Free Friday: No Name Calling Week and CRACKED by KM Walton

Reading Song of the Day: “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato

Confession: I feel guilty about two things. First, that I gave this post an incredibly wordy title. And second, that Quita and I failed to mention an important event last week. You see, January 23-27 was No Name-Calling Week, an event aimed at middle schoolers that encourages them to refrain from tossing insults at each other.

It’s rare that I collide my day job onto the blog, but I felt this one was worth mentioning. In honor of No Name-Calling Week, my students created their own inspiring poetry that I read over the morning announcements. Also, I asked them all to sign a No Name-Calling Week Pledge. Granted, not every student HAD to sign, so I was pretty impressed by the outcome:

During the week, I also finally read Cracked by KM Walton (which was on my 2012 Debut Author Challenge list), a story told in dual POVs–from the bully and his victim. Yes, KM’s my agent-sister (Team LaPolla rules!), but NO, I’m not recommending this book because I’m biased. I’m saying you should read this book:

Because it gives you an uncensored view of bullying and high school

Because it doesn’t condescend to the readers and stuff your face with morals

Because it makes you empathize for the victim AND the bully

Because despite all of the heartache, it’ll leave you with hope

And in perfect timing, I just won a grant in which I’ll be able to buy MORE books for my school that’ll take on bullying headfirst. In addition to Cracked, here are some other books that I’m considering:

What about you all? Read any powerful books about bullying? Has a book ever helped you out of a bad situation?


Guest Post: Susan Dennard Gets Messy

Writing Song of the Day: “A Beautiful Mess” by Jason Mraz

Today we welcome Susan Dennard, author of the 2012 debut,  Something Strange & Deadly.  This week the WOA girls are all promoting this awesome debut novel. And of course, giving YOU a chance to read the novel before it’s release date. So, read on and find out about Susan’s writing process!

My writing process is…well…messy.

Initially, I spew out complete and utter drivel, my fingers flying over the keyboard faster than my brain can even process. And then, after about 3-4 weeks of this, I crash. I’m usually halfway or three quarters of the way finished with the first draft when I  hit this metldown-point, and I’ve usually just reached the notorious MY-BOOK-IS-TOTAL-CRAP stage.

Yep. Sounds silly, but it’s true. I spend the next few days alternating between despair (This book is so, so, so bad needs a complete rewrite. WAAAAAH!) and determination (A rewrite never killed anyone, right? You can do it, Sooz! YOU CAN DO IT.).

Ultimately, determination wins (helped along iby its close frenemy: The Deadline). I print out the whole book, get my writing tools out, and then read the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. Actually, if you want a detailed look at how I revise, you can head here.

This reading/planning stage usually takes a few days. Once I’ve got the Book I Actually Wrote solidly analyzed and thePerfect Book (a.k.a. the Story I Actually Want To Tell) all figured out, I dig into rewriting.

Rewriting is a HUGE part of my process. As I talk about here, I don’t always know the whole story. I know the main plot, but I uncover all those delicious subplots and side threads while I’m writing the first draft (or second…or third…). I know the ending (roughly), but I have NO CLUE how all the subplots and side threads will weave together into a SMASH-BANG ending packed full of resonance.

For example, when I was writing the sequel to Something Strange & Deadly (titled A Darkness Strange & Lovely), I wrote the first two thirds of the book in 3 weeks. I spent the next few weeks revising (and researching in Paris!)…and then I reached the end of my revised two thirds and stopped again. I revised those first two thirds AGAIN…only to peter out and stop AGAIN.

My problem was that I had no idea how to get my character from Point A to Point B. I’d sold the book based on a synopsis, and it was easy enough to say, “Eleanor goes with the Spirit-Hunters into the Parisian catacombs.” But actually GETTING her there? Actually giving her a plausible reason to take that as the next step–and more importantly, to have her do so while keeping the tension and excitement high?

As I said here, I rewrote the beginning a few times…then revised it…then attempted an ending (that was TERRIBLE)…and then re-wrote said ending two more times.
Finally–FINALLY–I settled on an ending that was The One. It came out in a flurry of words that were mostly usable since I finally KNEW what needed to happen –since I was finally writing the Perfect Book.

I turned in A Darkness Strange & Lovely on December 15–a little less than 5 months after starting.  It went through two critique partners and my agent before I handed it over to my editor, and by golly, I’m PROUD of what I wrote!

The moral of the story is that ultimately, my “writing” process involves a heck of a lot of “rewriting” because I’m not a particularly good writer…but boy am I one helluva a good REwriter. 😉

So don’t despair when your own writing seems bad–you can always, ALWAYS revise it to perfection. DREAM BIG AND NEVER GIVE UP!

Susan’s Bio:

Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes swoon-worthy rogues). She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on twitterfacebook, or Goodreads. Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, will be available from HarperCollins in July of 2012, and you will never believe how happy this makes her!

Check out Holly’s review.

Here’s Erinn’s review.

AND here’s an interview Kat had with Susan about what happens AFTER you get published.

Tomorrow’s your last chance! Be sure to check out Alicia’s blog for her post and to enter for your turn with this amazing ARC 😀 AND of course, don’t forget to sign up below!!! 

P.S.: If you can’t see the sign up thingy, click on Read More and then it pops up 🙂 Thanks!

/*{literal}{/literal}*/ a Rafflecopter giveaway<a href=””>You need javascript enabled to see this giveaway</a>.

2012 Debut Author Challenge: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Reading Song of the Day: “A Cinderella Story” by Mudvayne

Will you look at that? I’ve completed my first book of the New Year! Not only that, but it’s the second book I’ve read for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. And this is one that I’m sure many of you will enjoy. First, let’s see what Goodreads has to say about Marissa Meyer’s Cinder:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.

Interested yet? Well, let’s see if this will do it for you:

The Top 3 Reasons You Should Read Cinder:

1. Not Your Average Fairy Tale Retelling: Let’s be honest. Fairy tale retellings are pretty hot right now. I’m surprised that I’ve been so into ABC’s Once Upon a Time. And the new Snow White and the Huntsman movie? Quita and I will be in theaters opening night (and not just so Quita can drool over Chris Hemsworth). But Cinder is MORE than just a retelling. Meyer creates new characters, new legends…hell, a new story. Sure, I saw traces of Cinderella a few times, but I’m impressed with how much Meyer didn’t rely on the tale we all know and love. You better believe there is no fairy godmother to save the day.

2. Cinder is no Disney princess. Nothing against Disney. I mean, I still try to sing like Ariel in the shower. But Cinder isn’t some damsel waiting for the prince to notice her. If anything, she has a goal beyond falling in love with the prince. In fact, the prince comes to her for help. How kick ass is that? As Destiny’s Child would say: All the woman who are independent…

3. Likewise, there’s no Disney ending. Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that I was relieved that no one was riding off into the sunset. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good love story…but only when it fits with the story. Meyer created a layered character with Cinder. Sure, she’s charmed by the prince, but there are bigger issues at hand…and I’m curious to see how she’ll tackle them in the future.

If you like…

Book: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick, or

Movie: Ever After

then you’ll like Cinder!!

Have you read Cinder yet? What kind of fairy tale retellings would you like to see or read?

Note: Ahem, a contest MAY occur at the end of the month…and commenting on this post can increase your chances to win. 🙂

Gchat Review: Living Violet by Jaime Reed…AND a CONTEST

Reading Song of the Day: “Violet Hill” by Coldplay

So, I was fortunate enough to win an ARC of Jaime Reed’s debut paranormal novel: Living Violet (The Cambion Chronicles # 1). EEEK! Me and Pam were so excited to read this novel, and we must say it did not disappoint! We took turns reading the ARC and finished it in about a week and a half. BOTH of us read this ONE copy in no more than TEN days. That’s a testament to how engaging the story was.
Here is what Goodreads has to say:

He’s persuasive, charming, and way too mysterious. And for Samara Marshall, her co-worker is everything she wants most–and everything she most fears. . .

Samara Marshall is determined to make the summer before her senior year the best ever. Her plan: enjoy downtime with friends and work to save up cash for her dream car. Summer romance is not on her to-do list, but uncovering the truth about her flirtatious co-worker, Caleb Baker, is. From the peculiar glow to his eyes to the unfortunate events that befall the girls who pine after him, Samara is the only one to sense danger behind his smile.

But Caleb’s secrets are drawing Samara into a world where the laws of attraction are a means of survival. And as a sinister power closes in on those she loves, Samara must take a risk that will change her life forever. . .or consume it.

Sounds like good stuff, right? We know!
This time around with the DAC we’re doing things a little differently. We have two separate lists, which you can check out here. However, some of the books show up on both our lists. For those books, Pam and I are going to “chat” and then share our discussion about the book with you all–because we know you’re just DYING to know what we think.
So, without further adieu here was the chat we had about Reed’s Living Violet:
Did you read that, right? YEP! We’re giving away a copy of Jaime Reed’s debut novel Living Violet. What do you have to do to enter? You MUST be a follower of our blog, a US resident, and leave a comment on this post by MIDNIGHT on Tuesday December 20th, 2011. We will choose one winner at random and pre-order a copy of Living Violet for you. Need something to talk about in the comments??? Well, tell us your favorite baked good. That should be fun!
**DISCLAIMER: We did not have this chat in front of the Statue of Liberty. Instead, we used Gchat. We know, not very glamorous 😀 The picture is from our trip to NY last year.**

One More Time With Feeling: Debut Author Challenge 2012

Reading Song of the Day: “One More Time With Feeling” by Regina Spektor

Soooo, we just rejoiced from finishing the 2011 Debut Author Challenge last week. Yet, we’re ready to get back into it again. That’s right, The Story Siren is doing it again in 2012, and of course, we’re on board. You wanna participate, too? There’s only a few rules. Like to hear them? Here they go:

1.) Read and review at least twelve middle grade and young adult novels by January 31st, 2013.

2.) Review the books on your blog or using sites like or Amazon.

3.) The book you read MUST be the author’s FIRST middle grade or young adult debut novel in the year 2012.

For more information on the rules and to sign up, click here. The Story Siren will tell you all about it 😀

This time, we’re doing things a little differently. We’re going to have OUR OWN SEPARATE LISTS *gasp*. Some books we BOTH want to read, so you’ll see them twice, but overall–we’re branching out and completing the challenge double time!

We’ll EACH read at least twelve new books from the peeps who have been dubbed “The Apocolpysies”. These are the lucky folks who are debuting as an author next year. And we couldn’t be more excited for them!!! We also couldn’t be more excited to read some of these outstanding novels. With that being said, here are the lists of books that we plan to read for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge:
Pams’s List:

1.) Cinder by Marissa Meyer– January 3rd, 2012

2.) Living Violet by Jaime Reed– January 2012
3.) Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom–January 10th, 2012
4.) Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker–January 3rd, 2012
5.) Cracked by KM Walton-January 3rd, 2012
6.) Blood Born by Jamie Manning- April 24th, 2012
7.) What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen– May 1st, 2012
8.) When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle–May 1st, 2012
9.) The Other Life by Susan Winnacker- May 1st, 2012
10.) Something Like Normal by Trish Doller–June 19th, 2012
11.) The Classroom by Robin Mellom–June 19th, 2012
12.) All These Lives by Sarah Wylie–June 5th, 2012
13.) If I Lie by Corrine Jackson– September 4th, 2012
14.) Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza- Fall 2012
15.) Butter by Erin Lange–Fall 2012
16.) What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang–Fall 2012
17.) Through to You by Emily Hainsworth- November 20th, 2012
Quita’s List:
1.) The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark–January 31st, 2012
2.) Living Violet by Jaime Reed- January 2012
3.) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth- February 7th, 2012
4.) The Nightmare Factory by Lucy Jones–Spring 2012
5.) Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould–March 13th, 2012
6.) Storybound by Marissa Burt–April 3rd, 2012
7.) Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves- April 8th, 2012
8.) Blood Born by Jamie Manning- April 24th, 2012
9.) What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen– May 1st, 2012
10.) Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock- May 8th, 2012
11.) Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard–July 24th, 2012
12.) Between You and Me by Marisa Calin–August 7th, 2011
13.) The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin–August 21st, 2012
14.) Venom by Fiona Paul–October 30th, 2012
15.) What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang–Fall 2012
16.) Breathe by Sarah Crossan–Fall 2012
17.) Pivot Point by Kasie West–December 2012
That’s it! We sooooo can’t wait to start reading these books!!! We may read more or change our list as the year goes along. We shall see! In the meantime, are YOU going to participate? If so, which books are you really looking forward to reading??

Debut Author Challenge # 13: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts…AND A Giveaway!!!

Reading Song of the Day: “In the Dark” by Flyleaf

Omigod! We’ve come to the end of our list!!! And it’s before December 31st. I didn’t think we were going to do it, but we finished each and every book that we said we’d read for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge! *throws confetti* *pops champagne*

And our final book– holy shiz, you guys, it definitely helped us end this DAC on a high note. I finished Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts in the span of a week. I could not. Put. It. Down.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.

Mason’s mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever.

Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police–who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.

Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

Okay, tell me you don’t wanna grab that book and read it right NOW. It is so, so, so, so good and if that summary isn’t enough to get you interested, then I shall give you…

The Top Four Things You Need to Know About Dark Inside

1. The Four Points of View (POVs) are distinct, interesting, and I felt empathy for them. That is so hard to do with just one character. Imagine how difficult it would be for FOUR! I found myself flipping the pages because I wanted–no needed–to know what was happening with each and every character. And not all of them are saints, yet I saw the good in each one. Bravo, Roberts, bravo.

2. The book is effing scary. The last time I got scared from reading a book was when I read Roald Dahl’s The Witches when I was a kid. Dark Inside had so many scenes where I was holding my breath because the author described the tensions and creepiness with such amazing sensory details that I felt like I was there. I was so freaking scared of those crazies!

3. There are love stories and hope among all the chaos. When the world is ending and there are a bunch of crazy people trying to kill you, the last thing you think you’ll care about is love and relationships. And that’s true for these teenagers, yet amongst their struggle for survival, they still manage to forge relationships. And some of them are truly heart wrenching.

4. It makes you think, but not in a preachy way. There’s an obvious message behind Dark Inside. But I didn’t feel like I was being “taught” to behave a certain kind of way. I felt like I needed to think about some of the choices I make from now on. AND it also makes me think about humanity. Okay, I know that sounds boring. But I promise you–it’s so not! The book just really makes you think: what if…

If you like…

Books: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and Blood Red Road by Moira Young…then you’ll like Dark Inside.

Movies: Quarantine, The Crazies, and Stephen King’s Desperation…then you’ll like Dark Inside.

Okay, so now to the reason you read this post (JK- we know you love us and THAT’S why you read our posts :D). To celebrate the fact that we made it to the end of the 2011 DAC, we are going to give a $15.00 Amazon e-gift card to one follower that comments on this post as well as our Debut Author Challenge post from last week here. If you comment on both posts your name will be entered TWICE. You have until Wednesday (November 23rd) 12AM EST to enter and we will announce our winner on Turkey DAY!

Debut Author Challenge #12: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer…and a Future Giveaway!

Reading Song of the Day: “Coming Undone” by Korn

So, it took me a long time (what with NaNo, revising, and the day job), but I finally, FINALLY got to finish The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by the lovely Michelle Hodkin–the twelfth book in our 2011 Debut Author Challenge. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait. First, here is what Goodreads has to say:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

Ooh, intense. Want to read what I have to say? Well, it’s time to give you:

The Top Four Things You Need to Know About Mara Dyer

1. It doesn’t fit into just one genre. I didn’t really know what to expect when I first opened Mara Dyer. As you can tell from the Goodreads summary, the plot has been rather vague. And that cover? Beautiful, haunting–but I still had NO IDEA what it meant. One of the reasons why I thought Mara Dyer was so great is because she crossed boundaries. The love story was so raw and emotional that at times I was feeling like it was a romance. But then there were all of these shocking moments that made me jump–which had to make it a horror, right? But wait, there’s more–Mara also has to unravel a mystery, and the way the pieces all weave together make you think you might be reading a thriller. Again, I don’t know what category I’d place this novel. I just wish there was one for: PURE AWESOME.

2. Noah is, um, DROOL-WORTHY. Remember that romance I mentioned earlier? Well, this guy brings the heat. I know, I know–some of us may be a little tired of the whole “bad boy” image. But Noah is more than just the forbidden love interest. He’s dark and carefree and caring and sneaky and…just. JUST! As you can tell, he left me a bit tongue-tied.

3. The teens sound like teens. I tell you, Michelle Hodkin has a knack for witty dialogue. Not only did the rapport between Mara and her brothers feel natural, but the exchanges between Mara and Noah were just oozing with chemistry. Their lines meld with each other so well, and was so quickly paced, that I felt like I was reading something by Aaron Sorkin at times (just watch The Social Network then you’ll get what I’m talking about).

4. Umm, cliffhanger much? I’m usually not a fan of these, but the way this story ends…well, I don’t want to reveal anything, but I’ll definitely be purchasing the next volume the day it comes out.

Have I psyched you enough for this novel? If not, then check out these comparisons.

If You Like…

Books: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, Uninvited by Justine Musk…then you’ll like Mara Dyer

Movies: Heathers, Memento, High Tension…then you’ll like Mara Dyer

Have you all read Mara Dyer yet? What did you think? What other “trippy” YA novels would you recommend?

*BTW, followers that comment on this post as well as our LAST Debut Author Challenge post (which may be next Thursday), will be entered to win a $15 Amazon gift card. Just saying…. 🙂