Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday Reads: The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. Grief, true love, betrayal, self discovery. It's the latter that grabbed me and didn't let me go. That and VOICE. Page one, you connect with Lennie. You know what she's thinking, what she values, and you empathize with her.

I used this cover rather than the cover on my copy (the one with the heart) because I like it better. It's way more Lennie. But while doing the Google Image search, I came across dozens of beautiful images of covers, captions, quotes. I won't bombard your senses with them all, so if you have time (make time) Google Image search "The Sky is Everywhere."


Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey.

But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
 First (few) line(s): 
 "Gram is worried about me. It's not just because my sister Bailey died four weeks ago, or because my mother hasn't contacted me in sixteen years, or even because suddenly all I think about is sex. She is worried about me because one of her houseplants has spots.
Gram has believed for most of my seventeen years that this particular houseplant, which is of the nondescript variety, reflects my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. I've grown to believe it too."
You know the key players, that Lennie has a lot going on in her life, and that her life is rather quirky. It was this first page that made me want to read this book (which is way I've given them to you).

Beefs: While I completely bought the ending (it was believable and perfectly fit with the tone of the novel), I couldn't help but leave the novel with the taste of teenage romance in my mouth. Good or bad depending on your mood of course. Again, I'm not saying the ending was bad, or that it's not worth the read (it is! It is!!), but the idea of happily ever after at 17 isn't always true to life.

Brownie Points: Besides the VOICE, what I liked was the use of Wuthering Heights. Gasp! Did I just say that?! Some of you regular readers may remember my condemnation of using Wuthering Heights in other books (I actually strongly dislike it. I've read it twice and will read it again in the future, but I cannot understand the appeal. But we all have our preferences), so I hope I'm not being a hypocrite now. What's interesting about using it in this book, is that it is a constant reference throughout. It's not just a passing "my favorite book of all time!" It really is Lennie's favorite book of all time. She's read it twenty-some times and constantly refers to it when thinking about romance. I won't give the ending away, but I wholeheartedly LOVED what Lennie did to her well worn and loved copy.

Brownie Point Two: Lennie has this delightful quirk/need/compulsion to write. She writes on everything: books, napkins, trees, her shoes. But she discards things as soon as she writes on them, and it's through these that we get another glimpse into her soul. Unique and beautifully done.

Recommendation: If for nothing else, read it to see the most outstanding example of VOICE. Every character is well rounded and crafted with care.

Would I represent it? Yes, yes, yes!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday Reads: The Summoning

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong.

Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for disturbed teens.
At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?

First Sentence: "Mommy forgot to warn the new babysitter about the basement." The prologue is delightfully creepy, centering around Chloe's lost memory from twelve years before. Yes, about a basement and the things that go bump in the night.

Brownie Points: When I saw that it was about some girl that could talk to ghosts, I was hesitant to pick it up. I'm not a huge fan of ghost stories. However, I realized that it wasn't about the ghosts, but about the girl. So I picked it up. (Might have helped that it took place in a home for troubled teens; the whole insane asylum aspect intrigued me.)

Brownie Point number two: Because I wouldn't be me without mentioning it. Are you guys sick of me talking about VOICE? (And putting it in caps?) The main character not only had the inner conflict of "am I crazy?" but had her own passions and ways of thinking. She wants to be a movie director when she grows up, so what is her inner monologue like? In stressful situations or in scary cramped places, she begins to "direct" in her head, which takes the world as she sees it out of reality and into a frame in which she can deal with it. And what person doesn't do that?

Recommendation: If for nothing else, the characters were really well developed. Here's a host of misfits who really are misfits, especially in their own skin. And I loved how the pretty boy who you'd think would take center stage, didn't really.

I'm definitely going to be reading more of Armstrong's books. You should too. She has unique plot and great voice.

Would I represent it? The voice was slightly too young for me, but I'd definitely take a serious look at something like it.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Reads: Under Wraps

Under Wraps is the first book in The Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles by Hannah Jayne. It's an adult Urban Fantasy. You've got the usual werewolves and vampires, but also a smattering of trolls, dragons, and witches. The cover is very bad a**, but in actuality, this is more like a paranormal cozy mystery with a dark edge. The tone if very fun and the characters are hilarious. Definitely worth the read.

As a human immune to magic, Sophie Lawson can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. With a handsome werewolf as her UDA boss and a fashionista vampire for a roommate, Sophie knows everything there is to know about the undead, the unseen, and the uncanny. Until a rash of gruesome murders has demons and mortals running for cover, and Sophie finds herself playing sidekick to detective Parker Hayes. Dodging ranging bloodsuckers, bad-tempered fairies, and love-struck trolls is one thing. But when Sophie discovers Parker isn't what he seems, she's only got one chance to figure out whom to trust. Because an evil hiding in plain sight is closing in...and about to make one wisecracking human it means to ultimate power.
First Sentence: "This was why I didn't do magic." We get plunged directly into a hilarious stand off of dragon vs vampire with Sophie smack dab in the middle, and also get immediately into her voice.

Brownie Points: World building. The demon world lives "under" the normal one and is populated with all manners of creatures with all their own personalities. Sophie is a human but she has enough Seer blood in her to make her immune to magic, which means she can see through the veils into the demon world. A great maker of good world building, is the language that comes with it. And the creatures in this world all have their own; I found it especially hilarious when Sophie's vampire roommate calls her a "breather."

Recommendation: If you love Urban Fantasy or are looking for a great, light with an edge, read, then read this. Book 2, Under Attack, comes out in November 2011.

Would I represent it? Yes! I am looking for Urban Fantasy and would love a mix of downright dark and upbeat light.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Out of Office

I'll be out of the office from May 11-20th.

My blog will be on partial hiatus until June. No Thirteenth Rejection this month, but you get double the stats for next month. However, Wednesday Reads will be continuing. A couple fantastic books are lined up. Hint: one has vampires, werewolves, and trolls, Oh My! Another a ghost story that isn't a ghost story. And yet another features a temperamental house plant.

While my blog sits and stews, let me know what YOU want me to blog about upon my return. This can be anywhere from a full blog post, to a series of blog posts, to a book you really think needs to be in my pile, to just some questions you want me to answer, generally about the publishing/reading/writing world, or specifically about me as an agent.

Happy reading, writing, and everything-elsing!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday Reads: The Liar Society

The Liar Society by sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker (website here) was a fabulous read. One of the things that makes this book unique is clearly stated on the first page. This plays into voice, plot, and character development: the main character has pink hair. Some girls in the throes of grief cut their hair off, or dye it black. Kate Lowry dies her hair pink. Right there, that's a character I can like.

Since when do the dead send emails?
Kate Lowry's best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate's more than a little confused.

Subject: (no subject)
I'm here... sort of.
Find Cameron. He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder...
First Sentence: "Her email didn't move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I'd expect an email from a ghost to do." You'll hear over and over again that your opening scene needs conflict, something that occurs that grabs our attention and allows us to watch the main character struggle through. This is Kate's conflict. What do you do with an email from a ghost? It's riveting to say the least.

Beefs: I'm actually going to complain about something a little odd here. Before reading the book, I read some other reviews. Many complained about the amount of Latin used, said that it bogged down the book and overpowered the plot. I would like to say, "Um, what are you talking about?" The use of Latin was well done and explained perfectly so that all of us who don't know a lick of Latin could follow along. And yes, the Latin was necessary to the plot.

Brownie Points: I've already mentioned Kate's pink hair, so I guess I need to find something else. Easy peasy. Inner conflict. Even a year after Grace's death, Kate is in turmoil over losing her best friend (two best friends really, since the other no longer talks to Kate). This is real. Tragic. And done so well. Everything in her life connects back to Grace. What would Grace do? What would Grace say? Why should I be happy/flirting with super cute boy when Grace is dead?

Recommendation: Read it. It's mystery, suspense, contemporary, little bit of love but it isn't dominating, deals with death, riddled with secrets. It's actually much heavier than the title suggests, but not "I'm carrying the world on my shoulders, angst driven" heavy.

Would I represent it? Most definitely. Throw some more mysteries my way. I remember why I read so many of them when I was a kid.

And, because I happen to have it, a picture of me in a pink wig. I'm very excited about having more excuses to wear my pink wig now!

Happy reading!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Call, and Questions you should ask

I love making The Call. The call that informs a writer that I really, really love their ms and I want to represent them. There are a few reasons for the call and why an agent may not offer representation right away or at all during the call. Firstly, we want to just talk with you and get a feel for who you are. We have to make sure that we are compatible; it's a professional relationship and you don't want to make a commitment lightly. Secondly, we'll probably talk about revisions and make sure you're open to revisions. Also, I like knowing our visions for your ms are the same. Thirdly, I'll probably bring up your career. What else are you writing? What do you want to write? Have that ready and a quick pitch for your WIPs (I mean quick, we're here to discuss your current ms, not everything you've written since second grade).

There are many, many great resources out there with lists of questions for you to ask an agent. I'm not going to reproduce said list here, but I'll highlight a few questions that I think are great for you to ask.

Here's a few questions that will just help inform you about the process.
  • Time Line: how long do you foresee edits taking and when are you expecting to be able to pitch?
  • Sample Contract: Agent contracts are pretty standard, but if it's your first you may not know a lot of things in it, so request to see one and bring up any questions you might have before making a commitment
And here's a few questions to get to know the offering agent a little better (remember, you are allowed to say no if you don't think you'll work well with the agent, we would much prefer to work with someone who actually wants to work with us, rather than finding out the hard way down the road).
  • How many clients do you have currently? Genres? What stages of editing/publishing?
  • What is your favorite book? (I was blown away when asked this question and realized how telling it really is; of course, we'll probably ask the question in turn so be ready)
  • What is your preferred communication style?
  • What about my ms caught your attention? Why do you love it? (I usually lead with this, but it is good for you to know what is strongest about your ms and why the agent loves it)
Like I said, there are many more questions to be asked, but these ones are the ones I've found to be most helpful. Any agent's blog is going to be helpful, so be sure to visit those in your search for more.

Oh, and we know you're going to be super nervous and excited. Go ahead and let that show a little (even the most callous of agents like to be reminded of your excitement and their own importance). And take notes, who knows how much you'll actually remember once the excitement and nervousness wears off?

For represented writers out there, what questions did you find most helpful during this process? If you have a blog post about your own journey, share it in the comments.

For represented and non-represented writers, what are the best resources to find out more information about this process?