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A Mortal Song open discussion thread

A Mortal Song cover

Reading or finished A Mortal Song and have questions about the book: How I wrote it, why I made the decisions I did, or anything else? Feel free to ask whatever you want in the comments below! I’ll be checking in once or twice a day to answer any new questions posted.

You can also enter to win a bunch of Song swag by clicking here!

Thanks for reading!

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

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YA Scavenger Hunt Fall 2016 is here!

Welcome to the 13th YA Scavenger Hunt!

I’m Megan Crewe — author of YA fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction novels including A Mortal Song, the Earth & Sky trilogy, the Fallen World trilogy, and Give Up the Ghost — and I’m your host for this stop of the tour.

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the ORANGE TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, an blue team, a green team, and a purple team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

orangeteam

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Somewhere on this page, I’ve listed my favorite number (hint: the number is highlighted in orange). Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the orange team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 5th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

The author I’m pleased to be hosting for the YA Scavenger Hunt today is… Jeff Garvin!

jeff
Before becoming a novelist, Jeff Garvin acted on TV and toured as the lead singer of a rock band. He has a BFA in Film from Chapman University and lives in Southern California, surrounded by adorable, shedding beasts. Symptoms of Being Human is his first novel.

And this is his book, Symptoms of Being Human — I love the minimalist cover!

sobh

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And secretly gender fluid. Riley starts an anonymous blog to deal with hostility from classmates and tension at home—but when the blog goes viral, an anonymous commenter threatens to out Riley to the world.

Can’t wait to check this one out! You can order the book via the links here.

Here’s the exclusive bonus material: the alternate beginnings of Symptoms of Being Human. Here’s what Jeff has to say about them:

From first draft to published novel, the part of Symptoms of Being Human that changed most was the beginning. I wanted to create an opening page that drew in the reader immediately, set up Riley’s struggle, and generated momentum to propel the story into the following chapters. In this post, I’ll share three alternate beginnings for Symptoms of Being Human to give you a behind-the-scenes (between-the-drafts?) look at how the novel changed as I worked on it.

From the first draft, begun February 2014
I started the first version with a blog post from Riley. I thought it would be a powerful way to introduce Riley’s narrative voice and simultaneously establish that we’re about to experience a story that is not about (yet totally is about) gender identity. Here’s the original opening:

New Post: Which?

October 1, 6:32 PM

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: am I a girl, or am I a boy?

Don’t worry. I’m used to it; it’s the first thing everyone wants to know—even when they can see me. And, even if they don’t ask, the question hangs there. It shows itself in the narrowing of their eyes, the slight tilt of their heads. At best, it’s invasive curiosity; at worst, open condemnation. Either way, they want an answer: Boy. Or. Girl.

But it’s not that simple. In a digital world, where everything is on or off, black or white, yes or no, it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around something that’s NOT a toggle switch, but a dial. Okay, they say, but you were born one way or the other. Like, biologically. You know, anatomically.

From the second draft, begun in May 2014
The second draft begins quite differently. I scrapped the blog entry in favor of plunging right into Riley’s life as they get ready for the first day at a new school. Here’s the opening from the second draft:

I stand in front of my open closet, casting a flat, even shadow on the clothes hanging within, as though I’m the thing obscuring my own identity from view. I step aside to let the morning sun illuminate the inside of the closet, and I stare at the brand new wardrobe dangling lifelessly from a row of identical oak hangers. These are the clothes my mother so enthusiastically picked out during my nearly unendurable shopping ordeal last week.

From the third draft, written in August of 2014
In the end, I decided I did want Symptoms to begin with Riley’s first blog post, for all the reasons I stated in the introduction to the first draft excerpt. While I definitely captured Riley’s voice in this version, it didn’t have the same impact as the first two drafts, so it was eventually rewritten and cut dramatically.

New Post: Dear Futile Therapy Blog

October 1, 6:42 AM

Dear Futile Therapy Blog,

I don’t want to write you. I don’t want to confess my darkest secrets on a freaking blog. To broadcast my deepest insecurities to the anonymous Internet horde. To fling my flaws into the ether, to be consumed by anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and time to kill, all in the name of therapy. 

As if anyone is going to read this.

God, I sound so bitter. Do I sound bitter to you? I’m not that bitter, I swear. 

Except when I am. 

But seriously, blog. The thought of spilling my guts to an audience of roughly nine apathetic strangers fills me with a sense of self-loathing so profound, Kurt Cobain himself would find it impossible to express in song. And isn’t this whole writing thing supposed to be helping me manage my self-loathing?

O! Sweet irony.

And yet, here we are, blog. You and me, alone on my bed on the morning of my first day at a new school.

ASJDK;F’;!!@!!!

This is stupid.

I’m not doing this.

#recovery #therapy #PityPartyOfOneYourTableIsReady

From the finished version, published February 2016
In the end, I was determined to have that first line from the rough draft (The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?) appear as the opening sentence of the novel—but starting with a full-blown blog post slowed the pace of the first chapter too much. So I split the difference and had Riley begin a new post, only to abort it a few lines in—something I’ve done many times in my own blogging life—and then we dive into Riley’s morning before school. Here’s the opening from the published version of Symptoms of Being Human:

New Post: One or the Other

October 1, 6:55 AM

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is:  Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

#

I stop typing and stare at the cursor, which flashes at me incessantly, as if mocking my inability to write one stupid post.

“Riley!” It’s my mom, calling me from downstairs in her singsongy voice. “If you still want to be early, you’d better come down for breakfast!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the drafting process for Symptoms of Being Human. Thanks so much for reading.

That was a fascinating glimpse into the writing process! I know I rewrite all my beginnings many times before I get them right — there can be as many as 8 different versions.

CONTINUE THE HUNT

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Kathryn Holmes!

But before you go, I’m offering a bonus giveaway right here!

A Mortal Song cover
A lucky winner will receive a copy (in whatever format you prefer) of my newest release, A Mortal Song, plus swag! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter.


YASH A Mortal Song giveaway
Happy Hunting!

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Mortal Song online launch party begins!

My new book is out in the world today, and I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait to hear what you all think of A Mortal Song and Sora. But for now, it’s time to party!


Available in stores and online at:
Amazon (Kindle version only $0.99 this week) ~ Chapters/Indigo ~ B&N ~ Indiebound ~ BookDepository (international)

Talk with me!

All day you can post questions or share your thoughts by commenting on this blog post or on the Facebook event page. Remember, if you’re asking or talking about a key event from the book, please mark your comment with a SPOILER note so others who haven’t read yet can skip over it.

Win prizes!

Follow the Facebook event page and win! My guest authors and I will be posting giveaways on the FB wall throughout the day in which you can win books and swag, so check back regularly!

Enter my huge Japan-themed giveaway! You could win a massive gift pack featuring books, movies, TV series, and snack boxes from Japan.

Japan-themed giveaway

Additional launch activities (today only!)

Request a signed bookplate and bookmark to put in your paperback or hardcover copy of A Mortal Song over at the signing table.

Join the launch party live chat from 8:30-10:00pm EST, during which I’ll be giving out a few more prizes. Link to be posted here shortly beforehand!

Get inside the book!

Take a peek inside the book by reading the first three chapters here.

Hear the music that helped inspire the story by listening to the unofficial soundtrack.

Enjoy the festivities!

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

Last call for A Mortal Song Pre-orders!

This is your last reminder that if you want to get in on the A Mortal Song pre-order offer, you need to order and submit your receipt before September 13th. Only people who pre-order can automatically receive the booklet with commentary and Japan photos and the bonus short story, so get it while you can! 🙂

instagram-image-2

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

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A Month of Japan – TokyoTreat

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Snack Subscription Box Review – TokyoTreat

tokyotreat

What you get: TokyoTreat offers their monthly themed boxes in three sizes, from $15 a month for 5-7 snacks to $35 a month for 13-17 snacks plus a guaranteed DIY kit, drink, and other special item. The boxes ship from Tokyo, with free shipping worldwide.

Review of the box:
I got the July large-sized box, for which the theme was Anime Characters. The outside of the box had a pretty design which you can see above and that extended into the interior, and TokyoTreat’s booklet was the most detailed and professional-looking of all the boxes I reviewed, including seasonal information about Japanese holidays and traditions, instructions for the DIY sets, and extra info about particular treats.

tokyotreatopenAnd, of course, a lot of snacks!
tokyotreatfullAs before, I jotted down my thoughts on each of the snacks as I tried them out and gave them a rating out of 3 (0 = nope, 1 = all right, 2 = quite good, 3 = OMG where can I get more of this?).

tokyot1Milk-flavored Potato Chips – These light chips were a bit odd, because the chips were savory but the milk flavor on them sweet. I usually like sweet and salty together, but although I enjoyed these somewhat, I’m not sure the balance was ideal. 2.

Black Thunder Gold – Great chocolate bar: sweet but not too sweet, the chocolate rich, and a great mix of creamy/chewy chocolate and crispy, crunchy wafer. I liked this a lot! 3.

Fortune-telling Chocolate Pills (Dagashi Kashi) – The idea behind these is cute, but the actual tiny chocolates were kind of bland, like mini smarties or M&Ms. 1.

tokyot2Thomas & Friends Chocolate Pretzel Sticks – These sticks were basically a Pocky imitation, but with less icing and a harder, more bland biscuit, so less tasty. 1.

Anpanman Ramune Candy – The candies had a nice texture, crunchy and not too powdery, lightly sweet with a light fruit flavor. 2.

Yokai Watch Chocolate – Very cute chocolate “popsicle”—I almost didn’t want to eat it. 🙂 The milk chocolate was creamy but a bit chalky, and the top layers with different colors looked as if they should have different flavors but all I tasted was chocolate throughout. 1.

Thomas & Friends Chewing Candy – I don’t generally like artificial grape flavor, and the candies proved to be no exception. For someone who does like the taste, the texture was enjoyably chewy and substantial. 1.

tokyot3Pokemon Gummy – These candies were a little softer than I usually like my gummies, but had a nice smooth texture and a mild fruity flavor. 1.

Dragon Ball Heroes Snack 5 – These tasted like North American cheese puffs—I enjoyed them well enough, but there was nothing very exciting or unique about them. 1.

Marutake Peach Drink – This beverage came in a squeezable plastic bottle, which was interesting. The drink was mildly sweet, noncarbinated, and vaguely fruity, nice enough but nothing standout about it. 1.

tokyot4Moko Moko Mokolet Toilet DIY Candy 3 – This gets one point just for unique-ness: You literally assemble a five-piece mini plastic toilet! The candy (which you drink through a straw) was a little more sour than I usually prefer, but somewhat tasty. 2.

Soybean Flour Mochi Rice Cake DIY – This DIY kit was very simple to prepare and very tasty, with a nice balance of dry flour with soft jelly. The jelly was very smooth and had a subtle nutty flavor that I loved. 3.

tokyot5Cocotama Snack – These heart-shaped, fluffy, and crunchy biscuits had a corn cereal-like texture and taste with a light artificial strawberry flavor that worked well in combination. I enjoyed these a lot! 3.

Brazilian Orange Pocky – I always enjoy Pocky, and this was a unique (seasonal) flavor I’ve never encountered before. The light artificial orange flavor in the icing tasted great with the biscuit. 3.

Shrimp Crackers – The crackers had a nice crunch and texture, but I couldn’t taste the shrimp flavor at all, which was disappointing because I really like shrimp chips and crackers usually! 1.

Caipis Gummy – These gummies were lightly sweet with a light citrus flavor, almost creamy in taste. They were soft but satisfyingly chewy. I really liked them. 3.

Overall thoughts: Unfortunately I was overall disappointed with this box. Many of the snacks were bland or just okay. I might blame that on the focus being finding character-based candies, but I had the same problem with the ones that weren’t character candies too. It’s too bad, because the packaging and booklet were standouts for sure!

Overall snack rating: 29/48, 60%

Join me next week for more recs! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Summer Wars

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Animated Film Rec – Summer Wars

summerwars

What it’s all about: Kenji is your typical teenage misfit. He’s good at math, bad with girls, and spends most of his time hanging out in the all-powerful, online community known as OZ. His second life is the only life he has until the girl of his dreams, Natsuki, hijacks him for a starring role as a fake fiance at her family reunion. Things only get stranger from there. A late-night email containing a cryptic mathematic riddle leads to the unleashing of a rogue AI intent on using the virtual word of OZ to destroy the real world, literarily. As Armageddon looms on the horizon, Kenji and his new family set aside their differences and band together to save the worlds they inhabit in this near-perfect blend of social satire and science fiction.

Why you should watch it: Calling this a blend is right on the nose. I didn’t know much about the movie going in, and thinking it was a science fiction adventure, I was a little confused by the (nonetheless enjoyable) family dramedy elements it begins with. But the false fiancé story quickly becomes tangled with a virtual reality war that ends up involving every member of this colorful cast. The contrasting elements are woven together seamlessly, the action and twists will keep you on the edge of your seat, and the ending is incredibly satisfying while feeling well-earned.

What’s your favorite VR storyline? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Kids Return

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Live Action Film Rec – Kids Return

kidsreturn

What it’s all about: Masaru and Shinji are two delinquent teenage slackers who cut classes, play pranks on their teachers and extort money from their fellow students. After dropping out of school, Shinji takes up boxing. Masaru, the loud mouth, talks his way into the local Yakuza gang. But just as they’re about to attain success in their new professions, the past returns to haunt them.

Why you should watch it: This is a story that slowly unfolds, drawing you into the protagonists’ lives until the interconnections come into vivid clarity. Masaru and Shinji aren’t always the most sympathetic figures, but they and their problems figuring out where they fit in feel authentic, as does their evolving friendship.

What’s your favorite slice-of-life drama film? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

TV Rec – Serial Experiments Lain

lain

What it’s all about: Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings. (from MyAnimeList)

Why you should watch it: This is another reality-bending story, capturing the absorbing and sometimes addictive nature of the internet in advance of our modern-day world where everyone is wired in (metaphorically speaking). Haunting, poignant, and frightening at turns, you may not always understand what’s going on, but the emotions the story stirs up are no less real for that. And the soundtrack is lovely.

What’s your fave tech-centric story? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Out

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Book Rec – Out by Natsuo Kirino

out

What it’s all about: This mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot’s ringleader, but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society.

Why you should read it: This book is absolutely gripping, difficult to put down from the moment the story gets going. The extreme situation the characters find themselves in is both horrifying and understandable, and the varied reactions of the four main characters ring true. Masako is smart and tough, able to make the best of a bad situation, but not without her vulnerabilities. And I loved seeing the focus on women supporting each other and working together, though of course there’s plenty of conflict between them too. If you enjoy thrillers, you’ve got to read this one.

Content warning: Graphic violence

What’s your most-loved story about women making their own fates? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

The Music of A Mortal Song

All of my books have an unofficial soundtrack, because I’m always connecting songs I hear to the stories in my head, and listening to them helps inspire me throughout the various stages of the writing process. You can listen to my unofficial soundtrack for A Mortal Song here on my website. I wanted to share a little about how certain songs fit into the story for me.

Note: Vague spoilers if you haven’t yet read the book.

“Evolution” by Ayumi Hamasaki has always been Song‘s theme song, as it were. I used to picture it playing over an anime TV-show style opening featuring the characters and scenes from the book. It’s got a high energy vibe that suits that story’s action, and many of the lyrics fit Sora’s emotional journey (translation from PrimeNova):

“With your own two eyes
please decide the worth of this place.
Do it with your own standards.”

“We’ve arrived on this kind of world.
Somehow I’m very happy
somehow it hurts a lot.”

“Magic” by Ben Folds Five is the love theme from Keiji’s point of view, because to him Sora is magic. It was always playing in my head during the night scene where Sora dances apart from the kami:

“saw you last night
dance by the light of the moon
stars in your eyes
free from the life that you knew”

“You Picked Me” by A Fine Frenzy is the love theme from Sora’s point of view. After feeling she is—and must be—second to Chiyo in everyone’s eyes, having someone see her as powerful and desirable helps her recognize the value in herself and accept the feelings for him she doesn’t totally understand. And it’s seeing his willingness to put her first that allows her to accept his accidental betrayal.

“Like an apple on a tree
Hiding out behind the leaves
I was difficult to reach
But you picked me”

“You got me,
Searched the sand
And climbed the tree
And brought me back down”

Finally, “Hello Another Way” by The Brilliant Green makes a perfect ending theme. It looks both backward to connections formed and forward to a hopeful future, acknowledging the uncertainty of what lies ahead but appreciating being in this spot all the same (translation from AnimeLyrics):

Sing to the beautiful summer which had just blossomed from the phantom darkness.”

I reach out a hand to my dream.
Though it’s still far away, I want to believe
That someday it will surely come true.

For it’s because of you that I’ve managed to come this far.
I’m so glad we’ve met.

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – WOWBOX

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Snack Subscription Box Review – WOWBOX

wowbox

What you get: WOWBOX is unique in that they offer four different types of boxes depending on your snacking preferences, three of those in two different sizes. The cheapest box is $15 a month and the most expensive $35, and all come with free shipping to most countries worldwide. The available boxes include “New & Limited” (the latest and most exclusive Japanese treats), “Fun & Tasty” (a mix of playful, odd, and classic treats), “Kawaii & Beauty” (with a theoretical consideration to a healthy diet), and “Dagashi” (classic small candies and snacks). All of these are curated and shipped directly from Japan.

Review of the box:
I requested a large “Fun & Tasty” box because it sounded likely to be a little different from the others I was trying, while still having treats I’d enjoy. The packaging and insert were a little plain (the insert included nutritional information, which the other boxes hadn’t)…

wowboxopen wowboxinsert

…but of course it’s the snacks inside that matter most, and this looked like a great lot!
wowboxfullAs before, I jotted down my thoughts on each of the snacks as I tried them out and gave them a rating out of 3 (0 = nope, 1 = all right, 2 = quite good, 3 = OMG where can I get more of this?).

wowsnack1Amijaga German Potato – These hearty potato chips had a satisfyingly crunchy texture, a light salt and definite bacon flavor, and weren’t too heavy despite their thickness. I liked them a lot! 3.

Corn Potage – A fluffier chip, I found these to be lightly crunchy with a taste exactly like fresh, almost creamily sweet corn. So good! 3.

wowsnack2Pie No Mi Kiitigo no Cream Cheese Pie – The bite-sized hexagonal pastries had a fluffy exterior, but I found them quite dry and they didn’t have much filling to offset the dryness or provide the promised raspberry cream cheese flavor. I probably would have liked them more with about twice as much filling. 1.

Papaya Lemon Choco – These candies came in individually wrapped squares. Each was made of white chocolate with a pleasantly light, authentic-tasting papaya flavor mixed in, and a marshmallow center that added extra dimension and a pleasing chewy texture. Unique but very enjoyable. Yum! 3.

Umai Bo (Chocolate) – This long, puffy, hollow wafer with chocolate coating was a nice mix of sweet and salty, but a little on the bland side. 2.

wowsnack3Garibori Ramen Spicy Garlic – A snacking ramen (no cooking necessary), these noodles had great crunch and texture, but the salty garlic flavor was so strong it was overpowering, and I couldn’t taste any other spices. I would have liked it better with a milder flavor. 1.

Ultra Hlyarinko Ice Gum – I expected this gum to have a minty flavor, but it was actually sweet and mildly fruity, yet still with a bit of chill to it. It’s bubble gum and good for that purpose—I could blow quite a large bubble before it popped—but the flavor was almost gone after just five minutes. 2.

Donguri Gum (Apple) – Artificial apple flavor isn’t my favorite, but this sweet treat wasn’t actively unpleasant either. After a few minutes the hard candy exterior gave way to a very sweet gum interior with not much other flavor. 1.

Awa Cola Ramune – A clear cola taste and very fizzy on the tongue, cola lovers should enjoy this! I’m not a big fan of cola flavor, but I still appreciated the authenticity. 2.

wowsnack4Petit Sour Cream Onion Sen – These wafers were light but with enough substance not to be too airy, and had an enjoyable creamy taste with a little onion spice mixed in. Some pieces were more flavorful than others—the ones with the stronger flavor I loved. 2.

Hunwari Baum Orange Chocola – This treat was basically a slice of cake with a nice dense texture and a light chocolate taste that blended well with the sweet orange icing. I loved this! 3.

Gaburi Chew Strawberry Yogurt – This candy had a great chewy texture, but the strawberry and yogurt flavors were very artificial and kind of powdery tasting. 1.

wowsnack5Doki Doki Puchitto Honey Lemon – Satisfyingly chewy candies with a great balance of sour and sweet and lots of tang. Mmmm. 3.

Mitsuya Fruits Cider Gummy Mango – These gummies were a bit on the tough side, but the excellent mango flavoring was distinct without being overpowering, a little sweet and a little tangy. 2.

wowsnack6a wowsnack6b
Nyoki Nyoki Kororon (DIY)
– The booklet offered a handy link to a video that explained how to make this DIY kit. The candy that resulted had a bit of an odd texture, crunchy coating over soft, gel-like cream, but I quite enjoyed the blending of the orange, melon, and grape flavors with the sweet creamy base. If you leave them a little while, they get crunchy all the way through. Very sweet. 2.

Purutto Jelly Orange – This was kind of like drinking soft jello: the texture was a little lumpy, which wasn’t super pleasant but not totally off-putting either. I enjoyed the mild natural-ish orange flavor. 2.

Golden Saku Saku Panda – These biscuits had a lovely blend of caramel, vanilla, and chocolate, which combined perfectly while allowing you to taste all three. Great balance of icing to cookie, too! I finished the package wishing I had more. 3.

Overall thoughts: This was my favorite selection of snacks, with lots of please both my sweet tooth and my salty/savory tooth, and several treats I’d be eager to eat again.

Overall snack rating: 36/51, 71%

Note: I received this box free in exchange for my honest review.

Join me next week for more recs! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

 

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Perfect Blue

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Animated Film Rec – Perfect Blue

perfectblue

What it’s all about: Mima Kirigoe is a squeaky-clean Japanese pop singer who decides to leave the music industry and try her hand at acting. Finding her way in her new field proves to be difficult as she is forced to take humiliating work in perverse low-budget films. Mima is stalked by an obsessed fan, irate at her decision to abandon her successful music career. A series of bloody murders follow Mima as she descends into a delusional and hallucinatory mental state, while a mysterious internet blog claiming to be written by the real Mima reports personal information to a leering public eye. Mima is pushed further into a psychological black hole as the film weaves a fractured and bizarre setting. Perfect Blue explores the voyeuristic modern-day obsessions with celebrity, identity and mental instability.

Why you should watch it: This is an intense, gripping psychological thriller that does its work so effectively that viewers will find themselves doubting their perceptions alongside the main character. The movie manages to make you feel nearly as disoriented as Mima must, and that’s impressive. Mima is a resilient but understandably unsteady heroine whose struggle to climb out of the box her career has put her in really resonates. The villain is unexpected and the finale satisfying.

Content warning: Violence, including sexual assault

What’s the twistiest psychological thriller you’ve ever seen? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Live Action Film Rec – Summer Time Machine Blues

summertime

What it’s all about: When a group of friends in a college science-fiction club accidentally break their air conditioner’s remote control in the midst of a horrible heat wave, and then a time machine appears out of nowhere in their club room, they decide to go back in time to retrieve the still-functioning remote of the past. But as they hop back and forth in time, their mission becomes decidedly more complicated.

Why you should watch it: This light-hearted comedy offers lots of laughs while also stretching your brain as you try to guess how all the clues connect. It’s one of those time travel stories where every interference that the characters make in their past has technically already happened, but not always in ways or for reasons you’d guess the first time through. The actors completely commit to their roles and bring great charm to the silly premise. A perfect way to pass a summer afternoon!

What’s your favorite time travel story? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Silver Spoon

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

TV Rec – Silver Spoon

silverspoon

What it’s all about: The only reason why Yugo Hachiken decided to attend the Oezo Agricultural High School (a.k.a Ezono) was simply because the school had a dormitory. Entering Ezono was a way for Yugo to run away from the stifling academic pressures in the city, however, it didn’t take long for him to realize that life is not that simple. Yugo is soon forced to face more hurdles in his new environment surrounded by all the farm animals and the magnificent Mother Nature. He also begins feeling a different kind of pressure as he deals with his classmates who, unlike him, all have a clear view of what they want for their futures. Even so, as Yugo overcomes one challenge after another at Ezono and deepens his bonds with his classmates, he begins to grow stronger both physically and mentally. This is a coming-of-age story filled with sweat, tears, and literally a lot of dirt!

Why you should watch it: Yugo is a hugely sympathetic protagonist and his classmates at Ezono are a colorful, varied, and entertaining crew. Although this series still has visual gags and over-the-top moments, in general it feels more down-to-earth and real than the average anime show, which suits its subject matter of a boy trying to figure out who he really is and what he really wants out of life perfectly. Every character has hopes and dreams, and their struggles are gradually revealed over the course of the two seasons with a beautiful balance of drama and humor. My only complaint is that the anime appears to be finished, even though there’s more story in the manga it’s adapted from!

What’s your fish-out-of-water story? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Death Note

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Book Rec – Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

deathnote

What it’s all about: Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects – and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal…or his life?

Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note’s powers as L and the police begin to close in. Luckily Light’s father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father’s files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn’t know?

Why you should read it: For some reason I have a lot of trouble getting into manga. It’s like it’s not wordy enough to appeal to the bookish part of my brain but not visual enough to appeal to the cinematic part. The Death Note series is one of the very few that hooked me and kept me engaged all the way through to the end. I think it helps that the series is relatively light on action—it’s more about the characters trying to outsmart and strategically outmaneuver each other, with lots of intense dialogue and thoughtful moments and intellectual standoffs. The two main characters are supposed to be brilliant, and they manage to convincingly behave that way. There are lots of twists where I wasn’t sure how the story could continue and then one or the other pulled out some unexpected new trick. The moral questions raised—primarily about the sanctity of life and who should be allowed to make decisions about who “deserves” to live or die—give the series additional depth. If you love following super-smart but not always likeable characters like Sherlock and House, you’ll probably enjoy this. 🙂

What’s your favorite manga series? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

The Setting of A Mortal Song

I wouldn’t have felt right writing in depth about a country I’d never visited, so I made two trips to Japan during the writing and revising of A Mortal Song: in April 2011, not long after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami (we’d already booked tickets and accommodations, and it was touch and go for a few weeks whether we’d make use of them or not), and in July 2013, which was also technically my son’s first trip overseas, although he was barely a bump in my belly then. 😉 You can read about those trips and see some photos by following the links, and here are some of the key settings:

Mt. Fuji, Sora’s home:song-mt-fuji

Tokyo’s residential streets:    song-tokyo-houses

Nagoya’s train station:
song-nagoya-station

Tokyo’s Imperial Palace:
song-imperial-gate

Ise’s Shrine:
song-ise-courtyard

To see more of the settings that made their way into Song, check out my Behind the Scenes page. And the digital booklet offered as part of my pre-order gift pack will contain even more photos and lots of commentary!

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan: Snakku

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Snack Subscription Box Review – Snakku

snakkubox

What you get: Unlike most of the Japanese subscription boxes, Snakku focuses on traditional treats like mochi and senbei by local snack-makers rather than big name, mass market brands. They offer a tasting box (within the US) to sample but only have a subscription for their one primary size of box, which is $39 (shipping free in the US and more to select other countries) and contains around 1kg of snacks. It ships from the US, but the owner was born in Japan and travels there regularly.

Review of the box:
I was very impressed by the packaging of the Snakku box, which was attractive and fitting with the traditional theme.

snakkuopensnakkuinsertThe box opened to reveal a pretty card and a very sharply designed guide to the snacks, including an explanation of the monthly theme, which was sakura (cherry blossom) season, as well as lots of snacks!

snakkuallAs before, I jotted down my thoughts on each of the snacks as I tried them out and gave them a rating out of 3 (0 = nope, 1 = all right, 2 = quite good, 3 = OMG where can I get more of this?).

snakku1b snakku1a
Morihan Roll Crepe (pink = cream and cherry blossom, green = chocolate and green tea) – Both types of crepe had a delicate texture that I really enjoyed. I loved the flowery flavor of the pink ones, but the tea flavor was a little heavier than I liked with the green. Overall a 2.

Sakura Senbei – According to the guide, these crisp wafers were made with sakura, cooking sake, dried squid, and wheat. They were a little on the hard side and saltier than I’d expected, but did have a little of that flowery taste I enjoyed in the crepes, which as quite pleasant once I got used to the texture and saltiness. I could taste a little fishiness from the squid too! 2.

snakku2b snakku2a
Kobe Sakura Cream Sandwich – These biscuit sandwiches were nicely sweet, with a subtle cherry blossom flavor I really enjoyed and a good balance of the cookies with the cream filling. 2.

Vegetable Yasai Boro (Spinach and Pumpkin) – Both sets of these little cracker balls were enjoyable crisp and sweet, almost melting in my mouth as I chewed them, but they had a bit of an odd, almost seaweed-y flavor and I didn’t really taste any pumpkin or spinach in them. 1.

snakku3a snakku3b
Bourbon Green Tea Cookies – These cookies were like mini Oreos, if Oreos had green tea flavor in the icing. The cookie to filling ration was perfect and the chocolate in the cookies balanced out the green tea flavor (which I often find too bitter) nicely. I loved these! 3.

Baka Uke Sesame Cracker – Crunchy crackers with a good weight to them and a tasty, savory sesame flavor. 2.

Niigata Salt Senbei – These crackers had a nice crispy texture and a good amount of salt, but they were kind of plain tasting. 1.

snakku4
Sake KitKat – I was a little apprehensive about trying these because I’m not usually a fan of the taste of alcohol, but while I could taste the sake, the coating was sweet enough to make it an enjoyable tang rather than annoyingly sour. Tasty with the usual KitKat crunch. 2.

Sakura Mochi – According to the guide, these fluffy mochi were hand made. Filled with sakura red bean paste, they had a lovely delicate flower flavor without being too sweet and a smooth texture. Yum! 3.

Kusagai Peach Gummy – These round gummies had a definite peach taste and a smooth chewy texture. I wasn’t sure how much I liked the flavor at first, but it grew on me and left an aftertaste very realistic to real peach. 2.

Overall thoughts: While I appreciated the snacks being so different from the other boxes I tried, the quantity of the snacks (there were both fewer types and they were smaller packages than other boxes) combined with this being the highest priced box even before shipping to Canada would make me hesitate to subscribe.

Overall snack rating: 20/30, 67%

Note: I received this box free in exchange for my honest review.

Join me next week for more recs! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Grave of the Fireflies

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Animated Film Rec – Grave of the Fireflies

gravefireflies

What it’s all about: In the aftermath of a World War II bombing, two orphaned children struggle to survive in the Japanese countryside. To Seita and his four-year-old sister, the helplessness and indifference of their countrymen is even more painful than the enemy raids. Through desperation, hunger and grief, these children’s lives are as heartbreakingly fragile as their spirit and love is inspiring.

Why you should watch it: If you’re unconvinced of the horrors of war, not just on the battlefield but for the civilians caught in the midst, this movie will do it for you. It’s heartbreaking but never preachy, celebrating strength and endurance but also acknowledging that there are situations even those qualities can’t overcome. The siblings’ relationship is so authentic it’s impossible not to get caught up in their struggle to survive and to be there for each other. Warning: This is a total tearjerker, so watch prepared.

What war movie have you found most affecting? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Hana and Alice

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Live Action Film Rec – Hana and Alice

hanaalice

What it’s all about: Hana and Alice are inseparable friends until Miyamoto, a cute boy they spot at a train station, comes between them. Tricking Miyamoto into believing that he is suffering from amnesia, Hana claims that she is his girlfriend. A baffled Miyamoto struggles to regain his memories as he is drawn to the prettier Alice. When the bond deepens, the girls’ lifelong relationship begins to fray… propelling them apart.

Why you should watch it: Despite its kooky premise—yes, Hana does actually decide to convince the guy that he’s got amnesia and has simply forgotten that she’s his girlfriend, and Alice is roped into going along with the deception as it becomes increasingly complicated—which is handled deftly and makes for plenty of humor, this movie is filled with poignant moments and drama that’s wrenching without ever becoming melodrama. The two girls are sharply drawn, and we get to know not only their friendship but their family lives and dreams for the future, which are equally fraught. The plotline will keep you hooked, but it’s the character studies that will stick with you.

What’s the kookiest plotline you’ve ever seen in a movie? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

A Month of Japan – Cowboy Bebop

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

TV Rec – Cowboy Bebop

cowboybebp

What it’s all about: The Bebop crew is just trying to make a buck. This motley lot of intergalactic loners teams up to track down fugitives and turn them in for cold hard cash. Spike is a hero whose cool façade hides a dark and deadly past. The pilot Jet is a bruiser of a brute who can’t wait to collect the next bounty. Faye Valentine is a femme fatale prone to breaking hearts and separating fools from their money. Along for the ride are the brilliant, but weird, hacker Ed and a super-genius Welsh Corgi named Ein. On their own, any one of them is likely to get lost in the sprawl of space, but together, they’re they most entertaining gang of bounty hunters in the year 2071.

Why you should watch it: One of the best blends of science fiction and western I’ve ever seen—with a jazzy flare provided by Yoko Kanno’s fabulous soundtrack—this show and its characters have a lot more going on than the official description suggests. There are lots of laughs and lots of hijinks, to be sure. But as the story progresses, the relationships deepen and complicated pasts are revealed, details that seemed like throw-away gags early on turn out to have unexpected meaning, and you’ll find yourself more invested than you ever anticipated. A must for any sci fi fan.

What’s your favorite genre mash-up? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:

songnewestreleaseblog

Originally published at YA Author Megan Crewe. You can comment here or there.

My Books


Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014


The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015


A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015


The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012


The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013


The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014


Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014


Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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