In the course of writing his Unwritten Books trilogy [ profile] james_bow made a daring choice: in The Unwritten Girl (which I reviewed here) he introduced us to the tween-aged Rosemary Watson and Peter McAllister, and sent them on an adventure suitable for readers of the same age; then in Fathom Five (reviewed here) he aged them to the mid-teens and delved deeper into both their budding romance and their inner lives in a story for YA readers; and now, with The Young City, we see Rosemary and Peter as young adults just heading off to university, with higher stakes and a more intense (and challenging) relationship than ever before. Here's the synopsis, from James's website:

Rosemary Watson and Peter McAllister think their future is clear: they’re finally heading off for university. They’re thinking about finding apartments, picking courses, living like adults.

But what happens when the future becomes the past? While helping Rosemary’s brother move into an apartment in Toronto, Peter and Rosemary fall into an underground river and are swept back in time, to Toronto in 1884. It’s a struggle to survive and adapt to the alien culture of the late nineteenth century. Peter and Rosemary are forced to work together, to live together, and to become the adults they’ve only been pretending to be.

As the days stranded turn to weeks, then months, Rosemary and Peter begin to wonder if they’re really ready for a future together - and what they will do if they can’t get back.

Then someone brings them a watch, powered by a battery, made in Taiwan.

All I have to say about that last line is ROCK ON. What a great plot twist! And when I attended James's reading/launch for The Young City back in January, I snapped up a copy of the book without hesitation, wanting to know how the whole idea would play out.

I'm happy to say that it does so quite well, with plenty of action and suspense, matched nicely with some good character development for Rosemary and Peter and also with a fascinating picture of a historical period and location that many readers might not be familiar with. Toronto in 1884 is a very different place in some ways from London or San Francisco in the same time period, and James reflects this well in his story, which has the atmosphere of careful historical research but doesn't get bogged down in tedious details. There's a B-plot about the struggles of the first women doctors in Canada that adds a nice extra layer to the book as well.

Rosemary is a singularly assertive and dynamic young heroine, much more so in many ways than Peter, who is more or less her mild-mannered sidekick. It's a refreshing inversion, especially coming from a male author, but there are times in this book, as in the others, that I found myself wishing for Peter to show a little more gumption -- not that he doesn't try, but I think overall he's just not as fully realized a character as Rosemary is. Still, it's a small complaint about a well-written, engaging and pleasantly unpredictable series. Recommended.

* Some of the romantic aspects of The Young City might be a little intense for younger readers, so I'd say the publisher's recommendation of 12+ for this book is a fair one, as opposed to The Unwritten Girl which would be easily suited for 8+ or Fathom Five which is more of a 10+ book.
In a recent post [ profile] carrie_ryan commented on an article suggesting that several newly purchased copies of Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn had been withheld from shelving at a junior high library in Utah because of one parent's complaint about the book's content. The objectionable content: "a honeymoon scene in which sex is implied".

This led to a discussion on the tendency of conservative religious parents to challenge books which contain sexual references and content (even, in this case, when the sex occurs within the bounds of marriage), while rarely or never objecting publicly to books which contain violence and gore. Many of the commenters felt that this was a bizarre and worrying double standard. As [ profile] anywherebeyond remarked:

I think it's time we quit acting like hysterical ninnies about teen sex and start taking a hard look at teen violence. I don't think a book should be challenged for EITHER reason, but it makes me crazy that people think nothing of the 1500 people who die at the end of Titanic, but hesitate because Leo and Kate might get hazily busy before the ship sinks. It's absurd.

And if that's what's really going on here -- that conservative parents are so blindly focused on keeping any sexual content away from their children that they are giving violence and other serious issues a free pass -- then I agree, that's not right. On reflection, however, I had some different thoughts.

I believe that what's really at stake here is not the kind of behaviour the conservative parents involved approve or disapprove, but the behaviour they are most concerned their children will emulate -- and particularly, the way in which the books being challenged seem (to them) to encourage or feed into that behaviour. As I remarked in comments:

...The reason conservative parents tend to challenge books for sex more than for violence is that by and large, they don't see teen violence as being nearly so widespread a problem and nearly such a threat to their children as teen sex is. Especially where girls -- girls who may become pregnant and be left with a baby to care for, or else choose abortion and thus (in the eyes of many conservative parents) be guilty of murder -- are concerned.

I don't think that many conservative mothers of teen girls are worried about their daughters being mauled from the inside out by their own half-vampire babies [i.e. as in Breaking Dawn], however distasteful they might find the concept in fictional form. Ditto for most other fictional violence, which they don't expect their teens are going to want to emulate, or even be able to (to borrow Saundra's example, how do you reenact the sinking of the Titanic?).

But anything too sensuous, that might get their sons and daughters sexually worked up and tempt them to become sexually active before they're ready for it -- that is a serious concern.

It may seem ridiculous for a parent to object to the off-stage sexual content in Breaking Dawn when that activity is taking place within the bonds of marriage -- after all, aren't conservative parents hoping for that very thing, that their children will wait to get married before having sex? But while I'm not in a position to read the mind of the parent making the complaint, I can imagine where she (I'm pretty sure it's a she) is coming from. The point is not that sex within marriage is morally objectionable, or even that it should never be mentioned or implied in any books whatsoever -- but that to put into the hands of a junior high reader a book where sexual activity is being presented in an enticing way is, to the mind of this parent, potentially dangerous to their child's sexual self-control.

I've used this example before, but I think it's a good one -- if you have a friend who is trying to lose weight, and you believe that she really needs to lose that weight for the good of her health, you're not going to give her a copy of 101 Gloriously Decadent Chocolate Desserts (lavishly illustrated with full-color photos) for her next birthday. It's not that you think chocolate is bad, or even that she won't be able to eat chocolate and enjoy it in moderation one day, but that at this point in her life it would be a bad idea to expose her to something that's going to make her want to make a chocolate cake and eat it immediately. And that kind of concern, I think, is really what's in the minds of many conservative parents when they challenge books that would otherwise be freely available to their children.

Nevertheless, having said that, I don't believe that banning books is the answer. Obviously if you're going to have a school library aimed at a certain age group, you're going to have to pick and choose what books you feel are appropriate for that library, and community standards are going to be part of making that decision. But for a parent to rise up and insist that all copies of a certain book be removed from the shelves, because it contains something that you personally see as problematic (even though few if any people agree with you) -- then you're stepping beyond your authority as a parent and as a member of the community.

The sane and measured response to a book you are concerned about your teen or pre-teen reading is to be aware of what's really out there, and prepared to discuss it with your child in the context of your own family and in accordance with your own convictions. In some cases that may amount to "Yes, you may read Book X, but I'd like to talk to you about some of the content afterward," and in others it may go as far as "I feel that Book X is not appropriate for you at this point, so I'm asking you to respect my wishes that you not read it." But I do not believe it should ever amount to, "I'm going to insist that nobody in my community be allowed to read Book X, regardless of whether they share my religious beliefs and moral convictions or not."

I believe in right and wrong -- in the absolute sense. I do believe that certain descriptive content in books, certain philosophies which those books may express, are objectively morally wrong and may damage the minds of those who read them. Nevertheless, I don't believe there's any merit in forcing people to do what you believe is right by taking away their ability to choose otherwise. If God Himself respects free will, so should we.

And that's why, even as a conservative evangelical Christian, I don't believe in this kind of censorship.
[ profile] flycon2009, the international online fantasy/SF writers' convention, has begun!

Here's the opening speech from Marty Young, president of the Australian Horror Writers' Association.

There will be a discussion on the topic of When is Young Adult not really for Young Adults? starting at 12 noon EST today (other time zones: 9 am US Pacific, 4 pm UK, 3 am AUS, 5 am NZ) which you can attend here at -- no need to sign up or register for anything, just type in your name and go!

And at 3 pm EST today, as previously advertised, I'll be on the Crossing Over from Fanfic to Pro Writing panel at the same location.

It's free! It's open to all! The discussions can go on as long as you want! Enjoy!
I am poaching this entire post from [ profile] lisamantchev and altering it to suit my purposes, because I'm insanely lazy busy right now...


I am pleased to announce my participation in [ profile] flycon2009, March 13-17, 2009.

From the LJ Profile:

Flycon will be an online convention planned to have activities during the peak hours of every time zone. It will begin midnight, Friday 13th in March 2009, in Australia and roll with the sun. We are looking for panelists, authors and editors and agents to host discussions, podcasts as readings, volunteers, and for people to spread the word through the blogosphere. We will be having a couple of sites host forums and chat space, with everything co-ordinated through this Live Journal community with rss feeds, updates and eventual archiving. We will be running IRCs as well as bulletin boards, so that every time zone is covered.

Preliminary Schedule is up here.


Crossing over from fan fiction to pro writing: Pros, cons, weirdnesses, how-tos
Friday, March 13, 3 p.m. EST
Other panelists: Karen Miller, positive pat, Saundra Mitchell

They may do things differently there, but I'm reading from here: How do we, as readers, negotiate the borders between fiction and commentary, between when it's about the human condition, and when it's about us?
Friday, March 13th, 8 p.m. EST
Other panelists: Alma Alexander, Maureen Kincaid Speller, [ profile] a_d_medievalist

Author chat: Debut 2009 SF/Fantasy novelists session
Saturday, March 14th, 9 a.m. EST
Other panelists: Lisa Mantchev, Jenny Moss, Saundra Mitchell, Deva Fagan


Please drop by the community and comment on the threads with your questions and contributions! LJ means it's never too late to participate!

Eyes Like Stars - Cover
Originally uploaded by rj-anderson
So you know that [ profile] lisamantchev has written this utterly delightful, fresh, hilarious, adventurous, unputdownable YA fantasy called Eyes Like Stars, don't you?

Well, if you don't, here's a description:

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Sounds kind of fabulous, doesn't it? Trust me, it totally is. This is the perfect book for theatre lovers, fairy lovers, lovers of Shakespeare, and/or people who just love a rollicking good read.

And now you have a chance to win a copy!

The Théâtre Illuminata proudly presents THE COMPLEAT WORKS OF LOLSHAKESPEARE contest.

Did I mention that I really loved this book? And that it is worth trying to win one of the six advance copies that [ profile] lisamantchev is offering to give out to the people who design the most hilarious, clever, or otherwise delightful LOLShakespeare images? And that yours truly is one of the six judges who will select the lucky winners?

Yeah. That. So go now and check it out!
Today's [ profile] debut2009 author interview (and I have to tell you, this will be the last one for a while -- I'm totally swamped with revisions right now!) is with the delightful, multi-talented, and incredibly hard-working Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer.

This was the very first book I read by a fellow Deb, and I have to say, it blew me away. I don't normally read ghost stories -- I'm a total wimp for anything horrific, plus the whole ghost thing grates on my theology. But I was really impressed by the way Saundra drew me into her story and skillfully suspended my disbelief right to the very end. Plus, her prose is just beautiful, and she has a deft knack for vivid characterization that I really envy like whoa admire.

But enough about me! On to the book!


Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.

Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy."

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.

What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.


A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair short film series. Her short story "Ready to Wear" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children.

Tantalizing, no? Let's find out more about Saundra and her book under the cut... )

You can learn more about Shadowed Summer by visiting the dedicated site, where you can read an excerpt from the first chapter, see more interviews with Saundra, and download a bunch of neat extras related to the book.

Shadowed Summer can also be ordered from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or support your local independent bookseller.

Visit Saundra on the web at

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Today I'm happy to introduce fellow [ profile] debut2009 member Erin Dionne, the author of the delightful tween novel Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies!

Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste—because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone . . . or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight.

Erin Dionne has lived on two coasts and in four states. Her debut novel, MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES, was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event). Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now.

Erin lives outside of Boston with her husband and daughter, and a very insistent dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college, and sometimes eats chocolate cookies.

Click here for more with Erin Dionne! )

As a parting note, I read Models a few months ago and would readily recommend it to readers aged ten and up who would enjoy a witty, charming novel with a great first-person narrative voice. I loved and sympathized with Celeste right away and I'm sure that many readers will, too! You can order the book from Amazon or find it through IndieBound.
Today I'm excited to be hosting the talented and versatile [ profile] debut2009 author Cynthea Liu, who just celebrated her release date for her first book The Great Call of China yesterday with an exciting online party! Congratulations, Cynthea!

About the Book:

Chinese-born Cece was adopted when she was two years old by her American parents. Living in Texas, she's bored of her ho-hum high school and dull job. So when she learns about the S.A.S.S. program to Xi'an, China, she jumps at the chance. She'll be able to learn about her passion--anthropology--and it will give her the opportunity to explore her roots. But when she arrives, she receives quite a culture shock. And the closer she comes to finding out about her birth parents, the more apprehensive she gets. Enter Will, the cute guy she first meets on the plane. He and Cece really connect during the program. But can he help her get accustomed to a culture she should already know about, or will she leave China without the answers she's been looking for?

About the Author:

Cynthea spent her formative years in Oklahoma and Texas where she was a Whiz Quiz member, an Academic Decathloner, and a spelling bee champion. (Yes, she was very popular.) After attending college on the East Coast, she worked at a corporate job where she mastered PowerPoint and racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles. Eventually, she traded in her suit for sweats to do the fun stuff--writing for children. In addition to The Great Call of China (Puffin, February '09) and her middle-grade novel Paris Pan Takes The Dare (Putnam, June '09) Cynthea's nonfiction book Writing for Children and Teens: A Crash Course (how to write, revise, and publish your kid's or teen book with children's book publishers) is available in paperback.

Click here for a fun Q&A session with Cynthea! )

Hee. I definitely know that feeling! Thanks for dropping by, Cynthea!

Finally, Cynthea's also put together a great little YouTube video describing how she came to write The Great Call of China and telling a little more about the book itself. Check it out:
I am a bit insanely excited about this, from Laini Taylor's blog:

Silksinger cover -- revealed!

This would be the second book in the Dreamdark series. I loved the first book, Blackbringer (read it twice in six months, in fact) and can't wait to meet Hirik and Whisper and explore more of the fantastic faery world that Ms. Taylor's created.

And yet, the author writes about the same book in a previous post:

I was on a really different track when I started writing [Silksinger] and it wasn't working out. It took FORTITUDE to keep going and find the right story. In fact, I think if that book had not been under contract as part of a two-book deal, I may not have written it. It was hard. (Imagine that said in a pitiful whine.) I'd have given up; I'm sure of it. But I didn't, and the book exists, and I love it. So: hurray!!!

I found this really encouraging. I know a lot of authors are afraid to talk about the difficulties of writing a particular book for fear of sounding whiny, or not appreciating what a privilege it is just to get published, or giving people a bad impression of the book's quality. Nobody wants to be the kind of author who turns off fans and potential readers by being negative all the time, and it's all too easy to tip that balance.

But on the other hand, it can be a tremendous encouragement to other writers who are struggling if they can see that we've struggled too. And I think it's possible to talk about these things in a way that is honest but doesn't wallow in self-pity or make the books we're working on sound like junk -- I think Laini Taylor has done an excellent job of that very thing. I'm actually more excited now to read Silksinger, knowing what a challenge it was for her and how hard she worked to make it the best book it could be.

What do you think about this -- fellow writers, readers, editors, agents? Do you get turned off when authors talk about difficulties with their writing process? Is there a right and a wrong way to do this kind of thing, or do you think it's better just not to do it at all?
This week's featured [ profile] debut2009 author is the delightful Jenny Moss, who's here to tell us all about her excellent middle-grade historical novel Winnie's War.

About the Book:

Life in Winnie's sleepy town of Coward Creek, Texas, is just fine for her. Although her troubled mother's distant behavior has always worried Winnie, she's plenty busy caring for her younger sisters, going to school, playing chess with Mr. Levy, and avoiding her testy grandmother. Plus, her sweetheart Nolan is always there to make her smile when she's feeling low. But when the Spanish Influenza claims its first victim, lives are suddenly at stake, and Winnie has never felt so helpless. She must find a way to save the people she loves most, even if doing so means putting her own life at risk.

About the Author:

Jenny Moss is a former NASA engineer. She earned a master's degree in literature and taught writing as an adjunct at University of Houston-Clear Lake. She lives with her two teenagers in Houston, Texas. Welcome to the Oakenwyld, Jenny!

Click here for the interview and more with Jenny! )

And now for a personal recommendation -- I had the privilege of reading Winnie's War a few months ago. It's a beautifully written, moving and engrossing book with real and engaging characters, and I would gladly recommend it to any young reader who is interested in the time period or just enjoys historical novels in general.
For any of my fellow authors and publishing folk interested in attending the free BookCamp Toronto unconference on June 6th, you might want to register ASAP (you can always un-register later if need be) because they're having to cap registration at 150 members due to space limitations.

Looks like a lot of great people are going to be involved! I'm excited about this one.
Here's something for my fellow authors and other bookish folk: BookCamp Toronto, a proposed unconference (meaning it's free, no-frills, and anyone can get involved) dealing with the future of books, writing, publishing, and the book business in the digital age. It's being held in a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Toronto, and so far the tentative registration list includes publishers, editors, authors, librarians, teachers...

I'm contemplating the possibility of taking part in some way (hey, it's free and it's reasonably close, what's not to like?). Anyone else interested? *looks pointedly at the other members of Y-Eh*
I'm happy to announce that over the course of this coming year I'll be participating in the Moveable Feast of Awesome, a.k.a. the 2009 Debs' Blog Tour! Every week or so I'll post an interview with one of my fellow [ profile] debut2009 authors as their books hit the shelves, so you can find out more about them and their writing.

And my first interviewee is the lovely and multitalented Stacey Jay! Her YA paranormal novel You Are So Undead To Me has been out since January 22nd, and it's published in the US by Razorbill Books. Here's a little bit about the book:

Megan Berry's social life is so dead. Literally. Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she's part-time shrink to a bunch of dead people. All Megan wants is to be normal--and go to homecoming. But someone in school is using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into flesh-eating Zombies, and it's looking like homecoming will turn out to be a very different kind of party--the bloody kind.

Stacey Jay describes herself as a workaholic with three pen names, four kids, and a decidedly macabre sense of humor. She loves zombies, creepies, crawlies, blood, guts, gore, and of course, romance.

Click here for the interview and more with Stacey Jay! )

Congratulations on your debut, Stacey, and thanks for telling us a little more about yourself and your book! The next Debs interview will be with Jenny Moss on Feb. 15, when I'll be talking to her about her MG historical novel Winnie's War.

Expos, eh?

Feb. 2nd, 2009 06:16 pm
rj_anderson: (Doctor Who - Five - Books)
Looks like Book Expo Canada is no more, and that the proposed fall event in Toronto aimed at the general book-buying public is also a no-go.

So what OTHER events, festivals and such are my fellow Canadian authors planning to attend this year? I've been seriously considering going to Book Expo America in May -- have any of you been, and did you think that it was worth it?

And then, of course, there's always the possibility of going to SCBWI-LA in August. For those who've done that conference, did you find it worthwhile from the perspective of someone who's already agented/published? Or did you find it mostly geared to the pre-pubbed and not-yet-agented?

I do know one thing, though: next year I definitely want to do Kindling Words in Vermont. [ profile] kmessner and [ profile] halseanderson were there this past weekend and their reports make it sound amazingly great.
From now on I want all author interviews to be as hilariously brilliant as Shannon Hale interviewing M.T. Anderson. I don't care if the interview gives me no practical information whatsoever: silly, random things make me happy, so there.
Moominland MidwinterImage via WikipediaThanks to fellow Moomin lover Alex Milway for sharing with me two delightful links about Tove Jansson and her unique, fantastical world:

I still vividly remember my first encounter with the Moomins at the age of six, when I was miserably sick at home with chicken pox and my father brought me Moominland Midwinter to read. It's the perfect story if you're sick of winter (which I suspect describes half my friendslist by now), or can't get to sleep, or just feeling ready for a quirky adventure with unexpected depths.

Anyway, if you love children's literature and you aren't familiar with the Moomins, you owe it to yourself to check out at least one of these articles. Or better yet, get hold of one of Tove Jansson's books.
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[ profile] anywherebeyond a.k.a. Saundra Mitchell has just posted the first page of her forthcoming (20 days!) YA paranormal suspense novel Shadowed Summer, and as always her prose is a thing of beauty and a joy forever and Iris's narrative voice is sheer brilliance, so I urge you to go over and read it.
Oh my word, this is hilarious and exactly what I needed after reading Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson which I now see a lot of people on GoodReads did not get at all and think is one of her lesser works, but I so disagree or I will if I can only stop sobbing long enough to draw breath, uh, where was I?

Oh, yeah:

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Thanks to [ profile] reveilles for the link.

In my November 8th post on kitchen-sink books and why I love them I mentioned my fellow Canadian Adrienne Kress's delightful swashbuckling MG novel Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. (Still totally in love with the fencing sequence in that book.)

Well, Adrienne's second book Timothy and the Dragon's Gate is out in stores today, and as a fellow writer of floppy-haired boys named Timothy who get themselves expelled from school (truly, synchronicity is a weird thing) I feel compelled to give you all the heads-up.

Well, that and hurry down to my local indie bookseller to order a copy of Timothy if it isn't in stock already, that is...
If you took all the episodes of Heroes, Dark Angel, Alias and Highlander plus a copy of The Da Vinci Code* and put them all in a giant blender, you would end up with something which would not look exactly like Robin Parrish's Relentless, but which fansCover of Cover via Amazon of Parrish's book would find hauntingly familiar.**

The title is a fine example of truth in advertising: the pace doesn't let up from beginning to end, and it's more like watching a summer blockbuster than reading a story. Unfortunately the need for everything to happen fast and in spectacularly cinematic ways makes it difficult to delve into the emotional lives of the characters -- but Parrish certainly does the best he can with the time and opportunities he's got. In true comic-book tradition it's fantastically violent (though not gory), which left me feeling rather numb after a while, but I can certainly think of a lot of teenaged boys who would eat this story up with a jumbo-sized spoon.

Relentless didn't change my life and I can't say I'm likely to read it again, but nevertheless I couldn't put it down. And now I am quite curious about the sequel, because now that I know the underlying premise (and that it is PURE CRACK) I really want to know if Parrish can sell me on it.

* Albeit a much better-written version of The Da Vinci Code than the one that was actually published, and one considerably more sympathetic to Christianity.
** With apologies to Douglas Adams.
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