August 31, 2012

Coming Soon to a Blogsphere Near You...

Today is the last day to get in on the Cybils action. Despite my efforts to fade to the background -- my thought was to let other people get involved in my place -- it looks like I'm getting to be involved again, just as I've been since 200...6.

I just updated my alumni listing and I need to start putting this stuff on my résumé.

People, it is killing me not to be going to Kidlitcon. KILLING ME. I mean, plenary sessions on "niceness" in reviewing. The Goddess of YA. Maureen Freakin' Johnson. LEILA FREAKIN' ROY.

Le sigh. I will miss all of you. *sob*

I absolutely adore The Atlantic's YA For Grownups, which is such a fun series. This week they're reading Lois Lowry's The Giver. Remember how you felt, when you first read that ambiguous ending...? I love to know that the book still has an impact just the same today. WHAM - both women write they were stressed and had to go find something else to do.

Oh, the power of a good book.

This has been a busy, busy week. Usually my sister, 16, texts me incessantly -- this week's texts to her have been met with, "Homework, ttyl." Ah, school daze. This morning I read an article about an inflammatory paper a 13-year-old girl wrote on Frederick Douglass, slavery, and education for her junior high English class in Rochester, NY. (Douglass is buried in Rochester, and they Take Him Seriously there.) As Adrienne says, things have gotten a bit shouty, which is a shame, since some good points about the responsibilities students have toward themselves were raised, as well as the responsibility they have to challenge teachers to take them to a deeper level of education. Teachers, we give you props - you have a hard job, and so many of you do it well with limited resources. Students who don't avail themselves of everything that is offered have only themselves to blame - but a good student knows this. Some food for thought, there, in this complicated situation.

Speaking of complications, the CBC Diversity blog has made plans for a second episode of "It's Complicated,", the conversational pieces on ethnicity in publishing. On Monday they'll be talking to industry professional about... book covers. Oh, how we love us some cover-chat, and I'm looking forward to the commentary.

Panelists include YA author Coe Booth, Laurent Linn, Art Director at Simon & Schuster Children's, Felicia Frazier, Senior VP and Director of Sales at Penguin Young Readers Group, Elizabeth Bluemle, Owner of Flying Pig Bookstore, and Joseph Monti, Agent at Barry Goldblatt Literary.

Speaking of covers, AF's editor recently told her he's trying to avoid being responsible for any "dead girl" YA novels -- man, we're so glad. Mayhap after this conversation, other editors will follow suit...

The deadline for the 2012 Hunger Mountain Creative Non-Fiction Prize is September 10th. As someone who writes beautifully and evocatively about real-life scenarios, Y2, I'm looking at you on this one.

Oh, my gosh, we missed a good deal the other day.

I would not leave that on the lawn for long.

August 30, 2012

A Bit of Explanation, Plus Links

This is what I'm going to look like in a month.
I'm just popping in momentarily to let you know that I will be relatively quiet for the next month. I'm busily working away at a revision of my next YA novel, Underneath, which is due out next year (probably summer). My revision is due on Oct. 1, so as my writing--and some inconveniently-timed freelance work, and the Cybils blog--take up the bulk of my time, I'll be blogging a little bit less. You'll probably only see me on Thursdays, and I'm giving myself a bit of a Toon Thursday break as well, since those posts take a lot more time than others.

Some food for thought while you mourn my absence (har):
  • Buying a book review?? Say it ain't so. But it is. And apparently it's more common than you'd think. I can't even imagine ever considering it--I'd rather have an honest bad review from someone who actually read and thought about my book than pay for meaningless paeans-for-hire. And the problem is, the idea of all these purchased reviews floating around out there--in my opinion--makes legitimate writing and reviewing feel meaningless. BOO, I say.

  • Via the SCBWI's Expression Online newsletter,'s Laura Miller says the reason women dominate YA lit is the same reason men avoid it: "The answer, I believe, is prestige. YA is a prestige-free zone, or at least it has been for most of the decades of its existence as a self-identified genre." She goes on to say, "YA fiction has blossomed outside the literary world’s prestige economy" and explains why that can be a good thing. WELL worth a read, and an important entry to the discussion on the place of YA lit in the literary world.

August 27, 2012

Bim Adewunmi's "A Good Black Friend," Kindle Deals, & Etc.

Happy Monday, and it's another quick grab-bag of Things I've Been Thinking.

But first, to all of you in the Southeast this week whose skies look a bit like the one pictured here, be safe and take care, and we'll see you on the other side of hurricane season...

So, Leila is the one who first broke the story for me: YA novelist (debut?) writing a book on the evils of racism from the perspective of a.) being Caucasian, and b.) being the oppressed, and c.) using the disingenuous euphemistic names of Pearls vs. Coals in her book. That had a lot of "Eeew," written all over it, and I wasn't seeking to follow the story any further. And then it started overlapping from the kidlitosphere into other arenas of my reading. This week it's on the Guardian Blog, and writer Bim Adewunmi provides a rather damning and well spoken observation on it.

Self-awareness is a gift. In every class and discussion on race I've ever attended or been a part of, the advice has been the same: if you're going to write from the position of being part of the dominant culture, and write about the Other, then DO IT WELL. This is a primer on how to do it wrong.

Or, so it appears. I haven't yet read the book, and probably will not, as I'm in the midst of a.) moving and b.) revision, but Leila reported it was up for grabs as a freebie from NetGalley. If it is still, would there be any takers?

Speaking of freebies, have you guys all hit Centsless Books? It's basically a site that rummages through Amazon's freebie ebooks and preview pages. There are graphics and all sorts of things - some self-pubbed, but some not. I've actually run across some good stuff there. ParaNorman is on there this week. Check it out. For cheap specials check Amazon, who has taken it into their heads to do a Kindle Daily Deal strictly for children's books.

Ms. Rumphius is baaaack.

The last day to register is September 21st. While it looks like I'm not going to make it AGAIN this year (and may need to turn in my Kidlitosphere card, with the NYPL and Betsy Bird and the word FREE involved, at the very least it will be memorable. Plus, I know the guest speaker and it will be REALLY WELL WORTH YOU GOING. I mean really...

August 23, 2012

Thursday Review: INVISIBLE SUN by David Macinnis Gill

Reader Gut Reaction: Invisible Sun is the sequel to David Macinnis Gill's equally-musically-named Black Hole Sun. It continues Durango's adventures on Mars in appropriately action-packed fashion, with plenty of snappy dialogue to boot. It's got the feel of classic pulp sci-fi and has plenty of fun tropes that sci-fi fans will enjoy, from Mimi the Smart-Mouthed AI Implant to Archibald the Fatally Egotistical Supervillain. I also enjoyed the fact that the story takes place on a sort of dystopian version of Mars, long after terraforming and settlement have taken place. There's a little bit of Mad Max feel, with all the tearing around dusty roads in various vehicles, but there's also a bit of the kung-fu action movie in this one, too, with some of the action taking place at a remote Mars monastery.

Durango and his companion Vienne are ex-super-soldiers and current mercenaries, though, so they're loaded with all sorts of fun tech. The author does a good job of using technology to add atmosphere to the story without being so detailed that it's distracting. Above all, this is a fast-paced and fun read—perfect for summer.

Concerning Character: In this book we are treated to further tantalizing hints and revelations about Durango's identity—we've already found out he's the disgraced son of the former Zealand Corporation CEO, but what does that really mean in a world where the corporations are hunted at every turn by mercenaries and rebel groups? If Durango can just steal the right data and crunch the numbers, maybe he'll find out.

In the process, Durango is just trying to stay alive—self-preservation is a clear motive for him—but he's also got his faithful soldier and fellow mercenary Vienne to think about, and in many ways this book is about Vienne, too. We find out a lot more about her past, growing up in a remote Tengu monastery. Durango's emotional side is fleshed out a bit here, also, as we see the flowering of romance between the two battle-hardened soldiers in the relative peace of the hidden monastery. But when an imperfectly planned rescue attempt goes wrong, Vienne is caught up in it and Durango blames himself. Don't let the snappy dialogue fool you—there's plenty of depth to the characters in this one, whether it's the ass-kicking Vienne, troubled Durango, or mischievous little sister Riki-Tiki.

Recommended for Fans Of...: High-action, dark, apocalyptic sci-fi like the novels of John Scalzi (like Zoe's Tale, reviewed here) or Philip Reeve (like Mortal Engines, reviewed here).

Themes & Things: There's a lot more romance in this one than I remember there being in the first book—possibly because the infatuation that went seemingly unrequited in Black Hole Sun is now reciprocated. However, the growing emotions between Durango and Vienne are frustrated at every turn by external events, from meddling families to unplanned disasters, keeping the reader on tenterhooks about whether they'll ever really get to be a couple. The other major theme in these books is Durango's search for identity. Of course, as he tries to figure out who he is and what secrets lie in his past, his journey itself is forging his true character.

Cover Chatter: I'm sorry, but this cover just does not do the book justice. My honest opinion is that it is kind of cheesy, and the figures look like they should be on a romance novel. It's hard for me to see guys drawn in on the basis of the cover alone. However, they should ignore it because I think this is a great book for male AND female readers. Maybe if there were less emphasis on the figures (if they were smaller, maybe?) and more on the backdrop and the broken glass motif, it would work better for me.

Review Copy Source: Library.

You can find Invisible Sun by David Macinnis Gill online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 20, 2012

Graphic Novel Notes

Technically speaking, today I'm not here. That is, I'm on vacation. However, I set up this post for you with some books I'm really excited about reading--specifically, some graphic novels that I hope to get my hands on before too long. Last year I was a Round 2 Judge for Cybils graphic novels, so I was able to catch up on some of my comix reading, but this year? Who knows? So I figured I'll be proactive and start targeting graphic novels that are likely candidates, not just for Cybils, but for my own enjoyment and review on this site.

First, I just read this great review of Raina Telgemeier's newest GN, Drama, which is a follow-up to her wonderful book Smile. It sounds like a fun read, a bit more intense perhaps than Smile but still with plenty of humor. Plus it's about drama geeks: "Young Callie is a theater enthusiast, and while her lack of singing talent ensures that she remains off the stage, she’s an integral part of the production behind the scenes," says GraphicNovelReporter's Ryan Donovan.

Second, some books from First Second. (Har, har). I'm excited that I will soon get my hands on review copies of Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain, which was described in their catalog e-mail as "steampunk mermaid NYC historical midlife crises" (how could I resist??), Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time (YAAAY!!!), and, eventually, I'll also be reading Tune by Derek Kirk Kim, described as "accidental twenty-something space hijinx." I assume those will also be quite enjoyable, as I've very much liked Kim's previous work with Gene Yang and on his own.

Any other graphics I should be aware of and look for? I'm always happy for suggestions.

August 16, 2012

Drum Roll...It's Almost Cybils Time!

I can hardly believe it, but the Cybils Awards are ready to kick off again! For those of you who are going "huh?", that's the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, now in their SEVENTH year. The Cybils are a homegrown blogger award that recognizes the best of the best in ten different categories of children's and YA lit--in particular, they try to honor books that combine literary merit with that elusive spark of kid appeal.

I'm very excited to be back as the Cybils blog editor again this year, putting up announcements and a wide range of book reviews from Cybils volunteer panelists. The blog, and the printable lists of winners and finalists, are both great resources if you're looking for reading material for the young readers in your life, if you're a librarian looking for great new books, or if you just need some inspiration regarding what to read. The blog reviews are also a fun way to discover new voices in the Kidlitosphere--three times a week, we try to feature reviews from as wide a range of panelists as possible.

Sounds like fun, right? If you want to get involved, the Cybils are looking for a few good volunteers. And by "a few," they mean somewhere around 80+. If you blog regularly about children's and/or young adult books, and would like to help by serving on a first- or second-round panel of judges, you can fill in the application (and find out more about the process) here.

August 13, 2012

Monday Madness = Links For YOU

Due to extreme amounts of stuff that need to get done in my life (mostly a big revision of my next novel that is due Oct. 1, plus sundry and miscellaneous other items) today's post is brought to you by Stuff On The Web I've Collected and Kept Around for Just Such an Occasion.

  • Blogger Lucy Coats over at Scribble City Central is running a fun series called Fantabulous Fridays A-Z, which is, she reports, "a weekly series in which writers talk about one particular
    beast or being, and give some insights into how it's had an impact on their own writing. So far I'm at J (Kevin Crossley-Holland, the eminent British mythologist is talking today about J for Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent of Norse myth). I've also had Julie Kagawa, Marcus Sedgwick and Jonathan Stroud on - and the series runs till end-December." It's pretty darn cool--I particularly enjoyed the interview with Herbie Brennan, who writes the hilarious and madcap series Faerie Wars.
  • Via the Expression Online SCBWI newsletter comes an article from Julia Eccleshare, the Guardian's Children's Book Doctor, addressing the question of why trains in books still go chuff-chuffing along, even though we're well past the age of steam. The answer: it isn't just appealing to parental nostalgia...
  • Lastly, if you haven't heard, registration for this fall's Kidlitcon is now open! It will take place Sept. 28 and 29 at the legendary NYPL in New York City, organized by Kidlitosphere icons Betsy Bird, Liz B, and Monica Edinger.

August 09, 2012

Toon Thursday, As Promised

So this is a Toon Thursday I came up with several weeks ago but just couldn't properly bring it to life, so it languished as notes in my sketch book until yesterday, when I finally was able to render it visually. (That, in part, is why the last toon was a pie chart--I can always fall back on the good ol' pie chart.) Anyway, enjoy.

I suspect the reality for most of us is a combination of several of the above...

August 06, 2012

Monday Review: BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

If you haven't read the other two books in Cashore's Graceling trilogy, rest assured I will try to avoid too many spoilers in this review of the third book, but I will also say that if you are a fantasy fan, you should GO NOW AND READ THEM. If you HAVE read the other two books, you'll be relatively familiar with the storyline and main characters, so I'll try not to bore you with too much explaining in this review.

Reader Gut Reaction: As I just mentioned, if you're a fantasy fan, especially a fan of fantasy with strong female lead characters, this trilogy is not to be missed. Honestly. Bitterblue satisfyingly wraps up the series that started with Graceling, which was Katsa's story. Katsa shows up as a side character in this one, for this is the story of Bitterblue, the daughter of King Leck of Monsea, now Queen of Monsea and trying to repair her damaged kingdom. And if you read Book 2--Fire--you'll eventually learn over the course of this book how that story fits in with the rest of it.

Although there is certainly action in this book, it's not as pronounced as it is in the first two. It rewards having read the other books, through its revelation of facts and solution of little mysteries that were dangled tantalizingly in the other two volumes. It is overall much more of a story of mystery, intrigue, and coming of age than I remember the other two being. By the end, the puzzle pieces that constitute the world in which the books are set, begin to fit together in a satisfying way that ties all three books together.

Concerning Character: I JUST LOVE Cashore's main characters. Absolutely adore them. They are physically capable—Bitterblue goes to sword practice and wears knives and chafes at her dull queenly responsibilities—and they are clever and inquisitive. Bitterblue knows that something isn't right in her kingdom, even though King Leck is dead, and she sets out to discover what it is. In the process, she finds out how little she really knows about the lives of everyday people under her care. She doesn't like that, either, and she doesn't like how little her advisers are telling her about what's actually going on. Leck's legacy still lingers (how's that for alliteration??) and if she truly wants to be the Queen of Monsea, she's going to have to deal with that legacy and what it means for castle folk and everyday citizens alike. Fortunately, she's got familiar faces to help her along: Katsa, Po, Raffin, and their Council are working to make the world a better place, and Bitterblue is determined to do her part.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Fantasy books with strong female characters, set in worlds where women have the opportunity to be more than arm candy: Tamora Pierce fans would especially like these, I think, as well as fans of Kathleen Duey and Robin McKinley.

Themes & Things: Besides the themes I've already touched on—coming of age, meeting responsibility with bravery and openheartedness, the gift that is true friendship—there is also a strong thread of romance in this book. Bitterblue is eighteen, yes, but she is relatively inexperienced, a bit sheltered living in her castle despite her harsh childhood. She's a bit of a newbie to matters of the heart and of physical love, and how these differ from other types of relationships. Through the mysterious yet dashing ruffian Saf and his friends, she begins to learn more about the meaning of love and trust. And in fact, learning whom to trust is another theme in this book, because sometimes those closest to you are hiding something, and sometimes those you've just met are trustworthy, but as Queen you need to learn to figure out who's who and why they're hiding what they're hiding...

Review Copy Source: Kindle ebook, purchased.

You can find Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

August 02, 2012

Is "Triweekly" a word?

...the reason I ask is that it seems my Toon Thursdays have moved to a tri-weekly format. There is just TOO MUCH STUFF happening this summer. Also, being sick this week is not helping my creativity any. It seems to be draining straight out of my brain along with all the other drainage. Uh. Sorry for the TMI. Anyway. So I'll just mention a few interesting things that have come my way, and set my brain to the task of generating a cartoon idea for next week, 'k? Blargh.

Item the First: THE KIDLITCON IS COMING. THE KIDLITCON IS COMING! Yes, registration is now open for this fall's Kidlitosphere Conference in NYC, Sept. 28 and 29 at the NYPL, organized by our wonderful blog buds Betsy Bird, Liz B., and Monica Edinger. I really, really want to go, and I haven't figured out yet whether I can afford to, but I highly suggest it if you're at all involved in the world of blogging children's/YA literature. It has been one of my all-time favorite conferences--a relatively small, intimate group, with the privilege of meeting in person some of one's most cherished blogging friends. In addition to a possible Kidlit Drink Night, the organizers are planning a pre-con Friday event: "Friday events will include special visits to the publishers of New York City with blogger previews of their upcoming seasons." Wowzers.

Item the Second: WFMAD. No, I don't have marbles in my mouth. WFMAD is the Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge, spurred on by author extraordinaire Laurie Halse Anderson. Write once a day for a month. Write for fifteen minutes. Use the prompts, or don't. I'm making an attempt at it over at my personal blog. If you decide to take part and post it on your own blog, let me know in the comments over there and I'll give you a shout-out. I'll also try to cruise by and show some love.

'Til next week!