Friday, July 29, 2011

Hunger Games Stills Released!

Have you guys seen these? I'm sooooo excited. EW released them and seems to be pretty on top of reporting on the movie. Speaking of which, a friend of mine actually saw Jennifer Lawrence (actress playing Katniss) in the Charlotte, NC airport the other day, as the movie is being filmed down there. Life isn't fair *shakes fist.*

The more I look at these and follow the movie production I have to admit the boys are growing on me. Jennifer Lawrence still isn't quite how I envisioned Katniss. I read an article the other day, not by Suzanne Collins but YA author Veronica Roth, whose book Divergent was optioned for film and she discussed how it's more important for the actor or actress to convey the personality of your main character than necessarily every specific physical feature. And, in the end, I agree with her. Lawrence is a fabulous actress and if Collins helped pick her then I'm sure she'll bring to the screen what we all loved about Katniss so much in the book: that fearless, self sufficient girl with an occasional soft streak.

What do you guys think, how important are looks when casting an actress based on a book character and where have you seen this best?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LOVE this!

I know the Women's World Cup is over *sobs* but I had to take the opportunity for one last post on it, so I interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you a great interview with U.S. Women's Soccer teammates Abby Wambach and Hope Solo and a hilarious ending complements of David Letterman:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chance to Win The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a must read! I'm in the midst of it right now and can't read it fast enough. She paints such a vivid picture and is pitch perfect in her dialogue. If you want to read a book that nails voice, this is it!

And if you haven't heard Stockett, now a New York Times #1 bestselling novelist, was rejected 60 times for the manuscript of The Help. Lucky agent #61 took her on and took a chance and boy has it paid off. Here's the article as well as a post about it from agent Jill Corcoran (note, not Stockett's agent but reflecting on rejection and finding the right agent).

Now that it's being made into a major motion picture there's a second cover released for the novel:

Here's the original which I LOVE as it's so simple and yet ties in so nicely with the storyline, as it plays on the saying, "a little birdie told me" and, of course, there's three main characters.

Here's the description and if this doesn't sell you then take my word for it. YOU. MUST. READ. THIS. BOOK. *yells from soapbox*

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

The movie opens August 12 and I am sooooo excited about it. I adore Emma Stone and especially loved her in Easy A where she was charismatic and witty and completely likeable and I can't wait to see her now as Skeeter. I've also heard this is going to have a killer soundtrack with greats like Mary J. Blige lending their talent. If you haven't checked out the trailer yet, here you go:

To celebrate I'm hosting a contest to win a softcover book of The Help. Contest officially starts now and runs until 6 pm on August 4. Winner will be announced August 5. Rules include:

1. You must be a follower of the blog (2 entries if you're a long time follower)
2. To enter you must email me at with "The Help contest entry" in the subject line.
3. Extra entry for any of the following: refer a friend, post a comment, Facebook this, follow me on Twitter (2 entries if you're a long time follower), or tweet, "Enter @SCookRay contest at to win THE HELP"

That's it! And if you have any questions you can email me too.

Confession: I temporarily thought about pulling a Skeeter and making the entries about cleaning advice just for a book tie-in but let's be honest, I wouldn't know if "use a raw potato to pull out a broken light" was made up or sheer genius. I'm still trying to figure out where Stockett found all that advice. Was there really a Miss Myrna advice column she researched? If you know, please spill. And, of course, good luck!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cover Love

I know I did a post on cover love last week but I had to add a couple others. It seems my TBR list is never shrinking. I read one book only to add two more I want to read. Looking at these covers and synopses, it's hard to say no!

Sisterhood Everlasting: A Novel by Ann Brashares From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block "The Storm at the Door is one of the bravest and most beautiful books I have ever read. It's a wholly original hybrid --by turns a fictional account of the love story of Frederick and Katharine Merrill, a terrifying tour of the "horrorland" of the Mayflower Home for the Mentally Ill, a lucid translation of madness, and a grandson's quest to understand "the blank page" of his family's past. Stefan Merrill Block's language soars--he's got a wingspan that covers three generations. Refusing to be "paralyzed by fact," Block moves nimbly between fact and fiction, history and the imagination, to get at truths that are almost unbearable: that love can fail, that a mind can immolate, and that language can sometimes leave us lonelier than our original silence. This is a powerful, enthralling and unforgettable book."

Have you seen any interesting books lately?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Swagger Song

I just discovered this song. LOVE!

What are you listening to this week?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cover Love

I've been meaning to do another cover love post as it's been a while. Both of these novels have popped up on my radar recently and I have to say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE their covers. Looking at the two together in one post makes me wish I had a painting with the rich turquoises and the deep plums. Aren't they great? Both novels, of course, have also received great acclaim from YA reading audiences.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
As the spaceship Godspeed travels toward a new earth, the lives of 100 cryogenically frozen settlers hang in the balance after someone endeavors to quietly murder them. The other passengers aboard the ship have never known life outside its walls and are enslaved by the machinations of Eldest, their tyrannical leader, who divides them into three distinct classes. When Amy, a frozen settler from earth, survives being thawed in a murder attempt, she immediately bonds with Elder, Godspeed's lone teen and future leader. Amy’s individuality, her rebellion, and her fierce desire for freedom, inspire Elder to act on his own doubts and defy Eldest--his mentor and keeper--with shocking results. Eldest’s methods of twisting history and altering the lives of this captive community are a frightening echo of tyrants in our own history, and Across the Universe challenges readers to consider the impact of unchecked power, blind trust, and the ability of one dissenting voice to make a difference.

Sea by Heidi R. Kling Sienna is afraid—of airplanes, of the ocean, of life. She has had these fears for three years, ever since her mother's plane disappeared over the ocean while on a humanitarian aid trip in Thailand. On her 15th birthday, she gets the worst present she can imagine: a plane ticket to accompany her dad and two other doctors on a two-week trip to an Indonesian orphanage—one housing children and young adults who are survivors of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Sienna doesn't want to go, and the cultural differences and deprivations do not make her any happier once there. On her first night, during a welcoming program hosted by the orphans, she meets Deni, a 17-year-old from Aceh, the tsunami's epicenter. Their relationship develops quickly and leads to actions and decisions that are ill-considered and dangerous—both in a Muslim culture and during a state of civil unrest. Sienna loses her fears much faster than one would expect, and her return home to a friendship that is evolving into a romance, so soon after she was in love with another boy whose life was filled with tragedy, makes her seem emotionally shallow. Teens who like relationship novels will overlook these flaws, but the book is definitely an additional purchase.

Have you guys seen any great book covers lately?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It Gets Better

I did a post on the Trevor Project's "It Gets Better" campaign back in October. The campaign seeks to increase awareness and decrease bullying among LGBTQ kids and others.

Already this week I've seen several other items in the same vein and thought I'd share, because the more we can spread the word about bullying and teach others to stand up against it, the better!

1. There's the book, Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories:

2. We have the associated Website Dear Bully: Young Adult Authors Against Bullying.

3. There's the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "Stop Bullying Now" Website resource.

4. ABC Family has a movie coming out later this month called Cyber Bully.

5. Taylor Swift tackles the subject in her latest music video:

6. While Rise Against does the same, though directly for the Trevor Project:

So spread the word out there, stand up to bullying, and if you have other resources, please share!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crit Partners

Yesterday the amazing organizers of WriteOnCon held an event with three fabulous YA authors and crit partners: Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff, and Maggie Stiefvater (of Shiver and Linger fame). Together they call themselves Merry Sisters of Fate.

I've written about critiquing and objective readers of your work on the blog before and its importance. To hear from three crit partners and what the process is and why it works for them, however, is a unique experience--and hopefully will get you one step closer to finding your own crit partner on your WIP.

So...if you missed the event you can watch it again and find out how the WriteOnCon crew are going to start matching up like-minded, same genre YA writers to help each other out in polishing up that work before you hit send and release it into the wild (er, to literary agents).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WTF Wednesday

OMG, are you guys familiar with The Onion otherwise known as "America's Finest News Source"?

It's actually a spoof newspaper and now news station. This isn't the vein of The Daily Show where they critique news and offer commentary. This is, in fact, a parody. And it's hilarious!

Although this clip may be a little more LMAO than WTF, I had to share:

What's your WTF Wednesday confession?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Victims and Villains

I saw this cover of US Weekly the other day and it got me thinking about victims and villains.

The story discusses Jennifer Aniston's new romance and claims she "pulled an Angelina," meaning she stole another woman's man. Now I'll admit that in the Team Jen versus Team Angelina, I was Team Jen all the way. But it did get me thinking about how we've instantly pitted the women against each other, but where's the man?

In all that talk about betrayals (take LeAnne Rimes and Eddie Cibrian as another example) there's so much less attention on the men, on the ones who had made any commitment to which they were now breaking.

It's the casting of the evil seductress and the helpless man. He didn't stand a chance. These archestypes, of course, are not new. This is theater in motion. If you've read Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin then you'll meet several characters who embody both victim and villain.

In most stories the victims and the villains are already decided and clear events take course to push us onto one side or another. Take Draco; there was never any chance we'd cheer for him over Harry Potter. The narrative guided our impressions.

And, of course, point of view is paramount. That's why we can read Twilight and adore Edward and Bella's relationship instead of thinking he's this 103 year old man stalking an underage girl. He's cast in an appropriate mold, that of a 17 year old and, of course, another archetype: the mysterious, hot bad boy. The emotions of the story are real because we're meeting him through the eyes of Bella, a smitten 17 year old girl.

In Something Borrowed we're not always clear how we feel about these characters and their actions. They weren't just blurring the lines between victim and villain, they kept switching teams. How Giffin achieved this so effortlessly and believably is that the villain (e.g. Rachel) is someone who has been a past victim. Because of that we were more forgiving of her behavior and even found ourselves liking her, identifying with her because of her past experiences.

I suppose there's no one type of victim or villain and sometimes in narrative, as in life, it's not always either/or.

As writers, we need to know the backstory of our bad guy and from whose eyes we'll be meeting them. As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. And as readers, we need to pay attention; it's usually the bad guy who's the most unpredictable, but then again, that's its own archetype.

So tell me, who are the best villains you've read and what made them so?