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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sophomore Spotlight: Una LaMarche

I'm very excited today to welcome Una LaMarche to the blog! She's here to talk a bit about her sophomore novel, Like No Other. 

About the book:
Like No Other by Una LaMarche.

Published July 24, 2014.
Published by: Razrobill.

Goodreads Synopsis:
**Publishers Weekly Best Book of Summer 2014**
**A Summer 2014 Indie Next List Pick**
**A 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection**
**Los Angeles Times Summer Reading Guide Selection**
**An Entertainment Weekly YA Novel to Watch Out For**

Fate brought them together. Will life tear them apart? 

Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing. 

Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters). 

They've spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did. 

When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection. 

Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up? 

In the timeless tradition of West Side Story and Crossing Delancey, this thoroughly modern take on romance will inspire laughter, tears, and the belief that love can happen when and where you least expect it. 

Now please welcome Una!

J: Thanks for joining me, Una! Describe your sophomore novel, Like No Other, in a haiku (yes, I've noticed your fun Twitter promo :)).

U: Meet cute with a twist—
Her faith forbids connection,
His love risks it all.

[Cue dramatic music]

J: Ooh, dramatic indeed. I like! Which of the characters from Like No Other are you most excited for readers to meet?

U: That is such a hard question to answer, because I’m so attached to both of them, but if I had to choose, I’d pick Devorah, because her inner voice and outside world are so at odds, and it makes her story so much more complex.

J: If you could introduce one of the characters from Like No Other to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

U: I’d introduce Devorah to Jo March from Little Women. I think they’d have a lot to talk about…

J: Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, can you share one song you listened to a lot while working on this novel?

U: Annoyingly for me, I can’t listen to music while I write because it’s too distracting. That said, I did write a lot of the book in coffee shops, because I don’t have an office and I have a toddler at home, so I heard a lot of slow-jam singer-songwriter stuff that probably seeped into my subconscious. I specifically remember listening to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me,” which sticks in my head because it encapsulates the kind of blissful infatuation I was trying to put on paper.

J: I usually find it very distracting too, but I do love that Come Away With Me snuck its way in there. How did the journey for Like No Other differ from that for your debut?

U: It was so different, it’s kind of insane. For those who don’t know, my first novel, Five Summers, is about four friends from summer camp who have a falling out and work through a lot of drama at a camp reunion three years later. The themes were so much lighter and more beach-read-y, and while it wasn’t easy to write (no book is!), it was easier to access, because I went to camp as a kid and I’ve had those types of close but fraught female friendships that can vacillate between devotion and animosity. So I didn’t really do any research, I just drew from my own experiences.

With Like No Other, I wanted to tackle a deeper and more dramatic story, and I wanted to write characters who weren’t just versions of me or people I knew. There are aspects of Jax and Devorah’s personalities that I share and can relate to, but I had to do a lot of research and preparation before I could develop their voices. Devorah especially required a lot of research, just to get the details of her daily life close to what they would be in reality (I humbly admit that I’m sure there are errors, since short of actually living in a Hasidic household, which obviously wasn’t going to happen, I had to fill in holes in my research with creative license).

J: Sounds like you worked a more intense process for this new one. I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the story in comparison! Did you change anything else about your writing process for this novel after having written your debut, Five Summers?

U: Apart from the research, which was a big change, I also learned to be more disciplined about my pacing. Both of these books were written fast—I wrote THREE drafts of Five Summers in four months, and the first draft of Like No Other was written in about two and a half. As I mentioned, I have a young son who I stay home with most of the time, so I generally only had about 20 hours a week to write, and a lot of that was after 8 pm. I usually had to hit at least 1500 words a day to get the work done on time, and I so I had to learn how to focus (I’m still working on that—I had to install an app that blocks the internet on my laptop) and make the most of my time. I also ate a lot of chocolate-frosted mini donuts while writing Like No Other. That’s probably why it felt like a smoother process.

J: Mmm, donuts. Donuts make everything smoother. Well, except maybe the exercise it later takes to work them off. What is the best part of already having a book out in the world when you're going into releasing another?

U: Breaking into publishing—or any creative field—is so tough, because you have to have made a name for yourself for people to notice you, but in order to make a name for yourself you have to get noticed. It’s the definition of a Catch-22. I was so lucky that Razorbill took a chance on me with Five Summers, but with that novel, since I was a total newbie, I didn’t have a lot going for me. One of the parts of promoting a book is getting better-known authors to “blurb” it, which means they provide a quote you can stick on the cover that recommends your book to potential readers. With Five Summers, I sent letters to half a dozen people asking them to blurb it, and only one person (bless you, Jodi Lynn Anderson!) did.

Having already written a book put me in a much better position to promote Like No Other. I got about five blurbs and a lot more press, including reviews in The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly! (A big part of the reason for this, I should mention, is that I think Like No Other is just a better book, but even that might not be the case if I hadn’t had the practice of writing Five Summers!)

J: Can you share a favourite quote from Like No Other?

U: My favorite quote is when Jaxon first gets a good look at Devorah, when they get stuck together in an elevator:

“She stands up and takes a step toward me, and as the light filters down through the hole above us, like artificial moonlight on a movie set, I can really see her eyes for the first time, big and gray flecked with shimmering hints of sky blue, like someone bottled that moment when Dorothy steps out of her black-and-white farmhouse and into Oz. That’s the moment I know I’m in trouble.”

J: Una, I love that. That is just wonderful. In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either loved recently or are looking forward to?

U: I loved Eleanor & Park so much that I was a little afraid to read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, because I thought there was no way it could live up to my expectations, but damn she’s amazing. I’m so jealous of her skills. And I think If I Stay was Gayle Forman’s second YA novel. Let’s just pretend it is, even if I’m wrong, for the sake of the theme :)

J: You know, I think you are right about that one, so you're safe ;) Can you share anything about your next project?

U: I have a book of comic essays called Unabrow coming out next March, which is a huge departure from YA fiction, but relevant in that it deals with my real teen years, as well as going to college, stumbling through the work force, getting married, getting published, and having a baby. I’m also currently writing a third, so far untitled young adult contemporary for Razorbill, which centers on a girl doing everything she can to hold it together for her siblings when both of her parents go AWOL for various dramatic and dysfunctional reasons. Since Five Summers was about friendship and Like No Other was a romance, I wanted to delve into what I think is the third and probably most important player in the love trifecta: family. We learn how to love from our parents, so when they let you down, how do you figure it out on your own? (I should mention, by the way, that my own parents were and are awesome, and that this is fiction. Hear that, mom?)

J: Sounds fantastic! I'm definitely looking forward to both. Thanks Una! 

Una was kind enough to offer up a finished hardcover copy of Like No Other to one lucky winner!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open internationally (void where prohibited).
~ No P.O. boxes.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ Una and I are not responsible for lost or damaged packages.
No cheating! In this case, I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #74: Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper.

Expected Publication: September 23, 2014.
by: Little, Brown BYR.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whale men safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother, the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic, stole Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape from her mother before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roes’ power.

When Avery awakens from a dream foretelling her own murder, she realizes time is running short—for her and for the people of her island, who, without the Roes, will lose their ships and the only life they know.

With the help of Tane, a tattooed harpoon boy from the Pacific Islands, Avery plots her escape from her mother and unravels the mysteries of her mother’s and grandmother’s pasts. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected—one she might not be able to make.

Why I'm excited:
I'm not always one for witches but I'm just so darn intrigued by this... historical fantasy? Maybe? I really want to get to know this island and all the charms and whatnot and I am so curious about the mystery. Curiosity is my weakness, it seems, and this one definitely has my attention!

What are you waiting on this week?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

ReReadathon and Shelf Sweeper Week Three Update

Another week down. July, you are moving too fast for my taste. Too soon it'll be September again. But I'd rather not linger on that thought.

Again this week I only got through one book. At least it was another excellent one.

I'm so glad that I understand Sybella so much better now. It's really fantastic. I'm really getting excited for Mortal Heart and Annith's story after reading both Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph. SOON.

I also want to note that I know posting has been less frequent these past couple weeks. I think that's going to continue for a bit as I'm dealing with some personal stuff right now. When I'm 100% back in the game, you'll know it. Thanks for hanging around, though.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #73: Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman.

Expected Publication: September 9, 2014.
by: Abrams/Amulet.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. 

Living with the shame of her grandmother's insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it's a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean--even if she has eyes for another. But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can't help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn't careful, she will be next.

Why I'm excited:
This one sounds so mysterious! What is in those woods? What will happen if Emmeline goes in there? Will we get any actual answers? I must know! Can't wait to start in on this one!

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

DNF Review: Extraction by Stephanie Diaz

Extraction by Stephanie Diaz.

Extraction #1.
Published: July 22, 2014.
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin.
Source: Requested an ARC from the Canadian distributor for review consideration. Thanks, Raincoast!
Did not finish. Stopped around page 90.

Goodreads Synopsis:
"Welcome to Extraction testing."

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon's lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet's leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too. 

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don't want her running—they want her subdued.

With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender's Game and leave them breathless for more.

My Review:

Oh, Extraction. I wanted so badly to like you. I really did. Unfortunately, I made it only about 90 pages in before I just had to put you down. I might eventually try to continue you, but to be honest, there's nothing drawing me back.

When I started Extraction I was expecting an exciting sci-fi with high stakes and a strong, passionate romance that makes it impossible for Clementine to leave Logan behind. I got... none of these things. Sure it was sci-fi, and it has some interesting elements to it. I like the idea that people took to different levels of the Earth in order to try and protect themselves - although I'm pretty sure it'd be impossible to live near the core, so... how are they doing that? I like the idea of the shield protecting them from the moon's acid smoke - although, since when does the moon give off acid smoke? How did that start? Starting to see why this isn't working for me? Even the aspects I like are marred with questions that are essential to understanding why these things are the way they are. I wish they had been explained at the same time as the so-called solutions they came up with were.

Now what about those high stakes I thought I was promised? Meh. There were some moments I was supposed to feel tense or scared for Clementine and Logan. I know I was supposed to; that's how it read. But did it actually raise any stakes for me? Nope. Did it create tension? Nope. Did it manipulate my emotions like scenes of that nature are supposed to? Sadly, no. I know that things were bad and that life was dangerous, I could read that. But the writing gave me no feelings about the fact that things were bad and dangerous. It was a lot of telling and not a lot of making me care.

As for the romance, well, I just wasn't feeling it. There was nothing there that made me ship them, let alone anything that would make me feel like Clementine should risk her only chance at safety ever for this guy. There was some sweet backstory but it didn't feel powerful. It wasn't convincing, nor did it even really establish them as an actual couple. They almost had a couple of moments but they kept getting interrupted. There was no passion, just a dull "I like this guy. I want him to kiss me." I'm sorry, but that does not a ship make. I wanted to like them and I wanted to want Clementine to do something about having to leave him to die. But I just didn't care.

I know this sounds a little harsh, but I honestly just wasn't being drawn into this book at all. I promise to be honest when I'm writing reviews, so this is me being honest. I was disappointed. To be fair, I really didn't get that far into the book. It's entirely possible that everything picks up one or two chapters after the point at which I put it down. If you've read it and it does, let me know and I'll give it another shot. And I am still curious about life in the Core. (No, unfortunately I didn't even make it that far). I just wasn't connecting with the story I got. I wasn't feeling anything - not the stakes, not the connection between Clementine and Logan, not the fear that she's supposed to be feeling, nothing. There was nothing there to get me invested in anything. I just... didn't care. Sorry, Extraction. You just didn't do it for me.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

ReReadathon and Shelf Sweeper Week Two Update

Alas, another week and another disappointment for those of you following my progress. Turns out that despite having the week off work, being at a festival nearly every single day into the night really cuts into my reading time. Plus I took some time to read The Kiss of Deception which, while not on my list, was wonderful. I'm so glad I read it but it took time away from my challenge books.

I did manage to get one more reread in this week, and it was another good one.

It had been too long since I'd read these books so I'm glad to be getting back into that world before Mockingjay Part I comes out in theatres in November.

Hopefully the next three weeks hold lots of reading so I can at least try to come close to meeting my goal for this thing! And kudos to everyone doing better at their goal than I am so far!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #72: Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither.

Expected Publication: September 16, 2014.
by: Simon & Schuster BFYR.

Goodreads Synopsis:
When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died. 

Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and it was like nothing had ever happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to grant their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth. So this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced. 

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school. 

Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and crazy anti-cloning protesters want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to standing up for her sister too, and she’s determined to prove her innocence now—at whatever the cost. But the deeper she digs for the truth, the further Cate's carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, unveiling a world filled with copies and lies, where nothing and no one—not even her sister— is completely what they seem. 

In a pulse pounding debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?

Why I'm excited:
More sci-fi? This one about clone replacements for dead people that may or may not be violent and dangerous? With secrets and surprises and family stakes? Yeah, you can definitely count me in on this one.

What are you waiting on this week?