Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

One day in the near future, I'm going to run into Lance Rubin at a conference or convention or, who knows, a prison yard, and when I see him, I'm going to punch him right in his handsome face.

Like this:
Seconds before the felonious assault.

Seconds after a punch so powerful it puts him in a suit and makes him look like a different dude.
But why, Kurt?  Why the ugliness?  You're known worldwide as a peace-loving, violence-eschewing (vocab word!), kindhearted gentleman.  What could possibly lead you to such a terrible act of aggression?

Because I just finished Rubin's debut novel DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE, that's why, and it's so good I want to punch him.  I mean, seriously, I dream of a day I can pitch a novel as easily as Rubin can pitch DLDD.  Watch:

In the near future everyone knows the exact date they will die.  For Denton, that is two days away--the day of his senior prom.

And that, right there, is what every writer wants--a log line that pretty.  And not just that, but a longline that delivers.  Because DLDD is excellent.  The whole novel is excellent--it's funny, heartfelt, imaginative, and manic.  Yes, manic.  I could see someone coming up with a premise like this and going all maudlin, cueing up The Smiths or Joy Division and emoting away for three hundred pages.  Thank god Rubin doesn't go out that route.  Instead, he's written what I see as a combination of two of my favorite novels: Chris Crutcher's DEADLINE and Larry Doyle's I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER.  DLDD has a balls-out, get-shit-off-your-chest funeral, sex, gun play, drugs, car wrecks, and Bone Thugz-n-Harmony.  What else do you want out of a novel?  Oh, you also want mystery, vomiting, and fedoras?  Good, because DLDD has those, too.

Oh, and don't get me started on the cover, either.  Cripes.

A cover that calls for a groin kick, possibly.
So yes, I will punch Lance Rubin.  And no jury will convict me of it either.  Hell, go read the book, too, and we'll kick his ass together.  And make t-shirts that say, "I punched Lance Rubin!"  But read the book first.  Seriously, it's fantastic.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Water Tower Five is No Longer The Water Tower Five

I got word last week that THE WATER TOWER FIVE will be receiving a new title.   I understand some authors get upset when the publisher requests a title change.  For me, I don't really care.  I trust that the Sourcebooks marketing department knows what it's doing, and let's be honest, TWT5 doesn't really tell you what the novel is about.

So what will the title be?  I don't know.  I made some suggestions, most of them terrible, and my editor told me she'd pass them on.  When I hear back, I'll let you know.

Oh, and in researching titles, I found this one:  I AM A GENIUS OF UNSPEAKABLE EVIL AND I WANT TO BE YOUR CLASS PRESIDENT.  How awesome is that?  So awesome that it's the next book I'll be reading.  That's how important a book's title is, I guess.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Two Big Boxes of "Free" Books

The nice thing about working in a support school district?  Being fortunate enough to have money available to build a better classroom library if I ask extra nicely.   Here's a picture of the 60 or so novels that arrived yesterday.  I suggested most of these titles knowing my 10th grade students would like them.  A high majority of these novels are of the more well-known variety, but I wanted to start with titles the students would recognize in hopes of turning them into readers.  Familiarity helps with that in the beginning, I think.  My hope is that next year I can add to these books, going a little deeper into the YA genre.  Besides, heck, a lot of very, very cool books are debuting in 2016 with my novel, and I want to support them.

(I mean, look at those titles!  And the variety of covers!  It's pretty much book porn.)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Daryl Gregory's Recent Book Signing

Last week I had the pleasure of driving to Lexington, Kentucky to have dinner and attend a book reading/signing with my friend Daryl Gregory.  I first met Daryl back in 2009 at Readercon in Boston where he was a nominee for the Shirley Jackson award for his fantastic debut novel PANDEMONIUM.  Since then, Daryl's been a mentor of sorts, being a first reader, giving professional advice, and sometimes just emailing to check in.  He's a great guy and a great writer who deserves to break out.  His novel RAISING STONY MAYHALL is still one of my favorite novels of the last five years, and his most recent novel, HARRISON SQUARED, was released last month.  Harrison Squared is half-YA / half-crossover, half-Lovecraft / half-King, and half-hilarious / half-terrifying.  (And yes, that's 6 halves, I get that.)  It's a great novel that hopefully breaks him out.  And then, after you love that book, you can read it's complement, WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE, set twenty years or so after the events of H2 when Harrison is in group therapy.  It's excellent, too.

(Daryl reading from Harrison Squared putting his theater background to good use.)

(And now, the book signing.  It's just a coincidence that Daryl is positioned near a horse's ass.)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Okay, look, I get it, I mention Andrew Smith on here a little too much than is healthy.  In fact, I'm expecting a cease and desist letter from his lawyers any day now.  But I have to talk about THE ALEX CROW.  I can't not talk about it.

(And that, my friend, is what you call an excellent book cover.)
First, it's important to know that I think there are two types of Smith novels--the YA contemporary ones (WINGER, 100 SIDEWAYS MILES, etc.) and what I guess I'll refer to as the Keep YA Weird ones.  This last group is the name of Smith's latest book tour and includes GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and THE ALEX CROW.  And yeah, weird is the right word for them, but they're what I'd call 'accessible weird', not--and this is a pet peeve of mine--'weird for weird's sake'.  These Keep YA Weird books are where Smith really breaks the chains and soars.  I've learned that the novels that I really, really go nuts over are books I understand I never could have written them.  The ideas are either too big for my puny brain or the plots are too creative or the writing is just beyond what I could ever pull off.   That's the way I see Smith's Keep YA Weird novels.  There's absolutely no chance I could've written GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE or THE ALEX CROW because they're that original and individualized.  No one but Smith could have written those novels, and that's probably why I love them so much.

As I've mentioned before that I'm terrible at summarizing books, and trying that with THE ALEX CROW would be an exercise in futility, but what the hell, why not give myself a headache?

THE ALEX CROW is three intersecting plot lines, the most prominent of which is about Ariel, the sole survivor of an attack on his small village who now lives in West Virginia and is sent to summer camp which may or may not be run by a corporation responsible for de-extincting (yeah, not a word, shut up) animal species and creating biodrones, which are living, breathing bombs.  And there's a plot about a melting suicide bomber on his first (and, by definition last, duh) mission.  And a plot about a man/creature found in the ice in the 1800's.  And there's a suicidal crow.  And camp cabins named after planets.  And a sleep device that accidentally brought down a jetliner.  And Joseph Stalin.  And...cripes, why did I even try?

Look, it's impossible to explain, okay?  But it's original, hilarious, and fantastic.  It's also the reason, and I continue to stand by this, that I say Andrew Smith is one of the best writers working today.

As the police are at my door wanting to determine if I'm a risk to anyone, I'll end this now.  But seriously, go buy this book and see what happens when a writer really decides to not just push the boundaries, but sledgehammer them into dust.