Tuesday, 15 April 2014

2013 YA Romance highlights

*Note: This first appeared in the Australian Romance Readers Association members newsletter - Issue 55.

In a publishing industry that is going through tremendous change, there are two areas that continue to thrive; romance and young adult (YA). It just so happens that I love both tremendously and have this opportunity to bring to your attention the 2013 YA titles that show what can be done when you bring these two worlds together.

YA is fiction that explores that period of adolescence in which everything changes and a whole heap of ‘firsts’ take place. Romance does underpin a majority of YA so I have chosen titles that explore first love, disappointment and occasionally sex, with aplomb.

Rainbow Rowell has made an enormous impact in the youth literature sphere this past year and with good reason. Eleanor and Park (Hachette) explores the journey that takes place when two misfits meet on the school bus, connect over music and comics, and fall in love. Eleanor is a big, brassy, nonconformist; she’s also the new kid at school with a horrible home life. Park, unlike Eleanor, manages to blend in despite being half-Korean. His family, while safer, is just as much of a mess. It’s about connection, family and finding a light in another person. Beautiful writing featuring duel perspective loveliness.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Future of YA

A few months back I was interviewed for a major Australian media outlet on the future of young adult literature.  They sent me the following questions. I have a tendency to respond long but in the end they only used lines that 1) referenced John Green, and 2) a tiny Twilight pun.  

So here's what I answered, many months ago, when asked the following questions:  

What are the reading trends you are seeing with teenagers and YA fiction? Has supernatural romance run its course? Is it still strong? Are there any clues to what the next wave might be?
Supernatural has always been popular but the sparkle is definitely rubbing off a little.  Dystopian is the current trend that has exploded off the back of series like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking.  Neither supernatural, paranormal or dystopian are new to readers but their increasing relevance in pop culture is making a greater impact.  All of these genres within YA have commonalities -  romance, adventure, empowerment and often mix of all genres to make new breeds of story.  Sci-fi has had a small resurgence, with a bent towards romance, and contemporary/realist YA is always present on the bestseller lists. 

There is growth in the New Adult category which can be seen as a part of YA but is more fittingly aligned with commercial adult fiction.  New Adult was coined by St Martin’s Press in 2009 for narratives that detail the time after high school and before working life – YA collegiate in a sense.  However, its success can be attributed to the romance and erotica elements of what is being written and a decidedly adult audience. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

2014 US Adventure: BEA, TAC & ATX

In just under two months I'll be journeying to the United States for my annual leave.  It will be relatively quick - 2.5 weeks - but completely jammed packed.

The last time I was in New York was four years ago and I was able to meet with a host of authors and bloggers.  It was completely life changing in many ways but specifically a meeting in Penguin US HQ made me realise that I wanted a career in YA books.  I knew I had to move to Melbourne and redefine my career and soon after I found myself at the Centre for Youth Literature that fulfilled both those requirements in a beautiful way.

So what's my plan?

I arrived in NYC just in time for...

Unplugging from John Green & Rob Thomas

I am a self-confessed online junkie.  I spend an inordinate amount of time online in professional and personal capacities.  I like being a keystroke away from any information, news, or person.  But events over the past year have made me realise one thing - I don't need to know how the sausage is made.

Some context...

I am a rampant media consumer.  I am active in young adult literature, library, teaching, pop culture and romance communities.  I have equal numbers of real life and online friends, and they are all great people.

For all the benefits the internet has given me (email, shopping, Skype, a new career), there is one notable downside.

I can't escape.

I can't escape from being inflicted with every detail of every process of some creator's work.

This wasn't so much of an issue until this year and two creators;

  • John Green, and 
  • Rob Thomas

Monday, 24 March 2014

Review: Total Surrender

Cheryl Holt
St Martin’s Paperbacks (2007)
Historical romance

With the last of her family possessions gambled away by her dissolute brother, Lady Sarah Compton has traveled to a country house gala for one last moment of grace and beauty. But she is unaware that the occasion is actually a notorious trysting event, where members of the aristocracy can indulge in their every sensual fantasy and erotic whim. Nor does she realize that the striking man who has stolen into her bedroom is none other than Michael Stevens—a rake who gives and takes his pleasures boldly… 
The bastard son of an earl, Michael Stevens relishes his reputation as London’s most notorious seducer. But he has no idea what to make of the auburn-haired beauty he’s nearly mistaken for new conquest or how such an innocent could possibly have been invited to a gather where London’s bored elite caters to each other’s carnal desires. When the lady refuses to heed Michael’s warning—to leave the house for her own protection—a powerful attraction grows, and soon, he longs to tutor the very proper Lady Sarah Compton in the art of passion…

Tag Line:

“It was a game with only one rule – ultimate pleasure.”

I am only hoping that tag lines become a running joke as I can’t imagine them getting worse than this…but I hope they do.

The Heroine:

While Sarah does fall into the ‘country mouse’ cliché that seems to permeate the genre, she’s got more than enough curiosity to keep the plot interesting and moving. She knows nothing about attraction and hasn’t ever thought to marry after an unsuccessful Season that hinted at Mean Girls circa 1810. This naiveté is frustrating as a contemporary reader but is in line with the awareness most females had about themselves, the opposite gender and sex in general. It is equally frustrating witnessing her efforts to deal with her brother as she’s full of moxie, just never when necessary. You see, Sarah’s contented herself by cleaning up the messes of her lout of a brother and keeping the home fires burning. Yes, she’s the self-sacrificial sort. But in attending her friend’s house party (or sex romp holiday – not kidding) she meets …

Monday, 17 March 2014

Veronica Mars...I didn't love it.

First off, I didn't hate the Veronica Mars film. I was just underwhelmed.  There were aspects I liked, that made my laugh and gasp but questions started pinging in my head as soon as the film finished. This doesn't mean I don't love Veronica Mars, or the cast, or the fandom, it just means my love isn't unilaterally unconditional.  My love comes with some critiques.

And no, I am not asking for my Kickstarter contribution back or anything ridiculously petty like that. I didn't hate the movie but I didn't love it either.

My good friend, Danielle, called me on the weekend to have a chat on it. (She also wrote a post on what she loved which I agree with...mostly.) I was able to view it with hundreds of other fans at the cinema on the day of its release.  I was immensely privileged.  She saw it in her living room and wanted to chat.  Straight away we realised we had experienced two very different films.  She was warm and glowy from the experience whereas I had already started a list of aspects I had taken issue with.

If you want the glowy reading experience, go to Danielle's post instead of reading mine.  I could, and will probably, infuriate you with my nitpicking.


My three major issues were as follows:

Cliche What?

Romance is a genre that gets pummeled with the cliché bat no matter which medium it is presented in. Whether it be a rom-com movie, a romantic song or a historical romance novel…they are thought to be ridden with stereotypes and clichés.

While that can be true, it is unfair to label that solely on stories that tell of romance, instead of warfare or humour.

I recently came across Anne Marble’s article -‘ Romance Clichés to Avoid – Or Reconstruct‘ – over at writing-world.com. She listed a long series of clichéd characters and situations in romance. I recommend that you hit the link and see her thorough exploration of the following key clichés she identified.

The Evil Other Woman
You know this character. Heck you probably know one in real life. However … it’s been over done. Their reasoning for being witchy bitches is normally pretty shallow and there is nothing redeeming about them. How about changing this up some? Have the hero be legitimately torn between two decent woman, or alternatively, have the ‘other woman’ be three dimensional.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Graphic Novel No-No's

The delightful Miss Danielle, children's and YA columnist for Kill Your Darlings, interviewed me on graphic novels and how they are often made synonymous with 'reluctant readers'.  As this is my bugbear (my word of the week), I had a few things to say.

Read it here.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: Bushwhacked Groom

Too awful for words.
Eugenia Riley
Love Spell (2004)
Time slip / historical romance

When Cole Reklaw offers a prime parcel of ranchland to the first of his five children to marry and produce a grandchild, his daughter Molly vows to win. She heads for Reklaw Gorge — where her pa had once “bushwhacked” his future bride off a stagecoach — only to watch that very vehicle come crashing into the gorge, bringing with it Molly’s own “hero” from across time, Lucky Lamont. 
All Lucky ever wanted was to get even with his girlfriend for betraying him. Instead he finds himself in the clutches of a hellcat who declares she will marry him, or else. Then Molly Reklaw goads Lucky into a reckless kiss that soon results in a shotgun wedding! With the bride set on gaining the prize and the groom burning for revenge, can love find a way for both of them to win?

I will admit that I couldn’t finish this book. I tried. Goodness knows I tried but it was beyond me. Bushwhacked Groom found its way to me due to 1) a hilarious title name and 2) a preposterous time travel / historical premise. Except right from the prologue I wanted to get as far away from the Hero as humanly possible. You see, Lucky is a simpleton. A simpleton who thinks he’s rational, intelligent and quality goods. He’s none of these things. He’s an idjit.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Awesomeness of Felicity Smoak

Three days ago I posted a piece on 'The Trouble with Felicity Smoak' which was largely about removing Arrow's Felicity from the Olicity. We love her but she's amazing with, or without a love interest, whether that be Oliver or anyone else.

There's been substantial brouhaha since the most recent episode (2x14) aired. Some factions of the fandom are ecstatic that Oliver reaffirmed that Felicity 'his girl' as it confirms the inevitability of their coupledom. Some are more incensed as the episode features a whole heap of characters, including Oliver, patronising Felicity. Regardless of where you stand, the episode was a bit of a character continuity mess.

While I agree with the latter stance, the jacket line plus the continuing patronisation of Felicity was insufferable, I thought I would redirect my energy into all the reasons I love Felicity Smoak.

This is a Felicity list, the attention in on her, not Olicity. Sometimes people make them one and the same (which they are not), however I did go into further detail on this understandable confluence in my previous post.