Thursday, September 15, 2011

Into the Past with "Frost" Author Marianna Baer

Hey Everyone!  I am always happy to host an author, and today we have Marianna Baer, author of Frost, joining us to talk a bit about what she' read throughout the years!  Due to a USPS glitch, I wasn't able to read Frost, but the synopsis makes it sound fabulous, doesn't it?

by Marianna Baer (website)
Released on 09.13.2011
400 pages
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins (website)

Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school begins with a shock: Frost House, her cozy dorm of close friends, has been assigned an unexpected roommate: confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. But while Leena’s anxiety about a threat to her sanctuary proves valid, it becomes less and less clear whether the threat lies with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind, or within the very nature of Frost House itself. Mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and Celeste’s brother, and the reawakening of childhood fears, all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. Frost is the story of a haunting. As to whether the demons are supernatural or psychological . . . well, which answer would let you sleep at night? (from GoodReads)

And here we go into the past with Marianna!

Respect thy elders.
Age 5:
My mother read to me and my sister every night when we were little, and the books I remember loving the most from that time are the Little House on the Prairie
 books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I hate to admit that my favorite book in the series was the one where Mary went blind from scarlet fever. A sucker for tragedy even then, I guess!

Age 11:
So many to choose from! One that stands out -- considering the type of book I’m writing now -- is Jane Emily by Patricia Clapp. It’s the most terrifying ghost story, but also has extremely appealing characters, romance, and dark family secrets. I highly recommend it. And I can’t not mention Judy Blume! I loved everything by Blume, especially Then Again Maybe I Won’tAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Deenie. I practically memorized those books. (I’ll forever be on the lookout for a nightgown like the one Deenie’s friends gave her, that could sort of change color from pink to purple.)

Age 16:
Hmm… if we’re talking about pure reading enjoyment, I’d probably choose Jane Eyre. (Or, to be honest, Scruples by Judith Krantz.) But reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov blew my mind. I’d never read a book that was so stylistically complex; it completely expanded my idea of what a novel could be. And I loved how subversive it felt to be reading it for English class. I remember reading this one particular passage and thinking, “Wait a minute. Is he really saying what I think he’s saying??”

Age 20:
I’m going to cheat a little bit here and skip forward a couple of years to when I was out of college and pick The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This book had it all for me – murder, relationship drama, twisted characters, secrets. I’d love to read it again for the first time and am jealous of readers who still have it ahead of them!

Okay, so Marianna just added about three or four books to my TBR list!  I want to thank her for joining us today, and I look forward to reading Frost!  To check out other stops in the {Teen} Book Scene tour, go here!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

WINNERS ANNOUNCED for Kirsty Eagar's "Raw Blue" & "Saltwater Vampires"

 Hey all!  A huge thanks to those of you who entered my giveaways for both Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires!  First, up. there was a grand total of 181 entries for Raw Blue.  Number 16 was pulled by, which means the lucky winner of a signed copy of Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar is:

DONNA, from the wonderful blog, The Happy Booker!
Congrats!  I will be contacting your shortly!

Now, onto Saltwater Vampires, which had a total of 118 entries.  The winning number was 71, which means the winner is:

RUMMANAH, the fabulous blogger behind  Books in the Spotlight!

Congrats!  I also will be contacting you shortly!

If you didn't win a copy, fear not!  Even though the publishers here in the States haven't picked up Kirsty Eagar's brand of awesome, that doesn't mean you can't read them!  You can by an e-reader version of Raw Blue here and Saltwater Vampires here.  You can also buy from - looks like free shipping!

"To those who haven't read Raw Blue yet: Find a copy immediately. I know it's tough, being an Australian release and all. But don't let that get in the way. Spend your savings on a plane ticket and buy it from one of our nice Aussie bookshops. Alternatively, you could order it online or coerce an Aussie buddy to mail it to you. The moral of the story - read. this. book."
 Need more convincing?  Check out Carla's recent review of Raw Blue at her blog, The Crooked Bookshelf.  She went ahead and purchased the e-book and read the whole thing in one sitting.  And I quote, "I can tell you guys right now this is probably one of the most intensely beautifully written books i've ever had the pleasure of reading.  I'm going to hit it while it's hot and say it's without a doubt, one of the best books I have EVER read.  EVER. Happy to see this book has an advocate in the U.K.!  And she's not alone!

If you live in the U.K. and want to read Raw Blue, please check out Lesley's blog, My Keeper Shelf.  She has a copy that she's willing loan out to those interested in reading Carly's story (and her review is fabulous)!  If you live in the U.S., the Book Harbinger has some spots left on her tour for Raw Blue (and Six Impossible Things - another only-published-in-Australia book).

For more Raw Blue review goodness, check out the others bloggers' reviews below.  If you like what you read, and you want to advocate for Raw Blue being published in the U.S. (or EVERYWHERE), please grab 'The Case for Carly' code and display the badge on your sidebar:

Thanks, everyone, and happy reading! 

Raw Blue Reviews

"Remember how I said contemporary fiction wasn't my thing? After reading Raw Blue, I can honestly say that this is the epitome of what the genre should be. I've read a lot of books, but Raw Blue is in a league of its own. Raw and real, Kirsty Eagar bottled heartache and let it spill over into the pages of her book, letting the words spin a story that's mesmerizing, heartbreaking and wholeheartedly touching. . .  I give it a firm 5 out of 5, hands down, and I have to say it's probably the best contemporary fiction I've ever read."
i swim for oceans
" Kirsty Eagar does such a fine job of pacing the story and allowing the reader to really take the time to get to know Carly, her past, and what makes her tick, before introducing new characters and new elements. The result was that I was thoroughly on her side for the long haul. . .  Definitely one of the best reads of my year so far."
 "It. Was. Fantastic. The writing, characters, plot, setting, imagery… everything was pure gold and why this isn’t published in North America yet is beyond me. If you ever get a chance, don’t miss out on this one, it is gourmet."
holes in My brain
"I was only a fifth in when I was startled to discover that Carly had gotten under my skin in a way that a literary character hasn't for a very long time. I was crazily invested in her and felt all ripped up and torn inside-out as the novel progressed. I so wanted her to be okay."
"When Eagar’s talent for stunning prose meets a protagonist whom we love despite her best attempts to dissuade us, the result is a beautiful and lingering story that reinfuses life into us. I finished RAW BLUE with an optimistic sense of the immensity of the world, of all the little things that we don’t stop to think about that can impact our lives forever."
Steph Su Reads 
". . .  I'm astounded by the phrasing and poetry of words that this author can write.  We all speak English, at least the books I read, and yet the way Kirsty Eagar puts words together is like hearing them for the first time or painting a picture with new colors you've never seen before.  It amazes me to find an author like that.  And Kirsty Eagar is one of those authors.  But it isn't just about the way she has with words.  It's the story and the characters and the surfing and the ocean.  It's the whole damn book.  It's everything.  I can't pick one thing out of it that I like the best." 
Buried in Books 
"And let me tell you now, you will read this book holding your breath – just hoping – to see a glimpse of the actual Carly. I really feel like she is one of the best written characters I’ve come across."
The Allure of Books
"With its clear, evocative prose, distinctive characterization, and unforgettable imagery, Raw Blue hooked me from its portentous beginning to it’s chillingly perfect and poignant ending. Highly, highly recommended. Now if I could only buy a hard copy."
Book Harbringer

"I don’t know why but I find it so hard to write reviews for books I love. I have been struggling with this review for days now and I don‘t think I will do it the justice it deserves. . .  It was intense, honest and beautiful. It is still lingering in my thoughts."
Irresistible Reads
" Raw Blue can be described in one sole word - powerful. It's a book that examines the tough elements and people in life with a roaring crash tackle. . .  It's a truly impressive debut work - dark, full of turmoil with the occasional cloud break - just like the ocean."
Persnickety Snark

 "It was easy to develop a crush on this book, what with the hotness and the surfing, but as it slowly allowed me into its world, my feelings turned to full-blown love. This book is real and honest with me, and that’s how I know that this isn’t just a summer fling, it’s the real deal. I had to earn this book’s trust, and now that I have, I think we’re ready to spend our lives together under the Australian sun."
Forever Young Adult 
"On page 212 I read the most romantic and sweet thing E.V.E.R.! It is so sweet and simple and real…I wish I could share it with you, but if you haven’t read it I’m hoping this is a push to get you to do so! I literally stopped reading, updated Goodreads, and sat there staring at the page for a few minutes while crying."
The Reading Housewives of Indiana

"Raw Blue is a story that contains a torrent of emotional conflict between its pages, one that handles personal anguish in a delicate and unassuming way so we don't even realize the strength of the connection we've developed with Carly and Ryan until we find ourselves unable to let them go. . . "
Supernatural Snark
"There isn’t a rating to really convey how much this book destroyed me. In the best possible way. My muscles physically ache because of how still and tense I was reading the last half of this book.
There aren’t many books that I can say make me feel like that."
Wear the Old Coat (one of the most unique reviews I've read)

"Raw Blue is full of emotion but I was never overwhelmed because it’s not all pointless teenage angst. You can feel Carly trying to hold everything together and how hard it is for her when things fall apart."
Chachic's Book Nook 
". . .  a part of Carly had seeped into me. She became the type of character I know I will always carry with me. Her bravery, when revealed, was silent, but it was hers and it was full of heart and hope."
The Unread Reader

"Eagar sensitively explores Carly’s pain without exploiting it and as Carly begins to move forward, the author never forces the recovery. It is this visceral realism that engages the reader."
Book'd Out 
"A novel I’m going to recommend to anybody and everybody, Raw Blue will leave readers with a lasting impression and the indelible gift of hope."
Musings of a YA Reader 
". . . it's one that I don't think is going to leave me for a long time. It makes you think, makes you wonder, makes your insides bleed, and then, somehow helps you up, washes your face and makes you stronger and better able to face the world."
Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing 
"The characters were all well-developed. Ryan wasn't the unrealistically perfect love interest you see in a lot of other YAs nowadays, but a real guy, complete with necessary character flaws."
In The Good Books 

"There are a number of vividly painted characters throughout the book, especially some that I personally wouldn't want handling my food in a cafe, ever.  Hannah and Danny are definite faves of mine though.  There were parts in the book where I just cracked up laughing at the dialogue of these pair.  It helps to ease up the darker quality the book slips into."
Spellbound By Books

"So awesome that I can not find the right words to describe this book. This book had so many emotions and so many good characters that I fell in love with it quickly. It also hurt to read the book. Raw Blue is raw. It cuts into your very soul so deep that you can not get out."
Books with Bite 
"Sometimes the descriptions were painfully beautiful, the characters were delightfully flawed, and the dialogue was almost always spot-on." 
The Readventurer

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEW: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Blood Wounds
by Susan Beth Pfeffer (website)
Releases on 09.12.2011
256 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (website)
Source: received on loan from Banned Book Tours
Read the first two chapters here.

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.

Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart (from GoodReads).

REVIEW: Willa's life in the beginning is awesome.  A freaking holy grail of a blended family.  Particularly with her stepfather, Jack, and his ex-wife, there seemed to be a real sense of 'do what's best for the girls', the 'girls' being Willa's two stepsisters.  I was actually really happy to see that kind of compatibility for a blended family happen in a book.  Made me think it could be real.  

Too bad it was a setup. 

Blood Wounds, in case you can't tell by the mugshot cover, is not a happy times book.  In fact, I'm surprised that Willa is Miss Mugshot on the cover, because frankly, she's one of two, maybe three, characters who acted with any decency, and the other two were minor characters.  Unless the mugshot is supposed to represent how she consistently gets trapped and bullied by the horrible selfishness of her family.  And for the record, her family is a great big ball of 'you people suck', and that goes for both her blended family and the one she never knew on her biological dad's (and mom's) hometown of SmallTown, Texas.  There is a lot going on in this book, but most of it is undercurrent until about halfway and then it steadily reveals itself all the way through to the end.  You will not get what this book is really about from the synopsis - I thought I'd be reading a book about a girl and her mom on the run from her crazy father for the entire book, with Willa learning family secrets from her mom and facing hard truths along the way.  While they do go into hiding for a short section and while Willa does do the latter in a sense, it's not in the way you think it'll happen.  It's much more about Willa making her peace with a family she never knew, finding her own voice within the family she grew up in, and trying to figure things out by confronting the her mother's past and the facade of perfection that her blended family exudes. 

The plot is steady the whole way through.  There is a moment of anxiety when the cops show up at Willa's house and no one seems to know where her mom is; but otherwise, the plot is pretty even keel and flows on a diet of Willa coming to terms with who her parents are/were, and how she fits into the many family dynamics she has to contend with.  You may have noticed my temper flare a wee little bit in the paragraph above.  That's because I really do not like her blended family.  I get family loyalty, but there was this sneaky sense of, "If you really love me, you'll do things my way" that was always present in conversations and influencing actions.  For the record, such emotional manipulations are not 'love'; they are bulls%$#.  In particular, I really don't like Willa's mother.  To be fair, I didn't really dislike her until the end, and she's an extremely complex person.  Actually, I wouldn't mind reading an 'adult' fiction novel with her as the protagonist.  As much as I didn't like her, she's seemed to have had a difficult life caused both by her own crappy decisions, as well as consequences beyond her control.  I feel like her story and own 'coming-of-age' could be just as significant as Willa's, I didn't really see her come full circle.  Truthfully?  I'm predicting splitsville for her and Jack.  I feel like their entire family was based on a pyramid scheme of emotional usury. 

I read the entire book pretty quickly, it flowed at a steady pace, and Willia has a decent voice.  I really admired who she became at the end of the book.  She really handled herself, and if she were real, she'd grow up to be someone you'd be proud to know.  However, Blood Wounds wasn't a stellar read for me.  This is a tough review for a book with tough issues, but there was something 'off' for me.  Typically, I L-O-V-E a good 'issues' book.   Blood Wounds has decent writing, but there was a little too much crazy in the plot for me to handle.  I really wish it had either been about just Willa coming to terms with what her father had done and the family she never knew -OR- had been about her blended family situation (and her unhealthy way of dealing with it).  There was certainly enough dysfunction to support the latter.  I think in the end, Willa had so much dysfunction in her life that it made be feel like there was no support for her or the book itself.  I need a little hope or some redemption with my stories, and in the end, I just don't feel like I had enough give me that.

This one didn't work for me, but here are two bloggers who did like it - be sure to check out Jen's review at I Read Banned Books and Melissa's at i swim for oceans.


"And then there was Jack with his college degree, a career he loved, two remarkable daughters, and an ex-wife rapidly rising up the corporate ladder.

Mom had a high-school diploma, a brother in a cult, a violent ex-husband named Budge, and parents who died from drunk driving.

For the first time in days, I felt something there than resentment and anger.  I felt sorry for Mom, sorry for where she'd come from and what she didn't have."
-page 118

"'I never saw anyone cry like you did today, ' Faye said.  'It was like you were crying for the whole world."
page 160 

"Faye snorted.  'Families my ass,' she said.  'Families fight.  Wives fight.  They don't just say 'Yes, Jack.  Whatever you think, Jack.'"
page 162

Friday, September 2, 2011

Talking Art, the Writing Process & 'Night Beach' with Author Kirsty Eagar!

I am absolutely thrilled to have Kirsty Eagar, awesome Aussie author of Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, here on the blog today!  She's been good enough to share her thoughts and inspiration behind her upcoming third book, Night Beach (to be released in February 2012).  Here's Kirsty with more on the writing process:
Night Beach is partly about the creative subconscious and the dark places that feed it, so it’s kind of weird then to try and articulate what writing it has been like. In short, it’s been intense. I wrote the initial drafts of my first two books, Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, before getting published, so although this will be my third book, in many ways it felt a lot like ‘the difficult second album’!

The story has a lot of influences, most of them stemming from the art world. Sometimes it was an artwork, for example, Thebes Revenge by Brett Whiteley.

Or sometimes it was a principle, like Magritte’s assertion that mystery lives under visible reality, or De Chirico’s belief that the world is an ‘immense museum of strangeness’. If I had to pick a driving philosophy, it would again come from Whiteley, who said:  

If you take something, and distort it, and distort it, and distort it again, then eventually you’ll see something, some truth, that you’ve never seen before. And that is the difficult pleasure.

That idea of distortion is why I’ve fictionalised the places in the story. I’ve used what I know, but I’ve gone for a heightened reality and warped things so much it doesn’t truly reflect the people and place that were the original inspiration.

I knew a few things about the story from the beginning. Firstly, that the main character, Abbie, wants someone who is bad for her – Kane. But the fact of him being bad was never going to be the story itself. Abbie already understands that he’s bad, and she also understands that whether or not he turns out to be a candidate for redemption might not even be the point. She has a brain, but she also has a sense of her own sexuality, and the two things are in conflict. She’s vulnerable, but in some ways she’s quite calculating. I’ve read too many stories where the girls are neutered and only the boys are allowed to have urges, and that particular little brand of misogyny doesn’t at all respect the balancing act most girls are attempting.

I knew, too, that I wanted the story to have gothic overtones. It was a good fit, and it meant I’d get to use a house that I lived in once, which had no hallways, just lots of rooms connected by other rooms, and lots of chandeliers that were never in the centre of the ceiling where they were supposed to be, but rather in the corners, and a mysterious locked door in the storeroom … It also had a lovely view of the ocean, particularly at night.

And the last thing I knew was that Abbie’s parents would be divorced. I got asked about this the other day, specifically, why I wanted to look at a ‘dysfunctional’ family. And my best answer (the one I’ve had time to think about) is that I’ve yet to meet a functional family, and also kids who’ve grown up with divorced parents are hardly a tiny minority. I grew up like that, and I’ve noticed that my friends from broken homes have similarities of experience that people whose parents are still together seem to have absolutely no concept of. The differences are fundamental, and they are good as well as bad. In Kelly Slater’s biography there’s a part where he talks about how being a kid with divorced parents has shaped him, and I cried reading it, because I knew exactly what he meant. Likewise, I have always loved fiction that examines belonging in the context of the migrant experience. I think because when you’re parents are divorced, belonging is difficult (but obviously in a different way). You are a migrant within your own family, and sometimes you never find your place.

Releases in February 2012
Anyway, the point is there were a lot of ideas going into this story. For me, the hard thing is always how to thread them together in a way that makes sense – the part also known as the first draft!

I found things harder this time around than previous first drafts. I now had two young daughters, so writing was definitely a lot more interrupted and noisy. I had a deadline ­– again a new experience. And about a month out from that, I injured my back and spent the next three weeks trying to type standing up. Probably the biggest thing was it meant I couldn’t surf every day, which is a routine I’ve had for years, and for some reason not being able to surf really affected my writing.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I exhibited absolutely no grace at all in dealing with those issues. I grew increasingly bleak, irritable and tired. And I was starting to panic, because I had no idea whether the story was working or not. Then two things happened:

  1. I realised that there will always be things which make it hard to write, and that some people probably had much worse things to deal with than me.
  2. I got some feedback on the unfinished manuscript courtesy of my agent. I will never forget that. I was heading up to write at 10pm after what had been a rough night trying to get my girls to sleep, and I knew I would be up until 2am or 3am, and it was the latest in a long line of nights just like that, and I felt absolutely beaten. And then I saw her email. Confidence is such a game changer. After that I had all the energy in the world.

I don’t think you ever know if what you’ve done is any good, or if it’s worked, or if people will connect with it. But sometimes there is a lovely moment when you realise that it’s become what it’s meant to be. For me that happened in the structural edit, which was a whole other saga of re-writing. It was in large part thanks to excellent feedback from my editor (and I know it was good feedback, because when I read it, I thought, She’s got to be kidding – there’s no way I can do all of that!).

I wanted to finish by saying that if you’re reading this because you write, especially if you’re not yet published and would like to be, I hope that you’ve reached that moment. And if you haven’t yet, don’t worry, keep going. You’ll know when you get there because just for that little while you’ll feel absolutely humbled and grateful, and you’ll know that you’ve tapped into something that’s never going to dry up, if you just keep turning up. So turn up. 

I cannot tell you how flipping exciting I am for Night Beach after reading that!  I love all the thought that's gone into it, and in particular, I am really looking forward to meeting Abbie!  Thank you, thank you, Kirsty, for stopping by.  That was a generous and wonderful insight into your creative process.  

If you want to read the rest of the posts in honor of Kirsty Eagar Week, please go Nic's blog, Irresistible Reads for more!  There are four signed copies of Raw Blue up for grabs, as well as three copies of Saltwater Vampires (two signed, one unsigned).

                                             About the Author
Kirsty Eagar grew up on a central Queensland cattle property and spent her school holidays at the beach. After studying economics, she worked on trading desks in Sydney and London before changing careers, wanting a life where she could surf every day. She travelled around Australia for a couple of years, living out of a car, worked a variety of jobs and began writing fiction. Her debut novel, Raw Blue, was published by Penguin in 2009, and won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction. Her second novel, Saltwater Vampires, was shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Kirsty lives with her husband and two daughters on Sydney’s northern beaches. (taken from author's website)