Thursday, June 28, 2012

SKYLARK review and ARC Giveaway

So. It's been a while since I've done any book reviews, for the Bookanistas or otherwise. A lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I got a bit burnt out on them. Not reading, just writing about them. Alas. It is what it is.

BUT there's one book that I loved so much it's monopolized my thoughts to such an extent I feel compelled to write about books again. I hate saying that...that I've been too worn out to blog about books (especially since that's not the only/primary reason it's been so long). But be that as it may, it takes reading seriously good books for me to allocate writing time for reviews. This means: you should trust me when I tell you this book I'm writing about is worth buying, reading, and then reading again. This also means: the ARC I'm giving away is not in mint condition because I've read it more than once, but it's still quite lovely and beautiful and reads like a gem. Make sure you enter to win it; short entry form is beneath the review.

SKYLARK by Meagan Spooner

From the ARC: Vis in magia, in vita vi. In magic there is power, and in power, life.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.
Lark did not expect to become the City's power supply.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she's ever known...or face a fate more unimaginable than death.

My Review

SKYLARK is not at all what I expected. Not to say that I actually had any expectations, other than it would be good, but I came away from it with that breathless feeling you get when a book hits you just right. Because you never know how well you'll like a book, really. (Except maybe some blockbuster everyone raves about, and even then you might end up like, "Pshaw, whatev. So he sparkled.")* But like most books that stun you when you're finished--you know, leaving you staring into a blank space not quite back to reality yet--it's really tough to express just why it was so right for you. I suppose, for me, it's because this is just the sort of book I would want to write as well as read. It has all those rich, bookish elements that make you call in sick to work or school just so you can stay in that fictional world of awesome for just a little bit longer.

On a more general plane, this book is a genre buster. Fantasy, sure. Science Fiction, too. Dystopian(ish). Romance. Mystery. A touch of steampunk. Oh, and YA. But it doesn't read like typical YA. Not that typical YA is a bad thing, or that there's even such a thing as typical YA (seriously, there probably isn't). But this is, I don't know. Glorious? Like Daughter of Smoke and Bone kind of amazing, pulling together these genres into a creation all of its own. And the magic--oh my word, the MAGIC. I was blown away. So freaking original how magic works in this world. I'm not sure if I can say this even, because it's not in the summary. So I'm treading carefully here, people. I don't want to spoil it for you. But...imagine a world where magic is everywhere. Where everyone is born a wizard of sorts. Where there are no "muggles." That fate more unimaginable than death? Yeah. Lark's role as a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city plays into that whole magic thing. That's what I mean about the mesh of genres--it's an incredible interweaving of fantasy and science fiction--a blend of magic and clockworks and the unfolding of a great mystery with twists that will knock you cross-eyed. You just won't see it coming.

And can I just say...the romance will make you sigh ever so dreamily. But not because it's that love-at-first-sight unrealistic kind of love. But that Catherine and Heathcliff kind of love where your souls, no matter what they are made of, are quite the same. The kind where no matter how much you turn away to save yourself, you must always turn back or risk losing who you are. Sigh sigh SIGH. It's beautiful. But real, too. As real as love can be in a fantasy. And that, folks, is because the writing is so spectacular full of rich details, characters so genuine with complicated ranges of emotions and vivid settings that feel just familiar enough to ground the reader. The thing that sucks, of course, is that just like in Wuthering Heights you have no idea how it will end up for the lovebirds. But that's what makes it so great, too. The end is not a sure thing, other than it will end when the pages stop. You'll just have to read to the end to see how it all turns out for Lark and--wait. I just realized there's no romance mentioned in the summary. Well. There is a dude, FYI. Hope I didn't just ruin that for you.

Ultimately, though, it's Lark's story. She's the hero, and a tough chick at that. Well, she doesn't start out tough. But she'll get there. Man, I love that about this book. No one's born kickass, you know. Stuff has to happen to make you steel. SKYLARK demonstrates just that. But even better? It illustrates that you can fight like a boss no matter how fragile you are. SKYLARK is a book that will stay with you, a book you'll want to come back to over and over--and find something new every time.

SKYLARK is due for release August 1, 2012.

ARC OF SKYLARK International Giveaway

CLICK HERE to Enter to Win an ARC of SKYLARK
(opens in new window)

This giveaway is international and ends Friday, July 6, midnight EST. You must be 13 years old to

enter. If you win, you will need to provide an address for shipment. Under 18's must have parent/guardian permission to enter.


The winner the ARC of SKYLARK by Meagan Spooner is:


Congratulations! Please email me an address to which I can ship your ARC.

THANK YOU to all who entered! Stay tuned for my next giveaway...

Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are raving about today:

Elana Johnson raves about PERCEPTION.
Carolina Valdez Miller celebrates SKYLARK with an ARC Giveaway
Tracy Banghart praises 12 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES

*I did actually enjoy the sparkly books, people. I'm not hatin. Just hypothesizing. Example-izing, so to speak.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Kindness Project: Do Good Anyway

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Do Good Anyway

I'd like to say that kindness is easy. That it's simple, really.

But. It's not even easy to talk about always. That's what I'm discovering.

Last month when a bunch of us were first discussing the creation of The Kindness Project, several writers expressed their concern that they didn't feel kind--that they weren't "qualified" when it came to matters of kindness. And you know what I told them? "You're one of the kindest people I know." I suppose it's a matter of perception, really. And self-perception is often a bit skewed.

But not always. Sometimes we're truly not kind. Sometimes, we're complete jackwads. And the truth is I don't feel qualified to do this, to talk about kindness as a conscious choice. A lifetime habit. A matter of existence. I've never struggled so much with a blog post as I have with this one. Because who the hell am I to be talking about kindness? I don't know anything about being good.

Let me confess. I've not been right for a long time. Like, all kinds of sad. Especially since I came back from Haiti. It's been a miserable, boiling pit of heartbreak and helplessness. I've blamed myself, feeling, well...guilty. I didn't do enough; I made poor choices; I'm not and will never be enough. It's hard to explain without going into the thick of it, which would take a long time and I'd have to leave a lot of blank spaces for you at the end of it all. But I told myself this would be a good post for The Kindness Project. I'd talk about forgiveness, see. Like, forgiving the self as a matter of kindness--accepting the self, faults and frailties included. So I sat down last night and stared into my video camera because no matter how hard I tried to write it down, the words just wouldn't come out right. And I stared for hours. I finally gave up at 3:30 AM when I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't let myself go into that sad place, not then. I've tried so hard not to think about it, you know? And really, I'm not at a place of forgiveness yet, not for me. I still feel so raw, so wrong. So how can I inspire you to forgive yourself?

The problem with feeling like you're no good at all is that you turn away from things you love. You don't deserve them, you think. Or you don't know how to look at them without being reminded of the wrongness in you. Your friends. Your family. Your spouse.Your church. Your writing. Freaking cupcakes.

I've denied myself all these things.

And just as bad? You start thinking that you're not really capable of kindness. People will see right through it, right? They'll see what a fraud you are. Who do you think you are with all your pretenses?

It doesn't matter how logical you are. How wise. How experienced. It's hard to feel like you might be judged for doing bad things. But it's even harder to feel like you can do good things and it means nothing at all, that everyone will question your motives. Or worse, that YOU might.

Just tonight I was texting my friend Liz (at 11:30 PM) that I still couldn't get myself to blog about kindness. Kindness block, she called it. I talked to her a little about why. And you know what she did? She reminded me of the tattoo I'm getting: "Do good anyway."

Huh. Yeah. Yeah.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

--Mother Teresa

The thing is, it doesn't matter how good or bad you feel inside or what people will think, or if they will question your motives. It doesn't even matter if the reasons for doing good and being kind are screwed up. It only matters that you do good. The things you've done in your past are just that--YOUR PAST. The bad choices you make now and tomorrow and after may not be erased by the good that you do, but you must do good anyway. 

Because the bad, the guilt, the wrong inside does not erase the good that you do. So do it. Do good anyway.

Be sure to check out the other June posts for The Kindness Project

 Sophia Chang                  
 Erica Chapman                      
Jessica Corra                        
Elizabeth Davis                       
Christa Desir                          
Sarah Fine                              
Claire Hennessy                     
Elana Johnson                        
Amie Kaufman                        
Liza Kane
Sara Larson
Matthew MacNish
Sara McClung
Leigh Moore
Tracey Neithercott 

Feeling inspired to join us? Grab our banner and inspire a little kindness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Stuff

Not my book stuff. Yet. But I wanted to bring your attention to some really cool book news.

First, check out this brilliant cover for Kimberley Griffiths Little's newest book


Isn't it gorgeous!!!

To be released Spring 2013 from Scholastic

Synopsis cover copy: Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But in reality, Tara’s life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mother is depressed and distant, and she and her sister Riley can’t seem to agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire’s funeral, Tara just knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve.
A strange butler shows up to take Tara and Riley to Grammy Claire’s house, where Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire herself. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother’s life. As the letters grow more ominous and the keys more difficult to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to mortal danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful island of Chuuk to hear their grandmother’s will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all — one that will change her life forever.
From Kimberley Griffiths Little comes a magical, breathtaking mystery full of loss and love, family and faith.

I cannot WAIT for this one. Kimberley's writing sweeps me in every time. Here's my review of Kimberley's THE HEALING SPELL. I'll try to get a review of CIRCLE OF SECRETS (Scholastic, OCT 2011) up soon.

FYI, Kimberley is giving away 3 ARCs of WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME along with 3 signed copies each of THE HEALING SPELL and CIRCLE OF SECRETS on her blog. You only have 2 DAYS LEFT to enter! So check it out--> Kimberley Griffiths Little GIVEAWAY.

And in other book news: Elana Johnson's latest YA novel just released!

And folks, I was blown away. Really impressed by this one. You've got to check it out. It's not a sequel, but a companion novel to POSSESSION, this one from the POV of Raine, Vi's roommate. Full review to come.

Released June 5, 2012 from Simon and Schuster

Synopsis (Goodreads): Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque. 

Purchase your copy here.

Make sure you stop by Elana's blog and check out her supremo Never Surrender blogfest, in which you can blog about a time that you didn't surrender AND in doing so, enter to win one of three $15 B&N gift cards. It's already begun, so hurry! And while you're at it, check out this super cute video about her launch day fun, originally posted at the League of Extraordinary Writers blog.

About Elana: Elana's work including POSSESSION, REGRET, and SURRENDER is available from Simon & Schuster wherever books are sold. She is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query, which can be downloaded for free on her website. She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog. She blogs regularly at The League of Extraordinary Writers, co-organizes WriteOnCon, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

She wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Love this girl! And love her work


And in non-book related news, tomorrow I and a bunch of other writers/authors will be posting for THE KINDNESS PROJECT, a series of inspirational posts on kindness as a conscious choice, and not necessarily as a random act. If you'd like to be a part of this project, please shoot me an email. Or just grab our banner and post away this Wednesday, June 13, spreading a little kindness. We'd love to have you join us.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I Take Back Everything I Ever Said About Pinterest

Not everything. It's still a major time suck, more than I'd even imagined actually. But it's an exquisite time suck.

Because here's what I didn't realize about Pinterest: it's majorly fun.

I know, right? Who knew?

Okay, so it's still not the great provider of story inspiration for me. Not how my brain works, not when I'm focused entirely on a story already in progress. My head's already kind of full, I guess. Not to say that Pinterest won't someday be a source of inspiry story goodness. It's possible I might come across something, even today, that makes me rethink a story I've already created or cause me to want to tweak a storyline or character. But, mostly as far as Pinterest and my stories go, right now? It's pretty dang awesome when I come across some new pin and think, Holy CRAP that's my [fill in the blank]!! Mega visual representation of what's already in my head and stuffed away into perfectly organized boards.

But Pinterest is more than just a tool for organizing story ideas and images.

There's also stuff like this:

Raspberry Lemon Coconut Cake

Like you can learn how to actually make this. And also people will tell you if it's good and how easy it is and how much they bitegasmed over it; and if it appeals to you, you can pin it and return to it whenever you want. So easy. So scrumptious.

And there's stuff like this:


Which is funny and hits so close to home you have to snort as you pin it to your own "Crazytalk Full of Awesome" board just for kicks.

But also you can have boards with stuff like this:

It's not necessary to have a board dedicated entirely to Jared Leto, but, you know, if you wanted to and stuff, that's okay. (Had someone suggested an "Oh Jared" board as a possibility, I probably would've jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon ages ago.)

Or you might have an entire board dedicated just to "Hot Stuffs" or maybe you want a board dedicated to "Getting Your Hair Did Up" or to "Fancy Nail Lacquer Jobbies" or to "Miracle Solutions to Cleaning EVERYTHING" or to "Crafty Ideas that Will Make Your Head Explode" or you can do like Lola Sharp and have an entire board dedicated to "badass!"

Seriously, you know how you can find anything on the Internet? Well now all that stuff you never knew you were looking for finds its way to YOU. Or, you can go searching for it and now have a place to store it in such a way that others can see it, use it, and sing "HALLELUJAH [insert your name]!" because it was such an awesome pin.

And that's not all. The best part is you get to sort everything all out and label it and stuff, even adding funny/stupid comments if you want. It's like girls gone wild with a label gun--and the whole world gets to see what an amazing organizer you are. All those skills you've built up over the years creating little labeled cubbies and type A control freak craziness in your pantries and linen closets and garages and underwear drawers finally get their own bat channel. Other people can now dip into your little cubbies and use the stuff you store away (when you pin something to a board, it shows up on the pin stream of all the people following that board)*. And unlike with all those recipe books you own, which have collected enough dust to warrant a hazmat investigation, you can sort recipe pins into something like "Eat Me" like me, or you can break it down to "Gluten Free Eats" or "Yellow Food." Whatever trips your trigger, Tiger.

Also? Also? If you've got a super brilliant idea/image/whatever you want to share with the world, you can upload it and pin that sucker and watch it get blasted across Pinterest like juicy gossip. There's so much you can pin. Music videos, movie clips, recipes, clothes you want, trips you want to take, fantasy imagery, tips and tricks, photography ideas--ANYTHING YOUR BRAIN CAN HATCH.

Oh lord, I think I just had an Herbal Essense moment. Total mind blow.

I swear, I'm an addict now. Thanks, Lola Sharp.


If you're not using Pinterest but are curious, check out these pinners to start with. They've been at this a lot longer than I have, and I end up repinning a lot of their stuff: Actually, check them out even if you're on it already.

Lola Sharp
Mary Brebner
Rhonda Cowsert
Jane (Booketta)
Michele Powell
Sarah Ahiers
Sara Larson
Sheri Larsen

And Mine: Carolina

If you are using Pinterest, what are you using it for? Do you have any pinners you'd like to recommend? Also, leave me your pinner name  if you want and I'll look you up.

*I have no idea if I'm using the correct terminology for Pinterest. Stream, pinner, etc. Not sure if there's proper lingo for it or not. I'm just running with it.