Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

The Van Alen Legacy - Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion - October 6th, 2009

With the stunning revelation surrounding Bliss's true identity comes the growing threat of the sinister Silver Bloods. Once left to live the glamorous life in New York City, the Blue Bloods now find themselves in an epic battle for survival. Not to worry, love is still in the air for the young vampires of the Upper East Side. Or is it? Jack and Schuyler are over. Oliver's brokenhearted. And only the cunning Mimi seems to be happily engaged. Young, fanged, and fabulous, Melissa de la Cruz's vampires unite in this highly anticipated fourth installment of the Blue Bloods series.

I'm pretty excited about this one, actually, for a number of reasons. First off, is that cover gorgeous or what? Totally adore the theme they've got going on for the Blue Bloods series, how all the cover images basically look like they're from the same mould, so to speak. Considering how the intensity and excitement has been building in the previous books, Blue Bloods, Masquerade, and Revelations, it'll definitely be great to see what de la Cruz has done in this fourth installment. That, and I fairly admire her work. The au pairs series, Angels on Sunset Boulevard ... all pretty awesome works.

Check out the artistic and striking trailer below, and here's an
interview with Melissa from Entertainment Weekly.

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In My Mailbox [21]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #21...

So, I didn't get anything in my mailbox this week. But - there was a book that I'd forgotten to mention in last week's IMM compilation post of like, the previous five weeks or so.

I actually purchased Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins the weekend after it came out - so, Saturday September 5th, I believe it was. And of course, I devoured it that very weekend, pretty much. (You can see my review of The Hunger Games here.)

It was... definitely thought-provoking, in a different sort of way. I've had to let it sit for a while to collect my thoughts on it, and hopefully I'll crank out a review soon, after I clear the backlog queue of other reviews I've got to churn out.

Drats on homework and extra-curriculars and etc. so I haven't been around as much recently, but hopefully once everything settles down and I get back into the swing of things, it'll all ameliorate!

Your turn now though - what was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Interview: Malinda Lo

Today, we have a very magical guest here at Lucid Conspiracy. As you may recall, awhile ago I posted a review for the very spellbinding Ash, which was released earlier this month on September 1st. If you haven't already, you should definitely check out Malinda's blog - great content and wonderful images of food; what more could you ask for? And now, presenting the fabulous... Malinda Lo!

In Ash's world, there's a multitude of amazing new fairy tales. Did you come up with these yourself? How?
Many of the fairy tales are based in Irish and British folklore, especially tales collected by Katharine Briggs, an English folklorist. It's amazing what's already out there!

Do you have a favourite among those?
The story of Kathleen, a girl who basically wastes away dreaming of fairy land, was one of my favorites. Yes, it's kind of depressing. :)

Ooh, I really liked that one as well, despite how sad it is. Now, there's no denying that Ash's world is a little different from our own. Do you visualize it as being more medieval in setting, or mostly modern, or somewhere in between?
I don't envision it as being medieval, exactly. There's certainly no modern technology, but it's also not nearly as messy as the Middle Ages really were. So, maybe if the Middle Ages were cleaned up and everybody had running water. :) It's a fantasy land!

Works for me! So the word around the grapevine is that you're working on a companion novel to ASH about the first huntress. Are there any details that you're at liberty to share with us about it?
Sure! It's an adventure. The main characters go on a quest, and they get to visit the land of the Sidhe (the fairies).

Sounds very amazing, definitely looking forward to it! If the apocalypse were to come tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe and bring into the "New World", which would you choose?
IN THE EYE OF THE TYPHOON by Ruth Earnshaw Lo (this is my grandmother's book!)
ASH by me — because I couldn't leave it behind!

I guess I wouldn't be doing much to "save literature"! LOL.

Good choices, nevertheless. Words of wisdom - what do you do when the muse has gone on vacation?
If I'm encountering a block, I usually try to just power through it at first by ignoring the block and just writing anything. Sometimes that works. If it doesn't and I find myself getting increasingly frustrated, I will actually physically leave my desk and change the location of where I'm writing. I'll go sit on the couch or go to a cafe or something. If that doesn't work, then I'll stop writing entirely, taking a break from it by going for a walk or reading a book for enjoyment. Anything to totally switch my mind off from writing. When I feel rested and refreshed, I'll go back to the project, and usually it's fine by then.

Something particularly striking about ASH is the almost lyrical quality of the writing. Do you listen to music or have any other writing rituals?
I do listen to music when writing; a playlist of songs that I listened to while writing ASH is

Thanks for asking me to do the interview!

Thanks for stopping by, Malinda!

And here I'll leave you off with some links: Malinda's website, Twitter, Facebook, and at AfterEllen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Once a Witch Review

Once a Witch - Carolyn MacCullough
*September 14th, 2009 Clarion Books

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him.

The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

If Carolyn MacCullough were one of the witches of her own creation, she would definitely be Talented - in the art of writing, that is. With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a captivating story about magic and witchcraft.

It's always super-exciting to see new spins on old concepts, but it's especially awesome to see one about witches, in light of the recent decade. MacCullough has definitely churned out some pretty original spins here. Tamsin's world is quite an enthralling place, and the fact that it's set right in our real world - and still remains, credible, provided the reader suspends skepticism - makes it that much more impressive.

A few lines of dialogue here and there aside, Tamsin's voice is definitely one of the highlights of the story. It's quirky, fun, vulnerable, strong, and dimensional, all at once. Which of course in turn speaks volumes about Tamsin as a character. Gabriel did feel a little meh or overdone here and there, but nevertheless interaction between the two was always a pleasure. Tamsin's [rather extended] family and "the stranger" were very well done as well, each with unique attributes that made them stand out and be memorable. Especially the antagonist - he was just overall very natural. Another really cool aspect of the characterization is that quite a few of the characters either change, grow, or develop over the course of the tale, and that's always amazing to see.

Once a Witch is a bit like a roller coaster. It starts off a little slow (in fact, personally, perhaps the Prologue could've been incorporated straight into the story and have it start with the first chapter instead), but then the story, the tension, the suspense, builds. And accelerates. And then it hurtles towards the climax. And let's just say the climax does not disappoint - all that build-up is well worth it. The "ending" sets itself up very nicely for a sequel, Always a Witch. Considering the interesting realm MacCullough's plotted and the concepts that (could) be dealt with in upcoming volume(s), it'll definitely be intriguing to see where this'll go.

With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a spellbinding and enthralling tale.

Goodreads | Website | Carolyn MacCullough | Indiebound | Amazon

*For some really weird reason, until about a good ten or twenty pages in, I'd thought her name was Tasmin, instead of Tamsin. Oops.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In My Mailbox [20]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #20...

Oh. Wow. Has it really been five weeks or so since my last IMM post? I believe it has. See, first there was a two-week dry spell. Nada. And then I got some sweet stuff the following week :) And then there was another week of nothing. And then there was some awesome stuff this week as well! So let's go in reverse chronological order here:

September 14th-18th:

`Prophecy of the Sisters Twitter Launch Party Prize Pack - A fragrent reed diffuser, cotton candy, a book for interpreting dreams, and four finger lights. Thank you, Michelle Zink!

`The Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King + 2 bookmarks - won this from Diana Dang's blogoversary celebration over at Stop, Drop, Read! Plus it's personalized and signed, which is always a bonus! (See left for picture) Thanks, Diana and AS King!

`Devoured by Amanda Marrone

August 31st-September 4th
`Give up the Ghost bookmarks + buttons. You know what this means; bookstalking time soon! :) Thanks, Megan! (Speaking of Ghost, links for my review & interview)
`Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez + bookmarks. Thanks, Kimberly Pauley of YA Books Central!

So there we go, the last couple of weeks in an IMM nutshell. Your turn - what was in your mailbox this week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview: Megan Crewe

Yesterday was a pretty special day. Why, you ask? Well, it was Give up the Ghost's release day! (My review can be found here.) In addition to having written this awesome book, the fabulous Megan Crewe is also Canadian and an all-around super sweet person. It's with great enthusiasm that Lucid Conspiracy presents the following interview, so give it up for Megan Crewe!

Let's start off with something fun - tell us about GIVE UP THE GHOST in twenty words, and try to toss as many alliterations in there as you can.
Ghost-seeing girl gives grief over classmates' crimes and indiscretions, until popular boy pushes past her prickles and asks for assistance. :)

Well done! The concept of ghosts has been around for ages, but every author puts a unique spin on them. What differentiates your's in particular?
I think the most important thing about my ghosts is that they're more human than most. They're still pretty aware of what's going on in the world around them, even if they have trouble remembering specific events for very long, and they're not stuck on the past or trying to find ways to move on.

Your leading lady, Cass, definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. How did her character traits come about?
Well, I had to figure out what sort of person would prefer hanging out with ghosts instead of living friends. What made the most sense was that the living friends she used to have did something so horrible she didn't feel she could trust anyone any more. But unlike the typical school outcast, Cass has power through her ghostly friends. And having been betrayed, it's naturally very important to her to try to expose her less-savory classmates before they hurt others the way she was once hurt. Of course, ghosts can't be everything a living friend can, so she's got a lot of loneliness she's hiding underneath, too.

For sure; and Cass's journey is pretty exciting to witness too! Tim is also very different from the typical Gary Stu; in fact, his flaws are quite refreshing. Did you set out with the damsel-in-distress-role-reversal in mind, or did it just happen?
Funny, I never thought of it as a damsel-in-distress reversal, but you're right, it is! I knew Cass was going to have to help someone who was tempting death in one way or another. It felt right for it to be a guy. Maybe because Cass was betrayed by female friends, so she'd be even more distrusting of a girl who tried to make friends with her? And I knew if Cass was going to consider risking coming out of her shell to help him, he'd have to be pretty messed up.

GIVE UP THE GHOST is an interesting title, for sure. Could you share a little about the origins of that?
The original title of the manuscript was IN MEMORY OF. My agent felt that was too vague, so I started brainstorming new titles before we sent it out. I read through a long list of euphemisms for death and "giving up the ghost" jumped out at me. I felt it worked both in a literal way (because Cass has to face giving up her reliance on her ghostly friends) and a metaphorical way (because the story's about death, and also about letting go of the past). So the book went out and sold as GIVING UP THE GHOST.

But there was another YA novel a couple years ago with that title, so my publisher felt we needed to change it. I thought and thought and couldn't come up with anything I liked half as much. Thankfully, my editor decided that it only needed to be a tiny change, and that GIVE UP THE GHOST was fine! I think I like it even better than GIVING; there's more urgency to it.

Although those other titles are nice too, I really like the current title! If the apocalypse were coming tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe and bring into the "New World", which ones would you choose?
Oh, hard question! Taking this very literally, I'd say the biggest and most accurate medical text book in existence, the biggest and most accurate survival book in existence, and the best encyclopedia I could find (that counts as one book, right? It's just different volumes :D ). Then, once we've managed to stay alive and have some idea of what's what in the world, we'll start writing our own fiction! As much as I love novels, I don't think they'd be the most useful thing to hold on to at the end of the world.

Very literal indeed - it does make a lot of sense though! Good answer. ;) Any literary crushes?
On literary characters? I have a very large soft spot for Eugenedies in Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books, and also one for the Fool in Robin Hobb's Farseer books. I like them clever, devoted, and inscrutable. :)

Now, about the unexpected. What're the best and worst unforseen things that have come along with this whole process (e.g. the planning, outlining, writing, querying, submitting, publishing, etc.)?
The best unforeseen thing was how involved my publicist would be. I wasn't sure what to expect and knew I might have to plan most/all of my appearances on my own. So it was a wonderful surprise to end up having my first talk and signing nearly a month before the book was even out, and more to come, all arranged by her. I'm pretty shy, so it's wonderful having someone else connecting with important people and setting things up.

The worse unforeseen thing was losing my first editor. The editor who bought my book and worked on all my revisions with me was laid off during the cutbacks that hit many publishing houses last winter. The editor I've worked with since has been amazing, and I'm glad to have her, but it was scary when it happened and I didn't know what the consequences would be, and it's sad not to be able to share the excitement of the launch with the person who was so instrumental in making it happen.

Any other projects currently in the works that you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about?

Unfortunately I can't give any details, but I am continuing to work on YA novels, both paranormal and fantasy.

Thanks for the fun interview!

Aww, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what's next, but YA paranormal/fantasy sounds like it'll be great fun! Thanks for stopping by, Megan!

You can find out more information by visiting Megan's website.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Give Up The Ghost Review

Give up the Ghost - Megan Crewe
*September 15th, 2009 Henry Holt & Co

Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody... and Cass loves dirt. She's on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass's whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim's life, she's surprised to realize he's not so bad--and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it's time to give the living another chance...

With Megan Crewe's brilliant debut Give up the Ghost, one has to give up one's preconceived notions about YA ghost stories of the modern age. Because this one? It blows them straight out of the water.

The overall vibe and connotation of Give up the Ghost is "[bright] like a Chinese lantern" (Crewe 2). The concept of ghosts isn't new, but Crewe sets them up in a way that's entirely her own, and it's always intriguing to see new spins on old ideas. The main thread that the story follows makes for a very interesting plot - in short, a page-turner that grips the audience and does not let go, charging them to walk the pages of the book like ghosts walk the places they once inhabited.

Give up the Ghost definitely has very interesting characterization. For one thing, Cass McKenna's "mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school" is a trait of someone who's not your average preppy teenage girl. She's gritty, she's raw, but most importantly, Cass is real. Crewe isn't afraid to show Cass's flaws, and that's what endears her the audience. It's also nice to see a strong protagonist, to see a role reversal on the whole damsel-in-distress motif.

And as for Tim? Tim's definitely a very interesting male lead, and for good reason too. Again, his flaws make him more credible. It's also very refreshing to get a YA lit boy who isn't described as perfect - physically or otherwise. Crewe has also done a brilliant job of using her characters and plot as conduits to explore the theme of appearances vs. reality. Although Give up the Ghost may seem like just a ghost story on the surface, it's so much more. It's got elements of paranormal, of contemporary, of edgy YA - and this is what breathes life into the story. For the most part, the minor characters as well were nicely done, whether they were ghosts or "breathers". Personally I found it a little hard to connect with her parents, but then again, as it is from Cass's POV and she doesn't have a great relationship with them, it's understandable.

What really impressed me was Crewe's portrayal of high school. Perhaps it's not entirely what my school is like, or what your school is like - but it doesn't matter. The evocative connotations Crewe brought to life, the aura she conjured - basically, it all added up to make the setting seem credible and real. A few quirks here and there, but for the most part, the dialogue and teen voice was relatively well done. The phrase "shoot the breeze" was new though; I hadn't heard that before. I guess you learn something new with every book.

A few things would've been nice to get a little more clarification on, in terms of background information, but it works as is too. It's a combination of characters, of writing, etc., but the plot is also part of what keeps the audience hurtling towards the ending, breathless and anticipating what's to come. Crewe definitely pushed the envelope with Give up the Ghost, and although it may be unexpected where the story goes, now it's hard to imagine it going any other way.

In short, Give up the Ghost is masterfully done. Megan Crewe has created an engrossing, illuminating, and captivating tale - a very welcome debut to the YA community.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sleepless Review

Sleepless - Thomas Fahy
*August 11th, 2009 Simon & Schuster

Emma Montgomery has been experiencing nightmares of gruesome murders. In fact, all of the students in Dr. Beecher's secret society have been having terrible dreams and sleepwalking. Now, as their classmates start turning up dead, Emma and her friends race against the clock to find out what's causing them to kill in their sleep.

The teenage years are trying times when it comes to sleeping. But what if you can't control your sleeping patterns anymore? What if you're plagued by nightmares and sleepwalking, but remember nothing when you wake up? What if you're doing terrible - murderous - things whilst asleep?

This is the concept that Thomas Fahy has explored and implemented in his chilling YA horror novel Sleepless. It's definitely a welcome addition to the 2009 collection of YA; especially since there aren't that many offerings in this genre at the moment. Fahy's diction choice and writing style is fairly fluid; the story is definitely easy to get into the swing of, even for reluctant readers.

Size-wise, at 224 pages, Sleepless isn't very thick. For the most part, this works well with the story; it's face-paced, it's got action, it moves along nicely. The suspense strings along the mystery, the two themes harmonizing well. Unexpected twists and seemingly irrelevant details tie in nicely and add a little extra ka-bam. With that being said though, the story could potentially have been lengthened in exchange for a little more character development, a little more depth.

As it is though, although not quite as much intimacy is established, the characters are still relatively interesting. Perhaps Fahy intended it this way - a sort of distance from the characters to keep the audience guessing, to wonder at their next steps, to highlight the idea of how even if you think you know someone, you could be wrong. Deadly wrong.

The alternating perspectives is actually something that Fahy pulls off very well in Sleepless. It enhances the mystery while providing more insight, which is always an impressive feat. Speaking of which, there seems to be a nice balance between horror and mystery as well. It's not actually hardcore scary, so if that's what you're concerned about, it's not something too major to worry about. The twist at the end was very well implemented, nicely executed. So to speak.

With Sleepless, Fahy has crafted a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller. And that is one gorgeously chilling cover.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Lady Macbeth's Daughter - Lisa Klein
BloomsburyUSA - October 13th, 2009

Albia has grown up never knowing her father, the powerful Macbeth, or her mother, the grief-wracked Lady Macbeth. Instead she knows the dark lure of the woods and the moors, where she’s been raised by three strange sisters. When the ambitious Macbeth seeks out the sisters to foretell his fate, Albia’s life becomes tangled with that of the man who leaves in his wake nothing but bloodshed. She even falls in love with Fleance, Macbeth’s rival for the throne. When Albia learns that she has second sight, she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees—or to change it. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? And can she forgive her parents their wrongs, or must she destroy them to save Scotland from tyranny?

In this highly anticipated follow-up to Ophelia, Lisa Klein delivers a powerful reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, featuring a young woman so seamlessly drawn it seems impossible she was not part of the Bard’s original play.

[Shakespeare's] Macbeth is on the reading list of most high school curriculums. And hey - I have to admit, I actually quite liked it, in spite of all that. So this - a fresh spin, a different perspective - definitely looks like it'll be pretty interesting. (And it's doing pretty well in terms of ratings so far on Goodreads, so that always helps.)

But now that you've seen my pick. What are you waiting on, this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine
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