Posts Tagged ‘books to buy’


Well Witched

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I tend to read a wide variety of books, including fantasy and science fiction.  And that means that I have gravitated towards YA reading much, much more than I did, say, five years ago, because quite simply, some of the best fantasy out there is coming out in YA.  The label “young adult” or even “middle grade” can be confusing for people who don’t remember what they read when they were in middle grades, and were young adults.  The label doesn’t mean that the themes are dumbed down or that the books are less carefully crafted.  Often it means that the genres are harder to peg–where would you have placed Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” in the adult world?  Literary fiction? Historical fiction?  But then there is that paranormal element, too, since it’s narrated by death.

In short, I love young adult books to death, and I’ve read more great fantasy and science fiction in YA in recent years than I have in the regular old adult sections.

Over the weekend, on a whim I picked up a copy of Frances Hardinge’s Well Witched.  I’d read her first novel, “Fly by Night” many many years ago.  I don’t even think I bought it myself.  As I recall, it was a gift from a friend who personally the author, who also knew that I was a Harry Potter fanatic and thought I might like it.  In retrospect, now that I am an author myself, I suspect my friend hoped I would become as fanatical about Hardinge as I was about Rowling, and I’m sure that my lackluster response was probably disappointing.  I read it.  It was fun.  I thought it was a decent first try.  I didn’t love it, though–I thought the main character was a little flat and the world building a little dry–and I promptly forgot about the author.  I’m not even sure why I picked up this book (which has the much cooler title of “Verdigris Deep” in the UK but apparently that’s too inaccessible for us slobs in the US audience?), except that I was itching for a fantasy and my local Borders didn’t have “Inkheart” in stock. (A tale for another day–HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, BORDERS?)

Several hours later, I emerged, blinking, into the light.  Well Witched is everything I love in a book.  It’s fraught with moral ambiguity.  The villains  are never identifiable.  The plot construction is tight.  There is character growth both subtle and deep.  Oh, and the main character has tiny eyes that grow on the back of his hand.

There is no romance in the book, but it has the thing I love best about romance:  A boy who learns to appreciate things he’d never seen about the people he loves, who not only grows literal eyes, but learns to see figuratively deeper.

I adore the fact that ten year olds will read this book, and I hope that adults will, too.

The Historical is Dead

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Two years ago, all I was hearing was how dead historicals were.  Historicals were dead, dead, dead.  They were going the way of the dodo and chick lit.  If you wanted to get published, you had to write vampires and werewolves–everyone knew that.

Today, I did a quick tally in my head of people I know–and by “know” I mean, have met in person and talked with–who have debut historical novels coming out from major New York houses in the upcoming year-or-something.  By my count, that number stands at eleven.

Here are the debut authors in that once-dead genre (note that release dates are tentative the farther you get out):

All that doom and gloom two years ago?  It turned out kinda like this:

Five Awesome January Romances

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

So, I’ve read five books that come out in January, all of which have been beyond incredible.  It’s been an embarrassment of riches over here.  All five qualify as romances in the broad sense of the word:  There’s a happily ever after at the end, and the love story is an integral part of the book (although in all cases, the love story is not the only part of the book).  Of course, not all of them are marketed as romances–but that’s another matter entirely.

The interesting thing is that while I love all these books, the heat level varies wildly from nearly no sexual content in one of them, to an erotic romance involving multiple partners.  If you’ve been wondering what to read this January, look no further.

In order of heat, from lightest to hottest:

  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford.
    This is the novel with little sexual content, and this book is about so many things–love between races, the Japanese internment (and I can’t help but think of the parallels in this time), patriotism, and families on all levels.  I loved this book.  I have wanted to read this book since I read about it on Kristin’s blog, and reading her editorial letter about this book is what convinced me I wanted her as an agent, because if she could make me long to read a book that much, I figured she had to be the best at what she did.  You don’t want to ask what I did to get an advance copy, but I will be buying extras when it is released for my mother and for a former boss, who will both appreciate it.
  • Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles.
    Even though this book was released almost a week ago, it took me forever to find a copy of it.  My local Borders was out within two days, and when I special ordered it, they couldn’t get another copy right away–it turns out that this book is going into a second printing.  This is a Young Adult novel, but there is a sex scene.  It’s central to the whole book, though, and it takes place (mostly) off screen.  This book is so beautifully written, and even though I didn’t think I would like the heroine (she is perfect and a cheerleader), Simone made me fall in love with her in the very first chapter.  (Full disclosure:  Simone is also one of my agent’s clients and a member of my RWA chapter, but I swear I wouldn’t be saying this if I didn’t love the book anyway.)
  • Marrying The Captain, by Carla Kelly.
    Carla Kelly is a new-to-me author.  As in, how on earth is it that I have never read a Carla Kelly before now?  In any event, Marrying the Captain is a Regency.  The sensuality is fairly light (although there are sex scenes), but the tension is beautiful, and the character development, the slow build up in this novel, is fantastic.
  • Talk Me Down, by Victoria Dahl.
    Damn.  I’ve really loved all of Victoria’s awesome historicals, but Talk Me Down just took everything I loved about those books up a notch.  Her heroine was wounded–both because of fairly recent events involving an ex, and also because she kept everyone at a certain arms’ length.  This book contained one of the most poignant and beautiful love scenes that I’ve ever read.  If you’re wondering–it’s the photographs.  You’ll know it when you get there.
  • Stranger, by Megan Hart.
    I’ve heard a lot about Megan Hart, but just never got around to reading her until now.  This book was incredible–think, kick me in the gut awesome.  It was dark and edgy without being about abuse or any other truly unthinkable things.  I fell in love with the heroine right from the get-go, and I ached for her to be happy.  This book is an erotic romance–there is a lot of sex, including sex with strangers–but it is also an incredibly emotional read.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that sometimes, authors try to inject emotion into their books by making everything larger than life.  He’s not just ticked, he’s furious.  She’s not just jealous, she is smoldering with desire.  I find that this emotional magnification doesn’t work for me.  In fact, it usually has the opposite effect.  It leaves me feeling disconnected from the characters, as their emotions are too large for the events of the day.  Megan Hart gets that, and I think one of the most powerful things about this book is how the heroine understates her emotion.  The effect for me, is magnificent.

There aren’t many months out there where, in the first two weeks, my reading material is this incredible.  So you tell me:  What are you reading, and is it this awesome?  Because I’m almost afraid to read anything else, for fear of breaking this streak of perfection. And now that I’ve looked up all these books on Amazon to link to them, I notice that two of them are agent-brothers and sisters, and the other three are all from different imprints of my publisher. That was entirely unintentional, and I’m guessing that when I do this again next February (and I will do it again!) hopefully I will have greater variety.

Maximizing Your Productivity

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Kay Cassidy is the winner of the 2008 Golden Heart for her Young Adult novel The Cinderella Society, which will be coming from Egmont in Spring of 2010.  She’s also got an MBA, and she is more organized than . . . well, I would say more organized than me, but since my desk bears a strong resemblance to a volcanic eruption, that is not saying much.  In any event, Kay has been blogging for the last couple of days, giving productivity tips for authors.  Things like, how to organize yourself so that you can get work done, and how to save things so that you can find them later.

To me, what Kay proposes sounds like something between heaven and magic.  Right now, my organization is to stack things up in a five-foot pile on my desk, and hope that if the cat knocks the pile over, it gets restacked before the dog chews up anything important.  I desperately needed this.  She’s convinced me to go digital in 2009 and buy a receipt scanner.

If you’re interested, check out her awesome posts here, and here.

Time for a double squee!!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Today is a two-fer, and an amazing two-fer it is!

Erica Ridley just sold her book TOUCHED to Kensington, in a two book deal!

I would say it is very exciting to see Erica sell, but knowing how talented and awesome she is, I have been expecting to hear news along these lines from her for, oh, ever.  The most exciting part is finding out that she’s going to have a book on the shelves, and I can buy it and read it and give it away to friends and family.  Congratulations, Erica!  You’re a superstar, and I can’t wait to find out details.

But as I said, today is a double squee.  Take a look at the comment trail here and you can see Lori Brighton (that would be Lori from FanLit, the Lori who finaled, oh, only about a million times, who has a ton of talent) has also sold to Kensington, and her book will be out at the end of this year.  This sale happened a few months ago, apparently, but somehow she has managed to be cool as a cucumber, and hasn’t shouted about her sale to the winds.  So I have to do it for her!

Squee for Lori and Erica!

One last thought.  At RWA Nationals in Dallas, a group of eight unpublished, unagented authors met for dinner and plotting.  We talked for a very long time.  Eighteen months later, five of the eight authors have sold (Tessa, Jackie, me, Sara, and now Erica)–and having read full books from two out of the remaining three, I am convinced we’ll see awesome sales for the remaining three soon.

Nine months ago, I talked to Lori at Chicago North’s Spring Fling conference.  We were both unpublished, unagented, and we talked about how crazy this business is.  We practiced our pitches with each other.

In some sense, publishing is a competitive business.  There are a finite number of slots for debut authors.  Not everyone can be published; not even half of everyone, or a quarter of everyone, or even a one-hundredth of everyone can be published.  But just because the business may be in some sense competitive doesn’t mean that you must be competitive with your friends.  Because the truth is, unless you are the Kevin Bacon or the Paul Erdos of publishing, there are more slots available for new authors in publishing than you can possibly have friends.

All of your friends really can get published.  I expect that all my friends will.

Delicious Release

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Whether you are traveling to Nationals or staying at home, there is something you should do today.

Yes, you.

Go to your store.  Go to Amazon.  Go anywhere that sells awesome books, and buy one of the best historicals available.  That would be, for those of you who don’t know yet, Sherry Thomas’s incredible Delicious.  I was lucky enough to win an ARC, and I avoided everything else for several blissful hours to devour Sherry’s sophomore debut.  Private Arrangements was awesome, but I have no vocabulary for how good Delicious is.  It’s hot, emotional, funny, and it made me very, very hungry.  I loved Stuart–a true alpha male, in every excellent sense of the word and none of the stupid, bumbling ones–and Verity with a burning passion.  Seriously–buy a copy for the plane ride to Dallas.  You won’t regret this one.  Except after you finish it and curl into a little ball, hitting yourself over your head for your own inadequacy.

I am going to go face out the copies of Delicious in the airport bookstore; you are going to buy this book and read it.


Courtney Milan writes historical romance novels like the ones you see to the right. She still remembers bits and pieces from her old lives, where she was (variously) a scientist and a lawyer.

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