Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: The Next Generation

Today brings the curtains down on the I Love Dark YA blogfest hosted by the team of smart and amazing writers and bloggers over at YAtopia, all throughout the month of November.

And today, I get to talk about the dark YA book I'm most looking forward to reading.

Well, you know, there's this treasure-house of YA books out there that are brilliantly thought-provoking, atmospherically evocative and totally punch-in-the-gut worthy. There are. YAs are full of them, cos this genre is awesome.

And there's a Next-Generation of such books queuing up, and queuing up fast. Brimming with kickassery.

But can you guess which book runs away with the I'll Give Up Dinner If I Can Have This Book Right NOW Award? Can you?

THIS one.

What Goodreads says: He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her. 
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed. 
Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is. 
But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

Goodreads also says that it is expected to be published on the 6th of Dec, 2011.

Doesn't that creeptastic summary make YOU want to give up dinner just to have this book right now as well? Do. Not. Lie.
And you also have to give it to the publisher for not keeping you hanging there with a faaaar-off release date. See, they understand my enthusiasm.

Oh, and you know what's totally amazing? Kelley York's one of the contributors at YAtopia. That is testimonial to how awesome YAtopia is. It's the hub of awesome :)
A huge THANK YOU to them for hosting such a great tribute to Dark YA!

And to all those who played along for your lovely company.

And now. You. Which book would you give the I'd Give Up Dinner For You Award? (Can be something you've already read/looking forward to, non-YA/YA, dark/not) Just to settle my curiosity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: Casting Up Thirteen Reasons Why!

So this week's I Love Dark YA topic kinda makes me stop and feel a little squeamish about going ahead with it, because it's about choosing a Dark YA book and posting your own movie cast for it or soundtrack. And most authors already have soundtracks for their books somewhere around their websites. And they even have movie casts made-up in their heads, even if they aren't officially posted. So putting up my own soundtrack and movie-cast kinda feels like intruding upon the author's territory.

Also, it's hard.

Most of the times, when I read, the characters take shape in my head as figments of my imagination, on the basis of the author's descriptions. I don't necessarily think in terms of, you know, movie stars.

And where music is concerned, I kinda have this staple dark music (comprising a lot of Evanescence, Within Temptation, Death Cab For Cutie, Broken Social Scene, Nirvana, Nightwish etc) which work for almost all dark YA books, so I kinda suck at putting together something for a specific book.

Considering how I have to do this and also considering I missed this last week cos of a busy school schedule, I'm going with a movie cast. One for Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.
I know Selena Gomez has been cast as Hannah Baker and Logan Lerman is rumoured to have been cast as Clay Jenson, but here's who *I* consider the perfect and the almost-perfect Hannah and Clay.

HANNAH BAKER - Kaya Scodelario

Every time I think of Hannah Baker she is the one who BAMS! into my mind. And it helps that my favourite Thirteen Reasons Why fan-made trailer has her in the lead:

And my CLAY JENSEN would be --> Steven R. McQueen

Plus, these two can act. Can play suffering characters so well.
There are a lot more characters in this book, most of whom appear via Hannah's tapes and then again, sometimes in Clay's world. But if the main characters fall into place, the rest of the cast work fine for me. Mostly.

Who would YOU cast as Hannah and Clay?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Because in spite of my previous reservations about the cast, this is perfect. And I still have goosebumps.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Spotlight on STRING BRIDGE! + Michelle Gives Away 50 (!)

So remember my last post about Jessica Bell's debut novel, STRING BRIDGE?
And remember the little fact where I mentioned that Jessica's also a musician? And that the song used in the book trailer was sung by her? And that she has an ENTIRE album compiled for String Bridge?

Yeah that.

Well, guess what?

If you help STRING BRIDGE get to the amazon bestseller list (by purchasing a copy, of course), you get to receive the all-original soundtrack, (aptly titled) Melody Hill: On The Other Side, written and performed by Jessica (naturally) for free. Did you get that? For FREE.

And all YOU have to do is purchase a copy of STRING BRIDGE (paperback or ebook) today. Yes, TODAY, ie, November 11th. And then email the receipt to jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com 
You will then be emailed the link to download the album at no extra cost! How cool is that!

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

And you can listen to samples of the songs on iTunes

And just so you remember what book and what music I'm talking about, have a look at the trailer, which combines the best of both.

Personally, I think having a soundtrack (that too the soundtrack of the MC herself) to listen to before/while/after reading a book makes for a particularly, um, wholesome experience. So I REALLY REALLY think you'd want to check it out. And, also, you know, generosity goes a long way. So help STRING BRIDGE and Jessica :)

Jessica Bell   String Bridge   Goodreads   Jessica's Blog   Jessica's Twitter   Jessica's Facebook
Also, if you like you can check out reader reviews of String Bridge and mine, too.

And because you guys are all very generous and kind and listen to my rants so patiently, I will direct you to some really squeal-worthy awesomeness. Ready?
A good blogger friend of mine, Michelle from Windowpane Memoirs is holding a contest where she is giving away 50 books. YES, 50.

Do you realise how totally amazing she is?

And do you know what you have to do to, you know, win? All you have to do is follow her. Yes, that is all. Just follow her. And if you're nice enough to comment on her posts as well, she will be giving away ARCs all throughout November.

Some of the stash :)

Excited enough?
Go give her some love, and she'll give you some too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The STRING BRIDGE Blog Tour is here!

The book: String Bridge
The author: Jessica Bell
The publisher: Lucky Press, LLC
The genre: Women's Contemporary Fiction/ Literary Fiction

Jessica Bell's debut novel, String Bridge released on the 1st of Nov and is now on sale!

So basically, from the 1st to the 20th of Nov it'll be one helluva of a blog tour party, where you can hop from one blog to another and check out what everyone's saying about String Bridge and what everyone's saying about Jessica.

(Mark your calenders!)

Are you surprised with the 'music' part of it? Well, maybe I should first explain a bit about Jessica to make it easier for you.

Taken from her bio:

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.
She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide.
Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chainsand a novel String Bridge, with Lucky Press, LLC. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards.

She is a singer AND a songwriter AND a poet AND a novelist. How wickedly talented is that?

And String Bridge being a book that deals a lot with music (the main character being a musician), Jessica Bell has an entire soundtrack to the book which she wrote and sang and recorded herself. Details here.

Not quite believing? Check out the String Bridge trailer, that features the song 'Famous' sung by the author herself.

So what exactly is String Bridge about?

Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfilment in the wrong place.

And what do I think of it?

Dare you call this chicklit. And as much as I adore chicklit, this is not the tale of a single girl, lost in the city, romping about to find HER MAN. String Bridge goes beyond that. This is after the girl has found her man, her family and is pushed over as she is made to face the hard realities of life. You could call this the after-the-fairy-tale part of life.

Familial love, marital drudgery, long suppressed dreams - Jessica Bell brings it all in and questions it all. What really is more important? 

The writing is awe-inspiring. It's easy to see that she's a poet. Don't get me wrong. There's no floweriness. Bell's writing hits hard and yet there's an underlying musical cadence to it.

I was so surprised with this book. I'm a YA book whore. So much so that other genres often get neglected. But reading this reminded me how much I love a good women's fiction. And this wasn't just good. It was effing brilliant.

Bell picks at the nuances of life. The little things magnified. She isn't afraid to mention things that often go unmentioned. Like, sometimes getting irritated with the demands of the daughter you love so much that you'd wish she'd shut up. Or feeling jealous when you see her smiling with her father. Or wanting to throw utensils at your husband like a stark raving lunatic even though he's not really the villain you think of him to be. Or make him out to be. Emotions run high here, so high they spiral into cracks in the main character, Melody's life and her relationships with the people around her.

The author deftly paints relationships like she is really exhibiting the pages out of the tormented mind of a woman trying to find an identity for herself beyond being a mother and a wife. Melody's relationships with each and every character that appears in the book is explored in such depth, it is as real as it gets. The strains with her mother. The annoyance with her husband, Alex. The love for Tessa. The need for music. The fluttering feelings for a certain 'button boy'. Bipolarity, anxiety, depression. It's raw but dealt with a sensitivity, much like the one used to deal with the oddity of love.

And if you think you have it all figured out, think again. Because String Bridge veers off the path of predictability and throws you off your seat in such a way it makes you gasp for breath. 

String Bridge is evocative of music that comes from a sad place then rises above the din and makes you appreciate the beauty of the world we live in and the time we have here. 

I highly recommend this.

And HUGEST CONGRATULATIONS to Jessica for debuting with such a remarkable novel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: The Books I Love

Today heralds the beginning of the I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest hosted by YAtopia. Be sure to check them out!

My love for Dark YA is no secret. While what is dark is often debatable, for me they are those books that punch me in the guts and make me teeter on the edge of psychological cliffs. They are on a perpetual quest for the truth and when they do find it they make me weep for the human condition, for the teenagers trapped in them. And sometimes in those quiet moments they make me stop to listen to everyone breathe. For me, they have always been cathartic, sometimes finding beauty in ugliness and pain in prettiness. Here are a few of my favourites:

Ballads of Suburbia - Stephanie Kuehnert

This book officially made Stephanie Kuehnert my hero. What an achingly beautiful, heartcrushing, roller coaster ride of a journey through the shattered lives of a motley group of Chicago teens having to resort to self-injury and substance abuse to get  through each day. And they record it all in their book of ballads - the stories of their fucked up lives singing out of the pages.
This is what author Melissa Marr had to say on Goodreads - "No sugarcoating. No BS. She writes beautiful terrible truths." Enough said.

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Possibly the bravest book I've ever read. And my most favourite ever! About what it means to live and what it means to die. And also asks that question that doesn't get asked often - how far would you go to experience it all?
I cannot express what I felt reading Before I Die. Anguish, despair, hope, loss, love. And over it all hangs the inevitable curtain of death. Damn, death. This was a celebration of Tessa's life amidst the darkness of running out of time. And the way the book moves towards the ultimatum...a wowzer of a read.

Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

If a book has ever made me feel claustrophobic, this was it.
Forbidden isn't just a sibling incest story. It deals at length with depression, paranoia, alcoholism and the author is so visual in her depiction, the whole time I felt like the walls were closing in on me and had to put it down to take deep breaths. 
Reactions to this book have mostly swung to the extremes and I fall into the lot who consider it a powerhouse of a book. This is as dark as it gets.

Ink Exchange - Melissa Marr

The only urban fantasy in this list, every time I think of this book it makes me ache. It's one of those few ones that take you to those dark places that aren't only literal.Leslie is a rape victim, living with a mostly-absent father and a brother who pushes her to 'make sweet' with his friends. To escape, she is drawn to beautiful tattoos and in turn, to the captivating world of fay, where she becomes a pawn in the dealings of the courts. And her soul is fed on, her body is fed on. Gah, this book is unforgettable. Melissa Marr doesn't reveal it all in one go. She holds back some, whispers into your ear some more, keeps you on the edge.

The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins

This is reality tv of the future. At a time when the world is a deadly, dark place. Where the threat of death hangs at every corner. Where life is really a game that you play or die. And children and teens are pawns at the centre of it.
This is a masterstroke of a series where almost every sentence felt like a cliff-hanger. A heart-stopping tale of angst and suffering and hard fought victory of the human spirit.

You Are Not Here - Samantha Schutz

There are so many books written on grief. And I've read a lot of them. I have a lot of favourites among them, but none depicted grief and ALL it's stages as convincingly and painfully as this did. On a personal level, I was in exactly the same dark place as the main character when I read it and I was stunned with how exact it seemed. What it's like to lose someone who wasn't really yours to begin with. And no one really knows how much you're hurting. This verse novel was heartbreaking, and so very cathartic.

Her And Me And You - Lauren Strasnick

I cannot pin-point what it is about this book that makes me think about it at very odd hours. When I first read it, I really liked it, but it fell short of being loved. Now though, I keep going back to it, reading short scenes from it and thinking. 
It's very ambiguous, this book. The fragments of sentences leave the reader to fill in the blanks.An alcoholic mother in tow, town newbie develops a strange attraction to brother/sister twins Adina and Freddie. There are hints of twincest but the nature of the relationship between the twins is never fully explained. Neither is the main character, Alex's sexuality spoken about out loud. The atmosphere of the book is exactly like how the cover depicts it to be - quietly dark, the rain hitting you a little harder as you go along.

What are your favourite dark YAs?

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