will be published as soon as I finish it—I feel like I should probably start following a schedule. I haven’t figured out exactly what that routine looks like yet, though.
Where do you write? Why?
I have a home office where I do most of my writing. It does have a desk in it, but I prefer to write sitting in a comfy chair with my laptop on my lap.
What is the hardest part of drafting for you?
Setting. Dialogue is really easy for me, but I suck at setting. I tried writing speculative fiction a couple years ago, just for kicks. Oh man, it was awful. I cannot world-build. Most of what I do during revisions is add exterior details, but even my final drafts are sparse on setting.
How did you originally come to be published? (long road or short?)
I had a literary agent for about two years, but we decided to part ways in the spring of 2013. Instead of looking for a new agent, I chose to submit to small presses on my own. Once I started researching small presses, I realized being a small press publisher would be a super fun job. So I started one: Elliott Books. Currently, Counting to D is the only title on Elliott Books’ roster, but my plan is to start accepting submissions from other authors this summer. I just wanted to make all my mistakes on myself before I took on other people’s manuscripts.
How do you handle criticism/rejection/bad reviews?
Fortunately, I haven’t had any super critical reviews yet. Some people enjoyed my book more than others, but the people who didn’t love it have been courteous. There are lots of hugely popular books that I didn’t enjoy. Everyone has different taste. I don’t expect everyone to like my book. I just want to make it available for the people who do love it. And thankfully, a lot of people do, which is all around fabulous.
What is one part of writing craft every aspiring author ought to thoroughly understand?
Voice is probably the most important thing to understand, in my opinion. It’s also the hardest to explain. I think the simplest key is to know your characters. As a writer, it’s critical to understand exactly who your characters are, so you can make their voices authentic.
Do you read other authors’ books while you have a work in progress? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I believe understanding what works in other great stories is a key aspect of knowing how to write one yourself. Also, reading is fun. Why would I abandon all books by other writers just because I want to write one of my own?
What is the most rewarding part of writing?
I enjoy getting to know the characters as they come to life in my mind and on the page.
Are any of the characters or MC modeled after real people?
I modeled the main character, Sam, after myself. Everyone else is fictitious.
What has been your favorite part of the book release?
The amazing feedback I’ve gotten from readers. I actually got my first fan letter a week before the book came out. Not sure how the fan got a copy of my book, but his thank you note to me was priceless. I wrote this book because it’s the story I wanted to read as a teen, and it didn’t exist. Knowing at least some of today’s teens are connecting with it is all kinds of inspiring.
PBJ or ham & cheese? Ham & Cheese
Coffee or tea? Tea
Summer or Winter? Summer
Typing or longhand? Typing
Which comes first: plot or character? Character
Emails or letters? Emails
Coke or Pepsi? Diet Coke (I’m addicted)
Sugary or salty treats? Sugar!
Dogs or cats? Neither – allergic
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors – when it’s not raining
Beer or wine? Wine
Mac or PC? PC
Outline or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants? What’s an outline?
I read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee and enjoyed it. It reminded me of Oliver’s Liesel and Po. I finished listening to Blameless, the third in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I’m still not ready to leave this world so I’ll be sticking to the series but am taking a break for a bit to read/listen to some others that have been eyeing me from their spots in the queue of my TBR list.
Remember that commenting on all four posts about The Raven Cycle earns you the change to win copies of the first two Raven Cycle Books! Post #1 was about the series in general. Post #2 was about the characters. Keep up with this and the final post to enter to win the books!
artwork courtesy of deviantart.com
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Press
LENGTH: 416 pages; 11 hours 8 minutes
PRODUCER: Scholastic Audio
NARRATOR: Will Patton
SUMMARY: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
REVIEW: I read Stiefvater’s Mercy Falls books and was expecting something similar when I picked up The Raven Boys. The only element of Shiver and its series-mates that’s fantastical is the existence of the shape-shifters. From the first sentence of the Prologue of TRB, it is clear that magic and mysticism waft through Henrietta and around it’s inhabitants like perfume. Characters and readers get whiffs of Glendower’s magic that are sometimes pleasant and sometimes noxious but it is always difficult to pinpoint the source. The genius of Stiefvater’s writing is that even skeptics will accept what’s happening with the boys and Blue. The idea that magic exists and that we can influence it as much as it influences us is one of the great childhood dreams. When I was younger, I so wanted magic to be real and to interact with it. Books like Stiefvater’s let readers live that fantasy in the pages of their story for a little while.
The plot, in which Gansey and his friends (while on a search for the legendary King Glendower) awaken old magic and uncover and solve a decades old murder, works because readers are learning the intricacies of the Glendower legend and the mythology behind it right along with Blue. Basing Gansey’s obsession on Glendower, a real historical figure, lends credence to Gansey’s search. Gansey’s search then parallels the other characters’ searches: Blue for purpose, Adam for status, and Ronan for identity. Although, truly, they could all be searching for all of those things. Crafting four disparate characters who are all struggling to belong (as is most of Stiefvater’s readership) lends believability to the characters themselves and their friendships. It also provides a way for all readers to be included in the story because they will inevitably identify with one of the characters enough to become invested in the outcome of the search that each character is on.
In the end, Stiefvater surprises readers with a resolution, not to Blue’s conundrum about Gansey, but to an entirely different mystery readers don’t even know is there at the beginning of the story. Meanwhile, she builds in character complexities to explore in the next book, all while leaving the reader still wondering if Blue will really be the death of Gansey or if there’s a way out of that too. Superb writing and characterization blended with the perfect proportions of intensity and humor make this one a don’t miss read.