Lovely reviews I've seen

Leah Cypess writes so beautifully. I love that the NIGHTSPELL cover reflects the wondrous, enticing quality of her prose.

Last year, Harper Collins published NIGHTSPELL, which is a companion novel to the fascinating MISTWOOD. From the publisher's description of the novel:

"Here be ghosts, the maps said, and that was all.

In this haunted kingdom, ghosts linger—not just in the deepest forests or the darkest caverns, but alongside the living, as part of a twisted palace court that revels all night and sleeps through the daylight hours.


School Library Journal describes the beginnings of the story: "Princess Darrianka and her brother, Varis, travel far from their barbaric home in the Raellian countryside to Ghostland for different reasons—Darri is hoping to save her sister from a political marriage to the prince of Ghostland. Varis is following their father's orders and plans to trade Darri for Callie and then to conquer Ghostland for territorial domination." The reviewer goes on to say that "Nightspell is a great entry into fantasy" and would make a "good read-loud."

Children's Literature calls the book "an entertaining read that provides a unique premise." VOYA writes that NIGHTSPELL is "a solid fantasy read that takes place in a medieval setting of castles and warring tribes."

The reviewer from Kirkus Reviews praises Cypess for her "elegant, allusive prose" that "conveys both the claustrophobic horror and overripe allure of the decadent court, where the dead exude macabre charm, disarming sorrow and a dreadful 'otherness.'" Kirkus ultimately calls it: "Morbid and moving, transcendent and triumphant."

Visit Leah Cypess here: http://www.leahcypess.com/

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Lovely reviews I've seen

  Author Kristy Dempsey has written a delightful book that is getting some attention. SURFER CHICK - illustrated by Henry Cole, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers - has received starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal - and People magazine calls it “rollicking, righteous fun.”

The publisher description is enticing: "Filled with cool surf lingo, this sweet rhyming picture book is perfect for summer at the beach and for celebrating the love between a father and a daughter." Kirkus praises Dempsey for keeping "her groovy, rhyming text tight to create a raplike beat that colorfully describes a young chick’s adventures tackling the waves" and calls the picture book "a guaranteed ‘Cowabunga!’”

From School Library Journal: "This is a sweet, spunky story about perseverance and gaining confidence. Acrylic paint and colored pencil with a hot press watercolor make the sunsets dynamic and bright. Totally awesome!"

Visit Kristy Dempsey on her website: http://www.kristydempsey.com/

Henry Cole's website: http://www.henrycole.net/main.php?link=home

   Another fun picture book that reviewers are taking notice of is from the talented and lovely Anne Marie Pace: VAMPIRINA BALLERINA. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly notes that illustrator LeUyen "Pham (All the Things I Love About You) and [author] Pace are entirely in sync in this sweetly goth 'how to' for vampirettes under the spell of something more powerful than anything the dark forces can muster: ballet."

School Library Journal describes Vampirina Ballerina as a "story of perseverance and determination" and notes it "will appeal to young dancers, who will identify with Vampirina's struggles and cheer her on as she ultimately takes her triumphant bow on the flower-strewn stage."

Visit author Anne Marie Pace here and illustrator LeUyen Pham here.

Vampirina is published by Disney-Hyperion.

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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

It's almost painful to read the glowing reviews for this book because I want the book NOW. Robin LaFevers has written a winner, combining historical accuracy, romance, and subtle fantasy in a story critics and readers are loving. GRAVE MERCY is the first in the His Fair Assassin Trilogy and has received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Publisher's Weekly says that the author "makes an outstanding foray into historical romance with an enthralling recreation of 15th-century Brittany." School Library Journal gives readers an idea of the premise: "Ismae Rienne, born with an ugly red scar, is believed to have been sired by Death himself, and, when she escapes from her abusive husband on her wedding night, she finds refuge in the convent of St. Mortain where handmaidens are prepared to carry out Death's wishes," and praises the book as "well written and filled with fascinating, complex characters." Kirkus writes:"LaFevers’ ambitious tapestry includes poison and treason and murder, valor and honor and slow love, suspense and sexuality and mercy. A page-turner--with grace." Booklist says the story will "attract feminist readers and romantics alike" with its "characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book."

Book bloggers have also taken to GRAVE MERCY. Feeling Fictional writes: "This story is full of mystery and political intrigue that had me turning the pages as fast as I could." Reading Rants comments: "And make no mistake, this is a very good book, full of backstabbing politics, duplicitous double crosses and back-room-deals gone bad."

I want.

Robin LaFevers' website: http://www.robinlafevers.com/
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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

Joy Preble is the author of a series of novels inspired by Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. I've always been quite fascinated by the story of Anastasia and was pulled into the mystery of the false Anastasia - Anna Anderson - when I was younger. After reading about Anna Anderson, I was persuaded she was the real duchess, and so was surprised when it was shown she was not. We know now that Anastasia did die tragically with her family on July 17, 1918.

The first book in Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia series DREAMING ANASTASIA is the story of Anna Michaelson - a contemporary teen - "whose world [is] turned upside down . . . when a handsome, blue-eyed and temporarily immortal Russian named Ethan informs her she has a destiny to save the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov . . . But Anastasia has her own thoughts about destiny. And Anne and Ethan discover some things aren’t so easily undone."

Galleysmith says that "DREAMING ANASTASIA was an enjoyable read from start to finish. So enjoyable, in fact, that it’s gotten me interested in reading more about the Romanov’s and their history." Msbookish interviewed the author about her writing process and describes the book as "a fun young adult fantasy that takes the reader back and forth from current-day Chicago to the time of the Romanovs, and throws in elements of a Russian folktale for added chills." YA Books Central recommends DREAMING ANASTASIA to lovers of fantasy, calling it "an enchanting, splendid novel."

Sourcebook released the second book in the series HAUNTED last year. The third book ANASTASIA FOREVER will be available August 1st.

Visit Joy at her website: http://joypreble.com/

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about Anastasia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchess_Anastasia_Nikolaevna_of_Russia

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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

GIRL MEETS BOY: BECAUSE THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY - an anthology - came out a few months ago. It's edited by Kelly Milner Halls - an accomplished and prolific writer and author - who also contributes to the collection.

A list of the author pairings:

Chris Crutcher & Kelly Milner Halls
Joseph Bruchac & Cynthia Leitich Smith
James Howe & Ellen Wittlinger
Terry Trueman & Rita Williams-Garcia
Terry Davis & Rebecca Davis
Randy Powell & Sara Ryan

A description of the book from publisher Chronicle: "What do guys and girls really think? Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of 'he said/she said' stories—he tells it from the guy’s point of view, she tells it from the girl’s."

A reviewer at Finding Wonderland "was struck by the high quality of every single story in the collection," saying one of her "favorite pairs of stories" was the "Bruchac/Smith pairing—the voice was so strong in both." Kirkus Reviews says in a starred review that each of the authors in this "superb offering . . .  excels at creating vibrant, sympathetic, honest characters with voices that will appeal to older teens, male and female alike." Teri Lesesne calls it a "masterful collection."

This one is on my list.
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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

So many books I want to read. A particular one is released, and I think, I want that. And then it's a few years later, and I still haven't read it. Ultimately, this is a good thing for readers. So many excellent stories out there waiting for us.

2009 Printz Award winner JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta is one of those I keep meaning to read. It was first published in Australia - three years before the Printz committee honored it - under the title ON THE JELLICOE ROAD. VOYA describes the story: "Taylor Markham has been living at the Jellicoe School since her mother abandoned her at a gas station when she was eleven. Taylor's whole life is a mystery to her-from what happened to her mother and who her father was to why certain people in town are so interested in her well-being." Kirkus Reviews calls it a "beautifully rendered mystery" and says readers will "find themselves ensnared in the story's fascinating, intricate structure."

Ashley at Book Labyrinth recently reread JELLICOE ROAD and posted: "I'm re-reading Jellicoe Road right now and totally falling in love with it all over again."

Melina Marchetta's website: http://www.melinamarchetta.com.au/

Ashley at Book Labyrinth also discussed THE WAY WE FALL, a new novel by writer Megan Crewe. In an early review of the ARC, Ashley said that "in the end I was completely enthralled with this one . . . This book is about family, about friendship, and it has a sweet romance to it as well. . . .At the heart of this book is the disease and what it does to those who are affected, either directly or indirectly, and it makes for an absolutely gripping story. Highly recommended."

I most definitely agree. I had the opportunity to read chapters of the manuscript while the author was working on it. Just riveting.

Publisher's Weekly describes the novel: "In this tense apocalyptic thriller, first in a planned series, Crewe (Give Up the Ghost) explores the slow collapse of society in a microcosm, as a deadly disease ravages a small Canadian island community."

From VOYA's review of THE WAY WE FALL: "The intriguing plot involving a viral outbreak should attract fans of Viral by Kathy Reichs (Young Arrow, 2011/VOYA October 2010), The Enemy by Charlie Higson (Hyperion, 2010), and The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (Scholastic, 2011/VOYA February 2012), among others."

Megan's website: http://www.megancrewe.com/
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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

Here's another book I've been hearing good things about and want to read: THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey. 

Rebecca Barnhouse posted over on Verla Kay: "I just read Margot Livesey's wonderful THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY, a retelling of JANE EYRE. I sank into it and didn't resurface until the last page. And then I was bereft, having finished." The New York Times says that the book is "a kind of continued conversation, a 'recasting' of both JANE EYRE and Livesey’s own childhood. Set mostly in Scotland in the late 1950s and ’60s, the narrative follows the fortunes of a young girl, Gemma Hardy, who is beset by bad luck."

Margot Livesey's website: http://www.margotlivesey.com/

Speaking of Rebecca Barnhouse, I also want to read her new book, the historical fantasy PEACEWEAVER, which releases soon. The cover is compelling and immediate.

I was moved by her very excellent THE BOOK OF THE MAIDSERVANT. [VOYA praised BOTM: "Earthy, authentic, and engrossing, this fast-paced, easy read belongs on the shelf with Karen Cushman's THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE (Clarion, 1995/VOYA August 1995) and CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDIE (Clarion, 1994/VOYA June 1994)."]

KIRKUS REVIEWS praises the setting of PEACEWEAVER and says that readers will want to "spend more time in this fascinating, distant place." VOYA writes that "fantasy readers will enjoy this epic journey with a strong female protagonist." Random Musings of a Bibliophile calls it "historical fantasy at its best."

Rebecca's website: http://www.rebeccabarnhouse.com/
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Lovely reviews I've seen this week

Jen Robinson calls Greg Leitich Smith's middle grade CHRONAL ENGINE irresistible and "a fun, well-researched novel with an appealing premise."  PJ Hoover says "CHRONAL ENGINE is what happens when JURASSIC PARK meets GIDEON THE CUTPURSE. Yes, dinosaurs and time travel all in one awesome place."

The launch party for CHRONAL ENGINE is this weekend - Saturday, March 24th - at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. I can't make the party - will be working in Houston that day - but I'm sure it'll be a fun celebration with Austin writers and readers.

I really want to get my hands on CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. I'll have to wait a few months before it's out in the US - released May 2012 - but I've been reading good things.  Over on Educating Alice, the novel is described as "the story of a passionate friendship set in the landscape of World War II Britain, women pilots, espionage, Nazis, the Resistance, and occupied France" and "a harrowing, riveting, and deeply emotional read."

ChaChic's Book Nook says it's "a wonderful, heartbreaking and riveting story about the friendship between two girls."

Here's a link to the author's website: http://www.elizabethwein.com/

A book I recently read and loved - disturbingly delicious - is the middle grade THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Nikki Loftin. I read an ARC and couldn't put it down - staying up wayyyy past my bedtime to finish it. Razorbill releases it in August.

From the publisher: "When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kid's dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true."

Nikki's website: http://nikkiloftin.com/
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SHADOW: How Chapter One Changed from First Draft to Publication

Maggie Stiefvater asked some of her fellow authors to give readers a glimpse of our writing processes by analyzing the evolving first chapter of one of our books. I am up for it! The first draft of SHADOW was a skeleton draft. I had the plot in my head (which I ended up changing) and had Shadow’s voice, and wanted to get it all down on “paper” before I forgot it. So I wrote a quick draft, shutting off my internal editor and just writing. I ended up with about 16000 words in two weeks, which didn’t shine with awesomeness, but at least the words were out of my forgetful brain and on the page.

This was the first stab at a manuscript I called THE QUEEN’S SHADOW, written in August 2004.

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My kids (then 13 & 15yo) read the manuscript and gave me some feedback. A couple of weeks later, I started the revision. Below are two more unsuccessful attempts at the first paragraph:

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At this point in the writing process, I set aside the manuscript and worked on other projects, particularly WINNIE’S WAR. In June 2005, I reread THE QUEEN’S SHADOW and revised, but the manuscript was still very spare, growing only from 16000 words to 21000:

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I continued to revise and expand the manuscript, dropping it occasionally to work on WINNIE’S WAR. I was jumping back and forth between the two stories, which were very different – 1918 historical fiction & a medieval-type fantasy – but I enjoyed diving into the two worlds, playing in one and then the other.

Eventually, I wrote a full manuscript of TQS and signed with an agent in August 2006. She sold TQS to Scholastic in January 2007. A year later, we began the editorial process. Below is how the first paragraph looked after the first editorial revision:

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And then very slightly changed with the second editorial revision:

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Below is the first chapter from the published copy. The final word count was about 70,000 words.

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(1) My editor asked for a word change because "reddened" takes reader out of Shadow's POV.
(2) From the beginning, reveals what Shadow most wants
(3) Shows reader how isolated Shadow is
(4) Adds characterization of the queen
(5) Better explanation of what Shadow was to the queen, what role she played
(6) Introduces Sir Kenway (the love interest) earlier than in original draft
(7-8) Shows relationship between Sir Kenway, Shadow, and the queen, and provides more characterization of Sir Kenway: Much of this interaction added during the editorial process
(9) More characterization of Shadow, a little revealing of her feelings
(10) Heightens the attraction between Shadow and Sir Kenway
(11) This delta time increased to twenty days because my editor asked me to add more scenes, develop stronger relationships, before queen's birthday.


I wish I had time to analyze more deeply. My notes are packed away deep in storage, so this was done from memory. It was a fun exercise, though.

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