Google+ YA Romantics: May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

Freebie Friday 45 Masques and Moons

Happy Friday!

If you're like me, you've started thinking about your summer reading. I'm here to help!

This week I have some amazing choices for Freebie Friday. 

International followers, I do not want to leave you out, so there are options for you too!

US followers can choose from these:

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen OR

A paperback of Masque of the Red Death AND hardcover of Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin. If you just want one of those books, that's fine too… OR

An ARC of Pushing the Limits and a hardcover of Dare You To.

International winner can choose a paperback of Masque of the Red Death OR a paperback of The Moon and More, OR a paperback of Pushing the Limits, to be ordered from The Book Depository.

I'm a little pressed for time this week, so I'm going to use Rafflecopter. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Author Interview: Emmy Laybourne, author of Monument 14 and Sky on Fire

Welcome to my stop on the Monument 14: Sky on Fire Blog Tour

I'm excited to be hosting author Emmy Laybourne, who is stopping by to answer some questions.

Jen: I’m so happy that you could stop by and talk about your books!

Emmy: It’s a delight to be here. Thanks for hosting me on my blog tour!

Jen: Sky on Fire, which just came out in the U.S. on May 28, is the follow-up to Monument 14, your debut YA novel about fourteen kids who shelter inside a superstore after an apocalyptic disaster. I see from your bio that you’re also an actor who has done a lot of improv. Is your writing process at all similar to improv?

Emmy: My improv training absolutely plays a part in my life as a writer. When I sit down to write, I prepare myself for what writing guru David Spencer calls the “white hot rush.” I am well fed and well rested. I turn off all devices that might distract me. I put in my ear-buds and play music to set the mood. And then I write and I write hard! That practice of taking care of myself - of keeping my brain in top condition so I can perform well, is one I learned in my many years as an improvisor.

Of course, my training creating characters is another tremendous gift my years improvising gave me. I have a bunch of different exercises I can rely on to help me figure out how a character walks and talks and thinks and dreams!

Jen: That's one of my favorite things about your characters. They really do seem to react to things like kids, which must be a function of your ability to put yourself into their shoes. Acting seems like such a collaborative endeavor – was it tough to adjust to the solitary life of a writer?

Emmy: I love the lifestyle of a writer - but do I miss doing improv? Yes, I do. I miss the surprises. When you build scenes with other actors - finding a story in a collaborative way - you have no idea where the thing is going. I miss the rush you feel when you’re onstage, in front of an audience, and you are truly surprised! It’s an amazing feeling.

Jen:  Well, reading your books is quite the rush itself! Monument 14 begins as a group of kids is riding to school on the bus. Disaster strikes and the kids take refuge inside a superstore and have to find ways to feed themselves, defend themselves, and entertain themselves. Did you do any research on superstores? (I picture you creeping through the aisles with a notebook, scribbling stuff down and laughing diabolically until someone calls security.)

Emmy: You have it exactly right! I spent a lot of time stalking the aisles of superstores and making maps. One day, I was snapping shots of shelving systems in a Wal-Mart once and they sent the “Greeter” over to tell me I couldn’t take pictures. We struck up a conversation and I asked if it was a common occurrence. The Greeter told me there’s a whole meme of photos posted online of the terrible outfits people wear to shop at Wal-mart! Who knew?

Jen: *awkward silence* Once I went out to get milk wearing a coat over PJs.  I blame it on my kids. Speaking of kids, the characters in your books range in age from six to sixteen. What made you decide to include such a wide span of ages?

Emmy: I wanted the older kids to have to take real responsibility for the younger ones. If the youngest kids had been in the 12-13 year range, I think there would have been a lot more bickering about power and rules. I also thought it would be interesting to track how much the little kids understood about the catastrophic events taking place in the world of the story.

Jen: As Sky on Fire begins, these kids -- who have been through so much together -- have split into two groups, one that’s decided to leave the store and another that stays. Without revealing any spoilers, let’s just say that both options are fraught with peril. If you had been in caught in this situation as a kid, which group do you think you would have joined?

Emmy: My blood type is  O+,  so truthfully, I think I would have stayed behind. I would be too terrified that I might inhale the compounds and hurt or kill my friends. As those of you who have read Sky On Fire know, neither choice is actually very safe. Both groups of kids face real danger.

Jen: That's true. I loved the fact that Sky on Fire was told from the perspectives of both groups, so you could see what happened to each. You’ve also recently released a short prequel to Monument 14 called Dress Your Marines in White. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Emmy: Dress Your Marines in White is a short story that’s up on Tor.Com. It gives some back story to the creation of the warfare compounds that make life so dangerous in the Monument 14 series. In it, we meet Brayden’s Dad, who is a scientist working on the project. It’s a very dark  and scary story - maybe even more so than Monument 14. If your readers check it out, I’d love to hear what they think.  

There’s also a second companion story coming out in June. It’s called Jake and the Other Girl, and it will be released mid-June on It tells the story of what happens to Jake after he wanders away near the end of Monument 14.

Jen: Okay, before I let you go, I thought we’d play a quick game. An unspecified apocalyptic disaster has struck. Grab your purse and tell me what you’ve got that might help you survive.

In my bag I found a tiny LED flashlight that actually works, a pack of oyster crackers, and two band-aids.
Actual contents of Jen's handbag.

Emmy: Oh man! I’m in terrible trouble. I have a plain yogurt - so I won’t starve for the first, like, three hours.

I have two back pain pills and one dose of Day-quil. Those will come in handy for, um, back pain and a head cold...

I have several ballpoint pens - I can use those to give myself or someone else an emergency tracheotomy.

And I have some SPF lip-balm I can use to cover my skin with so I won’t get a sunburn?

Let’s face it, I’m doomed!

This is a photo reenactment. I did not ask Emmy to send a picture of her purse contents. I thought that would be weird.

Jen:  Yeah, me too. I already ate my crackers. And, uh, if I'm in need of an emergency tracheotomy, I'll tweet you. Thanks so much for stopping by! This was fun.

Emmy: Thanks for hosting me here, Jen!  I hope you and your readers will stay in touch with me on  or Twitter @emmylaybourne. Or both!

You can read Dress Your Marines in White now on the website!

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the Sky on Fire blog tour here --  they include the weirdest things Emmy Googled when writing Sky on Fire.

Emmy will be on tour in June with the Fierce Reads authors -- check here to see if they are coming to a city near you. 

Thanks to the generosity of Macmillan, I am giving away a paperback of Monument 14 AND a hardcore of Sky On Fire to one lucky winner. Books can be mailed to US/Canada addresses only.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just Finished Reading … The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Review of The Moon and More
by Sarah Dessen
To be published by Viking Juvenile
on June 4, 2013

Source: bought

Summary (from Goodreads:) Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough. Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby. Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Why you should read this book in ten words or fewer:  It's Sarah Dessen.

My longer take: I've read every single Sarah Dessen book and enjoyed them all.  I think the Goodreads blurb (above) of The Moon and More makes the book sound like it's about this big, dramatic love triangle. I didn't read the book that way at all.

Once I decided that this book was not all about the romance,  I enjoyed it a lot. To me, The Moon and More was a story about a girl who is surrounded by well-meaning people who -- based on their values and life experiences -- are trying to tell her what kind of life she should have, and she has to cut through all that noise and find her own path.

Emaline is spending the summer working for her family's real estate agency and getting ready to head to college in the fall.  She's been with Luke, her boyfriend, since ninth grade. She thinks she has everything figured out: she'll spend her summer handing out keys to vacation rental houses in the quaint beach town of Colby, then in September, she'll go to the same state school that Luke will be attending. End of story.

But things don't go according to plan. First, Emaline's biological father turns up in Colby. He had been urging Emaline to apply to Ivy League schools and even offered to help pay her tuition, but mysteriously rescinded his offer. Then Emaline starts noticing that she and Luke aren't as much in sync as usual. Finally, a documentary filmmaker from New York shows up in town to interview Clyde Conaway. (You might remember him from Along For the Ride -- he's the bike store owner always trying to come up with new names for his shop.) The filmmaker, Ivy, has brought along her young assistant, Theo, who is eager to impress his boss by getting Emaline to show him the lay of the land in Colby.

I love returning to Colby. After reading so many books set there, I feel like I know the place well. The Moon and More puts the residents of Colby (Emaline and her friends Daisy and Morris, plus Luke and Clyde) in sharp contrast with the outsiders (Ivy, Theo, Emaline's father and brother.) The insiders all know one another and how things in Colby work; the outsiders are portrayed as a bit blundering and insensitive. That said, I know from experience that sometimes that is the dynamic of life in a small town that's overrun by summer tourists. But as Emaline comes into contact with these brash, dynamic outsiders, she's forced to ask herself whether she's as ambitious and determined as they are, or whether she fits in better with the relaxed, beachy vibe of Colby.

While the book's blurb seems to suggest that this decision is paralleled by Emaline's choice between two very different guys, I didn't really read the story that way. Luke, Emaline's boyfriend, was so laid-back it was hard to get a read on him -- he came off to me like a good guy who looks great with his shirt off. Theo, the outsider, is smart but tries way too hard -- he's socially awkward in a way that made him seem too immature for the coolheaded, practical Emaline.

I think that Sarah Dessen's books always do a nice job of bringing to life complicated family relationships, and this book was no exception. There was clearly strain between Emaline and her biological father, strain that was never really resolved. The dynamic between the reclusive Clyde and the aggressive Ivy and Theo was also fun and well-portrayed -- they try to pursue Clyde, and he gleefully evades them.

Finally, I loved the way that, through the events of the book, Emaline discovers new things about herself -- including some things that really surprise her. Sarah Dessen has set a number of her books during a character's last summer before college -- Along for the Ride, This Lullaby and The Moon and More, to name a few. This is bound to be a confusing and emotional time of life, and I think that The Moon and More did a great job of showing one girl's experience with that exciting, scary moment when you're ready to take a big step toward adult independence.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing May 28-June 3

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!

Every Tuesday, I tell you about all the great new YA books you can grab in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing this month so we can all check them out!

Here's what you can look forward to this week. Enjoy the breather, because next week will be HUGE!

If I missed something, please let me know in comments.
The winner of May's giveaway can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.) Enter by linking reviews, commenting on linked reviews, or tweeting :)

Click the covers to get to the Goodreads page!

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer Dare You to by Katie McGarry

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker (Razorbill)
Spirit by (Elementals #3) Brigid Kemmerer (KTeen)
Dare you To by Katie McGarry (Harlequin Teen)

Goddess by Josephine Angelini Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne

Goddess by Josephine Angelini (Harper)
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Arthur A. Levine)
Monument 14: Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne (Feiwel and Friends)

Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby (Point)
Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Running Press)
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (Katherine Tegen)

pic name Of Triton by Anna Banks Girl With the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

My Sister's Reaper by Dorothy Dreyer (Month9)
Of Triton by Anna Banks (Feiwel and Friends)
The Girl With the Iron Touch by Kady Cross (Harlequin)

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Just Finished Reading… Dance of the Red Death

Review of Dance of the Red Death
by Bethany Griffin
To be published by Greenwillow Books
on June 11, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Connect with the author: website : Twitter.

Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) Araby’s world is in shambles—betrayal, death, disease, and evil forces surround her. She has no one to trust. But she finds herself and discovers that she will fight for the people she loves, and for her city. Her revenge will take place at the menacing masked ball, though it could destroy her and everyone she loves…or it could turn her into a hero.

Twenty words or fewer:  a moody, atmospheric story of love, death, madness and betrayal that will appeal to fans of Lauren DeStefano's Wither series.

My (longer) take:  Spoiler-free for both books!

I really enjoyed Masque of the Red Death -- you can read my review here -- and was very excited to read this.

Dance of the Red Death takes up right where the first book left off, and with little to no recap.The book offered a few memory-jogging reminders here and there, but there were definitely things I'd forgotten about the first book.

I remembered many of the main plot points -- a sheltered main character whose nightly clubbing with her best friend is a way to forget the death of her twin from the illness that's spreading across her city. The twins are only one of a number of pairs and doubles featured in this book: there are actually two diseases, two sinister figures to contend with, and -- to some readers' dismay -- two guys. More on that later...

What was impossible to forget was the sad, spooky, ravaged story world in which this book takes place. My review of Masque of the Red Death called the book something like post-apocalyptic steampunk Gothic horror, and the description still stands. These books are studies in contrasts: love and death, beauty and horror, betrayal and sacrifice. In this city ravaged by disease, there is an elevated neighborhood inhabited by the rich, a seedily chic nightclub, a swamp, and a castle with turrets and a drawbridge. There's cool alt-technology -- hot air balloons and steam carriages -- but all the residents have to protect them from disease are masks, and only the rich can afford them.

The books also feature characters who are full of contradictions. In Masque of the Red Death, Araby is naive and a little spoiled, but also truly grieving her brother's death. As that book progressed, she learned hard truths about both her parents, was betrayed by someone she thought was trustworthy, and learned that someone close to her had caught the contagion. In Dance of the Red Death, she's sadder but wiser. She -- and a group who has escaped the city in an airship -- hope to track down a rumored vaccine for the contagion and find a way to get clean water to the masses.

Just as in the first book, much of Araby's angst is centered around her attraction to two guys -- one with a tortured past and idealistic dreams of fixing the city's ills, the other gruff but nurturing. The triangle-y aspect of this didn't bother me as much as some, because I thought I could see which way things were headed. In Dance of the Red Death, Araby is still processing a betrayal by one of the guys, and thus does kind of torture both of them by leading one on while pining for the other. Usually that kind of stuff drives me nuts, but I guess in a book filled with so much gloom and despair, this just added on more in a way that kind of worked for me.

What I did wish for was the long promised masked ball scene. Yes, it's finally there, though as part of the climactic showdown, so there wasn't as much of a focus on the ball as pure macabre spectacle as I'd hoped. The book ends with some loss and sadness -- of course -- but also on a note of hope.

All in all, I've really enjoyed this pair of books. I definitely recommend them, and can't wait to see what Bethany Griffin writes next!

I'll be giving away BOTH these books this week for Freebie Friday, so be sure to stop by!

American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France

It's Memorial Day here in the US, a day to remember and honor men and women who died in service to our country.

Last year, I did a review series called YA on the Homefront, which begins here.  I reviewed If I Lie by Corrine Jackson, Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie, and Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, all of which focus to some extent on soldiers who lost their lives in battle and the hardships suffered by their loved ones. All were great and moving stories that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Author Interview: Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm

I am very excited to be a stop on the Siege and Storm Blog Tour. 

And I am even more excited that Leigh Bardugo, author of the New York Times best-seller Shadow and Bone and its soon-to-be-published sequel, Siege and Storm, is here to answer a few questions. I love her books so much -- it's amazing that I could even collect myself to think of anything to ask. Here goes…

Leigh, I am so honored that you could stop by. Shadow and Bone is a fantastic book, but I think I might have liked Siege and Storm even more!

Leigh: Thank you! I'm so glad you liked Siege and Storm

Jen: I love that the books explore the issue of women and power. In Shadow and Bone, Alina remembers suppressing her Grisha abilities as a child. Using her powers brings Alina a sense of joy and even pride, but also a great deal of ambivalence, guilt and self-doubt.  Can you talk a little about this?

Leigh: One of the questions at the heart of Shadow and Bone is what we give up, what we're willing to sacrifice to belong to someone or something. I think we often make those concessions—women in particular—without even realizing it, so I wanted to explore that. But I also think Alina's struggle with power is as much about class as it is about gender. At the beginning of the series, she's a girl without status or prospects or any kind of real say in her life. So while using her power is a joyful thing, the repercussions of actually wielding influence are much harder for her to contend with. 

Jen: Dealing with those repercussions is certainly a huge part of Alina's story in Siege and Storm. Transformation is another theme in your books. Besides being a writer, you’ve worked as a “glamour and ghouls” make-up artist. Do life and art intersect in this area for you?

Photo from

Leigh: I worked primarily in beauty as opposed to effects, so most of the time, my job was to make someone look "natural" (now there's an illusion) or perfect a smoky eye. But my favorite shoots were the ones that combined the beautiful and the bizarre, where I got to bring a little bit of fantasy to life. With both makeup and writing, the goal is to hide the craft, so that the viewer or the reader never has cause to question the illusion. Hopefully, they just get to experience something magical.

Jen: I would definitely call your books magical! And yet, Alina also feels like a real girl. She can be prickly and sarcastic -- and funny!  In an interview last year with author Claire Legrand, you described Alina as someone who “struggles to be strong.” Would you still describe her that way in Siege and Storm?

Leigh: I think that may depend on your definition of strength. Alina is far more powerful, more confident, and simply more dangerous in Siege and Storm. Now she has to struggle to maintain her humanity. Being merciful, kind, and just, and balancing those traits with the authority to rule requires a different kind of strength.

Jen: You’ve also written a trio of swoonworthy yet complicated male characters: Mal, the hunky guy next door with a chip on his shoulder, the Darkling – the tortured bad boy - and then, in Siege and Storm, the swashbuckling, wisecracking Sturmhond, who is creating quite a buzz around the blogosphere. They’ve inspired fan art and fanfic. Are you amazed by how invested people have become in your characters?

Leigh: It's the craziest, most wonderful thing. I am so blown away by the things that people create, by their talent, by the fact that they care enough about the characters and the story to find all of these wonderful ways to bring them to life. I just don't think there's any higher compliment. But one of the reasons I like tumblr so much is that we're all fans of something. I love finding out that I share fandoms with my readers, because then we get to geek out over Legend of Korra or The Mortal Instruments or Game of Thrones together. 

Jen: I love your Game of Thrones posts! I can tell that you're an avid fantasy fan, but I also think about history and historical figures when reading your books. After finishing Siege and Storm, I began to wonder if Alina might surprise us all and stay single, like Queen Elizabeth I. Then last month I saw an intriguing little tidbit that you posted on tumblr:

Is this wedding you speak of a love match? A marriage of convenience?  Is it reminiscent of the plots of any of these Hollywood wedding movies: The Runaway Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding or What Happens In Vegas? 

Leigh: Ha! Well, I didn't say it would be Alina's wedding, did I? Elizabeth is an interesting parallel. 

Jen: Well, no, you didn't say that.  But… hmmm… I'm going to have to think more about this.

One last question: you dedicated Shadow and Bone to your grandfather, and in your acknowledgments described him as someone who “taught me to love poetry, seek adventure, and throw a punch.” Can you tell us a little more about how he influenced your life and your writing?

Leigh: My grandfather pretty much raised me. He had very old-school taste in books: Steinbeck, Hemingway, Frost, Kipling, Saroyan. He made me read all of The Ballad of Reading Gaol aloud, and I still remember flipping through our illustrated version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with him. He was a dirt poor brawler from Boston, but he loved science, he loved learning, and he loved language. He passed all of that along to me. I wish he could have lived to see me get published. He was happiest on the ocean, and I like to think he'd have been a fan of Sturmhond and the Volkvolny. 

Jen: He sounds like an amazing person -- someone I could picture in one of your stories. In fact, I can imagine him on the deck of the Volkvolny, teaching Sturmhond some new sparring moves...

This was so much fun -- thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

Leigh: My pleasure! Thanks for hosting me.

Thanks to the generosity of Macmillan/Holt, I get to host amazing giveaway: a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone  (with new bonus content) AND a hardcover of Siege and Storm to one lucky winner. Prize can be mailed to residents of US/Canada only.

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Can't wait until June 4? Download the first five chapters of Siege and Storm for FREE!

You can check out all the rest of the stops on the Siege and Storm blog tour here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Extra! Extra! 47

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekly Sunday post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's new on the blog.

I'm posting on Saturday today because tomorrow is my day for the Siege and Storm blog tour!

Today I'm linking to Stacking the Shelves @ Tynga's Reviews and, as always, to my favorite Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 

Stacking the Shelves pic name

I had such a fantastic week!  But before I get to that, let me remind you that I have a couple of:

Great giveaways you can enter

First and most exciting, I just interviewed Leigh Bardugo as part of the Siege and Storm Blog Tour and am giving away a copy of Shadow and Bone AND Siege and Storm -- check that out here!

New books!

From NetGalley -- thanks, Disney-Hyperion for approving me for these two! Click on the covers to check them out on Goodreads.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein pic name

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Sept 2013)

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (Sept 2013)

From the bookstore and from giveaways:

Yes, that book on the bottom is Lucy Variations, which I loved. The amazing Sara @ Forever 17 Books went to the Rochester Teen Book Festival and got it for me. And look at this…

Signed!!! To me :)

I also won a giveaway hosted by (the also amazing) Sabrina at I Heart YA Fiction!  She is sending me these two books that I've been dying to read:

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

I'm going to have some great stuff coming up very soon:
  • a review and giveaway for a copy of Proxy by Alex London, which comes out June 18
  •  Review of Dance of the Red Death and a giveaway of both that book and Masque of the Red Death
  • A character interview with Kate from Daisy Whitney's When You Were Here - and a giveaway! 
  • an interview with Monument 14: Sky On Fire author Emmy Laybourne and giveaway of both her books!

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Have a fantastic weekend!

Review and Author Interview: One by Leigh Ann Kopans

by Leigh Ann Kopans
To be published on June 11, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the author. Please see my full FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.

Connect with Leigh Ann: website : Twitter : Facebook : Pinterest.

Summary (from Goodreads:)  Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover. If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances. Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other. Merrin's mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub's internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it's more important to fly solo, or to save everything - and everyone - she loves.
My take:  I've been seeing a whole bunch of YA superhero/superpower books lately  -- books like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, Transparent by Natalie Whipple, Dark Star by Bethany Frenette, and Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer.

Okay, don't laugh, but I'm not all that plugged in to the whole superhero thing. I was not the kid reading comic books and watching Justice League. I was the kid reading Nancy Drew and watching  Scooby Doo.

Despite being a superhero newbie, I really enjoyed One. It's a little bit superhero, a little bit sci-fi, and definitely a little bit paranormal romance. (But don't worry -- no love triangles here.)

Merrin was a unique and appealing main character. She's very into chemistry and also a drummer, which I thought was super-cool. I loved the book's Nebraska setting. I've never been there, but this book describes the landscape in way that made me want to remedy that. As the book explains, the so-called "mutants" were exiled to Nebraska after a group of them made an attempt on the president's life. When Merrin is finally able to fly, she looks down on her home and sees the beauty in it.

But let's back up a bit. Before that, Merrin really struggles with the fact that she's a One. In the story world, there are the Supers -- those who have cool powers, like flying. Then there are the Normals, those with no powers. And then there are the Ones, those with a single, cool-but-essentially-useless power. For example, Merrin can levitate a little, but she can't fly. After Merrin never becomes a Super, she finds herself at Nelson (aka "Normal") High, feeling pretty dejected.

Some readers may feel that the romance has a bit of an insta-love feel, but the instant connection between Merrin and a guy she meets at school is pretty central to the story. When Merrin first touches Elias, she feels an electrical current. Together, the two of them can fly. I did like the relationship between them and the fact that their negotiation of the combined power thing served as a nice parallel for their relationship. But One isn't only about teenage love -- there's a lot of action in the book too. Before long, Merrin and Elias involved in trying to stop some nefarious stuff going on at The Hub. And it looks like there will definitely be a sequel!

I asked Leigh Ann if she minded answering a few questions….

Jen: Thanks so much for stopping by to talk about your book! One is a story about a group of genetic mutants -- kids who develop super powers after humans are exposed to uranium.  Confession: I  am pretty new to the whole sci-fi superhero genre.  I have never seen X-Men or watched Heroes or even read many comic books.  Can you tell me a little bit about why you're drawn to the superhero genre and how you think One fits into it?

Leigh Ann: That's so funny. I think, because I grew up immersed in superhero stuff, I assumed everyone else was too for a long time. *grin* Obviously, not that many people are so very geeky - you're not the first one to say that. 

Jen: Trust me,  I was doing plenty of very geeky stuff when I was a kid. 

Leigh Ann: I'm glad you asked this question, because I *just* wrote a long post on the answer for the League of Extraordinary Writers (going live the last week in May.) But, in short - it's because the story of coming to terms with superpowers so closely mirrors the story of adolescence - coming to terms with who you are. So many of the characters in superhero stories go through this really awkward period of figuring out their strengths and their weaknesses, and exactly what they want to do with them, which is exactly what growing up and being a teenager is all about. There is identity crisis, there is this time of figuring out the person you want to become and the person you can become. I think that that inner struggle, combined with the supernatural biopunk coolness of mutations that give someone superpowers, that always drew me. 

Jen: That's very true. YA author Tahereh Mafi wrote a 2011 column for the Wall Street Journal that discussed some of those issues as well. I'm going to link to that article here, and then when your column goes up, I'll link to it too!

I loved that Merrin, your protagonist, isn't the typical YA heroine. She's short. She loves chemistry. Coolest of all, she's a drummer.  Are you a musician, or if not, did you have to do research into bands and drums? 

Leigh Ann: No, I'm not a musician at all! But I really did want Mer to be a drummer, for the reasons she tells us - it gives her something to hit when she's upset, something she can get lost in - and the reasons that I know she has deep down - that it makes her feel grounded and significant, even when the rest of her body doesn't.

So, yes, I did a lot of research, mostly watching drummers on YouTube to observe their movements, learning the names of the different parts of a drumset and how they're played, and then revising the scene with the help of two musician friends. That scene where Merrin plays the drums at Elias's house was definitely a tough 1500 words to get right!

Jen: In One, some of the genetic mutants have two superpowers. But many of them just have one power and are treated like second class citizens. Merrin is a frustrated One ... until she meets Elias and discovers that the two of them can combine their powers. This is such a cool concept and I loved it-- but okay, I also have a few questions. This power-combining also seems to be linked to romantic attraction. In your story world, is it possible to have platonic, non-romantic power-combining, or does the process necessarily involve some sort of deep emotional connection?

Leigh Ann: TOTALLY. Yes. I don't want to say much else, because it would give away the ending of the book, but it's dependent on a deep emotional connection, romantic or platonic.

Jen: Okay, this is probably an obvious question for an author who writes characters with superpowers, but here goes: if you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Leigh Ann: To never sleep! Think of all the books I could write, all the books I could READ, how in shape I would be, how clean my house would be, all the Pinterest crafts I could do with eight more hours a day! 

Jen: My family would love it if I stayed up all night and ironed their clothes and baked cookies. Not happening -- I love sleep too much to give it up! And even though you (presumably) sleep, your Pinterest boards are pretty amazing. Thanks so much for giving me a sneak peek at One -- I think YA readers are going to love it!

Leigh Ann: Thank YOU so much! You had some really great questions I haven't heard yet, and it was a real pleasure to chat with you.  

Tell me in comments: what superpower would you pick?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Freebie Friday 44: Impostor and Gameboard of the Gods

Happy Friday!

Yesterday I drew the winner of the Gameboard of the Gods giveaway -- Sandra, who lives outside the US. So, I still have my ARC to give away and I'm putting it up again for today's giveaway.

This week we have two prize choices:

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker -- releases May 28 -- read my review here.

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead -- releases June 4.
 Just a heads-up --  this is one of Richelle Mead's adult books.

Because I have these in hand and would like to mail them, this is open to US/Canada only, unless an international winner wants to pay for shipping. If you live outside the US/Canada, you can enter my Hot Off the Presses giveaway here!


Hope you have a happy Friday and a happy Memorial Day weekend, if you live in the US.

Freebie Friday is usually a no-strings attached kind of thing, but just want to say….

I'm going to have some great stuff coming up in the next couple weeks:
  • an interview with Grisha Trilogy author Leigh Bardugo -- with an amazing Siege and Storm giveaway!
  • a giveaway for a copy of Proxy by Alex London, which comes out June 18
  •  Review of Dance of the Red Death and a giveaway of both that book and Masque of the Red Death
  • A character interview with Kate from Daisy Whitney's When You Were Here - and a giveaway! 
  • an interview with Monument 14: Sky On Fire author Emmy Laybourne and giveaway of both her books!

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Have a fantastic weekend!

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