Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Buy This Book on November 10!

The other day, I bought some books on Amazon. They are supposed to be here tomorrow. At least that's what the confirmation email said. I'm feeling a little impatient because I actually read three sample chapters of one of the books and I'm hooked and I just have to see what happens. Aauugh! I should have just bought it on Kindle. I like instant gratification.

The book is Variant by Robison Wells. It's published by Harper Teen, and Publisher's Weekly says it's one of the best books of 2011. While the Publisher's Weekly thing is kind of impressive, what really made me want to read this book was the great word of mouth I've been hearing, things like "couldn't put it down," "stayed up too late reading it," and "up there with Hunger Games." I've also heard it is a clean read, suitable for everyone from tweens to adults.

I wish I could give a full review, but I've only read those first three sample chapters that you can download on Kindle. But here are a couple of reviews I found.

Benson Foster will try anything to escape the foster care system, but when he enrolls in Maxfield Academy, he finds that he is escaping one type of hell only to be trapped in another, truly deadly, one. There are no adults at the academy; the students do everything from teaching to preparing meals and security. There are four main rules: no sex, no violent fighting, no refusing punishments, and no trying to escape. Students who break the rules are sent to detention, and they never come back. Benson is trying to find a way to escape, and along the way he finds some devastating secrets: some of the students are not who they seem to be.

Variant is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat read that combines psychological themes from works like Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game in a truly unique way. There are a couple of twists that are truly surprising and up the emotional ante of the story. From the moment Benson enters the academy until the very end, readers are caught in a tight, tense thriller. What is the academy and why are the students there? Wells does a good job of both universebuilding and character development, as the rules unfold and character roles become clearer. There is a slow unfolding of academy secrets that proves to be just the right pacing. In the end, Benson may escape the walls of the school but he stumbles upon an even bigger mystery. Variant should join the ranks of today’s must-read science fiction and fantasy series . This is a highly recommended addition to any collection for teens.

—Karen Jensen. VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates, magazine for YA librarians)

Lots of YA novels begin with a character arriving at new boarding school, but it is safe to say there has never been a boarding school like this. Perennial foster kid Benson arrives at Maxfield Academy armed with an unexpected scholarship and some cautious optimism, but within minutes of arriving he realizes something is terribly wrong. There are no adults. There are towering walls topped with barbed wire. Messages are sent by computer to instruct the teens in both academic pursuits and paintball war games. Most immediately worrisome is that the student body has split itself into three warring factions: the Society (tasked with keeping order), Havoc (food preparation as well as serious attitude), and the V’s (whose chief shared trait is a desire to escape). This is good old-fashioned paranoia taken to giddy extremes, especially when a totally implausible—but nonetheless enjoyably insane—twist upends the plot in the final act. Take Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011), strip out the angst, add a Michael Grant–level storytelling pace, and you have this very satisfying series starter.

— Daniel Kraus, Booklist

So here I am breaking my blogging silence in the middle of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), posting a review of a book I haven't even read yet (dang snail mail). It's for a very good cause. The author, Robison Wells, has been going through a pretty tough time lately. I would not want to switch places with him right now, even if it involved being published in the national YA market and getting great reviews. He explains what is going on here, and here, on his own blog. His friend, fellow author Larry Corea (Monster Hunter International) decided to start a book bomb for Variant.

Here's how Larry explains it: What many people don’t realize about writers is that we keep our day jobs until we have about five or six books in circulation, and sometimes longer depending on how well they are selling. Writing isn’t the most steady of paychecks. (I’m doing well enough now that I could just be a writer, but I happen to love my day job, so I plan on doing it for probably another year). You’ve got to earn back the advance and even then you only get paid every six months. Variant is Rob’s first book on the national market. He had a ways to go before he would be able to quit the day job, but his illness totally wrecked that plan.

So I want to book bomb the HELL out of Variant. I want to shove that thing up the bestseller lists on Amazon and I want to give my friend a hand.

What is a book bomb? Well, Amazon has its own bestseller list. It is calculated hourly and you are given a sales rank based up on how you stack up against the other six million books on there. It is some sort of strange rolling average algorhythm, but what it comes down to is, the more books that are purchased during that particular time frame, the higher you rank. The higher you rank, the more of their top 50 or top 10 lists you show up on. The more of those you show up on, the higher you go, the more attention you get, the more books you sell.

By getting as many people as possible to purchase the book on a single day, it really kicks a book up the rankings.

So if you want a really good book to read, and wouldn't mind helping out a really nice, deserving guy, buy Variant by Robison Wells on Amazon, November 10.

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