Category Archives: Debut Novels

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Blackbirds CoverBook Review: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Author: Cat Winters

Genre: YA Historical/Mystery with a Paranormal twist

Rating: Five out of Five stars

Back of book blurb:

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Review:

This is one of those books that is so beautifully written you want to go back and immediately reread it. Cat Winters did a spectacular job bringing the haunted feeling of walking around during the Spanish influenza to life. I could actually smell the onions people used to keep the flu away, and feel the gauze suffocating me. The details and historical accuracy really elevated this novel into something otherworldly. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but hands down this is one of the most breathtaking reads of the year. If you are in the market for something unlike anything else on the shelves this is the book for you.

Mary Shelley Black is a delightful character full of quirks and spunk. She is such a remarkable young woman who deals with everything that’s thrown at her with courage and bravery, and the mystery surrounding the death of her first love kept me turning the pages well into the early morning hours. I’m not a cryer when it comes to novels, I RARELY tear up, but there were two parts in this book that brought on full-blown ugly crying.

MY GOD YOU NEED TO READ THIS. There are so many things I want to chat about so please go buy a copy and make some tea.

Here’s a taste of the first page to whet your appetite:

Portland, Oregon–October 16, 1918

I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way. Gauze masks concealed the passengers’ mouths and noses. The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.

Keep moving, I told myself.

My legs shook and threatened to buckle, but I managed to clomp down the aisle in the brown Boy Scout boots I wore in case I ever needed to run at a moment’s notice. The heavy tread drew unwanted glances and at least one raised eyebrow, but nobody uttered a word.

Praise for IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS:

“Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery…Deliciously creepy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Unconventional and unflinching… More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice.”—Booklist, starred review

“Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance…the story and setting are atmospheric and eerie.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Cat Winters’s debut novel is creepy good… Mary Shelley, with her Boy Scout boots and penchant for aviatrix goggles, is just plain awesomely odd.” —The Boston Globe

“Words like ‘unputdownable’ and ‘irresistible’ are simply not enough for Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Days after finishing this story, it remains the first thought I have in the morning, and the thing that haunts me until I sleep.”—Lauren DeStefano New York Times bestselling author of The Chemical Garden trilogy

Keep up with Cat Winters on the interwebs:

Twitter

Official Website

Facebook

Goodreads

She’s also hosting an international giveaway on her blog RIGHT NOW through July 2nd, so you miiiiiiiight want to check it out.

Interviewed by the fabulous A.G. Howard!

Today I’m hanging out over at my dear friend A.G. Howard‘s blog, A Still And Quiet Madness. The uber lovely Anita interviewed me and I’m dishing for the very first time publicly some information on what my book is about… I don’t even have the quick summary up on my blog, so be sure to click on the link below!

CLICK HERE FOR THE INTERVIEW AND SUPER SECRET THINGS

Anita’s debut (being published by Amulet)  SPLINTERED hits shelves everywhere in January, so wander around her beautiful blog while you’re there! She also said some blush-worthy things and you should totally give her a giant hug for me.

Lots of Sparkly Things Happening…

This post is going to be a little different because there are a few things happening around the interwebs that writers (and readers) might be interested in. I LOVE helping my peoples out when I can, so here you go!

1. There’s a new agent at my agency! *throws confetti*

Here are some deets:

Name: Rachel Ekstrom

Currently Seeking: young adult, women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and romance…

Query email: rachel.queries(at)irenegoodman(dot)com

Query Guidelines: Please check out irenegoodman.com  for current submission guidelines.

Also, check out Rachel’s twitter feed for all your agent stalking goodness @EkstromRachel

2. My friend Ruth L. Steven is hosting a FABULOUS agent judged contest on her blog!

The details:

You’ll need your query letter and the first five pages to enter. 10 winners will be chosen by Ruth to advance to the agents. (Please note, your manuscript MUST be complete.)

RULES:

1. This is open to all fiction genres of YA and MG.

2. The contest itself will run on the 18th April. The submission window is 9am – 5pm EST.

3. In that window, you’ll need to send your query letter and the first five pages of the ms in the body of the email. The address to send to is lottiehumphries14@yahoo.co.uk

This competition is for Ruth’s followers, so you must be following her blog to enter.

For the FULL contest details and PRIZES click here.

Agents Judging the contest are Julia Churchill of Greenhouse Literary and Gemma Cooper of The Bright Literary Agency. (Contest is open to everyone.)

3. My agent is teaching a webinar TOMORROW! Wheeeeeeee!

The juicy details:

I already touched on this last week, but there are only a few spots left for people to attend. IT’S SO GOOD, GUYS.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

The essential elements of each subgenre within thriller/mystery in adult and young adult

Writing that “killer” query—one that reveals “the hook, the book, and the cook”

The components of a compelling hook within your book

Common themes and trends seen in successful crime books

How a familiar idea can still be unique—i.e., how to distinguish your own work from similar stories flooding the marketplace

The opportunities in both e-book and traditional publishing for thriller and mystery

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Writers who are actively querying agents and publishers in both adult and YA

Writers who feel they are hearing similar themes in rejection letters

Writers in the initial stages of writing who need to nail down what subgenre they are writing in and who would be most interested in their submission

Writers who will be pitching their concept at a conference

Writers who write for adults but are thinking of trying a YA novel in the mystery/thriller genre

To sign up CLICK HERE.

4. One of my best writing pals, Anita Grace Howard revealed her debut’s cover!!!!

It’s SO freaking awesome – have you seen it yet?! If not, here it is: SPLINTERED’s Cover Reveal (video)

SOOOOO PRETTY *pets screen*

Ahem. Back to the point… Anita is doing a HUGE giveaway on her blog to celebrate SPLINTERED’S amazing cover! There will be not one, or two, or even five, but TWELVE lucky winners!!!!!! SQUEEE!!!!

Get over to her blog immediately and enter as the contest is ending promptly at midnight on Friday. (THIS Friday, LIKE TWO DAYS FROM NOW Friday.)

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE PRIZES AND ENTER THE CONTEST

STARTERS: Survival is just the beginning…

I know a bunch of you LURVED the HUNGER GAMES (as much as I did) so I’m sharing a book that’s getting some great buzz. Word on the street is, Lissa Price has created something REALLY special with her YA futuristic thriller debut, STARTERS.

The tagline alone makes me salivate like a rabid animal. God HELP the UPS man if I don’t have it by Tuesday morning. Speaking of that…it’s coming out TOMORROW!!! Wheee! You should grab a copy and read it with me, then we can make tea, and braid each others hair, and everything.

Here’s the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator’s grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined.

Video credit: RandomBooks Youtube Channel

Top Ten Books of 2011

Hey 2012, you look all fancy-like and wonderful – I don’t care what the doomsday-ers say, I see nothing but good things in your future. Seriously, I hope you guys had a great holiday week/weekend! To ease into the shiny new year, I’ve decided to share a top ten list.

Here are my FAVORITE books of 2011 and OMG I’m salivating for MORE, MORE, MORE in 2012. The books are listed in no particular order, because they’re ALL SUPER AWESOME. <3

1. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

2. WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

3. HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire

4. THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

5. ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin

6. ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick

7. AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

8. LEGEND by Marie Lu

9. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

10. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Aside from the sequels to the books mentioned above, here are some debuts I’m SUPER EXCITED for in 2012: Apocalypsies FTW!

SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard

STARTERS by Lissa Price

THE VINDICO by Wesley King

FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos

INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang

What was YOUR favorite book of 2011?

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: Video

This was such a good read. SUCH A GOOD READ!!! I pre-ordered it and am so glad I did. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a little visual stimuli. Happy reading, and happy Wednesday <33333′s.

Here’s the book blurb followed by the video: 

“Mara Dyer believes life can’t 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 strangely unharmed.

There is.

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

She’s wrong.

VIDEO CREDIT: Simon & Schuster’s Youtube (SimonSchusterVideos)

Book Review: AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

Recently I picked up a copy of Katie Kacvinsky’s debut, AWAKEN. And holy BEJESUS I loved it. She created a world that really isn’t that different from how we live today. It’s chilling, and amazing.

My sister and I were discussing how strange it is to actually pick up the phone and call someone. Which made us incredibly SAD. When did texting, and g-chat, and IM, and email replace our basic human communications?

How did we not see it unraveling?

Our own mother was shocked to discover most of our communication is done via some electronic device. AND WE LIVE UNDER HER ROOF.

The digital times, they are a-changin’ and if you want to have your mind blown, I suggest adding AWAKEN to your reading pile. It’s an eye-opener. Here’s the blurb for good measure:

“Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether going to school or on a date, no one ever leaves home. There’s really no need. And, for the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life–until she meets Justin.

Justin likes being with people. He likes physical closeness and face-to-face conversations. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Maddie is beginning to believe him. Maybe there is a different, better way to live, and perhaps Justin will be the one to help her start living it.”

Overall I give it 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing that *almost* was overdone was Justin’s one-track preachy nature. BUT that’s kind of an accurate portrayal, since he’s been brainwashed into his own preferred (read: “programmed”) existence. Kacvinsky demonstrated holes in his belief system perfectly. (Even if they make you want to shake him sometimes!:))

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t WAIT to read the second one when it comes out next year. The author created a world so real, it doesn’t feel dystopian at all.

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Click image for Author's website

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

OKAY OKAY OKAY OKAY. I have no excuses, so I’ll just flat out admit it. I’m seriously late to the Divergent party, but I have one thing to say:  DAUNTLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, fine, maybe two things: FOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I promise to not yell anymore (Actually, I’m not sure I can keep that promise, and it’s more of a SQUEEE if we’re getting technical). But…if you haven’t picked up Veronica Roth’s AWESOME debut, stop everything you’re doing and go get it.

I’m. Not. Kidding. It’s THAT good. Holy cow, it’s so good I read it TWICE in one day. (Please note I’m a ninja when it comes to reading.) Each time I found new things I loved about it even more. *cough, Four, cough*

Here’s the blurb:

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves…or it might destroy her.”

There’s so much I want to say, but if you haven’t read it yet I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll just say this: it’s filled with page turning action scenes, and Roth has a really smooth writer’s voice that makes for a super easy read. Which, as Nathaniel Hawthorne has pointed out, is “damn hard writing.”

Go get a copy, then read it so we can gush together. <33333