Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not-Quite-Scary Halloween Things

October poses quite a dilemma for me. On the one hand, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Halloween. I love carving pumpkins, dressing up, going to parties, and eating candy.

Exhibit A.
On the other hand, legitimately scary movies and books terrify me. I will not watch or read them. I have horrible nightmares for days afterwards, and jump at the slightest shadow or if my cat brushes my leg. So there are parts of Halloween that I never participate in!

So I've come up with my own lists of movies and books that are just the right amount of creepy without being overly terrifying. If you're at all like me, I hope you appreciate this. If you're the kind of person who can stomach true horror, I stand in awe of your unflappability. (Aside: I sat through the first two Saw movies and Amityville Horror. Terrible ideas. TERRIBLE IDEAS.)

This trilogy has walking corpses and necromancers who raise dead spirits. It also has great female leads and fantastic worldbuilding.

Swamps and evil creatures play just enough around the edges of this story. The hairs on the back of my neck raised a few times while reading it. But it's also gorgeously written and a fantastic read.

A world of night with creatures sitting in wait just off the lighted paths, and endless partying make this a rich and creepy book.

It came out well before faeries were a Big Thing (in...when was it, 2009?) and has some pretty gruesome characters who do some pretty horrific things. There's also a great creepy ambiance swirling through the whole book.

The Johnny Depp version, of course. What else would I be talking about? This movie is eerie without being scary. And the cinematography (like I know what that is, ha) is gorgeous.

This list wouldn't be complete without Jack Skellington. I don't even think I need to say anything about this film. Listing it is enough.

Less creepy than most of the other things on this list, but the idea of magic and ghosts still has a Halloween feel. Plus, Edward Norton is an incredible actor.

Not particularly creepy until Tesla becomes involved in the plot, but all the tricks and secrets make this a great film.

Not scary at all, actually, so much as adorable. But, seriously, adorable zombies. What else would you watch on Halloween?

What did I forget? Do you like scary movies, or are you like me and would you rather watch something a little tamer? What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

Monday, October 28, 2013

From the Vault - Happy Halloween!

Every Monday we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's Question :: If you could dress up as any literary character for Halloween, who would you choose?

Jessica - A few years ago I dressed up as Luna Lovegood for Halloween, and that was one of my favorite costumes ever! I had the radish earrings, the cork necklace, the Spectrespecs, an upside-down Quibbler, and a Ravenclaw tie. I got a ton of complements on it, and I had so much fun wearing it around. I may just bust it out again this Halloween...we'll see.

Sara - Katniss as the girl on fire, if I could do it without getting burned :)

Copil - I'd dress as a Binja Warrior (the garbage bin ninjas from China Mieville's Un Lun Dun). I'd sit in a corner for most of the party and then, when you come over to throw away your appetizer napkin, I'll spring up and Ninjitsu your half-eaten crudités to the floor!

Alexandra - Sometimes I'm tempted to roll body glitter all over myself and be a vampire from Twilight...

Katy - For the last few years I've dressed as Hermione Granger. My prized Gryffindor scarf with crazy curls, a wand, and a precocious attitude. She's my fave. :-)

Leigh - This is actually a tough one--there are so many great options! I mean, from Shakespeare's witches to Lady Macbeth to Hester Prynne... Katniss would be easy. I actually went as Hermione once using clothes I owned... That's distressing. Wait! I have to pick one.. Okay, I'm going as... Peter Pan! (Not really!)

Jaime - Definitely Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games. How fun would that be?! If not her, Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books would also be a blast. And maybe it’s a bit cliché, but Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz would be fantastic too. I just really want ruby slippers.

Matt - I'm dressed up as Mithrandir right now (that's Gandalf the Grey to you).

Alison - Eeyore. Although, I have dressed up as Winnie the Pooh for the past fourteen years (when my daughter was one, she dressed up as my honey pot). My YA answer would be Katniss—although Effie Trinkett would be fun. I may have to do that for the Catching Fire premiere!
Chihuahua Zero - Wait for it... Vladimir Tod from Heather Brewer's series. That's the first one that came up. Vampires are so original. Really, I'm not sure if I'm trick-or-treating this year. Last year might've been my last.

Erica - Kahlan Amnell from The Sword of Truth series - she is one of my absolutely favorite literary characters.

Your turn! If you could dress up as any literary character for Halloween, who would it be?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ask-A-Dude! Chapeau Edition!

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Ask-a-Dude!

Remember, you can ask your own questions using the submission form on the right!

Today's question is:

Q: My man wants to wear his favorite ratty-ass baseball cap to my niece's bat mitvah. I've tried to explain it's just not appropriate but he won't listen. How do I tell him that's not gonna fly with my family?

A: The same way you'd tell Winnie the Pooh about Colony Collapse Disorder, gently and with lots of lorazepam on standby. The thing is, your family is being unreasonable. Can't they loosen up? Do one of those themed bat mitzvahs, you know, where everyone comes as their favorite Gilmore Girls character?

Of course, then you run the risk of everyone showing up as Paris, so I guess I understand their hesitation.

If a Mad Hatter-themed bat mizvah isn't an option and your family won't brook any sort of non-traditional headgear except, maybe, a kippah with the Superman logo, then you're going to have to have a sit down with your man. I love that you call him "my man," by the way - what are you, Hasidic truckers?

Before your talk, though, I'd like to give you some background for your discussion that might keep both of you on the same page.

First, let's discuss the pejoratives in your question. I count 6 in the following sentence:

". . .wants to wear his favorite ratty-ass baseball cap. . ." 

In fact, the only word I don't have a beef with is "to."

Let's break it down:

Wants - he doesn't want to wear the cap, he has to wear the cap. It's his identity. It's not a head covering, it's a lens through which he interprets the world. Do people ask him about it? Do they judge him for it? Do they see the cap as an extension of the man or the other way around? Look at it this way, when Carrie Bradshaw steps out with her Fendi baguette clutch, does she have a choice? No. She doesn't.

Wear - he's not wearing it, he's inhabiting it. Does a bear "wear" its fur, a turtle its shell? Take off your man's hat and you might as well call PETA and tell them you're thinking of asking a seal not to "wear" its slimy coat because the posh event you're attending doesn't offer a wet coat-check (which is all the rage in New York circles, by the way).

His - in the same way the Lascaux Cave Paintings belong to all humanity, so too does his hat belong to all men, everywhere. You don't go to the Taj Mahal and say, "I'm sure Mughal emperor Shah Jahan thought it was nice." It's a Unesco World Heritage Site, for crying out loud. The Taj Majal, not his hat. Although don't think he hasn't submitted it for consideration. When people start queuing up and paying good money to walk around his head and snap pictures, won't you feel stupid?

Favorite - that's like saying my mom had a favorite son. I may be positive it was me because I always got the extra-meaty corner of the Mexican Pizza (tortilla base, then beans, then ground beef, then tomato sauce, then cheese, with a crushed tortilla chip and Lipitor topping), but I know she loved my other siblings just as much. Saying the hat he's wearing is his favorite is kind of an insult to the other headwear in his closet that didn't make the cut to attend what increasingly sounds like a real downer of a coming-of-age party.

Ratty-Ass - do you have any idea what it takes to get a brim cap to fit just right? I mean, the line between this

and this

is finer than the embroidery thread spelling out YOLO on your man's hat. You say ratty-ass, but I'm pretty sure the expression you were looking for is "bespoke fit."

Baseball Cap - riiiiiiiight, and the Titanic was just a ship, the Hindenburg was just a blimp and The Lone Ranger was just a flop. Why am I only choosing examples that ended in tragedy? Not sure. My point is, you're belittling a part of his very being. You might as well pants him and pull out a ruler. I mean, what kind of a monster are you?!

Until you understand what the hat means to him, on an existential level, any request that he remove it will fall on deaf, sunburn-protected ears. When he dons that cap, he's not putting on a hat, he's applying the sticky balm of emotional security to his soul.

That hat held his hair out of his face during his first hangover, it kept the sand out of his eyes at Burning Man the year he and his buddies went as A Post-Coital Gasp, it served as an impromptu nest that time he was trying to show his love interest that he could be sensitive and allowed a Yellow-headed Caracara to incubate five eggs in it until the chicks hatched, and it hid a thousand bad hair days because paying more than $8 for a haircut is just useless since no matter how much they try, SuperCuts is NEVER going to make him look like Channing Tatum, whose hair is more versatile than Meryl Streep.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? 

Explain to him that you understand how important that hat is to him, how important it is to all men. Let him know you understand how disconcerting it can be to go bare-headed after so many years. Assure him no one will judge his misshapen head, made slightly cone-shaped as a result of being constrained by the smaller-than-average size of the hat because he washed it on hot even though you warned him it might shrink.

You could meet him halfway, like suggest he wear it to the event, leave it in the car, and then put it back on immediately after. Take some pictures, from different angles, and show them on your phone between your niece's oration and the blessing. In extreme cases, you might hide the cap in the men's room and then tell your concerned family members that he has a bladder infection when he keeps excusing himself every few minutes.

If you genuinely like the shape of his head, let him know, it will make him feel a little less self-conscious. Be careful, however. If this is the first time you've ever seen his head, be prepared for the possibility that his hair, deprived of vital oxygen and sunlight, might look patchy, with uneven hair lengths and areas that don't color match the hair that falls outside the protective covering. To psyche yourself up for this, move your bed from a carpeted room. The slight discoloration on the carpet outlining where the bed was is similar to what you'll see on your man's head.

Finally, if you manage to get him to remove the hat, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES allow him to see anyone else wearing one. If your other party guests are following the same draconian rules your absurdist family laid down, then this shouldn't be a problem. But if he catches so much as a frayed brim worn by one of the caterers, it will cause a tear in space that could destroy the universe.

At best, it'll be like that scene in Somewhere in Time, where Richard finds a penny with a 1979 mint date, and it rips him away from 1912 and the horrified look on Elise's face as she extends a hand and screams, and we pull back to an infinite void before Richard wakes up in his bed, whimpering and heartbroken and too weak to move or eat, and all he has left is the ugliest cry face you ever saw and the mourning moans of a man who's lost the greatest love he's ever known.

Great. Now I'm crying.

No, no, I don't need a tissue to dry my sad man-tears.

I'll just use my hat.

Copil's hat is named Morpheus and has its own Twitter feed (@Copil).

Monday, October 21, 2013

From the Vault

Every Monday, we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's question :: What has been your most surprising read of 2013 thus far – a book you were iffy about going in, but ended up knocking you over with its awesomeness?  

Jessica - I wasn't iffy about WINGER by Andrew Smith - I knew from all the reviews I'd read that it was going to be good. I just wasn't prepared for HOW GOOD IT WAS. I mean, this book seriously blew me away, and I wasn't ready for that at all. To be this surprised about a book you already had high expectations for? Yeah. That's surprising.

Alison - 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma. I wasn't a huge IMAGINARY GIRLS fan, but this one? BLEW. ME. AWAY. So, SO good. I am a renewed Nova Ren Suma fan!

Alexandra - This odd little book called ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn. The premise is a bit hard to explain, but the Goodreads description does a good job. I went into it mostly because I wasn't sure what else to read, and it sounded different. It ended up being really clever and enjoyable!

Copil - Everything I've read this year has been a surprise. I'm easily startled. WHOA, what was that? Oh, I blinked.

Katy - I've read tons of great young adult novels this year, but my most surprising read actually isn't YA -- it's ON THE ISLAND by Tracey Garvis-Graves. The concept made me squeamish when I first read about it, but this book rocked. It's a fantastic island survival story mixed with an amazing romance. I loved it.  

Leigh - Mine's not YA either -- it was THE OPPORTUNIST by Tarryn Fisher. Seriously.

Matt - Hmm. GUY LANGMAN CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR, by Josh Berk. I went in expecting it to be good, and funny, but I was pretty shocked not only that it was so hilarious, but that it was also touching.

Jaime - There’s really only one answer for me here: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. I was iffy picking this one up because it was one of those dreaded cancer books. BUT, when everyone raves about a book, you kinda have to read it. I am so, so happy I gave this book a shot. It deserves all of the raving…and then some.

Chihuahua Zero - When it comes to non-YA, one book comes to mind quickly: MARGIN PLAY by Eric Plume. It's a mystery that gets meta at times. Oh, and the detective's female. Very interesting read.

Erica - HOOKED by Liz Fichera - I read this one way earlier this year, and it is still sticking with me. I am picky about my contemporaries, so I was hesitant going in. I was amazed by what I found when I read it - it was awesome.

Your turn! What's been your most surprising read of 2013 thus far?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Want Your First Page Critiqued by Teens?!

Okay, so who doesn't want their target audience's feedback on their story? Every other month, we offer that chance!

Send the first page of your YA novel to and one submitter will be randomly chosen to have their page critiqued on the blog by our teen spies! They'll reveal what they liked, what they didn't, and whether or not they'd keep reading! 

Deadline for page submission: October 25!

If you've submitted in previous months, but haven't been selected, feel free to submit again!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fault Line, by Christa Desir

Fault Line, by Christa Desir, was released yesterday.

I read it a few months ago (full disclosure: an e-ARC, provided by the author), and want to tell you how important this book was, even if it was a very difficult read.

Make no mistake, this book is about Rape. There is no adventure, no magic, and very little hope between its covers. I don't say this to discourage you from reading it, or to imply that it is not a fantastic, important book (because it is, all those things), but only to warn you: this book will break you.

Be prepared to weep over the trauma portrayed within its pages. If you're a parent, or have any friends who are women, or know any douche-bag assholes who perpetuate rape culture, or are a human being with even a sliver of compassion for your fellow humans in your soul, be prepared to have your heart torn out by this book.

And then stepped on.

So ... I'm not going to be able to talk about this book the way I talk about normal books. I mean, it's fiction, sure, so it works on all the levels all books do, and it has to, but it's a little difficult to talk about "oh I loved this character's arc, or oh the sensory description of this setting was so vivid, I ..."

You see what I mean? This is a book about rape, and more specifically, what it does to two characters, who are teenagers, and who are beautiful, broken, imperfect individuals. Let me give you the summary, from Goodreads, before I move on:

Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

There are some people out there who don't get this book. I think that's okay. I hope that it's not because it's too triggery for them, but I'm afraid that may be a big part of it, and that is very sad. But it's also okay. That's kind of how books work, isn't it? For me, the book made perfect sense, even if it hurt me at times to be experiencing its story, and to think about how many people I must know who have suffered through similar circumstances. Rape and sexual assault and violence, and sometimes more importantly, their aftermath, are terrible, disturbing things. But they do exist, and denying them, or not writing and reading books about them, does not make them go away.

So read this book. In the end, its message is a powerful and important one. It should be required reading in high school. I'm going to ask my daughters to read it, and I think you should too, once they're old enough.

In the meantime, you can find Christa Desir:

Monday, October 14, 2013

♫ From the Vault ♫

Every Monday, we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's Question : How has music inspired your writing? 

Jessica - Oh man. How has music NOT inspired my writing?! I'm a total music person, so music influences everything I do. The first book I wrote was directly inspired by a song ("Sic Transit Gloria" by Brand New), and the second one was inspired by a real guy in a real band and the songs he wrote about a girl he was in love with. The guy in that book is a musician, too, because all of my dream boys are musicians. The guy in a book I've been tinkering around with for awhile works as a sound guy for a music venue, now that I think about it. And, of course, I have extensive playlists for each thing I work on, with all the perfect songs for each scene. For me, music and writing really go hand in hand...I couldn't write without music inspiring me in some way or another.
Sara - Basically in every way possible. I find inspiration in lyrics all the time, and I love the specific emotions that melodies alone can pull out of me--which I try to throw straight into my words. I also make playlists for each of my characters which can really help me to get in their heads. And similarly I have playlists for my WIPs themselves. I often work on a playlist for months before actually getting started on a project. (Usually while working on a different WIP, I collect songs in the background while the new project starts to piece itself together in my mind.)

Copil - I actually don't listen to music when I'm writing or have a playlist. I'm easily distracted, and if Dancing Queen comes on, you know I'm busting out the Manolos and putting on my tiara. Not a lot gets done when that happens.

Alison - Depends on what I'm writing. Typically my stories have a theme song. I never really had a playlist until my last project, but my current one? Hoo boy. I don't know if it's because my WiP is so . . . musical or just that everything I hear inspires me, but my current story's playlist rivals my fourteen-year-old's iTunes library. Even my characters have theme songs and playlists. J  Funny, though. I can't listen to anything while I'm actually writing.

Leigh - I've gotten whole storylines from a song before. It tends to set my imagination's wheels in motion. But oddly, I can't listen to music *while* I write. Too distracting!

Jaime - For every story that I’m writing, I have a list of songs that are either really appropriate to the story lyric-wise, or make me feel a particular way, and as such, get the words flowing. That said, I can only write with music once I’m in “the zone”. Before that it’s just plain distracting.

Alexandra - Along with what Sara and Jess said about music inspiring characters and WIPs, music is also where I go when I'm stuck on writing. I get out my guitar or find a piano and let the creativity come in a different form (not by writing songs, just by playing my favorites to myself, in whatever variation strikes me at the time.) Because I'm not striving to be a musician the way I'm striving to be a writer, (music is my hobby), it's a low-pressure way for me to disconnect from the inevitable stresses and to experience art more viscerally. I don't care if I suck, I don't care if anyone ever hears me (I actually prefer if they never do!) and it's the perfect way to unwind, connect with my story and my characters from a new angle, and go back to my pages refreshed and inspired.

Matt - Music inspires everything I do. I keep it subtle, but a song or an artist or even a style of music plays a part in most stories I write.

Chihuahua Zero - It hasn't really inspired me to transplant ideas into my writing. It's strange, since I listen to music all the time, but it's still fun thinking out ideas for songs, even if none of them make it onto paper.

Erica -  I sometimes get inspiration when I am listening to music, but I have to have absolute silence when I am writing, so as soon as I start to write, the music goes off.

Your turn! How has music inspired YOUR writing? 

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