Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Review by: SP Teen Writer Noah Dingman

Blurb: Todd Hewitt lives in the last surviving colony on New Earth, Prentisstown. Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets. Then Todd Hewitt unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible.

Moreover, all the women in Prentisstown have been killed off by a virus in a war with the planets natives, and the men have to live with the side effect, called the Noise.

Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown and with his thirteenth birthday fast approaching, the day he becomes a man, he discovers a strange absence of the noise in a nearby swamp. He also discovers a girl. And now he’s going to have to run…

Review: As soon as I read the first sentence in the Knife of Never Letting Go I was hooked. This book picks you up and doesn’t let go. It begs you to lock yourself in your room and read it cover to cover; you will stay up to late reading this book. The Knife of Never Letting Go takes you on a fast-paced adventure similar to other YA books like The Hunger Games, but never once feels derivative or unoriginal.

Characters/Voice: The main character Todd, whose eyes and thoughts the story is told through, is very likable and real. Although you might not always agree with the decisions he makes, you can’t help but root for him and his talking dog Manchee. Todd tells you the story as it is happening to him, in that way you get to experience the action and surprises as he does. Todds voice simultaneously tells you the story and helps you get an idea of what it would be like to constantly have your thoughts projected around you in the Noise. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book has fantastic villains. By fantastic I mean the kind of villains that make your hairs stand on end and give you the shivers. It’s great.

Pacing: As I said earlier, this book is a page turner. Once you’re in, don’t expect to put it down anytime soon. Patrick Ness has crafted a unique voice and story that pulls you in and leaves you hungry for the resolution.

Plot: The plot sends Todd and Manchee on a journey through New Earth. Like lots of YA books it is very plot driven, but a lot of the book is driven by the character interactions as well. The plot is never predictable and in that way,  there isn’t really a dull moment.

Setting: Patrick Ness’s world building is great. You can clearly picture New Earth through the descriptions given. It feels a lot like the world we live it, but anytime you come across a difference it’s intriguing and well-integrated.

Themes: The Knife of Letting Go deals with many different themes, a few that stuck out to me were manipulation, guilt, and coming of age. The coming of age part is different in this book than most other YA books as it is a coming of age story in a world that is still “coming of age”. Exactly what coming of age means in Prentisstown is different from what it means here, so Todd has to figure out if he should even come of age.

Patrick Ness has written a book that I think anyone who likes YA books (or likes reading as far as I am concerned) should pick up. I guarantee by the time you finish reading The Knife of Never Letting Go you’ll be running to the nearest library, bookstore, or booting up your Amazon app to get your hands on the second book.

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Noah, signing off.

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How I Got My Agent, Guest Post by Ellen McGinty

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Lately, a lot of my friends are doing these “I got an agent” posts. I love hearing their stories. But if you haven’t got there. If your critique partners haven’t got there. It’s OKAY. Where is “there” anyway?

Go climb mountains.

Tear down lies.

Celebrate life NOW.

And yes, I can say that with two kids under five, hay fever stalking my house, and depression howling like the wind. This is a journey. It’s a loooong one and I need lembas bread, not just potatoes.

WRITING THE BOOK

It took me years to write my first book, THE WATER CHILD. I wrote chapter by chapter and revised the plot umpteenth times before it was right. SCWBI, critique partners and amazing sensitivity readers encouraged me, many urging me to query. Of course, there was also hard feedback, things I had to change and consider. Places I had to stand my ground. But I grew as a writer and as a person.

Along the way I learned one key thing: Self-pity and excuses waste a lot of time.

Truth is, I have enough time every day – but I have to choose what to do with it. I am responsible for my writing, no one else, and certainly not the ticking clock. At the same time, I’m not superwoman, so I’m learning to practice self-care and seek help when needed.

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QUERY

My First Conference.

My First Query (I think – I wasn’t keeping track at the beginning!)

Like any proper introvert, I tip-toed into my first writing conference. I hid myself in a corner during the session breaks to scribble story ideas instead of mingle. But, I’d signed up for a query and first chapter critique with an agent.

The agent didn’t smile. She leaned across the table with my precious pages in hand.

My back pressed against the conference chair, too-stiff, nervous. I think she hates it.

“Your query is crap,” she said.

Yep, she hates it.

“And I want to see the full manuscript. I’m getting drinks later, come and we can chat about your book.”

Shock – a lot of it. The agent bought my dinner, offered pointers on query and character, and introduced me to publishing friends. It was my first conference and I felt like a little peon accidentally invited to a ball. A not-so-conventional introduction to querying.

From there, I queried about 30 agents. In retrospect, I began querying my novel too early. It was my first completed manuscript and I didn’t know much. But about half of the queries resulted in requests for fulls or partials. I’ve heard those are good stats, but at the time I found it confusing. Why the interest? And what was missing?

I stepped back to revise with feedback and then tried again. But this time, with contests!

PitchWars: I didn’t get in, but I met the wonderful Jess Calla who encouraged me and believed in my story. She also introduced me to the Writer Twitter Sphere. Hurray!

PitchSlam: I revamped my query and found the true heart of my story. This resulted in an overwhelming number of requests but my story was still missing something…

Pitch2Publication: editor Lindsey Schlegel suggested I write a prologue. Something I’d always opposed but after I wrote it, I LOVED it! I met some of the most amazing writers and critique partners through this competition. I wish I could list them all by name, but a special thanks to Tara Lundmark, Anne Rowland Stubert, and Carolyne Topdjian for their insight and friendship! Critique partners are special people – cherish them!

Personally, Twitter contests helped me grow the most in the querying process. I found community and editors/agents who spoke into my book and believed it would find a home.

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THE AGENT

Then, on a twitter pitch contest, an agent requested the full and offered a Revise & Resubmit.

Her editorial letter brought tears to my eyes – in a good way! Never had I imagined finding an agent who not only loved my writing but also had a passion for Japan and had traveled to Tohoku during the 3/11 Tsunami aftermath. And her edits! Kaitlyn Johnson is a fantastic editor on so many levels. I knew, no matter what other offers I received, this was a match.

And I’m fairly certain that after “The Call” I entered Neverland. I did the usual, informing other agents of the offer, biting my fingernails, dancing, etc. And Voila!

I signed with Kaitlyn Johnson at Corvisiero Literary Agency.

And the journey continues…but not to get “there” wherever that is. Writing a book, getting an agent, publishing, hitting the best-seller list, we put these on a golden ladder and compare everyone accordingly. Don’t!

“There” is on the inside. It’s the YOU that makes you proud. And it can never be replaced by how successful you are on the outside.

Keep writing and living fully!

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Ellen McGinty

www.ellenmcginty.com

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

1st Photo by Smart on Unsplash

2nd Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

3rd Photo by Seth Hays on Unsplash

 

 

Author Interview & Book Release: Lorie Langdon / Olivia Twist

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Pen Friends, Welcome YA Author Lorie Langdon as she talks about her new book, Olivia Twist, an historical retelling of a loved classic! 

SP: Congrats on your latest release, Olivia Twist!

Thanks so much!

SP: Can you tell us how you got the idea?OliviaTwist_cover.jpg

Like all the best stories, this one began when I was a child. After my Grandma took me to see a rerelease of the movie musical Oliver!, I became obsessed with the story and would sit in my room and listen to the double album soundtrack for hours, making up new stories about the characters. In my favorite daydream, Oliver had been born a girl and was disguising her true gender as a safety measure. This way, I could imagine myself as the heroine of the story and the Artful Dodger as the hero. In my childhood fantasies, the two would have endless adventures and eventually fall in love and escape from poverty. I blame this train of thought on the actor Jack Wild, who played Dodger in the film and became my first celebrity crush!

As a teen, I devoured every bit of historical fiction I could get my hands on, including the classic Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist. I quickly realized two things: The Artful Dodger was not the hero I’d envisioned, and the film had missed a major character; Oliver’s half-brother, the villainous Monks. When I began writing my own books, the dynamic duo of Jack and Olivia would not leave me alone, and a mash-up of the original novel and the film began to solidify in my mind.

SP: How long did it take you write Olivia Twist?

I began the first draft of Olivia Twist in 2011. I continued to work on it in-between writing the DOON Series and finally finished it in 2013. Sadly, the young adult publishing world wasn’t ready for a historical novel without steampunk elements or vampires, so I received rejection after rejection. But I didn’t give up hope. After four years of being on submission to publishers, it sold to Blink YA Books. Now, it is receiving strong reviews and is my first book to be sold in Target stores across the US!

SP: The ever popular DOON series (who’s rights recently sold to a TV studio!) is also a retelling of Brigadoon. Do you think retellings are your thing?

I really do love writing retellings. I wrote a YA thriller, GILT HOLLOW, which is a contemporary mystery with all original characters. (Gilt Hollow just released on audiobook!) But I do enjoy reinventing classic stories and giving those characters fresh life for a new generation.

I’m currently working on a top secret spin-off of Olivia Twist that features the orphan leader Brit a few years in the future, and it is a retelling of sorts.

SP: Do you see any parts of yourself in Olivia?

Like Olivia, I’ve learned that perseverance is the key to accomplishing my goals. Despite the constraints that society puts on females of her time, Olivia finds ways to overcome obstacles in order to help others. Her selflessness actually inspires me to want to be a better person!

SP: When writing and crafting Jack- did you have a person we might know in mind?

I did have a physical character model for him…the actor Matt Lanter. You might know him from Timeless or the remake of 90210. The characters I’ve seen him play have that indefinable rakish quality that fits perfectly for The Artful Dodger. Not to mention he has the straight dark hair, ice blue eyes, dashing smile of Jack!

SP: If Olivia and Jack were living today, which cause do you think they would go after?

Child hunger and homelessness for sure! It isn’t an epidemic in the U.S. as it was in Victorian England, but nevertheless, they would fight to eradicate it!

SP: Now, fun stuff — if you could be any character in Olivia Twist, which one would you be?

Of course, Olivia! Because Jack… ;-D

SP: You will also travel to Asia to do an International Writing Workshop — which part are you most excited about? Teaching? Exploring?

I have a heart for educating and encouraging aspiring authors, so the workshop is what drew me originally. But now, I can’t wait to meet readers and writers at our various visits in China! The exploration is the icing on the cake!!

SP:  In May, you will also help judge a Travel Writing Contest in which the winner can win a free trip to TIBET! And last year you were in Ireland– so, what is your DREAM adventure and where and if you could take one fictional character with you, who would it be?

Oh my, that’s a tough question…so many possibilities! I think I would chose to visit Alloway, Scotland and the real Brig o’ doon with Vee and Kenna. We’d stay at Aunt Gracie’s cottage (which is based on an actual cottage you can rent there), visit Poet’s Corner Coffee shop for cinnamon hot chocolate, and perhaps find our way to the mythical kingdom to meet a couple of kilt-wearing princes!

SP: That sounds soooo nice. Can I come?

Thank you, Lorie!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANova, signing off!

Book Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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Title: Love, Hate & Other Filters (standalone)

Author: Samira Ahmed

Blurb: A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.   Continue reading

What I’ve Learned from Querying so Far- A Guest Post by Jessica Jade

Pen Friends, welcome Jessica Jade, a fabulous addition to the Spinning Pen. She’ll be joining us for a few months, sharing her journey on becoming an author — tips on writing, querying, YA fantasy, rejection, success, book reviews, and more! You’ll want to connect with her on twitter (link below) and see her beautiful novel aesthetics on her YA fantasy that she’s querying at the moment!

~~Welcome Jessica~~

When I first started querying over two years ago, I thought I was ready—the manuscript, the query letter, everything.

Oh, I was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.

 

Right before that unfortunate round of querying, I applied for PitchWars 2015. Didn’t get a single request. Perhaps I’d picked the wrong mentors to submit to, or perhaps my story just really wasn’t their cup of tea. But I couldn’t let that get me down. Nope! I had to persevere.

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So I queried 16 agents, and not surprisingly, received 16 rejections (there was one request for a partial, but that ultimately turned into a pass).

Ouch.   Continue reading

The Reading Only Challenge

Not the catchiest challenge title, I know, but I think it gets the point across. This challenge is pretty straightforward: stop watching Netflix, log off social media, and start reading.

I already lost about half of you. To the other half, thanks for sticking around to at least read why anyone would do something so preposterous. But you’ve been warned- you’re about to be challenged to do something that will benefit your writing career more than anything you’ve tried yet, and it’s not going to be easy.

“How will this help me?”…

…you might ask. Good question.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.

Continue reading