Feb 28, 2014

Blog Tour: GRASSHOPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith Review + Giveaway

If you know me, then you know I am one of the biggest Andrew Smith fans. One of his earlier novels, The Marbury Lens, completely captured me, and I’ve had my eye on every book he’s released since. I am delighted to report (in this post) that his latest, Grasshopper Jungle, 100% lives up to its hype. And I’m also delighted to giveaway one copy + one #UNSTOPPABLECORN teeshirt.
Grasshopper-Jungle-Andrew-SmithSixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

I’m always mesmerized by Smith’s prose. I believe he’s the sharpest, most refined YA writer I’ve ever read. Reading a novel of his is just this fantastic, invigorating experience, and the same is true for Grasshopper Jungle. He writes with a painful, beautiful truthfulness.

Austin Szerba’s voice is so very authentic and in Grasshopper Jungle, I found a great friend. I found his interactions—with himself, with his best friend, his girlfriend, people he fucking hated, people he loved—entertaining and interesting and real. The small town in which and he and his friends live is fictional, but from the precise and rich execution of its detail and complexity, you wouldn’t know that.

I go into reading books knowing very little about the plot, and I think that with this book that is especially best. You will marvel at the twists, surprises, and bombs Andrew Smith throws down in Grasshopper Jungle. It, as quite a few before me have already said, is a modern classic.

Aaaaand, in order to win a copy of Grasshopper Jungle as well as an #UNSTOPPABLECORN teeshirt, just fill out this form below. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mar 4, 2013

Giveaway: IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch

image001If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
There are some things you can’t leave behind… A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
Giveaway rules:
  • US and Canada only
  • All entrants must be 13 years or older
  • Form must be filled out by Friday, March 8th

Dec 26, 2012

Five Steps to Creating Memorable Characters by J.H. Trumble + BOOK GIVEAWAY

JH Trumble

Image designed and provided by Estelle from Rather Be Reading 
 I have invited my very dear friend J.H. Trumble, author of the critically acclaimed DON’T LET ME GO and the forthcoming WHERE YOU ARE to the blog today. One of my favorite things about J.H.’s excellent writing and storytelling is her ability to craft hugely dynamic characters. I hope you enjoy the guest post below.
I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out how Trumble makes her characters so human — flaws and all — and I come up short every single time. Because it just happens. It is so natural how these characters live and breathe on the page . . . ~Estelle H
So apparently I have some talent for writing three-dimensional, fully-realized characters. Let’s assume for a moment that my fans and reviewers are correct, and that I have something useful to share with you today. In fact, let’s make this one of those how-to posts—Five Steps to Creating Memorable Characters by J.H. Trumble. Disclaimer: This is my process. It works for me.

1. Decide what it is you want to write about first.
For me it’s always a question or a series of questions I want to explore. Don’t Let Me Go was inspired by a real event in my community that ended in the suicide of a promising young man. Question: What if that young man had had a hero? Where You Are is about a student/teacher relationship. Question: Could there be a legitimate sexual relationship between a teacher and student, and how would that happen? Just Between Us is about a young man who contracts HIV. Question: How would such a devastating diagnosis affect a young man’s various relationships and his self image?
Where You Are
  2. Choose a character to wrestle with the issue.
My main characters always begin with real people. It’s just hard for me to create characters out of thin air. So I choose people I find interesting, and we’re off. Of course, over time, the characters become unique individuals, completely separate from their initial inspiration.

3. Let your characters live and interact with their environment and others in their world.
This is where my characters become real. As I work my way through a story I have to ask myself repeatedly, what else is going on in my character’s life? Who else is in his world? When he gets home from school, who’s there? When he picks up his phone, who does he text? Does he have a job? Does he like his job?
So I finish one scene and I look around. What next? It’s kind of like playing chess. I look at the board, and decided what the next move will be. And it can’t be random. It has to make sense based on the placement of all the other pieces. Sometimes I can kind of see my way to the end, and sometimes I can only see one or two scenes ahead. But I do think it’s that scene-by-scene progression that allows my characters to develop.

4. Constantly ask yourself why. Why did my character do that? Why did he say that? What’s he hiding? What’s he really after?
This is my favorite part, because this is where all the surprises happen. I like writing best when I’m writing fast, when I’m allowing my characters to interact and do or say whatever. It’s very intuitive. And often times, they surprise me. And that’s when I have to sit back and say, huh. There’s something more going on here and I’m going to find out what that is.

5. Ask yourself, what the hell just happened here?
When I finish a manuscript, there’s always this long stretch of time when I try to make sense of it all. I look at the main characters and try to understand what’s been motivating them, what they’ve been so afraid of, where their thinking has been wrong or right. I know a lot of writers do this before they start a novel, but for me, this happens at the end. Once I think I really understand them, I can go back and edit to clarify what I now know about the characters. I look at every action, every line they speak and ask myself, would Nate say or do this? Would Andrew really respond this way?
Despite all my care in getting my characters right, my editor still sometimes calls foul. And then two things happen. First, I get completely indignant. “What? You’re batshit crazy. That’s totally Nate (Adam, Robert Andrew)!” And then, after I’ve had some time to chill and really consider his comment, I rewrite the section.

I will say this, there is no one way to write great characters. Process is as individual as fingerprints. Whatever gets you there, you know!

J.H. Trumble is a Texas native and graduate of Sam Houston State University. You may follow the author on Twitter @JHTrumble, on Facebook, or at http://jhtrumble.com.

In celebration of its release, I'm giving away one ebook and one paperback to two lucky readers! Random winners will be drawn on the 31st of December and contacted. Fill out the form below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nov 11, 2012


Thanks so much, Brent, for inviting me here today! I'm so excited to share my new book ROUGE  with readers. It's my "wild card" book in that I could never have predicted the path it has taken.
On Amazon
You asked me to talk about self-publishing and why I decided to go indie with my books. It was a decision I never thought I'd make when I wrote my first book in the fall of 2009 and started querying.

As most writers know, the query process can take years. I was actually querying The Truth About Faking  when I wrote ROUGE. Then I entered the first 250 words (of ROUGE) in an online contest hoping to get some feedback on the opening when I ended up with offers from two different agents--one for each book!
I decided to go with #2, and we started the submissions process. Ultimately, I did get a book deal. But in the meantime, at the encouragement of friends (and my agent), I self-published TTAF and it did very well!

That shocked the pants off me. But what surprised me even more was how much I liked being independent. I loved being able to connect with readers, I loved the abbreviated timeline. Most of all, I loved having control over my work--how it would look, when it would be available, the content…

On Amazon
When things started changing with my publisher, I decided to take a chance and ask if I could be released from my contract. I was happily amazed that they said yes, and after taking a few months to get ROUGE back to my original vision, I'm so happy to be sharing it with readers.

Important note: self-publishing is NOT easy. Indie authors say it all the time, but it really is like having three full-time jobs.

The hardest part, of course, is writing a book people will want to read and tell their friends about. But even after the book's written, rigorous editing, proper formatting, finding an attractive cover… all of these details are hugely important. They're subconscious elements readers pick up on that influence the perceived quality of your work.

And then the marketing begins… which involves things like this post! Making friends, visiting, talking with readers, reading and sharing other books. It's all part of the process. But for now, it's a process I'm really enjoying.

I hope you all love ROUGE. Please feel free to send me feedback on what you think. And thanks again to Brent for having me here!


Leigh Talbert Moore is a wife and mom by day, a writer by day, a reader by day, a freelance editor when time permits, a caffeine addict, a chocoholic, a beach bum, a lover of YA and new adult romance (really any great love story), and occasionally she sleeps.

-THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKING is her debut young adult romance.
-ROUGE  is the first book in her mature-YA/new adult romance series.
Leigh loves hearing from readers; stop by and say hello:

Nov 6, 2012

Beck McDowell: Alternating POVs in YA Fiction

beckmcdowellBeck McDowell is a YA author with emphasis on the Adult in Young Adult. She loves intelligent books with strong plots and quirky characters written in simple, creative language. Her young adult thriller THIS IS NOT A DRILL (Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group) launches Oct. 25, 2012. It's the story of two teens who must protect the first graders they tutor when a soldier, returned from Iraq and suffering from PTSD, opens fire in the classroom when not allowed to check out his son. You can visit her website at www.beckmcdowell.com.

Alternating voices are big in YA right now. My theory: the vast resources of the internet allow us to see both sides of every story. We’re less likely to take an issue at face value without examining the other perspective. We want more information – a good trend. It’s actually tricksy (wink to Gollum) to keep two versions of the same story straight. It’s easy to slide into the wrong character when you’re absorbed in a plot point.

I always knew that THIS IS NOT A DRILL would have two storytellers. The idea for the book came partly from a conversation with my (then) 2nd grade nephew. He told me they’d been instructed – if they heard gunshots or danger in the hall when they were in the bathroom – to stay put, to sit on the toilet and pull their feet up so any intruder who entered wouldn’t know they were there. It broke my heart, the thought of him huddled in a stall, alone and afraid! But maybe this expanded version of the “Stranger Danger” talk was a good idea.

169073940 So I knew that part of the book (in the guys’ bathroom) called for a male narrator. But I felt I needed a female to comfort the 1st graders and draw the story of what happened in Iraq from the troubled solider. (I’m no slave to stereotypes – I know guys who’d be great at both, but the Jake who appeared in my head wasn’t one of them.)

I loved the challenge of tapping into the different rhythms of the two genders’ speech patterns and making each voice distinct. As a teacher I spent years listening to male students -- and I’d written a non-fiction Katrina story with a guy protagonist, so I’d had some experience. It was really fun for me to see the completely opposite approaches Emery and Jake took to the emerging crisis.

There were other reasons for two voices in THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Although the two teens ultimately work together to help the children, they have conflicting perspectives of their messy break-up from the past. I knew readers would want to hear both sides. I also hoped including Jake’s voice would draw more male readers to the novel (although I’m often more interested in the guy perspective than the girl one.) Finding books guys would like was one of my favorite missions as a teacher.

Each story is different; a writer knows instinctively how it should be told. My next novel (just sold to Penguin!) is told from only one perspective because it’s kind of a love triangle, and I want the reader to figure out what each guy is all about along with the female character who’s getting to know them. And then my current work-in-progress is likely to fit better into alternating viewpoints, although it’s in early stages right now. I’m excited to see where it’s headed; I’ll keep you posted.

Jun 29, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.
I picked up this book because everyone I know that had read it loved it. Like seriously loved it. I’m not usually into historical fiction, but I am into friendship stories. This is a friendship story and also so much more.

The voice is perfect. Oh, is the voice perfect. The narrator (whom you will get to know by many different names) is feisty and full of life and resistance and she is compassionate and ruthless and I want to fucking be her. She is admirable and smart and has all the dignity in the world and is a great storyteller and can outwit the most cunning people. She is fun and she is serious, all in one. As soon as I started reading I though I want her to be my friend but now she is my friend, she is my friend in that book and I will reread it over and over and go back to her. OH VERITY, I WILL GO BACK TO YOU.

The plotting is well-crafted. There are minor twists that catapult the story into different directions, but the focus remains in place.

Describing Code Name Verity is the hardest thing I’ve done all summer. I can tell you it is historical and it is about war and it is about friends, but perfect and flawless and brilliant and beautiful are simpler and better words.