Thursday, October 31, 2013

Alex on Picking Character Names

I have a system for naming my characters, and it works for me. There's a website called 20,000 Names which gives the cultural background and meaning of each name (and it cross-references, like if there are two cultures with similar names, it will say "see also:" and link to the other one so you can compare the two).

I have named almost every single one of my characters using 20,000 Names, giving them some kind of meaning that matches the character. I avoid names of people I actually know, so you'll probably never see an Alex, Chris, Beth, Cassy, Sarah... etc. in my books. I try to find names that are unique enough that they're interesting, but familiar enough that they're memorable. (I get the feeling that this is what Scott Westerfeld did with Uglies... I've never met a girl named Tally, but it SOUNDS like a real name.)

This part might be because my name is Alex, but I also like to switch gender expectations with my characters' names. My favorite female name that I've used was AJ, which I know is a lot like Alex, in that it's usually assumed to be male but is also widely accepted as female.

Tonight I'll be picking several names so I'm prepared to start writing for NaNoWriMo tomorrow morning!!! Are you ready? Have you picked out character names for your NaNoWriMo novel, or are you going to pick them as you go?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Book You'd Want to Receive for All Hallow's Read

all hallows' read

Yes, it's Halloween again, which means it's All Hallow's Read again, too! This is an up-and-coming tradition wherein you give scary books to your loved ones (or strangers, if you like) to celebrate Halloween. So today, instead of favorites, we're picking the books we would most like to receive for All Hallow's Read.

David Wong is the author of John Dies at the End, which is now also a movie. He also wrote This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It. I found a quote from The Washington Post about this book that said it's like The Walking Dead (which I don't watch, but would likely enjoy) meets Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I'm sold.

I knew about this book in the vague, if-you-mention-it-I'll-recognize-that-it's-a-thing-but-that's-about-it way that I'm aware of a lot of things. Then I was helping put together the library's Halloween display, and I saw this in the catalog. And I thought, I have to add that to the display. And on my way from where it had been on the shelf to where it was going on another shelf, I read the back of the book. And then I thought, I have to read this.

So really, it wouldn't make much sense to give this to me for All Hallow's Read, because I know there's an available copy at the library I work in, but still... I haven't read it, it's classified as "horror," and I want to read it. That's how the tradition works!

So, my book is an old one, and one I could pick up at the library or probably buy for pretty cheap (or even second hand.)

I hear so many things about the Shining; how it's basically the scariest thing that people have ever read/seen.  And I believe them, but I just never could bring myself to read it because I've never thought much of Stephen King's work.

(Funny side story; Alex was obsessed with Stephen King when we first met, and the VERY first time that we met, I saw all her Stephen King books and said, "I don't really like him much."  To which of course she answered, "Well, have you read anything by him?"  And when I told her the books I read she said, "Well, those are his worst ones."  Really, people, it's a wonder we ever became friends at all.)

And really, I don't HATE King.  I just don't think he's that great.  If someone were to GIVE me the book, however, I'm the kind of person who would be all the more likely to read it because it was a gift.  Ergo, someone should give me The Shining for All Hallow's Read and then I would actually read it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cassy On Picking Character Names

Alex and I always like to promote NaNoWriMo every year (ok, so this is only the second year we've been blogging for NaNo, but still.  We've done it every year so far.)  You'll see our word count over on the side so you can keep track with us.  And like my NaNo advice last year, this year Alex and I are both going to chime in with a little writing help.

Every week, we're picking a writing topic, and we'll both tell you how we approach that particular writing challenge.  This week:

Picking Character Names

Usually, when I pick character names, I just pick names that I've liked over the years.  One year, I named a character Natalia (a name that I've used over and over again for everything.  It was my very first screen name.)  I remember one named I picked was Siquea, because I thought it sounded very fantasy (ok, there might have been more to it than that, but it was about ten years ago that I picked out that name.)
Sometimes, I admit it, I'll copy.  I'll hear name different places and I'll remember then and reuse them.  If it's a fairly minor character, I just do something really generic like "Anne" or "Kimberly."
Once in a blue moon, I'll go to Google translate, pick a word that I think applies to the character, and translate it into abut 50 languages until I find one that I like.

There are a million ways to pick a name for your character, just make sure it's something that you can spell.

Don't forget!!  We're giving away a copy of Scrivener this week!  So enter now, enter often. Your one sentence story could win you a copy!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Author Bio: Ilsa J. Bick

This is Ilsa J. Bick. She is a child psychiatrist and author of YA fiction. I learned about her because I'm Facebook friends (and former classmates) with a children's librarian who was raving about Bick on Facebook. I believe she called her a rock star of YA lit, or something of the sort. I was intrigued. So I asked this librarian (hi, Mandy!) what of Bick's I should read. The easy answer was "everything." But I looked into Ashes, which seemed to be her most popular work (probably because the third book of the trilogy, Monsters, was recently released). And I knew we had to read that book and talk about this woman.

She doesn't say much about herself on her website or on Facebook, and even Wikipedia is mostly focused on her work.

She has written many Star Trek novels, in addition to BattleTech and MechWarrior stories. Her other YA novels, besides the Ashes / Shadows / Monsters trilogy are The Sin-Eater's Confession, Draw the Dark, and Drowning Instinct. Her next book - it would seem - will be called White Space.

Bick holds no punches, which I respect in any author, but particularly those writing for a YA audience. You'll see what I mean later in the week when we review the scary, gory, dark, twisted Ashes.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scrivener Giveaway!

That's right, dear readers... we have another giveaway for you! This time, it's to get you geared up for NaNoWriMo!

As you probably remember from last year, November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you write 50,000 words of your very own novel between 12:01am on November 1 and 11:59pm on November 30.

One of the great prizes for winners (anyone who meets that goal) is a discount on a writing tool called Scrivener.

Scrivener is a great software that helps you organize your thoughts (characters, plot points, settings, quotes, whatever else you want to organize for your novel/play/movie script/short story/whatever you're writing) and it's entirely adaptable to whatever you want. You can get a free trial at Cassy and I have both used Scrivener, and we think it's the bee's knees.

The cat's pajamas, if you will.

So! To the point... we're going to GIVE AWAY a copy of Scrivener! For you to use for NaNoWriMo or any other writing projects your heart desires! Here's what you have to do...

Write us a one-sentence story.

That's it! We'll pick our favorite, and its author will be the winner! Here are the important details:

- You can submit as many stories as you want!
- You can submit your stories by email (reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com), as a comment on our Facebook wall, or as a tweet @reviewmetwice
- Please only submit each story ONCE. (Don't submit the same story by email, Facebook, AND Twitter... just pick one.) You can submit different stories by different methods, though. (If you submit three stories, you could do one in each method, or all by one method... totally up to you!)
- You have until 11:59pm EST on Saturday, November 2, 2013 to submit your stories.
- You don't have to adhere to any genre; we want comedy, horror, romance, drama, tragedy, history, sci-fi, fantasy... anything you come up with!
- The winning story will be shared on Sunday, November 3, 2013 here on the blog. The author will also be notified in the manner in which the winning story was submitted. (If the winning story was emailed to us, we'll email you. If you tweeted it, we'll tweet you. If it was on Facebook, you'll get a Facebook PM from us.)
- The winner will have to provide us with a valid email address to which we can send the information on claiming their prize.
- There are no geographic boundaries to this contest! We don't have to mail anything to you, so you DON'T have to be from the contiguous U.S.!

Confused as to what we want to read? Here's a fine example of a story you might submit (this one happens to be from a story that may-or-may-not be true, about Ernest Hemingway winning a bet by writing a six-word story):

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

That's a particularly sad example, but do you get the idea? One sentence that tells (or even hints at) an entire story.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

By Its Cover: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

I've already said a lot about the illustrations in these books, but today is the last day I'll be talking about them (probably).

As far as the cover goes, I think they're equally effective. (You didn't see that coming, did you?) I actually really like Helquist's cover (on the right). It illustrates what is probably my favorite story of the whole book. You've probably heard it before in the form of an urban legend. Basically, some kids are talking about how it's dangerous to stand on top of a grave because the inhabitant will reach out, grab you, and pull you in. One girl says she isn't scared, so her friends give her a knife and tell her to go stick it in a grave to prove she stood on one (because going to the cemetery with her and watching her do it would be... well, it wouldn't give us a story, now, would it?) So she goes, she stabs the grave, and turns to leave but she can't because something's holding her back. She's found dead the next day... because she had a heart attack thinking a dead person grabbed her, when really, she had just stabbed the knife through the hem of her dress and into the ground.

I like the creepy nature of the cover on the left, too, and I like Gammell's style in general. Also, Gammell's cover is iconic. You can easily identify that series by that cover. Helquist's on the left would blend in on a shelf (especially one dedicated to children's horror) and not stand out as much.

But, when all is said and done, based entirely on the cover, I like them both pretty equally.

Honestly, I like the grave cover better.  It's creepy and it's scary and it's got just the right amount of macabre in it.  I like when covers actually illustrate what's going on in the book.

The cover on the left still has a certain amount of creepiness to it, but honestly, the pipe in the skull's mouth... just makes me kind of giggle, which I think is kind of the antithesis of what they were going for.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review Me Twice: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

I was ridiculously underwhelmed by this book. It has been on banned books lists. It's scary stories for kids, which I usually love. It's classic to my generation, because I know several people around my age who remember it as being terrifying, or at least leaving an impression.

For the record, I read the version on the right up there. The one illustrated by Brett Helquist. (For more about the difference between the two, see my post yesterday about the illustrations.) I think that allowed me to pay more attention to the lackluster stories.

Perhaps as a kid, I might have found some of them more interesting and scary. But as an adult, I know all these stories. I've seen the Urban Legend series of movies, as well as Scream, and I attended my fair share of sleepovers back when I was a Girl Scout. None of this was new or interesting to me. (And if I recall correctly, none of it was actually scary back when I heard it the first time.)

And perhaps accompanied by Gammell's illustrations, the stories would have been more effective... but then again, his illustrations are effective all on their own; they need no accompaniment.

I can't help but feel like the only reason this book was on banned books lists to begin with was that Gammell's illustrations were too scary for some people, and now that it's been redone, that's why it dropped off the lists.

Hey!  Nothing like being late to the party.  Like Alex, I wasn't really that impressed with this book.  I vaguely remember reading it as a kid, but that's only because I recognized the picture and I have a good visual memory.

The pictures are sanitized from the original, but that doesn't mean they're still not scary.  Because there are pretty freaky looking.

I think the stories would be a lot scarier told by fires, in the dark, and out loud (kind of like the cover suggests.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Think of the Children!

No matter how old you are, you've probably noticed that kids used to be expected to be a little tougher than they are now. If you grew up in the 1930s, maybe you were expected to miss school during harvest season to help on the farm. Or you grew up in the 1950s, and you had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school, or in the 1970s, when you didn't have any of this newfangled internet. Perhaps you grew up in the 1990s, when you had to wear neon sweatpants that made that awful swishy sound. Whatever "hardships" you had to endure as a child, it probably doesn't make you feel better seeing kids who lament having to use an iPhone that isn't made of solid gold, like some kind of animal.

My crazy ranting aside, there is ample evidence that a large number of parents have gone nuts in recent years trying to protect their children from all the perceived evil in the world. (To avoid upsetting any of our readers, I'll resist pointing out specific examples of ridiculous products marketed toward worry-prone mothers.) What we rise up against during Banned Books Week alone is pretty persuasive to that point. The reillustrated edition of this week's review book makes a pretty good case, too.

Those are the original covers to the Scary Stories books by Alvin Schwartz. They are illustrated in amazing, creepy, terrifying style by Stephen Gammell. In fact, I'd venture to say that these books wouldn't be half as famous (or as challenged) without those images. Here's a collage of some of the best ones:

Take a moment to really take those in. I'll wait.


Sufficiently terrified yet? I mean, maybe if you're one of the many people desensitized to violence and gore (have you seen any of the Saw or Hostel movies?) these aren't so bad, but to a little kid of an age befitting the writing in these books? That's horrifying stuff.

Which... and here's the crux of my point... is not a bad thing.

Isn't there an entire holiday, coming up next week, dedicated to scaring ourselves silly? Would haunted houses, games like Slender, and horror movies exist if we didn't like being scared? It's an adrenaline rush, and it's one that's easily adaptable to different age levels. Jumping out at someone and yelling "boo!" is fun for the whole family; Rob Zombie films are more suited to an adult audience. But people of all ages like to be scared sometimes.

And these drawings? This is the kind of scary that sticks with you. Kids eat this stuff up. Are there kids out there who shouldn't be exposed to this and can't handle it? Probably. But that's also the case with peanuts and bubble wrap. So maybe a little parental supervision is in order for certain little ones.

But the real problem here is that someone - I haven't a clue who (but my money is on the publisher) - made a decision to replace these beautifully creepy images with updated (read: sanitized) friendlier versions. Take a look at the comparisons below (found here):

The Gammell drawings, of course, are on the left, with the newer images on the right by Brett Helquist. I have nothing against Mr. Helquist or his work; I quite like his style, out of this context. In fact, he's the guy behind the illustrations to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books. But I know people who only remember reading this book as a child because they recall losing weeks' worth of sleep over Gammell's drawings, and I really don't think anyone's going to have the same problem from Helquist's illustrations.

Which means our kids are safe, once again, from anything too scary or weird or nightmare-inducing. But aren't nightmares part of growing up? I think so.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Favorite Scary Story

Halloween is coming, friends! And that means telling each other scary stories. What's your favorite? Here are ours:

Mine comes from this book: Scary! Stories that Will Make You Scream! It's an anthology of scary stories (go figure) by famous authors like R. L. Stine, Roald Dahl, and Stephen King. I can't find my copy at the time of this writing, so I don't recall which author wrote my favorite story, which I remember the details of vaguely, but the general idea and feeling extremely well.

It's about a girl who live in what is essentially an isolation pod. She entertains herself with weapons and people who are sent in to her by some overseeing person (nameless, faceless). SPOILER ALERT: In the story, she is given a man that she plays with (I seem to recall it was with a knife) but she winds up dead because that particular toy was Jack the Ripper.

I practically memorized this book in high school, and I loved every story in it (I recall there being one from Ray Bradbury, and this was when I was discovering his work, as well as Stephen King's... and there's one called "Hush!" that I almost wrote about here instead). In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and his early writing attempts mimicked the work of his favorite authors, which is embarrassing later in life, but makes sense for a young, new writer. Many of my early attempts (and some of my current ones) at writing involved isolation pods like the one in this story. So that must mean I'm a pretty big fan.

Ok, say whatever you will about scary stories, but these book absolutely scared the ever-living daylights out of me when I was little.

Who didn't read Goosebumps as a kid?  Oh, I'm sure someone didn't, but if you were a kid, growing up in the 1990s, you probably picked up at least one of these books.  R.L.Stine writes them (in fact, he writes a lot of scary books.  Fear Street is basically the YA/Adult version of Goosebumps.)  I like that he wasn't afraid to scare kids.  I STILL like that about it.  And the endings were often "happy" endings in the sense that things worked out, but then at the last minute, something would make you think twice.

Even the covers were scary looking (like the one above.  It's pretty creepy), but you couldn't stop reading them.  It would be 11 at night, all the lights out, and you're reading about a creepy, possessed dummy that wants to kill you.

If you didn't read these as a kid, well, I'm very sorry for you.  Because they were awesome.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Which witch is Which?

So, mainly because I don't really have a lot to talk about today, and also because I have a weird predilection for witches, I'm just going to give you some famous literature witches today in honor of all the crazy Halloween stuff that's going to be happening in the next few weeks.

Probably the most famous witch is the Wicked Witch of the West.  She first appeared in The Wizard of Oz in 1900.  She was mean and scary and ugly and probably embodied every single idea we ever had when we thought of witches. 

Alternatively, Glinda opposed every stereotype we ever had of witches.  She was good and sweet & beautiful and had good magic.  Not to mention she wore that baller pink dress.

If we really want to go back to and early idea of witches, let's talk William Shakespeare.  The Weird Sisters showed up in MacBeth, predicting MacBeth's downfall.  They are creepy and have had multiple incarnations, not to mention influenced numerous modern literary works, like Harry Potter.

And speaking of Harry Potter, let's talk about Hermione Granger.  One of the great things Rowling did (other than make totally awesome, believable and fun children's books), was give us this idea that witches are actually AWESOMELY badass.  Hermione is actually the smartest & most conniving one of the three of them.  Let's face it, Harry might be the main character, but he would have died in book one had it not been for Hermione.

So who is your favorite witch?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Author Bio: Alvin Schwartz

This week, we're reading a book by Alvin Schwartz. (Not the one who worked on Superman and Batman comics... the children's author.)

After service in the Navy, a bachelor's from Colby College and master's from Northwestern University, Schwartz was a reporter for the Binghamton Press in the early 1950s. He then published a series of books on folklore and wordplay for children.

He is best known for the series from which this week's review book comes, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, probably in part due to the original illustrations (which you will hear far more about on Thursday) by Stephen Gammell, and in part due to the book's place on the list of frequently banned/challenged books.

Schwartz also wrote When I Grew up Long Ago, which was for an older audience than his other fare, and described American life in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Schwartz died in March 1992 in Princeton, NJ.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

And the Winner Is....

Sheila Deeth

We're going to contact Sheila for her prize and thanks to everyone who entered!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

By Its Giveaway

Ok, so I know usually on Saturdays we do "By Its Cover" but this week, we're all about promoting Kinnaird's book, The Red Sun Rises, and the giveaway to WIN A COPY!  Exciting, I know. :)  So, in case you missed EVERYTHING this week, here's a little blurb and some other opinions on the book!

Eren Anderson is a freak among freaks. At 17 years old, he doesn't fit in with his peers in the tiny town of All Hallows and despite being born into it, he most certainly doesn't fit in among The Order of Our Mother, the secret nature worshiping society that has harnessed the ability cast spells and believes vampires are not only real, but their deadliest enemies. Eren is turned into a vampire after an attack by the local coven master, but that is the least of his worries...

In a post-Twilight world, “The Red Sun Rises” is a YA novel intended to give vampires their bite back but it should not be read as simply another vampire novel. “The Red Sun Rises” is a story about growing up, responsibility, falling in love, facing your fears and taking fate into your own hands.

Praise for “The Red Sun Rises”“The Red Sun Rises is the complete package, offering a little bit of everything to appeal not only to Twilight fans but also those fans of young adult novels ranging from Harry Potter to the Perks of Being a Wallflower, the Mortal Instruments to The Fault in Our Stars.” - review

“This is the kind of YA novel we need now, this is something I wish I could see on every shelf, in every store, in all libraries and schools. This book makes a statement. It's a book for all of the outcasts, the people who didn't fit in for whatever reason. This book makes sense to them. It's a story about being an outcast, fitting in, making your own choices, and standing up for what you believe in. There's so much to this novel, comparing it to any other vampire novel, especially Twilight would do nothing but dim it! Look past your preconceptions, keep an open mind, and experience this wonderful piece of YA fiction that is great for teens and for adults. This book needs to be read, read it, and share it. Buy a copy for your friend. You won't regret it.” - review

“The Red Sun Rises is a captivating book that will appeal to readers of not just the YA audience, and will leave you waiting with great anticipation for the sequel.” - review“It is refreshingly direct, challenging, witty, and an honest reflection of the challenges we each face growing up. The plot is streamlined and engaging and at no point do the characters feel contrived to nudge you to any conclusion. You aren't talked down to or expected to accept any moral imperatives. What you take from the book is yours alone. This book is brilliant simply because every page is awash with honesty. The language is refreshingly grounded and people actually sound like people. Gone are the clich├ęd pre-watershed aphorisms or idioms that are constantly substituted for the way teenagers speak. The "screw yous" and "ticked offs" are, when appropriate, abandoned for something much more likely.” - review

Tune in Tomorrow for the winner of the Book!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review Me Twice: The Red Sun Rises by Victoria Kinnaird

This book was given to us as part of the blog hop we're participating in this week (and what do you know?!  You can enter to win a copy at the bottom of this post!)  We offered to review the book in addition to just promoting the giveaway tomorrow, mainly because we're awesome like that.

I didn't really know anything about the book before I started reading it other than there were vampires involved.  And, honestly, it was more than I expected for a vampire novel (not because I have anything against Kinnaird's writing, but because there are just so many freakin' vampire novels these days, you kind of stereotype them.  I know, I'm terrible.)  

The story had a lot of interesting elements to it.  Magic, combined with Vampires, and a little bit of a twist on the lore (no sparkling, I promise.)  Kinnaird is also pretty witty.  There are a lot of pop culture references, which is applicable because our main character, Eren, is 17.

Probably my biggest complaint about this book is that it isn't consistent   There seem to be a lot of gaps in the story line, or some really obvious plot hole covers.  Lilith's back story  for instance.  You keep getting conflicting stories (that she's known Gaunt for centuries, but she was turned when Eren was only a few months old, which would indicate that she was only a vampire for 17 years.)  It turns out that she had been turned human for juuuust the right amount of time to get pregnant and have Eren, before being turned back into vampire.  There are a lot of things like that, they don't seem to QUITE match up.

Overall it was an enjoyable story.  Some good plot twists and some great character relationships.


Like Cassy, I didn't know much about the book before I jumped in. We were given the standard teaser summary, which I skimmed and saw what amounted to "this is totally not another Twilight you guys!" and I sighed deeply and started to read. And then I regretted my cynicism, because it really isn't just another Twilight. It's actually very good. (Oh snap.)

I liked everything. I liked the characters, without exception. I liked the pace of the story (up to the very end, which was very rushed... not like I can talk, I have the same problem, but I did notice that the Kindle told me I had 5% of the book left and I thought... then there is going to be a seriously major twist, and we will not get the big epic scene we are building up to. I was kinda right, but not in the way I thought, and then BOOM done.) I liked the approach to vampires and magic and how they combine. And I really liked the voices. It felt like the characters were real people because of how they talked and thought. (Except, Corbijn has a little bit of an early-Twilight Edward vibe, where he uses slightly too proper speech, but I give that a pass because he was isolated from people for a long time, and he has memories from a long time ago... etc.)

I would definitely recommend this book, and lucky you, you can WIN IT! Check it out below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Outcasts in YA

Quick, name a YA book where, at some point, the main character is treated like / feels like / literally is an outcast.


If you named any YA book ever written, you're probably right. Harry Potter, Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen, Eragon, Beatrice Prior, Tally Youngblood... they are all outcasts at one point or another. So are characters other than the main character: Tom Riddle, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, the Cullens, Peeta, Gale, Shay... all outcasts at one point or in one way.

But I'm so awkward and unnoticeable...

This isn't to say that anyone using "being an outcast" as a theme in YA is unoriginal. It's a very popular theme in the genre, and with good reason.

Either you are a teen or you remember being one, right? For most people, it's a weird time. You're awkward, you're figuring out not only who you are and how you fit into the world but about fifteen thousand other things at the same time (like calculus and which bands are socially acceptable to be a fan of at any given minute and how to make your hair do what you want it to do).

Show a character in a book who has it all together and is on top of things, and teen readers will probably dislike them. Show a teen a clumsy, goofy, nerdy, "weird kid" with unusual quirks/tastes as your main character, and they're engrossed. "They're just like me! I'm clumsy/weird/smart/awkward/disinclined to adhere to social norms!"

While adults tend to prefer reading about someone they aspire to be, or someone they're attracted to: suave and debonair (James Bond) or smart, able, and empathetic (Alex Cross) or sultry and desirable (any paperback romance hero/heroine), teens would generally rather identify with a character that matches how they feel now, because they seek validation ("Am I normal?").

Don't forget about our giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Favorite Paranormal Book

With Halloween coming up, we're choosing our favorite paranormal books this week!

I want to tell you about Good Omens or American Gods or The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman... but you're probably sick of hearing about those. And you know, technically, Harry Potter falls under paranormal... but we already talked about our favorite Harry Potter books. Peeps is another great one, but we actually reviewed that one!

The problem is, I don't read a lot of what can be classified as "paranormal" fiction, and what I do read, I don't much care for (namely, Twilight and Blood and Chocolate come to mind). So you might disagree that this one is "paranormal," but...

One time, when I went to visit my mom, her public library was selling off a lot of their weeded books to help raise money to move into a new library. So I got a whole bag full. A lot of them were from this series of Robert Cormier's books (I mean "series" as in "this set from the same publisher with similar cover aesthetics," not that the stories have anything to do with each other). Fade was among them, and while I remember enjoying it cover to cover.

That Stephen King quote on the front cover ("Imagine what might happen in Holden Caulfield stepped into H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man, and you'll have an idea how good Fade is... I was absolutely riveted.") isn't far off... though I've never read The Catcher in the Rye, and from hearing others' opinions, it sounds like Holden is way whinier than Paul from Fade.

Like with most Cormier books, this one has spent some time on banned books lists, but it's not one of his most famous books... but it's worth a read.

I read... almost exclusively paranormal & fantasy when I was in Jr. High & High School.  It was a thing, and I thought all other books were absolutely boring.  Of course, now I know that I was just stupid and that I should expand my horizons.

And I have talked about some of my favorite paranormal books, like The Vampire Chronicles or Peeps or the Anita Blake Series.  And while I do love these books, I'm not going to talk about them again.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (which, by the way, is TOTALLY a play on words for Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer) is a book I was just recently introduced to.  I have a book club at the library once a month that I go to, and this was the book last month.

In some ways, it's got a lot of "been done a million times" elements.  Kid doesn't know he has powers and discovers them by accident and now a big bad is after him.

But at the same time, despite all the elements that should make it seem over the top, it's not.  You hate, hate, hate the bad guys, and love, love, love the good guys.  But, the good guys still do some shady things.  It's vampire-less (in this book anyway.  There are two after I haven't read), which is nice because that's a fad I'm kind of over.  But there are werewolves & dragons and, OH YEAH, the kid can raise the dead.  So that's kind of awesome.

Honestly, I think I was just a lot more impressed with it than I thought I would be, especially because there's so much of this literature out there, and I've read a lot of it.

Hey!  Don't forget to enter the giveaway and check out the other blogs on the blog hop!

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview with Victoria Kinnaird

We've been going on and on about the blog hop this week (because you can ENTER TO WIN SO MUCH COOL STUFF. So obviously you should GO THERE)
Today, Victoria Kinnaird has been kind enough to send along an interview. So read all about her, everything from her thoughts on reading and writing, to questions about her books. As always, our guest poster is in green!
Why do you think Teen Read Week is important? I think Teen Read Week is important because reading during your teenage years can really open up the world for you. Being a teenager can be a difficult time, and I think it's important for teens to know that they're not alone and that the world is a vast, crazy, beautiful place!
How do you think we could encourage youngsters to read more? I think the most important thing is not to talk down to young people. Books that batter you over the head with their moral lesson are boring and in my opinion, a little insulting. Books should teach you about yourself, not tell you who you should be. That's why, when I was writing, I wanted to make sure that my teenage characters were as realistic as possible.
When you were a teenager what books did you like to read and did you have an all-time favorite character? I read a lot when I was a teenager. I loved The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, Lord of The Rings by J R R Tolkien, and obviously Harry Potter was a very big part of my childhood! I have to say though that my all time favourite character has to be Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye.
Were you writing as a teenager? If so, what were you writing and what inspired you? Did a person inspire you to write? I started writing seriously when I was 15. I ended up writing a series about a musician, because I was really inspired by the music I was listening to. I was really lucky, there were some truly iconic musicians around at that time – Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance, Davey Havok from AFI and so on – that are artists in every sense of the word. I was very inspired by that.
Do you think today’s teens are in a better position if they want to be a writer than you were all those years ago? I think the rise of independent publishers has meant that writers have more options than they had before, the world of publishing has really opened up. If I had pitched my book five years ago – about a bisexual, smoking, drinking, swearing teen anti-hero, I'm pretty sure I would have been laughed at!  But independent publishers are more willing to take these things on, so I think there are definitely more options for writers than there have been previously.
What advice would you give a youngster who enjoys writing? Stick with it. I started writing my debut novel five years ago, when I was 20. It only came out this year because I wasn't brave enough to see it through. So don't give up. The more you write, the better you'll get. Read everything you can put your hands on, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't write a certain way or about a particular subject. When you write, you create a world that's entirely your own – don't be afraid to rule it!
What is your latest book about?
The Red Sun Rises is my debut novel, and it's about a boy called Eren Anderson. He's been raised by his dad in this small town called All Hallows and he really doesn't fit in. His dad is part of a spell casting, nature worshipping secret society that believes vampires are real. Eren doesn't have the ability to cast, so although he knows about this other world, he's not a part of it. He's really struggling to come to terms with that when he's turned into a vampire and unlocks an internal power that is beyond anything or anyone in All Hallows. Throughout the book, he learns a lot about himself and what it means to have power.
Are you working on anything new at the moment? I am currently working on the sequel to The Red Sun Rises :) It will be called The Red Sun Rises: Fire and Ash.
What do you love about being an author? What I love most about being an author is just losing myself in the whole process. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I get frustrated, but usually I really love writing.

Thanks so much, Ms. Kinnaird!
Can't get enough of her?  Check out all her social media below, plus places to buy the book (or, you could just enter to win it.)
Amazon US: 
Amazon UK:

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Author Bio - Victoria Kinnaird

As you may (or may not) have discovered yesterday, we're participating in a blog hop for Teen Read Week!  Alex and I are big advocates of great YA literature and encouraging reading in teens.  (Well, really we like to encourage reading in everyone, but it's teen read week.)

This week, because we're giving the book away, we're reviewing The Red Sun Rises by Victoria Kinnaird.  This is her first book, so we're very excited.

Victoria Kinnaird is 25 years old and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. She graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2009 with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Journalism, Creative Writing and English Lit. Victoria has been writing since she was 15 years old. "The Red Sun Rises" is her debut novel and she has been writing it on and off for five years. She loves rock music, and 11 of her 12 tattoos are related to bands that she loves!

Stay tuned this week to hear more about her and her book, The Red Sun Rises.  And enter to win it below!! (don't forget to check out the other blogs this week participating in the blog hop.)

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Blog Hop

Hey everyone!  This seems to be the giveaway month for us.

Alex and I are participating in a blog hop in honor of teen read week.  What is that?  Well, basically, you go around to different sites and you are able to win prizes, learn about some awesome books and even discover some cool new blogs.

Want to check out all the other blogs?  Click below!

We also want you to be able to win a prize, which we will be giving away on Saturday.  Stay tuned all week to read bios, interviews and even a review of the book we're giving away.

The Red Sun Rises by Victoria Kinnaird

You can enter below:

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

By Its Cover: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Despite my opinion of the content of this book, I actually quite like the cover. I like that the font is Courier, also known as "the typewriter font," because Israel's forged letters were written on a typewriter. I like the red proofreading pencil underline, because it fits the theme, too.

I particularly like the author line, with the names of people she forged letters from crossed out and her real name signed at the bottom. (I learned from this book that a TLS is a "typed letter, signed" and that's the look we have here on the cover.) I thought that was clever (more clever than anything I read in the book, anyway).

My copy was hardcover with a dust jacket. The dust jacket had a lovely bumpy texture like an aged letter might, and it added that little bit extra that made me want to read this book (although I changed my mind after having done so).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review Me Twice: Can You Ever Forgive Me by Lee Israel

So, in theory, I should really dislike this woman.  I mean, she made money for years off of imitating the letters that other writers wrote.  When her writing career took a nose dive, she started drafting up a litany of fake letters, supposedly written by a whole lot of dead people, but were really just her creations based off of real letters that she read in libraries.  (And, to be fair... I DO kind of hate her because she got a slap on the wrist and she's not even sorry.)

And when her fakes were starting to get exposed, she started STEALING the real copies & replacing them with fakes.

Terrible.  Absolutely terrible.

And yet... you can't help feel that she had an inordinate amount of FUN writing these people... these characters, really, because that's what they were.  They were characters.  It was like the earliest form of fan fiction.  And while she greatly regrets the fact that she stole the originals (which, to her knowledge, have all been returned to their respective libraries), she mentions that she can't help but love those years she was forging letters.

It's a fast and interesting read.  It gets right into the nitty-gritty; not a lot of preamble with Ms. Israel.  I kind of liked that.  I didn't really have to wait to find out what happened and what she did.  However, I also realize that her writing style is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

My Bottom Line 3 1/2 out of 5

Do you know any of those people who name-drop like crazy, thinking it makes them sound important even though you don't recognize more than half the names they're saying? Or maybe you've met someone who expects you to know who they are, or know things about them based solely on their name, except you don't know who they are, and they won't offer up any information about themselves that might help you figure it out? Ooh, I know... perhaps there's someone you know who gets in trouble for something, and even though they claim to know that what they did was wrong, and they might even say they deserved to get caught, they still say their punishment was BS and they have a generally blase attitude about the whole process of serving justice?

That's how I feel about Lee Israel. When I first heard about the book and read a summary, I thought, "Wow, this should be really interesting... she did all these great forgeries, got caught, and learned her lesson, and now she's writing about it." And then I read the book.

I understand that there are some people, like Estee Lauder and Bette Davis, that should need no introduction. But I can count at least twenty names in the first dozen pages that I don't recognize (and therefore don't care about). I can only assume that Israel is writing this book for the very narrow audience of the people she directly impacted with her crimes.

And the way she talks about why she committed forgery, how she got caught, and what it was like being punished for her crimes, it makes me feel like the title is sarcastic. "Oh, could you ever forgive me for committing such horrible crimes that totally weren't as bad as everyone made them out to be?" Maybe I'm misreading the tone, but that's what I'm walking away with.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Librarians Fighting Plagiarism with Citations

You may not know this about me, but I am vehemently opposed to plagiarism. I would call it one of my pet peeves, but it's so much stronger than that. I know that, as a librarian, I am all about freedom of information, but that's not the same thing as plagiarism. You should have access to all the information you could possibly want and then some, but if you want to use that information for something, you need to cite it, and properly. That's where we come in.

These are the three most common citation styles I run across at our school. If you've ever written a research paper, I hope you've seen at least one of these: Chicago, APA, or MLA. Chicago is typically used in history classes, APA is for psychology/sociology/social work classes, and MLA is mostly for English and other language classes, but tends to be the default for most other subjects, because students learn it in English class alongside learning how to write a research paper properly, so it makes a good go-to. Many teachers don't care which style you use, as long as you use one correctly and consistently.

So what is this citing stuff? Cassy talked about this on Tuesday... if you refer to someone else's work within your own work, you have to give them credit. What these citation guides do is show you how to do that. If you're writing in MLA style, you have to cite in MLA style, or it's considered incorrect and technically, you're plagiarizing.

You would not believe the kinds of things students will do to try to avoid citing. I've seen them buy papers off the internet (the one I have in mind wasn't even on the right topic, and actually had very poorly written citations). They try to get librarians - or the Writing Center - to write their citations for them. Sometimes they'll struggle with the citation builder in Word for hours instead of just letting me show them how to format their own citations.

Here's my favorite hint to give students who are having a hard time with citations. If you use library resources like the books and the articles from our databases, they are so much easier to cite than websites! The citation guides have tried so hard to come up with a format that works for every website, but the fact of the matter is, websites don't have a set format. They don't all include all of the necessary information, and even if they do, it's not always in the same spot. Databases and the catalog, however, include all the information you need to cite properly, and it's in a standardized format. If you stick with those resources, it won't take you more than 15 minutes to type up your citations (unless you type really, really slowly). (Not to mention, using library-vetted resources means you spend WAY less time on having to evaluate the validity of your resources... we've already done it for you. But maybe I'll talk about resource evaluation another day here...)

So please... let your librarians help you. We know where to find all the citation guides, online or in print. We have lots of practice, and some of us - like me - actually really like doing citations!