Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop! (closed)

spring cleaning (2)

Giveaway is now closed – Thanks to all who entered!

Winners will be contacted by email

Hello gentle reader,

yesterday was my birthday and as a result, I have even more books on my shelves than before, so I thought it was time to do some “Spring Cleaning” with a book giveaway! This giveaway hop is hosted by Kathy @ I am a reader, not a writer and it runs from today to Monday 25th March 2013.

Here you can win ONE of the five following books:

EM Castellan - Spring Cleaning Giveawayvampireacademy

Fever (The Chemical Garden Book 2) by Lauren Destefano

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Masquerade (Blue Bloods Book 2) by Melissa de la Cruz

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

All books are paperbacks, UK editions. They are used books in very good condition, but the spines are broken since I have read them. The giveaway is, as always, international.

Giveaway information:

  • The giveaway is open until Monday 25th March 2013 at midnight (BST time)
  • To enter please fill in the contact form below with your name, email and the book you wish to win. Please state if you’re a blog follower (by email or WordPress) or a Twitter follower or if you like my page on Facebook, as this will grant you an extra entry.
  • Entrants must be  at least 13 years of age.
  • This giveaway is open Internationally.
  • The 5 winners will be notified by email and will have 72 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.
  • For official giveaway rules and guidelines please consult the I am a reader not a writer page.
  • Privacy information: no information given for this giveaway will be used for other purpose than this giveaway. All information provided (names, emails and mail addresses) will be deleted after the giveaway.

Thanks for entering my giveaway and good luck! Feel free to leave a comment below…

Visit the other giveaways here.

YA Dystopian Books

What’s on my bookshelf ? 4

Today I would like to recommend a few books belonging to the very trendy genre of Dystopian fiction for Young Adults. Immensely popularised by The Hunger Games trilogy, this Fantasy sub-genre offers a wide variety of books, some really worth checking out.

Before providing you with a reading list, let’s remind ourselves of what the Dystopian genre actually is. From Goodreads:

Dystopia is a form of literature that explores social and political structures. It is a creation of a nightmare world – unlike its opposite, Utopia, which is an ideal world. Dystopia is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government. It often features different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions, and a state of constant warfare or violence. Many novels combine both Dystopia and Utopia, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of the two possible futures.”

For a very long time, dystopian books were just science-fiction novels. But its great success in the last few years has required the renaming of the genre and the creation of a specific category on bookshelves…

So, on my bookshelf, you can find:

1- The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Teenagers fight to the death on live TV in a post-apocalyptic America. THE dystopian book every teenager has heard about, and most likely read. Made into a very popular movie this year.

2- The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano (2011)

In a future America and because of a deadly virus, young people die in their twenties. As a consequence, society is collapsing. A powerful first book, with a second installment that was unfortunately much weaker. Wither is a must-read nonetheless.

3- The Eve trilogy by Anna Carey (2011)

United States, 2032: a deadly virus has wiped out most of the world population and survivors struggle to rebuild a free society. A great, fast-paced read for teenagers who are maybe not ready for “darker” books.

4- The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (2011)

In the imaginary country of Ludania, languages divide classes and words can kill. A powerful story about freedom of speech and democracy.

5- The Line trilogy by Teri Hall (2010)

In a future America, a dictatorship rules the country and a line encloses the US. Nobody crosses it. But what’s on the other side? A good book for youger readers who want to familiarise themselves with the dystopian genre.

6- The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (2008)

A chilling story about a society where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts.
7- Blood Red Road (The Dust Lands series) by Moira Young (2011)

A tale of adventures in a violent post-apocalyptic world. Very intense. Not an easy read, but it has received numerous literay prizes.
8- Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi (2012)

In the future, the world is a wasteland and survivors live under a protective dome… I haven’t read that one yet, but it has recieved raving reviews.
9- Article 5 by Kristen Simmons (2012)

In the future, the US are a dictatorship, ruled with The Moral Statutes. Nobody has rebelled, yet. I haven’t read that one either, but I’ve heard great things about it.
10- The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner (2009)

 This one has received mixed reviews but it keeps popping up everytime I search for YA dystopian books… Have you read it? What did you think?


That’s it for YA dystopian books sitting on my bookshelf… Any other books you’d recommend? Feel free to comment!

A Round of Words in 80 Days – Check-in #4

Let’s review: last week I missed my weekly check-in as I was away from home without an Internet connection. This week I’m back but I’ve had to change my goals, as what I had decided on four weeks ago is no longer attainable, given my personal circumstances (day job and other non-writing obligations).

So let’s have a look at my goals:

1-        Write the first draft of my new dystopian novel with at least 750 words per day: not anymore. I just don’t have the time. So I will probably write this first draft from time to time, but I cannot pretend I can write it every day, with a set number of words.

2-        Self-edit/revise The Last Queen so that I finally have a final draft for it: this is what I have to focus on. I need to be done with that by the end of June and so far this final draft is not ready yet. So it’s Revision, Revision, Revision for me. My manuscript needs to be 20K shorter, so I have to start making serious cuts in it. Samurai like.

That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

This week on my blog you can find:

- an interview with YA writer Rebecca Maizel on writing, reading and her books.

- a post on YA best-selling author Lauren DeStefano with her advice on writing a book and getting it published.

- inspiring pictures!

Happy writing!

 

A writer in the spotlight – Lauren DeStefano

Welcome to the Dystopian Survival Week Hop – Final Day !

This Hop is hosted by Kristen @ Seeing Night Reviews and Ali’s @ Ali’s Bookshelf. It started on Monday, April 23th and it ends today Friday, April 27st.

There are 9 participating blogs and I strongly suggest you visit each of them because we all give you the opportunity to win awesome Dystopian books if you’re willing to take part in our challenges. Today you can win Blood Red Road @ One Book Per Week and The Hunt @ Sharon Loves Books and Cats.

You can also still enter my own Challenge/Giveaway here and have the opportunity to win The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Enter now!

 

So, since it is Dystopian Week on my blog, my “Writer in the Spotlight” had to be a dystopian author this week. The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today I am putting Lauren DeStefano in the spotlight: just to be clear, this is not an interview, because Lauren has already answered all my questions on her great website. Below is therefore just an extract from the tons of good advice she gives on here: http://www.laurendestefano.com/faq.php

A writer in the spotlight – 5

Author : Lauren DeStefano

Genre : Dystopian, young adult literature

Location: Connecticut, USA

Website : http://www.laurendestefano.com

Books : The Chemical Garden Trilogy – Wither (2011), Fever (2012).

Bio: Lauren DeStefano (pronounced: de STEFF ano) graduated Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT in 2007. Her debut novel, WITHER, the first in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, came out in 2011.

About writing:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and how long did it take you to get published?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, long before I concerned myself with words like “publishing” and “marketing.” I kept my writing to myself for the most part, but I had a teacher in the 5th grade who suggested I might want to pursue it when I got older. That teacher is mentioned in the acknowledgements for my debut novel, Wither, as I consider that conversation with her a life-changing moment. In 2008, shortly after college, I began querying. 140 rejection letters later, I found a wonderful agent who stuck with me through two adult manuscripts that didn’t sell. In October of 2009, Wither and its two sequels were sold less than a month after I’d completed the first draft. It was published in March of 2011.

Who is your agent and how did you find one?

My agent is Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Lit Agency. I found her in the 2008 Publisher’s Market book in the writing section of Barnes & Noble. A new version is published every year with updated information, and I recommend it because it provides details about what each agent is looking for.

Any tips for an aspiring author?

Be 100% true to yourself. Write for yourself, your characters, and for the story that’s in your head. Take advice if you’d like, but don’t do anything that compromises your vision for your writing. What works for one bestselling author might be poison for another.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Step away from the project. Writer’s block, for me, is an indication that I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, and I can’t go forward until I locate that wrong turn and fix it. Over-thinking it will only make it worse, but stepping away, taking a walk or anything else will usually help me get my thoughts straight.

How do you get through the first draft blues?

For me, this usually happens somewhere around the middle. I’ve heard this referred to as the “great swampy middle” so you’re not alone. The beginning, for me, has the most momentum and everything is shiny and new and there aren’t as many facts to sort out yet. Around the middle, things get overwhelming, and there is no conclusion yet to prove that this story will be worth telling and that it will all come together. Maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t be. The only way is to push through and finish it. And if you can’t hold enough interest to do that, maybe this isn’t the right story and you should step away from it to see where your ideas take you.

What will you write next?
I am always writing. If I’m still alive, you can bet I have something in the works. It’s just that it’s a secret right now…

 

About “The Chemical Garden Trilogy”

How did you get the idea for Wither?

This is a question I get often, and I’m never sure how to answer. I don’t know. Insomnia. Flu medication. A story I heard (maybe it was on the news?) involving a genetically altered potato and children being born without the genes for certain cancers. The idea of altering nature fascinates me. Eliminating one problem might create a different problem. Maybe stripping the carbs from a potato means introducing a new sort of food allergy. Maybe altering human genetics to eradicate cancer will make humans more vulnerable to other ailments, or new ailments entirely. I don’t stand on any particular side of the argument. I’m just a weaver of what ifs.

Also, back in 2008, my agent had me write up 20 hypothetical synopses as an exercise, and this was #15:

In the not-too-distant future, women grossly out-populate men, and in the new nation, self-proclaimed to be genetically superior, men take two wives or more. But the world is still ending despite the efforts of the World Leader and environmental activists. When a vaccination to promote longevity turns sour, the ensuing chaos may just be enough to end the world.

I recall my agent writing back that #15 was among her favorites. As you can see, there was no indication that it would be YA. I remember that this was my favorite of the 20 ideas, but I didn’t pursue it at the time because there were too many unanswered questions. More than a year later, I decided to give it a shot as a short story, with an intended word count of 3,000-5,000 words. After a lot of brainstorming and rewriting, I found the story through the eyes of a young protagonist, whose name, it turned out, was Rhine. Rhine wasn’t alone; there were two other girls with her, and I knew that one of them would be despondent and tragic, and I knew that at least one of them would have a child. In the short story I’d intended to write, I saw the three girls being executed as they clung to one another. Spoiler alert: that’s not how Wither ends. However, I think the girls have maintained that strength and stoicism, and I think they are absolutely loyal and brave enough to have remained at one another’s side if things had gone down that way.

When people ask me how I stumbled upon an idea, I like to say that all of my life’s experiences go into this big cloud inside my brain, and every so often an idea emerges like a fortune in a Magic 8 Ball. I’ll never completely know.

How long did it take you to write Wither?

The first draft took under a month, under the influence of the flu, followed by several months of editing.

Any particular reason males live 5 years longer than females?

The point is that nobody within this world as of yet understands why the virus does what it does, and why males have a longer life span.

Are your characters inspired by actual people you know?

No. The characters in my books have nothing to do with the people in my life.

 

What is Young Adult Fiction?

I was at the London Book Fair last Monday and I had the chance to attend a few thought-provoking seminars and to meet a few interesting publishers/writers there. What was obvious to me from what I heard during those meetings/discussion groups is that nobody agrees on what YA literature is/should be.

The American Library Association describes YA fiction as anything someone between the ages of 12-18 chooses to read. It can include different genres: contemporary, historical, paranormal, fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, etc…

However, this definition cannot be definite, for two reasons:

-          people well over 18 read YA books every day

-          you don’t read the same books when you’re 12 and when you’re 18

I remember going to a seminar on YA literature three years ago and the writers invited there all agreed on the fact that you cannot include violence, sex and swearing in a YA book. However the writers who were at the London Book Fair this Monday disagreed with that point of view, stating that older teenagers deserve to have a literature that deals with those more difficult themes.

To my mind, one cannot give a definite characterization of YA literature. But we can attempt to say what YA books always include and what they don’t have to include to be YA books.

What YA fiction NEEDS to include:

-          The journey of a young person who is becoming an adult. Along the way, this character needs to find the answer to the most important question in life: “Who am I and who do I want to become?” In Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, the whole point of the series is to explore what kind of adult Bella will become, regardless of external factors.

-           Choices and their consequences. Growing up is all about finding out things for yourselves and to understand that the choices you make have consequences in the future and for others. The main protagonist in a YA book needs to be faced with interesting choices that will offer the reader an opportunity to reflect on those decisions. Which is why YA books can include violence/sex/difficult themes, as long as the consequences of such behaviors are explained and explored. For example, you can include children turned into killers (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins), forced marriage (Wither by Lauren DeStefano), graphic violence (This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees) and so on.

-          Themes that are relevant to teenagers: friendship, first love, independence, school, religion, racism, parents’ divorce, bullying, teen sex, teen pregnancy, ecology, politics… But YA books can also tackle issues that are not directly based on the lives of teenagers that read them but are nonetheless important because they open their eyes to problems dealt by others in other times (see YA historical and dystopian novels on slavery, witch-hunts, bleak future, etc…) or in other places (see YA contemporary novels on child labor, child soldiers, child trafficking, etc…)

What YA fiction DOESN’T NEED to include:

-          A first-person narrative. Writers! Third-person narrative is fine! The Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine is not a first-person narration and it still is a NY Times best-seller.

-          Parents that are dead/gone/out of the picture/bad at parenting in general. The Line by Teri Hall includes a main protagonist with a loving mother, yet she still manages to learn to make her own choices and to become independent.

-          A teenage girl as the main character. Hey, boys are cool too.

-      A school. A boarding school. Details on the main character’s school life. Usually, writers get them wrong, so unless it’s incredibly relevant to the story, don’t bother recreating in details a biology lesson that will sound nothing like an actual biology lesson.

-          A love triangle/An impossible love. A regular love story between just two people can be complicated enough, you know.

-         Vampires and/or werewolves. Characters with superpowers/magic powers in general. Gods. Sirens. Witches. Contemporary novels with regular people sell well too.

-         A bad boy with stalking habits whose heart melts for the main female protagonist. Seriously. Fictional characters deserve more than to be stereotypes.

So what do you think? What is YA fiction according to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This post was inspired by two excellent blog posts that I suggest you check out:

Defining YA literature http://bookalicious.org/2012/04/ya-101-defining-ya-lit/

The YA Drinking Game http://www.ricklipman.com/drinking-game/

You might also want to read : Campbell’s Scoop: Reflections on Young Adult Literature by Patty Campbell (Scarecrow Press, 2010)

Book of the Week – 2

This week I’m reading Fever (the second book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy) by Lauren DeStefano. I loved the first installment in the series and I was very excited to get my hands on the second one. It is a Dystopian novel with a wonderful sense of setting and a great plot. I recommend it!

What are you reading this week?

Favorite books

What’s on my bookshelf ? 2

Today I want to mention the books that have made me want to become a writer. They are the books I wish I had written myself, the books I can read over and over again, the books I can’t imagine my bookshelf without.

Because they are all different, I can’t really decide a number one and a number ten, so I will mention them in the order I have read them, from the oldest to the most recently discovered.

1-    Remember Me, Christopher Pike

I read this book when I was maybe 12 or 13, and I still recommend it to people. Because when it comes to YA novels, it doesn’t really get better than this: a girl who wakes up and realizes she is a ghost. She embarks on a journey to find out who killed her – before he kills again. It’s gripping, Shari is a great character and all the themes that you want to find in a YA book are there.

Most people would probably call me a ghost. I am, after all, dead. But it wasn’t so long ago I was alive, you see. I was just 18. I had my whole life in front of me.”

2-    Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

I am one of the lucky readers who grew up with Harry: I was thirteen when the first book came out and I eagerly waited for each book to be published so I could read it in the next two days, then re-read it a few time afterwards. As I got older, I came to really appreciate the amazing literary achievement that this series is.

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

3-    A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving

I clearly remember reading this book during my High School Senior Year because it had been recommended by my English teacher. And I can still tell you the story from start to finish. The plot is one of the best written I have read, with every single small part of the book being meaningful and important in the end. When I try to write today, I always ask myself: is this important in the grand scheme of things for my novel? If it’s not, I get rid of it.

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

4-    Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl

Another great plot. It is a 700-page novel about reading, writing and teaching literature, complete with visual aids and a final test. It is incredibly clever, funny and sad. Loving to read can save lives, Marisha Pessl proves it.

“It was as if Hannah had sprung a leak and her character, usually so meticulous and contained, was spilling all over the place.”

5-    Wicked, Gregory Maguire

Another book I keep recommending to everyone, although I know it’s not the easiest read. It’s just that I LOVE it. It tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West (yes, the one from The Wizard of Oz). It’s about women empowerment, evil and good, friendship and loss, communication and miscommunication, love and hate, books and magic. It’s a Fantasy novel about us. It’s an amazing book.

“Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”

6-    American Gods, Neil Gaiman

I have read every book by Neil Gaiman, but American Gods remains my favorite. It is a classic American novel written by an Englishman. It tackles serious themes like religion, violence, loss, freedom and love and it mixes them with humor, magic and oddities. It is a Fantasy book, so not everything in it is true, or is it?

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”

7-    Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I never laughed so hard reading a book. This tale of the apocalypse, by the two literary geniuses that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are, is impossible to describe. There are a witch, an angel, a demon, the son of Satan who gets unexplainably lost, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and a nun. All these people work towards/against the coming End Of Days, and it’s hilarious.

“Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.”

8-    A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin

Obviously, this Fantasy series is not yet finished, however its first book, entitled A Game of Thrones, made me rethink my way of writing Fantasy novels. As I read the following books, I grew tired of the main characters dying and of the thickening of the plot. But Daenerys Targaryen  remains one of those characters I wish I had thought of myself;

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

9-    Wither, Lauren DeStefano

Wither, which came out last year, was, on top of being an amazing read, a real eye-opener for me in terms of Young Adult writing. Yes, you can write for teenagers and still tackle very serious issues, write with a rich vocabulary and describe elaborate settings.

“And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.”

10- Anna Dressed In Blood, Kendare Blake

Another read from last year, I bought Anna Dressed in Blood because I loved the title. And I wasn’t disappointed, as the writing is as good as the title. This Young Adult ghost story narrated by a foul-mouthed teenage boy is a great novel, on top of being remarkable for its non PG-rated writing.

“Anna, she’s like Bruce Lee, the Hulk and Neo from The Matrix all rolled in to one.”

So, what are your favorite books?