BEA 2013: A Recap (With Photos!)

As many of you know, I was lucky enough to get to Book Expo America again this year in early June. It was the third year Nicole from The Book Bandit’s Blog and I have gone and I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I started planning for this year’s BEA in March. There were calendar entries. There were schedule sheets. Readers, there were two spreadsheets. I almost crossed the line into planning too much because by the time BEA finally came it felt like I’d already gone. But, of course, the three days were still full of surprises and many, many good books.

Here’s the rundown (with photos taken by me and Nicole):

Day One: May 30


We started bright and early with Nicole meeting me downtown so that we could proceed to the Javits Center together. Then it was a journey to find registration and get ourselfs ready to go.

I should tell you right now that most of my BEA was spent tracking down authors and/or books. There were a lot of cool sessions and speakers but Nicole and I had our priorities. And, dear readers, those priorities were books.

The day started with a quick lap on the show floor to get a sense of where things were laid out. This was, unfortunately, difficult given the lack of enormous signage labeling booths. Last year it had felt easier to navigate the floor but maybe it was me.

The signing schedule this year was insanely awesome and left Nicole and I running around a lot. The day started with Kendare Blake and Antigoddess.

Kendare Blake Bea13

Then it was time for one of my highest priority people to see: Diana Peterfreund who had a crazy line and an EPIC hat. And, of course, Across a Star-Swept Sea which I am dying to read.

Diana Peterfruend BEA13

The morning also included some surprises with the delightful Dot Hutchinson who wins in terms of author follow up. (Regular readers might remember that A Wounded Name is on my top ten summer reads list!)

The afternoon got a little crazy with lots of signings and places to be in LOTS of different places including this slim read from Macmillan:


This is my first Lauren Myracle since reading Bliss in grad school and I’m really excited about it! Even cooler, Myracle was there all three days of BEA for signings. Talk about cool!

Then there was Little Brown booth where I was #141 in line to see Kami Garcia and her awesome sounding book Unbreakable.


Then Nicole and I were second and third in line to see Oliver Jeffers signing The Day the Crayons Quit–a very funny book that he illustrated.

And you bet Nicole got a picture!

Ollie and Nicole BEA13

I missed out on a few picture book authors as priorities shifted, but I’m going to go ahead and say I had a moment with Phillip and Erin Stead and we’re friends now. It’s written here so it must be true, right?

All in all, it was impressive how smoothly Day One went and how successful we were in most of our endeavors.

Which brings us to . . .

Day Two: May 31

Another early start (the hours I kept for BEA started to be a hardship for my mom too, but hey, at least it’s only three days!)

Day Two was hard because ALL of the authors were signing and it was really hard to guess who would have the biggest lines not to mention picking who would be highest priority.

In the morning, however, I had one and only objective: Meeting Alethea Kontis author of Enchanted and its sequel Hero.

Alethea Kontis signing BEA13

It was touch and go but I’m happy to report the meeting did happen. AND in September you might want to stop by because the blog will be a stop on Alethea’s blog tour for Hero!

Alethea Kontis BEA13

Before the Hero signing Nicole and I were also really really lucky and made it to see Soman Chainani and his awesome looking book The School for Good and Evil. (I’m an Ever. Nicole is a Never. Neither of us knows exactly how that works with the book yet but we have pins to declare our allegiance.)

Then things got really crazy because Rainbow Rowell was signing arcs of Fangirl at St. Martins Press.

I had not read Eleanor & Park at the time of BEA but I have now and I am REALLY excited to have Fangirl on deck. (You can see, perhaps, why picking my books to read is becoming this huge thing.)

Rainbow Rowell BEA13

After that it was a mad dash back to the crazy autographing area because my only other priority for the entire morning was meeting Elizabeth Wein because we talk sometimes on Twitter and I cried buckets while reading Code Name Verity and meeting her is the first step to becoming her best friend. I really didn’t think it would happen because the Autographing area was crazy (and Kareem Abdul Jabar was signing so I stood next to him for a little bit . . . that happened).

The afternoon of day two devolved into one long line as we waited to see Victoria Schwab signing copies of her adult book from Tor: Vicious.

Victoria Schwab BEA13

It was insane and I really thought we were going to be turned away BUT Nicole and I made the cut which was really exciting. In terms of random, wacky things that happen to me thanks to twitter: one of my tweets was screenied in Victoria’s BEA recap post. Also, I saw Victoria a few times around BEA and recognized her which was fun. The surreal part was “talking” on twitter and hearing that SHE recognized ME. Random, wacky and awesome!

There were a lot of other books on Day Two because it was insane as I said. But these were definitely the highlights.

And then we have . . .

Day Three: June 1

Day Three of BEA is always the mellowest because the show closes earlier and there are generally fewer authors signing and things to do. This was a day to hunt down books we had missed previously and also to catch a few last authors.

Because the day was mellow and because I am obsessed with Alex Bracken, Nicole and I made a really easy decision: We would get to Alexandra Bracken’s line as soon as possible and wait an hour to meet her while she signed Never Fade. And believe it or not that wasn’t the crazy part. The crazy part was that other people had the same idea but even then we were among the first thirty people. I’d like to think that success helped start the day on a high note.

Alex Bracken BEA13

After running around the autographing area for a bit longer it was, happily, time for lunch.

The really great thing about Saturday was that after lunch we got to meet up with fellow blogger Cecelia from The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia. We had met last year at BEA on Diana Peterfreund’s epic line and I was really excited to see her again.

With an afternoon that was wide open until Robin Wasserman’s 1:30 signing, I convinced everyone that we needed Cinders by Jan Brett in our lives. I mean, a chicken Cinderella? It was a total no brainer. Also, I have Brett’s book from when I was a kid so I was really excited to meet her. It was very fast because the line was long but it was awesome and the book is fantastic.

Then it was time for the last really long line: Robin Wasserman signing copies of The Waiting Dark.

The line was so long, in fact, that we had time to pose for a picture with Cecelia’s phone:

Cecelia, Nicole, Emma BEA13

The line kept moving, we saw Robin Wasserman and her very cool dinosaur necklace. We picked up out last tote bags of books. We applauded our excellent planning. We went home and started thinking about what books we would read first.

And that, dear readers, is the rundown of my BEA 2013.

Author Interview: Tessa Gratton on The Lost Sun

Tessa Gratton author photoI feel like I’ve been waiting for Tessa Gratton’s latest book, The Lost Sun, for my entire life. The Lost Sun combines everything I’ve always loved in a book with things I didn’t even know I wanted in a story. A modern day world with Norse gods? A reluctant berserker? A seethkona on a quest? A missing god? Sign me up! Happily, The Lost Sun delivered everything I was hoping for and more. Even more exciting, Tessa was gracious enough to take time out of her own release week (The Lost Sun came out on the 25th so you can go out and buy it or request it from your library right now!) to take part in an interview here on the blog.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Tessa Gratton (TG): I’ve been writing since I was in 5th grade, and even when I wanted to DO other things for a career, reading and writing was always in the background, a thing I just always did for fun. I chose to leave grad school and focus on being an author for a living, and in 5 years wrote and rewrote 4 novels before finding my agent and first publishing contract with Blood Magic. It was the 7th novel I’d written since high school, and has a companion novel, The Blood Keeper. The Lost Sun is the first of a NEW series! I’ve also published about 70 short stories online with my critique partners Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, as well as a fun anthology, The Curiosities.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Lost Sun?

TG: I wanted to write about faith and religion in America, and started with the question, “What do you believe in when the gods are real?”

MP: How did you approach writing a story about such distinct world? Did your vision for the United States of Asgard start with a specific place or aspect?

TG: The “vision” started with a single image: Baldur the Beautiful being sacrificed on live television. I did my best to marry modern American society and Nordic mythology/Viking Age culture, which was easier than I expected because we share a lot of the same values as the Vikings.

MP: A lot of Norse gods make appearances in The Lost Sun. Was any god a particular favorite to write? Is there any character you’re especially excited for readers to meet?

TG: I loved writing Baldur, especially because he wasn’t very godlike. He’s so human – as Soren, the narrator, points out, Baldur is the most human of all the Norse gods because he dies. He’s also a symbol of light, and as a dying god it puts him in the same category as Christ. That was intriguing, challenging and surprisingly fun.

I have to admit, right now as I finish working on the second book in the series, I’m very excited to introduce readers to the new narrator, (and Soren through her eyes), but in The Lost Sun I think I’m most excited for people to read about Soren and Baldur’s relationship. And OK, Glory. She is a delight to write about.

MP: In The Lost Sun people dedicate themselves to specific gods. Astrid has been dedicated to Freya since she was eight. Soren, on the other hand, refuses to dedicate himself to Odin despite Odin being the god of berserkers. If you were in the United States of Asgard, which god would you dedicate yourself to?

TG: Odin, haha. He’s the god of war and madness and POETRY. To me, Odin represents the violence of creation, so I disagree with Soren a bit about Odin being entirely untrustworthy. He’d dangerous and challenging, but I think artists should be both of those things.

MP: There are a few twists and turns in this story as Soren and Astrid’s fates knot together. How did you go about pacing the story? How did you decide what to reveal to readers when?

TG: I reveal everything I can to readers as early as possible. Never hold back! If Soren knew it, I wanted the reader to know it too. And honestly, because this book is a road trip novel, it was the EASIEST of all my books to plot and pace. You can’t get too complicated and messy when the characters are literally driving from one place to another. I tried to put in a natural rhythm of ups and downs and surprises and twists, just like when you’re on a road trip and you take detours or hit unexpected traffic or roadside attractions!

MP: Obviously a lot of research went into this book. Were any resources especially helpful to you while writing The Lost Sun? Can you offer any recommendations for readers who want to learn more about Norse mythology after finishing this book?

TG: I tell you what: I like Wikipedia for a starting point. It’s not at all inaccurate re: Norse mythology, and can give a good overview so you know what you’re interested in and then you can look at the books that delve in deeper to those subjects.

The BEST way to understand the mythology, though, is to read some of the sagas. I recommend the Saga of the Volsungs esp, for magic, dragons, shape-shifting, sex, and a lot of burning things down and interfering gods.

For straight-up academic research, I recommend GODS AND MYTHS OF NORTHERN EUROPE by H R Ellis Davidson.

MP: The Lost Sun is the first book in a series.  Do you have a set arc for this story or know how many books will be in the series? Will we be seeing more of Soren and Astrid?

TG: I’m hoping there will be 4 books total, and for sure there will be three. Every book has a different narrator and a self-contained plot, but they’re all connected by, well, the strands of Fate and a certain goddess who likes to manipulate said strands of fate. I have a general idea of the over-arching series plot, and I know quite a lot about the rest of the books. I can tell you Soren is one of the main characters in all 4, though not ever the narrator again. Some of the future narrators you meet in The Lost Sun, but not all of them!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

TG: My next project, and my projects for the foreseeable future, are all USAsgard related! I’ve been working on Book 2 for almost 2 solid years. It’s kicking my butt! But should be worth it!

Maggie and Brenna and I are working on a follow-up to our short story anthology, but there aren’t a lot of details available for that yet!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

TG: Have adventures! Meeting new people and visiting new places will teach you about humanity, and that’s always what we’re writing about, isn’t it? Discovering your own stories will lead you to being able to invent amazing new ones!

Thanks again to Tessa Gratton for a great interview. You can also read my review of The Lost Sun here on the blog and visit Tessa Gratton’s website for more info about her and her books. (Be sure to stop by the badass United States of Asgard section while you’re there. It’s awesome!)

The Lost Sun: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“My mom used to say that in the United States of Asgard, you can feel the moments when the threads of destiny knot together, to push you or pull you or crush you. But only if you’re paying attention.”

The Lost Sun by Tessa GrattonSoren Bearskin has been avoiding his destiny for years. He can feel the berserker fever burning in his blood but he refuses to give into the rage; to let himself become what his father was before him. People fear him and what being a berserker actually means.

Astrid Glynn is everything Soren is not: wild, free and completely aware of who and what she is–a seethkona dedicated to the goddess Freya, a girl who can travel beyond death to retrieve answers to the questions of others even though she cannot find answers for herself about her missing mother.

Baldur the Beautiful is the most popular god in the country; his resurrection each year marked by a festive celebration and a live television broadcast. He returns to the United States of Asgard every year just in time for summer.

When Baldur instead disappears, the country is thrown into chaos as citizens fear the worst.

Astrid has dreamt of Baldur and knows where to find him. With Soren’s help. Together the two set off on a road trip to find the lost god and bring him home. But in finding Baldur, Soren and Astrid may have to give up everything they’ve come to hold dear in The Lost Sun (2013) by Tessa Gratton.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Lost Sun is the first book in Gratton’s Songs of New Asgard/United States of Asgard series and it is awesome. As the series title suggests, this book is part fantasy, part alternate history as Gratton imagines a world where the United States are imbued with Norse traditions and mythology as well as populated by the Norse gods themselves.

What could have been a confusing or alienating world instead becomes immediately fascinating and evocative in Gratton’s hands. (Readers of her short stories in The Curiosities may also recognize a few passing references to a female berserker mentioned in that anthology.)

It’s hard to know exactly what to say about The Lost Sun because it has so much going for it. Soren is a likeable, convincing narrator. Astrid is essentially one of the best female characters around. Having these two characters together in one book makes for an electric story that is as beautiful as it is thrilling. Gratton seamlessly builds a world of gods, magic and modern life around her characters as readers are introduced to this compelling world with an utterly original story imbued with old mythology.

The Lost Sun is, at its core, a intricate story of love and friendship. Soren and Astrid do a lot of different things throughout the plot but those threads are never far from the core. Sacrifices are made, surprises are revealed, but through it all there is a very strong meditation on what really being love (or loving) a person means.

Good books draw readers into the world of the story. Great books keep readers thinking after that story is finished. The Lost Sun is a great book.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, Freya by Matthew Laurence, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Check back tomorrow for my exclusive interview with Tessa Gratton!

Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books Read in 2013 (so far)


I actually do a list of top books every year. The problem is this year I get to do thirteen and I often add honorable mentions. That makes picking just ten–even this early in the year–kind of hard. You can also with my 2013 reads on my Pinterest boards 2013 Reviews and 13 for 2013. You can also check out my other “Best of” lists here on the blog too.

  1. Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
  2. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
  3. The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer
  4. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
  5. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
  6. Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel
  7. The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
  8. Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
  9. The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton (Review will be live tomorrow for Chick Lit Wednesday and an interview with Tessa will post on Thursday!)
  10. Pivot Point by Kasie West

Then here are three books that are already getting plenty of love but really rocked my world so deserved a mention:

  1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Review coming once I can articulate my thoughts)

Also, I’m currently reading Never Fade which will probably make my final end-of-year list!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. (Image also from the lovely The Broke and the Bookish.)

Author Interview: Dianne K. Salerni on The Caged Graves

Dianne Salerni at the real caged grave of Sarah Ann Boone. Photo credit: Robert Salerni
Dianne Salerni at the real caged grave of Sarah Ann Boone.
Photo credit: Robert Salerni

Last month I read and reviewed The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni. It was definitely a favorite book this year and a very fine work of historical fiction (and mystery to boot!). Because of the magic of Twitter, I also started “talking” to Dianne after the review posted and was lucky enough to set up this interview. Needless to say I’m delighted to have her answering questions about The Caged Graves on the blog today!

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Dianne Salerni (DS): I’ve been writing all my life, but I was too timid to seek publication. My husband is the one who started submitting my work to agents and editors. He had no success with anything I wrote in the early years of our marriage, and rightly so, because those works were NOT ready! But when I finished a historical novel in 2006 (my first attempt at that genre and my best book to-date), he suggested self-publishing it without even trying the traditional route. That book, High Spirits, was later picked up by Sourcebooks and re-published with the title We Hear the Dead. It also attracted the attention of an independent Hollywood producer. A movie option resulted in the production of a 10 minute short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Shortly after We Hear the Dead was published, I began looking for representation and after an 8 month search received an offer from Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. The Caged Graves is the first book Sara sold for me.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Caged Graves? (Trick question! We know the story started with the two real caged graves as explained on your website. But how did you decide what direction to use for your own story?)

DS: I briefly considered writing a novel about the two young women and how they ended up in the graves, but I wanted the graves to be the central mystery in the story – not how the story ends. So, I decided to focus on a daughter of one of the women. If the daughter had been sent away to be raised by relatives after her mother died – a common thing in the 1800s – it was plausible that she might not know the story behind her mother’s death and the graves.

Having decided that much, I started researching the history of the area. When I read about the Wyoming Massacre in the Revolutionary War and the Shades of Death swamp, I wanted to weave that history into the story. A plotline began to develop that tied together a legend of lost treasure, a deadly swamp, and a young woman’s search for answers about her mother’s death.

MP: The Caged Graves is about quite a few things including Verity’s reconnecting with her birthplace and her family. It’s also a bit of a mystery and a story of suspense. As a writer, how did you go about bringing these elements together in one story? Did you always know Verity’s familial relationships would play such a large part in the story?

DS: I am a hopeless pantster. So, no, I did not know her relationship with her father and other relatives would play such a big role. I had the solution to the mystery in mind when I started the book, but getting the clues presented in the right order and at the right time took multiple drafts and claimed most of my attention. Verity’s relationship with her family and her adjustment to living in the mountain town developed along the way. I credit my editor, Dinah Stevenson, for encouraging me to give more “screentime” to that part of the story. Sometimes, in an effort to get the word count down, I have a tendency to cut things that should not be cut. Dinah’s editorial comments encouraged me to make the family elements a priority in the story.

MP: Both The Caged Graves and your earlier novel We Hear the Dead are historical novels. What are some of the challenges or unique experiences of writing historical fiction?

DS: Getting the historical details right is always a challenge. One small thing that drove me nuts was figuring out where Verity would acquire ornamental plants to adorn her mother’s gravesite. Florists and nurseries would not have existed at that time and in this place. Ultimately, common sense prevailed, and I had her get cuttings from someone who already had the plants. (How that person got the plants was not my problem!)

Another issue is language – especially weeding out vocabulary, idioms, and turns of phrase that would not have been used in 1867.  I spent a lot of time on and other sites, tracking down the origin date for various phrases. If I could not prove the phrase dated to that time, I changed it.

MP: In some sense, this book starts with a choice as Verity has to decide between staying with relatives in Worcester or returning to the much smaller and less urbane town of Catawissa. If you were in Verity’s position, what choice do you think you would have made?

DS: Verity moves back to Catawissa to marry a young man she knows only through letters. This is not so different from meeting somebody online, having a virtual romance, and then meeting him in person. While I can imagine doing that part – I’m not so certain I would have the guts to move across the country and settle in a new place. I have lived in the same county of Pennsylvania all my life, surrounded by family. Of course, Verity was returning to family when she moved to Catawissa, but they were nearly strangers – even her father. Verity is a lot more bold and outgoing than I am. I think I would have been too timid and shy to do what she did.

MP: While a big part of the story is, of course, the caged graves I have to say what really stood out to me were the wonderful characters. Are any characters particularly close to your heart? (I was about to name my own favorites when I realized it would be all of them!) Was one character more fun to write than others? Was any character harder?

DS: I love all the minor characters as much as the major ones. I was particularly fond of Verity’s father, Ransloe, who had trouble re-connecting with a 17 year-old daughter he barely knew. I had a lot of fun with her fiancé’s sisters and Verity’s young, rambunctious cousins. Hadley Jones, the doctor’s assistant, turned out completely different than I’d planned him to be – a lot more playful and irreverent, with a rather unconventional doctoring style.

I’d have to say the character I worked on the most was Verity herself. I wanted her to learn something about herself during this book, which means that she starts out with some faults – she looks down on the country townspeople at times, she makes assumptions about everyone she meets, and she is sometimes tactless. But she’s also compassionate and kind at heart. I wanted her to realize her mistakes, while still holding true to her personality. And I wanted her to be likable, in spite of her faults.

MP: One of the interesting things about The Caged Graves is how the secret of the graves comes together and the book’s surprise ending. There are a lot of twists and turns in this story. How did you go about setting up the pace of the story? How did you decide what details to reveal when?

DS: It took several drafts for me to get the clues presented in the right order and at the right time. My beta readers helped me out with that. A couple of them pointed out I was holding secrets back too long. One person in particular mentioned that, in a mystery, the reader wants to feel as if s/he is making progress at figuring things out all along the book; otherwise it’s too frustrating.

I knew the story behind Verity’s mother’s death and the caged graves before I even started writing the first draft. However, I did not have a resolution planned out for the legendary treasure when I began writing. I was about two-thirds into the first draft when the idea for my climactic scenes came to me, and I changed what I had originally planned to happen. (This also required me to go back and snip out plot threads I had planted earlier for an ending that was no longer going to happen.)

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

DS: My next project is something completely different – a middle grade fantasy in a contemporary setting. The Eighth Day is about a boy who discovers an extra 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday and a mysterious girl hiding in the house next door who exists only on that secret day. HarperCollins bought the story in a 3 book deal, with the first book expected to release in Summer 2014.

I am currently completing editorial revisions for Book 1 before it enters the copy-editing stage. A draft for Book 2 will have to be revised to match the changes I made in Book 1, and I am still planning Book 3. So, I am really looking for the school year to end so I can devote more time to those projects!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

DS: Keep writing! When you complete a project and begin querying, start a new project – (not a sequel). Things don’t always happen in the order you expect. The Caged Graves is the first book my agent sold for me, but it’s the second book I sent her. The Eighth Day is the second book she sold, but it was the fourth one I gave her. That doesn’t mean the other manuscripts won’t eventually have their day, too, but it does mean that the more you have to offer, the more likely you are to get picked up by an agent, and ultimately, an editor.

Thanks again to Dianne Salerni for a great interview. You can also read my review of The Caged Graves here on the blog and visit Dianne Salerni’s website for more info about her and her books.

Pivot Point: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Pivot Point by Kasie WestAddison Coleman always knows the right choice to make, the right path to take. She knows because she is cautious and a compulsive planner who likes to follow the rules. She also knows because of her ability, Divergence.

Being Divergent isn’t the coolest ability in the paranormal compound Addie calls home. She can’t erase memories like her best friend Laila or move things with her mind like the Telekinetics on the school football team.

Instead, when faced with a choice Addie can Search her future and see both outcomes for any given decision.

Most of the time Addie’s ability is downright boring.

When Addie’s parents announce they are getting divorced, her ability suddenly becomes much more important.

One Search six weeks in the future should be more than enough to make the decision of which parent to live with. In one future Addie can find true love and happiness while in the other there is a promise of popularity and excitement. But in either Search there is also something much more dangerous and the potential for a terrible loss.

At a crossroad that will change everything, Addie will have to decide what she is willing to live through and who she is willing to lose in Pivot Point (2013) by Kasie West.

Pivot Point is West’s first novel. (She already has the sequel slated for 2014 called Split Second and an unrelated contemporary novel called The Distance Between Us is due out in the interim.)

Pivot Point is a really fun book!

West provides all of the best parts of books about parallel universes and time travel without the messy (and sometimes sloppy) explanations. The world building here and the rules for the paranormals’ abilities are seamless.

Told in chapters that alternate between both paths* Pivot Point is a sleek, original story with perfect pacing. Alternating between key events, West brings the storylines together in clever ways while keeping readers on their toes.

Filled with mystery, romance and just the right amount of witty banter, Pivot Point is an utterly appealing blend of fantasy/sci-fi elements in a contemporary setting.

*Each chapter cleverly starts with a definition of a word that includes the phrase “Para” or “Norm” for easy differentiation.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Author Interview: Lois Metzger on A Trick of the Light

Lois Metzger author photoLois Metzger is here today to talk about her latest novel A Trick of the Light. It’s an interesting book with a lot going on including a few surprises. The book’s official publication is today and I’m very excited to have Lois here to talk about this book.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Lois Metzger (LM): I knew from the age of 14 that I wanted to be a writer.  I loved J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories; I always hoped to write that tenth story.  I started out by inventing characters’ diaries, which turned out to be good training—it let me understand them from the inside.  Then, when I wrote a story about those characters, I’d learned enough about them to know what they would say, how they would react in any situation.

I had some short stories published in my twenties, and my first novel (Barry’s Sister) in my thirties; I wrote the sequel to that book (Ellen’s Case) a few years later, and a more autobiographical novel (Missing Girls) a few years after that.  A Trick of the Light took me almost ten years, from original idea to published book.

MP: What was the inspiration for A Trick of the Light?

LM: In 2004 I came across an article in the New York Daily News.  It was about a boy, Justin, who developed an eating disorder and almost died, and ended up in a hospital.  This came as a shock because I really didn’t know that boys could get eating disorders; I thought it was something that only happened to girls when they dieted too much.

I emailed the reporter of the article, who put me in touch with the family; I interviewed the boy’s doctor, who gave me the names of patients and families in New York so I could meet them.  Recently I took another look at that article, and saw how much of Justin’s story stayed with me and is still part of the final version of the book, even after substantial changes.

MP: This book is interesting because there is a very distinct narrator and main character.  What was it like writing Mike’s story from this remove?

LM: Having this narrator wasn’t my first idea.  Originally I had Mike tell his own story, but that became awkward because so many strange things were happening to him, and he was denying a lot of it, aware of some things, unaware of others.  How can a character say, “I didn’t know it, but…”?  Similar problems arose when I tried telling it from his friend Amber’s point of view; she got to know Mike pretty well, but she didn’t know his past.  Also she has her own agenda.  Mike’s friend Tamio knew Mike’s past, but Mike pushes Tamio away so quickly that Tamio couldn’t narrate the story, either.  I also tried having Mike’s mom be the narrator, but she really didn’t know what was going on inside Mike’s head.  Only one narrator knew that.

MP: In addition to a very separate narrator, this novel doesn’t have a very likeable narrator.  What was it like writing a story with a narrator that is so negative (and dangerous even)?

LM: There were moments I definitely found creepy as I was writing them.  Mike’s mom finds Mike lying on the floor, and she freaks out.  The narrator thinks it’s no big deal, that Mike was “tired” and “took a nap.”  It sounds so innocent and harmless.  Later, Mike’s mom has to tell Mike, “You blacked out.”  Another moment I found sad was when the narrator tells Mike to ignore his mom when she’s crying.  I just felt bad for her.

Still—and I hope this doesn’t sound like a contradiction—I really enjoyed writing the narrator’s thoughts and opinions.  Many actors and actresses say they love to play villains.  I can see why.

MP: One of the fun things about Mike is his interest in stop-motion animation.  Is that an interest you share?  Did you always know this interest would be a part of Mike’s character?

LM: Yes, I’m a Ray Harryhausen fan, the stop-motion animation genius who learned his craft from Willis O’Brien, the man who created King Kong.  I’m so sad to say that Mr. Harryhausen died only very recently, on May 7, at the age of 92.  He knew about A Trick of the Light and I’m sorry he didn’t get a chance to see it; I’m sending a copy to his widow, Diana Harryhausen, and to Tony Dalton, the co-writer of his books on stop-motion animation.

My favorite Ray Harryhausen movie is “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.”  The monsters he invented—or creatures, as he liked to call them—are wonderful and, as Ray Harryhausen used to say, you feel sorry when they die because they have “a mind and a soul.”

From the first draft, Mike had an interest in stop-motion animation, but it was only in relatively recent rewrites that Mike and his friend started making their own movie.  The significance of the movie and the character they invent for it actually got much more fleshed out only after the book was accepted; now I see it as one of the most meaningful parts of the novel.

MP: A Trick of the Light is a pretty intense story.  Was there any part that was harder to dive into as a writer?  Is there any scene you’re particularly excited for readers to get to?

LM: The hospital scenes were hard, because Mike is sad a lot of the time, and I didn’t want to keep coming back to that.  So the narrator convinces Mike “You are not really here.  This is not your real life.”  While he’s in the hospital, Mike listens/doesn’t listen to his therapist; he makes friends with a girl he can’t stand at first.  A lot happens in a short time, and I wanted it all to be consistent and believable.

If I had to pick something I find exciting for readers, I’d have to say—the last chapter.  Sneaky answer, right?  You have to read the whole book to get there!  But, for me, the ending really brings the thing full circle.  You know where Mike has been, and you get a strong sense of where he’s going.

MP: I don’t want to reveal too much, but this book does involve eating disorders.  How much research was involved in the writing process?

LM: I wanted everything to be realistic.  A professional who specializes in eating disorders read the book before publication, and assured me that it’s accurate.  I read fiction and nonfiction books on eating disorders, and interviewed the people I met after first contacting Justin’s family.  It was fascinating research, though sometimes very painful.

MP: Building off the last question, are there any resources you’d suggest for readers who recognize the warning signs from A Trick of the Light and think they might know someone at risk or suffering from an eating disorder?

LM: Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any psychological illness, between five and 20 percent, so if you suspect a friend or family member has an eating disorder, follow up immediately.  Please get in touch with:

The National Eating Disorders Association

For the helpline, call:  1-800-931-2237

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

LM: I’m in the middle of writing/rewriting a book called Change Places With Me.  It’s slightly science-fiction-ish, and it has to do with memory.  The main character is a girl who had trauma in early childhood and she tries to come to terms with it head-on at age 15.  It’s a little sad but funny, too—at least that’s the intention!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring writers?

LM: Read and write.  I always liked reading Salinger because of his ear for dialogue.  A writer may appeal to you because of how he or she describes things.  For me, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has the perfect plot.  Ebeneezer Scrooge, one of the best characters the world has known, has a complete change of personality in only one night, and it’s just beautifully done.  Henry James does amazing things developing characters in Washington Square, especially the unlikeable ones.

Also, the more you write, the better your writing gets.  And have I mentioned how much rewriting is involved?  Humorist Peter De Vries said, “I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”  Try to enjoy the paperwork!

Thanks again to Lois Metzger for a great interview. You can also read my review of A Trick of the Light here on the blog and visit Lois Metzger’s website for more info about her and her books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is one I absolutely have to stick to because I’m on a deadline for a lot of these books. So if we’re friends on goodreads and you see me reading something else, feel free to yell at me!

Here are the next ten books I HAVE to read this summer:

  1. A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson (the better to interview the author!)
  2. Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn (on deadline to review–it’s a long story) Tried it. Had to abandon it. Reading slumps are the worst.
  3. Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (on deadline to review–it’s a long story) Had to give up on this one because the bees were creeping me out. Might come back to it.
  4. The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan (on deadline to review–it’s a long story) Actually got this one off the list already! Replacement: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (embarrassed it didn’t make the first cut)
  5. Coda by Emma Trevayne (blog tour obligation)
  6. Hero by Alethea Kontis (blog tour obligation)
  7. Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney (Got to love a short book and I’m crazy excited about it!)
  8. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (See above. Also this will be my first Myracle book since Bliss.)
  9. The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy (for review)
  10. I’m leaving this spot open for a book that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages that I really, really should get to. But I’m not sure yet which book that would be.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. (Image also from the lovely The Broke and the Bookish.)

A Trick of the Light: A Review

A Trick of the Light by Lois MetzgerMike Welles thought his life was pretty great. He did well in school, he played on the school baseball team. He and his best friend Tamio have a great time talking about stop motion animation and watching old movies.

Everything was fine.

That was before things started going wrong at home. Mike’s parents started to act strangely. Especially his mom. And his dad is just gone for huge chunks of time.

Mike thinks he can still handle all of the changes–even talking to a beautiful new girl at school–but it just keeps getting worse. He’s out of shape. He’s losing control. It’s all just so wrong.

Mike keeps hearing a voice that wants to help him. The voice says that Mike can be stronger. Better. But no one else can hear the voice. And the voice never tells Mike what that kind of strength can cost him in A Trick of the Light (2013) by Lois Metzger.

At a slim 208 pages (hardcover) it is really hard to talk about this book without spoiling some of the twists Metzger has skillfully created. Suffice it to say, Mike is in trouble.

What I can tell you is that despite touching on some familiar territory, Metzger comes at the issues in A Trick of the Light in a very clever and original way. Mike is not the typical protagonist in this type of story.

The narrator of this book is not typical either. (It’s not a spoiler to say it is not Mike but I’ll leave it at that.) Metzger’s choice of narrator is extremely interesting and makes for a very creepy read. At the same time it also adds a lot of distance between Mike and the reader as Mike’s story is told at a remove. The technique works but it does make the book a little confusing at first.

That said, once you get into the rhythm of the story this book really takes off. Metzger expertly draws readers into Mike’s struggles without ever coming across as heavy-handed or preachy.

A Trick of the Light is a subtle, engrossing read that would be ideal for reluctant and avid readers alike.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Paperweight by Meg Haston, Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, The Beautiful Between by Courtney B. Sheinmel, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Exclusive Bonus Content with a SPOILER: This book is a fascinating read about eating disorders but I can’t stop wondering if it could be a trigger or a workbook for kids who are at risk for eating disorders. Lots of stuff to unpack with this one. I think it’s a totally great book but I feel like it’s one that really begs to be discussed.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Lois Metzger!

The Glass Swallow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Glass Swallow by Julia GoldingRain’s father is one of the most sought-after glass makers in the kingdom of Tigral. Torrent’s mastery of stained glass is unrivaled with even the king and queen ordering windows from the Torrent forge for their palace.

The only problem is Torrent is not the visionary behind his stained glass designs. Rain, his daughter, is the designer–a secret that could get them both thrown out of the male-only glassmaker guild.

When an opportunity arises for Rain to visit a distant land and ply her wares, it seems like a fine opportunity. She will be able to promote her father’s forget and her craft all while keeping her secret and seeing the wonders of the kingdom of Magharna.

Unfortunately, within a day of her arrival everything goes very wrong.

Alone in a strange place, Rain must find her own way as she navigates the foreign language and strange customs of Magharna and tries to find her way home. As Rain learns more of her temporary home, she realizes something is very wrong in the state. With a flagging economy and a society on the brink of riot, Rain will have to get very creative to find her place and a way home in The Glass Swallow (2010) by Julia Golding.

The Glass Swallow is a companion Golding’s earlier novel Dragonfly. (The current king and queen of Tigral are the protagonists of Dragonfly while it’s fun to see the characters overlap you do not need to read one book to enjoy the other.)

The Glass Swallow is a cute if sometimes improbable story focused on Rain and a young Magharan falconer named Peri–a man deemed “untouchable” by the higher echelons of Magharan society. The story is written in third person with focus shifting between Rain and Peri (often highlighting deeply frustrating missed connections between the two characters).

Although Rain has a very rough start in Magharna things begin to go surprisingly well for her by the latter third of the novel as pieces of state politics and revolution fall into place as if part of Rain’s personal stained glass design. While groundwork is laid for the romantic aspect of the story, the romance too felt a bit contrived as it moved with surprising speed from flirtation to actual love.

The Glass Swallow is an entertaining fantasy. Given the characters’ ages I went into this book expecting something along the lines of YA fantasy. Instead the characters and plot read much younger marking this more as a middle grade level read. That said, The Glass Swallow is still very fun with the nice touches of both stained glass and bird handling as areas of interest in the story. While the story, particularly the latter half, felt cursory as if the characters were rushing to a resolution the story was often heartwarming. It’s very nice to read a well-thought-out fantasy with an unabashedly happy ending.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley*, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

*Strictly speaking this isn’t a real read-alike for this book. BUT it does have art and glass working and birds so why not?