You could argue that all teenage girls are self-centered survivalist monsters at heart, at times unlovable, wholly malleable, and subject to the whims of the adults around them.
But in Eleanor’s case these typical teen traits are a little more literal.
Eleanor the Unseen is the first in a trilogy by Johnny Worthen that explores love in many forms: redemptive, passionate, maternal, transformative, first, true, self, and sacrificial. It’s a theme repeated in metaphor and action both gentle and terrifying. Johnny has a knack for drawing the reader into his world like a warm bath. Just don’t get too comfortable. And for heaven’s sake, don’t close your eyes.
On the surface, Eleanor is a YA horror novel about a monster that flies under the radar masquerading as a shy Wyoming teen growing up in a small town on the edge of an Indian reservation. The town itself is a character with all its stifling contradictions playing a part in Eleanor’s decisions as the plot progresses. David, a military kid, was Eleanor’s best childhood friend who knew all her secrets and her heart—until he moved. In their sophomore year, David returns, and Eleanor can no longer hide behind her hair.
Despite its premise, Eleanor is a literary work that builds gradually. It echoes other great works including Grendel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. But don’t let that fool you. There are some horrific scenes in the story that showcase how very alien—and therefore human—the monster is. But rawer than the monster’s survivalist thoughts and actions is Tabitha’s debilitating cancer. Tabitha, Eleanor’s foster mother, races against time to prepare her daughter for life without her. At the heart of the book is their symbiotic redemptive love, a love so strong that it has the power to work miracles.
But don’t forget. Eleanor the Unseen is a horror story, too.
For me, the most realized characters in the story were Eleanor and Tabitha, which sometimes made other key characters like David seem a little underdeveloped in comparison. I also felt that the ending was rushed given the previous pace of the book, but I think I understand why: Johnny wants to hurry the reader past the clearing of the first course to the next tasty morsel in a lazy Sunday brunch. I spent a morning reading Eleanor in one delicious gulp; yes, it’s that good.
Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Eleanor‘s publication date is July 1, 2014.
Jo Ann Schneider’s debut novel New Sight, is a little hard to pin down. Not knowing much about it when I began it, after the first few chapters I thought, “Ah-ha! Sci-fi!” and settled down for thriller about futuristic drugs and big brother. 16 year old Lys Blake has an uncontrollable urge to rip people’s eyes out and a new club drug is suspected. Cool. After a strong start, the plot turns and I found myself reading a lot of exposition about magical powers, technology, and cartels out to suppresses and control ancient gifts relating to sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
When it comes to literature, I’m more of a right-brained reader and New Sight is definitely a left-brained read. For me, sometimes the action gets bogged down in making sure the reader understands all the nuances of the magic system and the larger issues at play. The story is compelling, but I found myself skimming to get to the good parts.
Having said that, you should know that I’m the kind of person who ignores the directions and jumps in. More thoughtful, methodical thinkers who want to see how the trap is being set—left-brained readers—will thoroughly enjoy New Sight and look forward to the next book in the series.
And now that I’ve got all the details down, I will, too!
Isn’t gorgeous? This is the cover for Mojave Green, the second book in the Dimensions in Death series by the Brothers Washburn. Here’s the blurb.
Camm and Cal thought they had killed the unearthly creature that preyed upon the people in their isolated mining town deep in the Mojave Desert. Off at college, they feel safe, until they hear news that Trona’s children are still disappearing. Caught in that nightmare since childhood, Camm feels responsible for the town’s children. As her life-long best friend, Cal feels responsible for Camm. With unsuspecting friends in tow, they return to warn the town’s innocent people, but things have changed.
Death comes in a new form. The dimensional balance is altered. Crossovers multiply. The situation spirals out of control, and Cal is pulled into another world where his chances of survival are slim. Without Cal, Camm seeks help where she can, even from the dead. Soon, she is on the run from relentless federal agents, who are hiding secrets and pursuing their own agenda. The mysterious depths of the Searles Mansion may yet contain a key to stopping alien predators, if it is not already too late.
It sounds amazing. Be sure to pick up Pitch Green if you haven’t read it. You won’t want to miss a word.
A. L. Washburn and B. W. Washburn are licensed lawyers and full time writers, residing in Colorado and southern Utah. They grew up in a large family in Trona, California, a small mining community not far from Death Valley, and spent many happy days in their youth roaming the wastelands of the Mojave Desert. After living in Argentina at different times, each came back to finish school and start separate careers. Living thousands of miles apart, they worked in different areas of the law, while raising their own large families.
Each has authored legal materials and professional articles, but after years of wandering in the wastelands of the law, their lifelong love of fiction, especially fantasy, science fiction and horror, brought them back together to write a new young adult horror series, beginning with Pitch Green and Mojave Green. They have found there yet remain many untold wonders to be discovered in the unbounded realms of the imagination, especially as those realms unfold in the perilous wastelands of the Dimensions in Death.
Shucked by Megg Jensen is a fun, light-hearted, YA rom-com-adventure read, perfect for escaping dishes and laundry for an afternoon. It’s the story of 15 year old Tabitha who was raised by an archeologist mom who took her all over the globe in pursuit of adventure. Tabitha’s comfortable in a Korean dojo or trekking solo through Egypt, but attending school in an average American mid-western high school is enough to send her spiraling.
Good thing she has her grandmother to lean on.
Along with all the typical teen drama of mean girls, does-he-like-me-I-think-I-like-him boyfriends, cheerleading practice, catching up in math, and finding a best friend, Tabitha is confronted with questions about her mother’s past—and current whereabouts—that leave her vulnerable to international smugglers. It’s a rocket-paced read full of outlandish, comedic coincidences that make it easy to keep turning pages.
Tabitha’s voice and perspective is easily identifiable as a teenage girl. She’s funny, real, and worth getting to know.
I know I’m not the target audience, but I do think teen girls will find much to love in this book. In fact, I’m passing it along to my own 14 year old daughter. There’s enough PG romance to titillate, but nothing to make parents blush.
Shucked by Megg Jensen is available from Amazon.
I’m really excited about Eleanor by Johnny Worthen, available Spring 2014. Johnny says, “Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.” Eleanor is a young adult paranormal novel published by Jolly Fish Press. Isn’t the cover beautiful?
Mother and daughter writing duo Amie and Bethanie Borst just published their first book in a fractured fairy tale series called Cinderskella. They stopped by the blog to answer a few of my niele questions.
What inspired Cinderskella?
Amie: I would say Bethanie inspired Cinderskella.
Bethanie: Being nearly bored to tears when my school librarian was telling my class about fairy tales and Cinderella retellings.
Amie: Well, that’s probably not the nicest way to put it…. Perhaps it might be best to read the full post about our inspiration at Ann Marie’s blog.
Writing as team can be tough when only one person can type at a time! What are some of the ways you work together to create this amazing series?
Amie: Thankfully we have more than one computer in our house! I use my laptop dedicated to writing while Bethanie is on the family desktop computer. Typically I’ll ask her to write a particular scene, she’ll type it up in an email and then send it to me. I’ll copy and paste that scene it into the manuscript. Other times she’ll sit across from me at the table and I’ll read what we’ve written aloud. She’ll usually stop me mid-sentence, tell me it’s lame and then she fixes it orally while I type the non-lame new stuff into the manuscript.
Bethanie: My mom had me write it up with pen and paper. Then she’d type it up to her liking. Then I’d tell her it’s lame. She should have just done it the way I said.
Amie: When Bethanie was younger – before she could really use a computer or had an email account – she did write it by hand. I’d correct her grammar and punctuation, which sometimes affected the voice. So we’d have to change it to make it sound more authentic. As Bethanie grew, so did our teamwork and writing strategy. Our second book was done mostly via email as I first stated. We also create a story board out of poster board and post it notes – that’s really our sounding board, giving us a starting ground from which to write the story.
Bethanie: Why do they have to be color-coded posted notes?
Amie: So we can see the different parts of our story.
Bethanie: But that’s so boring.
Amie: Would you rather they all be one color? How would you tell the parts of the story apart?
Bethanie: Ah….nah. Nevermind. Can we do it in a collage form so it’ll at least look cool?
Amie: No, we can’t do it in a collage form so it’ll look cool. *shakes head*
If you could change one thing about your writing partner what would it be?
Amie: Nothing. I love her input and suggestions. She really has wild ideas and isn’t afraid to implement them.
Bethanie: I don’t know. I guess I wish she wouldn’t read aloud. I’m not an auditory learner.
Amie: But you’re not learning – we’re reading and writing.
Bethanie: Still, I won’t remember it if you read it aloud.
Amie: (That part is probably true. Bethanie has CAPD and ADD) That’s why I print it off for you to read.
Bethanie: But then I would have to re-read it. For like the fifth time.
Amie: Welcome to the world of being an author.
Bethanie: Ugh. I wish this conversation would stop.
Amie: *Snort* Lehua, look what you’ve gotten us into!
(And nooooo….this NEVER happens when we’re writing! *wink, wink*)
What’s next in the Cinderskella universe?
Bethanie: Little Dead Riding Hood. It’s a book about a vampire. It’s about…*gaze drifts to television*
Amie: Turn off the TV!
Bethanie: No, no, no. It’s not distracting me. I promise.
Amie: *gives ‘I don’t believe you’ evil-eye*
Bethanie: I don’t know what to say. It’s a book. *gaze drifts back to the television*
Amie: Little Dead Riding Hood is Scarlet Small’s story, who just so happens to be a vampire. She enjoys drinking Bloody Tom’s (Tom is short for tomato) and isn’t sure of how to adapt to her new middle-school. You’d think being over one hundred years old, she’d have the “fitting-in” thing boiled down to a science, but Scarlet’s not your average middle-schooler. You see, when you’re the new kid at school it really sucks. But when you’re a new kid and a vampire, well then it just bites!
Connect with Amie & Bethany Borst
Book 2 is heading to the copy editor where all the commas get put into the right places!
Until then, here’s a little taste of One Shark, No Swim.
I climbed on the toilet tank and stuck my head out the window. The drop was near the front door to Hari’s store. A little below me and to the left was the hand railing for the upstairs lānai that ran along Uncle Kahana’s living room. I was pretty sure I could make it.
I was holding onto the window frame hugging the outside wall with the ball of my right foot resting on the railing when I heard a plop. I looked down. A young haole girl with a sunburned nose was looking up at me. A large yellow and orange shave ice was melting at her feet.
“Mom!” she yelled. “There’s a naked boy covered in lipstick climbing out a window!”
I froze. I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t go forward.
“Jeanie!” a woman’s voice scolded from the store.
“Mom! He’s got weeds wrapped around his ankle and wrist!”
Please, let me die and end this, I prayed. But whatever happens, please don’t let anyone show up with a smart phone or camera. If this gets out I’ll never live it down.
“Go away!” I mouthed at her.
“He wants me to go away!”
“What did I say about telling stories?” the woman said.
“But Mom, this time it’s true!”
I sensed more commotion under me, shadows and light flickering like schools of fish on the reef. I peered down.
“Jeanie! Look what you did! Your snow cone’s all over—” the voice trailed off.
Bleach blond hair and mega-sized sunglasses stared up at me. I closed my eyes.
Next to me the sliding door swept open and a strong brown arm wrapped around my body, lifting me over the railing and onto the lānai. Uncle Kahana leaned down.
“Aloha! So sorry about the shave ice! Tell the girl at the counter Kahana said to give you a new one! On the house, of course! Have a nice day!”
As he pushed me through the open door and into living room I heard the woman say, “Hush, Jeanie, hush! I told you it’s another culture! The whole island is like going to Chinatown in San Francisco. Now do you want a free snow cone or not?”
All excerpts and short stories copyright © 2012 by Lehua Parker. Excerpts from the Niuhi Shark Saga by permission of Jolly Fish Press, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of these excerpts may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. No part of these short stories may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.
10-year-old Melody wants to fly, to soar like an eagle far above the troubles in her earth-bound life. She knows if she can just swing high enough her wings will unfurl and she’ll finally be happy. Until then there’s always her patented zombie face guaranteed to frighten away the most tenacious bully or possible friend, keeping Melody safe in her self-imposed cocoon of isolation. When Melody leaps off a swing and into the mystical realm of Chimeroan where dreams come true, she begins a journey to not only earn her wings, but to face her past, conquer her fears, and to discover that the things that hold us back—even the things we want most desperately or fear with all our heart—are not always what they seem.
Up in the Air by Ann Marie Meyers is one of those rare books for children that accurately portrays the reality of being a child without making adults look like stumbling idiots or children seem uber-smart, successful, lucky, or treacle-y sweet versions of grown-ups. On the surface Melody’s story is an adventure quest complete with magical beasts, puzzles, and inscrutable Guides. It’s easy to get caught up in the world of unicorns, elves, dragons, and leprechauns as most middle grade readers will. But Melody’s story is much deeper, a parable for all ages that explores the complicated reasons for self-abusive behavior and a hit-first-before-they-hurt-you view of the world. As Melody progresses in her quest, she has to face and understand how her perceptions of herself and past events are limiting herself and preventing those she loves from true happiness.
Like flying, it’s a view that will leave you breathless.
Up in the Air by Ann Marie Meyers is published by Jolly Fish Press and available in hardback, trade paperback, and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores. While appropriate for middle grade readers, adults and teens will enjoy it, too.
On June 21, 2013 I was privileged to meet some very talented young authors at Brigham Young University. Click on Fan Art to see how they answered the question, “What would you draw on the bottom of a surfboard to chase away a shark?”