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First, congrats to fellow Bookanista Gretchen McNeil on the release of POSSESS!!!!!!!

Now, my review of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in
a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on ever since I met Michelle at BEA in 2010 and heard about her sale! Even though I still had to wait a torturous year to read, I was able to snag a copy a this year’s BEA (well, actually I got it at the Teen Author Carnival). I immediately devoured it.

I had super high expectations for this book. IT LIVED UP TO EVERY ONE OF THEM!

I got sucked in from the first page and couldn’t put the book down. The prose. The mystery. And, oh yeah, NOAH.

I’ll tackle these topics backwards because Noah is the one I want to discuss the most. He’s British. So right there I was hooked. And that doesn’t even take into account his sexiness. He’s cocky yet sweet, and I loved that I kept guessing as to his true intentions and motives. The ones I got surprised me and made him even more exciting. There’s really only one word to describe him: EXTRAORDINARY. I’ll be shocked if every girl that reads this book doesn’t fall madly for him. My favorite thing about him was the way he befriended Mara’s younger brothers. And of course, a guy who takes care of animals is automatically adorable.

As for the mystery, it kept me guessing and frantically turning pages. There were so many twists that made me gasp out loud, but in the end they tied everything together perfectly. This book is a new breed of paranormal and it read like a breath of fresh air. I was as eager to find out what happened in Mara’s past as I was to uncover what was going on in her present. In her past, Mara walked away unscathed while her best friends perished in a building collapse. The flashbacks provided the answers to questions like “why were they in an old building?” and “how did she survive?” and my favorite part was the subtle dynamics between Mara and her friends. It definitely wasn’t what it first seemed at the start of the novel.

In the present, strange things are happening (that sentence is vague, yes, but only because I want you to experience the ride for yourself). Mara makes new friends, ones I wasn’t sure she could trust, but each with a distinct personality. Her brothers were my favorite in the book! (Well, besides Noah, of course). And Mara herself is a great protagonist. She’s a balance mix of vulnerability and strength, ballsy but sometimes needing to be rescued. And she’s smart too. I cared about what happened to her just as she cared about those around her. I’m not an animal person but one of my favorite scenes involves her rescuing a dog.

And of course, the prose is beautiful. The only thing that kept me turning pages was stopping to savor a gorgeous sentence!

But gah! What a cliffhanger! Now I have to wait even longer for book 2!

CHECK OUT WHAT THE REST OF THE BOOKANISTAS ARE READING THIS WEEK:

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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What’s better than one Bookanista Review? Two of course! I recently read two of Maureen Johnson’s newest and it only seemed natural to feature them together. I mean, they have a lot in common if you forgot the whole serial killer aspect of one of them. They both have her trademark humor, quirky yet extremely lovable characters, and they are both set in Europe. Also, both protagonists have nicknames than end in “Y” but real first names that end in “A.”

Honestly, I probably don’t even need to review these books for you to know how fabulous they are. Just take a peek at Maureen’s twitter account and you’ll see for yourself how funny and entertaining she is. I promise that same humor is on every page of her book. So if it seems like my review is a little, um, fangirly, that’s only because it is. Because Maureen is one of my favorite writers, she’s a huge influence on my own humorous writing voice, and every time I read one of her books I just want to hug it when I finish.

First I’ll discuss THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE, which is already out and waiting in a bookstore for your reading pleasure. Then I’ll tackle THE NAME OF THE STAR which comes out September 29th but if you preorder from my favorite bookstore BOOKS OF WONDER in NYC, Maureen will sign your copy. So, you should do that.

Ironically, I just received her newsletter in the mail where she announced a launch party at BOOKS OF WONDER. I know where I’ll be September 27th!

THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE

What It’s About:

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

What I Thought:

First, yay for a non-headless girl cover!

It’s rare when I like a sequel better than the original book, especially when I LOVED the original book as I did with THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES. But I loved this book more.

My favorite part of the book was Oliver. I kept turning pages not sure whether I should be wary of him or start to fall for him. He was the perfect balance of villain and ally. I did sway heavily to one side of my thoughts on him, but I won’t say which because figuring him out was one of my favorite parts of this book’s journey. Oliver is such a great character. He blackmails Ginny by holding the last envelope hostage. He has a penchant for memorizing things, like, oh say a large chunk of the Harry Potter series.

I also was extremely impressed how Maureen made Ginny’s crush Keith’s new girlfriend so LIKABLE. I adored her! And just like Ginny, I wanted to hate her but I couldn’t.

This book definitely had some quirky and memorable scenes, such as a scene involving an abundance of cats, and a breaking and entering scene that had me laughing as well as biting my nails. Aunt Peg’s vague clues also led to adventure and hilarity in equal parts. And of course, how could I not love that New Years scene?

Maureen did a great job making me switch allegiances several times in this book. It was the perfect sequel and resolution to Ginny’s story with and ending that still leaves room for more adventures.

THE NAME OF THE STAR

What It’s About:

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

What I Thought:

I’ll admit, I was a little leery about this one. I waited in line for hours at BEA picked it up at BEA just to get it even though I didn’t know much about it. I probably would have waited in line for Maureen to hand out blank pieces of paper. It’s Maureen! Once I read the back of the book blurb, I got a little apprehensive. I hate violence. I hate gore. I love humor. Specifically, I love Maureen’s humor. Would this book be like her others? Could I even handle it?

Thankfully, I decided to be brave and give it a chance. And OMG, I AM SO GLAD I DID. I can honestly say that this is my FAVORITE book from BEA so far. That’s not an exaggeration. I devoured this book. Though it does have gore it also has HUMOR! And it turns out, that’s the exact formula my wimpy self needs to deal with the scary stuff. And oh, it was scary. I was on the edge of my seat but too entertained to care about clutching the book with white knuckles. The story fascinated me and the premise intrigued me. I LOVED the paranormal twist. We’ve all read stories where humans can see ghosts but this went to a fresh new level that I just adored. It’s hard not to squee when I talk about this book.

The setting was perfect for this book, not just because of the Ripper connection but because it was a fresh place to take paranormal. And Rory, as our American guide to life in London, provided us with many hilarious and unique observations. Rory is the perfect protagonist, strong yet vulnerable, willing to do whatever it takes to protect others, the kind of protagonist you definitely want to spend future books with. I just wanted to be her friend. Preferably while she’s kicking butt and saving my ass.

But the supporting cast also stands out, each stealing scenes they’re in. There’s Jerome, who is endearing with his blend of mischievous mixed with romantic aloofness. I also think his obsession with Ripper mania worked perfectly as a way to get some of the history in without bogging down the story. It was enough intrigue to send me reading up on Wikipedia pages about Jack the Ripper, something I never would have done otherwise. I also loved the trio of Stephen, Boo, and Callum, specifically upbeat Boo. And there are a few other great characters that I don’t want to spoil. A certain one in the library for example.

Though I love Maureen’s contemporaries, I’m really glad she tackled this new genre.

WE INTERRUPT THIS BOOKANISTA BROADCAST…

…to celebrate WRITE ON CON! For some fun writer insights and pep talks, click along to…Christine FonsecaBeth Revis and Jessi Kirby.

And, we know you MUST have your Thursday Bookanista reviews so here you go!

Veronica Rossi loves Legend
Shana Silver serves up a Maureen Johnson double feature of The Last Little Blue Envelope & The Name of the Star
Scott Tracey is awed by Anna Dressed in Blood
Bethany Wiggins howls over How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend
Carrie Harris is in a frenzy over Stupid Fast
Gretchen McNeil is spellbound by Witch Eyes
Carolina Valdez Miller and Shelli Johannes-Wells are passionate about Possess
Matt Blackstone blogs From Bedside

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Friday Five

1. Ahhhhh next week is SCBWI LA!!!! I’m so excited! I’m rooming with Jessica Love and Heather Trese, who are awesome and I can’t wait to hang out with them. There will be a Bookanista meet up, Kidlit Drinks on Sunday night at Pink Taco, John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson…it’s going to be amazing!

I want to meet everyone there so if you recognize me, please say hello! Here’s a tip, I’m only five feet tall. So…look down. Hopefully I make up in personality what I lack in height!

2. After the conference, my husband is flying out on Monday to meet me in LA. We’re going to spend the week doing these cool things:

  • Visiting Dreamworks studio and eating lunch in their cafeteria. (My cousin’s husband works there.)
  • Seeing a taping of TWO BROKE GIRLS.
  • Possibly seeing a taping of THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO. (I have tix, just trying to figure out if they conflict with our plans.)
  • Hopefully witnessing the taping of a comedy podcast.
  • Going to Disneyland
  • Spending a day at the beach
  • Eating at lots of awesome restaurants (though it might be sad that what I’m REALLY excited for is IN AND OUT BURGER).
  • Hanging with my cousin, who I don’t see often since she moved from NJ to LA
  • Plus lots of touristy and shopping goodness

I’m in desperate need of a vacation after a crazy and stressful month at work so this is coming at the perfect time!

3. I know I’ve been sort of MIA on here aside from Bookanista Reviews. I’ve been traveling a lot. To Boston to hang with the in-laws (and attend a wedding). To Philly and Fort Lauderdale, FL for work. And I’ve been using what little time I have for my revisions. I have multiple novels to revise, which leaves very little time for blogging.  So bad news, you get less of me. Good news, my novels are going super well!

4. Last night I went to a Weezer/Flaming Lips concert. It was awesome! But also really strange. In a good way though. The bands both headlined, but instead of playing back to back, they played side to side. Meaning, the stage was set up with both bands’ equipment. The lead singers came out at the same time–inside giant human-sized bubbles–and performed a song together with every member of the bands playing. Then they traded set-lists with each band playing approximately 3 songs before taking a break. Really, it was more like Weezer played 3 songs and the Flaming Lips played one very very long atmospheric song. This went on for several different rounds.

I’m a HUGE Weezer fan but I only really know one song by the Flaming Lips. However, their part of the concert really blew me away. They had a lot of theatrics which was very entertaining and fun to watch. The lead singer sang an entire song while on the shoulders of a marching guy in a bear costume. He had smoking megaphones he snag out of. At one point he used his mic to swat at balloons filled with confetti that rained down on him on impact. About 30 girls dressed in sailor costumes a la Sailor Moon danced on stage for every one of their songs. And they had crazy cool graphics in the background.

Weezer were awesome as ever. I’m THRILLED they played THE GOOD LIFE because it’s my fave song and they didn’t play it at the last concert. They also played SUSANNE, another song I’ve loved ever since Mallrats, so I was excited about that. They played mostly old stuff and skipped a lot of their newer singles, which was cool with me. I like their old stuff! (I like their new stuff too.) Rivers sang an entire song from the center of the audience and then stayed there to watch one of the Flaming Lips sets.
Great concert! And I don’t even mind that I’m a zombie today thanks to lack of sleep.

5. My only regret about the concert is that it was the same night that BUSH played in NYC. I had to choose, and I love both bands! My husband likes Weezer more, so we went there. But I have a long time love affair with Bush, dating back to 1995 when…I created my own fanzine to them and had thousands of subscribers. And no I’m not ashamed!

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Bookanistas Review: The Near Witch

What it’s about:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

What I thought:

I read this book in one sitting. I literally couldn’t put it down. Reading in one sitting sounds normal for someone who likes to read, but I rarely do it, mostly because I usually just read on my commute. But I was so into this book, as soon as I got home I quarantined myself in the bedroom and read until the end, forgoing sleep to do it!

As you may have guessed, I loved it. I’m a huge fan of fairy tales and this one is an instant classic!

The writing is gorgeous, every sentence so visual and evocative. It really made the emotions and atmosphere and scene settings come alive.

And the characters! Lexi is such an awesome protagonist. I love strong female characters who defy the limitations society forces upon them. Lexi wears a skirt but carries a knife. Lexi sneaks out when she’s told she must stay home. Lexi befriends the mysterious new guy and believes he’s innocent when everyone else in town sets out on a witch hunt for him. Cole, the new boy love interest, swept me up. He was sexy and mysterious but also sympathetic and vulnerable. I ached for what he’s been through and just wanted to reach out and hug him. But I also didn’t know whether I could trust him like Lexi, so that kept me on the edge of my seat. I adored the fact that Lexi gave him his name, which really did fit him perfectly.

I also loved Lexi’s little sister Wren and understood how fiercely Lexi wanted to protect her. She was a little spitfire and the tension of whether or not Wren would be next to disappear kept me riveted.

The book was creepy, and I mean that in a good way. An edge-of-your-seat way. The children keep disappearing and the wind seems to be luring them from their beds. The fairy tales of The Near Witch may or may not be real. Magic is afoot, making it difficult to separate reality from illusion.

This is the kind of book that will stay with me, much like the fairy tales I grew up with. LOVED!

Check out what the other Bookanistas are reading this week:

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Monday Musings: Inspiration

Monday Musings is a weekly event hosted by Jen HayleyShana Silver, and Chandler Craig that highlights some aspect of the writing life. Short on blog topics? Everyone is welcome to participate. All we ask is that you link to one of our posts and leave your link in the comments. We’ll provide the following week’s topic at the end of each Monday’s post.

Today’s Topic: Where do you go for inspiration?

You know how it goes. You’re in a writing slump. You can’t get out. You feel uncreative and uninspired.

But everyone has their little tricks to getting back in the writing zone. I’m not talking about the tricks that take you by surprise, like a new book you read that sweeps you off your feet and sends you into a writing frenzy because you remember how much you want to do that to someone else. I’m talking about the places you continually turn to for inspiration, the ones you *know* are always going to get you back in the groove.

So today I’ll discuss what *my* tricks are. I’d love to hear yours as well! Feel free to blog about this topic and link us back to it!

For me, there are generally two types of things I need to constant renewal of inspiration for. The first is VOICE. The second is EMOTIONS. I generally never get stuck on plot or character. Those are things I can brainstorm my way out of. But when it seems like the writing itself sucks and I need a “voice pick me up” or I’m just not hitting the emotional impact of a scene, I have places I go to for help.

My inspiration mostly comes in the form of television shows. This is nothing against books, but  it’s generally much faster for me to watch an hour show for inspiration than to re-read a fave book. TV leads to productivity!

VOICE

I tend to write books with a lot of humor and wit in them, so the best place I can turn is someplace that also has the kind of humor and wit I write. There are two foolproof places for that:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

"Out. For. A. Walk...Bitch."

and VERONICA MARS.

Keith: So how was your date? Veronica: Oh, you know. Lousy conversation, but the sex was fantastic! Keith: That's not funny. Veronica: I don't know. I'm pretty sure it was.

Logan: Do you have any idea what your little joke cost me? Veronica: Well, I'm pretty sure you won't be getting your bong back. Logan: Wrong answer. Would you care to guess again? Veronica: Clearly your sense of humor...

Van Clemmons: Mr. Echolls, I was wondering if I could have a word? Logan: Anthropomorphic. All yours, big guy.

I'm so impressed you fit a pony into my room!


The dialogue in both shows automatically puts me in the mindset to revise. Once I’m in the mindset, funny things just fly out of my mouth (or more accurately, my fingers). I’d be really awesome at witty comebacks in real life if I was able to fuel up by watching an episode of these shows.

Veronica and Buffy also helps when I need inspiration on characters. Each one is unique, quirky, and each one believes they are the star of their own show even though Buffy is the protagonist. That’s an important thing to remember.

Also, there’s Spike. And Logan. And I LOVE bad boys who choose to turn good. So watching these shows helps me remember what kinds of qualities I adore in love interests so I can apply them to my own books.

EMOTIONS

My So-Called Life

There are certain shows that just make me feel. They always put me in the teen mindset and let me tap into the emotions of the characters. There’s one clear cut example I turn to for inspiration. The show is brilliant in the way it conveys the emotions of the characters, but since I was in high school (okay, Junior high) when this show first aired, it automatically brings me back to how *I* was feeling at that time.

MUSIC

I also listen to 90s music because it’s nostalgic for me and a lot of the songs remind me of emotions I was going through at the time.

If I need to write about a character whose pining after a guy she can’t have, I listen to a variety of songs *I* listened to as a teen when I was pining after a guy I couldn’t have. Not all of these are necessarily about that particular subject, but they bring me back to how I was feeling at the time. Some songs I might choose:

  • Strange Currencies by REM
  • Glycerine by Bush
  • Straight No Chaser by Bush
  • I Want You by Third Eye Blind
  • Motorcycle Drive By by Third Eye Blind.
  • Loneliness is Worse by Veruca Salt
  • El Scorcho by Weezer
  • Late at Night by Buffalo Tom (which I tried to make as my first dance song at my wedding but Hubs said no.)
  • Never is a Promise by Fiona Apple

If I need to write a scene where two friends are fighting, I might pull up these tracks:

  • Dangerous Type by Letters to Cleo (from the movie The Craft)
  • Venus Man Trap by Veruca Salt
  • One Last Time by Veruca Salt
  • Shadowboxer by Fiona Apple

I have songs for all topics but I’ll spare you the other playlists for now.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Comment or blog on this topic!

And tune in next week where our Monday Musings topic will be GHOSTS OF REVISIONS PAST.

Shadowboxer by Fiona Apple

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Bookanistas Review: FOREVER

First, I wanted to give a big shout out to fellow Bookanista MATT BLACKSTONE whose novel A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE came out this week. I went to Matt’s reading last night and he did a great job! He had the audience in hysterics.

And now onto my review of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater:

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stiefvater

then.

When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.

now.

That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.

forever.

Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment – a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

I was so eagerly anticipating this book that when I saw a tweet from Scholastic the day before BEA with images of available ARCs, I made all my friends head straight there with me when the doors opened at 9am. Of course, I had already been at the Javits since 7am so I could be first in line.

I’m going to try to do this review without spoilers because I think this is the type of book fans of the series should go into without any prior information and experience for themselves. I didn’t even read the back cover when I started reading and I’m glad I did because it made the story unfold as the author intended it.

I thought this was a brilliant end to the series! I loved every minute of it. I cared so deeply about these characters, I turned every page with apprehension and fear that they wouldn’t make it out okay. I won’t spoil as to whether or not they did or didn’t, you have to read that for yourself!

The writing is as gorgeous as ever. I had to stop many times just to stare at the pretty. I wanted to pet certain sentences. I’m extremely impressed with the way Maggie so easily and seamlessly juggles four first-person narrators. I never once got confused about whose head I was in. Each narrator has a distinct voice, and I love them all. I think that’s a difficult feat to make a reader care equally about every character and every individual plot of theirs. I didn’t prefer one over the other.

I loved the plot as well. The time factor in this novel kept things exciting, as did the unpredictability of certain things that put a damper in the characters’ plans. I know that’s vague, I’m sorry!

Seriously, my only complain was that Cole wasn’t naked enough!

Love love love this series and I’m very sad to see it end, even if I’m satisfied with the ending.

CHECK OUT WHAT THE OTHER BOOKANISTAS ARE READING THIS WEEK:

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Bookanistas Review: Hourglass

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

One hour to rewrite the past . . .

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

Wow! There’s so much to love about this book I don’t even know where to begin. The writing is gorgeous, very visual with a unique voice that made me want to savor individual sentences.

The plot itself kept me riveted, and the twists and turns didn’t disappoint. I feverishly turned pages to find out what would happen, not knowing who I could trust or even who would survive. Several times I gasped at the awesome surprises that I didn’t see coming. I love an unpredictable book that keeps me on my toes!

But I think the best part of all were the characters. I’m not just talking about Emerson and Michael, but every single character in this book felt fully realized. Lily, Emerson’s best friend, was so full of life she stole every scene she was in. Same with Emerson’s brother and his wife. Usually I could care less about adults in stories, but I adored these too, I wanted them to be happy, I even wanted more of them on the page! I thought the relationship Emerson had with Dru was unique, something I don’t normally see in YA, and that was refreshing.

And oh, then there’s Kaleb. Oh my! He made me smile with every word out of his mouth. This is a love triangle that left me completely torn when usually I vastly prefer one love interest over the other.

Michael was dreamy and mysterious and just like Emerson, I fell for him immediately. I loved the way their relationship sprang to life so easily, and I was fully invested in it from the start.

Emerson has to be one of my favorite protagonists. She’s vulnerable yet feisty, strong yet sympathetic. She’s the kind of girl I would want as a friend, the kind of girl I love spending hundreds of pages inside the head of. I cared a lot about her by the end and didn’t want the book to end because of that.

Lastly, the time travel aspects in this book were awesome! I loved the twist on the usual time travel stories I see. Time slips, seeing remnants from the past, I loved it. And I especially loved how essential it was to the plot.

CHECK OUT WHAT THE OTHER BOOKANISTAS ARE READING THIS WEEK:

Elana Johnson adores A Need So Beautiful
LiLa Roecker is gaga for Are You Going to Kiss Me Now?
Christine Fonseca interviews YA Fiction for Dummies author Deborah Halverson – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie author Matt Blackstone
Carolina Valdez Miller is wowed by Wildfire – with giveaway
Shana Silver and Veronica Rossi gush over Hourglass

Jen Hayley delves into Divergent
Rosemary Clement-Moore thinks Chime is divine
Stasia Ward Kehoe has applause for Trauma Queen

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Monday Musings: Naming Characters

Monday Musings is a weekly event hosted by Jen HayleyShana Silver, and Chandler Craig that highlights some aspect of the writing life. Short on blog topics? Everyone is welcome to participate. All we ask is that you link to one of our posts and leave your link in the comments. We’ll provide the following week’s topic by Wednesday of each week.

TODAY’S TOPIC: NAMING CHARACTERS

So, I have issues with names. I hated my first name growing up. It was extremely common and I wished my parents had switched my names so my middle name was first. In college, I had a clean slate. I told people to start calling me my middle name, and I’ve gone by Shana ever since.

I realize I’m not naming children when I name characters, and changing their name is as simple as FIND AND REPLACE and not, you know, contacting the Social Security office. But I still go through major stress trying to find the right name.

I have several different methods of finding names. They are as follows

The character shows up already named

Sometimes a name and personality comes to me fully formed, such as was the case with a trunked novel of mine called RHTHYM AND CLUES where the protagonist nicknamed herself Moxie because she hated her plain real name (writing from experience? what?). With a name like Moxie you have to have a feisty personality, and oh, she did. From the first moment she showed up in my head demanding I write her story.

The character inherits their name from someone else

I contrasted Moxie with a quiet and reserved love interest who wanted the guts to form a band (against his parents wishes). Since he was a musician, I named him after the musician I was in love with in high school, Gavin Rossdale of Bush fame.

Like Gavin, sometimes I choose names that are homages to people. They don’t have to be people I know. Like my mom’s friend’s daughter is named Lara. I’ve never met her but I LOVED the name so I used that name for the sister of one of my protagonists. Corey, the love interest of my college-set book is named for my sister’s middle name, which is Cory. The protagonist of that college-set novel used to be Mandie, which was the name of my imaginary friend when I was kid. I named a villain in one of my books Josh, after my husband, only because he wanted a character named after him and I decided it would be way more fun to make him a villain!!! To bad that character is getting the ax in my next revision.

The character requires an extensive name hunt

But usually names don’t come to me so easily. Usually I have to seek them out by pouring over hundreds of baby name websites. The protagonist of THE ART OF SELLING MY SISTER got her name thanks to a random name generator.

I kept refreshing to see what names it would come up with. Kasey (in a few different spellings) kept coming up and catching my eye. I decided the name was calling to me, and it was. It is so perfectly her name.

My name search isn’t always successful. A few years ago for nanowrimo I tried to write a paranormal book involving Greek mythology. I couldn’t decide on a protagonist name. I tried several. I wrote portions of the first draft with the protagonist named Eleni and portions with the protagonist named Leda. Those names were both of Greek origin and just weren’t working for me. I tried non-Greek names like Tabitha and Aubrey. Eventually I had to stop writing because without a concrete name, I couldn’t pinpoint her personality. I kept changing that too and eventually lost sight of her, and the story. So I trunked this book part way through the first draft.

The character has a name I can’t change

This whole name debacle really stressed me out and it’s one of the things that led to me writing retellings. Because I had no choice about names. You can’t have an Alice In Wonderland retelling and not name the protagonist Alice. Though I did fight it during the first draft. All the secondary characters had different names that were unrelated to the original book. Eventually I gave in and changed the names to more thoroughly match the book.

The character has a name I like but it must change

Often times, I pick a name and like it, but my betas come back and tell me it’s a bit confusing. For example, Arielle became Laci in one book because the name Arielle was too similar in length to other characters in the same story. In the first draft of my ALICE retelling, I based the White Rabbit character off a really quirky character from a short story I wrote that I never sold. The short story had nothing to do with Alice, but during the first draft of my retelling, I kept the character named Kayla so it would help me keep her consistent while I wrote. Clearly that wouldn’t work for a retelling so I eventually had to rename her Whitney. At first I hated it but now I can’t imagine her as anything else! The love interest at first was based off the Gryphon and slightly off the cheshire cat, so I named him Griffin Katz. I liked it but I eventually changed the Gryphon scene to not include his character and in my revisions he ended up embodying way more of the cheshire cat traits. So I changed his name to Chester “Chess” Katz and it works MUCH much better.

The character gets his name as a result of something book related.

Speaking of love interests…

Once I get the protagonist’s name and her personality, I can usually find a love interest name to match. I also usually know his personality before I figure out his name so it’s easier. And I’m only attracted to a select type of male protagonist names so I know which names to avoid. Finn was Kasey’s love interest and he got his name because she has an irrational fear of fish. His name provided me so opportunity for humor in the book.

Future character names…

The retelling I’m currently revising had less leeway with the names than Alice so I didn’t have much to argue and fight on. But I’m simultaneously outlining a non-retelling. Two actually. And guess what? In one of those outlines, the characters still don’t have names even though I have most of the plot worked out.

Sigh. Looks like I have hours of baby name searching ahead of me!

How do you name your characters?

We’d love to see you blog on this subject! Link us in the comments to your post!

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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So out of utter boredom and a competition with my husband to see who had more famous people hail from our hometowns or the one next to it (for me that’s Manalapan, NJ and Marlboro, NJ and for him that’s Needham, MA, and Newton, MA). He won the competition with Newton but…you guys…I DISCOVERED THAT STEFAN FROM VAMPIRE DIARIES IS FROM MARLBORO, NJ!

Let me step back and explain something for a second. Though I grew up in Manalapan, all my friends went to Marlboro. I bided my time with acquaintances during high school itself but as soon as school let out each day I hung out with people from Marlboro. Though I went to Manalapan’s junior and senior prom, I also went to Marlboro’s senior prom (they didn’t have a junior one). The reason all my friends were from Marlboro was because I met them all at travel camp and liked them better than people from my own school.

So though I graduated from Manalapan, I always felt like I sort of went to Marlboro too since I knew more people from that school.

Which clearly means that Stefan Paul Wesley and I are soul mates.

I am quite horrified by that statement. I now feel compelled (haha vamp joke) to root for him on the show even though I am 100% Team Damon.

This is an awful conundrum to be in. I now feel as torn as Elena.

I wonder if my dad was Stefan’s eye doctor. I wonder if I’ve sat next to him in restaurants and didn’t know it. Maybe I even talked to him at prom. Oh, this is too much.

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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First up, the winner of last week’s BLOODLINES giveaway. Then, my review of SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White!

WOW. What a turn out for the Bloodlines contest! I’m immensely impressed at the dedication some of you showed to tweeting and commenting to win the book.

Over 200 comments on the blog. *dies*

Over 50 tweets about the contest.

It makes me wish I had more than one ARC to giveaway so you could all be winners! I really hate disappointing some of you. Though thankfully it’s random.org doing the disappointing by choosing the winner for me. I shall blame them!

I entered every single comment and @reply tweet into an excel document in separate rows so they’d be numbered and then simply entered the range into random.org. And the winner is…

Number 180 in the excel spreadsheet is…

CONGRATS ALEXA!!!

Please email me your address to shanasilver at gmail dot com. I will send it out this weekend if I get your address by this Saturday morning, otherwise I won’t be able to mail it out until next Friday since I’ll be away at a conference all next week.

Thanks to all who entered!

This week on the Bookanistas I’m reviewing SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White!

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’sshocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

I adored Paranormalcy so I was really eager for the sequel. Evie is one of my favorite YA protagonists ever. She’s extremely strong yet vulnerable. She’s funny yet serious when it comes to danger and her job. Her love of pink can only rival my own. And her “want” of a normal life complete with a locker is relatable. Don’t we all want to belong? I also loved the sweet romance with Lend.

I’m happy to say I think I loved Evie even more in Supernaturally. She’s even stronger now, making her own decisions about who to work for and when. She continually saves herself instead of waiting for a guy to do it, like a lot of the protagonists I read. She’s even more hilarious in this book just as she’s even more determined. I laughed out loud several times, even while my heart beat fast as she was in danger. And when I wasn’t laughing, I wanted to hug her and the book.

I’m glad we got more scenes with Arianna because I loved her in this book and really felt for her even when it was something simple as being stood up for plans she’d made.

Lend is still totally *swoon worthy* and I loved the realistic turn their relationship took. It’s not as all-consuming cuteness as the first book because now secrets (and college) try to pry their relationship apart, but I continually root for these two and I couldn’t turn pages fast enough to see what would happen.

One thing that comes between them is a new character named Jack who just may be one of my favorite literary characters ever. He’s mysterious and fun-loving and acrobatic and unpredictable, which made him immensely entertaining.

I’m in awe of Kiersten’s ability to make me fall for her characters, whether they’re good or evil. So many times in this book I found myself feeling bad for the vampires and other creatures Evie was supposed to capture. It’s difficult to make a guy trying to kill the protagonist I love sympathetic, but Kiersten does it!

Love this book! The only problem with it is that I don’t have the third book in the series in my hands already!

CHECK OUT WHAT THE REST OF THE BOOKANISTAS ARE READING THIS WEEK:

Elana Johnson adores Hourglass

Beth Revis has cover love for Incarnate

Shana Silver swoons over Supernaturally

Rosemary Clement-Moore jumps for Jinx

Stasia Ward Kehoe praises Possession

Gretchen McNeil is giddy about Moonglass

Sarah Frances Hardy brags about The Grandma Book

Carrie Harris raves about Variant

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Originally published at shana-silver.com. You can comment here or there.

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Shana's Novels

Represented by Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown Ltd.


WEBSITE
http://www.shana-silver.com


ALICE IN WONDERLAND HIGH
A non-fantasy retelling of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in which sixteen-year old Alice follows a rebellious new friend on an adventure through the underground (i.e. secret society) of Wonderland High. Curiouser and curiouser.


THE ART OF SELLING MY SISTER
Kasey Fishbein, sixteen, ruins her older sister's life by destroying her chances at a college dance scholarship. Now, she has to fix things for Lara before their parents find out.






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HOW TO CONTACT SHANA:

  • E-mail me: shanasilver at gmail dot com
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