Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Saturday Post: Harry Potter, Goddess Interrupted cover & BEA!

  • It’s been a week for graphic treatment! First, Warner Brothers released a new poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II:

  • Then, the cover for Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter (the sequel to The Goddess Test) was spotted at BEA:

Carter then tweeted the tagline for Goddess Interrupted: “What if immortality isn’t forever?” And some back cover copy: “Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she’ll have to fight for it.” – GODDESS INTERRUPTED”

  • YA/MG icon (and author of Speak and Wintergirls) is offering a FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE (plus some free books) to help out victims of the Joplin, MO, tornado. When you donate, you’re entered into the drawing. Use the #lhacritique hashtag to follow the event.
  •  Kimberly Pauley (Sucks to Be Me & Still Sucks to Be Me) released an adult short story called Killing Harry. It’s geared toward adults, but there’s nothing inappropriate in it for teens. It’s a great example to study on how to pack as much as possible into a few pages.

And last but not least, Sara was at BEA (Book Expo America) this week in New York City hobnobbing with other bookish types. Vania Stoyanova (VLCPhoto, @reverieBR) tweeted this photo of the two of them after a long–but fun– day. Look for lots of fun posts to come out of this trip!

Book Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim


Fans of books like Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly and Lauren Kate’s Fallen series will find more angel-inspired drama in Mercy by Rebecca Lim, the first in a new paranormal series.

The book tells the story of Mercy — an exile from heaven, who is fated to awake repeatedly in the bodies of strangers. Each time, she never knows anything about them and must struggle to plod along in their lives before she eventually drifts away into someone else’s life. During her nights, she dreams of the mysterious Luc; she doesn’t remember how she knows him, but she longs to be with him.

Then she awakes in the body of a girl name Carmen, and meets the charming and haunted Ryan. He’s spent the last two years searching for his missing twin sister — and until Carmen comes along, he’s the only one who believes she’s still alive. So now Carmen faces a dilemma … help Ryan find his sister, and risk becoming attached to someone she’ll soon forget? Or continue searching her dreams for the mysterious Luc?

There are a lot of elements going on in Mercy, and at times, they can be hard to follow. It’s pretty critical you read the “back of the book” synopsis before cracking open the first pages — because the text itself is not altogether clear. Told from Mercy/Carmen’s perspective, the reader is sucked into her confusion and is left to muddle along with her, as she tries to piece together her foggy memories of her past. Mercy never really understands who or what she is, or how she became such — so it’s up to that synopsis to explain it to the reader.

The best parts of Mercy are the moments outside of this muddling confusion; rather, the human moments when she is living Carmen’s life. Lim’s writing really shines during the scenes in which she describes Carmen’s singing voice and the music her fellow choir members create. The way Lim writes these passages, you can almost hear the music playing in your head. These were my favorite parts of the book to read.

Layered in with Carmen’s own life, and the mystery of Mercy’s history, is the dilemma of Ryan’s missing sister. It’s this mystery — more so than Mercy’s personal quandaries — that keeps the action moving forward. A classic case of “whodonit” is at the heart, as Ryan and Mercy try to figure out what really happened to his sister and who might have taken her.

The book concludes with a shocking climax, setting up for future books in the series. It’s unclear what direction this series will take; with almost too many loose threads left hanging, there are lots of options left open for what will happen to Mercy.

Mercy is in stores now. And just for fun, here’s a look at 3 different covers for Mercy. From left to right, covers from the U.S., Australia & U.K.:

For the comments: Which version of the cover is your favorite?

Divergent by Veronica Roth: More from Harper Collins

The folks from HarperTeen have been putting together some fun goodies for Divergent by Veronica Roth, and today we want to make sure you check them all out. So here’s a peek at what they have to offer:

* First 100 pages: free online excerpt

* Author’s Official Website

* Official Facebook Page

* Faction Quiz

* Dark Days of Supernatural Extras

Plus check out the book trailer & a video with Veronica below:

Book Review: The Quest of the Warrior Sheep


In Quest of the Warrior Sheep by Christopher & Christine Russell, Sal the sheep is a normal sheep. She eats grass, and bleats, and talks. But one day, something hit her on the head! She began to wonder, and realized it was a sign! It was Lord Aries, the Sheep of all Sheepdom who had dropped his Baaton from above. Sal begins to realize, Lord Aries dropped it for a reason, and that was to return it to Lord Aries himself! But what Sal doesn’t know, is that the Baaton is actually a cell phone, belonging to some lousy criminals who will do anything to get the phone back, as it is the key to their greatest theft yet!

This book was very cute, but felt a little young for me (I’m 11). It was a great experience for me, though, because it’s good to give yourself range. I liked how the authors wrote from all different perspectives. Like, in one chapter, the owners of the sheep posse would tell the story, and in another, the criminals.

Also, I thought they had some pretty funny parts in this book. Even though it had adventure and danger, it was a silly, fun book. For example, if you just finished reading a serious, kind of sad book, it’s good to read something fun and silly, like Quest of the Warrior Sheep.

My favorite character in this book was Links, the rapping sheep, who I loved as soon as we met him in the book! He kept all of the Warrior Sheep in happy mood with his adorable raps. I also liked Sal, who could decide for herself. When the Baaton fell upon her head, she decided to leave her home with a few other sheep to return it to Lord Aries.

Overall, it’s really a pretty good book. Who can read all of the adventure, excitement, danger, and humor without smiling, or at least  chuckling to yourself? I couldn’t!

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Can you spot the influences?

Most books have multiple influences, whether the author is conscious of them or not. In Divergent, a number of them jumped out at us here at Novel Novice. Here are the main ones:

  • “The Matrix”: In Divergent, each faction member must take an aptitude test. Here’s how Beatrice describes the apparatus:

In the center of the room is a reclined chair, like a dentist’s, with a machine next to it. It looks like a place where terrible things happen.” –pp.11-12

 

  • “Fight Club”: In their second day in the headquarters, Dauntless initiates must learn to fight. They practice on each other, and they don’t stop until someone is unconscious. (There’s also the over-the-chasm scene that’s similar to the soap scene in “Fight Club.”)

She punches, and Christina moves her head out of the way, but Molly just punches again, and again, until her fist hits Christina’s jaw, her nose, her mouth …. Blood runs down the side of Christina’s face and splatters on the ground next to her cheek.” — p. 98

 

  • 1984 by George Orwell: Initiates in Divergent must pick a faction, similar to the Ministries in 1984. Worse, the main characters in both are presented with their greatest fears in the fear landscape. Tris faces hers in simulations, but Winston Smith literally takes his in the face.

 

 For the comments: What other influences did you see in Divergent?

Book Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

A new imagining of Greek mythology, forbidden romance, and family betrayal abound in Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, the first in a new series from this debut author:

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Throughout Starcrossed, Angelini weaves a mythology that is complex and involved, though at times difficult to follow. But, Angelini gives her readers a helping hand by rooting it all in the familiar lore of Greek gods. She certainly breathes some sexiness into the epic battles first told in Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey. And really, it’s Angelini’s new twist on Greek mythology that offers Starcrossed its most original material. Unfortunately, much of the paranormal romance aspect of the book feels very familiar to plot points in many other books in the genre — though some readers may not mind.

At times, Angelini’s writing is extremely beautiful — especially her sweeping descriptions of the book’s Nantucket setting. She does a great job of bringing this small, island community to life. The writing isn’t consistently strong, however; at times, the action can feel staggered and the prose doesn’t always flow. Still, at her best, Angelini’s descriptive passages are quite lovely.

The characters of Starcrossed are largely likeable, especially the siblings and cousins of the Delos family. Their dynamic and interactions feel genuine and natural; apart from their demigod status, they could be any big happy family. Equally charming is the relationship between Helen and her single father. Their interactions are some of the book’s best, so it’s too bad that these moments largely disappear in the second half of the book.

Perhaps this book’s biggest weak spot is the relationship between Helen and Lucas; we’re told they are in love, and there are certainly some steamy moments where the sexual tension gets amped up. But I’m never convinced of the romance, because it’s never made clear why they are in love. Is it simply fated? Fate plays a big role in Starcrossed, it’s true, but it never felt like a compelling reason behind the romance — especially since the Fates seem determined to keep Helen and Lucas apart. I just really wanted to see a reason for their attraction to each other, and never felt like I did. Perhaps more compelling reasons for their romance await in future books in this series.

Starcrossed is in stores May 31st.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: Essay & project ideas

Dystopian books give us so much to work with, it’s almost too easy to use them in the classroom! Below are some essay prompts to get you thinking, and project ideas to keep you busy!

Essay prompts:

  • In our post on the dystopian genre, we mentioned that many books contain elements of both dystopia and utopia, Divergent among them. In what ways is Tris’s world supposed to be a utopia? Where does it fail?
  • Human nature is under the microscope in Divergent. Given our tendencies, what other factions might exist, and to which would you belong?
  • Four only has four fears, but most people have ten to fifteen. What would some of yours be, and how would they be represented in your fear landscape?
  • It seems dystopian fiction is everywhere these days. Discuss some of the common traits in dystopian literature, and explore how Divergent fits in with these traits. How does it fit into the genre? How does it differ from other dystopian books?
  • Part of choosing a faction in Divergent can be compared to choosing your group of friends in school. Discuss the way people — teens, especially — fit into social circles. Compare traditional high school “cliques” with the factions in Divergent.

Project ideas:

  • At the Choosing ceremony, each of the factions has a symbol: Dauntless is fire; Amity is earth; Erudite is water; and Abnegation is stones. Choose which faction you would belong to and create an artistic representation of it.
  • Divergent takes place in a futuristic version of Chicago. Though different, many parts of it are familiar. Create a college of images that represent Divergent‘s version of Chicago using photos, magazine clippings, original art, etc.
  • What elements make up each of the five factions in Divergent? Using mixed media, create five pieces of art — each representing the values of each faction.
  • Give an oral presentation on the qualities of each faction, then stage your own version of the Choosing ceremony. Ask classmates to choose a faction and explain why they’re aligning themselves with that group.

Love Divergent by Veronica Roth? Dystopian Reading List

Divergent by Veronica Roth is just the latest in a flurry of dystopian books to hit store shelves these days, especially in the YA section. And we’re actually quite fond of the trend here at Novel Novice. So if you’re like us, chances are you want more of this great genre. So if you’ve finished Divergent and are in need of some more dystopian to satisfy your literary cravings, here is our dystopian reading list — starting with our Top 5 favorites:

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

It doesn’t get much better than this … these books have pretty much defined dystopian in YA lit, and helped make it one of the most popular trends in fiction right now. If you haven’t read these books, now is the perfect time — since production is now underway on the movie adaptation. And if you haven’t heard of these books, then you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years.

2. Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I actually think this book may be even better than The Hunger Games (hard to believe, I know — but true). Written with a unique, simplistic narrative voice — this book is chock-full of action, violence, drama, coming of age, discovery, romance … need I go on? It has many action-oriented elements that fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent will love, but the story is told in such unique way that it’s completely original. This book will blow you away; it is simply above and beyond anything else out there today.

3. 1984 by George Orwell

One of the most classic and beloved dystopian stories of all time. This is one of the best dystopian novels by which to compare all others. If you’re a fan of the new crop of dystopian lit hitting store shelves, be sure to brush up on its origins by reading 1984. You won’t regret it.

4. Matched by Ally Condie

This has all the elements contemporary YA readers will love — a romantic triangle, dystopian society, a likeable protagonist. It’s a scary world in which our romantic choices are taken from us, and Condie gives us some heavy ideas to consider. I also absolutely adore her use of literature, poetry and music as a source of rebellion.

5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Though this book shares some similar concepts to Matched — the idea that the government controls your romantic future — the two books are definitely unique. Delirium gives us plenty of romance and action, as well as some frightening concepts of what the future would be like if “love” were identified as a disease.

More Dystopian Books:

  • Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • Incarceron & Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
  • Bumped by Megan McCafferty
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Running Man by Stephen King
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Gone Series by Michael Grant
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano

For the comments: Any other dystopian books we forgot? Share your picks below!

New Young Adult Book Releases: May 24, 2011

Here’s a look at the highlight’s from today’s new YA releases — lots of choices!

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Welcome to Bordertown ed. by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner

Bordertown: a city on the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find themselves. Elves play in rock bands and race down the street on spell-powered motorbikes. Human kids recreate themselves in the squats and clubs and artists’ studios of Soho. Terri Windling’s original Bordertown series was the forerunner of today’s urban fantasy, introducing authors that included Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and Ellen Kushner. In this volume of all-new work (including a 15-page graphic story), the original writers are now joined by the generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. They all meet here on the streets of Bordertown in more than twenty new interconnected songs, poems, and stories.

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything.

Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths.

Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood.

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.

Until the accident.

Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it’s nothing compared to living without her.

She’s got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.

Abby is about to find out that truth isn’t always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could…

Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison

I’m Madison Avery, in charge of heaven’s hit squad . . . and fighting it all the way.

When Madison died the night of her prom, she knew her life would never be the same. Now she has a powerful amulet, a team of rogue angels by her side, and the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny. And of course, now she’s finally with Josh—a perfect boyfriend who doesn’t even mind that she’s dead.

But being dead has its disadvantages, too. Madison feels caught between the light and the dark, and between her real life and her timekeeper status. When Madison has the opportunity to get her body back—to be alive again—she faces her most difficult decision yet. If she claims it, she could return to being a normal girl—and have a chance at a real relationship with Josh. But would having the one thing she wants most in the world also mean giving up everything she’s worked so hard for?

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the “thing” inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she’s special, says she’s one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin’s investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff’s little company of strays apart, and it isn’t long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she’s on—even if it seems no one believes her.

Author Guest Blog: Rebecca Lim – On Writing Mercy

Today, we have Rebecca Lim — author of Mercy — guest blogging about her book, and how it came to be. Many thanks to Rebecca for stopping by. And don’t forget — Mercy is in stores now, so pick up your copy today!

Mercy came about through a combination of factors.

I was researching a literature essay at uni when I came upon the classical idea that there are only three known classes of sentient being under God: bestial, human and angelic. The idea stuck with me for years, because it seemed so black and white, but had so much potential to be upended and played with.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “the fall” (whether of humans or of Lucifer and the angels that fell with him). There’s so little actual detail on fallen angels in the bible that there’s space to create, I guess. I didn’t just want Mercy to be a “bad” angel – so her back-story is slowly revealed over the course of the first 3 books. And some people can’t stand not having the loose ends all neatly tied up by the end of Mercy, but I have a real horror of information dumping. I’m banking on those readers who like to be engaged and challenged, coming along for the entire trip.

Mercy is also a fictional response to some terrible abduction and imprisonment stories that were emerging around the time I was writing the novel. The news is a potent trigger for book ideas. The stuff people do to each other in real life is staggering.

With Mercy I was hoping to reach YA readers and female readers generally because of some of the themes I cover. It’s my fictional response to some of the terrible, terrible news stories involving women, which always make my blood boil. I wanted to create a female heroine who looks outwardly very weak, but who could actually dish out vengeance to her persecutors. Kind of an empowering revenge fantasy, I guess.

I also consciously set out to create a female heroine who can, literally, do anything if she puts her mind to it. I didn’t want to create a female heroine who loses her capacity to function at the slightest hint of romance. I wanted to show that it’s okay to be a smart-mouthed, think-on-your-feet, strong and abrasive, yet empathetic character, who also happens to be female. It’s not something that should just be the province of male hero-types.

It’s my personal belief that writers have a duty to put positive reflections of the sisterhood out there. Women writers, in particular, should be empowering teens to not accept traditional stereotypes; even in fictional portrayals of women. We should be counteracting – with all the tools we have available to us as writers – the darkest aspects of human nature. So Mercy, the character, is someone who might bend, but she will never, ever break, no matter what is thrown at her.

So Mercy tries to work on a number of levels, and tries to bring together some of the genre-mashing I enjoy as a reader. It’s the imaginary history of a being of pure spirit (with a shattered memory of who and what she once was) who finds herself inexplicably entrapped in the physical, sensory world. And it’s also a self-contained YA mystery/crime novel that just happens to feature an amnesiac fallen angel, a hint of romance, Latin, choral music and a whole lot of choir nerds (I used to be one, so I can say that). I wanted to layer Mercy so that it wasn’t just the typical “high school” scenario where you have mean girls and jocks etc. I wanted to shake it up a bit. And music is quite transcendent and something that Mercy has had missing from her life, so I wanted to bring that kind of transcendent stuff back into her memory because it’s part of her journey of getting herself back, remembering things like music, language, friendship, the beautiful parts of life.

Writing Mercy allowed me to get back in contact with my former Latin teacher, Norma Pilling, who has basically enabled me to give Mercy her incredible, rediscovered facility with Latin, and writing Exile (Mercy #2) has allowed me to finally acknowledge my Year 9 and 10 English teacher, Libby Callinan, who insisted I read Romeo and Juliet and delve into the whole romance genre. I used to be a genre snob who refused to read any romance fiction at all and Libby basically taught me not to be so narrow minded. R and J is still not my favourite Will Shakespeare play (The Tempest and Twelfth Night will never be budged from top slots) but she taught me that being open minded is the most valuable thing you can bring to being a reader and a writer.