Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Talk: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

I love that this novel works on so many levels. On the surface, it is a fun paranormal story with a breezy tone (and a genuinely creepy reveal regarding the source of the magic), but beneath that it is a thoughtful examination of free will with incredibly high stakes.

Aspen has gone through life with a gift of "reaching" - that is, if he touches something that belongs to someone, he can see inside them and take away anything from motivations to aptitudes for math or even physical markers like freckles or burn scars. Because of this, he's quite selfish and entitled. He uses his power for his own gain without much thought of the consequences to others, despite evidence that his magic has caused people serious harm. He doesn't know them personally, so he thinks "so what?" His justification lies in a family secret: they are the protectors of the town, and if they don't perform a ritual to keep a magic cliff satisfied, the cliff will crumble and the town will be crushed. It's the sacrifice of a few for the greater good argument - but is that what is really going on here? Aspen starts to have his doubts after questions arise about the truth of his cousin's death ...

Ribar has a gift for banter and writing complex relationships between flawed, authentic characters. The magic system is imaginative and logical. I loved the parallels between his romance with Brandy and his parents failed marriage, and the examination of how even our negative qualities are necessary to shaping our identities.

Reminded me a lot of Maggie Lehrman's The Cost of all Things, which I also highly recommend.

And guess what? It's out today!

Buy it on Amazon.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Talk: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

This is the type of novel I love - great, high-concept premise, relatable characters, unique structure and storytelling. And it's SO different than the Chaos Walking series (which I also adored) so plus points for that too.

Let's start with the premise. Basically, Ness pokes fun at the "chosen one" trope by making his protagonist just an ordinary guy who lives in an extraordinary town. Mikey is not an "indie kid" so he doesn't have to worry about being the one who is essential to fighting off demons or vampires. He has his own stuff going on: his sister has an eating disorder, his dad is an alcoholic, his mom is running for office, and he has OCD and is in love with a friend of his.

So structure-wise, there's a short run-down at the start of each chapter telling us what is happening in the "main plot" and then Mikey tells us what's going on in his life for the rest of the chapter - and it's clearly much more interesting and authentic.

I love the underlying theme of being the hero of your own story, and I rooted for Mikey the entire novel.

You'll enjoy this if you like meta-fiction, originality and gentle satire.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Books Read in 2016

YA Fiction

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
Calvin by Martine Leavitt
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
I Crawl Through It by AS King
Juba by Walter Dean Myers
Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Rook by Sharon Cameron
Tyrell by Coe Booth
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattmer
Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

MG Fiction

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker


Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer

Graphic Novels

Prez by Mark Russell
Hereville by Barry Deutsch
Scott Pilgrim Vol #1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta (Lunch Lady, #3) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

2015 Movies I saw this year

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Insurgent (DVD)
Trainwreck (plane)
Pitch Perfect 2 (DVD)
The Duff (DVD)
Sleeping With Other People (plane)
Paper Towns (plane)
Jupiter Ascending (TV)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Jurassic World (DVD)
Minions (DVD)
Home (DVD)

Total of 14 (four more than last year)

Notable movies I saw in 2015 that were released before 2015 

Mockingjay Part 1
If I Stay

2015 movies I still want to see

Mockingjay Part 2

TV series I watched in 2015 

Mad Men Final Season
The Bates Motel Season 3
12 Monkeys Season 1
The Last Ship Season 1+2
Camp Cutthroat Kitchen
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

How was your year in movies and TV?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Awesome Reads of 2015

I read over 90 books in 2015, and annotated all of them for my MFA program at VCFA, though I didn't talk about many of them here. As you can see by the handy Goodreads graphic below, many of them were backlist. If you click on this link, you can find out more about each of my favorites. Also, see my Awesome Reads of 2014 which I just posted now, one year late!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 In Review: Music

I bought 220 new songs this year (way more than last year) including 4 albums, Every Open Eye/Chvrches, Beneath the Skin/Of Monsters and Men, Song Spells #1/Sea Wolf, Art Angels/Grimes

2015 songs on heavy rotation (* indicates top 5)

*Flesh Without Blood - Grimes 
*Leave a Trace - Chvrches 
*Happy - Marina and the Diamonds
*True Confessions - Blondfire
*Breaker - Deerhunter
The Shade - Metric
Lightning Strike - A Silent Film
Grey Days - Chelsea Wolfe
1998 - Chet Faker feat. Banks
Trip Switch - Nothing but Thieves
I of the Storm - Of Monsters and Men
Body Talk - Foxes
Hiding - Florence and the Machine
High - Zella Day
Step Brother City - Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Strange Hellos - TORRES
Greek Tragedy - The Wombats
Little Wanderer - Death Cab for Cutie
Begin Again - Purity Ring
The Labyrinth Song - Asaf Avidan
White Lies - Milo Greene
A Beginning Song - The Decemberists 
My Least Favorite Life - Lera Lynn
Empty Gold - Halsey
Blame it on Me - George Ezra
Anything - TOPS
Too Late to Say Goodbye - Cage the Elephant
Water Slides - Mew
Molecules - Atlas Genius
I Feel It - Avid Dancer

Favorite finds from previous years (* indicates top 5)

*Algiers - The Afghan Whigs (2014)
Cecilia and the Satellite - Andrew McMahon (2014)
*Black Soap - Ex Cops (2014)
Go - Grimes (2014)
*Lover - In the Valley Below (2014)
Black Mambo - Glass Animals (2014)
* Lover, Where Do You Live? - Highasakite (2014)
Zigzagging Toward the Light - Conor Oberst (2014)
Lust and Lies - The Ramona Flowers (2013)
*Teen Idle - Marina and the Diamonds (2012)
Sun - Two Door Cinema Club (2012)
Hold On - Alabama Shakes (2012)
My Secret Friend - IAMX (2010)
Christmas Won't Be the Same Without You - Plain White Ts (2009)
I Don't Believe You - The Magnetic Fields (2004)
August - Rilo Kiley (2001)

Live Music in 2015

+ Alt J with Wolf Alice (Feb 7) in Offenbach, Germany

+ Rachael Yamagata (Feb 20) in Frankfurt, Germany

+ Sea Wolf (May 21) in Frankfurt, Germany

+ Of Monsters and Men with Highasakite (July 1) in Frankfurt, Germany

+ Death Cab for Cutie with Twin Shadow (Sept 19) in Columbus, Ohio

+ Landmark Festival in DC (Sept 27) with Chvrches, George Ezra, TV on the Radio, Lord Huron, Houndmouth, In the Valley Below

+ Deerhunter (December 17) in Columbus, Ohio

I'd love to hear about your favorite music of the year - share with me!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Book Talk: Spoils by Tammar Stein

It's not too often I come across a character in a novel named Lenore, so this was a nice surprise. I asked Tammar how she came up with the name, and this is what she said:

About Lenore...Well, it's a gorgeous name, of course. You know this already. My main character's names always pop into my mind rather mysteriously. I never have to sit and think about it. It's usually names that kind of surprise me, never the name of someone I know with that name. With Leni, I just knew it was Leni. And then I thought, who names their kid Leni? It's probably a nickname...and it went from there. I liked the thought of her taking ownership of her name, changing it to something she felt comfortable with. I feel like Lenore is a name you have to grow into (though I suppose you would know better than I would.) Maybe a young person wouldn't feel comfortable with such a majestic name. I bet by the time Leni finished college, she'll reclaim her full name.
Interesting! Lenore is indeed a pretty majestic name, though I suppose I grew into it early.

So - the book itself. Lenore is the youngest daughter of a family who won the lottery and then spent the money wildly over the years until there's nothing left. Lenore's parents expect her to give up her part of the money when she turns 18 (it has been in a trust) to keep them afloat, and she is ready to do this until her older sister confesses that the money is dirty and that whatever Lenore does, she needs to get rid of it completely.

So that's the mystery - what's wrong with the money? Turns out, a lot. Lenore is visited by an angel who also warns her to get rid of it - and she only has a week until her birthday to figure out what to with it.

The novel explores the idea of the universe having checks and balances on good and evil - when evil is thwarted by good, it seeks out weaker targets.

I really enjoyed this one! Find out more at Tammar's website.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

First Draft Pod!

This summer, the fabulous Sarah Enni was in Paris and asked me and Amy Plum to be guests on her podcast series called First Draft in which she interviews writers about books and life. The episode is now live (we discuss travel and how writing letters and blogging got us into publishing) and I'm excited to go back and listen to the other 59 episodes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Playlist October featuring The Summer After You & Me by Jennifer Doktorski

I love music and I love books, which means I really love book playlists. So all through October I'm going to be posting book playlists. I've invited a bunch of authors to contribute, so hopefully we'll all discover some great new music and good reads.

Jennifer Doktorski is here today to share some of the resonant lyrics from her playlist for her new novel THE SUMMER AFTER YOU & ME.

Here's the book summary:

When Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the New Jersey coast, local shore girl Lucy Giordano is brought together for a few intense hours with her longtime crush/part-time summer neighbor, Connor Malloy. Lucy believes their connection is real, but in the hurricane’s devastating aftermath, nothing is the same and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and home.

 And Jennifer's playlist!

“Crazy For You” Stars on 45

Every single word that you say
Every little thing that you do
Hits like a hurricane
When I'm secretly crazy for you

“Absolutely Still” Val Emmich

We were running from the same noise
We were stuck in the same pursuit
Now the door's locked
And I find that this dizzy madness is bleeding through
Promise me you'll never leave this room

“Every Breaking Wave” U2

Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing
Every breaking wave

“Riptide” Vance Joy

Lady, running down to the riptide
Taken away to the dark side
I wanna be your left hand man

“Come to Me” Goo Goo Dolls

Fortune teller said I'd be free
And that's the day you came to me
Came to me

Find out more about Jennifer and her novels at her website: www.jendoktorski.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Playlist October featuring IF YOU'RE LUCKY by Yvonne Prinz

I love music and I love books, which means I really love book playlists. So all through October I'm going to be posting book playlists. I've invited a bunch of authors to contribute, so hopefully we'll all discover some great new music and good reads.

Today, I have Yvonne Prinz talking about her playlist picks for her new novel, IF YOU'RE LUCKY.

First, the book summary:

When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his whole life?

Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying. 
As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist–or to see a deadly truth that no one else can.

And now, Yvonne's song picks!

1. Somewhere Down The Road- Feist

A sad, pretty song for Georgia and how I imagine she yearns for her dead brother, Lucky.

2. Poison Oak- Bright Eyes. 

I love these lyrics. I think that Oberst wrote this song to go with my story. That isn’t true, of course, but the song reminds me of my character, Georgia, and her brother, Lucky. Georgia has always been in awe of Lucky’s ease in his life. He brought the world home to False Bay with him when he returned from his adventures and he made it seem small and friendly. After he’s gone, Georgia doesn’t know how to look at the world anymore.

“I fell asleep with you still talking to me and you said you weren’t afraid to die”

3. Dearly Departed- Shakey Graves 

If You’re Lucky is part ghost story and this song seemed appropriate. I adore Shakey Graves.


4. Wild is the Wind- Cat Powers

This is a beautiful cover of a David Bowie hit. I played it a lot while I wrote about Georgia losing touch with what’s real.

5. Sailor Song- The Felice Brothers

The Felice Brothers are self-proclaimed slouching Hudson River Pirates. I think this song speaks to Georgia’s slide downward. Her delusions start to define her life as she slips away from reality. I love the sea shanty feel of this tune.


6. Shangri-la-Mark Knopfler

Lots of surf culture in this story. Lucky thrived in that life. He worked here and there and then followed the waves around the world. I’ve always loved the way this song speaks to that Gypsy life that Lucky embraced.


7. Oh, Lonesome Me- M. Ward featuring Lucinda Williams 

The coastline where I set the book in Northern California is one I’m very familiar with and this track is just how I feel when I drive that lonesome highway along the edge of the western world, overlooking the Pacific. There are lots of versions of this Neil Young song but nothing quite touches the soulfulness of this one.


8. The Riptide-Beirut

Georgia fears the water though it’s all around her while she’s awake and in her dreams. Beirut is a big favorite of mine. I love their rich multi-instrumental arrangements. I like this video too. It’s reminiscent of the scene where Georgia’s family scatters Lucky’s ashes into the ocean.


9. Minor Swing- Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli

Sonia (Lucky’s girlfriend) and Georgia take a drive down to a small bar in Bodega (near where Tom Waits now lives, incidentally) to see a Gypsy Swing band. They’re surprised when Fin gets onstage to sit in with the band. He’s obviously an accomplished guitar player and neither of them knew anything about this. I loved building a character with a flourish like this, another dollop of intrigue, another layer to explore.

10. In My Sleep- Austin Hartley and Kendall Jane Meade

This one’s a weeper. I see Georgia is hanging on to her dead brother too tight and she sees him in her dreams, always in the water, always reaching for her.

11. Jayne’s Blue Wish- Tom Waits- A nice poetic note to end on. A touch of hope for Georgia.


 Thanks, Yvonne - all these songs are new to me. How fun!

Find out more about IF YOU'RE LUCKY at Yvonne's website and look for it in stores starting October 20th!