Wednesday, November 30, 2011

CONduct Series Blog Tour

Hey readers! I am part of the blog tour for Jennifer Lane's books With Good Behavior and the companion novel Bad Behavior. And there's a giveaway!

Here's an excerpt from With Good Behavior:

Excerpt from Chapter 19, "The Womanly Touch"
The announcer’s voice boomed over the sound system, and the first White Sox batter stepped up to the plate. His announcement was met with mostly boos in the Cubs-dominated crowd.
Grant asked, “Who made you a Sox fan?”
“My dad.”
Her soft, terse reply told him he hadn't succeeded in lightening the mood. “Oh.”
“I think he wanted a son,” Sophie said. “My mom had four miscarriages before me. Anyway, my dad would drag me to Sox games when I was little, but eventually I learned to love the game. Pretty soon I wanted to go more than he did, but then he started his company and got too busy for baseball.”
“Well, I’m never too busy for baseball,” Grant said, stretching out his lanky body. “Except when I have to work for weeks on end. Thank God for Rog giving us some days off.”
A hot dog vendor meandered down the aisle, already sweating in the hot sun. She was a petite little thing carrying a deep metal tray, and both Grant and Sophie were surprised by her volume when she belted out, “Hot dogs! Five dollars!”
As the ponytailed vendor paused at the row across from them, Sophie leaned into Grant and whispered, “That could be me. When I couldn’t find a job, Jerry told me to sell hot dogs at Cubs games.”
Grant raised his eyebrows in shock and muttered, “The horror.”
Sophie giggled, scoffing, “As if I’d work at Wrigley Field, the enemy’s lair!”
The vendor continued down the aisle and Grant proudly said, “Working on an architectural cruise is far superior to hawking hot dogs. Although I bet you’d get great tips here too.”
Still grinning, Sophie mused, “I wonder if guys ask her if her buns are warm?”
Grant snickered.

Comment below by December 13 for a chance to win an ebook of With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior. It will be the winner's choice. To enter the Grand Prize - a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble - each participant needs to comment on every blog post on the tour. See the tour button on my sidebar or click below:

Here are the participating blogs in the tour, please check them out!

After surviving the rigors of writing a psychology dissertation, the author known as Jennifer Lane has happily turned to writing fiction. She still maintains her psychology practice in Ohio, but please rest assured that she's not psychoanalyzing you right now. The tales of healing and resilience from her career have inspired her to write her own stories: The Conduct Series. With Good Behavior began with two cons trying to make it on the outside: running from the Mafia, joking about sexy vegetables, and just maybe falling in love. Bad Behavior, the next in line, reveals that it's not so easy to escape the past, but the plucky parolees once again strive to persevere. Jen is currently at work on the third and final installment of the series: On Best Behavior. She's found that whether writing or reading, she loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time Jen enjoys competitive swimming, attending book club, and hanging out with her sisters and their families in Chicago.

Author information:
Jennifer Lane, Author
Romantic Suspense featuring Healing and RedemptionWith Good Behavior (The Conduct Series #1) released July, 2010
Bad Behavior (The Conduct Series #2) released March, 2011
Summer Breeze Anthology (short story Swim Recruit) released July, 2011
Twitter: JenLanebooks
Goodreads: Jennifer Lane

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Title: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA, dystopian
Published: Releases Nov. 29, 2011

The opening lines of Legend set the stage perfectly for what kind of book you're getting into. Here's the character named Day:

My mother thinks I'm dead.
Obviously I'm not dead, but it's safer for her to think so.
At least tiwce a month, I see my Wanted poster flashed on the JumboTrons scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles. It looks out of place up there. Most of the pictures on the screens are of happy things: smiling children standing under a bright blue sky, tourists posing before the Golden Gate Ruins, Republic commericals in neon colors. There's also anti-Colonies propaganda. "The Colonies want our land," the ads declare. "They want what they don't have. Don't let them conquer your homes! Support the cause!"
Already it's clear this world is not like ours; the United States is split into the Colonies and the Republic. I love the imagry of  the Golden Gate Ruins. It reminds me of the deteriorating wasteland of D.C. and Vegas in the Fallout video game series which takes place after a nuclear war.

The story vascillates between Day, a teenage boy wanted by the military-led enforcers of the Republic for vandalism and property destruction, and June, a highly trained savant who has essentially finished college by age 15. June is protected by military wealth due to her brother's service, while Day is a vagabond on the run. They live in opposite worlds, but their paths cross when June's brother is killed during a mission to apprehend Day. June is suddenly alone, her parents having been killed years earlier, and now no brother to care for her. A Republic Commander recruits her early out of school, and June's new mission is to find Day, her brother's killer.

Day is portayed by the Republic as a misfit criminal, but when June encounters Day during an undercover mission, she sees a different side. He's kind and protective. He steals plague medicine for his sick brother, and secretly delivers it without making contact with his mother, out of protection for her. Day lives on the streets and takes care of a younger girl he calls cousin; he'll risk his own life to keep her safe. He tells her of how the Repubilc kills citizens who don't pass the Trial, the test each 10-year-old must pass which assigns their lot in life. June is guarded and reluctant to believe Day. She does what she is trained to do and follows her commands. But soon, she starts piecing together details about her brother's murder, and she begins to doubt that Day is the killer. She questions everything she was brought up to believe about the Republic and who they protect.

Fans of The Hunger Games or Delirium will enjoy Legend. All three deal with a world controlled by military-style government seeking to repress the poor and exploit everyone else. It's not all bleak; June and Day have great chemistry without being sappy. Plus, Day is so freaking awesome you will want a movie version of this book when you're finished. Plenty of action moves the story forward whenever it starts to lag.  A few of the seondary characters feel a little one-note, but I enjoyed the leads enough to overcome some of the weaker aspects of the story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Yo-derp: a word on Yoda's dialogue

Since the Thanksgiving holiday is usually an occassion for cable TV to run a Star Wars marathon (usually on SpikeTV), I thought it appropriate to comment from a writing perspective. I love Yoda, but some of his dialogue is downright painful:
"Around the survivors, a perimeter create!"
It may possibly be the worst Yoda line in all the films. Fittingly, it comes from one of the prequels, Attack of the Clones, the lowly middle film between kid-Vader podracer and the one where Anakin gets all burnt up.

Yoda has his cute way of speaking that cleverly jumbles common wording:
"Always in motion is the future."
"Wars not make one great."
"Save the lives of the Jedi, we must."
But a lot of times, he says things straight up. The balance is nice. If he did Yoda-speak all the time it would be annoying, and we already have to deal with the fact he's a puppet.

Thinking over Yoda's dialogue makes me analyze my own writing. If I'm forcing a certain dialect, it has to be relevant enough to the character or the situation to be used. Too much of a weird speaking pattern pulls a reader out of the story. Yoda-speak is effective to establish his character, but it's annoying if he only talks that way.

Are there any examples you have of bad dialogue that have helped you craft your own writing?

Or if you just want to comment about Star Wars, that's cool, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anderson's Books YA Author Panel November 21, 2011

I thought I could resist another multi-author panel at Anderson's Books (Naperville, IL) but I'm weak, I admit. A fellow writer and YA fan on twitter reminded me of the event, and well, why not?

Here's the panel list (all writers of Young Adult and children's books):

*realized A.S. King and Jackie Kessler's names are switched in this promo photo

Since there were so many authors, the event was emceed by David Levithan, who wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, and if that doesn't move you, he also co-wrote Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist which was made into a movie with Michael Cera & Kat Dennings (and is arguably one of the best recent teen movies) and if that still doesn't give you context, he is also an editor for The Hunger Games series.


Anyway, David was the perfect host and gave about 5 or 10 minutes to each author to talk about their book and a little bit about writing. I didn't initially recognize Heather Brewer's name, but I sure recognized her book series:

These are everywhere! They're like a mainstay in any section of YA books at Target and big box retailers and I always see them endcapped at bookstores.

Jay Asher (of Thirteen Reasons Why) and Carolyn Mackler talked up the intriguing premise of their book The Future of Us about two teens who log onto AOL in 1996 and end up seeing their Facebook profiles 15 years in the future. Talk about crossover potential! I can see YA fans my age and younger readers liking this concept. I know I'm all over it. Here's an article from about the book.

Jackie Kessler discussed her series about the four horsemen of the apocolypse with a twist; an anorexic girl is convinced to play the role of Hunger in the book by the same name. She said she wanted to explore the theme beyond her original inspiration, which was a side story from an older X-Men series comic with a similar premise, but there was no depth to her backstory.

And then there's Stephanie Perkins, who I've heard so much praise for with Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. She has such a lively personality, it makes me want to read her books even more.

Jeff Hirsch and Coe Booth I had seen in September at Anderson's YA Lit conference, and A.S. King and C.J. Hill talked about their books as well, which all had very different concepts and styles. It's cool to see the variety of books out there now. It's certainly not all paranormal romance - I don't think a single book discussed at this event fell into that category.

Have you read any books by these authors? Who is your favorite?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TV review links: Once Upon a Time, Grimm

A few weeks ago I blogged about the premiere of Once Upon a Time which takes fairy tale characters and tosses them into our world under a curse (hey, just what are you saying here, TV people?!)

Since some of you who read my blog are interested in the writing I do elsewhere on the internet, I wanted to share the link for the article I wrote. Here it is if you want to check it out:

Once Upon a Time: The Literary and the Literal

Another writer did a piece on Grimm, the other fairy-tales-in-real-life show to premiere this fall. I actually liked Grimm more than I expected to, it has an easier premise to buy than Once Upon a Time does, in my opinion. Read more here:

Grimm Picks Up

If you're a fan of either show, go ahead and leave a comment on the slackerheroes site. Thanks everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Title: Ashes
Author: Ilsa Bick
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic
Published: 2011

What's cool about Ashes is the apocalyptic aspects are based on plausible circumstances. I've seen the author speak twice at different book events, and she eagerly shared information about her military background and a clear fascination with survival tactics and what can go wrong in a world dependent on technology.

In Ashes, 17-year-old Alex takes a solo hiking trip into the northern Wisconsin woods bordering the upper peninsula of Michigan. As with many YA books, Alex's parents are dead, and she lives with an aunt she seems to have minimal attachment to. Alex has a brain tumor, and the trip is partly a last adventure to herself as she decides to stop all treatment and live her life to the fullest.

During the trip, an event happens. An EMP - electromagnetic pulse - disables all electronic devices, and causes some people to drop dead instantly while others get violently sick; Alex compares her reaction to chemotherapy. Just before the event, Alex encounters an older man and his granddaughter in the woods; the man dies while the girl, Ellie, is spared, along with their dog. Alex and Ellie stick together and search out a nearby ranger station Alex locates on her trail map. They barely have food or ammo and the weather's turning cold. Each moment feels tense and thrilling, especially when they find other survivors in the woods who act wild, crazed and in once case, cannibalistic.

Alex and Ellie are rescued from one of these crazed changed people by a soldier named Tom who is on leave from fighting in Afghanistan. The three form a family of sorts and stay together for weeks as they formulate a plan and speculate what happened and where it's safe to go. Alex is fairly sure her tumor saved her; one of the changes from the event is her sense of smell went from non-existent to highly acute. In fact, she and the dog seem like they can sense the presence of the changed ones early on. Alex isn't sure why Tom was spared, but he suffers from PTSD and has trouble sleeping. The tone is both desperate and hopeful as the three plan every aspect of their survival.

There is a point in the book where the story changes course, and Alex ends up in a strange cult-like community among a completely different set of characters. I should mention now, this book is the first in a series, which I wasn't aware of. The story ends abruptly with what I felt like was more than a cliffhanger; there isn't any resolution to the story arc whatsoever, and I was left wondering what happened to Tom and Ellie, who Alex had gotten separated from. It almost felt like two different books. While I loved the first half, I felt a bit disconnected with where the story went.

I would recommend Ashes if you liked the survival aspects of The Hunger Games and enjoy post-apocalyptic adventures. It would've been a better experience for me if the second book was available to continue on with, or if there had been more resolution with the current story rather than the sudden ending.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

TV Show or YA Cover?

Doesn't the promo for the fall's new TV show Revenge look like the cover of a YA novel?

Here are some comparison examples:

Lauren Kate's whole Fallen series:

Also, Keirsten White's Paranormalcy:
 And Fury by Elizabeth Miles:

If you search Goodreads for YA + dress, there are lists of books covers with similar haunted girls in pretty dresses covers. Some of the dresses are stunning!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title: Match Me If You Can
Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Published: 2005

This is not my usual genre, but I like to read widely and Susan Elizabeth Phillips' name is frequently mentioned as an example of fun contemporary romance. I can definitely see the appeal. Match Me If You Can is light and brisk. Annabelle is a clever woman, and although quirky, she isn't the tripping mess seen in a lot of light women's fiction (and specifically in chick-flicks). What Annabelle lacks in poise, she makes up for in resourcefulness, and she's a genuinely likable character.

Annabelle inheirits her grandmother's Chicago matchmaking business, and instead of continuing with homespun elderly match-ups, she attempts to reinvent the business into high-end executive matchmaking. Her first big client is a sports agent named Heath, who apparently is featured in an earlier book of this series (the "series" features related characters, but not the same character with varying plot line, so it's not necessary to have read earlier books). Heath is a workaholic success-fiend who has only enough time to fit in 20 minute dates with pre-selected women. Annabelle manages to hook him with a knockout first client, who unknown to him, is already married and is only playing part as bait-and-switch to get him to sign on. Heath is so impressed by Annabelle, or at least impressed by her tenacity since he can tell she's a bit of a trainwreck, he insists she accompany him on all initial meetings with new matches. I think you know where this is going...

The story flips point of view between Annabelle, Health and a competitor matchmaker named Portia. That threw me for a loop since a third character POV seemed uneccessasary (I was already surprised we would hear some of the story from Heath). It was almost a guilty pleasure to hear from Heath's perspective, but it rounded out the story in a way that worked.

I had more fun with this book than I expected. Lots of funny moments, and in places where plot could have veered into ridiculous territory, introspective narrative and realistic conversations among characters helped smooth it out. Sure, a few aspects are more book-reality than actual-reality, but that's the fun of reading.

My only real issue is related to the audiobook version. I was not a fan of the voice acting, particularly the male voices, which were acted out by the same female reader. Heath sounded dated, and at least 20 years older than his age of 34. I know 34-year-old guys and not a single one sounds like this. It literally sounded like a 50-something aged guy. While this is the perfect type of book to listen to, I had trouble enjoying the romantic aspects because of Heath's characterization. Annabelle was pretty great, though.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Genre: YA contemporary
Published: 2005

I love John Green's books, but I always find it difficult to sum them up in a review because I don't feel I'll do it justice. Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns all feature teenage boy protagonists, quirky, complex and emotionally distant love interests, stand-out sidekicks and some sort of overarching caper. I suppose it depends which one you read first to determine a favorite (mine was Paper Towns).

Alaska is Green's most celebrated work so far, and it has more heft  than the others since it deals with speculation on suicide. Miles is a new student at boarding school who's looking for an adventure; "the great perhaps," which he read about during his pursuit of final words, which ends up being a theme of the book. Miles is infinitely lucky to be paired with 5-foot super-stud The Colonel as a roommate. He's a total dork, but the type who gets away with it. The Colonel is a classic Green sidekick who's a lot of fun with all his prank-pulling, but also has a deeper side.

Then there's Alaska. Yup, that's her name and she's 16 going on 40. Miles is obsessed with her because she is the quintessential untouchable girl who is mostly a fascination but sometimes allows for a glimpse of vulnerability. Beneath Alaska's boldness are hurts she expresses vaguely, leading to her mystique. I can't fault Green for writing similar characters in his books because he writes them so well.

These are brilliant kids coming of age awkwardly, and friendship always seems to be the overriding factor to bring Green's characters to their resolution. While Paper Towns is still my favorite, Looking for Alaska is a great read.