Blogs at Amazon

Young Adult

Rysa Walker, "Time's Edge" Author, on Her Time Travel Favorites

TimesedgeRysa Walker, author of Timebound and the new follow-up Time’s Edge, discusses her passion for time travel novels and recommends a few of her favorites.

When I read, I want to experience things I've never seen, could never see, and might not want to see even if I could. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror—those are the books that jump off the shelves and into my hands. Contemporary slice-of-life need not apply.

Time travel covers multiple bases for me which is why I'm drawn to the genre as an author.  Writing Timebound and Time's Edge, the first and second book in the CHRONOS Files series, gave me a chance to combine a splash of historical fiction with a healthy dollop of sci-fi and roll it all together. 

Sadly, I've had to avoid time travel stories since I began writing the CHRONOS Files, simply because I don't want tesseracts, time-turners, or DeLoreans sneaking into my scenes. But here are a few pre-Timebound favorites that grabbed my imagination and landed on my re-read and recommend list:

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson My very first time travel book, I checked this out from the library in my early teens. No one else got a crack at it for months because I selfishly hoarded it. I later learned it was reissued as Somewhere in Time in 1980 and won a World Fantasy Award in 1976. All I knew back then was it made me cry buckets. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer didn't interest me. I grew up in the Deep South, and they were too much like kids I knew. Still, their presence on mandatory reading lists led me to this snarky bit of social commentary in a time travel wrapper. And this book pointed me toward Letters from the Earth. Those two alone earned Twain a spot on my list of favorite writers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle A trip through the tesseract is Time Travel 101 for many kids but I didn't stumble upon this series until my late teens. I wish I had found it sooner as it might have helped me weather the conformity of high school.  

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and time travel?? Yes, please.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Most readers know Lauren Oliver for her Delirium series. I liked those books but I absolutely loved this earlier standalone that reminded me a bit of the movie Groundhog Day. You can't help but pull for Samantha as she struggles again and again to finally get a critical day right.

Guest Post: Alexandra Bracken, Author of “In the Afterlight”

AfterlightAlexandra Bracken discusses the importance of music in the Darkest Minds series. The final book in the trilogy, In The Afterlight, is out on October 28.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Darkest Minds series is made up of unlikely parts.

It was the product of circumstance, really. I had just moved to New York City after graduating from college and was unprepared for how rough of an adjustment it would be. That’s a polite way of saying that I hated it. My first job left me silently crying in a bathroom stall at least twice a week, I was horribly homesick, and I was subsisting on ramen noodles six days out of seven. If you’re thinking to yourself, Wow, this girl didn’t have an ounce of emotional grit…you are exactly right.

As a survival tactic, I coped by escaping into writing a story I filled to the brim with things I love: sci-fi, road trips, old minivans, teenagers with super powers, the state of Virginia, Waffle House, impossible romance, a “found family” of friends, and classic rock.

Would it surprise you to find out that, of everything element in the series, I get asked the most about the classic rock?

Throughout the books, you’ll find references to songs and bands from the 1960s and 1970s serving as a soundtrack to different scenes, starting with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” We move through some fine Led Zeppelin selections, the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Some are mentioned by names, some are merely snippets of lyrics, but all were chosen for a reason.

There are number of layers to this. The first was that it was a world-building choice. The series is set in an America in which 98% of the under-eighteen population has died… meaning there just aren’t these young bands to create new music. The economy is shot, so even there’s a business around to produce and package the music, the customer pool is incredibly shallow. And, truthfully, in hard times I think we tend to turn to the comforting, the familiar, to feel something is stable.

More importantly, though, the majority of the songs referenced were written in direct response to times of political, social, and economic strife. They’re protests, accusations, and calls to action, many of which have lost some of their teeth forty years removed from the events on which they’re commenting. A younger generation reading the book might not know the back story that ties them to the Vietnam War, for example, but they’ve become classic because they are universal, and the struggles they depict are ongoing. They even apply to a fictional version of America that’s been ravaged by tragedy, poverty, and fear.

Then, there are the personal reasons: my own parents raised me on a steady diet of the good stuff. We debated bands on long car rides and were woken up by my dad blasting the Moody Blues’ greatest hits every weekend. There’s a feeling I’m always trying to capture, the one that comes when your favorite song is suddenly on the radio and you crank it up. The sunlight is streaming in through the windshield and you’re singing and singing and singing along. One character proudly declares the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” is “the music of [his] soul,” not because it describes his life, but because he’s chasing the feelin--that all-consuming, lifting feeling that comes with hearing it.

And, as much as the book is about teens with dangerous superpowers, let’s face it: the Darkest Minds series is also one epic cross-country road trip, and no ride is complete without a good set of tunes.

Lois Duncan: Why I Write Horror

Twisted_WindowIn anticipation of Halloween, Lois Duncan revisits the inspirations behind her horror thrillers including The Twisted Window, Gallows Hill, and more.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t plan to be a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 10, painstakingly pecking them out on my mother’s manual typewriter, and at age 13 I actually started selling them. When I was 20, I wrote my first full-length book, a sweet romance titled Debutante Hill. It was by necessity a young adult novel, because what did I know to write about other than teenage issues that reflected my protected childhood? That book was published and won a national award, and without any conscious intention for it to happen, I found myself a “niche writer,” known for her gentle love stories.

However, the time soon came when I found that restriction boring. I had outgrown my niche, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I began to take cautious risks, like placing my characters in dangerous situations and then extracting them safely with a platonic kiss at the end. My publisher was not happy with my changing what was then considered the “established formula” for my youth books. So I found another publisher, one who would let me write mysteries as long as they weren’t “edgy.”

But I wanted to be edgy. I kept pushing beyond my limits, with scarier situations and more sophisticated plotting. So again I had to change publishers. But now I was having fun and kept on pushing, and suddenly—overnight, it seemed, although it had been many years coming—I found myself being described as “Lois Duncan, the Matriarch of Young Adult Horror and the Macabre.”

Here was I, gentle, grocery-shopping, laundry-running, mother-of-five, revealed to the world as a woman with a terrifying dark side! My husband and children were stunned, but I was delighted. Writing was now not only my career and my passion; it was a game. With every new novel I tried experimenting with something different. In Killing Mr. Griffin, my protagonist was a teenage psychopath. With I Know What You Did Last Summer, I used a double-identity twist, (which worked well in the book but was omitted from the movie). The theme of Stranger With My Face was astral projection; Gallows Hill was based upon reincarnation; and Down a Dark Hall, (soon to be a major motion picture), was a ghost story.

But probably the most challenging story I ever tackled was The Twisted Window. This was an experiment with viewpoint, inspired by the fact that witnesses to a crime will appear in court and convincingly describe very different recollections. It occurred to me that the same is true of readers. They are totally influenced by the statements of the viewpoint character. But what if there were two viewpoint characters, and each saw the same thing and interpreted it differently? Would it be possible to keep spinning the reader’s responses to events in the story to coincide with opposing beliefs of each viewpoint character? It would be like gazing at the same scene through a twisted window so that things appeared one way and then abruptly appeared otherwise.

That is the reason The Twisted Window has been classified as a “horror book.” There’s no violence, no gore, no multi-fanged vampire. In fact, there’s not even a villain. The horror is the fact that readers have to keep switching their beliefs from chapter to chapter.         

Such crazy-making can be the greatest horror of all.

Gena Showalter's Recommended Halloween Reading

ZombieheartsGena Showalter introduces her latest book, The Queen of Zombie Hearts, and shares what's on her Halloween reading list.

I didn’t have Halloween in mind when I started writing Alice in Zombieland or its sequel Through the Zombie Glass—I was actually inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass—but my publisher and I agreed that October would be the perfect month to launch each new title, and I’m beyond thrilled to complete the trilogy this month with the release of The Queen of Zombie Hearts. My zombie-slaying heroine, Ali Bell, and her crew of slayers are ready to get you into the “spirit” of the season (hint, new twist on zombies, hint). I hope you enjoy falling down the zombie hole with Ali, her sometimes Cheshire-like best friend, Kat Parker, and my own secret, favorite crush, Cole Holland, who at times might just seem a little bit mad. 

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole—Poison Princess and Endless Knight: Apocalypse now, baby! The end of the world has come, and the teenage embodiments of the Arcana cards must fight to the death…because only one can survive. 

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire: Murder and mayhem: All the girls at Vienna High dream of getting on “the list,” where the hottest girls in the school are named. But this year, if you’re on the list…your life ends.

See Me by Wendy Higgins: A fantastical world of leprechauns, fae, and human magic. A modern day teenage girl must come to grips with an arranged marriage to a handsome Irish boy, but as things start to go her way, she’ll realize some things aren’t what they appear to be.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto: I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet. But what embodies Halloween better than an eerie, romantic tale with touches of horror featuring a girl haunted by ghosts and a 157-year-old tragedy involving an intriguing young man who is long dead?

The White Rabbit Chronicles by me: If I don’t like my own books, I shouldn’t be writing. Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass, and The Queen of Zombie Hearts tell the story of Alice “Ali” Bell, who learns through a terrible tragedy that the invisible monsters her father always raged about are real—and she was born to slay them.  

Sneak Peek: "The Accidental Highwayman"

Ben Tripp makes his YA debut with The Accidental Highwayman, a whimsical fantasy set in eighteenth-century England. After a series of random events unfold, Christopher “Kit” Bristol, embarks on a quest to save a fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England--only to encounter a series of fantastical obstacles (think goblins, princesses, and a magical map) along the way. The book, out on October 14, is filled with Tripp's illustrations, several of which he has shared here.


ACCIDENTAL HIGHWAYMAN art4 ACCIDENTAL HIGHWAYMAN art1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  ACCIDENTAL HIGHWAYMAN art3ACCIDENTAL HIGHWAYMAN art2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Shane Burcaw, Author of "Laughing at My Nightmare"

LaughingatmynightmareShane Burcaw became a Tumblr sensation by chronicling his life with spinal muscular atrophy on his blog, Laughing at My Nightmare. His warts-and-all-style earned him more than half a million fans. His memoir, also called Laughing at My Nightmare, is out on October 14.

If I had to choose a theme for my upcoming memoir, Laughing at My Nightmare, it would be the absurdity of living with my disability. I was born with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy, and it has been making life pretty ridiculous since I was a baby.

I got my first wheelchair at the age of three, and my favorite activity quickly became crashing into walls at full speed. Looking back, it seems silly, but at least my favorite activity wasn’t running people over or trying to drive down flights of stairs.

The wheelchair gave me incredible freedom, and, naturally, I used this freedom to get into trouble. Driving through dog poop became a new source of joy, (God, I was weird) which is a mostly harmless behavior until I came inside and drove those poop-covered wheels across the white rug in our living room. Mom was not pleased.

As I grew up, my interests turned to sports, which was not the best combination for a severely disabled boy with no regard for his own safety. My friends and I found ways to involve my wheelchair in every sport we played, often at the expense of their personal well-being. Do you know what it feels like to be tackled by a 400-pound wheelchair? My friends unfortunately do.

In school I grappled with the constant pressure to fit in, as most kids do, but my desire to be seen as “normal” despite my disability caused me to go to some extreme lengths that make me cringe today. I tried to be a hardcore skateboarder thug in middle school, grew my hair out, and held on to that identity until I finally accepted that the drug-taking, rule-breaking, hygiene-ignoring lifestyle just wasn’t for me.

Life became more serious in high school as I began to seriously contemplate the realities of my disease. I am constantly getting weaker—arms, legs, neck, jaw, lungs, throat, the whole shebang. I realized I probably would not live a full life when every tiny head cold put me in the hospital for a week. This is when I began to develop the mindset that would help me become the person I am today: the idea that laughter and positivity are powerful weapons against adversity.

In college, I began blogging about this topic, telling stories about breaking my femur and peeing in my pants and falling in love. To my complete surprise, the world enjoyed what I had to say! In a whirlwind adventure that is still taking place as I write this, my blog grew to over half a million readers, I started my own nonprofit organization, I got a book deal, and I even had a few serious relationships with actual human females!

You can read about all of that in my book, and lots of it probably won’t seem like real life. As you read, just know that I have been feeling the same disbelief every step of the way (every roll of the way?).

Life is crazy and it’s beautiful and it’s awesome, and I can’t wait to share mine with you. 

 

How Ending My Trilogy Made Me Feel Like Han Solo

Guards of the Shadowlands concludes with Chaos. Author Sarah Fine offers some parting thoughts.

Writing the third book in a trilogy is a bit like landing a giant spaceship. I mean, I’ve never flown a spaceship, but I imagine that’s what it would feel like. After all, the whole time I was crafting the story and committing it to paper, I was definitely thinking like Han Solo as the TIE fighters descend on the Millennium Falcon:

Pic 120th Century Fox/source

It wasn’t that I didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was going. I did! I’ve known how I wanted the Guards of the Shadowlands series to end ever since I began writing Sanctum. But when the time came to write the final book, there was still so much ground to cover, so many moments I wanted to capture, so many details I wanted to include, so much emotion I wanted to harness. It felt big—and at times unwieldy—as I tried to wrestle all the pieces into place so I could bring this series in for a nice, smooth landing in readers’ laps. But…

  Pic220th Century Fox/source

These characters mean something to me. Their journeys are important and I know they matter to fans of this series, too. Lela started as an uncertain and angry girl and has become the fiercely determined force of nature she was always meant to be, but does she have the endurance to keep fighting all the way to the end? Malachi has traveled so far down his path to atonement, but has he crossed the point of no return? And what about Ana, who only wants one thing—Takeshi—but will Takeshi be the same man she loved and lost all those years ago? Did the Judge plan this all along? Is it even possible to defeat the Mazikin on their home turf? It was a bittersweet pleasure to let this story unfurl, to answer all these questions, to remain at the controls as the ride came to an end.

Now the only thing left is to see how readers react. And I can only hope they join me in feeling a bit like this:

Han3  20th Century Fox/source

Exclusive Pre-order Promotion (US only): Pre-order the Kindle edition of Chaos (Guards of the Shadowlands, Book 3) any time before the publication date of 10/7/14 and receive the exclusive, never-before-published short story Vigilante: A Guard's Tale from Ana's Perspective. Promotional credit will be delivered within 2 days of your pre-order. Download must be claimed by November 6, 2014. Promotion limited to one per customer.

"The Book of Three," 50 Years Later

Book_of_threeFifty years after its release, Noa Wheeler, Henry Holt and Co (BYR) editor, reflects on the lasting power of The Book of Three, the first installment of Lloyd Alexander's epic Chronicles of Prydain. A new 50th anniversary edition is now available.

As a kid in the 1990s, I read Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain over and over again, beginning with The Book of Three. That book is fifty years old this year, and it’s worth stopping to wonder: What has made this series last so long? What keeps them holding up so well? I’m certainly not the only kid who was so fond of Prydain—though I suppose I’m the only kid who grew up to edit the 50th anniversary edition.

One of the many things Lloyd Alexander does so wonderfully in his books for kids is his incredible worldbuilding. He does this in several ways, easing us into this unfamiliar world in a way that makes it seem perfectly natural.

In The Book of Three, Alexander uses Taran’s impulsiveness and naïveté to great effect, to help paint the world around him. We know right away that this is a world unlike ours. The book begins with Taran wanting desperately to make a sword: “Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.” It’s clear that this is a world in which it’s perfectly normal to make swords (as well as horseshoes), but that Taran isn’t quite there yet—here, as throughout the book, he wants to leap ahead of his abilities and do the difficult, complicated things before mastering the simple ones.

Shortly after we learn that this world is one with swords and battles, we also learn that it’s one with magic, when Taran goes in to talk to Dallben. Dallben discusses the Land of the Dead, and Taran burns himself by touching the magical Book of Three. When he goes to get lotion for his blistered hands, he and Coll discuss Hen Wen, the oracular pig who is Taran’s charge (and the impetus for the adventure to follow, when Taran goes looking for her after her escape). These magical things are presented when they fit into the story, and it is clear to the reader that these are the facts of this world.

The characters in The Book of Three do their bit to make this world fully realized, too. Many of them have their own bits of magic: Eilonwy with her magic bauble, Fflewdur Flam with his harp which snaps a string when he embellishes the truth, Gurgi—somewhere between animal and human—with his unquenchable desire for “crunchings and munchings.”

During the course of the book, Lloyd Alexander also deftly gives us information about the physical form of Prydain. Three different people (Gwydion, Fflewdur, and Medwyn) draw three different maps at various stages of the journey, helping us keep track of our heroes and the path they follow.

All these things seem a natural part of the story—Alexander builds this world slowly, so that we hardly know he’s creating it around us. And the result is a world unlike any other, built loosely on Welsh myth but very clearly its own entity, which has spoken to many generations of children and continues to do so today.

As a kid I was fascinated by Prydain; as an adult I am no less so. In celebration of its fifty years in print, the new anniversary edition of The Book of Three comes with a gorgeous cover (an homage to the original), and also has extra material in it, including a new introduction by Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale and a short story from Prydain.

If you’re a fan of Prydain, join us in celebrating this year by rereading these wonderful books—and if you’ve never been to Prydain, this is a perfect time to open The Book of Three and visit.

Adi Alsaid's Must-Read Banned Books

Lets get lostIn anticipation of Banned Books Week starting September 21, Adi Alsaid, debut author of Let's Get Lost, shares his favorite books or series that have been banned or challenged.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut My favorite author when I was in high school, and one of my favorite books. He summed it up nicely in his well-circulated “I am very real” letter to the school board that sent his books to the furnace for obscene language, so I’ll let you look that up rather than try a poor summarization. Suffice it to say, Vonnegut’s works helped shape my positive, hopeful view of the world, and no matter how many times he swears he deserves your attention.

Goosebumps (Series) by R. L Stine This is the series that hooked me as an elementary school kid, and though I like to think I love books so much that I would have eventually become a voracious reader anyway, I bet there are many others who could credit their love of reading to these horror stories.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood Aside from the fact that it’s wonderfully written and a great story, the sexual content and violent themes in this book should scare us. As Cesar A. Cruz said, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

The Outsiders by S. E Hinton Contemporary fiction about young adults probably had never felt more real to young adults than in this book. Yeah, there’s violence and language. But the relationships are real and the characters completely compelling, and I don’t think anyone that read the book would actually want to participate in violent acts.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K Rowling That a book this widely read and loved would be banned is pretty astounding--that’s like banning peanut butter. I fully admit to not liking peanut butter and even to never having read the full Harry Potter series (just like, I would venture to guess, those who would want to ban it), but just because it’s not my thing doesn’t mean I’m about to boycott peanut butter and ban it from the world.

Exclusive Excerpt: "Silvern" by Christina Farley

SilvernChristina Farley introduces Silvern, book two in the Gilded series, and provides an exclusive excerpt. Silvern doesn’t release until September 23, but you can enter for your chance to win an advanced copy below.

It all began the day I went digging through the library at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea looking for Korean myths. I was teaching at an international school in Seoul and I wanted to inspire my students to fall in love with Korean literature.

I’ll never forget sitting on that cold, marble floor, the smell of books filling the air around me when I came across the story of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. It was a story full of magic, shape-shifting, battles, and unrequited love.

I was hooked.

But I wanted more.

What happened after Princess Yuhwa fell back to earth? What other challenges did these mythological creatures encounter? And more importantly, how could these Korean myths intertwine with our modern world?

My imagination kicked in and I went home that night and wrote the first chapter of Gilded. But Jae Hwa’s story didn’t end with that first book. There was a whole new world—a secret world—of the Guardians of Shinshi that Jae had yet to discover. And in the midst of this, she arouses the interest of the most dangerous Korean immortal: Kud, the god of darkness.

For Silvern, the sequel to Gilded, I wanted to bring my readers deeper into the mythological world of Korea. The Nine Dragons, gwishins, imoogi, and the god of the underworld are all players in the hunt for the White Tiger orb. Jae must embark on a dangerous quest into the heart of North Korea in order to foil Kud’s plan. Yet through these struggles, Jae realizes that while she has the power to save those she loves, she may destroy everything she has worked so hard to gain.

My love of fantasy began at a young age when my dad would read at my bedside each night. As a teen, I devoured J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Richard Adams’s Watership Down. Their worldbuilding was absolutely staggering, and because of it, those stories lingered with me long after I closed the book.

Books that inspire me today include Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series. Both of these not only create magical settings in a fresh new way, but challenge the reader to impact their world and be a part of that change.   

Do dragons still roam the earth? Are there portals that connect us to other worlds? It’s these questions that pump my blood and kindle the love of stories within my veins. Books have the power to take you on adventures to new worlds. And can forever change you.

That’s my hope for readers of Silvern.

Check out an exclusive_excerpt of Silvern (PDF). To enter for your chance to win one of 20 early copies of the book, use your Amazon.com account to sign into Kindle Whispercast here. We will contact winners with instructions for claiming the prize. See official rules. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends 9/14/14 at 11:59pm.