Friday, May 31, 2013

Me on The Testing

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group the young candidates must first pass the Testing, their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate, eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies: trust no one. But surely she can trust Tomas, a childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

The Testing is a curious book, at times subtle and at times obvious and clear in its lethality. It seems to be a look at what young people are capable of when pushed to their limits, at how intelligent they are when tested and wrong answers have dangerous results, at how far trust can go, and how sometimes the only person you can trust is yourself.

Cia is rather intelligent. She's curious and extremely cautious of the Testing, not unsure of what to expect but what could happen if a question is answered incorrectly. She doesn't want to offend anyone but she wants to, hopefully, stay alive, to keep those few she genuinely cares about safe. But the warnings from her father increase her suspicions, about her fellow candidates, about the doctors and instructors. How much can she trust anyone, even those she's close to? How far will her trust go? What if emotion gets in the way? Can she truly trust Tomas when she's been told no one can be trusted?

The book has a very clear dystopian setting. Outlying colonies and magistrates that observe and control, every action has a purpose, nothing is wasted. Everything is about the preservation of this world and its continued survival. But the past is shrouded is death and destruction, a past society is meant to learn from and never repeat. It's a world rebuilt from war and terror with new hope for the future. But why put the smartest and brightest teenagers through the Testing? Are leaders simply born, or are they only created through tests and pressure, through lies and betrayal?

Now, I will agree that there are parallels to The Hunger Games, the same can be said of most dystopian YA that's come out in the past few years. There is more of an emphasis on learning and knowledge and less on chance, more on intelligence with a focus on preserving the colonies and their way of life, but very much a 'the smartest and boldest and most cunning will come out alive' mentality. The Testing is to discover who will be the future leaders and teachers of their rebuilt world. But how close to the edge will it push Cia to question everything she's been told?

As I read this, something was missing, something was lacking. There is danger, there is deception, there is betrayal, but it didn't feel as immediate or as powerful as I was expecting. Perhaps it's because the Testing is like an exam, complete with papers and pencils. Perhaps it was Cia herself, quiet and non-threatening, cautious and not overtly rebellious or questioning. I'm still curious as to what will come next, but not necessarily excited.

(I acquired an advance copy of this title at ALA Midwinter.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Me on Siege and Storm

Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt (Macmillan imprint)

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t run for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her. Or she'll risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Siege and Storm is just as dark and dangerous as its predecessor, just as deadly and filled with impossible magics. But things are changing now, Alina is changing, the Darkling is changing, and no one knows what's coming. Or what Alina will become.

The world in this book felt icy cold and dangerous, with chilled whispers in the air and shadows curling around ankles. Even in the bright sun, there was an air of caution. Perhaps a sign of things to come. Things were never going to be easy for Alina.

In Shadow and Bone came discovery for Alina, discovery of her power and what it meant. Now comes growth, now comes what she's going to do with it, now comes deciding her place and taking a stand. But what will her actions be? Having such power distances herself from Mal, from the dream of a normal life, but she needs to stop the Darkling. Building her power and saving Ravka is key, but what will it turn her into? In the end, will Mal recognize her? Will she recognize herself? Was this all part of the Darkling's plan for the both of them?

The new side characters brought light and humour to a serious book. Sturmhond the privateer, and the twins Tamar and Tolya, they were different and entertaining, shrouded in their own kind of mystique, but still powerful and cunning when need be.

There were moments of action and moments of easing (in a sense), but there was always tension, always fear, always uncertainty. The ending will leave readers demanding the last book, not willing to wait until 2014.

(I acquired an advance copy of this title at ALA Midwinter.)

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (130)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

From Goodreads:

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

Whenever I hear of a movie or TV deal before I hear of the book, that isn't out yet, I get wary. I think I heard about this book and the upcoming TV series adaptation at the same time, but still, it's weird.

This has the potential to be good, and I hope it is good. I'm liking the influx of sci-fi in YA. I'm curious as to how the narration will go, if it'll be in one character's point of view or in multiple POVs. Or if there'll be an count of how many of the 100 are still alive at the start and end of the book.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Me on The 5th Wave

Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin imprint)

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie is on the run from Them, the beings who only look human and roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. Cassie believes she will only stay alive if she stays alone, until she meets someone. This person may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother Sam, or saving herself, but she has to choose between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

The 5th Wave is a rather powerful and dangerous book, a look at what could happen to Earth and it's inhabitants if aliens do come with motives not so peaceful and pure. The world is shattered, millions are dead. The future for those left alive and on the run is bleak, but there are glimmers of hope. Some are still alive, still surviving, still fighting, still pushing to take back what was ripped from their hands.

It must be said that the summary of the book is misleading. It's not just about Cassie. Cassie's voice is crucial, vital, prominent, but it's not the one one. There are others who tell different sides of the same overarching story, others with different perspectives, different motives, different journeys. Different realizations. Different lessons. All the same story.

The human condition is a curious thing. We push and strive to survive, to stay on top. We don't seem to die away or stay down for long. We will fight for as long as we can, pushing through barriers, moving forward when it appears that all hope is lost.

Cassie is strong, she has immense courage and drive, but she is, in some ways, weak. Her love for her family, for her brother, both drives her and holds her back. Everything is for Sammy, but only as long as he's alive. His being alive is what fuels her.

I wonder if I've done this book any justice with this review. It's dark and twisted and complicated, dripping with death and secrets and lies. It's a very volatile and powerful book. It's not about the aliens, it's about the humans, it's about those who are still alive who have the strength to carry on fighting. They still have hopes for a future that doesn't smell like blood or fire or death. This book is about getting up and moving on, continuing that hard journey, and that kind of story transcends genre and connects with every single reader on a lever they never expected.

(I acquired an advance copy of this title at ALA Midwinter.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (53)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Spring is very much in full force out here. Everything's green and big and full of flowers. And the dandelion fluff is drifting through the air like springtime snow. Ick. I can only hope I don't get all stuffed up and sick.

So... my 6 weeks of antibiotics were up on Wednesday and I had an appointment with the doctor at the clinic. ... It was rather abrupt. The doctor looked at my finger and said I was done and asked a nurse to remove the PICC line. They've washed their hands of me. Basically, the 6 weeks were up, my bloodwork always came back fine with no abnormalities, my finger looked like it was healing. It's not completely better, some swelling comes and goes, I can't bend it without some discomfort. Apparently it's good enough for the clinic to say I'm done. I think my bloodwork was a big deciding factor, even at the start everything was normal. *sigh* We'll see. I see my family doctor next week, I'll ask what I should be doing now, if I need to go back on another round of oral antibiotics or wait until it blows up like a sausage again.

Wednesday was weird. I had a couple of nice e-mails early in the day (with some awesome stuff in them that you'll get to read soon) and then I went off to the outpatient clinic and was told I was done with my treatment and gently nudged out the door. It's nice having the PICC line out, though.

I was looking at my review schedule and July looks rather bereft. I might be filling it with books I haven't gotten the chance to read that have been out for months, books like For Darkness Shows the Stars or The Evolution of Mara Dyer. What books would you suggest?

Reviews this week will feature The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo, and The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. :)
Borrowed from the library:
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Sever by Lauren DeStefano
Until I Die by Amy Plum (e-book)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Me on Doll Bones

Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster imprint)

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing. And stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll, who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity.

Doll Bones is a curious, haunting, and moving look at growing up, an inventive and complicated story of a boy at a crossroads with the desire to keep having fun with his friends and the pressure put on him by his father to act his age. This book looks at those tough decisions we faced as children when we were told by adults to stop playing childish games, and whether or not you can grow up and keep having fun with your friends at the same time.

Zach is pushed into a difficult situation, both by his father and by his own feelings of shame. Playing with Poppy and Alice, creating new worlds filled with adventure and intrigue and pirates, those are the best moments of his life. But playing with dolls and action figures is for little kids, in the mind of his father, and it's time Zach grows up and focuses on what twelve-year-old boys should focus on: homework and sports. The dynamic between Zach, Alice, and Poppy was very interesting, they all had their roles to play, their times to speak up. Their dangerous risks to take.

Growing up, moving on. It's not something any kid looks forward to when they realize it's on the horizon. When it comes to playing with toys, dolls, and action figures, how old is too old? Must we follow the recommended age printed on the side of the box? When are you supposed to grow up and leave fun behind?

A big part of this book is imagination, how children can create anything out of nothing, how boundaries don't exist and everything is possible. How the word "no" doesn't have a place of its own anymore. The imagination of a child is a wondrous thing, filled with possibility.

This book highlights so many important and unique things about being a kid that adults either forget or take for granted. When you're a kid, anything is possible. You can do anything, be anyone. You can go anywhere you want while never leaving the side of the road. It's moments like those that should be remembered and encouraged, and books like this that remind us that, as kids, the entire world was our playground.

(I acquired an advance copy of this title at ALA Midwinter.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (129)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press

From Goodreads:

The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

There are no words to describe how much I want to read this book. I found The Raven Boys to be so enchanting, so layered and complicated, so magical with whispers of danger. It didn't end on a cliffhanger but more on a sudden bombshell that will make this book so darkly mysterious. I know the wait for books 3 and 4 will be long, but I'm willing to suffer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Me on Absent

Title: Absent
Author: Katie Williams
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall during Physics class. Now she's a ghost, permanently bound to the high school grounds. It isn't all bad, she can discover everyone's secrets, which is amusing. For a while. But then she hears something that isn't funny: a rumour spread by the most popular girl that Paige's fall wasn't an accident, that she jumped on purpose. She's desperate to stop the gossip, but she can she do? Then, she discovers she can possess the living when they're thinking about her, and make them do almost anything. Maybe she can get inside the head of the girl who's responsible for the stories, and maybe she can have a little fun turning the tables.

Absent is a witty and intelligent exploration. An exploration of one teenage girl's death and the life she lives after it, an exploration of the truth behind her death, an exploration of those around her. While on the surface this is one ghost girl's mission to discover why she died, there's also a revelation of the hidden sides of the cliques and social groups that populate high schools, and that quite often people are more than the labels we put on them.

Paige is dead, which sucks. She doesn't want to be dead, she wants to be alive, to hang out with her friend Usha, to maybe secretly make out with a certain guy, but things don't always work out the way we want. Instead, she's a ghost who can't leave the grounds of the high school. At least she's not alone, she has Evan and Brooke, two misfit teens who also died in the school (plus so many dissected frog ghosts).

Along with a ghost story is a study on the differing social classes and social structures of the modern day high school setting. There are different personalities and likes and dislikes and character traits all coming together in one hormone-soaked mass, and they're all expected to get along, but they don't. It's like so much oil and water being forced together. But everyone has their similarities, their moments of teenage immaturity and vulnerability. They all wear masks, partially out of self-perservation but partially because of stereotyping. As unhealthy as it can be, everyone does it. We have to remember that behinds the masks and the labels, behind the pre-conceived notions about popularity and wealth and life choices, they're still people not that different from ourselves.

What if there was life after death? Paige's death gives her a chance to learn more about her fellow classmates than she ever would've learned while she was alive, and she'd be foolish if she didn't use that to the best of her abilities. Even if that ability involved a little possession now and then.

(I acquired an advance copy as ALA Midwinter.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (52)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

The Canadian YA Lit Event is over. Sad. :( But it'll be back next year with authors and fun. :)

I see the doctor next week to see if I get the line out and to talk about how my finger's doing. It's been slowly getting better these past 5/6 weeks, but it's still full of gross infection-y crud and it still looks wrong. My guess is they'll look at my bloodwork, maybe get me to go get another x-ray or bone scan, and maybe stick me on more antibiotics. We'll see.

I was looking through the books I have left from ALA that I haven't read yet and at my review schedule and I thought to myself, I really don't know what's coming out in July or August. My brain's still in this weird space of spring releases and 30 books I still haven't read that I picked up in January so I'm not necessarily aware of what's coming out this summer. So, give me your suggestions of books to check out that come out in July and August. :)

We're back to a regular review schedule now. Reviews going up this week are for Absent by Katie Williams (Tuesday) and Doll Bones by Holly Black (Friday.) :)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (from St. Martin's Press through NetGalley)
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (from HarperCollins Canada)
Black Spring by Alison Croggon (from Candlewick Press through NetGalley)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Me on Coda

Title: Coda
Author: Emma Trevayne
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Running Press (Perseus imprint)

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem. The Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid. Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will. But will the girl he loves help or hinder him?

Coda is an extremely inventive and thrilling story, one young man's journey towards revolution and towards freedom. This book is ripe with danger and suspicion, and it highlights the key points of a dystopian setting. The horrors of an oppressive corporation and their corrupt goals, the dreary and dismal setting, the unflinching desire to keep those you care about most safe from harm, the overwhelming search for identity in a world where everyone is forced to be the same, and the discovery of limits, of how far we will go to stay alive. Of how much we will fight back.

Anthem has simple hopes, simple dreams. Keeping his siblings safe is paramount. Keeping them safe from the Corp, from tracking, from addiction. Keeping his father alive. He knows the Corp is dangerous, that it controls everyone, and that there's nothing he can do about it. But whispers are always in the underground, always in dark corners, and Anthem plays music in secret to keep the Corp from gaining complete control over him.

In Anthem's world, music is a drug. Tracking keeps you under the Corp's control, keeps you compliant, and alters your mind. Currently, music is a drug to some. There are songs we can't escape that make us sing along, make us dance, but this in mind control on a new level. This is dangerous and twisted, combining sound and rhythm and something else in order to control the population. Music is no longer seen as an enjoyable form of expression, as freedom, as communication, as art. Except for those willing to go underground.

Addiction is also dangerous, but that's what the Corp does, it uses music to control and keeps the population coming back for more. Then people are always chasing after that next high, that next track, working for the credits to purchase the next track that will send their mind to a different place. Drug addicts doing it to themselves in frightening enough, but when the government does it, when the people in charge does it to their own subjects, it's especially horrifying. And the sad thing is that, even while they cry out for a stop to it, they can't help but go back for another track.

I want more books where sexuality is a non-issue, where characters are who they are and no one questions the gender of their crush or romantic partner. Recent books like The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson and The Culling by Steven dos Santos also have this. Anthem is drawn to Haven, there's something between them, but he has some history with Scope, something that goes beyond friendship. This is part of Anthem, part of who he is as the unlikeliest of heroes and the most caring brother ever. Straight people, gay people, they're still people, it doesn't make them any less human.

The Corp is deadly, everything they do is done under the guide of help while it's actually population control. Tracking keeps them happy, keeps them quiet. Technology keeps everyone under watch. This makes Anthem's situation, his mission, that much more important. And also life-threatening. The Corp's power is seemingly absolute.

Those pushed down by the Corporation, those under its control, are crying out for revolution, but will Anthem be brave enough to pick up the mic and be its voice?

(I received an advance copy of this title at ALA Midwinter.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (128)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Shadow
Author: Amanda Sun
Release Date: June 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

From Goodreads:

Meet two teens whose worlds are about to change forever in this paranormal Young Adult novella, a prequel to Ink by debut author Amanda Sun…

Katie Greene’s worst nightmare comes true when her mother dies, and she’s devastated to learn that she will have to leave the only home she’s ever known. Desperate to find where she belongs, she must decide if she has what it takes to start a new life across the ocean.

For Yuu Tomohiro, every day is a nightmare. He struggles to control his strange ability, and keeps everyone at a distance so they won’t get hurt—even his girlfriend, Myu. At night, a shadow haunts his dreams, and a mysterious woman torments him with omens of death and destruction. But these haunting premonitions are only the beginning…

Sometimes, I'm intrigued by prequel novellas or between books 1 and 2 novellas. Sometimes you want to know more about what's happening, more about certain characters, and possibly the little bits that led to the start of book 1. I've read Ink multiple times already, but I'm so curious as to what this will reveal about both Katie and Tomo. :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 14 - Me on YA and Canada

Day 14. It's the last day of the event. And we were having so much fun, too. :)

I think in Canada we're more well-known for our contributions to literary fiction, 'novelists' like Mordecai Richler, Margaret Atwood, Saul Bellow, Yann Martel, and Carol Shields. Books that highlight our perseverance and tenacity and openness as Canadians are discussed more often, I feel, than picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels. We seem a little high-brow at times, a little polite and classy. I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying we can lighten up when it comes to the novels we write. (I'm not going to get into genre fiction, although I do love Margaret Atwood and her love of zombies.)

In April and in May, I took a trip to a couple of Chapters bookstores. It's our big chain bookstore here. I wanted to see if they had any kind of set up or section just for Canadian authors and their books. The best I found at one seemed to be a section titled "Local Interest." It consisted a few bookcases filled with non-fiction books detailing the different sights, sounds, flora, and fauna of the Lower Mainland area, plus an additional bookcase all about traveling in Canada.

I'll admit, I was a little put out. It's possible there was another section featuring books written by Canadians because I didn't look at every shelf in every corner of the bookstore, but I didn't think I'd need to hunt around.

When Canada Day rolls around on July 1st, I imagine there will be more of a focus on Canadian books and Canadian content, but I don't think a year-round table near the front or the middle of the store would hurt. Maybe highlight a few standards of Canadian lit plus a few new releases, mix it up to include non-fiction and genre fiction. We write it all.

I also wanted to take a trip down to the nearby library, look around there, but I couldn't (my recent health issues screwed up a lot of things recently). But I remember some things. Quite often, the library will add this extra red maple leaf to the spine of the book, letting readers know the author is Canadian. I love that. I sort of wish they could do this in bookstores. Not a sticker, but perhaps a tucked-in card or note on the edge of the shelf. Last January when John Green's The Fault in Our Stars came out, I saw some teenage girls tucking little 'Who the Eff is Hank?' notes with the link to their YouTube channel into his books. I thought it was genius. (Also, yay Nerdfighters. :))

I like what I've read in the past few years by Canadian YA authors. I want more of it. I want Canadians to feel they can write children's books and middle grade and young adult. Not everyone has to write the next great Canadian novel.

I want more of what's out there now, more big publishers taking on books by Canadian authors, more small publishers still publishing short stories and novels by Canadians that are often read in schools. I love what's out there now, unique stories and complex characters and intricate world-building, and I want to keep reading it.

And I don't want authors to be afraid to set their books in Canada, in the far north of the territories, across the flat plains that go on for miles in the Prairies, on East Vancouver's weird and eclectic Main Street, up high in the snow-capped Rockies of the BC Interior, in the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto, in the memories of Old Québec, or near the 1000 year old Norse/viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. I know we're seen as a more polite and possibly boring version of America, but it can be fun and exciting here, too. It's a big, weird, wild, amazing country. Just check out this video. :) (If you can, watch it in full screen.) (Also, check out Amy McCulloch's post from Day 12.)
Since Me on Books started back in 2010, I've read close to 60 books written by Canadians and reviewed approximately 35 of them. In 2012 alone, 23 of the 208 books I read (that's 11%) were by Canadians, 20 of which were reviewed. So far this year, it's currently 8 written by Canadians out of 68 books read total (almost 12%). 4 more are part of my current to-read/to-review list.

60 in about 2 and a half years. I wish I could read 60 books by Canadian YA authors EVERY YEAR. Some of that's on me for not as actively searching out books written by Canadians (I know a good chunk of that on me, put away your pointing fingers), but I understand that sometimes it's hard for small publishers to get the word out about their authors and their books. There are some wonderful but small Canadian publishers up here that are fairly regional.

The reason I'm holding this event, the reason why I going to keep hold it every year, is to spread the word, to share books with people who love reading. If I lived somewhere else, in the USA or in the UK or who knows where, I imagine I'd try and feature more authors from that part of the world. But I live in Canada, where we can get over-excited about hockey, where we serve fries covered in cheese and warm gravy so the cheese melts and it's all gooey, where winter happens (but not always in my part, thank you temperate rain forest climate). I want to share these authors with you because you might find their books interesting.

So, those are my thoughts on Canadian YA. I want more of it, I'm going to try and read more of it, and I'll be sharing it with all who come to read about it. Deal?

What are your thoughts on YA in Canada? Is what you see different from what I see? Do you also want more Canada in your Canadian YA?

Thank you so much to everyone who dropped by over the past two weeks, who commented on guest posts and Q&As, and to all the authors who took part and answered my silly questions. Without you, this event wouldn't exist. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 13 - Amanda Sun

Day 13. :) You all know of my love and undying support of debut Canadian YA authors, and if you're a reader of my weekly recap posts (where I babble on about my week and if I happened to get any books), you might remember last year's rediscovered love of anime and manga. When I first heard about this book and this author, I freaked out a little. Okay, maybe a lot. ;)

Amanda Sun currently lives in Ontario with her husband and daughter. When she's not busy writing YA, she's either reading YA, watching Japanese dramas, making fun geek crafts like a knit Companion Cube from Portal, or sewing costumes for anime and fantasy conventions. Her Twitter profile pic currently claims she's Fluttershy from My Little Pony (but I've seen pictures of her without the pink hair). Previous short stories have been published in the anthologies Playthings of the Gods and Tesseracts Fifteen. Her debut YA novel, Ink, is set to be released on June 25, 2013 by Harlequin Teen, the publisher's teen fiction imprint. The prequel novella Shadow will be available in e-book form on June 1, 2013. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@Amanda_Sun). :)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I'm Canadian through and through! I was born in Deep River, Ontario, a small town surrounded by forest on the banks of the Ottawa River. Stranger safety there is comprised of what to do if you meet a skunk or bear on the walk to school. One time I did meet a bear, by the way. He was on his hind legs scratching his claws against the tree bark. I just backed up quietly and went a different path to school. Never met a skunk, but I did meet the occasional fox. :)

We only had one traffic light, no buses, and everyone knows everyone--and their business. Since then I've lived in Toronto, then B.C. for a few years, and then back to Toronto. My dad was born in Calgary, and my mum was born in England.

Q: You said in the Q&A at the back of the ARC for Ink that your experience as a high school exchange student inspired Katie's trip to Japan. What first brought on your decision to go to Japan as an exchange student?

A: I started a fascination with Japan early on, thanks to a Hello Kitty doll I had. My interest in Japan really took off, though, when I saw my first anime, Sailor Moon. I started teaching myself Japanese writing, carefully comparing Sailor Moon character names with their Japanese counterparts. The more I learned of the language and culture, the more I wanted the chance to try it out. I think part of being a reader and writer is wanting to experience living a completely different life. All I did was take it off the page and into real life :D

There's an obscure New Zealand movie called Bonjour Timothy, about a girl from Montreal who goes to NZ on exchange. When I watched that, I knew for sure that I had to live on exchange. I wanted that to be me. I needed it to be me! That's when I looked seriously into exchange programs and ended up living in Osaka with a wonderful host family.

Q: With Katie, she's very much a stranger in a strange world, going from New York to Shizuoka. There's a lot she has to overcome in terms of change, such as the different foods, social customs, and the language. How much of Katie's 'first time' experiences were based off your own?

A: Quite a lot, actually, but only in the subtle details. I kept a daily journal of my time in Japan, which I referred to while writing INK. Most of Katie's cultural blunders are her own, but her reactions to Japanese sights, sounds, and smells are often borrowed from my own experiences. Katie forgetting to switch her school slippers with her outdoor shoes is her mistake, but walking through Sunpu Park as the cherry petals brush against her skin and tangle in her hair is from my experience walking through the park myself. Or, take the fact that Katie joins Tea Ceremony Club at school. My host grandmother was a Tea Ceremony teacher, and taught me the basics. So many parts of INK are real, but distorted in a way to fit to Katie's own life there.

Q: How much research did you have to do for the Kami and their abilities? Was it always your intention to write a book with this mysterious paranormal/mythological element?

A: INK actually started out as a contemporary YA. Can you believe it? :D I wanted to write about Tomohiro, this Japanese teen who wanted more out of life. I pictured him sketching in his notebook, surrounded by trees and wagtail birds. I kept seeing it over and over in my head, as he hunched over his drawings. He wanted to be an artist, but his dad wanted him to be a doctor or banker. I thought through meeting Katie, the two of them could find themselves in life. And then one day, while I was daydreaming about Tomo sketching, I saw his drawing move on the page. I was as shocked as Katie was, and I started to pursue him in my mind. He slowly revealed everything to me about himself.

When I was little, I had a beautiful children's encyclopedia of myths, including the story of the kami Izanagi and Izanami, and of Amaterasu. The idea of non-western mythologies was also fresh in my mind after books like Cindy Pon's SILVER PHOENIX. And in university I'd taken Asian History, and knew a bit about the kami and the story of how they saved Japan from the invasion of Mongols by sending a divine storm. So I started to research more, and everything fit with what Tomo was telling me about himself.

And kami means both "spirit/god" and "paper," which is how The Paper Gods came about, and provided the final connection between the moving ink and the mythology. ^_^

Q: The prequel novella, Shadow, comes out on June 1st. Where did the idea of the novella come from? Was it your idea, your agent's, your editor's or publisher's? Do you like the growing trend of prequel novellas?

A: The novella was my editor's idea, but I was so glad he approached me with it because I'd be hoping to write one too. I was surprised when he suggested a prequel, though--I'd been thinking a bridge novella. INK starts with Katie very newly in Japan--what could happen in the prequel? But the more I thought about it, the more I saw there was an opportunity to dig deeper into what Katie and Tomohiro were dealing with before INK. What did Katie do in those months leading up to Japan? How did she cope with her mom's death and the news of being sent across the world to live with an aunt she barely knows? And for Tomo, the precarious life his abilities force him into--what happened to him before INK that shaped him into the person he is now? I wanted to write SHADOW from two POVs, and I'm glad my editor agreed! It was really exciting for me to delve into Tomohiro's mind and see what he's really thinking, and what kinds of nightmares are haunting him every night.

I've really enjoyed some of the novellas out there. Not only are they a helpful series fix in between release dates (sometimes it's too long to wait for the next book!), but I always feel like I'm in on some kind of secret information, that I have a more intimate friendship with the characters because I've seen past what's provided in the books. And I hope that's what SHADOW will be for readers. A lot of the novella refers back to subtle comments in INK, and vice versa. I think readers will get a lot more out of INK from reading SHADOW, and will enjoy the secret nods and handshakes hidden in both of them to provide a wider view of The Paper Gods world. ^_^

Q: You're a debut author, Ink is your first published book. Are you feeling any kind of pressure as a debut author, or has it been fairly easy going so far with Ink's release date near the end of June? Is there anything specific on or after Ink's release that you're looking forward to, like being referred to as a 'published author' or seeing your book in a bookstore and racing over to take pictures?

A: Haha, yes, you could say there's a lot of pressure! I really hope everyone enjoys INK. I don't want to let readers down. But my agent, editor, and Harlequin TEEN have been FANTASTIC about the whole experience. TS Ferguson, my editor, is a total genius, and Harlequin TEEN has put so much care into the details of my book, from the flip animations in the corner to the beautiful covers that made me flail. I'm just so grateful for the experience and attention, watching everything come together with people who really care about INK the way I care about it.

I'm really mostly concerned about one thing--connecting. I so badly want to connect with the reader, to share that quiet moment where we both feel understood and validated as human beings. I love that moment when I'm lost in a book and I read something that I thought only I felt, and realize that I'm not alone in the world. So it's that connection that I'm really hoping for, and already I've found it happening with the ARCs of INK circulating. I'm finding and connecting with wonderful people--yourself included!--and I'm so grateful for that.

And yes, I can't wait until I see INK in bookstores. I already grab my author friends' books and flail them at everyone in the stores, so I can't wait until it's my own book I'm flailing wildly with! Haha :D

Q: Is there anything you can share about the next book, or is everything (apart from the sneak peek in the back of the ARC) being kept a secret until after Ink comes out?

A: Hmm...well, most of that is still top secret. ^_~ But I can tell you that we'll find out more about why the ink plagues Tomo and Katie the way it does. There will be more out-of-control ink and more kissing. And LOTS more Japanese food. ^_^

Q: And finally, what could be the hardest question. What is your favourite Japanese food that you miss the most, be it a meal or snack food?

A: Ooh, great question! First and foremost, okonomiyaki. Oh my gosh, that stuff tastes like magic. You start with pancake-type batter and add all the ingredients you like--for example cabbage, bacon, eggs, noodles, onions, or anything else. And then you fry it up into a giant tasty pancake/pizza thing. I miss it so much! I miss curry rice too, but I can make it easily at home.

The other thing I really miss is all the drinks in the vending machines and convenience stores. They have so many delightful combinations of iced coffee, iced tea, fruit drinks, etc. Every time I visit Japan, the first question I ask the locals is "Where is the closest convenience store?" Haha!

Thank you so much for having me on Me on Books. I really appreciate it! Yay Canadian authors! :D

Thanks so much to Amanda for taking part. Go check out Ink when it comes out next month! :) (Also, the weird thing? The movie Amanda mentions near the beginning of the Q&A... I totally know what movie that is. O_o Spooky.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 12 - Amy McCulloch

Day 12. :) The second in the little string of June debuts. I've only known about this book for almost two months, which shows that sometimes that happens, but I'm glad I know about it now. :) Of course, it might have something to do with where this author currently lives. ;)

Amy McCulloch currently lives in the UK. Born in Kingston-upon-Thames, she and her family moved to Ottawa, Ontario when she was 11. There, she developed a love of all things geeky like science fairs, yearbooks, RPGs, and The Lord of the Rings. After graduating from the University of Toronto and traveling around the world, she headed back to London to work in publishing. She now works as a commissioning editor for HarperVoyager, the publisher's science fiction and fantasy imprint, and fits writing around it. Even though she's now in the UK, she's still a proud Canadian. Her debut YA novel, The Oathbreaker's Shadow, is set to come out on June 6, 2013 by Random House Children's Books UK and on June 4, 2013 by Doubleday Canada. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@amymcculloch). :)

In my final year at the University of Toronto, I took a Canadian Literature course – both to satisfy the requirements of my English specialist degree and because, well, I hadn’t read all that much Canlit and I felt like I really should read more. We whipped through several texts in a few months, including Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are?, and Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion – all classics! At the same time, I had just started what would become The Oathbreaker’s Shadow – my debut novel – and I was thinking a lot about what it meant to be a Canadian writer. After all, I’m a hodgepodge of culture: although I identify as Canadian, I’m UK-born, speak with a slight British accent, and am mixed race Chinese-Caucasian. My book is a YA fantasy-adventure inspired by Genghis Khan’s Mongolia. What is particularly Canadian about that?

Well, nothing, really, until further on into the course, when I realized that two of the main characteristics of Canadian literature were nature and wilderness. Canada is a big old country, with lots of open space, and a lot of our history involves the wild outdoors and how it shapes the people that live there. There is a huge theme of nature and survival running through the whole of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, plus that all important search for identity. That might make it Canadian but, of course, it also makes it me.

The further away I get from uni, the less I think about literary criticism and how it relates to my book – heck, I’m just worried about regular criticism at this point! Still, with the surge of new Canadian YA coming out (as evidenced by Lindsay’s list!) I wonder how Canadian YA fits in within the broader spectrum of Canadian literature.

When I look at The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, I can see all the places that inspired it: the carpet-weaving cultures of India and Pakistan, the sand dunes of Namibia, the nomadic culture of Mongolia, the lost city of Petra. But at its heart, it’s still a thoroughly Canadian novel. There might not be any enormous, sand-dune-filled deserts in Canada (although the world’s smallest desert is in the Yukon – I visited it once!), but the themes of loss, search for identity identity and survival in harsh environments ground it firmly in that tradition.

Do you see any distinctive themes or characteristics of Canadian YA? Or think I’m describing just fantasy novels in general? Feel free to get in touch on my twitter (@amymcculloch) or in the comments.

Thanks so much to Amy for the guest post. Go check out The Oathbreaker's Shadow when it comes out in June! :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (51)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's Mother's Day tomorrow! *hugs for my mom* It's been a weird year so far for all of us so I hope she takes some time and does some relaxing.

The Canadian YA Lit Event is still happening! If you've missed any posts, here they are: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10 & Day 11. Only a few more days to go before it ends for the year. And make sure to enter the giveaways here and here before time runs out! :) (And I've been checking the Rafflecopter entries so I know if there's some cheating afoot.) (Also, I know I said once that there would be 2 winners if the number of entries tipped over 100, but my finger has created some unexpected medical costs this year so there will only be the 1 winner. I hope those who've entered will understand.)

It's been rather nice this past week, meaning it's been sunny and warm. Rather unseasonably warm. It was weird, like we went from early May to mid-July in the span of a day. I hope it isn't a sign for how warm the summer will be.

Same old plague finger. My sister keeps saying it looks better, and it does, but I'm thinking my treatment might extend beyond the 6 weeks they initially planned. I'm also curious if it'll ever go further than antibiotics and bone scans, if the words 'biopsy' or 'surgery' will ever come up. We could find out around the 20th.

The blog will get back to its usual review schedule on Friday the 17th with a review of Coda by Emma Trevayne. :)
Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Borrowed from the library:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs

Day 11 - Eve Silver

Day 11. These last three authors, today's included, have books coming out in June. Because their books aren't out yet, think of the next few posts as a teaser of sorts. :)

Eve Silver lives sometimes in Canada but also in worlds she dreams up along with her husband and sons. She loves kayaking and sunshine, dogs and desserts, and lots and lots of books. Her adult books have made her a national bestselling author, garnering starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. In 2011, she was nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her YA debut, Rush, the first in a series, is set to come out on June 11, 2013 with HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books. You can reach her at her website and on Twitter. :)

Lindsay, thanks for inviting me to join your Canadian YA event. I’m very excited to be here.

In my upcoming debut YA release—RUSH (June 11, 2013)— Miki Jones struggles to achieve a new ‘normal’ after the death of her mother, only to find she’s anything but normal when her alien DNA sees her dragged into a game where she must hunt aliens or be hunted by them. In the game she meets Jackson Tate, and one of the things that helps them discover each other is their mutual love of reading. Their tastes are eclectic, ranging from Manga to classics, but their shared love of the written word is a part of the strong connection they feel.

Speaking of connections, I may be an author, but I’m also a reader, and it’s wonderful to be able to connect with other readers and share the love of a great book. So reader-to-reader, I want to share a quick pick of eight exciting Canadian YA authors. I know my list isn’t comprehensive, and I’m hoping you’ll add some of your faves in the comments so I can check them out.

~*~drum roll~*~

In no specific order,

1. Kelley Armstrong is the author of the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising YA trilogies, as well as the middle grade fantasy adventure, Loki’s Wolves (co-written by K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr). Not only is Kelley a Canadian author, but her Darkness Rising books are set in Canada (British Columbia) with fabulous action scenes in the Vancouver Island wilderness. What I love about her books: strong heroines, great heroes, mystery, action, adventure, paranormal elements mixed with a hint of sci-fi.

2. Michelle Rowen is the author of the Wicked Kiss and Dark Kiss, the Demon Princess series and the forthcoming Countdown which includes a deadly game, non-stop action filled with unexpected twists and turns, a kick-butt heroine and an incredible bad-boy hero. As Morgan Rhodes, she writes the Falling Kingdoms high fantasy series. What I love about her books: Her wit and humor, her dialogue, the way she pulls the reader in and makes them care about her characters, her delicate handling of dark issues.

3. Brenda Hammond is the Ottawa-based author of Cape Town, a wonderful YA coming-of-age story set in Pre-Mandela South Africa. What I love about this book: The lyrical and visual writing, the accurate but not overwhelming backdrop of the political unrest of the time, the character growth.

4. Amanda Sun is the author of the upcoming Ink, which is incredible on so many levels: a set-in-Japan, coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water story with a completely new and unique twist on the paranormal, a lovely romance, action, fun and fascinating cultural information…just a great story all around. Cool info about Amanda: She’s a cosplayer.

5. Amy McCulloch is a Canadian currently living in the UK where she’s a commissioning editor for HarperVoyagerUK as well as an author. Her fantasy story, The Oathbreaker's Shadow, will hit shelves in June, 2013. What I love about this book: fabulous, thoughtful, unique, accessible high fantasy.

6. Elsie Chapman is the British Columbia based author of Dualed, a high action story with a Survivor/Lord of the Flies vibe. Publishers Weekly called it the “textual equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie.” What’s awesome about this book: great pacing, action, suspense, and did I mention action?

7. Maureen McGowan is the author of The Dust Chronicles, which includes Deviants and the upcoming Compliance. What’s great about this series: a dark and edgy post-apocalyptic world, suspense, and tough choices for the characters. Fun fact about Maureen: she’s a fan and regular attendee of the Toronto International Film Festival.

8. Juliana Stone’s forthcoming YA, Back to Good (May 2014), is about two teens dealing with their torn pasts as they fall in love over a hot Louisiana summer. Awesome Canadian trivia about this author: The hero in the book is a musician, and Juliana toured Canada fronting for an all-female rock band!

As for the characters in RUSH… check out the book to find out which authors Miki loves and which are Jackson’s faves. Who are your favorite made-in-Canada YA authors?

Happy reading!


Thank you so much for taking part, Eve. Go check out Rush when it comes out in early June! :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 10 - Lisa Voisin

Day 10. What I like about this event is no author is exactly the same as another. They all have different backgrounds, different stories, and different paths to publishing. Everything's all diverse, but all of them have a love of writing. :)

Lisa Voisin currently lives in Vancouver, BC. After studying English literature in Toronto and creative writing in Burnaby, she had the great fortune of being mentored by Nancy Richler and A.M. Dellamonica through Betsy Warland's Vancouver Manuscript Intensive solo program. A self-proclaimed coffee lover, she lives on a steady diet of coffee and fiction. When not writing, she can be found meditating in the mountains in an attempt to counteract the caffeine. Her debut YA novel, The Watcher, was published by InkSpell Publishing this past March. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@lvoisin). :) (Bonus at the end of the post.)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I was born in Canada and I’ve lived here all my life. My father is from Belgium, so I’m first-generation Canadian on his side of the family, and second generation on my mom’s side.

Q: Can you briefly discuss your March debut, The Watcher? What's it all about?

A: Simply put, The Watcher is a YA paranormal romance about a girl who finds herself caught between two fallen angels, both of whom share a past with her. It’s also about a love that transcends time, and the way trauma from the past repeats itself. It's also a tale of redemption.

Q: It seems that, for the past few years, the market has been packed with paranormal romance, both adult and YA. What do you think is that spark or moment in The Watcher that sets it apart from similar books? What do you hope will draw in readers?

A: I hope to draw readers into the story by the characters and the world they’re in. In so many angel stories, the angels are either really dark or squeaking clean. I wanted to introduce the idea of angels being spiritual and being capable of sinning, and thus redemption.

Q: Your publisher, Inkspell, is a small and (from what I've seen on the website) mainly digital publisher. Do you like your publisher?

A: I do. I’m very grateful to Inkspell for everything they’ve done for me. I’ve learned a lot along the way. When I first signed up with them, they weren’t established as a digital-only imprint yet. They assured me print copies would be available (even in Canada!) through a major distributor. I appreciate the steps they took to make that happen.

Q: What did you love about writing The Watcher the most? Or the least?

A: The Watcher is my first book, so I loved writing the first draft. It was like a honeymoon phase of challenging myself to see if I could actually write a novel-length piece. All the while, I was amazed I was actually writing it. I became addicted to the story as I wrote. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have finished it.

I enjoyed the editing process. The part I liked the least was recognizing how much I had yet to learn. I think the first time someone completes a book, they want to get it published RIGHT NOW. This had been a great boon for companies that help writers self-publish. Waiting, learning, editing, seeking professional feedback, rewriting, editing and learning more is a rigorous process. Once I got past my initial reaction to how much I had yet to learn, I began to embrace the entire learning process. To this day, though, the fun part is hashing out that first draft.

Q: What's next after The Watcher?

A: I’m currently working on the second book in The Watcher series and mapping out the third.

Q: As a fellow Lower Mainland resident, you're accustomed to how much it rains over the fall, through the winter, and straight on into the spring. What's your favourite thing to do in Vancouver when it rains?

A: I’m a big fan of curling up by the fire with a book, a cup of tea, and a cat on my lap. I also take courses. I took sword fighting lessons with Academie Duello this fall. That was really fun!

Many thanks to Lisa for dropping by. Go check out The Watcher now! :)
BONUS! Today's Q&A is doubling for Lisa's current blog tour for The Watcher. There's also an ongoing giveaway Lisa's holding where prizes include a print and e-book copies of the book as well as a winged necklace. The Rafflecopter form for the giveaway can be found here. :) Good luck to those who enter!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 9 - Joanne Levy

Day 9. I review and talk about a lot of young adult novels here, but sometimes some middle grade gets mixed in there. :) I like middle grade, my go-to middle grade recommendation is Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, but I want to read more of it.

Joanne Levy currently lives in Ontario with her husband and kids of the furred and feathered variety. Being the youngest and only girl among four children, she was often left to her own devices and could frequently be found sitting in a quiet corner with her nose in a book. Her debut middle grade novel, Small Medium at Large, came out on July 3, 2012 by Bloomsbury. You can find her at her website and on Twitter. :)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I’m 100% Tim Horton’s swilling, back bacon eating, “A Boot” saying Canadian. Born and raised and super-proud to be a Canuck! Does it get any more Canadian? I don’t think so.

Q: What first inspired you to write Small Medium at Large? How hard was the transition from writing it as a YA novel to an MG novel?

A: I actually woke up with the title in my head one morning, so I guess I’d have to say recognizing that was a pretty awesome title was what inspired me to write the book. And you’re right-it started out as a YA, but a very wise editor said she liked my voice for a younger audience and asked if I would consider rewriting it as MG. That was tough—I’d never written MG before and hadn’t read any since I was a middle grader! But I did lots of research and reading and channeled my 12 year old tween self and VOILA! It appears I may have never grown up...

Q: How important was it to make Small Medium at Large a funny book? Do you think it's important for kids' books to be funny while also having those moments of seriousness and lesson-learning?

A: It was REALLY important to make it a funny book for two reasons: 1. That editor said she loved that it was funny, so I definitely needed to keep the funny. And 2. I love funny and can’t help but put humour into my writing. You may have figured it out by now, but I’m a goof and will do just about anything to get a laugh. And, well, LIFE is funny, so it makes sense to have humour in books, especially for kids. Kids love to laugh and even when we’re talking about serious subjects (like death) peppering in humour makes the hard stuff easier to take.

Q: When Small Medium at Large came out last summer, some of the Toronto book bloggers I've met online were there at the launch (and really enjoyed themselves). What was the launch like? Was it what you expected or was it more of a surprise? How supportive has the Toronto/GTA book community been?

A: The launch was AMAZING and I’m not just talking about the cupcakes (although they were really delicious). Much of what made that day awesome was thanks to the support of the GTA book bloggers (or “Blogettes”). I was very honoured that so many came out to celebrate with me and make the day so special. I’d met some of them at other book events (they are SO awesome and come out to lots of book signings—I can’t imagine a more supportive crew of book lovers!) but having them make the trek into town to be at mine was something I’ll never forget. Being that I’m an obsessive planner, the day went pretty much as I expected, only way better. I didn’t faint from nerves and signed a ton of books and lots of friends-old and new-came out to support me and my little book. Can you imagine a better day?

Q: Do you enjoy how easy it is for readers to connect with authors and other readers and fans of books through social media like Twitter and Facebook? Do you find yourself having to limit how often you're on Twitter so you can get back to writing?

A: I love how social media has made authors so accessible—and this goes both ways. I follow my lifetime author-crush Judy Blume on Twitter and love seeing what she’s up to. And I have connected with so many bloggers (Hi Lindsay!), teachers and librarians and have gotten the word out about my own book in a way that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago. With MG, it’s hard to get right to the readers, but through social media, I have been able to plan school Skype visits and distribute bookmarks to teachers and librarians to give to kids. That said, it can be a huge time suck, so when I’m actively writing, I need to close down Tweetdeck and really focus. Usually, it doesn’t stay closed for very long, but I’m working on it.

Q: Are you currently working on another book? Will there be another book set in Lilah's world?

A: I’m between projects right now, but I have a sequel to SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE written—it’s up to my publisher if they want to put it out in the world. But I really hope they do—it’s another fun story about Lilah, her friends and of course, her crush, Andy. I also have another MG and a YA written, but nothing’s official just yet. Keep an eye on my website or Twitter as I’ll surely yell from the rooftops when something exciting happens!

Q: Do you have a favourite part of Canada that you've lived in or visited? Or a favourite food (apart from poutine or Timbits ;))?

A: I haven’t done nearly enough traveling through Canada, but my husband and I are hoping to make it out east this summer. His family is from St. Johns and I can’t wait to visit—we’re big fans of The Republic of Doyle TV show and every week is like a teaser. Also, my favourite food is lobster, so that will work out well, I think. ;-)

Thank you for dropping by, Joanne. Go check out Small Medium at Large! :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 8 - Shelley Hrdlitschka

Day 8. I hope that, over these two weeks, some of you discover a book or two that interests you, that you wish you'd known about when it came out, or that you wish you'd had when you were in high school. Or books that you'll be suggesting to someone who's in high school. ;)

Shelley Hrdlitschka currently lives in North Vancouver, BC. She discovered her love for children's literature as a teacher. This gave her the idea of writing her own books. All nine of her books for teens have been published by Orca Book Publishers. When not writing, she can be found hiking, snowshoeing, practicing yoga, or volunteering at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. Previously published novels include Sister Wife, Sun Signs, and . Her most recent YA novel, Allegra, came out just this past April. You can find her at her blog and also on Twitter (@SHrdlitschka). :)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I was born and raised in Canada, to Canadian parents and my grandparents were also Canadian. That’s pretty darn Canadian, eh?

Q: Do you have any kind of set writing schedule or process? Have you found you can write anywhere, or only in certain places at certain times of day?

A: On a perfect day I will rise early and get right to work writing. I will try to resist reading the newspaper or checking email or playing Words With Friends. Three or four hours of work is usually all I can manage, and then I have my afternoons to deal with correspondence and everything else. However, life is not perfect and often I have appointments or other things that need my attention in the morning so then I attempt to write in the afternoon or evening, but I am not as productive at those times. I usually write at my kitchen table as I have a nice view of my deck and all the birds at my birdfeeders. I have tried writing in coffee shops and enjoy the experience, but I’m still more productive at home, alone, and my dog appreciates my company.

Q: Your most recent book, Allegra, comes out in early April. Can you describe it? What inspired it? Was it a specific person or idea?

A: Allegra is about a Grade 12 student (named Allegra) who has just started attending a Fine and Performing Arts School. She is socially awkward but very talented, both as a dancer and a music composer. Not fitting in with the other kids she spends more and more time working on her music composition, and the young, passionate (and naïve) male teacher finds he can’t resist working on it with her as he admires her talent. Her feelings for him become inappropriate and she believes he also has feelings for her. Everything falls apart for both of them when she acknowledges her feelings to him.

I was inspired to write it as I like to explore those ‘grey’ areas in life. A relationship between a student and her teacher is clearly wrong, but I wanted to know… how does it happen? Why would a student or a teacher develop these kind of inappropriate feelings, and are they always inappropriate? Could there be exceptions? I got the idea from reading about teachers who have been caught in these kinds of relationships and I wanted to know how they evolved. I don’t believe that the majority of teachers have sinister motives, they just get caught up in something that is difficult to resist.

Q: Sister Wife has the feel of an important and very emotional book. How important was it to write this book? Why more than one perspective of the community? Why not just have Celeste's point of view?

A: I felt very compelled to write Sister Wife. I was reading about Bountiful (the polygamist community in BC) every day in the newspaper and wondered what it would be like to be one of those teen girls. I had three teen girls of my own at the time and could not imagine telling them who they had to marry, especially if it was an older man who was already married! I wrote the story from 3 different points of view as I felt it was important to try to understand how other people can believe such different things. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs however I do have objections with the adults in these communities when they don’t educate the children to understand that they have choices. If these girls decided to practice polygamy after fully understanding that there were different ways to live, that would be a completely different story. Again, I wanted to examine those ‘grey’ areas. (I wrote a post about that on my blog today.)

Q: Was it difficult to research polygamist communities for Sister Wife?

A: I did not actually visit a polygamist community before writing Sister Wife as I knew I would not be welcome there. However, I did read the accounts of many women who had lived in one of those communities and had escaped.

Q: Comparatively, how different or difficult was the research for Sun Signs?

A: No, the research for Sun Signs was not difficult, but I did have one of my daughters read the manuscript to make sure I got all the email jargon right. I also had fun researching astrology.

Q: After Allegra, what's next? Are you currently working on a new book?

A: I am working on what I am calling a ‘companion book’ to one of my earlier titles, Dancing Naked. At the end of Dancing Naked a baby is born to a 16 year old girl. For years I have been getting requests from teens to write a sequel to Dancing Naked, and although I don’t want to call this a sequel, the baby is now a teenager herself and struggling with the death of her adoptive mother. She is wondering about her birth mom, the girl from Dancing Naked. My new book (still untitled) is reintroducing some of the characters from Dancing Naked, but it will stand on its own. Dancing Naked has been, by far, my most successful book so I hope that by revisiting some of the themes I can write something that is thought-provoking to a whole new generation of teens.

Q: Do you have a favourite part of BC? Like, for example, those rare sunny days in the spring. Or is it a favourite part of Canada outside of BC?

A: I love being on the North Shore Mountains (of Vancouver). I am not a skier (anymore) or a boarder, but when I am snow shoeing, hiking or working as a volunteer at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife I feel like I am in a different world, so far away from the city. The air feels different, yet I know that the big city and all its amenities is just a short distance away.

Many thanks to Shelley for dropping by and taking part. You can go check out all of her books now! :)

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (127)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Loki's Wolves
Authors: K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters--wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.

The gods died a long time ago.

Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history--because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.

However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids--led by Matt--will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world.

I know it's not YA, and I know only one of the authors are Canadian, and I know this came out yesterday, but you need to deal with it. ;) This is the first in a middle grade series written by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr. I'm curious if Greek mythology is on its way out and Norse mythology is on its way in, taking Lesley Livingston's Starling and Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun into account. :) I don't really care that this is middle grade and not YA, it sounds like such a great adventure story.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 7 - Gabrielle Prendergast

Day 7. Yet another BC author. Deal with it. ;)

Gabrielle Prendergast currently lives in British Columbia with her husband and daughter. Her Twitter bio names her a "writer and cultural critic," and I would have to agree. She is the writer of the feature film Hildegarde, an Australian film about a family's mission to save their pet duck (a novelization was also published), as well as for some kids shows and a crime drama. She's written for magazines, blogs, and moderates at Her middle grade novel, Wicket Season, was published in March 2012 by Lorimer Publishers. Her first YA verse novel, Audacious, is set to come out this fall with Orca Books, with the sequel following in 2014. You can find her at her website or on Twitter (@GabrielleSaraP). :)

Q: Since it's an event featuring Canadian authors, I figured I'd ask all the authors who chose the Q&A to say how they would count as a Canadian author, be it they were born here, lived here, or moved here. So, how Canadian are you?

A: I have the distinction of having immigrated to Canada not once, but twice. I was born in the UK and came here with my family when I was two. We became citizens when I was thirteen. When I was 21 I moved to Australia to hang out on the beach and eventually to go to university. I ended up staying for twelve years and marrying an Australian. Together we immigrated to the USA in 2002 but after my daughter was born in 2004 we immigrated back to Canada. My husband became Canadian in 2009. I’ve been to three citizenship ceremonies. My Canadian one, my Australian one and my husband’s Canadian one. I often say that naturalized citizens are more than natural born ones because we take oaths. I think all Canadians should take an oath. It should be part of high school or grade school graduation ceremonies.

Q: Do you have a set writing process or schedule?

A: I don’t have a full time job, so I write every day. However I am very easily distractible and sometimes get nothing done. Other days I spend the whole day fooling around on Twitter only to write 3000 words after midnight.

The process depends very much on what I’m writing. Some things I outline more than others. WICKET SEASON was carefully outlined. AUDACIOUS was not at all outlined. Other things fall somewhere in the middle.

Q: Could you give a brief description or summary of your upcoming book Audacious? Did anything in particular inspire it? A person or a place or a feeling?

A: AUDACIOUS is a young adult novel in verse about 16-year-old Ella, who moves with her family to a new town and blows her plans of fitting in by falling for a Muslim guy, creating controversial artwork, and getting expelled from school.

I started out wanting to write something semi-autobiographical about a boy and a girl being friends but it turned into something quite different. But Ella is very much a personal and cathartic character for me. I was definitely that girl who managed to rub everyone the wrong way while still not being rebellious in a “cool” way.

Rah Rah

This was me:
The one who said the wrong thing
Who crossed the wrong person

Who had the wrong hair
The wrong body
The totally wrong clothes
The wrong attitude





The WRONG friends.

I was born in the wrong decade
In the wrong country
To the wrong family

I couldn’t do anything right
Except draw
(The wrong pictures)
Which I do
With the wrong hand.

Ella will be different.

It was also a reaction against books in which the heroines have a circle of supportive girlfriends, because that was never me. I always did better with boys as friends, and I wanted to write something about how lonely that can be as you get older boy/girl friendships get complicated by sex and jealousy and romance.

Q: Besides your own blog, you write at, a site dedicated to verse novels and their authors. Where did the idea for the blog first come from?

A: I think I was looking for a central clearing house of information on verse novels, somewhere from which to launch AUDACIOUS and I realized there was none. So I checked the URL and when I realized no one had it, I snapped it up. Once I had it, I had to do something, so was born.

Q: Do you think writing in verse would work with any genre, like science fiction or fantasy, or not?

A: I’d love to see some more genre in verse. There is a little bit, historical mainly, and a few supernatural things, but I’ve never heard of any sci-fi in verse. I think it works wherever a more lyrical style of writing works. Lauren DeStephano writes very lyrically for example, so I could imagine something like WITHER in verse, and that story line suits it. Something like ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis maybe not so much, because a novel like that depends so much on pace and plot and less on lyricism.

I may rewrite a sci-fi I have half-baked as a hybrid novel, with one point of view in prose and one in verse. One of my favorite verse novels, NOTHING by Robin Friedman is a hybrid like this, but not sci-fi!

Q: Apart from Audacious, you have a middle grade book titled Wicket Season and you've written for film and TV in Australia. Is there much of a difference, in your own opinion, between writing a script and writing a novel?

A: There’s a huge difference. The main difference is that the point of view in screenwriting is strictly objective, unless there’s a voiceover. That’s an exceeding difficult way to write, but once you get used to it (I’ve written eleven screenplays, one produced, three optioned, as well as a few TV things) it’s hard to break out of that habit. That’s something I struggle with as a novelist.

Another difference is how concise screenwriting is. In this way it’s a good primer for writing verse novels, which also tend to be very concise.

There’s a scene in AUDACIOUS where Ella, who grew up on the coast, experiences her first real snowstorm. It’s expressed in the form of one haiku.


Falling so softly,
Like thieves in the frozen night.
They steal the city.

In a screenplay the same sentiment might be expressed with one short scene like this:


Fat snowflakes drift down on to landscape of cars and yards already covered in a thick blanket of snow.

So in both verse novels and screenplays the idea is expressed in an image. Whereas in a novel you might find the description of the snow covered street, her feelings about the novelty etc. taking up two or three pages.

Screenplays are also notoriously stringently plotted with very strict structure. That’s so deeply ingrained in me that I think I do it in novels without even thinking.

Q: After the fall, will you have any more books coming out in the future? I know there will be a sequel to Audacious next year, but what about after that?

A: CAPRICIOUS will come out in spring 2014 (I hope, I’m still writing it!) and THE FRAIL DAYS, which is part of a new series from Orca Books will come out in the fall of 2014 or the spring of 2015.

I have a middle grade novel out on sub. I hope to hear some news about that soon. Then after that I will be focusing on four, yes FOUR books I have in various states of half-writteness: two sci-fi, one contemporary and one verse novel.

I’ve also been joking about a third book in the AUDACIOUS series but all I have so far is a title: LOQUACIOUS.  

Q: Any recent book recommendations? Is there anything you've read that you'd want to see more of? Or even less of?

A: I tend to love boy POV YA contemporary, especially when it’s written by male authors. I really enjoyed DR BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos which just came out. I can’t seem to get enough of broken boys in YA books. I’m not sure that I necessarily want to see more of them, but I’d like to find something that captivates me in the same way.

I’d love to see more chubby kids, more kids with disabilities, more contemporary non USA settings and characters and generally YA and MG kids who are not “mainstream”. But I don’t want the books to be ABOUT these issues.

I’d love to see a bit more crossover between genre and contemporary issues. Like a shifter who is also an addict in foster care. A faerie with bulimia or an unplanned pregnancy. How great would that be?

As far as less, I’m sort of disgusted by “frock books”, especially those in which girls are pitted against each other over the love of some undeserving boy. (I’m looking at you, THE SELECTION.) I rarely read a book with a girl in a frock on the cover. It’s a real turn off for me. And I can’t stand the pages and pages of costume description in books like THE HUNGER GAMES. So distracting.

That said, the plot of AUDACIOUS hinges on a pink dress, so there is a good chance it will be on the cover.
The Pink Chiffon Dress

Mom thought it was from the 60s,
Maybe the 70s
I found it at the thrift store
By the soup kitchen
I liked how soft the fabric was
Like waves of pink cobwebs

And I liked that it had long sleeves
And a high neck
Because I hated to show too much
I loved the bright color
And the way it moved
When I twirled in the fitting room

I liked how bold it seemed
At the black and white ball
The girls in their little black sheaths
All collarbones and pushed up boobs.
And me a fluffy little pink flower
Glowing in the slag pile.

Though I don’t remember dancing in it
And there are no pictures of me at the dance
Just an elusive memory of some excitement
Some kind of scene that Mom and Dad
Were not happy about (what’s new?)
And nausea because I got so drunk.

It’s a little loose now
I’ve lost some shape
From stress, maybe
But it still makes me feel powerful
Feminine, strong, safe and
Like myself again.

I like love stories and swoony times as much as the next person, but I think they need to be messier. Less “Happily Ever After” and more “Holy Crap What Have I Gotten Myself Into?” or “Am I Now a Strong Enough Person to Handle the Upheaval of Real Love?”

I think if we’re going to write books for teens about love then we should try to frame it in real terms. Love might be ephemeral for teens, but no less passionate and painful. Some people marry their high school sweethearts, but most don’t. So what DO they get out of high school love? What is the point of those kinds of stories?

As a writer I’m interested in trying what has never been tried before. I’d love to write something where readers go “did I really just read that?” There’s a few things in AUDACIOUS like that and CAPRICIOUS will have a few more. I’d love to write a book that people throw across the room halfway through, only to snatch it up again five minutes later.

It’s not that I want to be controversial or confronting; I’m just trying to matter. I don’t want to say something that’s been said a million times before in exactly the same way. With how many books being written these days, that’s increasingly hard. That’s why I like verse novels. They feel new. But oddly I also think for some reason they have a kind of implicit permission to attack material that might be too heavy in a prose novel. So verse novels can end up being pretty ground breaking in terms of their content. Ellen Hopkins’s books certainly broke some ground.

Maybe AUDACIOUS will too.

Thanks to Gabrielle for stopping by. Go check out Wicket Season now and Audacious this fall! :)

BONUS! Gabrielle has wonderfully offered to give away some swag, so if anyone's interested in some buttons comment below with your name and e-mail and we'll pick some winners at random. :)