Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comfort Books

As I was writing my Guilty Pleasure post, I started thinking about old friends--books that is. I'm sure we all have those, the books from our childhood or a book that helped get us through a bad point in our life. People always say they have a favorite song for those reasons, and yes I do too, but let's talk books. As I stated in my previous post, I have guilty pleasure books that I don't talk about on my blog or review in my Wednesday series because I don't represent it and I like to stay on topic.
Let's get all off topic this week :D
I have a comfort book so loved it's worn and faded from spending way too many nights under my pillow--I don't even have to read it, it just stays under my pillow when I need a friend. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine came out when I was in the fifth grade. I bought it from the Scholastic book fair and probably read it five times that year and at least once for every year following. It's one of the only books I've read more than once (another post for another time). So why isn't it over there ---> listed with my favorite books? Because I'm not looking for fairy tale books. As sad as that is. (And please do not mention the movie by the same name--it will be cause for rejection... I'm mostly kidding.)
So tell me: what is your all time comfort book?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Reads: And Then Things Fall Apart

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky is the epitome of great voice.

Keek’s life was totally perfect.

Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.
First Sentence: "I once watched a collector kill a monarch butterfly on a nature show by putting it under a glass dome with a piece of cotton soaked in gasoline." Is that gripping enough for you? The beauty of this first line and its metaphor, is that she doesn't dwell on it throughout the book. She moves on to other things but the line served its purpose, both to catch our attention and set up Keek's voice.

Brownie Points: Tibensky managed to make me interested in Sylvia Plath (not enough to read Sylvia Plath) but she examines The Bell Jar in such a way that is neither dry nor boring. Also, I already said above, but this book has the most captivating voice. I love her witty, smart humor with touches of self pity and realism.

Recommendation: If for nothing else, you must read for voice. But also read it because it is a smart, sexy read, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much you'll love it and Keek.

Would I represent it? You know, if this had showed up in my slush pile, I would have rejected it. Most likely, the amount of voice and plot (no one dies! haha) would have scared me off, thought it was too much of a risk. And the voice is a bit younger than I normally acquire. Actually, I probably wouldn't have picked it up off the shelf if it hadn't been recommended to me, but I'm so glad it was because I loved every page.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

One of the best pieces of advice you'll receive is this: read in your genre.
However... sometimes it's beneficial to read outside of your genre. Not to mention therapeutic. I can only read so many YA novels before I have to take a break. I do read Adult paranormal and Urban Fantasy, and I love light humor (I read waaay too much dark YA, serious at the very least, very rarely something that is all humor), which is why I enjoy cozy mysteries and light adult paranormal.
I only talk about YA and Adult para/UF on my blog because those are the genres I represent and know the most about (and learn the most about). This may the only post that I deviate from my genres.
When I need a break from reading (without actually taking a break--I think I might have a nervous breakdown if there isn't a book in my purse), I read (or listen to) Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I've read other women's fiction in the past, but I'm stuck on the one author for a while. It fulfills a part of me that can't be satisfied otherwise. I randomly picked up a book on tape at the library and fell in love with the first sentence. I've recently complete Phillips's entire Chicago Stars series and am about to dive into all of her other books. When I finish with her, I'll probably find another author to listen to in my car, but the prospect of not having Phillips's humor and witty plots (yes, I said witty plots) as company in car rides is more devastating than having no more Harry Potter books to read (don't burn me at the stake for saying that please).
Your turn dear reader. When you need a break from your research, writing, comparable books, what are your guilty pleasure books?

Do you read them for the sake of research (see if there is something from other genres you can add to your own to give it a fresh take)? Read them purely to give you mind a break for a while? Read them because secretly you wish you could write it?

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Reads: Wither

I've been wanting to read Wither by Lauren Destefano (Amazon) for a while. I didn't even know what it was about, despite reading the description multiple times. But based solely on the cover, I knew I wanted to read it. And I finally did. Worth it!

What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
First Line: "I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying."

Brownie Points: Rhine's relationship with her sister wives is slow, real, perfect. Also, the way Destefano treats the topic of polygamy is well done. Not at all in your face, condemning, or promoting it. It is what it is. World building at its best.

Recommendation: If you enjoy Dystopian, a strong, quiet, subtle character and story line, dark but hopeful, you'll love this.

Would I represent it? Yes!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Books for Boys

I've been asked a few times to suggest reading material for teen boys who feel a little alienated in the girl-reader dominated market of YA fiction. Being a girl, of course, all of these are great for girl readers too, and I can't say I've read many marketed-toward-boys books (if there are even many out there). Also, most on this list happen to be some of my favorites (of all time). (Also note that these are YA, not MG. However, if the boy has read Hunger Games, most of the other recommendations will be the proper reading level).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Amazon). Despite being told in a girl's POV, boys are able to connect with Katniss's story: thrust into the lime light, forced to grow up before she's ready, sacrificing herself for her family and country. Action level is very high in the entire series. Great for the reluctant reader.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (website) (Amazon). Told in alternating POVs of a boy and girl (tomboy), boys will be able to connect with both characters. It's a smart novel that voracious and reluctant readers alike will love. It combines action with history and steampunk. Also a great novel to introduce readers into steampunk.

Paper Towns (Amazon) by John Green (website). I would start a boy reader with this book, then give him Looking for Alaska (Amazon), then all his other novels (Will Grayson, Will Grayson is my favorite, but for reluctant readers start with the two above). And actually, you can reverse the order (I had a long debate with myself which to list first--Paper Towns won because it opens with an "adventure"). John Green embraces the nerd in his novels (online, he has a community of writers and readers known as "nerd fighters").

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (website) (Amazon). Also told in alternating POV of a boy and girl, this novel balances  the dual struggles of the protags as well as the unique identities of the genders. Often called light scifi, or dystopian mystery on a space ship, it's a great way to get into the scifi genre.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (blog) (Amazon). Told in the POV of a boy with the adventure of Hunger Games and a mystery that is never fully revealed (we're only on book two of three and we still don't know who the good and bad guys are!--third installment comes out Oct 2011), this is a must read for boys and girls alike who want a good adventure/fantasy, or are looking for something similar to The Hunger Games.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (website) (Amazon). Though told in the POV of a girl, I recommend this to boys because of the suspense aspect and the gruesome angle (she finds dead bodies). Also has a light romance angle that doesn't overwhelm the story.

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (website) (Amazon). I read, no, devoured this series in 8th grade, and it has stuck with me all these years. Still some of my favorite books of all time. Told in the POV of a girl, it follows a group of friends in Australia who wage a guerrilla war on an army who has invaded the country while the group was in the bush camping. How does that description not hook you?

You'll notice that my list is all recently released novels (with the exception of the Tomorrow series by John Marsden). I could have included on my list Holes, The Giver, etc, but I'm a believer in giving boys (especially reluctant readers) something they are (99%) guaranteed to like. I respect the classics (they are classic for a reason), but kids are forced (yes, forced!) to read older books in school, and something just isn't working. I also haven't included Harry Potter (if they haven't read it by now, they won't), Eragon (beautiful writing, but might not captivate the reluctant reader), or Percy Jackson (heavy into the Greek mythology that also might turn off a reluctant reader).

Goodreads has a list for boys here. I haven't read the majority of the books and am curious as to your opinion; which of the listed books would you recommend?

And here is a list from Amazon here, mostly for comparison (I wouldn't recommend most of these books to boys unless they are tried and true voracious and advanced readers).

Any books you highly recommend for boys? Or books that you know for a fact boys have enjoyed?

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Reads: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

It took me two tries to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I know, I know, it's a great book and how could I have put it down the first time? The first time I tried reading it, I don't think I was in the mood for a quietly disturbing book. But the second time, I just let the beautiful sentences flow over me. And I'm glad I did because this book was right up my alley on morbid/disturbing/well written scale.

In Mary's world, there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?
First Sentence: "My mother used to tell me about the ocean." One of the ways the reader can connect with Mary is with her almost single minded desire to see the ocean. We've all had dreams, and this is Mary's. It's what drives her, gives her hope. I have a sailboat as my background on my blog, so you can imagine that I connected with Mary on this.

Beefs: This book was almost quiet (hence why it took me two tries to read it). But I could also list that under Brownie Points because it was so beautifully written. And that's the only beef I can come up with.

Brownie Points: This was one of those books in which I never knew what was going to happen. Obviously Mary's going to survive (anyone can figure that out--it's in first person and how many authors actually kill their main characters?), but other than that I had no idea what was coming next. It was a pleasant change.

Recommendation: If you haven't read it yet. You need to. Unless you're against death in YA and zombies, then this really isn't your cup of tea.

Would I represent it? I'm not sure how far I would have gotten if I'd come across this in my slush pile. Sadly, probably not far, then I would've had to kick myself later. However, yes, I'd love to represent something like this.

Happy reading!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Authornomics Interview Series: Chuck Sambuchino (and prize)

Today on the Andrea Hurst and Associates Blog, we're interviewing Chuck Sambuchino (link here), editor, writer, Writer's Digest, and Guide to Literary Agents. Head over there and check out his great info.

Also, Chuck will be choosing one random commenter to win a free one year subscription to (value $50). Comment on the post within one week to enter to win.

Check back every Monday on the agency blog for new interviews. We'll be giving away more prizes periodically this summer. And every Thursday you can find me there as a guest blogger with my most popular posts.

Happy writing!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More Questions for the Agent: Magic Realism

Oh no. I have to define it?

According to Wikipedia: a genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought.

Makes sense right? Let's give it our own definition now. Let's start with like genres and work our way up. (These definitions are partially subjective and in my own words.)

Urban Fantasy is a world in which magic of some sort exists and either exists in tandem with ours without the "mortal world" knowing about it (think Harry Potter or Twilight), or exists instead of our world (what our world would be like if we all knew magic existed, like in the Sookie Stackhouse novels).

Paranormal Romance can have the same worlds and magic rules as Urban Fantasy but the main plot line is romance.

Paranormal: I've heard people say that Paranormal is not a genre without adding Romance to the end, but I'm a fan of defining something as Paranormal on its own or with a qualifier. For example, what would a time travel or ghost story be (without a main romance story line)? I call it Paranormal.

Magic Realism. One of the rules of Paranormal is that the magic in it usually has some sort of explanation of how it works and rules that govern it. For example, Harry Potter's world is explained, has history, and has specific rules that govern the magic and the people, therefore it's paranormal (or urban fantasy, or fantasy). Now, if you think about, say, Mary Poppins has Paranormal elements in it, but by no means is the world governed by specific rules. It is business as usual and we must take the magic stuff as it comes. Time travel and some ghost stories are the same. Time Travel has no other occurrences of paranormal in it; it just happens and we take it as is.

Now, here's why Magic Realism is so tricky. Because no on ever uses the term to describe something. You wouldn't describe Mary Poppins to someone by saying "It's a Magic Realism musical about a governess helping two bratty kids and their family get along and love each other." Likewise, a Time Travel is a Time Travel, it isn't described as Magic Realism. But, according to the definition I've just given, it would be.

I can't give many more examples of Magic Realism because, frankly, I'm not a big fan of the genre. Blame it on me liking rules to go with my weird stuff, but I prefer a world that is built up and in which characters must interact with it. So, when in doubt, leave Magic Realism out. If there is absolutely no other way to describe your ms, then use it. But, to me at least, Magic Realism conjures up images of weird stuff, the stuff of acid trip dreams better left in the dark. Paranormal elements I can handle and I feel they are much more telling than "Magic Realism."

What other books (or movies) would you describe as Magic Realism?

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday Reads: The Vespertine

Here's a historical fantasy that I loved (few and far between-- my favorite historical fantasy of all time is the Gemma Doyle Trilogy). The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.

It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

First Line: "I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined." Ruined how? you ask. Well, that's the point right? To get you asking questions. And, as the page prior has informed you of the location and date (1889) you can probably guess what kind of ruined a girl can be. And the beauty of you knowing everything? You're wrong.

Beefs: Hot and mysterious as Nathaniel was, I wanted to know more about him. But he is a complete sigh fest nonetheless; hot and mysterious and completely in love with Amelia.

Brownie Points: The historical is done so well. Historical facts (fashions especially) are introduced in such a way that readers knowing nothing about this time period are immediately thrust into it with a great understanding of what is going on.

Recommendation: Even if you don't normally dive into historical novel, I highly recommend you read this one. And if you are sad the Gemma Doyle series ended and are looking for a good historical fantasy, check this one out.

Would I represent it? I would love to find a historical fantasy to represent. It's a hard genre, but so worth it.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More Questions for the Agent: New Adult

For those of you who don't know, New Adult is an (slowly) emerging genre. It's older than YA but younger than Adult. Say, college age, about 18-24 (varies of course). Themes differ from both YA and Adult novels. The subject matter probably isn't as serious or explicit as Adult, but neither is the character experiencing a bunch of firsts as in YA. But the character probably is experiencing a new avenue in life.

Now, I haven't read many New Adult books yet (though really, there aren't many out there), but Diana Peterfruend's Secret Society Girl series does stick in my head. Also, Sarah Dessen's Along For the Ride can be considered New Adult, but it's on the cusp of YA and NA (the main character has just graduated high school).

So the question a reader posed to me was, if you're pitching a New Adult novel and you can't find any agents who say they represent New Adult, who do you pitch?

Excellent question. And really, my answer goes for any genre that may be difficult to pitch. Firstly, go to your sub-genre; I mean, if it's contemporary, then hit the contemporary agents. YA agents are going to be your best bet, but don't rule out agents who look for contemporary adult novels (especially on the light side--again, look for sorta-comps for your book). Secondly, query the YA agents, unless they say they are not looking for New Adult.

Here's the thing: as agents, we do not like to rule out certain things because we never know when we might fall in love with something. I might say that I'm not looking for New Adult, it doesn't sell, it doesn't appeal to me, don't send it. Then I might pick up a manuscript that is New Adult and fall in love if it has: good writing, captivating voice, relatable character, unique plot. Because, regardless of genre (for the most part) good writing sells.

That said, yes I'll take a look at New Adult.

Also, anybody have any recommendations for great New Adult books to read?

Happy reading!