Monday, November 24, 2014

VCFA Reads - Mini Reviews (1)

I've been pretty inactive on the blog this year, and that needs to change, because I miss the outlet and connecting with you all.

As I mentioned this summer, I started the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in July. In addition I've been traveling like mad, so even though I've been reading, I haven't been posting much. So, I am going to take the next couple of weeks to highlight some books I've been reading as part of the program.

One of my goals for awhile has been to read more backlist, and by backlist, I mean books not published in the year I'm reading. I've been so spoiled with review copies and arcs that I can't even keep up with those, let alone think about dipping into my shelves for books that have been patiently waiting for me to crack open their spines. VCFA has given me an excuse to read backlist and not feel guilty about it.

Here are a few favorites from my first semester of reading.

FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal (2013)

The ghost of Jacob Grimm narrates from the Zwischenraum, a place between life and death for unsettled spirits. Jeremy Johnson Johnson, an outcast in his small town, is one of the few humans alive who can hear Jacob, and so Jacob becomes his mentor and protector from a malevolent presence. McNeal creates a creepy fairy tale atmosphere and a touching character arc for both Jacob and Jeremy. I cried at the end, and I rarely cry while reading fiction. My favorite read of the year!

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater (2011)

Stiefvater’s novel creates tension by giving the two POV characters, Puck and Sean, urgent and yet conflicting goals. The reader desperately wants both to win the race, Puck so she can avoid being evicted and prove herself and Sean so he can keep his beloved horse Corr. Stiefvater raises the stakes by having Puck ride her own beloved horse Dove in the race, despite the very real risk of death. I might have teared up at the end here too.


In Piddy Sanchez, readers get a sympathetic, non-stereotypical Latina character to root for. Piddy’s world is torn apart when she changes schools and becomes the target of bully Yaqui, and Medina presents Piddy’s sense of helplessness in a visceral way. She also integrates Latin culture and the Spanish language seamlessly, not calling too much attention to it, but letting it speak for itself.

THE GOATS by Brock Cole (1987)

The kids at camp play a horrible joke on Howie and Laura: they leave them on an island alone and naked. According to camp tradition, Howie and Laura have been chosen as goats. But the two teens refuse to accept their fate meekly and run away together. Through their many adventures, Howie and Laura grow closer, accepting each other more as they come to accept themselves. Cole’s language and scenes are deceptively simple, and yet they are incredibly emotionally resonant.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne-Jones (1986)

This is the rare fantasy novel that completely enchanted me, and I suspect it has to do with Jones’ consistency of a matter-of-fact tone and relatable main character. Sophie doesn’t believe she has a lot of offer the world, so when a witch transforms her into an old woman, she accepts her fate without question. Wizard Howl is fearful of his own power and spends most of the novel running from his responsibilities. 

Any backlist reads you'd suggest for my next semester of reading?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta

ENTANGLED is out in paperback now, and Presenting Lenore is today's stop on the blog tour to celebrate it. I read ENTANGLED over the weekend and I loved the mix of science and music. Amy has such an inventive use of language and the story speaks to our need as humans for connecting with others.

Here's the summary:

ENTANGLED is the story of seventeen-year-old Cade, a fierce survivor who lives solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar until she finds out she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

The rest of Cade’s story is coming in UNMADE, which hits shelves January 13!

And here's Amy!

I’ve always loved science fiction.

But the truth is nerdier than that: I’ve always loved science.

Whenever I play the “what would you have done with your life if you weren’t doing this?” game, I only have one answer. Scientist. BOOM. Easy. A lot of people see writing and science on opposite ends of a spectrum of What People Do, but I don’t think of it that way. Science and writing are focused ways of looking at the world where you don’t get to take anything for granted.

And no matter how weird creative writing can get, science is ALWAYS weirder.

Seriously, there is no way to top the strangeness of our own world. Writing has to follow WAY more rules than nature. Nature might have inherent patterns, but it also delights in breaking them, and coming up with more variety and just plain oddity than a single person could ever do if you stuck them in a bare room with a notebook and said, “Now make up the whole world.”

Take quantum entanglement.

Quantum entanglement is one of the weirdest things in all of the vast weirdness of science. It’s what happens when two particles start talking to each other. Across impossible distances. They interact in ways that break ALL of the rules.

So of course, as a writer, I heard that, and my metaphor-making brain kicked in. What if it was people instead of particles having these weird and intense interactions across impossible distances?! I was lucky, because I already had a character wandering around in my brain, in need of just such a bit of science. Cade already had a crappy home planet and a loudloud guitar. All she needed was a plot!

As soon as I used quantum entanglement to connect Cade to a strange boy far across the universe, things really started to heat up. I used some of the details of entanglement to add specifics to the way they interact. Of course, I also fictionalized and stretched the idea. A lot. But if it’s within the realm of human imagination, it’s probably within the realm of scientific possibility.

Do you know how many inventions have been predicted by science fiction? SO MANY. This is the moment where I remind you that we currently have hovercraft technology! HOVERCRAFTS, people. And scientists are talking about bending space-time around a spaceship! (WARP DRIVE, people.) And…

(Thirty minutes of nerding out redacted.)

Here’s a funny thing that I’ve noticed. Some of the people who’ve picked up ENTANGLED have assumed that quantum entanglement isn’t real—that I just made it up. And I can’t really blame them. It just SOUNDS so fictional. It sounds more than fictional, actually. It sounds bananas.

But it’s real. And to me, that was too incredible NOT to write about.

Want to know more about science and fiction colliding in ENTANGLED? Watch the EXCLUSIVE excerpt!

And enter the giveaway! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 31, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Loop by Karen Akins

I got to read LOOP last year and I was blown away by how imaginative and fun it was. So much so that I gave it an official blurb which appears on the back cover of the hardback:

"Witty and inventive, LOOP is a time travel treat!" -Lenore Appelhans, author of THE MEMORY OF AFTER

Here's the official summary:

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up. 
After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.
But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

Find out more at the author's website.

Intrigued? Enter to win a copy here. US only. Prize provided and shipped by publisher.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Giveaway! Telekinesis Prize Pack for In the Afterlight by Alex Bracken

IN THE AFTERLIGHT, the third book in Alexandra Bracken's fun series is coming out in one month on October 28th. (I can't wait to read it!!) And to celebrate, I'm offering an awesome prize pack today!


Levitate your library! Enter here by October 8th for your chance to win a floating bookshelf and The Darkest Minds series & tote bag.

Prizing & samples courtesy of Disney-Hyperion. Giveaway open to US addresses only.

Find all 50 giveaways across the internet!


Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there's no guarantee you're fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children's League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam's brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government "rehabilitation camps" all over the country. Freeing them--revealing the governments unspeakable abuses in the process--is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IANN, the disease that killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

ABOUT SPARKS RISE (The Darkest Minds: 2.5 e-Book release)

Available now!

This New eBook Novella connects the last two novels in The Darkest Minds trilogy.

Sam didn't think things could get worse at Thurmand rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam's dark childhood.

Lucas has a deadly secret--he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk his everything to save her.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mini Life Update

It's been awhile since I've posted so I wanted to let everyone know that I am well. I've just returned from my first residency as part of the VCFA writing for children MFA program and it has been a transformative experience. I will prepare a post on that for you soonish, including my book list for the semester.

More soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guest Post: Diana Renn on Latitude Zero

Today is Diana Renn's book birthday for LATITUDE ZERO, and to celebrate, she's written a guest post about how it's journey to print is intertwined with her journey to Ecuador. Welcome Diana!

In 1998, I was a grad student and part-time ESL teacher. I was nearly broke, freezing cold (thanks to a heating problem in my apartment), and probably depressed. I was unsure about staying in a Ph.D. program that did not inspire me, doubtful about fulfilling my life dream of writing a novel, and unsure of what to do next. I’d been goal-oriented my whole life, but now I was disoriented. I had a fierce desire to travel. But where? My inner compass spun wildly in all directions.

One raw winter day, I sought refuge in a travel bookstore and picked up a book on South America. I was instantly drawn to the warmth and colors: the photos of toucans, cloud forests, snow-capped mountains, jungle towns, indigenous peoples in embroidered shirts and ponchos, street markets overflowing with crafts.

I bought the book and read about every country. A good friend of mine, a fellow ESL teacher, was similarly intrigued. We made it our goal to travel. I took on extra classes and extra odd jobs and saved up money as fast as I could. I got yellow fever shots and malaria pills and looked into airplane tickets.

It soon became clear that our budgets wouldn’t allow a luxurious continental journey in the style of Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express. We decided to pick one country that seemed safe for two women travelers on budgets, one country that would offer a variety of South American experiences. We found one that seemed to have it all: the coast, the Andes mountains, the Amazon River. Bustling cities and small jungle towns.

That country was Ecuador.

We covered as much terrain as we could in twelve days. We swung on jungle vines and sampled fresh cacao from pods hacked open with machetes. We swam with seals in the Galapagos Islands and saw the famous gigantic tortoises. We visited Incan ruins in suburban neighborhoods. We took local busses on harrowing mountain roads, learned to salsa, got incredibly sick from food vendor food, and hiked Mount Cotopaxi. I felt like I’d awakened after a long, long sleep.

Returning to Boston, I still had my old life and my old problems waiting for me, as well as a stack of bills. But I’d been infected by Ecuador. (In fact, I truly had – months later, I would learn I had a particularly violent amoeba from my bout with food poisoning, and was briefly hospitalized).

So I applied for a job there, teaching English to businesspeople and developing a curriculum for a language school. I took a leave of absence from grad school, put my belongings in a storage unit, sold off furniture, terminated my lease, and bought another plane ticket.

This time I stayed for nearly a year. I was an expat! It was here, I was sure, I would write a book. A novel or an expat memoir of my adventures.

Only, I wasn’t having so many adventures now. Being there as a tourist was adventurous, but now I was working more than full time. My classes had crazy hours; the businesses the school sent me to scheduled their classes before and after work and at lunch. In between classes, which were all over town, I had to do curriculum work for the language school and attend Spanish classes. This all added up to twelve hour days, with evenings often spent doing class prep.

Oh, and did I mention my apartment had a heating problem? Quito, high in the Andes, is perpetually spring-like, but the evenings are cool, and rainstorms frequent. For awhile, I lived with a nice family, renting a bedroom that was really a converted maid’s room. I went to sleep shivering on a narrow cot, watching the roof leak.

It was a thrill at first, navigating city streets, exploring the nooks and crannies of Quito during my spare time. I loved learning Spanish. Yet irritations set in. I had no desk on which to write my great expatriate novel (let alone plan my lessons). I often worked on the washing machine in the little garden patio off of my room. Or I used public computer terminals at the language school or in Internet cafes. That great book I’d come to write remained unwritten.

I loved my day job. I met amazing people. I felt my work was meaningful, and I really learned how to be a teacher. But as time passed, I also realized how much I longed for infrastructure that would allow for a writing career. I dreamed of a room, a desk, a computer. I missed sending stories out to literary magazines (and this was the days before electronic submissions). An uncomfortable thought occurred to me. Maybe I wasn’t as adventurous as I thought. I had wanted to be an expat, or at least a great traveler. But at heart, I was just a tourist.

Then the Ecuadorian economy went into a tailspin. The currency devalued. Business classes cancelled for financial reasons. Lines gathered outside banks as panicked people tried to withdraw all their money. Meanwhile, a volcano outside the city smoked and steamed and threatened to blow. And I began looking toward Boston again. I had fled my own crisis at home, only to come to a country now on the verge of multiple crises. Protests were starting up in the streets. The acrid smell of burning tires at roadblocks became familiar to me.

After I returned to Boston, and set up my life again—with a stable job, and a sturdy desk, and a dependable used laptop--I started writing about Ecuador. I wrote a little story called “Latitude Zero” about a girl who went there seeking freedom but bumping into numerous constraints. That story got rewritten about ten times in ten years. In some versions there was a parent with her. In some versions she was twenty-eight. In some versions she fell in love, and in some versions she didn’t. I just couldn’t nail the story.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally realized “Latitude Zero” really wanted to be a novel. I was still interested in a character who went to Ecuador seeking freedom, and whose moral compass had gone off-kilter. But I made Tessa Taylor younger. I made her the focus of a mystery. I invented an Ecuadorian athlete for her to meet. And pages piled up.

The book I finally finished, Latitude Zero, is a YA mystery/thriller. It’s very different from the story I began on a washing machine in 1999, and vastly different from my own experience. Tessa is far more adventurous than I was, too. But I confess, scattered throughout the pages are a few of my own impressions and experiences of Ecuador, culled from my journals. I’m grateful to Tessa for letting me be a tourist in her story, and for letting me slip those in.


Find out more about Diana and her books at her website

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Memory of After is the Kindle Daily Deal! $1.99! + Chasing Before Giveaway!

If you've been waiting to snag The Memory of After on Kindle, now's your chance - it's $1.99 on amazon today (June 29th) only! (it also appears to be $1.99 on iTunes)

ETA: The price went up to $6.87 now (June 30th).

To celebrate, I'm also going to give away one early copy (ARC, signed) of the sequel, Chasing Before! This is an international giveaway that closes July 4th, so if you want to win, comment with a contact e-mail address before 11:59 pm CST.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Return of Cat Tuesday (89)

Lu really likes the caves we build for him.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Dystopian Sequels

One of my goals this year is to finish off some series because I'm in the middle of too many. Here are three series enders I've read so far.

IN THE AGE OF LOVE AND CHOCOLATE by Gabrielle Zevin is the third book in the series that began with ALL THESE THINGS I HAVE DONE (my review) and continued with BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD (my review).

I've mentioned in past reviews that Anya feels like an old friend, and I genuinely enjoyed catching up with her life. This is quite a dramatic end to the series too, with an arranged wedding, a near assassination, some well-deserved revenge, and the sweetest/most romantic scene yet between Anya and Win. One of my favorite reads of the year!


FTC disclosure: Bought

REBEL by Amy Tintera. Sequel to REBOOT (my review)

REBOOT is an action novel with a intriguing character arc involving Wren attempting to reboot her humanity. That process continues in REBEL, a sequel even more action packed than its predecessor. The stand-out moments for me, though, were the quiet ones of reflection where Wren has to consider what it means to be human in a post-human world.

The driver of the plot is book two is Micah, the (superbad) leader of reboot reservation, a stronghold for the reboots that's successfully managed to repel HARC. Wren feels safe and understood for the first time since her violent death, but Callum senses trouble. This leads them into territory well worn by other books in the dystopian genre and though I didn't find it as engaging as book one, it's getting rave reviews from goodreads users.

REBEL is available now. 

FTC disclosure: Review copy via Edelweiss

DIVIDED by Elsie Chapman is the sequel to DUALED (my discussion review part 1 / part 2).

Despite its comparisons to THE HUNGER GAMES, DUALED turned out to be one of the more unique dystopians I've read, and DIVIDED continues in that vein. The world Chapman creates is very brutal, a place where kids killing kids is commonplace and accepted, and our heroine, West, would do anything to survive. In the sequel, West is thriving, and she's offered a chance to secure her future with Chord as well.

In the first book, West struggled with her own self worth, and in the second, she's questioning the society more. We get answers to many of the world building questions that lingered as well as quite a few very well executed major twists. We see how cunning a fighter West is via clever action set pieces (I especially loved the hall of mirrors), and some smoking hot scenes with Chord. Don't pass this one up!

DIVIDED is available now. 

FTC disclosure: Review copy via Netgalley

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

SINNER is loosely connected to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series that began with SHIVER in that it spins off the characters of Cole St. Clair and Isabel, but you probably don't have to have read that trilogy to enjoy this book.

The selling point for me was Cole St. Clair. He may fall under the familiar misunderstood-bad-boy-who-can-charm-your-pants off archetype, but he's always felt very real and human to me (even when he's actually a shapeshifter of the wolf-kind).

Cole left his life as lead singer of a rock band and dark past filled with sex, drugs and excess to live in utter obscurity. But now he's back in LA, under the glaring lights of fame.

Why? What does Cole want the most? Isabel. And Isabel is in LA.

What scares him the most? Himself. 

What is the worst situation he could get himself into? Signing up to play himself on a reality show known for destroying its subjects.

In many ways, Isabel is aligned with his reality show audience. Both Isabel and his audience expect the worst from him and can't believe that he could ever change. Both are programmed not to believe in happy endings. Both are unwittingly under his spell. But in Cole's eyes, Isabel and his audience are also at odds. To keep his audience, he must play Cole St. Clair: Rock Star. To keep Isabel, he must strip away his public persona, give up the wolf in him, and find the real boy he's been trying to bury.

SINNER pushes Cole and Isabel to their limits, breaking them just enough to make them realize what they really need. It's both an incisive character study and a carefully crafted redemptive romance. 

I loved every page.

SINNER comes out in hardcover on July 1, 2014. You can preorder signed copies at Fountain Bookstore. They'll come with a very cool custom book wrapper.

FTC disclosure: I received a review copy of SINNER at BEA.