Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ALA in Pictures

This week I had the incredible opportunity to attend my very first ALA and I'm still trying to process the amazingess of it all.  New Orleans was friendly, lively, hot, sticky, and filled with the best bunch of people I can think of: librarians, book bloggers, publishing folks, authors--all with one thing in common.  A love for books.  That was the best thing about being there.  You could feel the excitement and camaraderie everywhere you went. 

I could go on and tell you all about it, but today I'd rather show you.  So here you go:

ALA, in Pictures

Oh-so-official badge!

Swanky hotel room.

Bookanista Meet Up after the Newbery & Caldecott banquet, which was beautiful and so inspiring.
Pictured here from left to right: Jessica Martinez, Michelle Hodkin, Elana Johnson, Shannon Messenger, Carolina Valdez Miller, Kirsten Hubbard, and yours truly.

Next day was a visit to the Simon & Schuster booth on the convention floor...

where I got to hang and pose with the awesome Elana Johnson and her book POSSESSION. From there, we headed out to Octavia Books for our signing, where we were greeted by the friendliest staff ever.

Our display at Octavia!

After Octavia, we headed back to the hotel for a debut YA panel, hosted by the one and only Jenny Han.  She was a brilliant host and asked us hard-hitting questions like: "Who is your literary crush?" and "If you were stranded on an island and could take only one movie to watch, what would it be?" (My answers: Dexter and Wes from This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever, and Say Anything.)

After the panel, we got to speak to small groups of amazing librarians speed-dating style.  So. Much. Fun.
Pictured Above:  Jenny Han, John Corey Whaley, Frances O'Roark Dowell, Michelle Hodkin. Bottom Row: Jessica Martinez, me, Elana Johnson, and David E. Hilton.
Best Debut Crew Ever!

After that, it was off to the Printz Reception, which was amazing, to say the least.  You'd think after all that we'd all be tuckered out, but it was the last night in New Orleans, so it was time for a little adventuring which included...

Midnight beignets...

and 2am Fuddruckers with Michelle Hodkin and Corey Whaley, the best two late-night adventurers around.

Then all of a sudden it was the next day and time to go home. Almost.  The next morning, we had to make one more beignet run, and it was totally worth it, powdered sugar mess and all!

I can't thank Simon & Schuster enough for sending me or say just how much it meant, but ALA New Orleans was a truly unforgettable experience, and one that will always make me smile when I remember.  Always.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Happened to June???

So I woke up today and somehow found myself in the middle of June.  I don't even remember getting here! I do remember looking at the calendar a few weeks ago and thinking "Wow, the end of the month is really busy," and holy cow I was right!
First, there's a little event happening next week in New Orleans and I get to go!!! Three exclamation marks aren't enough to convey how excited I am to be headed to ALA for my first conference ever!!! And New Orleans!!! I've wanted to go there ever since I read Interview With a Vampire in high school. 

Never having been to ANY type of book/author/writing conference before, I have no idea what to expect. I'm told  it'll be a whirlwind of awesomeness including speed-dating with librarians, meeting up with fellow writers, and signing with an amazing lineup of debuts and JENNY HAN(!) at  Octavia Books on Monday June 27th!  I will take and post lots and lots of pictures.  And try not to eat my weight in beignets.  Or muffaleta. 

But before all that I've got crazy June busyness happening around here: Father's Day, my husband's birthday, son's end of the year party for his 1st grade class that I thought would be a good idea to throw. At my house.  Also, I am sorely in need of a haircut/mani/pedi/eyebrow wax/massage. I can fit all that in next week, right?

And then there's this other little thing called REVISIONS.

Just got round two notes for book two this week! Normally, this would mean I'd disappear into my cave for hours at a time each day, then emerge in the evening, just in time to enjoy dinner with the fam.  But now it's summer, which means kids at home and long hours for the lifeguard husband. 

THIS means that instead of pouring an evening glass of wine and settling into one of the many ARCs I plan to acquire at ALA, I will be firing up the coffee pot as soon as I tuck the little people in and trying to make magic with words until the wee hours. This will take some getting used to.  But. I'm excited, because I SO love this story and its people and if there's one thing I've learned about writing so far, it's that the very best of it actually does happen during revision. 

So there it is. June--or what's left of it, anyway!  I don't even know what the next page on the calendar has in store, but I'm hoping it's full of sunshine, Hawaiian Tropic, and a wardrobe made almost entirely of bikinis.

Until then!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: Imaginary Girls

The first time I saw this cover, I knew I had to read IMAGINARY GIRLS.  I had no idea what the story was about.  But this...

I can't think of a more hauntingly beautiful cover.  At all.  And it's so perfect for the story of Ruby and Chloe, two sisters bound by blood, water, and the secrets that lie beneath the surface.

Goodreads Summary:

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

My Thoughts:

Nova Ren Suma is brilliant.  This is one of those books that's difficult for me to review because it has a palpable magic to it, but I can't figure what exactly it is, or how she's done it, because every aspect of this novel is so beautifully executed. 

The Plot

The story of Ruby and Chloe unravels slowly, layer by eerie layer, through sharp prose and haunting images.   We're pulled along with Chloe as she returns to her small town, promised by Ruby that everything can go back to how it was before London Hayes was found floating in the reservoir.  Only it can't, and we realize it little by little, as Chloe does.  This isn't an action-packed, fast paced story, but Suma creates such an eerie tension you'll be turning the pages as quickly as you possibly can because you HAVE to know what in the world is going on.  Which brings me to...

The Writing

Suma's writing is subtle and nuanced, the images she paints sharp and elegant.  All of these things come together in perfect balance to create a world where the impossible is possible, and we accept it in the same way Chloe does.  It's reminded me of the magic realism of Isabel Allende, but it's unlike anything I've read.  Just masterful.

The Characters

Chloe has lived her life mostly in the shadow of the definitely mythic Ruby, but she shines in her own right.  She's a character I fell into easily--admired and feared Ruby with her, felt her need to step out of the intense and sort of twisty relationship with her sister, and needed, more than anything, to untangle the mysteries swirling around at their feet.

Ruby is a force to be reckoned with.  She lures and scares at the same time and is so boldly drawn it's easy to understand the loyalty and devotion everyone who comes into contact with her seems to have.  But as otherworldly as she seems, she's not invincible.  Her faults and her devotion to her sister make her very real, and though she holds everyone but Chloe at a distance, these things give the reader something relatable about her.

The Reservoir and Olive.  There's no question in my mind that these are characters.  The water in the reservoir and the town beneath it live and breathe.  They watch.  They haunt.

I've written this review ten different ways, trying to capture the things that are so perfect about it, and I don't think I can do it justice.  This is a book I will buy, read again, tell anyone who will listen that they have to read it, but oh so politely remind them that they'll have to get their own copy because I won't want to part with mine.  And they can do that June 14th!

Also, this Bookanista Thursday would not be complete with out a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Elana Johnson and her debut POSSESSION!!!

If you want to see what the other Bookanistas are up to this week, check out their blogs: 

*Special Note--you SO want to see what they're up to, because they've got a very special surprise for a very kick-ass Bookanista.  But I won't ruin the surprise.  Go see!

Elana Johnson and  Stasia Ward Kehoe savor Bad Taste in Boys
LiLa Roecker celebrates The Summer of the Bear
Christine Fonseca has got a surprise for a Bookanista buddy (ooh—curious?)
Beth Revis  interviews Blood Magic author Tessa Gratton
Carolina Valdez Miller enjoys a special celebration
Bethany Wiggins is crazy about Delirium
Shana Silver sings praises for Starcrossed
Jen Hayley applauds Possession
Veronica Rossi hails Hereafter
Carrie Harris glories in Texas Gothic
Megan Miranda gushes over Imaginary Girls