Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Links

This week in YA:

Teen Read Week is over… But that doesn’t mean we stop reading YA, right? Right. Like you needed an excuse to read a good book.

Most links from this week relate back to last week’s bookfrenzie. For author interviews, go to Readergirlz and the YA Authors Cafe. Just be ready for your to-read pile to take on Jenga-esque proportions.

Publishers Weekly reports on teen reading habits, based on research done by Teenreads.com. Very interesting, so take a look for yourself, but here are some numbers that jumped out at me:

1. By 2013, sales to teens are expected to rise more than 30 percent
2. And this is a biggie: 61 PERCENT OF TEENS READ MYSTERY/SUSPENSE/THRILLER!!!

Let there be more books in this category! Exclamation mark! Books like this one, maybe? And more books to get boys excited about reading, because the survey shows that 96 percent of responders were female… And that just ain’t right.

Speaking of which, check out GUYS READ, a website all about books for guys (but I’m guessing you may have figured that already). I found this one at YPulse, where this article reviews the website. Apparently, GUYS READ is the brainchild of author Jon Scieszka; check out this great list of books great for guys of all ages.

Onward to the Great Stories CLUB, an ALA grant-sponsored book club for underprivileged teens. Applications for grants are being taken until November 2, so if you want in, hurry. Seems like a cool program.

Also at YALSA, find out which books 11,000 teens voted for this year’s top 10. I was glad to see John Green’s Paper Towns at the top, and added a few new titles to my list. So many books, so little time…

My very own Pikes Peak Library District has a list of 20 YA mysteries, in case you want more to read.

At Shelftalker, children’s bookseller Josie Leavitt makes her predictions on which books will get Newbery, Caldecott and Printz awards, and asks everyone to chime in. I’m staying out of this one, but will be interested to see if she’s right.

And finally, delightfully off-topic, check out Becky Clark’s collection of Halloween pet costumes. Happy Halloween, everyone!

P.S. Links come on Thursday now, since that works out better for me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Desert Blood by Ronald Cree

Before I start the review of Desert Blood, I should say that the author Ronald Cree is part of my local writers group. We’ve met at local events—but I didn’t realize he’d written a YA mystery until he pointed the fact out to me. It appears that sometimes in the hunt for a good mystery, I could stand to look in my own backyard.

Desert Blood is the story of Gus Gonzalez, an orphan adopted by TV star Nicholas Hernandez. The two live near Los Angeles, and they do their best to avoid the press when possible. But when Gus comes home to catch an intruder in the house, and he narrowly escapes, tabloid stories are the least of their worries.

Gus soon finds out from his adoptive father Nick that there have been threatening letters, and that Gus himself is being targeted. When his best friend Lalo is kidnapped, Gus is determined to expose the culprit, to eventually expose all the mysteries surrounding his father, the adoption, and the stalker who’s out to get him.

The hardest thing for me as a reader was to buy into the whole celebrity father, and Hollywood glitz that’s the backdrop to Desert Blood. But our lead Gus and his best friend Lalo immediately pulled me into the story—and I especially loved the Hispanic flavor of the story, something you rarely see in YA.

The pacing was a little slow at times (for YA), but the narrative was strong, and the suspense and mystery surrounding Gus’ adoptive father and his past was very compelling. The threat to Gus felt real and palpable, and the mystery was well-paced. I also liked that Gus wasn’t afraid to act—too often in YA, the lead laments over what happens, but doesn’t do anything but navel-gaze. In this book, there was no doubt who the hero was.

Although there was some forceful plotting that needed a good amount of explaining at the end, I’m glad to say that this was, in fact, a YA mystery. With a lead who solved it. So Desert Blood is going on the list, with a solid 4 rating.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Early Links

Friday Links come early, as I’m vowing to get crackin’ on plotting a new novel. There isn’t much to report in the YA department—aside from the myriad of author interviews and chats in light of YALSA’s Teen Read Week—but lots of stirring in the publishing pot, for those of you interested:

I thought this first column by Cory Doctorow (he wrote Little Brother, for you YA fans) was really interesting; basically, he’ll be running an experiment, to see how giving away free e-books will boost sales (among other things). He’ll be blogging about this monthly at Publishers Weekly, and I’ll keep you posted on this, since I find this stuff fascinating.

J.A. Konrath explains how e-books put the power with the writer, and squash Lady Luck’s hold on our sales. Food for thought. GalleyCat wonders if sharing e-books is okay, or if this leads to e-piracy—interesting stuff being said in the comments.

M.J. Rose links back to an indie bookseller in Boulder, who talks (tongue-in-cheek?) about why the book price war isn’t such a bad thing. And Pimp My Novel’s Eric looks at all the angles of the price war, and why publishers are worried.

At Kidlit, agent Mary Kole talks about writing in multiple genres, and things to consider as writer. She also explains where series stack up in today’s market. Very informative.

For more writing craft stuff, Women on Writing covers what makes a good children’s short story for Highlights Magazine. And Type M for Murder reports on agent Donald Maass’ seminar at Bouchercon for SinC, and tells us what makes a great villain, in case you need help with that.

And if you haven’t already, you must check out Readergirlz; they’re really rocking Teen Read Week.

Happy early weekend, all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’m not a big fan of issue books, so when Penguin announced their new Point of View program with books on ‘difficult topics,’ I cringed a little. My inner rebel (okay, so she’s not so inner) smelled an after-school special. But some of my favorite writers were featured in Point of View, so when I saw the little display at my bookstore, I picked up a copy of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, along with a snazzy discussion guide.

This book is dark and painful and beautiful. We dive into Lia’s world of self-torture, right after Lia’s best friend Cassie kills herself in a nearby motel room. Lia tries to assure her father, step-mother, and mom that she’s just fine, but inside she’s really unraveling like one of her knitting projects. Lia is anorexic, and cuts herself.

The book has a brutal insight into Lia’s mental deterioration as she starves herself to be clean inside, dropping pounds every day: “At 099.00 I think clearer, look better, feel stronger.” Even more gripping is watching the adults around her struggle to make her stop and get her to eat, and watching the effect Lia’s anorexia has on her stepsister Emma.

As Lia’s struggle continues, she tries to come to grips with her best friend Cassie’s death—Cassie, whose ghost haunts Lia, taunting her to win their contest to be the thinnest.

The writing is true Laurie Halse Anderson: direct, beautiful, painful, and gripping. It hurt to read this book, hurt to watch Lia’s descent into anorexia, and how she unwittingly dragged everyone down with her, including her little stepsister. My only minor gripe is that the ghost aspect seemed a little forced at times—but this was a mini objection in a powerful book.

I watched a lot of hidden anorexia in my high school, growing up. And I imagine this hasn’t changed much. A girl in my high school, like Cassie in Wintergirls, even killed herself over her struggle with bulimia—and that’s something that haunts all of those who knew her forever. Could we have done something?

So I’m coming back from my no-issues-in-books stance. Maybe we need books like Wintergirls to expose things like anorexia, even if it’s hard. Maybe because it’s hard.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teen Read Week

It’s Teen Read Week! And this means we’re reading teen books, not that you have to be a teen to read them—at least that’s my belief.

This year, YALSA decided on the theme Read Beyond Reality. I usually like my fiction to be firmly grounded in reality, but found myself writing a scifi thriller this year—so if I can change my mind in my writing, I can certainly read some more scifi or fantasy.

For more on Teen Read Week, you can check out author interviews at the YA Authors CafĂ©, and chats with authors Justina Chen, Alyson Noel, and Zoe Marriott at Readergirlz. And Teenreads has this week’s releases, just in case you need some ideas on what to read. For some YA reviews by the intended audience, check out Publisher's Weekly's Barbara Vey's page.

I’ll be heading out today to get myself a beyond reality read. What are you reading?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bouchercon and Anthony Awards

So I missed Bouchercon, but thankfully, there are plenty of reports to read online now. The Rap Sheet covers pretty much everything (found their blog on Sarah Weinman's), including the Anthony award winners, so go there to get the latest.

Congrats to Chris Grabenstein for his win of Best Children’s/ YA for The Crossroads—if you haven’t read this book, go read it. Right now. It’s that good.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday YA Links

Have at it:

First off, happily stolen from Nathan Bransford’s blog: J.A. Konrath talks money. If you are a writer, you must check this out. It certainly left me contemplating the meaning of these numbers.

During a time when you hear nothing but negative reports on how publishing is faring, it was nice to read this article on small mystery press Poisoned Pen’s success. PP is also hosting a web conference on October 24, for those of you looking for a reason not to leave the house. I’ll be there, so come say a virtual hello if you’re there.

Apple is happy to report that 22 percent of teens intend to buy an iPhone in the next 6 months, according to a survey of teens. And apparently plans are underway to add a Rock Band app, so we can rock out on the go.

HR Block has a new program to teach high school kids about finances. In a game-like environment, kids have to get a job, pay the bills—and you can even win a scholarship. Sounds like a cool idea, and something adults could learn something from too.

For you writers thinking of doing the NaNoWriMo thing this year: the smart and talented Alexandra Sokoloff is talking all about craft on her blog this month; looks like a great way to be prepared come November.
And I saw that NaNo has a young writers section too, for you teen writers taking the challenge. Chapeau to all of you attempting this contest; I couldn’t do it.

In Twilight news, there’s now a comic book biography of Stephanie Meyer. I thought it looked pretty nifty.

To add to your book wish list, here are the NBA nominees. Publishers Weekly discusses some questions raised by the nomination of David Small’s Stitches, as (apparently) it wasn’t a clear YA title. I'm staying out of this one, as I'm still recovering from my Edgar hissy-fit.

If you’re in the mood for a good short mystery, check out Sniplits. In honor of Bouchercon, they’re having a mystery week (with some free shorts), and they're featuring author Libby Fisher Hellman.

And for a Halloween-themed photo, check-out polar bear Carly and her pumpkin. That’s my kinda girl.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Money, Money, Money

It ain’t easy being a writer. And I’m not talking about the hard work, the solitude, the craft—that’s a post for someone else’s blog. I’m talking about the money we want to spend wisely. Namely, the money most of us don’t have.

And this isn’t about the not-enough-to-live-on advances either, or the expenditures of time/money expected when we do sell the book and have arrived. I wanted to bring up the fun stuff, the times we get to come unglued from our computer chairs: conference time.

I’ve been to a few of these, and they’re lots of fun. I come away recharged, newly inspired, and up-to-date on all things publishing. Plenty of reasons to go.

But let’s look at the price tag that comes with a conference: $250 for the plane ticket (if you’re lucky), $300 for the conference fee (on average, unless you’re going to Thrillerfest). Then the cab to the hotel—and then there’s The Hotel. Which is usually about $200 a night, because it’s The Hotel, and has a bellhop with better clothes than you, and a $20 breakfast. Three nights sets you back $600.

So we’re already at $1150. Then there’s some souvenirs for the kids, food, a banquet you should really go to that adds $60, and you’re spending $1500. And that’s assuming you still have a pair of conference pants that fit, and something that can pass for a banquet outfit.

For me, this is as much as a family vacation on a budget, or a mortgage payment, or my utility bills for a year. If you look at that price tag, going to a conference seems like a frivolous and selfish expense.

So instead, I’m looking at local events, or online ones, so there’s no hotel, no airfare, and I can drive my own car. I’m already looking at such events next year. Events where I can smile at the bellhop on my way in without my little suitcase, instead of feeling like I have to hand him a tip. And I use Facebook or CrimeSpace to catch up with my faraway writer friends.

Still… I wish I was going to Indy this week, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Your YA Sleuth On

I was doing so research, looking for new books to read (like I needed any more…). And I found this link to Ocean County Libraries (in NJ), where someone named L Fletcher put together a list of YA mysteries.

How great is this! It’s a little dated (2007), but still. It was nice to find someone else who likes to get their YA Sleuth on.

Who said surfing the web is a waste of time?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

About The Weather


This is my kind of weather, perfect to hybernate and read. Gotta love Colorado on days like this...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Links for Your Friday

As always, here are your Friday YA-related links, and some sundry items I felt like adding:

You can nominate your favorite (recent) YA book for the Cybils—check it out here.

At Teenreads, there are several contests to win books (you have to scroll down a bit to get to that part). Penguin also has a contest where you can win some classic books, more on that here. And who doesn’t love a contest, right?

A recent report found that teens, women, and seniors are adopting mobile the fastest, read more in this article. There was a comment in there by Chris Quick, client services manager (mobile media), suggesting that us women find mobile connectivity handy so we can improve our shopping, and plan tonight’s dinner. I’ll try not to be offended by that.

If you’re between 13 and 24 and would like to share your opinion on all things youth culture, YPulse is looking to add 10 people to their advisory board.

From the Publisher’s Marketplace news page: reviewing bloggers now have to disclose if they got a book for free. Read about this new FTC ruling here. This one has got all my online groups buzzing, and not the happy kind of buzz.

Publishers Weekly reports that Robin Brande’s Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature was optioned by producer Diana Ossana (of Brokeback Mountain). Sounds like this could be an interesting movie.

For you writers with a finished manuscript (you know who you are), author Kat Richardson has a detailed and very informative blog post on how to find the right agent.

And under the department Did We Really Need a Poll to Prove This?: whatever is the most annoying word in America.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Diary of a Witness

After hearing about it at FiveAwesomeYAFans, I read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s Diary of a Witness. The cover is really nice (you can see it here), simple and foreboding, which made me hope that maybe this was a mystery.

It was not. It was a real page-turner all the same though, so I thought I would tell you what this book is all about. Our main character is Ernie, who is an outcast in high school. His only friend is Will, and together, they manage to survive the bullying in their high school.

Until a fishing trip, where Will’s little brother dies in a freak accident. At first, his schoolmates avoid Will, but then the taunting starts, playing on Will’s guilt about his role in his brother’s death. And for the duration of the story, we watch Will tick like a time bomb, until the inevitable ending (which I won’t give away).

Meanwhile, Ernie struggles to lose weight (while his Mom orders pizza and cooks mac and cheese), but finds refuge in visiting his uncle’s cabin. Uncle Max also gives Will advice when figuring out what to do to help Will.

This book was nicely paced, with impressive detailing when it came to the fishing chapters. The characters were vivid, from the bullies, to Will as the broken kid nobody could fix, and especially Ernie. Ernie’s struggle with his weight felt very honest and real, particularly in his struggle to tell his mother about his wish to lose weight.

There are two things I wish had been different in this story. First, I wish Ernie had been a little less of a hero from the beginning. At the end of the book, Ernie sees his best friend Will as he is—but that wasn’t all that much of a change from the beginning. Ernie saves his friend twice. I think Ernie’s inner journey would have been more compelling had he decided to not save his friend the first time around. Second, I wish the adults wouldn’t have been so great throughout the story. With the exception of Will’s parents (who were almost over-the-top lousy), all adults are sympathetic to Will and Ernie’s plight, to the point that I wish this was a little less so. The reality is that a lot of us rather look away, since it's so difficult to stop bullying.

Aside from these objections, I thought Diary of a Witness was a great read, and one I recommend. Final wish: there should be more books that shine a bright light on the effects of bullying like this one did.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cat Strike


“Dude, did you eat the last of the kibbles?”

“Uhm, no. Okay, maybe.”

“Dangit. I’m hungry. Now I’ll have to be nice to The One Who Brings Us Food.”

“Sorry. I was upset. You know I like to eat when I get stressed.”

“Don’t give me your excuses. Help me out here, man. She has no idea we’re out of food—this could take hours! And I’m late for a nap.”

“We can call her.”

“That never works. She just pets us, and I hate that.”

“Let’s go over to that room she sits in all the time. We can sit in front of that screen she’s always looking at. That'll get her attention.”

“Brilliant. Let’s go.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Links

For the latest and greatest in all things YA (plus some detours), here are your Friday links:

People unfamiliar with YA often ask me what the deal is with these teen books, and why there’s even a whole section for teens now. Note that most of these people are adults… I usually encourage them to read some of my YA favorites, but here’s a good (oldy but goody) Writer’s Digest link about the genre, and what gives.

In honor of banned books week, read one of these children’s books. I mean, how can you not like Captain Underpants?

Stolen from the Publishers Marketplace news page: Sourcebooks starts a new YA imprint called Fire with books out in Spring 2010; read all about it here.

At FiveAwesomeYAFans (they are pretty awesome), Catherine Ryan Hyde has been blogging the month of September away, some about her book Diary of a Witness, which is on my (dangerously toppling) to-read pile. If you sign up at this group, come be my friend? I’m all lonesome.

Meredith at YPulse interviews author Libba Bray of Going Bovine—not a mystery, but still sounds like an interesting book. Ms. Bray is also part of a chat this month over at readergirlz.

For you children’s writers who want feedback on your work: agent Mary Kole at Andrea Brown will take your query letter in this contest. The winner gets a critique of the first 30 pages of their manuscript—sounds like a sweet deal.

Live in the Colorado Springs area? Check out the Authorfest of the Rockies this Friday and Saturday at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs.

And if you’re a writer, editor, or someone else in publishing, and live in New York, consider this charity organization: Girls Write Now. It sounds like a really cool way to give back, and who can’t use a little good karma, right?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Operation Yes

To back up my goal of joining this millennium and get with it techno-wise, I followed a TweetChat yesterday. It was a back-and-forth between editor Cheryl Klein and author Sara Lewis Holmes—these ladies worked on Ms. Lewis Holmes' book Operation Yes together, so I was very interested to learn more about that.

A TweetChat, I learned, moves superfast, but the cool part here was that I got to ask questions, listen to a discussion, and all without leaving my comfy computer chair and cat on the lap. Pretty awesome, I think.

Anyway, the transcript of this TweetChat is on Sara Lewis Holmes’ blog, so you can get the lowdown on her new book, and a contest she’s running. You can win a signed copy of Operation Yes if you write the winning Jody call. What’s a Jody call, you ask? Well, you can find out here and get the skinny on this contest. This book sounds great; I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy for my daughter and me to enjoy while Dad’s deployed.

And I’m still pretty proud of myself for following a TweetChat. I didn’t even know such a thing existed two days ago.