Monday, December 27, 2010

Ballads of Suburbia (+ contest link)

I'll be honest. I haven't been blogging 'cause I wanted to talk about Stephanie Kuehnert's Ballads of Suburbia, yet I didn't know how to say anything. I took some time off so I could come up with something coherent that would really explain how I felt about this book.

And I couldn't. Come up with anything, that is.

So truth be told, I can't review this book. A review wouldn't be worth it. Because just so you know, I read Ballads of Suburbia at a difficult time of my life. A time when things were changing and good or bad, they could only swing to extremes. A time when the only way I was trying to deal with things was by binge-reading. And Ballads appeared with a back cover that read like:  Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....
Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

I can't dissect this book in a mere review. It's been a while since I read it, but it still overwhelms me. It's so atmospheric and heartbreakingly painful and packed with such stellar characters, reading Ballads was like experiencing everything that Kara and her friends went through. I could talk about so many things -- how the Chicago suburbs of the 90s came alive on the page, how unbelievably hard it was to read about these teens watching everything crumbling around them, how singularly dependent they were on substance yet in spite of the self-abuse involved, they stuck together like a group of lost young people trying to salvage whatever they can of their young lives and how they each recorded haunting personal "ballads" that showed so much raw vulnerability that I'm left awed at the brilliance of this book.

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Yes, this book is hard because the author isn't afraid to hold back anything. She bluntly talks about cutting, overdoses and death. It's dark and probably difficult for some but the little hopes and dreams of this gaggle of disillusioned teens shine through occasionally and make this powerhouse of a book, a luminous and coming-of-age tale.

Nothing I say can sum up how much this book affected me but Stephenie Kuehnert is officially my hero now and I can only thank her for writing it.

Here's the book trailer. And though I think the actors look a bit too old to play the characters, take a look:

And while you're here, the lovely Jen Daiker from Unedited is hosting a giveaway where you have the option of choosing between books, bookmarks, magnets and bath salts, lotions, candles. How awesome is that? Obviously, I want to win, but I'm being generous enough to direct you there as well, so drop by and show her some love.

And I hope you guys had a fantastic Christmas :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Her And Me And You

This was one of those books which I had been seeing a lot around blogosphere and which instantly caught my attention, with a cover jacket that says something like this,

I met Fred first.
Fred: Hot. Enigmatic. Alex’s first friend in her lonely new town. Maybe her first…everything.
I met Adina the following Monday.
Adina: Fred’s twin sister. Cold. Troubled. Trouble.
I kissed him.
She pressed her mouth to my mouth.
People warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, but Alex is drawn to them. She wants to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences. 

Do you see what I see?
First crush, friendship, heartbreak, twincest ~ Lauren Strasnick packs all this and more into this slim offering.

The writing is sparse, very sparse and this is what is most striking about Her And Me And You - a lot is conveyed in very few words and almost everything is played out in dialogue.
Nothing immensely dramatic happens in here. It's one of those books that are filled with moments - passing moments that end up defining you. When her parents fall apart, Alex is obligated to leave her best friend and relocate to a another town with her mother. And things heat up when she meets the twins - Fred and Adina.

This book is in many ways a study of relationships. Alex is an oddly endearing protagonist and her relationships with the people around her form the crux of this novel: the father who fails to make things right, a downright broken mother, a best friend whose evolving dynamics with boys is changing the dynamics of their friendship and the strange and unpredictable twins Alex can't help being attracted to. 
The relationship between the twins is something that the reader is left wondering about. It's hinted at, but actually putting a name to it is left to the reader.

This is a quick read, one that you'd finish within the hour.
My only complaint was that I wished to see at least some ore complete sentences. Don't get me wrong, I love sentence fragments, but somehow too many sentence fragments, kind of make it appear choppy.
Also, I wish it hadn't ended so abruptly. I kept turning the pages to check if I had missed anything. I didn't realise the book was over.

Overall, I liked this little off beat book, though I didn't love it. I'll still be looking forward to reading more from Lauren Strasnick.

Extra Comment: I love the title and the cover. They perfectly fit the book. 

Read more reviews on Goodreads 
Lauren Strasnick 

I won this book over at writer Sydney Salter's blog. She hosts giveaways with almost every post, so you might just want to go check her out. 

Meanwhile, the YA Fiction nominations for the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards are in. They have put together a great list, including some of my favourites this year - Sing Me To Sleep, The Sky Is Everywhere etc. It also includes By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, which is high up my wishlist (have you read it?). Anyway, the whole purpose of this is that you go and vote for your favourite. There's also the YA Fantasy list, but I'm pretty clueless there, aside from Mockingjay. It's been long since I've read any fantasy. I'm in a whirlwind relationship with contemporary and we're going strong.

What are you reading currently? Recommend any YA Fantasy a Contemp-a-holic like me would enjoy? 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RTW: Six Word Memoir.

Road-trip Wednesday is a weekly blog carnival hosted by YA Highway.

This week's topic: Your six-word memoir. Literally, your life story in six words.

The story of all those years of your life in six words only.
One life. Six word memoir.

Here goes,
                                         I tattoo pages with my words.

Alright, so that's just one aspect of these two decades of my life, but it's perhaps the most important one. If I have to really sum up my life, there would be multiple six word memoirs. Which brings me to ask, are six words enough to your memoir? If so, spill yours.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hitting Back With A Holiday Read: TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

As some of who you've been around here for a while already know, I've been through a really bad time. And I'm still trying to deal with it. Which is why I've been M.I.A. for so long. I couldn't blog. I couldn't write. Heck, I even quit NaNoWriMo. It hasn't been easy, but I'm trying to get back to blogging. Blog posts have been sporadic lately, but I'm gonna try fixing that. So, for now, I welcome you back with a very Christmassy recommendation!

Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she's asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities.
Sculptor, Jude Martland, is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother runs off with his fiancée and he is keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by the twelfth night of the festivities, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.
Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.
Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!

Seven months after the release of Chocolate Wishes, Trisha Ashley emerges with the perfect read for this season. Twelve Days of Christmas is a heartwarming tale of letting go of the past and finding love in the least likely place.

Since the death of her husband, Holly has been engaging herself in house-sitting activities in winter in order to isolate herself from Christmas celebrations. Christmas is a sad time for her, and the farther away she is from merriment, the better. What she did not bargain for is being welcomed easily into the Martland family, whose family home she is meant to look after. Soon, or rather, out of nowhere, the large empty house, is suddenly populated by a motley group of people and a delightful romantic comedy ensues.

Once again, Trisha Ashley wins over the reader with her brand of humour and sparkling one-liners. The large cast of characters is oddly endearing, and even the snotty Coco makes you feel sympathetic towards her. Ashley shows a lot of kindness in her work, which is why even the less likable characters do not end up villainous.

Holly is different from Ashley's other heroines. She's a house-party chef by profession who doubles as a house-sitter in winters. And you know why reading this book is like having a sumptuous feast? The descriptions of food will kill you in its deliciousness. In fact, there are additional Christmas recipes at the back of the book that you can try out at home. I'm guessing Ms. Ashley herself, is a chef by her own rights, considering the importance (a welcome importance!) food gets in her novels. If Chocolate Wishes had chocolates and confectionery, this has some mouthwatering delicacies.

Make-You-Fall-In-Love-With-Them Characters + A Humourously Heartwarming Story You Can't Get Enough Of + The Christmassy Feel + All That Food = WIN. WIN. WIN.

Twelve Days Of Christmas is the kind of book you'd want to curl up with on the sofa. It's one of those feel-good, cosy reads with a lot of heart. I. It's one of the best Christmas books I've read. It's perfect for this time of the year. And equally good all year round.

Psst! See that cover? It's got sparkly bits all over it! It's adorable.

Author Elizabeth Gill wrote a lovely little tribute post for Trisha Ashley. Here's the link if you want to check it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blog Bash WINNERS! (+ Sneak Peek)

My blog made it through one year and all you cool kids out there made that possible. Which is why if you guys remember, I was hosting a giveaway of dreamcatching proportions. And the response from all of you was so amazing, I honestly wish I had enough stuff to giveaway to ALL of you. You guys make me feel oh-so-good. Blogosphere really is a fun place to be a part of.
I had 208 entries in all and picking out four (!) was hard, so I left it to a magic hat to do the job.

And the magic hat says, that the first winner is: Karla Kalalang

The second winning hat goes to: Jen Daiker 

The third magic wand  waves over: Jennie  

The Honorary Fourth winner is: Kai A

And because I feel kinda sad that I couldn't make all of you winners, I decided to add two more winners to the honorary list. They will get bookmark and swag like the fourth winner. And they are Mika and Chrizette.

The winners will hear from me shortly. Please keep check on your emails. Thank you everyone for entering and making this such a success.

This in turn makes me come to the second part of this post and share some pictures that inspire my WiP-turned- NaNo project, What Was Mine.

And here's an excerpt I thought I'd share:

Smoke tendrils swirl above her and around the kitchen, Deidre’s kitchen, from where we watch masked faces flirt and flow into the hall.

‘I’m not going in there unless someone takes off their mask.’ Mel rummages through the cabinets – open, slam, open, slam.

Sarah flicks the ash out of the window. ‘Not happening anytime soon.’ Turns to her. ‘Why you here then?’

Mel pops open a bottle, pours out the drink, raises the glass and flashes a crooked smile. ‘Free champagne.’

Sarah throws back her head and laughs. Mel pours us each a drink. It’s wicked fizzy and bubbles in my stomach, stirring up my nerves, making them sit up. I sit up, watch the masked faces flit around the hall, float with the music and feel myself drifting.

It’s like a labyrinth. A labyrinth of people to get lost in.

I get off the counter. ‘I’m going in.’

‘Coming after I finish,’ Sarah croaks.

I pull the black and silver mask over my face and step in with the dancers. What’s playing is a very squeaky waltz, probably picked up at the secondhand record store, but nobody cares. As long as the music rolls they can dance all night.

‘May I?’ He is tall, blond – very blond, almost white – with blue eyes dancing in desire.

I see my opportunity.

Tantalise. Make someone want me. Make him want me, for now.

His hands are around me, lifting me with the rhythm, throwing me with the air. I'm crap at dancing but he doesn't seem to notice. If there's one thing I've mastered, it's the art of masking.

(All photos taken from here

How have you been doing with your WiPs?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cracked Up To Be

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?
Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all.
Nobody would have guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.
Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

Reading Cracked Up To Be is like a whiplash. It's like a high school documentary. No moralizing, sugarcoating incidents and mincing words. Courtney Summers presents it like it is.

Parker is troubled, very, very troubled. And it all goes back to something horrible that's happened, for which Parker might be all too responsible. Parker is a character you won't forget as soon as you finish the book. She is someone who hooks you in, makes you turn the pages of this novel and stays with you long after you finish it. Her voice is THAT good.
And that's where Courtney Summers' debut novel sticks with you. With the character voices. Nothing about high school or high school-ers is romanticized here. The potential love interest(s) aren't knight-in-shining-armours. They are guys who can be jerks one moment and cute and kind the next moment, not walking-talking moral tales high on hotness.

The prose is sparse. No purple prose, a few words are enough to convey just what is meant to be conveyed. This style makes Summers' writing haunting and to some extent, disturbing, which is exactly what Parker's mental state is.

I already knew what the big secret was, thanks to a very spoiler-ish review I'd read online, but I couldn't stop reading Cracked Up To Be, firstly for Parker and secondly, for, well, everything else. The flashbacks are easy to connect with, considering they are done in italics, and Summers' masterfully connects them all together as a lead up to the climax.

The best thing about this book is how everything feels very natural. for instance, Parker's actions are not dominated by thought first. She does things on impulse. Sometimes a lot of the things she does or says doesn't make sense, but that's what makes her so intensely real.

The cover doesn't do much to capture the powerful content of this book. It deserved something more than a girl resting on the bench.

Cracked Up To Be did not do something as dramatic as change my life, but it's an important book. One the needs to be read. I hope you read it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

TELL ME A SECRET ~ Holly Cupala

Tell me a secret, and I'll tell you one…

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future. 

Tell Me A Secret is one helluva read. I read it in one sitting. I took it out to dinner with me, cos I absolutely had to see where this was going.
I had to know how Miranda was going to end up.
I had to know what was going to happen to the other haracters.
I had to know everything. And I had to know fast.

The treatment is very different from most other reads. The narrative swings between Miranda's past, with her sister Xanda, her boyfriend, Kamran, her friend, Essence..and her present, devoid of them all. How this happened is not revealed in a flash.As Miranda or Rand's PoV oscillates and attempts to explore and understand what happened and what is happening now, the real faces behind the masks the characters are wearing emerge.
Characters are Holly Cupala's strength. They have depth. They are multi-dimensional. They are unforgettable. Even the minor characters do not fall flat. It's almost like everyone in this novel has a hidden agenda, an untold secret. Which should explain the reason I was up half the night finishing this book.

The prose is vivid and powerful. Here an excerpt: 

"Crammed inside the house was every person under eighteen I knew, bodies crushed liked cigarettes and pulsing to the beat of a ginormous stereo. As I looked around the room, lit up by a red bulb in the corner, faces slowed down into grotesque laughter and shouts of greeting. Everyone was glad to see us - the leggy one, the curvy one, and the one who could stop Elna Mead traffic. I reached inside myself and pulled out "party girl", modeled after Delaney and Xanda herself. I smiled at the faces around me, calling out loudly and giggling. The real me floated up to the corner of the room."

Other things I liked:

-- Some characters belonged to different ethnic backgrounds. The author never deliberately tells the reader so, but you just know. Like when Xanda's boyfriend, Andre is described as cafe con leche, it's kinda cool.

-- Rand and her art. Rand's art mostly consists of labyrinths, perhaps representing her search for her own identity in her world of chaos. And her association with art is not merely shown through "splashes of paint" or with the glimpse of a "pencil tucked behind her ear". Art comes through somewhat like this:
"Vanity was a tall beautiful woman with a face like a mask. Envy was a treasure-hoarding dragon, dainty and diabolical. As I sketched in the dragon's face, I gave her eyebrows like mine, my turtle necklace around its scaly neck."

-- The character names. Essence. Delaney. Andre. Kamran. Xanda. Rand. I had a thing for them.

-- The entire canvas the novel covers. The setting isn't restricted to a panoramic view of high school. It stretches on beyond. Important scenes take place in the workplace and at home, where the parents aren't absent. Rand shares a particularly trying relationship with her parents, but in no way is the parental aspect compromised upon. The parents loom large no matter how negative vibe-y they are. Just like the setting, the characters too come from far and wide.

-- I never knew where the story was heading. Sometimes it took giant leaps, sometimes unexpected twists and they all had me surprised (or shocked).

This might not be a book for everyone. It's a dark book. There are no light and sparkly moments. At times Rand's future as the pregnant teen, deceived by her friends and unaccompanied by her family, looks gloomily bleak. But then again, Rand isn't a character to just give up. And in spite of the gritty realism of Tell Me A Secret, Holly Cupala doesn't shake away hope from the story. There is hope and there is love. Just not from sources you go looking for.

A fast paced novel about one girl's attempt to find the truth about her sister's death and in turn unravel the tangles of her life, Tell Me A Secret is one of those debut novels that leave an indelible mark.

PS. In the meanwhile, it's November or rather, NaNoWriMo month. So, who's going the 50,000-word-this-month way? If you are, buddy me: Bidisha

PPS. Also, my blog's birthday giveaway is open till the 10th of Nov. There shall be four winners and you can join in by clicking on the link just below the header.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

*Blog Birthday of DreamCatching Proportions*!! CLOSED

Oh, yes.
Dreamcatcher's Lair turns one today.
Exactly a year ago, I decided to do something about the time I spent thinking about books and pondering about writing. Tried bringing them together. And BAM! this blog was born.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't so dramatic. But there was this particular book I loved, which instantly sparked off the I-must-tell-people-about-this-book-I-must-blog feeling, which of course made me rush online and attack blogger.
My commentless inaugeration post is still on display, if you're interested in reading and laughing.
So is the review of the book which made me start this blog in the first place.

And for sticking around and bearing with my rants and rambles, I have something for you.
Something like this:

 So here's the deal. There are three things up for grabs:
1) A set of signed copies of Taken By Storm and Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison.

2) A copy of Trisha Ashley's upcoming new book, Twelve Days Of Christmas.

3) The Language Of Flowers book. It's illustrated and very Victorian.

Which means, there shall be three winners. The first winner gets to choose between 1, 2 and 3. The second winner gets to choose out of the remaining two and so on. An Honorary fourth winner will get to win some signed/unsigned bookmarks of my choice.
Here's what you have to do to participate: 
First, follow my blog.
Second, leave a comment on this post.
Third and most important, fill out this form. All three steps are absolutely necessary.

This contest is international and open till the 10th of November.

For being here. For sticking around. For making me stick around :)
You guys rock.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unbroken Connection (...and some more)

Against all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers. And they just can't leave each other alone. Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one direction their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michael is and wants to be. Can she change for him? Can he change for her? Enough? 
Taken By Storm was one of the best books I read in 2009.
Which is why when Razorbill rejected it's sequel, I started the Support Group on Facebook. Leesie and Michael's story had to be heard. Out loud. 'Cause no one does emotional storytelling and luminous prose like Angela Morrison. And no couple can complement that like Michael and Leesie.

If you haven't yet read Taken By Storm, this might get spoilerish. Be warned.
 Also, if you haven't read it, what are you doing here? Read. It. Now.

Michael and Leesie are back. As opposed to their promises at the end of Taken By Storm, they can't stay without each other. Sufficing on just platonically loving each other over the internet, while separated by oceans, isn't working in their favour. 'Cause sometimes, love runs deep and it's more about needing than wanting. And this is what brings one of my favourite teen couples back together.

The narrative style employed in Unbroken Connection, is similar to it's prequel - dive log entries, Chapbook poems, chat logs make up the bulk of the book. And this quirky stylistic device is tackled with such cleverness that in spite of the narrative divisions, the story flows without jerks and breaks. It's awe-inspiring for any writer how Angela Morrison does it but she does it, the fantastic writer that she is. Her grace in handling religious issues is once again (as seen in Taken By Storm) highly commendable. Leesie may be a faithful Mormon but Michael presents a totally different perspective. What is remarkable is how Morrison presents both sides of the coin in an unbiased, honest manner. I think that's why, in spite of my differing views on religion and spirituality, I love Leesie and Michael's story so much. It never gets preachy. It's about two people in love, facing very realistic obstacles, like family, faith and religion -- and while the 'love conquers all' theme does run through, they have to deal with life first before that happens.

The character development in Unbroken Connection is realistic and remarkable. I loved, loved Michael here. The Michael from Taken By Storm who was experienced in all kinds of love, redeems himself through Leesie's love here, while by the end of Unbroken Connection, Leesie who'd always tried her best keeping things under control emerges battered and bruised from tragedy.
This is a deeply moving, poignant tale of young love and it's power to destroy, yet heal.

You can browse through and buy Unbroken Connection here.

Leesie and Michael's story doesn't end here, though. The third and final installment of their story, Cayman Summer, will officially release in early 2011. But before that, Angela Morrison has created a blog wholly dedicated to Cayman Summer. Here she will share rough drafts, unfinished poems, revised scenes and finally polished chapters as she writes Cayman Summer. I urge you to join her on her journey.
                Cayman Summer Blog

Meanwhile, my Blog Anniversary is coming up in just a couple of days. I have things (hint: giveaways) in store for you, so don't forget to check back.

Also, thank you for sticking around. I realise I haven't been a particularly faithful blogger, lately, owing to some very personal reasons (which are..up and around in this blog, anyway) but thank you. For being here. For sharing your thoughts. You guys make my day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Letter To A MuseCrush

Dear A,

It wasn't meant to be this way.
Not like this. Not right now.
But that's exactly what happened. And now is exactly when it did.
And really there's really no answer to the why. Why you?

You have no idea what you meant. I had no chance to telling you.
You were the Beatles-haired boy who walked straight out of my dreams.
You made the past two months the best part of my life in the last three years.
You were the Muse.

And then you die. Who the heck dies at 19? Why you?
Fuck the world. Fuck God. Fuck everything.

I was going to tell you. I was going to tell you on Monday.
And I wasn't going to screw up. It was going to be perfect.
And then you die on Saturday. Why?

I saw the photographs. Taken just minutes before.
You. Smiling. In the river.
It wasn't even that big a river.
You were supposed to get a chance at least.
A chance for yourself.
For your dreams.
For everyone else. For us.

Who would've guessed forever could be severed by the sharp knife of a short life.

But it's The End now.
The end to your story.
Before it even began. 
Because with you, the Muse is gone. 
And he's not coming back.
Not now.
Not ever.

I wish you were here.
I wish you'd stayed.
I wish your time hadn't run out.
I wish, I wish, I wish - I still had you.

Gone, they say, you are. But,
I'll keep you. Forever,
The Beatles-haired boy straight out of my dreams.


                                                 (Image source: Here)

This is NOT a work of fiction.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blueberry distractions and Boom Chika Contests!

I'm alive.
And I'm back.

Life called.
Love beckoned.
Distraction thrashed around.
Blueberry puddings filled in my stomach.

But oohtralalala...blogosphere, I'm not gonna be M.I.A for much longer.

So with a quick update:
I'm reading: Jackson Pearce's As You Wish. (Thanks to Nomes and her freaking lovely lil contests). Urban fantasy is so saturated right now, I've been passing up most of the books from that genre for the past year. But I was so pleasantly surprised with this one. The writing flows effortlessly and there's this aura of mysticism where the fantasty world (in this case, Caliban) is concerned. I'm liking it so far. Which is an essentially good thing since the lack of likable books prior to this (recently) was a contributing factor to my blog drought.

I'm writing: What Was Mine is being reincarnated. I think. For the past few weeks I've been in a slump and haven't produces a word, and especially now when I'm so close to getting it done, the WiP drought killed me. Almost. And the reincarnation? Well, I like where it's going.

Around blogosphere:
--- Sarah Woodard shares Five Things She Would Love To See In YA. And she's speaking my mind.
--- Also, where Banned Books Week is concerned, Malindo Lo shares her thoughts, while Ravenous Reader shares an Ellen Hopkins poem and gives away signed copies of her book.
--- Still on contests, Karla Nellenbach talks about Five YA books that Inspire her to be a Better Writer, thrown in with a contest to win one of them. Boom boom chika chika!
It's hard to compile a list but because I have my eyes on one of them, here's my choice:
> Jenny Downham's Before I Die
> Angela Morrison's Taken By Storm
> Jaclyn Moriarty's Feeling Sorry For Celia/ the Year of Secret Assignments
> Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere
> Anne Cassidy's Missing Judy

I think it's the 'Better Writer' tag that counts here, my fave list could stretch on forever :)

Meanwhile, what have you been reading/writing all this while?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Photography does strange things for any artist. For a writer, photospiration is not something uncommon. Each snapshot tells a story. Stories that perhaps already exist. Or ones that you believe exist. Or it just be fodder you paint in your fictitious world. It's amazing what one single captured moment can tell you.

I was away at a remote seaside village for a while for a while.
And the beach there wasn't the usual sand-sunbath kinda beach. Cars commute on this one. And there are specific timings (according to the ebb and flow of the water) during which cars can get down on the beach. I've never been to any such beach ever and it was kinda cool.
I thought I'd share a few snaps here.


My next novel, Summer of You, was inspired by a photograph I came across on Google one day. Someday I'll share that with you guys, but tell me, have you ever been Photospired?

Also, I could help adding, I think this song might just be my MC, Ronni's, anthem:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Art of The Craft: from Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Art of The Craft is an interview series featuring published authors and their lets-shake-it-up books. Yo.

You know, sometimes you read that little, quirky book that in spite of it's size shakes things up a bit? That happened to me with The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don't Mind. Unlike most up and coming YAs, nothing earth-shattering happened in the book and yet it had a little something to shake it up for me. 
And you know what? I loved it.
And I'm super-psyched I got the opportunity to probe into what writing the book was for Kirstin Cronn-Mills, who, as you can tell, is the superpsychnessinducing author.
Morgan is one of the spunkiest heroines I've read this year. When
did you first meet her?

I met her in 2002, but in some ways I've known her all along, because she's got some of my traits.  Her word-nerd viewpoints? Those are all me, and I received the "you walking dictionary" note, just like Morgan
did (I still have it somewhere, because it was so hurtful at the time).  As I said before, the incident that created this book was sparked by my classmate's confession, so I also had to put myself in my shoes/the real Tessa's shoes to write some of those scenes. However, Morgan's got a HECK of a lot more sass than I had as a
teenager.  I love that about her! : )

Hell, yeah, Morgan's super-sassy and super-awesome. The voice is pitched perfect, which is not always that easy. Did Morgan's voice stay the same from your first draft till the finished draft..or did it change with the progression of the book?

Morgan's voice actually softened a great deal.  When I first wrote her, she was spiteful, almost hateful.  I mellowed her out when someone I respect read the book and said "Wow, I don't like her." That was the first time anyone had said it, so I paid attention.  When I took another look at her, I thought, "wow, I don't like her either!" So she got toned down--less mouthy, more compassionate, less hostile and closed.  Once SKY was published, I had another early-draft reader tell me, "You know, I didn't like that original Morgan.  I like this
one much better."  I was relieved to hear it.

Next to Morgan, I think the setting's one of the best things about the book. Beyond the hills and the sky, Morgan clearly hates Central Nebraska, while Rob who's been to places, returns to it..whose story do you share?

I am with Rob--I love the place.  LOVE.  IT.  I've lived in Minnesota for 18 years now (with some living in Iowa on the side), and I miss Central (and Eastern) Nowhere almost every day.  It's much more open and spacious there--more space between towns and people, more open space with nothing in it.  Even though Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa are all Midwestern states, they're all *very* different from each other, and I am a Nebraskan at heart.  Hands down.  I'd live there again if I could, and may when I retire.  My husband is a Minnesotan, our jobs are here, plus we're raising a son in this wonderful state,
so it's not in the cards.  But someday . . .

Ha, I love how Morgan keeps calling it Central Nowhere throughout the book. Also, SKY is written in minimalistic style. Whose personal style is it - Morgan's or yours?

That style belongs to both of us.  When I'm casual (talking with you, for instance), I'm rather wordy, but my formal writing tends to be tight.  I think it comes (in part) from being a poet as well as a fiction writer.  Poets are concerned with the economy of language, and that idea seems to follow into my prose.  I also think it has to do with mood.  When Morgan's more casual or weird, or even angry, she can be a little wordy.  When she really wants to get her point across, she gets very minimal.  Same with me.

The fact that you're a poet writing prose makes your style original. On the other hand, Morgan seems to write fortunes all the time, all over the place. I thought it was very unique. Where did the idea come from?

That one came straight from the ether, which is to say--I have no idea!  I consider that particular character trait a gift from the Universe, because I didn't plan it.  All of a sudden, she was just doing it, and it was perfect.  I looked back at it and thought, "where the heck did that come from?"  But you don't look a gift horse in the mouth (a very American Midwestern expression), and it worked, so I kept it.  I think it fits her--in an alcoholic family, you keep a lot of secrets, and keep a lot of anger inside, so the "sideways" communication of leaving fortunes around allowed her to communicate some of her feelings.

You mentioned in your guest post that a particular high school mate's confession sparked off SKY. How much of your personal experiences do you take back to your fiction?

I think every writer takes parts of his/her life into their work. Because SKY is set in my home town, I had to be careful that it wasn't *my* story, but it wasn't because I had never had an encounter with the real Tessa (though, as it turns out, she wishes we would have). But there are definite things in the novel that came from my life. Elsie is much like my real-life grandmother, who decided against becoming a concert pianist so she could raise a family.  My grandmother was also *my* grandmother--we are/were birthday twins, and I thought she belonged only to me.  : )  She always claimed my first words were "read a book!" (said to her, of course), so somewhere in the Universe, I think she's cheering me on.  Maybe she's the one who
sent me Morgan's fortune-writing idea!

'Read a book' - how cool is that! Is this the first novel you've written? What's coming next?

It's rather surprising, because SKY truly is my first novel--it doesn't always happen that a first book gets sold.  I have another book on submission--an Elvis-loving guy who wants to be a radio DJ--and I just finished a draft of a book that's packed with ghosts. The next one after that is four boys, a laundromat, graffiti, and general random destruction.  There are two other ideas floating around out there, but they're more nebulous.  I've always got ideas!

You're keeping me on edge here. Those books sound oh-my-god-i-want-Elvis-guy-and-graffiti-destruction-and-ghosts, yeah. On that note, what are some of your favourite YA novels?

That's a hard question--like really hard.  I loved BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham (an import from England), I loved STRUTS AND FRETS by Jon Skovron, I loved BEAUTIFUL, by Amy Reed, all for different reasons.  At the moment, I'm listening to WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, by John Green and David Levithan--and an audio book is an *amazingly* different experience than reading a book.  Since WILL GRAYSON is a dual-narrator novels, there are 2 readers, and each reader adds an incredible depth to the story.  And that one is hilarious, so I look a little crazy when I'm out walking and laughing to myself.  I recommend audio books to *everyone*--they create such a different experience of the book.

(I think you might also be my book-twin). How has being a published author changed you as a writer?

Hmm . . . great question.  I've written lots of academic stuff in my life, and that was perfect prep for writing a novel, because I already knew how to write on deadline, edit, and follow editor directions.  I suppose, more than anything, I enjoy writing more now.  It was great fun in the beginning, but it's even better now, because I know folks are enjoying it (I am very honored by the compliments I've been paid about SKY).  I am happy happy happy that there may be more published books after SKY.  I am happy someone pays me to do a task I adore.  I would do it for free (sssh!  don't tell anyone!).

Rob's cute ass. Which actor/model do you think can carry that off?

Yeesh . . . hmm . . . the first person who comes to mind is Taylor Lautner, but just because he has a great bod.  Alex Pettyfar is all right--maybe too bad boy--and Tom Welling and Chris Pine are too old, but they have the right vibe.  This is a tough question!!  I think I'd pick Tom Welling, even though he's 33.  He's got the right look and the right "homegrown" feel about him.    Who do *you* like?  You tell me!  Or did you have someone else in mind?

(OMG, I don't know. I think I'd have to look at their asses particularly to men make it hard).

Great talking to you, Kirstin (and getting to know your story secrets). Thanks for being here :)

Find Kirstin here or here.
And in case you missed her book, take a good look here:

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