"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -Ray Bradbury

Sunday, June 6, 2010

YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominees for 2011

My goal for 2010 is to finish reading the titles on this list before the end of the year.  YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults list (formerly known as "Best Books for Young Adults"), generally recaps the best and brightest titles in young adult literature for the year.

There are several excellent additions to this year's list: Lucy Christopher's Stolen (reviewed on this blog), remains my favorite young adult title for the year; Fisher's Incarceron was stellar, as was Chima's The Demon King (who knew Chima could write such convincing high fantasy?)  I have also enjoyed Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls (a 2009 title released too late for last year's list), and O'Brien's Birthmarked. 

There are several titles I am looking forward to: Rachel Ward's Numbers looks like an Americanized Death Note (bring it on, Ward!), and Zafon's Prince of Mist should be a treat for the senses.  Zafon's adult works, particularly In the Shadow of the Wind, endure as favorites in my personal library.  Of course, Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings should earn a spot beside its brothers on my shelf, as should Sachar's newest, The Cardturner.

All in all, 2010 is shaping up to be a good year for young adult literature, at least as far as quality is concerned.  A plethora of debut talent sits on this list, which excites chronic readers like myself.

And I think I will nominate Black's White Cat. . . her efforts and talents are above-and-beyond several of the authors already featured on this list, and she certainly deserves a nod for the complexity and fabulous execution of the novel!

All my best,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Holly Black (White Cat)

Okay, Holly, you've got me hooked.  Maybe it was the fact that you own an adorable Sphinx cat, I don't know.

I've been reading Black's work for years; I own all the Spiderwick books, read my way through the Tithe trilogy, and somehow have missed reading a few of her other titles, such as The Good Neighbors.  When I worked as a bookseller, I recommended her titles in place of Twilight lesser-quality YA fiction.  I liked her stuff.  I liked her gusty heroines and her twisted love stories.

And then White Cat came along, first catching my eye in the bookstore's new releases shelves.  We flirted online, this book and I, and I naively thought I could wait, be patient.  Then, after reading a few reviews on YALSA, the booklust kicked in.  I stopped by Barnes & Noble a local bookstore and picked up a copy.

For one, the cover is a gorgeous, lush affair, even it's a bit misleading (the cat in the novel is a shorthair); with the sensuality of the young man's leather gloves twined in the cat's fur leaping off the page.  The color palette: red, white, and gobs of gleeful black.  For once, the cover does an excellent job of conveying the novel's tone: dark, slick, and smooth.

But who cares about a book's cover, right?  We care about the novel's insides, the guts, the inner workings.

White Cat is about a boy.  A murdered best friend.  A curse. . . and a family of curse workers trying to survive in a world that fears them.  Let me tell you, readers, you will need to pay attention to every detail Black feeds you to stay one step ahead of her slick son-of-an-emotion-worker, Cassel Sharpe.  

I like Cassel as a character, he's tough, smart, and resilient.  Black's done a wondrous job of capturing not only his voice, but his thoughts and emotions as well.  The rest of the cast--Cassel's eccentric grandfather, his brothers, and his schoolmates--are equally intriguing (though many of them don't enjoy much page time).

There's no excess storytelling here: the novel is honed like a blade, cutting quick and fast into the reader.  It's unputdownable in the best possible way, woven from threads of curious characters, the drip of important details, and strong writing.  With some foundation in fairytale, White Cat puts a new, dark spin on the magic user's narrative, plunging Cassel into the dangerous world of organized crime, murder, and lies. 

The biggest surprise lies in the book's final pages, so prepare thyself, reader.  No cliffhangers here, but know that White Cat will be the first novel in The Curse Workers series.

Readers should note that White Cat contains some dark fantasy violence and light language.

Four stars, of five.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scarlett Has Defeated Amy Hunington. . . Almost

Last week I changed something major in my manuscript.

Okay, I actually changed a lot of things.  I shook some 35,000 words from my manuscript, which liberated me to expand the ending.  But the most important thing I changed was a name.  A monster.

I don't have revenants anymore.

I have incarnates. 

It took weeks to settle on a new monster name, and insofar as the monster's metaphorical basis is concerned, the nomenclature had to be perfect.  Actually, incarnate works better than revenant, which means Amy Hunington did me a favor.  Ha! 

And by god, if I HEAR anything about a YA novel with incarnates over Publisher's Marketplace/YALITCHAT/Various-editors'-and-agents'-blogs/QueryTracker.com, I cannot guarantee the safety of the authors of such imaginary manuscripts.

All my best,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordles as Sick Entertainment

Check out my Wordle in the sidebar: it's a Java Applet that takes your manuscript and shows an author, in a very visual manner, which words appear most frequently in his or her manuscript.

Mine's "Vic."  No kidding, right?  

The only word that appears too often for my taste is eyes; it means that I'm relying to heavily on the eyes to communicate emotion, and it's high time to consider other modes of nonverbal communication.  Look is also up there, which means its time to edit some of those eyes and looks out of my manuscript.  You folks that are editing and reading for me have a new challenge: don't let me use the words eyes or look for the next few weeks, even if I whine.  Which I won't.

Replied is also annoyingly large, as is like.  When do I use like? or are there more similies running around in my work than I realize?

Run your manuscripts (or blogs) through the wordle.net applet; you might be surprised by what you find!

All my best,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stolen, by Lucy Christopher

I must admit, Lucy Christopher can write.

Christopher's debut novel, Stolen, is a marvel of literary craftsmanship; albeit not perfect, it's easily one of the best YA novels I've read in some time.

The synopsis is simple: sixteen-year-old Gemma Toombs is kidnapped from the airport in Bangkok while on family vacation with her parents.  Her kidnapper, Ty, takes her to a desolate region of Australia.  There are no other people.  No roads.  

No escape.

I'm not one for long bits of description when critiquing novels; if you want to know more, click on the link above.  

The brilliance of the novel lies in its telling: Gemma's narration places the reader in a strange relationship between captive and captor, in which the first-person narration is influenced by the Gemma's use of "you" to refer to Ty.  Stylistically, the novel is a letter to Ty, as written by Gemma; conceptually, the juxtaposition works almost as though written in second person; the effect, brilliant.  We are left feeling deep empathy for both captive and captor, through our first-and-second person connection to the characters in the text.

Symbolism is rampant in the novel, often evoking an Edenic motif; however, it can be obtuse at times, especially in regards to the snake/serpents.  The captured cow camel is a thinly-veiled metaphor for Gemma's relationship to Ty--and perhaps the most aggravating tactic Christopher uses to flesh out their relationship--as Ty talks about gently 'breaking' or 'training' animals to his will.

Stolen is compulsively readable, harrowing on several levels, and quite beautifully written.  Christopher, for the most part, tactfully handles a difficult relationship between a young woman and her kidnapper; and I must say, there are moments of true beauty in the text.  This is no romance novel, yet it is; it's a romance between human beings and their land, a romance of an uncanny cast.  At its heart, Stolen is a novel of psychology, of the experiences that define us, and the very emotions that separate us from the serpents and snakes.

Four stars, of five.

Scarlett's On Retroscope's Homepage!

I frequently get asked where I buy my clothing, especially my bustled skirts.  My favorite gothic clothier is Retroscope Fashions out of Nevada, as they have elegant, beautiful clothing (that doesn't break your pocketbook).

Check out one of the lovely Sara McArthur's photos of me on their homepage!

All my best,

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Bloody Best Agent Blog EVER

The Rejectionist = awesome.  Read her blog.  Beware of language.

You have been warned.

All my best,

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just When I Thought My Monster Was Safe

. . . Somebody else publishes a novel with a creature that shares my monster's nomenclature.

This woman is causing me a hell of a lot of grief, publishing a novel with zombie-"revenants".  Granted, the word "revenant" means to return, especially from death; in the very least, her usage is proper.

Yet I still haven't found a word to replace "revenant" in my manuscript, as I'm quite attached to the connotations and musicality of the word.  "Revenant" describes what the Drake family is, at least morally if not physically (i.e. they aren't zombies and/or the living dead).

The fact that the author of the link above describes her novel as "Twilight. . . in Paris. . . with zombies," is a little disturbing.  Have we not yet finished prostituting Twilight as a model novel of contemporary young adult literature?

Kill me.  Shall we expect the zombies to sparkle?

All my best,