Friday, July 27, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn

Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham's junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties, friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is - are shaken or cast off altogether.

Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy's guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent - the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove.

Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core.

Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is absolutely stunning novel, but I did have to adjust my expectations a bit while reading.  I grew up loving Mary Downing Hahn’s creepy, mysterious ghost stories, and while I realized this book is for an older audience and doesn’t contain paranormal elements, I still expected a mystery/suspense type read.  The title, cover, blurb, and the first few chapters all support this expectation, and I actually think the marketing here does the book a bit of a disservice, since readers expecting a mystery or thriller are likely to be disappointed.  This novel is really a dark, subtle coming-of-age story that drew me in completely and ended up being so much more than I’d expected.

Even though the story is set in 1956 and the heroine, Nora, lives in a very different world than our modern one, I completely identified with her as she dealt with the aftermath of her friends’ deaths, her new religious doubts, her depression, and the general difficulties of being a teenager no matter what era you live in.  I especially felt for her as she wondered why she questions and is unwilling to accept things that others take for granted, and I loved her passion for poetry and the way poems were woven in throughout the novel.

I also loved the inclusion of Buddy’s point of view and the way his character developed throughout the novel.  The early scenes in which he’s questioned by police, pre-Miranda law, are particularly nail-biting.  His transformation in the eyes of the reader is total and very convincing.
This book is set in a (fictional, I believe?) suburb of Baltimore, and since I grew up in Baltimore, it was fun to recognize names and places and imagine what they would have been like back in the 1950s.  Much of the novel brought to mind my parents’ stories of growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s and 60s.

What impressed me most about this novel was that, while the murders occur very early on in the novel, Hahn manages to build up the emotional impact of their deaths over the course of the book so that, by the end, I was nearly in tears.  It takes a very skilled author to make us feel like we know and mourn for characters who aren’t physically present for most of the pages.  Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is a haunting novel in the deepest, truest sense.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is YA VS ADULT FICTION.

While there are a few adult authors I really like, including Alice Hoffman (who's also written a few YAs!) and Eowyn Ivey, I'd have to say that overall I gravitate toward YA fiction.  YA has always been the first section I browse in the bookstore or library, and most of my favorite books are YA or children's.  I also like the variety and innovation in YA.  However, lately I've noticed YA becoming more trend-based and commercial, and I'm not a huge fan of that...especially when it seems publishers are focusing on books that will translate into major movies.  I actually prefer the kind of quiet, quirky stories that wouldn't make great movies, because...if I wanted to watch a movie, I'd watch a movie, not read a book!  I hope that YA becomes less trend-based and continues to allow innovation in the future, but no matter what, I think I'll always love YA.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Teaser from Light Sister, Dark Sister

As promised, here is a teaser from my upcoming novel in verse, LIGHT SISTER, DARK SISTER.  Enjoy!


Have you ever heard
of a phantom limb?
When a person loses
an arm, or a leg,
sometimes she feels
it’s still there.

Mostly, she feels like it
hurts—confused neurons
sending messages of pain
along pathways that no longer

Well, all my limbs are attached,
at least for now,
but sometimes I feel
there’s a whole phantom body,
once joined to mine, now


but still following me,
boneless, jointless, weightless—

and when that body hurts,
my own neurons fire
with pain.


Sometimes I feel
like a phantom.

I pinch my arm
and my fingers clutch air;
I dig my nails in my flesh,
but I feel no pain.

I look in the mirror
and I watch myself


blurring around the edges,
lips and eyes dissolving
till I can’t see
or speak.

So I bring my edges back,
define myself
with kohl-rimmed eyes,
bruise-purple lips,
hair the blue-black
of a raven’s wing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Exciting News

Exciting news...I've sold my second book to Pendrell Publishing!  It's another contemporary YA novel, titled LIGHT SISTER, DARK SISTER, but it's VERY different from ALICE IN EVERVILLE.

First of all, LS, DS [jeez, I pick long titles!] is written in verse, like novels by Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones.  In addition, while AiE is on the younger end of the YA spectrum, LS, DS features slightly older protagonists (yes, there are 2 protagonists!) and is a bit darker in tone, and fits more in the upper age range of the YA spectrum.

I love both AiE and LS,DS so much, and I'm super excited that I'll get to share both of them with you!

And it's even up on Publisher's Marketplace:

And here's a teaser description:

In SC Langgle's verse novel Light Sister, Dark Sister, sixteen-year-old twin sisters with opposing personalities must come together to prevent a potential tragedy.

This weekend I'll be posting a teaser excerpt from the novel, so be sure to check back!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is Peeta vs. Gale.

This is an easy one for me...I was a fan of Peeta from the very beginning, because I never felt like I got to know Gale enough in the first book to really like him.  Peeta, on the other hand, was incredibly likable from that very first anecdote about him giving the bread to Katniss.  By the third book, I feel like the author was "team Peeta" as well--she seemed to subtly cast Gale in a more unflattering light--so I continued to prefer Peeta up to the very end.

Friday, July 6, 2012


I am a perfectionist, and it's very scary for me to accept that I have a book coming out next year, and that book will NOT be perfect.  Because nothing is perfect.  While I know this, I'm still irrationally convinced a typo or wrong word choice will appear and ruin the book for any potential reader.  I remind myself that nearly every book I've read in the past year has had at least one typo, or if not a typo, at least something I would have done differently or a word choice or sentence structure that makes me stumble while reading--and yet I still enjoy those books.

Why am I writing this post now?  Well, I've been bugging my publisher with tons of tiny changes to my galleys, and I'm pretty much at the point where I can't make any more changes.  But of course I continue to look at my galley (basically a copy of my book formatted for printing), and tonight I noticed the word "a" where it maybe doesn't need to be, and a repeated word that I could have replaced with a synonym.  Yes, I am really that obsessive-compulsive!  And the worst thing is, I'm sure there are many similar issues I can't see because I've read the book so many times.  But what I need to remind myself is...

No book is perfect, and that's okay.

So what about you?  Do a few typos in a book bother you?  What about sentence structure and word choice issues?

And to leave this post on a more positive note, there's one thing about my book that's undoubtedly perfect...the cover.  Just look at that:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday #11

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is...

Fairytale Retelling vs. The Original Tale

This is a great topic, and my answer may be a bit of a copout, but I have to say...both!  I've always absolutely adored fairy tales, especially the darker, original Grimms and Han Christian Andersen versions, and obviously the retellings wouldn't exist without the originals!  One thing I love about retellings so much is that they make you look at the original tale in a new way, bringing out new depths and different sides to the stories and characters, so...I just think one wouldn't be as strong without the other!  Reading a great retelling makes me want to go back to the original, find different versions from various cultures, etc.; on the other hand, reading a traditional fairy tale I was previously unfamiliar with makes me want to seek out retellings or think about writing my own.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Stylish Blogger Award

So I received the Stylish Blogger Award from Jennifer at donniedarkogirl (thanks so much, Jennifer!) and to accept I need to answer these great questions.  So here we go...

1. What's your favorite song?

Okay, I think that's pretty much impossible to narrow down, but one of my favorites is Disarm by The Smashing Pumpkins.

2.  What's your favorite dessert?

Also impossible to narrow down...maybe pumpkin pie?  With whipped cream!

3.  When you're upset, what do you do?

I have OCD and anxiety, so I'm actually not very good at dealing with being upset...I tend to choose random things to obsess over.  I try to get any work I have to do done so I can relax.  And if I can't do anything about the problem, I try not to think about it...although I'm not always so successful!

4.  What was your favorite pet?

I have two amazing dogs right now, a Chihuahua named Chin-Mae and a Maltipoo named Sasha, and there's no way I could choose between them!  Chin-Mae can be more gruff and standoffish--he's a rescue dog who wasn't trained well when younger--while Sasha is super-friendly and sweet.  I love them both so much and they compliment each other perfectly!

5.  What do you prefer to wear, black or white?

I like both!

6.  What is your biggest fear?

Something awful happening to the people (or pets!) I care about.  And the apocalypse, which encompasses the former!

7.  What is your attitude mostly?

I'm at a point in my life where I don't feel particularly stable career-wise/financially, so unfortunately my attitude is a bit stressed out and distracted most of the tme!

8.  What is perfection to you?

Not worrying about being perfect.

9.  What is your guilty pleasure?

Frappucinos and Coffee Bean Ice Blended drinks.  I get one almost every day even though I absolutely cannot afford them.