Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

by Kurtis Scaletta
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf

Placement in the Pile: Reaching New Heights


Welcome to Moundville, where it’s been raining for longer than Roy McGuire has been alive. Most people say the town is cursed—right in the middle of their big baseball game against rival town Sinister Bend, black clouds crept across the sky and it started to rain. That was 22 years ago . . . and it’s still pouring.

Baseball camp is over, and Roy knows he’s in for a dreary, soggy summer. But when he returns home, he finds a foster kid named Sturgis sprawled out on his couch. As if this isn’t weird enough, just a few days after Sturgis’s arrival, the sun comes out. No one can explain why the rain has finally stopped, but as far as Roy’s concerned, it’s time to play some baseball. It’s time to get a Moundville team together and finish what was started 22 years ago. It’s time for a rematch.

This was our book club book pick this month, and I am so glad I finally had a chance to read it! This was one that I wanted to read way back when I started blogging, but never got around to it.

Not my typical fall in love with book, but this book is WELL worth reading. I laughed a lot. This is a boy book that will get boys reading. The characters in the book are so genuinely BOY! That I think was my favorite part. The characters were so real.

I can best describe this book as Holes meets The Sandlot.

I am very passionate about getting boys to read. If you have a 10-14 year old boy this is a book for them! I can't see how they wouldn't like it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Me, the slacker

I have not been posting not for lack of having things to post, just cause summer has hit in full force at our house and we are BUSY BUSY BUSY!

Speaking of, I gotta get going!

What are you doing this summer? What is on your summer reading list to enhance your summer goings on?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Author Interview: Elana Johnson!

The beautiful and fabulous Elana Johnson agreed to answer these questions for us regarding her new release (officially out today!) POSSESSION!

MPB: Can you briefly tell us a little about your publishing story?

EJ: Okay, so I’ve never wanted to be a writer. Let’s get that out of the way first. In fact, in high school I took the AP English test as a junior so I could skip language arts completely as a senior. In college I majored in chemistry and math before settling into elementary education. No lie.

Fast-forward a few years. Or a decade. Whatever. I was about to turn thirty, and I’d recently been through a very dark time in my life.

Writing became my flashlight. I wrote my personal history, and realized that writing could remove some of the negative emotions that were festering inside me.

When I finished the personal history, I wrote a novel. And it was completely natural to pour that angst and depression into a teenage girl. (Ha!)

Anyway, then the pitbull in me emerged. See, I’m a little OCD, and when I do something, I DO IT.

So, of course, the next step was to figure out how to publish a book. Here’s a timeline for that.

December 2007: Begin writing. Write first novel.
April 2008: Write POSSESSION
April – November 2008: Query a different book. Not a good one. My first one. Write a few more novels. Okay, maybe like 8 more.
December 2008: Shelve said book. Decide which book to revise and query next. Chose POSSESSION.
January – April 2009: Revise POSSESSION.
April – November 2009: Query POSSESSION while writing new books, blogging, etc. After a few phone calls, a few rounds of agent-requested revisions, I finally…
November 2009: Get an offer of representation!
December 2009 – January 2010: Revise some more.
February 2010: Sell POSSESSION to Simon & Schuster
March 2010 – Current day: Freak out. Blog. Tweet. Write some more. Blog. Tweet. Facebook. Manage websites. Freak out.
MPB: How did you come up with the idea for how your dystopian society is set up?

After I decided I wanted to write a dystopian novel, I knew I needed a society. So I played the “What if?” game that some authors are fond of. I came up with “What if there was no free will?” and my society evolved from there. I needed a way to remove the free will; I needed a character who wanted her free will; I needed a place where there was some free will to balance the place where there is none.

I needed rules. I needed tech. I needed it all. I just sort of shoved it all in and cleaned it up later.

MPB: Possession deals with the theme of "choice". How important do you think our choices are?

Ah, excellent question. I think choices are everything. It’s through our choices that we become the way we are. Choice is everything.

MPB: What are some of your favorite reads from the last 6 months?

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert
THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker
CLARITY by Kim Harrington
BLOOD MAGIC by Tessa Gratton
THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab
A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL by Suzanne Young
THE DAY BEFORE by Lisa Schroeder

MPB: What are you working on now? / How is book 2 going?

I am not working on anything! Launching a book is like building an arc. There’s only time for one or the other. I have written and turned in (and sold!) my second book. Edits are due to get to me in July, and I plan on chillaxing until then.

MPB: What is the one thing that keeps you writing when it gets hard to be committed?

Well, now that I’m writing for publication—instead of just for fun—I have deadlines. Those keep me on track. And if I don’t have a deadline, I make one for myself so that I’ll actually get something done. Otherwise, it’s so easy to burn five hours on twitter or Facebook or blogs or TV or reading. You know?

MPB: What is your favorite snack to eat while writing?

I don’t snack while writing. I only snack during the revisions, and those require a big honking bag of sour patch kids.

MPB: See folks! I told you she was made of awesome! Thank you so much Elana! I hope POSSESSION does fabulously well, and I am very excited to see what happens next!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: POSSESSION by Elana Johnson

by Elana Johnson
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Simon Pulse

Placement in the Pile: Middle of the Stack, inching towards New Heights

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Alright, so this was another really hard one for me to review cause once again I have met Elana, I read her blog and I think she is made of fabulous. So remember that as I review, cause I really do want you all to give this one a try!

Possession is a bit of a wild ride. The reader is thrown into this world of literally "control or be controlled". I thought Elana's dystopic world was unique and really quite interesting. I like her use of technology beyond our current science, and yet the people still felt the basic needs of love and family.

I also really like the characters in Possession. Instantly the voice of Vi was strong. Her world was not being torn upside down by one decision, she had always been a bit of a rule breaker. It was just who she was. She has a strong voice and it is easy to like her. Jag was another favorite of mine. I have to admit I've always been a fan of the dark mysterious boys and Jag has it all, he's strong, secretive, hot, loyal...and yet there is a sense that he could disappear any minute.

Despite it's sudden beginning, which threw me off guard, the story between Vi and Jag is what kept me reading this book.

So there really were some great aspects to the book. But I wouldn't be a good reviewer if I didn't give my honest opinion that I thought the narrative was at times choppy in the action scenes. I'd be reading along, crazy action would be going on, and then all of a sudden something would happen, or something would be revealed as being part of the society, or even something as simple as all of sudden the action was over and I was pulled out of the story. My brain went "wait, what just happened?" I'd have to go back and try to figure it out.

I am all for revelations of big things taking the reader by surprise, but I don't think it should ever make the reader stop and be pulled out of the story and the narrative prose. And unfortunately I think the moments that were supposed to be big surprises weren't (besides the twisted ending!) and the moments that were just revelations of world building really messed with the flow of reading. This is the main reason I can't say I was in LOVE with POSSESSION.

I also kinda didn't like the ending, but as Elana announced on Friday there will be a second book, so I have hope! I can't tell you why, cause it would ruin the surprise. ;)

In the end this book is worth giving a try. It has some really great characters and unique world views. Fans of "thinking" dystopias like MATCHED will enjoy this book, but it also has enough action to entice fans of THE HUNGER GAMES.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Elana! As I said she is made of awesome so you will want to read what she has to say.