Thursday, June 30, 2011

THE MERMAID'S MIRROR by L.K. Madigan


For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.



Lena has lived her whole life near the beach — walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves — the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching.

As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf.

But her father — a former surfer himself — refuses to allow her to take lessons. After his near drowning years ago, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport.

Yet something keeps drawing Lena to the water . . . an ancient, powerful magic. And one morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman — with a silvery tail.

Now nothing can stop Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

And soon . . . what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life forever.

From Goodreads



Reading THE MERMAID’S MIRROR was a hard experience for me. I bought the book when it came out last year and put off reading it because I like to savor my mermaid novels at my leisure. This past January, author L.K. Madigan announced that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer. On February 23, 2011, she departed from our world and made her way into another. Now I had a new reason to put off reading this book. Once it was done, there would be nothing new to read. This was Madigan’s second novel. Her first, FLASH BURNOUT, won the 2010 William C. Morris Debut Award. She had a stunning career ahead of her. THE MERMAID’S MIRROR itself is, at times, a sad book. Madigan had an uncanny way of twisting a reader’s emotions around and leaving shades of gray in her wake. There is no black and white. Turning the last page and reading the author’s note and acknowledgements made me sad all over. Even the book’s cover is stormy and sad, the sea rough and turbulent. The very book mourns its maker. Suddenly, symbolism is prevalent in ways no one could have foreseen.

Mixing between contemporary and fantasy, THE MERMAID’S MIRROR is a unique blend of two worlds that don’t normally collide. The first half of the book focuses on Lena, a girl whose mother passed away when she was four years old. Her father remarried when she was about nine, and she has a young half-brother named Cole. She’s relatively happy with life: She’s had the same two best friends since sixth-grade, Pem and Kai, and recently begun dating Kai. The only thing that would make life complete is being able to surf and be one with the ocean. Her dad, however, refuses to let her learn. He had a really bad accident earlier in life and refuses to ever go back in the water. He forbids Lena from surfing, much to her chagrin. On her sixteenth birthday when taking a morning walk along the ocean’s edge, Lena spies a mermaid in the water and her life changes forever. Determined to see the mermaid again and prove that she isn’t going crazy, Lena learns to surf behind her father’s back, hoping to get close to the mermaid again.

When Lena discovers an explosive secret that her family members have been keeping from her, she runs to the ocean that has always comforted her. The mermaid is there and takes her away to a world untouched by humans. The second half of the book focuses on mermaids and sea lore. Madigan blends selkie mythology into her mermaid world, adding in elements of forgetting that would make the goddess Lethe proud. The underwater world is rich and raw, depicting merfolk in their natural habitat. Human though they may look, they are still wild creatures with their own ways of life. Their world is stunning and one I wish to re-visit. Once in the sea, Lena forgets everything, even the faces of her loved ones. Nothing is important save for her presence. Her experience changes her and forces her to grow up in ways she never imagined. Lena must make a tough decision regarding whether to remain in her new home with merfolk she has come to care for or return to a place she can barely remember.

Our heroine can be self-absorbed and hard to connect with at times, but at others, her heart shines through and draws readers in. It is impossible not to like Lena as you follow her plight. She feels real and is the essence of many teenage girls who feel like they don’t quite belong in one world or another. It’s easy to emphasize with a lot of what she goes through. In her acknowledgements, Madigan talked about writing a sequel to the novel. Have no fear; the book has a natural closing point. There is no cliffhanger, no teasing hint of story curves ahead. This is good because there is closure, which is needed at the end of this turbulent book. At the same time, readers have become so invested in Lena and the world that Madigan has built that they won’t be ready to say goodbye come the last page, making the finale even more bittersweet. It is an honor to read THE MERMAID’S MIRROR and honor the memory of a shining writer who passed much too soon.

COVER DESIGN:

The cover for THE MERMAID’S MIRROR is well-suited to the story lying within on many levels. For one thing, the turbulent sea and stormy sky represent the turmoil hidden within Lena. She is torn in so many directions and feels lost. The book is a perfect representation. The cover also creates an aura of sadness, of loneliness, both feelings that Lena experiences. She often goes out to the beach and looks out into the sea, as the cover model is doing. I can picture Lena looking just like that. I also like the way the font used for the title isn’t perfect. It is jagged and marred, adding to the rough atmosphere of the cover image. The cover has a normal girl, not a mermaid. Even under the sea, Lena maintains a piece of her humanity. Despite the fantastic elements, the novel is still contemporary and the cover reflects the fact quite nicely.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Researching & Writing About Mermaids


For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.


For today’s feature, I thought it would be fun to focus on mermaids through the eyes of a writer. Every Wednesday, I post a progress report about my WIP through my Word Count Wednesdays feature. I’m always honored whenever you guys cheer me on with your kind words. You’re the best!

What you might not know is that I’m also writing a mermaid novel. Sort of. Not actively, not right now. I started it a NaNoWriMo or two ago and didn’t get very far. Then, I got to meet Liz Kessler (author of the middle-grade EMILY WINDSNAP series) at a local B&N and she gave me some excellent advice regarding world building. For example, I should probably go scuba-diving or snorkeling first and see the world through a mermaid’s eyes. She also said that I should watch a lot of underwater documentaries, which I’d never considered before.

In the meantime, I’ve been collecting mermaid books whenever I can find them, from seashell encyclopedia to folklore books to novels and picture books. In this video, I’ll be sharing some of my mermaid loot with you. Let me know if you want more info about any of the books you see. I’m way too lazy to list out everything pictured!

Here's what I think every mermaid writer should have (or just any mermaid lover!):


YouTube Link


Oh, and fish! I bought a beautiful betta fish. She doesn't photograph well through the glass in her dark corner, though. But I love to watch her swim! She gives me fun ideas for my mermaid tale all the time. ^_^

Have you ever written about mermaids...or considered doing so? What are your personal tools of the trade?

What about readers? What are some of your favorite mermaid books (and heck, movies!)

Word Count Wednesdays (14)



Word Count Wednesday is my way of sharing my weekly writing progress with you and holding myself accountable for not giving up.

So without further ado, this week's "Word Count" for Super-Secret Project/Codename: FIZZYPOP:
(Why Fizzypop? IDEK...it sounds fun!)



This week: 5.5 pages
Total to Date: 139.5? pages (Must have it all typed soon so I can give you REAL data!)
Start Date: March 2, 2011

How far is this in terms of a word count? I'm not sure. I get 150-400 words per page depending on how small I'm writing and/or how many cross-outs I have. (Plus, that gets me an extra round of editing!)



Not my best week, but in my defense, I’ve been sick. You might recall me hoping I wasn’t getting sick this time last week. I did. Whenever I was home, I curled up like a bum. I slept a lot more than usual and watched TV, which I rarely ever do.
I wrote the other morning and started a new scene that was a surprise even to me. I think it will be a nice one, though. Sometimes, I scribble thoughts or doodle sketches of what I’m seeing in the margins of my notebook. Here’s a random doodle from this week:



Just don’t laugh. It was seriously maybe a two-minute doodle that I didn’t spend any time on. But you can see that I’m working on another scene with my girl and her boy. They’re eating lunch by the lake and watching the ducks. It’s October and chilly, so she’s wearing his jacket around her shoulders. I haven’t gotten to that part of the scene, though, but the image of her in his jacket is what got me writing this scene in the first place. :) Now I just have to make time to write more!


That's how my week went! Do you have a WIP at the moment? What was your word count this week? To date? Let's support one another! This week, I hope you were as inspired as me!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter (Debut Author)


For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.


Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, LOST VOICES is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

From Goodreads

Sarah Porter was nice enough to do an interview with me in April for Fairy Tale Fortnight. If you missed it the first time around, check it out here. And stop back next Tuesday, July 5th. To celebrate LOST VOICES’ birthday, Sarah will return to A Backwards Story with a very special guest post and I’ll have other fun goodies to share with you!

Everyone who knows me knows that I love a good mermaid story. There’s something about the mystical beings that just fascinates me. Then again, maybe it’s just that I watched Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID movie and animated TV series and SABAN’S ADVENTURES OF THE LITTLE MERMAID series too many times as a kid. Or maybe I was a mermaid in a previous life. Who knows?

I’ve been looking forward to reading Sarah Porter’s debut novel, LOST VOICES, since I first heard about it. When an opportunity to read an early copy came my way, I didn’t hesitate. Sometimes, hype only leaves you disappointed. Not this time. Porter’s underwater world was so real, I couldn’t help but be drawn into it. Additionally, she creates her own universe and folklore. This story isn’t the sweet and happy world of mermaids you might be used to. The novel is heavy and gritty. Ariel would never survive among such mermaids. She’s too carefree. In Porter’s world, Ariel would never be a mermaid to begin with. Mermaids are girls who were once human, but died young with nothing in life to lose—girls who were beaten, raped, abandoned, etc. Luce, the novel’s main character, lost both her parents at an early age and must live with her uncle, a heavy drinker who does abysmal things while under the influence. After one such incident, Luce tries to escape his abuse, falls over a cliff, and the next thing she knows, she’s a mermaid.

In Porter’s world, however, being a mermaid isn’t all fun and games. These mermaids are females with chips on their shoulders and harbor no love for humankind. They have siren-like tendencies with beautiful, enthralling voices that lead sailors to their doom. They delight in shipwrecks, in bringing down one more man in the world who would harm an innocent girl. These are mermaids that travel in packs like wolves, their queen whoever has the most persuasive voice of all.

Luce finds herself in a world of mermaids smiling to her face, but talking about her behind her back, a situation reminiscent of school cliques everyone can identify with. She’s taken under Queen Catarina’s wing due to her extraordinarily beautiful voice, but even this liaison proves to be dangerous. Luce, still in touch with her humanity, hates bringing down ships and killing sailors. She believes humans aren’t all inherently evil, but is alone in her beliefs. Even as a mermaid, she finds herself alone on the outskirts, with no place she truly belongs.

I love how different Porter’s mermaid lore was, the way she merged old mythology with new. LOST VOICES is the type of book where I found myself re-reading various parts again and again. I can’t wait to re-read the book now that it’s been officially published and finalized. Even more, I’m eager to read the next part of Porter’s trilogy and see what obstacles and wonders she’ll introduce to us next. The summary for Book Two, WAKING STORMS, is already online and sounds even better than LOST VOICES. And, as you can see, LOST VOICES is pretty darn good, one of my favorite books of 2011. The final book in the series, THE TWICE LOST, is being written now. I want it already!

COVER DESIGN:

The cover is what first drew me to the book back in 2010. If there’s a mermaid on the cover, you know I’ll be right there snapping up the book. Last week, I finally had the opportunity to see the cover in person and it’s more gorgeous than I thought possible. The mermaid is overlaid with a silver sheen, so as you turn the book, it looks like the flash of silver on water when you’re out on the lake watching the fish go by. It’s the perfect touch. I made the mistake of pre-ordering my copy online, so it won’t ship out until the book actually releases despite being in stores early and I forgot to take pictures/video of the cover to post for you guys, so I’ll do that at a later time. But mark my words: This is one snazzy cover!




[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Welcome to Splash into Summer!


2011 is the Summer of Mermaids. (Not the RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, despite what the movie theaters might tell you...) Mermaids, I tell you, mermaids!

Look no further than at today’s release of FINS ARE FOREVER, the sequel to last year’s romantic hit FORGIVE MY FINS by Tera Lynn Childs. Next week, LOST VOICES finally arrives at bookstores across the nation. I’m so excited about both books that I launched a mermaid event around them! Why settle for two mermaids when you can play in the water for two whole weeks?

Splash into Summer will be jam-full of guest posts, author interviews, and giveaways, so make sure you check back every day!

Today, I finally get to share my thoughts on LOST VOICES with you. I loved this book so much that in early March, I launched a new blog feature, You’re Gonna LOVE Me, just to tell you how much you’ll enjoy it. It’s been TORTURE sitting on my review for so long.

I just got my hands on a copy of FINS ARE FOREVER yesterday and am already about halfway done, so while I can’t kick off the event with a review of the book that launched a thousand ships…er…or fourteen mermaids…, I WILL start this splash party with the review I’ve been promising you all this time: LOST VOICES!

The post will be dropping live in just…a couple…of minutes! The review is just to whet your appetite, of course. Join us on Tuesday, July 5th, as we celebrate LOST VOICE’s official birthday with a very special post from author Sarah Porter!

And stay tuned all week long for more Mermaid Madness!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mythological Mondays: ABANDON by Meg Cabot


Mythological Mondays is a feature I created to spotlight books brimming with--you guessed it--mythology! I adore this sub-genre and can't wait to share my love with all of my fellow bookworms! This feature isn't just focused on novel reviews; it may also include interviews, looks at original mythological tales, etc. Please feel free to do this with me! If you guys ever do a mythological feature and want to join this and snag my lovely mermaid, I would LOVE to see the feature. I’ve even included a Linkbox for you. It doesn’t have to be Greek mythology, or even mythology per say. It can be mermaids, unicorns, or heck, even fairy tales (because I’m too lazy to do a separate fairy tale feature…). It doesn’t even have to be every Monday. I’m sure there will be Mondays when I skip, too. ^_^








Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.


From Goodreads



I love Greek Mythology. Obviously, right? Why else would Mythological Mondays exist? I also love Meg Cabot, whether she’s writing for teens or adults. I’ve been reading her for years and always rejoice when I see a new book with her name slapped on it. (This isn’t to say I’ve read or enjoyed every single book written by her, but I can claim to own a good selection of her novels.) How excited was I when I heard that her latest novel was not only teen fiction, but based around the story of Persephone and Hades? You guessed it: I couldn’t contain myself.

While I enjoy Cabot’s work, the only series by her that had me salivating for the next book and the one after THAT was her teen series AIRHEAD. Her books are getting better and more adrenaline-filled. Is that possible? It must be. Sometimes, I miss the humor infused in her old books (we totally passed my [then new] copy of SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT around the Residence Life Office back when I was a Resident Assistant and were rolling in the aisles with laughter). But I can’t say that I dislike where she’s going. Especially if she’s writing about mythology.

That said, ABANDON starts out slow. It’s the first in a trilogy and Cabot is setting up the world for readers. There’s not as much interaction between the two main characters as readers would like in the first book. With Cabot’s wonderful way of writing romance, I was surprised at the lack of scenes the two main characters have together. At the same time, it leaves a lot of anticipation for books two and three. Things can only get better. Cabot is going to slam us with a one-two punch in the next go-round. I know that, so I forgive her for holding out on us right now. She has a vision and will make it worth our while. You just wait. Just don’t going into ABANDON expecting a full-blown romance. The decision to contain the romance and let it blossom is a smart one. Cabot is basing her retelling of Persephone and Hades on the original tale, where Persephone is in the Underworld against her will. Love won’t come immediately, but must take root and unfurl over time. Plus, it’s a refreshing change from all the teen romance novels cluttering the market full of insta-love right now. You know the ones. The couple meets and is instantly head over heels in TRUE LOVE. Yeah, no. Love isn’t like that. Lust, yes. Love, no. Cabot is going to take her time and develop the romance right. I can appreciate that.

ABANDON also relies on flashbacks to tell many important events. Over time, I wish there were fewer of these, but they are important for development and, again, books two and three will only move forward from here. The way Cabot modernizes the famous Greek myth and brings it into today’s world is the novel’s heart. Pierce is our Persephone character, and actually met John Hayden at her father’s funeral when she was still a child. He performed a magic trick and brought a bird back to life for her. He also shows up again when she’s older through events that are revealed through a series of flashbacks. He’s always there when something is going horribly wrong in Pierce’s life, though she was never really aware of him until the day she died. And no, that’s not a spoiler. Readers find out from the start that Pierce has had a NDE (Near-Death Experience). This connects her to the Underworld in a way she never thought possible—and now that she’s returned to life, Death wants her back. After something goes wrong and Pierce is kicked out of school, she moves to Isla Huesos (Island of Bones) where her mother grew up. The same island where she met the mysterious man who brought a bird back to life in the cemetery for as a child. Fate is forcing Pierce and John to once again cross paths—whether Pierce wants to see him again or not.

I, personally, can’t wait to read UNDERWORLD in 2012 and see the mythology really come to life. I have a feeling that the middle book in the trilogy will be meaty and fulfilling (and yeah, it will probably have a horrendous cliffhanger to boot). If you like mythology, you won’t want to miss the ABANDON trilogy.


COVER DESIGN

ABANDON is beautiful both inside and out. Elizabeth B. Parisi and Kristina Iulo put together one sharp-looking book. First, let’s look at the book’s exterior:


I love all the gold foil and the dotted pattern snaking around. On first glance, you think, “Oh, great, another book with a dead or sleeping girl in a pretty dress on the cover. Jump on the bandwagon much?” Upon closer inspection, there’s so much more at play. The hand splayed above the model’s head is caked in dirt, as is her dress. Look closely: That pure-white silk has been soiled. It’s impossible to see unless you’re really LOOKING. Same with her hand. The dirt is deftly added and brings atmosphere to the cover. Plus, all the luxurious gold surrounding her really pops against the dark background. I also like how the cover continues around the spine and back. The subtext on the front states, “She knows what it’s like to die” and when you flip to the back, the message continues with an ominous, “Now Death wants her back.” How cool and creepy is that?

But you know what my favorite thing about the cover is? The “A” in ABANDON:


How gorgeous is that? I love that it takes on a straight, dripping line, unlike the curves of the swirls everywhere else. It’s unique and it stands out.

Next, let’s remove the cover (Oh, kinky!):


I love that the gold embossing continues and that there is an engraved flourish that matches ones from the inside design.

The inner cover also has the flourish imprinted on both the front interior and back interior pages that look like this:


I love that the color is rich and blends well with all the exterior’s gold. It looks very lush, don’t you think? Almost like expensive wallpaper!

And the inside: Oh, the inside!

The title page is, once again, beautiful:


I like that this time, the background is black, reflecting all the black from the cover’s background.

Finally, the beginning of each and every chapter looks like this:


I love that the flourishes continue throughout the book. ABANDON has, in my opinion, one of the best overall designs of 2011. It still can’t beat WITHER by Lauren DeStefano (design gushing here and here), which has been touched on every. single. page.
...But it comes pretty darn close!

Cover Crazy: COLD AWAKENING Trilogy by Robin Wasserman



Cover Crazy is hosted by The Book Worms. Each week, bloggers "admire the art and beauty of a book’s design, so I’m going to post minimal words. It is up to you to write how you feel and what you like about it the way you’d like to."





Why I Love This Cover:


While these covers don’t make a ton of sense on their own, together they make a striking image. I haven’t actually read Robin Wasserman’s SKINNED trilogy yet. I’ve picked it up at the bookstore several times and put it down again. I’ve checked the books out from the library a couple of times and, sadly, had to return them unread.

With the big explosion in dystopian fiction these days, the trilogy has been repackaged AND retitled. It’s now the COLD AWAKENING trilogy, and the books SKINNED, CRASHED, and WIRED will be called FROZEN, SHATTERED, and TORN come October.

The original covers always reminded me a lot of the design for Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES quartet which, ironically, also received a massive series re-design (albeit with the original book titles intact).

I have no clue whether these covers and titles work better with the contents of the series or not. But how gorgeous is this design? I so think I might wait until the fall to read this version because it’s so shiny! ^^;;



What do you think about all the cover repackaging on older series going on right now?

What cover are you crazy about this week?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins


Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

From Goodreads

If you’re thinking that ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins sounds silly or trite, push that thought out of your head right now. This book is not whatever you’re thinking it is—and I bet I was thinking the same thing you were when I first heard about it. After all, the book has been out for close to a year now and despite all the rave reviews I’ve read, I just...had no interest in reading this book. It sounded like a straight-forward romance. I mean, it has “kiss” in the title. (When sold at auction, the book was titled ANNA AND THE BOY MASTERPIECE, which isn’t much better...) The cover is so light and breezy. You would think this is a straightforward romance for teens, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This book will defy every one of your expectations going into it. It’s not even about French kissing. I mean, sure, there are characters that make-out, but this book is not about a girl obsessed with kissing a cute boy. Yes, it’s about falling in love for the first time, but it’s also so much more. I picked this book up before going to bed thinking it would put me to sleep. I was up late finishing this book and bleary-eyed for work in the morning!

The novel revolves around a girl named Anna, whose father decides to ship her off to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. She’s forced to leave her mother and brother, as well as her friends and the boy she was about to start dating. Not only that, Anna doesn’t speak a word of French. She’s dreading the year to come and furious at her father. Anna is fortunate in that she makes friends with Meredith, her new next-door neighbor, and immediately has a circle of people to make friends with. This includes, of course, Étienne St. Claire, a swoon-worthy male she stands no chance with. He already has a girlfriend, for one thing. For another, he only sees her as a friend. The heart of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is in the way Perkins builds her character relationships, not just between Anna and Étienne, but everyone else as well. The friendships are solid; readers will wish they had been part of such a close-knit group in school. The author has a way of creating moments that will break your heart, ones that will make you go back and re-read certain passages after finishing the book (Hands up if you did. Don’t be shy! I did, too...), ones that hover as delicately as a butterfly, making you want to stay on that one page forever. The characterization reminds me a lot of UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand, another book that took me by surprise this year. I’m a sucker for well-written characters that have me rooting for everyone, even minor characters.

The best thing about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is that it has no cliffhanger ending. It’s not part of a series designed to leave you hanging between books. Granted, you’ll still want to know what happens to various characters, but Perkins has stated that we’ll be seeing cameos in this fall’s LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Sept. 29, 2011), and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Fall 2012). I cannot wait to read both of these, as well as any other books Perkins writes in the future. I tend to like books that take place at boarding schools—and ones with boys who live next door, so these books are win/win for me!

COVER DESIGN

I love the colors in this cover. I like that the designer didn’t go with a bubble-gum pink cover that screams chick-lit. The only bubble gum is in the “and the” part of the title, surrounded by a pale green mirrored by the grass. I like that the Eiffel Tower is in the background, letting readers know the book takes place in France. I also appreciate the way you can’t see Étienne’s face, which allows readers to envision him in whatever their own definition of “hot” is. The cover and title do scream romance, which threw me off this fantastic book for the better part of a year. Don’t make the same mistake I did. READ THIS BOOK!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Word Count Wednesdays (13)



Word Count Wednesday is my way of sharing my weekly writing progress with you and holding myself accountable for not giving up.

So without further ado, this week's "Word Count" for Super-Secret Project/Codename: FIZZYPOP:
(Why Fizzypop? IDEK...it sounds fun!)



This week: 14 pages
Total to Date: 134? pages (Must have it all typed soon so I can give you REAL data!)
Start Date: March 2, 2011

How far is this in terms of a word count? I'm not sure. I get 150-400 words per page depending on how small I'm writing and/or how many cross-outs I have. (Plus, that gets me an extra round of editing!)




Big news, bookworms: I ran out of pages in my notebook! True story! I filmed it to show you, too, because this is totally a momentous occasion:


(Youtube Link)

My Soul Twin Ashley helped me yet again this week. I was trying to figure out what my MC was reading in class, and I was looking for something specific. It ties in to the third major event in the story (which I had still be scrambling to figure out). I was talking to Ashley on the phone and I completely misheard her suggestion. (As some of you know, I'm slightly hearing-impaired.) ANYWAY, because I misheard her, I came up with an author that's just PERFECT. Ash started mentioning a scene from the text that would fit in perfectly and I knew it was just right.

I got so excited, you guys! Everything is finally coming together. And now I have all of my major events planned out (I think...still not 100% sold on the climax just yet).


For those of you wondering about the writing life, here's a sample of how ideas come and go:

On Thursday morning, I got the idea for the third big event. I was THRILLED, because it tied in to something that happened in the second chapter, which I wrote *forever* ago. I knew that it was perfect and just what I needed, though it wasn't the type of event I was initially going to go with.

Anyway, I start writing like crazy (Not THAT EVENT, of course, but more of Chapter Eight. I'm putting in events that will lead up to the big one and make it seem more natural when it occurs later). I had to be at work that morning, so at 9:30 am, I make my way over to work. All day long, all I want to do is write. ALL DAY. But I worked until 6 p.m. And then I went out to dinner. And then to the movies. I had been up ridiculously early and was beyond exhausted when I got home. No energy to write.

So the next day, I forget if I was working late, or not working at all... Anyway, I had all this free time to write, and what do I do? I write a page and a half. Yeah... That's how flimsy a writing muse can be. You can be so psyched and want to write so badly, but there are times it just won't come...and other times when the urge is inappropriate.

I got a little more out this week, but I'd been hoping for a slightly better week after that burst of inspiration hit. Today, I started to write, then thought, "Let me turn on the PS3 and see if there was a good update yesterday. No? Let me play one game of Critter Crunch. Just...one...game.... I can so do better than Level 10! Rematch!" (Repeat) And then I wanted to eat. And then I wanted to do nothing. I finally started writing again an hour or so ago. *rolls eyes at self* Maybe this coming week will be better...

I'm excited, though. My goal was to at least fill my notebook this week, and I did that. And then a few pages. ^___^


That's how my week went! Do you have a WIP at the moment? What was your word count this week? To date? Let's support one another! This week, I hope you were as inspired as me!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Splash into Summer!

Welcome to Summer, bookworms! (Or welcome to Winter if you’re a friend across the world!)

Today marks the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year.

It also marks the season for PLAYING. For water babies like myself, an ocean or pool is never close enough. I seriously think I must have been a mermaid in a previous life.

Speaking of mermaids…

I have a special surprise for you!





Splash into Summer? What’s this? I’ll tell you! It should come as no surprise to longtime friends that I love mermaids. LOVE. As in, I have mermaids all over my writing room (which has an ocean theme) and a bajillion Ariel knickknacks to boot. As in, I collect every mermaid book I can get my hands on, even picture books. As in, I’m writing my own mermaid novel (well, it’s on hiatus atm, but it still counts) to one day share with all of you. As in, mermaids RULE!

What better time to celebrate mermaids than summer? I recently received my promotional kit as an official FINS ARE FOREVER Splash Team member and was thinking of how best to spread the word.

FINS ARE FOREVER comes out next week, June 28th. I thought it would be fun to have a week celebrating the release of both this and LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter, which comes out July 4th (but may be available at your local bookstore NOW, since it released early). Then, I decided that I had way too much mermaid material for just one week and expanded it to two, taking a tip from Fairy Tale Fortnight.

For two weeks, come celebrate mermaids, whether it’s winter or summer where you live. Splash into Summer runs from June 28th to July 12th. There will be author interviews, guest posts, giveaways, reviews, and more! Now is the time to celebrate mermaids, especially with so many new novels about them coming out.


What’s more fun than an ocean of mermaids? YOU! Shoot abackwardsstory (at) gmail (dot) com an email if you’d like to participate. Guest posts, reviews, you name it. If you’d like to take part, just let me know within the next week or so!
Even if you can’t participate, I’d love to have you help spread the word. I’ve created fun little buttons to share on your own blogs and/or websites. (And let me tell you, after spending HOURS on the design, I have a newfound respect for font designers. It’s hard work...and I wasn’t even designing a full alphabet! RESPECT to everyone who is a font designer!!)

If you leave me the links to where you’ve placed the buttons, tweet about Splash into Summer, link on Facebook, blog, etc. now (and/or throughout the event), you’ll get extra entries in any giveaway you enter during the event! How’s that for incentive?




Please help me make this event the best it can be. The mermaids deserve their day, too. Sorry vampires and werewolves and fairies. It’s time for some beings who really know how to make a SPLASH!

(I don't know WHAT Blogger's problem is today. It blew up the previews for both widgets, even though they're set at 200p and 400p. Using the exact same html on my mirror site, the images look perfect. I don't understand? Are you seeing this on your computer? Is it just me? Snag the images from the mirror site if this continues to be an issue, or just right-click and save the medium or small image (also click for direct links to image), then manually upload them (though I hate to make you do an extra step). Those blurry blow-ups are just YUCK. *kicks Blogger*





If anyone knows what went wrong, please send me an email or comment. Because I don't know! It's seriously working just fine on LiveJournal...)




Small Widget:





Splash into Summer!
<div align="center"><a href="http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com/2011/06/splash-into-summer_21.html" title="Splash into Summer!"><img src="http://i269.photobucket.com/albums/jj80/abackwardsstory/splashintosummer200shiny.png" alt="Splash into Summer!" style="border:none;" /></a></div>




Medium Widget:





Splash into Summer with A Backwards Story

<div align="center"><a href="http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com/2011/06/splash-into-summer_21.html" title="Splash into Summer with A Backwards Story" target="_blank"><img src="http://i269.photobucket.com/albums/jj80/abackwardsstory/splashintosummer400shiny.png" alt="Splash into Summer with A Backwards Story" style="border:none;" /></a></div>


All you have to do is copy the above HTML from either button and paste it into your blog. When you post, it SHOULD look like this:









Thanks for helping me spread the word!















Monday, June 20, 2011

NHYA: INVISIBLE GIRL VS DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS



Nerds Heart YA is in its third year and seeks to bring books rarely blogged about more attention. According to the site, "the contest focuses specifically on books that in some way represent groups of people who are typically under represented in YA fiction."

All YA novels published in 2010 with few blogger reviews can be considered so long as a character (or the novel's author) falls into one of the following seven categories:

•Person(s) of Color (POC)
•GLBT
•Disability
•Mental Illness
•Religious Lifestyle
•Lower Socioeconomic Status
•Plus-size

The First Round of Judging commenced on June 13th and runs until June 29th, followed by the Second Round. Visit Nerds Heart YA to keep up with what books are still in the running!

A Backwards Story and We're Not Butterflies... teamed up to decide which of the following two titles would move on to Round Two, INVISIBLE GIRL by Mary Hanlon Stone or DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu.

Both books deal with abusive relationships. Read on to find out our decision!




LEGEND:

RED = We're Not Butterflies...
PURPLE = A Backwards Story
Black = Everything Else!



EXPECTATIONS:

WNB: I honestly thought that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was a silly title. That kind of turned me off... But I did like the cover image. I have the paperback.

ABS: I thought the title for DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS sounded too much like PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. I didn’t expect much from the title, to be honest.

ABS: I thought INVISIBLE GIRL was going to be more of a beach read based on the cover despite the hard-hitting issues lying within.

WNB: I was hoping INVISIBLE GIRL would be more feminist-y. I thought it was going to be more of an exploration of socio-economic status based on the cover synopsis and the descriptions of the golden CA imagery and the dirty, skinny, poor imagery of Stephanie's home life.



PLOT:


WNB: With INVISIBLE GIRL, I thought the beginning struggles with her mom were intense and horrifying. I thought her dad was a BIG wimpy loser for sending her to CA. After CA, I thought the mean girl seemed a lot like Regina in MEAN GIRLS. I thought the drinking beer/making out with the dude/barfing scene was weak.

ABS: I agree. The opening for INVISIBLE GIRL was so intense. The imagery with Stephanie curled in the closet with her childhood NANCY DREW novels and soiled pants really got to me. I thought this book was going to pack a huge punch, but the emotions fizzled when she moved to CA. The focus was more on her fitting in and less on all her emotional scars.

WNB: Yeah, and fitting in in a REALLY lame, already-been-done-a-lot way. It didn't seem realistic that she would want to be friends with those people no matter how sucky her life had been.

ABS: All the focus on fitting in made the book seem ordinary, like something I'd read before. Stephanie just happened to have an abusive mom. It was more about fitting in around rich, mean, snobby girls.

WNB: In DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, I loved the reality of Lucy’s feelings about her mom. I loved how she described the house and tried so hard not just to avoid her life but to change what she could about things.

ABS: I loved that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS occurred over such a short period of time. It made all of Lucy's decisions harder. She was a scared teenager in a situation no one should have to go through. She loved her mom, but was embarrassed, too. It was easy to sympathize with her.

WNB: I really like how the author acknowledged things like how the character was worried how she smelled after living in a dirty house and how she valued hot showers, but didn't harp on these things and make it seem like she felt sorry for herself.

ABS:
It felt like she really explored the issue of children whose parents are extreme hoarders and focused on the impact such a disorder would have on a family. I wish there had been more of this type of focus in INVISIBLE GIRL.



CHARACTERS:


WNB: In DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, the relationships between the family such as the sister blaming her siblings for various events and the brother in denial all seemed possible.

ABS: I liked the way C.J. Omololu created such an introspective narrative that focused internally on Lucy's struggle. It never felt overdone or boring. She had just the right mixture of external events.

ABS: And the way her sister was turning into a younger version of her mother was scary! I also liked the focus on her friends, classmates, and neighbors. It revealed so much about Lucy and her situation.

WNB: It was. I really liked how the romantic interest was dealt with. It was subtle and seemed healthy, like two kids liked each other and wanted to spend more time together, but it forced Lucy to really look hard at her issues. I think was a really important catalyst for her development and rebellion against her mom's illness.

ABS: For INVISIBLE GIRL, I honestly have trouble remembering a lot of the characters now. I hate how Stephanie's dad just shipped her across the country (even though she had all those uncles). It was never really explained why she had to move so far. Stephanie felt like such a burden, and all it did was hinder her more.

WNB: I hated the shitty, wimpy dad, the intense mom and the Carson Drew dad in L.A., the lawyer. I really thought the lawyer was another person who totally failed Stephanie especially when she wanted so badly to respect him.

ABS: I agree. At first, I thought he was going to be a fantastic role model for Stephanie, and then after the briefcase incident, he did a complete 180. I felt bad for Stephanie; she had no one to turn to.

ABS: I loved how terrified we were of Stephanie's mother in the beginning and wish there had been tighter character development throughout.

WNB: Yeah, the beginning descriptions of Stephanie's mom were really great. Those are the characters Stone should have stuck with. I think the uncles would have been a more interesting choice as well. As for the adoptive family... All the people in LA were jerks. I am really relieved that she finally found Amal. Although Amal's character seemed really childish and the ending of finding Amal's family as allies seemed really sudden and a pat solution to Stephanie's problems.



WRITING/PACING:


ABS: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS takes place over the course of about a day. The writing is tight and the events are so horrible that they compel you to keep reading to see what happens next. The end of the book has a drop, but Omololu posted an “aftermath” chapter online here (but DON’T read it unless you’ve read DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS).

WNB: I thought INVISIBLE GIRL was really choppy. It was hard to keep track of the days and nights; they all looked really similar. The book spanned summer and the start of school during the fall semester.



ENDING:


WNB: I thought the ending of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was great. While it left one wanting to know more... the catastrophe couldn't have been a more causational end to the situation.

ABS: I didn't buy the ending of INVISIBLE GIRL. It felt too tidy. I think it's because the book had pacing issues and took place over such a long period of time. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, however, had that drop, so I was really happy to see Omololu post the extra chapter online. I was hoping for a sequel until I saw that!

WNB: The end of INVISIBLE GIRL was definitely too tidy. It did offer relief from the horrors of Stephanie's life and while I was glad for that, I didn't really believe it. I remember thinking that I was glad that she found one person in her life that she could trust. I related to that part a lot because I teach high school girls and hopefully get to be that person for some of them.




And the winner that will be moving on to Round Two of Nerds Heart YA?




DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu. Congratulations! Keep score of what books move on at the OFFICIAL SITE.







WNB: Thanks to Nerds Heart YA and our sponsors! This was my first time judging and it was a really fun excuse to buy and read MORE books!


ABS: I really enjoyed participating in this year's Nerds Heart YA Tournament and can't wait to see who makes it into the final rounds. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is *my* dirty little secret and I hope it makes it all the way through! Thanks to everyone who took the time to read our post!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Are you ready, are you ready, are you ready...?



The countdown is on, bookworms!


Back in February, I mentioned that I had been chosen as a First Round Judge for the Nerds Heart YA 2011 Award.

First Round Winners are being announced from June 13th to 29th here. Tomorrow, on June 20th, check back right here as my co-judge from We're Not Butterflies... and I reveal the next book to move on to the Second Round.

Yes, you finally get to see the super-secret books I wouldn't talk about! And let me just say: The winning entry is really, REALLY good. Couldn't put it down good. Still with me over a month later good. I can't wait to share it with you, so come back tomorrow :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

THE HUNGER GAMES: "I Wanna Go"

Have you guys seen this hilarious music video spoofing a Britney Spears song and the love triangle that is Katniss/Peeta/Gale? It's HILARIOUS. Peeing-In-Your-Pants-Hysterical. Starring, who else? Katniss and her boys! WARNING: The new lyrics are catchy and you might find yourself singing this song later!

Seriously, check it out:


(A special thanks to Aimee Carter, author of THE GODDESS TEST, for first tweeting about this video!)






Sorry I haven't been around much this week, everyone. I've been working a lot...and writing a LOT in my spare time. Having a good week! I have to get ready for work soon, but I'll try to get something up tonight or tomorrow morning before work.

Also, I'm going to be postponing my review of ABANDON *AGAIN* because I'll have TWO very special reviews on the blog Monday. Or maybe I'll still do it. I don't know. Do you ever feel overwhelmed when one blog has a ton of posts in one day? I sometimes do! I try not to do it to you, though I know sometimes I have a lot going on...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word Count Wednesdays (12)



Word Count Wednesday is my way of sharing my weekly writing progress with you and holding myself accountable for not giving up.

So without further ado, this week's "Word Count" for Super-Secret Project/Codename: FIZZYPOP:
(Why Fizzypop? IDEK...it sounds fun!)



This week: 14 pages
Total to Date: 120? pages (Must have it all typed soon so I can give you REAL data!)
Start Date: March 2, 2011

How far is this in terms of a word count? I'm not sure. I get 150-400 words per page depending on how small I'm writing and/or how many cross-outs I have. (Plus, that gets me an extra round of editing!)




I finished the major scene I’ve been working on for a while ago and brought chapter seven to a conclusion. I also got to explore the first major romantic scene, which was harder to write than I thought it would be. It didn’t go at all the way I envisioned it would. Now, I’m slipping into Chapter Eight and still trying to figure out how to build the bridge to the next upcoming major scene.

I also think I might have an idea for the climax I’ve been groaning about thanks to Ashley, my Soul Twin with the Magic Glue (whose blog you should all be reading. Because, um, she’s my *soul twin,* which means we like the same stuff! And you like what I do, right? So you’ll like her, too. ^.~) Anyway, the idea involves a lot of research and a delicate touch. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s the right path to take a little later. I’m still not that close to the conclusion yet.

Only a few more pages and I’ll have filled up an entire notebook with my scribbling. Today, I started carrying around Notebook #2—Just in case. I have to hurry up and type everything, though. This way I can throw it onto my nook and just check it like an ebook when I need to refer to something instead of dragging around a second notebook! If I have a good writing week, I’ll hit this milestone and be crowing next week!


That's how my week went! Do you have a WIP at the moment? What was your word count this week? To date? Let's support one another! This week, I hope you were as inspired as me!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

COVER CRAZY: Elemental Reality by Cesya Cuono




Cover Crazy is hosted by The Book Worms. Each week, bloggers "admire the art and beauty of a book’s design, so I’m going to post minimal words. It is up to you to write how you feel and what you like about it the way you’d like to."




Why I Love This Cover:


Last week, Laura from All of Everything used the cover for ELEMENTAL REALITY as her Cover Crazy. I really liked the cover and had never heard of the book before. So this week, I’m totally stealing this cover for my own post! :)

I love the paranormal colors dancing around. What is going on? I must know more! And the model’s expression! She’s basking beneath those pretty lights. What magic is this? She makes it look like the best feeling in the world, though. I want what she’s having!
I also love the way the title is alive and looks like it will ZAP you if you reach out to touch it. And doesn’t that sky with those dark clouds and the blue sky and sun rays peeping through just scream atmosphere? Yes, yes, it does.


What do you think? What cover are you crazy about this week?


[ELEMENTAL REALITY is scheduled to launch August 11, 2011!]

MYTHOLOGICAL MONDAYS: AIDA, the Egyptian ROMEO & JULIET



Mythological Mondays is a feature I created to spotlight books brimming with--you guessed it--mythology! I adore this sub-genre and can't wait to share my love with all of my fellow bookworms! This feature isn't just focused on novel reviews; it may also include interviews, looks at original mythological tales, etc. Please feel free to do this with me! If you guys ever do a mythological feature and want to join this and snag my lovely mermaid, I would LOVE to see the feature. I’ve even included a Linkbox for you. It doesn’t have to be Greek mythology, or even mythology per say. It can be mermaids, unicorns, or heck, even fairy tales (because I’m too lazy to do a separate fairy tale feature…). It doesn’t even have to be every Monday. I’m sure there will be Mondays when I skip, too. ^_^






So I’m postponing the review of Meg Cabot’s ABANDON again. Poor book must REALLY feel abandoned now. ^^; And it shouldn’t, because I really enjoyed it! I even have the review written. But since I’ve already posted a review for today’s blog tour event, I figured two might be overkill. I don’t want to wear you guys out!

For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that last night I was geeking out as I watched the Tony Awards. I *love* musicals. One of my favorites has mythological elements in it, so today, we’ll focus on that instead.

But did anyone else see the Tonys? Allow me a second to spaz out on you. ^_^ For me, the Top 3 Moments of the Night were:

1) Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris breaking out into a medley of various Broadway songs and trying to outdo each other in spectacular “Anything You Can Do” (from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN) fashion. Two of my favorite actors together on stage? Yes, please! I’ve been lucky enough to see both men live on Broadway. So I can die happy, yes? Check out the video if you missed the performance (or just want to watch again)!

2) Sutton Foster winning her second Tony Award for her performance in ANYTHING GOES (which I MUST see this summer, since I was unable to go in March at the last minute). I’ve been a fan of Sutton’s since the very beginning and been lucky enough to see her THREE times on Broadway already (LITTLE WOMEN, SHREK, ANYONE CAN WHISTLE). Was it a coincidence that when I shuffled iTunes this morning, the second song to play was “Gimme, Gimme” from her first Tony Award-winning performance in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE? I didn’t think so either. [Clip from the Tonys here!]

3) Norbert Leo Butz winning for his performance in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. I’ve been wavering over seeing this one, but I’ve loved NLB ever since falling in love with the musical THE LAST 5 YEARS. I’ve been lucky enough to see him twice on stage, in both DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (which netted him his first Tony win) and the original cast of WICKED (before it got, you know, super famous). [Clip from the Tonys here!]

/end fangirling …Anyone else have some favorite moments from last night?




Now, to bring this post where it belongs…to MYTHOLOGY!


One of my favorite musicals has always been AIDA, which was produced by Disney and features music and lyrics from powerhouse team Elton John and Tim Rice. The musical AIDA is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of the same name. Disney has talked about turning this into an animated movie. I wish they would. Love, love, love! AIDA was the first show I ever saw live on Broadway and it was magical. I only wish I had seen the original cast (esp. another favorite of mine, leading actor Adam Pascal).

AIDA isn’t a retelling of a mythological tale, per say, but it feels like one. It’s basically an Egyptian ROMEO AND JULIET. It’s about Princess Aida of Nubia, who is captured by her enemy Egypt’s army and brought to their territory by Captain Radames of the Egyptian army. Radames gives Aida to his bethrothed, Princess Amneris, the Egyptian Pharoh’s daughter, as a present, but winds up falling in love with her. AIDA is full of love and war, lust and deceit. The music is stunning; this is one album where I never skip a song when I listen. Check out some performances on YouTube; “Written in the Stars” is an especially beautiful ballad.


With all the Egyptian mythology starting to make its way into the bookstores, now would be a perfect time for Disney to start working on an animated movie again. Besides, Disney-Hyperion publishes Rick Riordan’s best-selling KANE CHRONICLES trilogy. Why wouldn’t they want to line their pockets even more while still bringing us good Egyptian stories?

GUEST POST: Melissa Lemon (Author of CINDER AND ELLA)




In CINDER AND ELLA, there is a fantastic element revolving around THE LEGEND OF THE TREES. On page 81 in my nook e-ARC edition (quote subject to change before final release), Sir Tanner describes the concept as such:

“The Legend says that each human on the earth has a tree to care for, and that will care for them. As long as the tree is thriving, the person will live, and as long as the person is living well, the tree will survive.”

I liked the idea of being connected to trees so much that I asked Melissa Lemon to contribute a guest post for my Blog Tour Stop regarding The Legend of the Trees. Keep reading to see how it all came together!


CINDER AND ELLA is Melissa Lemon’s debut novel. Please visit the following links to find out more about Melissa and her upcoming links:

Melissa's Facebook fan page
Melissa on Twitter
Melissa's author blog
Melissa's author page on Goodreads

Check out my review of CINDER AND ELLA here.

What if you were really connected to a tree? If you could view yourself in the boughs
and leaves of a tree, what would you see? Are there branches that are wilting because
of physical or emotional injury? Is your tree tall and full and brimming with self
confidence?

In Cinder and Ella there is a legend. A legend that is known by many in the kingdom,
but not all. It is the legend of the trees. The people in the kingdom share a connection
with the forests around them. And for better or for worse, a person’s tree depends on
them.

I love this concept because I think if you had a way to see through something else what
was happening to you inside and out, or how circumstances were affecting you, that you,
and those around you, would take better care.

Now the question comes: if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Many of
the characters’ trees in Cinder and Ella are not revealed in this book, but I will give you an idea of what I had in mind.

If you are susceptible to sorrow, you may very well be connected to a willow. Those tall
and proud have most in common with an aspen. Are you hard-working and productive?
Then you would probably have a fruit-bearing tree bond. What if your tree is a fig or
a silver birch? You may very well be royalty. And if you are loyal and constant, then
surely you share ties with an evergreen of sorts, possibly a pine or a blue spruce.

I hope to write a sequel to Cinder and Ella, and in that book, the legend of the trees will
come to light even more. For now, take care of yourself, and take care of your tree.
What kind of tree do you think you would be connected to?

CINDER AND ELLA by Melissa Lemon (Blog Tour Stop) (Debut Author)


After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.

From Goodreads


[CINDER AND ELLA will be published on November 8, 2011. This blog tour is very early, so I’ll try to re-post closer to November so you don’t forget!]

As all you bookworms know, I read a lot of fairy tale retellings. (Are you caught up from Fairy Tale Fortnight yet?) CINDER AND ELLA by Melissa Lemon has, by far, one of the most original Cinderella concepts I’ve read. You can tell it’s different just from the title: Cinder…and….Ella? Not Cinderella? What’s this? This, dear bookworms, is a novel about two sisters named Cinder and Ella. They are natural sisters, and both middle children. Cinder is the second-eldest of four daughters, Ella the third-eldest. They have a demanding older sister named Katrina and an over-spoiled younger sister named Beatrice. Their father has disappeared after a seemingly-random visit from the kingdom’s prince, leaving his wife to fend for herself and their four children. She spins day and night and leaves Cinder and Ella to care for Katrina and Beatrice, who are both used to being waited on hand and foot. Eventually, she even sees the girls as one entity and runs their names together: Cinderella. How’s that for a new version of Cinderella, bookworms? Oh, and did I mention that on top of all of THAT, the prince is evil? Because he is. This *isn’t* the Cinderella you thought you knew. Then again, Lemon mentions on page one that the version you all take to be truth isn’t the real one. CINDER AND ELLA is.

CINDER AND ELLA flips from one sister’s story to the next. Cinder gets a job at the palace and is even able to learn in her spare time. She falls in love with Prince Monticello, a man who harbors dark, unsettling magic and can bend people to his will. Cinder is the most kind-hearted of the sisters and always does the bidding of her mother and sisters. When she leaves for the palace, all of the family’s burdens fall on Ella’s shoulders. Unable to stand her whiny, bratty, spoiled sisters any longer and realizing that her mother has forgotten she even exists, thinking that Cinder is Cinderella, Ella decides to leave home. She runs into a man who offers her a position in his house as a servant and tutor to his two children. Cinder and Ella are now far apart from one another, but upon finding out about Ella’s existence through Cinder, the prince wants to find her for reasons of his own. He sends out two of his personal aids and a knight, Sir Tanner, to find Ella and bring her to the palace. The true romance of CINDER AND ELLA lies in the relationship that blooms between Ella and Sir Tanner, not the story of Cinderella (Cinder, of course) and the prince, as you might have otherwise guessed. The prince is a true piece of work, and the novel ends in a way that leaves the back door open for other novels set in this world.

Speaking of worlds, one of my favorite parts about CINDER AND ELLA is the way Lemon grounded people and connected them with trees. The Legend of the Trees is truly unique, a concept I haven’t seen done before. On page 81 in my nook e-ARC edition (quote subject to change before final release), Sir Tanner describes the concept as such:

“The Legend says that each human on the earth has a tree to care for, and that will care for them. As long as the tree is thriving, the person will live, and as long as the person is living well, the tree will survive.”

I liked the idea of being connected to trees so much that I asked the author to contribute a guest post for my Blog Tour Stop regarding The Legend of the Trees, which you can read here.

I really liked the way Lemon’s ideas come across and the new twists she’s brought to an often-overdone retelling. I’ve never seen anything quite like CINDER AND ELLA, and found the concept to be irresistible. It did take a while to get into because the writing style is in the vein of older tales, which are designed to be read out loud. It was hard to sustain in a reading-silently form for long periods of time. If that makes any sort of sense. At times, it’s very “tell” and too little “show.” But the story was gripping enough to propel me forward, and I would love to see another novel set in this world.

COVER DESIGN:

At first, I didn’t think much of this cover. It was a tree. Okay…? But after reading the novel, trees are *incredibly* important. I loved The Legend of the Trees and felt it was one of the novel’s strongest elements. It’s completely appropriate to feature a tree on the novel’s cover. The castle is in the background, which works because the palace isn’t integral to the story the way it is in the older versions of Cinderella. I also really like the way the “C” and “E” in the title are typeset, as well as the “M” and “L” in the author’s name. It lends a fairy tale air to the cover. My favorite part of the tour so far was Melissa Lemon’s guest post on Corrine at Lost For Words’ blog. It’s a guest post on COVER DESIGN, bookworms! Check the entry out here. Visit Melissa's author blog to follow the Blog Tour all month long!




[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray







The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the camera. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion—or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan—or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational author of A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and GOING BOVINE. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.


From the inside flap of BEAUTY QUEENS (Because I love *this* summary so much!)





BEAUTY QUEENS is a book that packs its pages with everything—even the kitchen sink. Yes, really. Anything that can be wormed in is. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either, though at times, the abundance of content can be overwhelming. Printz-winning author Libba Bray is in fine form with her latest novel, a satire reminiscent of movies/books such as DROP DEAD GORGEOUS and MISS CONGENIALITY mashed up with LOST and LORD OF THE FLIES with a touch of the AIRHEAD series by Meg Cabot . Maybe it’s because I recently attended Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo’s DIVERSITY IN YA tour, but more than ever, I feel the need for more diversity in YA. I loved how much was in BEAUTY QUEENS. There are characters of color, characters with disabilities, characters that identify as LGBQT. The list was absolutely extensive. On top of that, this WASN’T an issues book. We need more books like this in YA. (Why are all the diverse books centered around ISSUES?) One of my favorite parts about this novel! There are also reflections on feminism and the way the media controls us and gets us to NEED certain products in our life. The book makes fun of boy bands and Fabio. Oh, and there are super sexy pirates.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from Bray herself during an interview with Borders:





[QUESTION: What was your inspiration for Beauty Queens?]
“My pal-and editor extraordinaire-David Levithan invited me to lunch and said, “Here’s a book I really want you to write: A plane-load of teen beauty queens crashes on a deserted island.”

It was a great idea and he was offering me a burrito-impossible to resist on two counts. I really wanted to write a funny, take-no-prisoners book about growing up female in this insane world of ours in which we don’t want women to have easy access to birth control, but we think it’s perfectly fine to spray-tan toddlers and dress them in fetish wear for a pageant. I wanted to explore gender, sexuality, the beauty industry, race, corporate greed, political shenanigans, reality TV, hot pirates, mixed messages, and my love of sequins.

Apparently, I also wanted to write a Bollywood number and make things explode.”




See? Kitchen sink!

This time around, Bray’s wicked sense of humor really worked for me. I had a little trouble with GOING BOVINE. Someday, I’ll re-read it again and see if I was just in a weird frame of mind at the time. BEAUTY QUEENS had me from page one. Actually, no. It’s had me since I first saw that amazing cover months ago. The day it launched, the book came slithering back to me, knowing I would want it, and forced me to read the inside cover flap to the point where I was laughing out loud. The first couple of pages produced more of the same and I quickly found myself immersed in the novel. BEAUTY QUEENS doesn’t have any one main character, but alternates between the girls so you can get to know each of them. I really liked this move and felt it added an extra layer of depth. Readers really get to know the characters, because time is spent with the girls individually, making it easier to balance a large ensemble cast, a hard feat to pull off.

One of my favorite things was all the additional commentary Bray threw in. To me, it was never preachy and didn’t knock you over the head. There would be notations telling you who a person mentioned was (since this reality isn’t “our” reality, we don’t know anything about certain actors, shows, products, etc. unless there’s a footnote). I also enjoyed the brief interludes between chapters that had characters filling out their profile sheets for the pageant or commercials for crazy, over-the-top products. Everything is sponsored by The Corporation, a mammoth company controlling the country—perhaps the world. The level at which The Corporation has penetrated society reminds me of Stark Megastore, the chilling corporation from Meg Cabot’s gripping AIRHEAD trilogy, a futuristic form of a Wal-Mart that has taken over everything.

There are a couple of times where the story goes beyond the absurd and is so over-the-top that it can be hard to hang on tight. There’s one scene with a pirate toward the end that felt a little believable even in this crazy, outrageous world, for example. For the most part, the writing is witty and tight. Some readers might be offended at the level of blatant swearing and sexuality detailed in the book. BEAUTY QUEENS hides nothing. Literally. NOTHING. If it was a movie, it would be rated R. There were a couple of times I was taken back by the fact that this is a teen book. It feels very mature at times. A lot of the characters also fit various stereotypes, but I feel Bray does this on purpose in order to turn them upside down on their heads the way she does with everything else.

When push comes to shove, I really enjoyed BEAUTY QUEENS. It had me laughing from the get-go, a rare feat that few novels can pull off. It was just the right amount of both light and serious. I read a good chunk of the book outside on a beautiful day and can see this being an optimal beach read. Or a good friend to cozy up with come nightfall. Your choice. I’ve heard that Bray even recorded the audio book herself, so I’m sure listening to the inflections of the author herself will have readers (listeners?) peeing in their pants even harder than reading on their own!


COVER DESIGN:

I *love* this cover. It’s one of my favorites of 2011. How fierce is this cover? Seriously, y’all, she’s a bleach blonde in a bikini with a pageant sash, yes, but she also has a bullet sash across her chest. Only, instead of bullets, there are lipstick tubes. It’s GENIUS. It will make people do a double-take and pull the book off the shelf to look at. And who wouldn’t want to read it after checking out the inside flap and reading the first couple of pages?