Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with L.B. Schulman, author of LEAGUE OF STRAYS

1. Tell me about League of Strays. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?

Answer: I was fascinated by how Columbine came about and what motivated those two boys to do something so horrific. As it turns out, one of them has since been declared a sociopath. It seemed like that one boy influenced the other, which also intrigued me. I also wanted to write something that highlighted revenge as being its own form of bullying.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

Answer: I have always loved to read YA. I don’t even read adult fiction anymore. I just enjoy the quirky, exciting, adventurous lives of YA characters. As a writer, I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else. (Except for middle-grade, of course, but that's YA's sibling.)

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Answer: I spoke to police officers and lawyers, to make sure the ending was as realistic as possible. I also researched the viola so I could capture Charlotte's feelings about music. But I also drew from my own experience playing violin as a teenager.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

Answer: I am inconsistent, though I wish I could say otherwise. Some days I don't write at all, and others, I write for eight hours straight. I live a busy life with kids and other responsibilities and sometimes, I can't squeeze in the hours to write. That is why this book took me so long to write...two to three years to get the first draft done and more to revise. I write in my living room on the couch with my laptop.

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

Answer: It’s hard to begin my writing day when I don't feel inspired. But I know from experience that I need to motor through that lethargy and just start. Soon, I will be on a roll. The easiest part is when my characters seem to write the book for me. My fingers just dictate what they tell me.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

Answer: For me, it's being able to pass along my world views through writing. If I have an important thought that I want to share, my characters can help me. As an author, I get to choose the theme and so writing the book is pure fun. I love what I do.

7. What are you working on now?

Answer: Another contemporary YA with a very cool hook. But I don't like to talk about my books until I've written them, because I am always changing my mind about the plot until it's done.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Answer: For most of us, it takes a really long time to be published. Don't give up. Read, read, read. My writing really improved when I started reading a YA every week. And get a critique group. Their reactions have really helped me refine my writing.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Answer: I like so many books, it's impossible to say. I find wonderful qualities in almost all of them. I could never pick just a few.

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Answer: What is the number one quality that a person needs to succeed in anything he or she attempts? Perseverance. If you keep knocking, they will answer eventually, even if they are only doing it because they are annoyed with you! 

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Answer: Keep on Knocking: The L.B. Schulman Story (title inspired by previous question.)

12. Is League of Strays being made into a movie/TV series? If you got the opportunity to cast the characters, whom would you choose and why?

Answer: Well, the book would have to be hugely popular for that to happen, I think. I’d take either of the Fanning sisters, or Drew Barrymore as a teenager, for the role of Charlotte. For Kade, I’d have to say Robert Pattinson. Yes, I know: he’s Edward Cullen, and Kade on my cover even resembles him. But still, those eyes and that intensity. Yeah, he’d be good. Real good.

Flash Questions:

1. If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Answer: I think it’s hard to be a celebrity, so I really don’t want to be one, even for a day. Everyone has his or her struggles, and no one lives a perfect existence, so I will stay in my own body for now.

2. What was the last movie you saw?

Answer: Oh, you would have to ask this. I am so embarrassed. Gulp. WAYNE’S WORLD TWO. But hey, it was Inappropriate Movie Night at my house. That title came from my constant admonition that such and such movie was “inappropriate” for my children, but I was seriously outvoted so many times that we now make a night of it.

3. What is your biggest TV addiction?

Answer: The Biggest Loser (inspiring while I do my elliptical) and American Idol. I also like any paranormal show, like Touched or reruns of The Ghost Whisperer. I don’t watch much TV though, because I get easily addicted to junk, and it’s a huge time waster.

4. Guilty pleasure?

Answer: Lattes, all day long. And chocolate bits: milk chocolate, not dark.

5. Fruits or veggies?

Answer: Mangoes and avocados….the ones with the most calories possible.

6. Favorite childhood toy?

Answer: My counting jump rope. I liked trying to beat my own records.

7. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Answer: A hard-boiled egg, a latte, and then an hour later, a bowl of Cheerios. I eat all day long. Hard for me to write without food nearby. Bad habit, I know.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, #2) by Jennifer Estep, Book Review

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...

Title: Kiss of Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Pages: 354
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

I have read my fair share of books written by authors who try to take myths and legends and transform them into their own modernized mythological story.  Whether those books are good or not, well, we won't get into that. But I can personally guarantee that there is no "mythological retelling" book out there quite as original or well-written as Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep.

Kiss of Frost is the second book in the Mythos Academy series, so if you haven't read the first installment, Touch of Frost, it'd be a good idea to click off this review until you have.

Kiss of Frost opens up shortly after the ending of the first book and, as per usual, Estep has you hooked from the very first page.  The first OMG moment happens when Gwen is nearly killed by an unknown assailant.  After the first attempt to take her life is foiled, Gwen starts getting paranoid and begins taking extra precautions to ensure her safety, but plays it off cool because she doesn't want to ring any alarms and upset her friends, Grandma Frost, or Professor Metis.  However, after the SECOND attempt at murdering Gwen is set into motion, Gwen uses her Gypsy gift of psychometry to get to the bottom of who's trying to kill her.  And what she sees in her vision gets the ball rolling and from that moment on, a chain of exciting, heart-stopping events take place and you literally will not be able to tear yourself away.

Now that I've cruelly teased you all with the passage (above), I'll talk a little bit about the rest of the novel.  First, the characters.  I'll admit, Gwen really annoyed me in the first book and I can honestly say I wanted to slap her around on quite a few occasions, but she completely changed over the course of the second book.  I felt as if Gwen matured a lot and really started taking her place as Nike's Chosen One seriously and stopped bagging on herself for not being "good enough" all the time--because it was really annoying, but that's what character development is for, right?  I really liked Daphne and Carson in this book, too.  I felt as if they were the perfect best friends, and I could definitely feel the sincerity in their friendships.  At first, Logan Quinn (totally hot Spartan playboy/warrior) really pissed me off until the very end of the book.  I didn't understand why he was being such an asshole to Gwen, but things cleared up and by the end of the novel, I had to profess my love for Logan.  All in all, the characters were great and they all felt very real and relatable, and I really liked that aspect of the book.

Next, lets talk about the plot, which I've already given you a taste of in the introduction.  OMFG!  I think that one single acronym should be enough to tell you all how crazy (in a good way!) this plot was.  Action, adventure, romance...what else could you possibly want from a book?!  The plot, characters, and chemistry of this book reminded me a little bit of the House of Night series, (minus the tedious plot line!)

I have to give Kiss of Frost a 5/5 rating.  It was THAT good.  I seriously can't wait to dig into the third and fourth installments, Dark Frost and Crimson Frost (December 24, 2012).

Buy the book: