Saturday, July 28, 2012

Author guest post: Lisa M. Stasse’s Top 10 Dystopian fiction reads + book trailer

Hi everyone

I’m so excited about today’s guest post.

The lovely Lisa Stasse, author of The Forsaken, a YA Dystopian fiction novel that has just recently been published (and from the reviews I’ve seen, is pretty awesome), has kindly agreed to take some time out to share and recommend some of her favourite speculative works of fiction.

Don’t you just love authors who compile lists like these?  I always love seeing what authors love reading and obviously do a secret little happy dance when I discover:

a) books I haven’t heard about before, and
b) seeing some of my favourites on their list

And Lisa’s post definitely features a bit of both.

Before we get on to her post though, for those of you who haven’t heard about The Forsaken, here’s some more information about the book:
The Forsaken
Summary from Goodreads
*Note: The Forsaken is the first book in a trilogy.
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl.

But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take:

The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes.

Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway

Head on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR pile.

Over to Lisa.

MY 10 FAVORITE DYSTOPIAN NOVELS 

So here are my top ten dystopian novels.

I could probably list my top forty (or even a top hundred), but that's because I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature.

And also because I'm a librarian at UCLA, so I'm around books all the time, and get to read most of the dystopians out there.

Anyway, here are my all-time favorites, although there are tons of great ones that I didn't put on this list. I'll start with the classics!

1. Lord of the Flies--Is this book considered dystopian? I think it is. It's one of my favorite novels. It manages to accomplish so much in so few pages.

I didn't love it when I first read it in high school (probably because there are no female characters). But over the years, I've got really obsessed with it. It's probably one of the most influential books of the past century.

2. A Clockwork Orange--Terrifying and brilliant. The character Alex, with his demented obsession with ultra-violence, is one of my favorite anti-heroes of all time. And the movie is awesome too!

3. 1984--I think I first read this in high school, and then again in college. Completely riveting and highly disturbing.

4. Fahrenheit 451--Another classic dystopian. Ray Bradbury actually wrote this in the building where I currently work--Powell library at UCLA--on a rented typewriter. This is one of those books that is eerily prophetic about where our society is headed.

5. The Hunger Games--Brilliantly constructed and pitch perfect. Great characters and story. It's one of my favorite YA novels in general (along with John Green's Looking for Alaska) as well as being one of my favorite dystopians.

6. The Maze Runner--Filled with action and mystery. When I read this one, I literally couldn't put it down because I was so eager to find out what happened next!

7. Divergent--Such a great book. Really well written, with a fantastic heroine. I was very impressed by this one. The sequel Insurgent is great too.

8. Never Let Me Go--I loved this book, although the disappointing movie version bummed me out. It could have been amazing! The book is so creepy and intensely emotional. I really recommend it to anyone who likes bleak and downbeat dystopians.

9. The Road--I suppose this is technically post-apocaplyptic instead of dystopian, but it's an incredibly moving piece of work. Cormac McCarthy is a genius (his other books are great too). And I liked the movie version of this one, although most of my friends didn't. The movie was depressing, but had an amazing performance by Viggo Mortensen in it.

10. House of Stairs--Okay, so I read this one when I was a kid, but it really stuck with me. A group of kids wake up in a harsh environment that consists only of stairs. In order to get food they have to obey machines that force them to fight each other. This is a quick read, but its central concept (and the twist at the end) make it worthwhile.

Thanks again for stopping by Lisa. Never Let Me Go happens to be one of my favourite books too (have yet to still watch the movie though).

Check out the book trailer for The Forsaken below:



Discussion time: What are some of your favourite dystopian reads? Any books you’d like to recommend? Please feel free to share your recs below. Would love to hear about the dystopian reads that have left a lasting impression on you.

Book 1 in the trilogy is now available now from Simon & Schuster in the US and Orchard/Hachette in the UK.

For more information on the book and on Lisa you can visit:
Lisa’s website 
Check her out on Goodreads
Follow her on Twitter  
Visit the Forsaken Facebook Page

P.S. I’ve been a bit of a no-show lately, but things have been incredibly busy on my side.  Will hopefully be catching up during the course of the week, so if I haven’t been visiting any of you lately, it’s simply because life simply wouldn’t allow me to. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Color of Snow blog tour: Author guest post: Brenda Stanley on tackling tough topics

Hi everyone

As part of The Color of Snow blog tour,  I’m very excited to have Brenda Stanley stop by on my blog to chat about her contemporary YA novel, The Color of Snow.

Today’s post is quite interesting as Brenda gives us a brief glimpse into her novel and chats about the various uncomfortable topics that she tackles in The Color of Snow.

I’ve always been a big believer in freedom of thought and expression in books (and in general), and love authors who aren’t afraid to delve into subject matters that many tend to steer away from. The Color of Snow, is, as you’ll find out, is a book that will definitely take you out of your comfort zone.

But, before I hand over to Brenda, her is some more info about the book:

The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley
Summary from Goodreads:
When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora - a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble.

Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her.

Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas.

Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.

Click here to add this book to your TBR pile.

Brenda tells us more:
 
The Color of Snow has been described as dark or mysterious.  I feel most of my writing fits this description because I enjoy looking at the strange and unusual things in life. 

My novel will definitely make some people uncomfortable. 

I like to look at situations and issues and try to figure out how people will react. 

For years I was a crime reporter, so I enjoy investigating stories and learning about the parts of life most people try to hide. 

When I wrote The Color of Snow, I was working on a story about a young girl who went missing years ago and has never been found. 

I started thinking about what would happen if she were to suddenly show up now.  I loved putting myself in Sophie’s shoes and seeing things for the first time.

Sophie’s relationship with Damien is both intense and tempered.  Her father has raised her to believe that she will destroy anyone who truly loves her, so she is torn between her love for Damien and her fear of causing him harm.

The story changes between what is going on with Sophie and what happened in her parent’s past that brought her to where she is.  I wanted readers to experience the often isolated feeling of living in a vast rural area, but also the mental confinement of a small town.

Mental illness, teen pregnancy, religious intolerance, and racism are all big parts of The Color of Snow.  I like my characters to face challenges and see them grow from them.  It is not only the conflicts with the other characters that keeps the story going, but also those within the person’s own mind.

I wanted Sophie to be unusually beautiful so that people treated her strangely and therefore made her feel even more alien when she is first discovered.  She has transformed from a tragic kidnapping victim to a mythical ghost from the past and this makes her transition into her new life even more difficult.

My ties to the Mormon Church go back to my great-great grandparents.  I was raised in the teachings of the Mormon religion and even though I am no longer a member, I have many friends and family who are still very active in the church. 

My descriptions of the Mormon culture are how I view it and how I feel someone who has never been exposed to it might see it.  I think there are a lot of people who are curious about the Mormon religion and have misconceptions.  I feel I’ve been both candid and fair in my portrayal.

Want to learn a little more? Carry on reading below for sneak peek of The Color of Snow.


Excerpt:

Malad, Idaho, early spring 2009

Spring had spread across the fields and pastures. Cottonwood trees fluttered their newly sprouted greenery, and purple asters covered the rolling hills. The snow had melted and Stephanie and I started taking the horses on rides up the valley. It was incredibly liberating to roam and wander without fear.

There was a trail leading from the foothills up into the forest, and once we were in the midst of the wild spruce and lofty pines, the noises of cars and life around the ranch disappeared. The sound of hooves on early spring dirt was solid and steady.

The breeze was still crisp, but the sun reached down and warmed our shoulders. For almost an hour we rode in silence. We both were in awe of the day and the splendor that was ours alone to enjoy.

At the top of the hill, the trail opened up to a small plateau and a blue mountain lake. I gasped at the incredible beauty of it.

I smiled at Stephanie and she nodded in acknowledgement. Her eyes were bright and her freckles seemed to glow in the sunshine.

The horse she rode was a black mare my grandfather was going to sell. Stephanie loved the white diamond-shaped patch on her forehead, and scolded him for even thinking about selling Black Bean. My horse was an old buckskin gelding named Clyde. He lumbered along and rarely went faster than a slow trot, but for a beginner like me he was perfect.

Stephanie turned her horse down the hill and toward the lake. “Do you want to go swimming?” she called back.

“I don’t know how,” I answered.

She giggled as she reached the water’s edge. “You don’t need to. The horses do it all.” Her hair was pulled into two short pigtails and they bounced with each step of her horse.

I waited and watched as she urged Black Bean into the water and out into the lake. As the water got deeper, the splashes became larger around its legs as it pushed forward, and soon they were floating along smoothly.

“Come on!” she yelled, waving me in. She had her legs pulled up on the sides, trying to avoid getting completely soaked. They were pale and freckled like her face, and seemed to make up most of her body. Stephanie wasn’t much taller than I, but her legs and arms were long and made her look gangly and even thinner than she was. She waved so hard she almost fell off the horse, and started laughing as she steadied herself.

It looked like fun, but I was terrified. The water was immense and dark. The largest amount of water I had ever been in was my own bathtub. I wondered what would happen if I fell off in the middle. Stephanie and Black Bean were in the center of the lake and they looked like a serene harmonious duo.

I gave Clyde a slight nudge and he walked to the shoreline. The water lapped as I waited and watched Stephanie continue to beckon. She looked like she was having a marvelous time and wasn’t worried in the least.

I patted Clyde and prodded him with the heels of my sneakers. He seemed unconcerned as he clopped loudly into the water. I took a deep breath and told myself to keep looking forward and it would be okay. Clyde had no hesitation, which helped ease my fear.

The sun beat down on us and made splashes of water light up as Clyde moved forward into the water. The splatters that hit my exposed skin were freezing and made me realize how cold it would be if I did fall in. I fixed my eyes on the opposite shoreline and put my faith in Clyde.

The horse had a wide back, and as we got deeper into the lake, I curled my legs back the way Stephanie did and clung to his mane. We were riding bareback that day, because Stephanie didn’t want to spend time putting on saddles.

I held my breath as we got further away from the shore and closer to the very center of the lake. At one point I looked down, staring deep into the abyss. There was no bottom, and I felt my stomach turn, knowing I would surely die if I left Clyde’s back.

To read the rest of the excerpt, you can head on over here.

You can catch Brenda on:
Twitter
Her website
Facebook
The Color of Snow blog
Goodreads

Click here to buy a copy of the book

Special thanks to Tribute Books for inviting me to be a part of this tour. Be sure to check out their website and Facebook page.

To check out her next stop and the rest of the blog tour schedule, click on the banner below.




Monday, July 9, 2012

Book review: Tithe

Tithe
A darkly mesmerising tale of wickedly beautiful fae creatures, one spunky pixie-girl, a sinfully beautiful fairy knight and the intricate world of politics within the fairy courts.

Tithe by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster)
I have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this book.

You see, as much as I love books about faeries (I’m a huge fan of anything fey related really), my disappointment with previous books dealing with fae (The Wicked Lovely series in particular) have prevented me from picking up another read within this genre.

When I saw this at the library, I decided (rather reluctantly) to take it out and give it a read, if only to confirm that my thoughts about faerie books are well-justified.

Never in my life have I been more surprised by a book, than I was with Holly Black’s Tithe.     

I absolutely cannot believe I’ve been missing out on such a fantastically written book. Not only that, I think I may have found the book that has restored my faith in this genre and will have be giving more books about fae a chance again.

First thing that should be said: if you’re not a fan of darkly alluring and grungy YA fiction, then you’re probably not going to like this.

However, if you, like me, are a fan of gritty fantasy fiction with a no-holds barred approach to content that would make readers sensitive to this kind of content balk, then you will without a doubt, adore this book as much as I do.

 Holly Black is an absolute master at blending and combining gritty urban settings with the cruel, wondrously strange and wickedly beautiful world of the fae. 

The fairies you encounter in this book are by no means the fluttery and sparkly winged creatures – but rather sinister and sly and not at all that they appear to be. 

In this book, the lines between good and evil blur as the capricious nature of these very beings prove that belonging in one world doesn’t necessarily mean that their character is, by association, the same.

Tithe kicks off when we first meet Kaye, a 16-year old teen who travels with her mother from place to place and club to club.

As a young girl, Kaye has always been able to see fairies, but it’s only when her mother is nearly killed and the two of them move to her grandmother’s place, that Kaye’s own dormant magic begins to manifest, causing her to come to the realisation she may not be as human as she once thought she was.

When she comes to the aid of Roiben, an injured and beautiful fairy knight, she inadvertently becomes embroiled in a realm of shadowy secrets and dark fairy court intrigue, unwittingly setting herself up as a pawn in a deadly and ancient struggle between two rival courts.

At the same time, she also has to learn how to master her new found magical abilities, try not to get killed and figure our whether or not the beautiful white knight returns her feelings.

If you love heroines kick-ass, feisty and brave-to-the-point-of-actually-being-stupid heroines, then you’re going to love Kaye. Both book and street smart, she’s a girl that shows us that she’s not afraid to tackle the unknown. 

In fact, her fearlessness, which often translates itself into recklessness, combined with her natural sense of curiosity often gets her into trouble. 

What I also loved about her though, is that beneath the devil-may-care attitude, there’s a vulnerable girl lurking in the shadows, often making herself known when it comes to her insecurity when she’s around Roiben.

That there is an attraction between the two is obvious, although the fact that Roiben makes an effort to hide his feelings for her, made it difficult to decipher whether or not he was being sincere in his actions towards Kaye (Holly Black is so good at doing ambivalence).

Roiben himself, is an interesting character. With his long white hair and his cool and aloof exterior, like Kaye, I was never quite sure about his motives.

Luckily for us, Holly fortunately allows the reader a glimpse of Roiben’s thoughts; showing a side to him that certainly made me swoon.

I do have to add that it was very interesting to see how Roiben’s detached exterior served to play such a vitally important role in the book, especially when it came to the political intrigue within the fae courts. 

Once I actually understood the reason for his cool reserve, I realised just how intricate and clever Roiben’s character design fit into the grand scheme of things.

The fairy court rivalry is another treat to read all about.

Holly clearly shows an immense understanding of how to create a world filled with vicious and beautiful depravity, as well as accurately capturing the blood-thirsty and fickle nature of the various creatures found in Tithe.

What especially kept me fascinated is the fact that the battle lines between the Bright Court and the Dark Court are not all that clear cut. While some villains are obvious, you can’t help but get a sense that there is more to some characters that aren’t definite suspects.

The shimmery glamour of the fae world both hides and reveals intentions that are both good and cruel and Kaye’s magical transformation from human to fae, only serves to reveal that no matter in which world you dwell in, that all is not always what it seems.

Holly Black’s Tithe is a book that constantly kept me on my toes. The twists and turns are wicked in their cleverness and the characters are fantastic. If you’re looking for a YA novel that is deliciously dark and full of contradictions, Tithe is definitely a book that you should read.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Moonlight Mayhem Blog tour (#MMBlogtour): Author Sherry Soule on why she loves YA fiction

Hey everyone

Stopping over at my blog today is Sherry Soule, author of the Young Adult paranormal books, Beautifully Broken and Moonlight Mayhem. 

As part of the blog tour promoting the second book in the series (you can check out a full tour schedule with similar posts here), she’s here today to talk about her love of Young Adult fiction.

For those who haven’t heard of either of her books, I’ve included some info at the bottom of the posts, so be sure to check it out.

I’ll also be reviewing Beautifully Broken in the near future, so stay tuned for more info on that.

In the meantime, allow me to hand the reigns over to Sherry, who’ll be talking about a subject that every YA book blogger will be able to relate to.

Sherry, over to you:

Hi everybody, I’m author, Sherry Soule—waving from the SF Bay Area, where it can get pretty foggy. And I can’t believe that summer’s finally here, and even with the fog burning off by afternoon, I’m cranking the air conditioner and chatting on Twitter about my love of reading.

Thanks for letting me visit today as part of my epic Moonlight Mayhem Blog Tour. It’s an honor to be a guest and meet all these awesome booklovers.

Thus far, my tour has been so much fun for me and all the followers that participated. It is nice seeing the familiar names in the comments at each stop. For those of you who haven’t heard of my super fun blog tour it’s not too late to join the fun!


                                                              #MMBlogTour

Since I was a child, I recognized that books were a way to travel to other worlds and have remarkable adventures, and I’ve been in love with both reading and writing ever since. Even though, I am older (don’t ask me “how” old), I’ve always loved reading YA literature.

I am on a constant literary diet that mostly consists of the young adult fiction genre, but I’ve been known to occasionally stray into paranormal/romance or horror adult categories.

I love reading YA because I like to relive and experience, the excitement, romance, and angst of being a teenager again. I think most novels in the YA genre are fast-paced and thrilling, and they are often written in a style that is both engrossing and easy-to-read, with story-driven or character-driven plotlines.

I also love that there are so many books created into a series nowadays, so that you can keep having more adventures with your favorite characters.

Could my love of YA be simply because I’m still stuck at age sixteen, just a teenager-at-heart in disguise?

Yup. And like many of you, I’ve read hundreds of YA books (you’re NEVER too old to read young adult novels, IMHO) and I can’t actually say I didn’t enjoy them all.

Some I loved and I mean “LOVED”. Other novels became good friends that I didn’t want to ever part with, so they adorn my bookshelves and wait patiently to be reread again one day.

Others were simply read and then disregarded with a contented smile. I am never embarrassed to buy YA books (although I buy most of my books online @ Amazon) in bookstores or carry them around with me. I love the genre and always have. Always will.

I realize that we all have different tastes in literature. Most of you will have varied genres that you read, and probably some of my favorite books are simply your forgotten reads. That is what makes the world of YA and reading as a whole so dang fascinating. 

Each one of us will enjoy different types of characters, plots, and of course, a writer’s voice, the way ONLY they can tell a story.

Personally, I like to read and write darker, edgier YA novels, and it must have romance. I write to connect with readers that love paranormal/romance themes, too.

Below I’ve listed a few of my favorite YA authors and major influences, in no particular order:

Jennifer L. Armintrout
Kate Evangelista
Angeline Kace
Carolyn MacCullough
Lauren Kate
Stephenie Meyer
Christopher Pike
Lili St. Crow
Lois Duncan
L. J. Smith
Ellen Schreiber
Joan Lowery Nixon
Kiersten White
Alyson Noel
Amanda Hocking


I mainly read the paranormal genre (obviously), add that with a dash of romance, a healthy dose of horror, but rarely contemporary genres.

I am a firm believer that reading has the power to change the world.

As you can probably tell if you’d read my books, I tend to write dark, tormented heroines.

I love the angst of a female protagonist trying to come to terms with some dark secret or horrific event in her past, and usually, she ends up facing this fear, vulnerability, or threat, with a strong, sexy hero by her side.

Oh!—and I love to create an evil villain that is unquestionably devious, but complex. My antiheroes always possess some redeeming features. Because of these factors, I think it makes them much more interesting villains.

And my heroines are typically intelligent, snarky, and full of fight. Like my girl, Shiloh Ravenwolf in the Spellbound series—she’s feisty, witty, and kickbutt.

You gotta admire Shiloh’s spunk and determination. When I grow up, I wanna just like her. Or a vampire, or even a ninja. Not sure which…

I love hearing from other avid YA readers at my blog. You can even send me an email with any questions you have about the Spellbound series and or if you just want to drop me a line and tell me how much you enjoyed one of my stories via email—that would be great.

Or you can join me on Twitter, @WriterSherry for a fun chat!  Hope you enjoyed this post. Now go feed your mind and read a book! Preferably mine.


For more information about Beautifully Broken, the first book in the series, you can check out the synopsis on Goodreads and watch the trailer here.


About Moonlight Mayhem:

Otherworldly Creatures. Dazzling Magic. Fiery Romance.

Shiloh Ravenwolf thought she was getting used to the strange events in Whispering Pines, until the full moon brings another surge of supernatural threats to her coastal town.

Ferocious wolves, deadly necromancers, and shambling zombies have descended upon the neighborhood, so Shiloh needs to gain control of her magical abilities—fast!

It sucks that she has a crippling fear of the dark, which for a demon hunter can be an epic problem.

When her classmates are attacked by a mysterious creature and her father is murdered, Shiloh vows vengeance.

Forcing her phobias aside, she forms an unlikely coven of supernaturally gifted teens to help her eradicate this menace. Except that’s not all Shiloh has to worry about.

She’s battling a different monster within herself and struggling not to become the very thing she fights: evil.

But with demon blood inside her—anything can happen…

Check out the trailer for it here:

Moonlight Mayhem is the second novel in the Spellbound series.


Thanks for stopping by Sherry!

Want to get to know Sherry a little more? You can cyberstalk her at the following platforms:

Official Website:
http://sherrysoule.com


Official Blog:
http://www.sherrysoule.blogspot.com


Official Spellbound Series Universe:
http://thespellboundseries.blogspot.com

Twitter @WriterSherry:
http://twitter.com/writersherry


Goodreads:
Author profile