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Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author (& Giveaway): Malinda Lo

Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 27

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.

Who: Malinda Lo, YA fantasy author of Ash, a kickass retelling of the classic Cinderella story.

Recent Work: The aforementioned Ash, a beautiful story in which Cinderella falls in love not with Prince Charming, but with another girl (Ana’s review HERE). Malinda is also the author of the upcoming Huntress, which looks MADE OF AWESOME.

Without further ado, we give you Malinda Lo!

I read so many wonderful books in 2010, but the ones that stuck in my head are the books I admire because I admire the craft that went into writing them. Like many writers, I can’t help but read like a writer most of the time, which means I can read a passage and then say super nerdy things out loud like, “Oh my God, how did she manage that transition so seamlessly?” (Cue flipping back to reread the section in question.)

Here are the books that floored me in 2010 with their writerly craft:

White Cat by Holly Black

Usually I approach first person present tense novels with trepidation — it is definitely not my favorite style of writing, because I find that it almost always sounds contrived and affected. But in some cases, first person present tense narration is used in a way that makes perfect sense. Holly Black’s White Cat is one of those books.

First, there’s story — White Cat has it in spades. The story is a mystery wrapped up in lies and misleading memories. The fact that Black pulls it off so seemingly effortlessly makes me want to reread the book and take notes on how she does it.

And then there’s her writing. Black’s style in White Cat is spare and tight, but it’s also layered and full of surprises. I just opened the book and randomly found this scene on page 55, which I love:

Then she hugs me lightly, and I can’t help but notice that. My hands rest on the small of her back and I can feel her warm breath against my neck. With her, I could learn to be normal. Every time she touches me, I feel the heady promise of becoming an average guy.

I think that this kind of spare but meaningful prose is so hard to write. If you haven’t read White Cat yet, and you enjoy crime fiction and potentially unreliable narrators, read it now. You won’t be disappointed!

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

The thing about Paolo Bacigalupi’s YA science fiction novel Ship Breaker that really got me was its world-building. It is set in a future in which the Gulf Coast is in ruins, oil is scarce, and the gap between rich and poor seems to be even bigger than it is today. In other words, it’s set in a future that all of us could easily imagine.

The main character, Nailer, is a teen boy who works scavenging metal off rusted ships half-sunk in the Gulf. He is used to a hard life, but he hasn’t yet been destroyed by it. When he sees an opportunity to leave that life behind, he takes it.

There were a number of things I really admired about Ship Breaker. First, the characters in the book are diverse in terms of race, and the girls in the book are diverse in terms of gender presentation. Girls do things in this book — many different things — and the boys don’t think it’s a big deal. I loved this.

But also, as I said before, the world is so three-dimensional. It is really a masterful example of imagining a future and bringing it to life on the page. There’s slang and various bits of background that the reader comes to understand through context, not info dumping. The descriptions of the cities are very detailed, but not overwhelmingly so. You get the sensation that you’re being shown a particular scene, and if the camera would just pan to the left, even more wonders would be revealed. I’m not surprised that Ship Breaker was a finalist for the National Book Award!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This giant book got tons of hype when it came out at the beginning of the summer. I picked it up because I was curious how a writer of literary fiction (which Cronin was) would approach a story that is firmly based in genre — and the vampire genre, at that.

It’s about a military experiment gone wrong, in which a virus is accidentally released that essentially turns people into vampires. (I’m simplifying here.) And it’s about one little girl who may be the key to ending the plague.

When I began reading the book, I was immediately sucked in by Cronin’s writing, which is taut and sharp. But I was also sucked in by the characterization. I was amazed by how each character was so clearly, carefully introduced. Cronin obviously knows each character (and there are a lot of them) inside out, and he manages to relay backstory about each of them — often through flashbacks — that doesn’t seem to slow down the pacing.

A lot of times people say that thrillers don’t need to have good characterization — that’s not why we read them. But I don’t agree. I think that The Passage is clearly a thriller with very good characterization. That’s what I admire most about it. OK, and I like the fact that the vampires are not sexy sparkly guys, too.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2011

In 2011, I’m really looking forward to reading Red Glove, Holly Black’s follow-up to White Cat! I also can’t wait to read The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell, because I love gothic historicals, and I adored her first novel, Shadowed Summer.

I also have a novel coming out in April 2011: Huntress, which is a prequel (of sorts) to Ash. It’s set in the same world as Ash, but hundreds of years earlier, and doesn’t have any crossover characters.

Huntress is about two girls, Kaede and Taisin — one of whom will become the first huntress in their Kingdom — who are called to journey to the land of the Fairy Queen in order to save their homeland. It began as my take on the hero’s quest (you know, the Joseph Campbell thing), but it soon became its own story. It’s about finding your place in the world. It’s about the power of love and how it changes you. And it’s about girls using weapons!

Huntress is partially inspired by Asian cultures, and because my friend and fellow author Cindy Pon also has an Asian-inspired YA fantasy coming out in April 2011 (Fury of the Phoenix, sequel to Silver Phoenix), we decided to band together and go on a book tour celebrating diversity in YA fiction. We’ve invited several YA authors to join us in five cities, which we’ll be visiting in May 2011. We’ll soon be announcing our full author line-up, but if you want a sneak peek at the cities we’ll be visiting, you can check out our website at I’m excited for our tour!

Happy Smugglivus everyone!

And a Happy Smugglivus to you too, Malinda!

Now, for the giveaway:

Giveaway Details:

Malinda Lo is happy to offer a signed ARC of Huntress along with a signed UK edition of Ash to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment here – the contest is open to residents of the US and Canada ONLY and will run till Saturday January 1st 11:59 P.M. (PST). One entry per person, please. We will randomly pick the winner and post it on our January 2nd stash. Good luck!


  • Ashley
    December 27, 2010 at 4:40 am

    The diversity in YA tour sounds like a fabulous idea. I hope you guys have a really great tournout! Also, Huntress looks fantastic; I love the cover.

  • Arhcadia
    December 27, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Sounds like a great tour w some fantastic books. Congrats!

  • rhapsodyinbooks
    December 27, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I would love to read these – I have heard so much about Ash and can’t believe I still haven’t read it!

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  • Laura
    December 27, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I like the cover on the UK Ash and the American version. That doesn’t seem to happen for books very often. I’m excited to read Huntress. 😀

  • Erin Golsen
    December 27, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Ship Breaker and The Passage were two of my favorite books this year, too (I also loved The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, although it is definitely not YA.). Ash & Huntress sound fantastic!

  • Amy Kathryn
    December 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I loved Ash and look forward to reading Huntress. I checked out the cities on the tour…all some of my favorites but not mine!

  • D.L.
    December 27, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I would love to read either of these books. I really love the cover of Ash- I think it might be the color palette.

  • Rene
    December 27, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I loved Ash, and would love to get a chance to read Huntress early. Thanks for doing this giveaway.

  • Sebina
    December 27, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Wonderful recommendations – I can’t wait for ‘The Vespertine’ either 😀

    I can’t wait to read Huntress *squee*

  • RachelwasHere
    December 27, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Re-reading Ash right now! I guess I’ll have to look up some of these reads while I wait on the Huntress.

  • Sarah C.
    December 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Those books look fabulous! Good luck with your tour. I’m loving all the different voices establishing themselves in the YA genre. It’s come a long way.

  • Greg
    December 27, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Been wanting to read Ash…. Want to get a peek at Huntress and many of the books she wrote about…

  • Kerry Butler
    December 27, 2010 at 9:20 am

    😀 I cant wait to read Huntress! Ash was amazing!

  • Mia
    December 27, 2010 at 9:25 am


    This Smugglivus is increasing my TBR pile exponentially. It’s a little scary. I hope I find a ton of time to read in 2011!

  • Marie
    December 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

    What beautiful covers! Whoever does the creative for Ms. Lo’s books is amazing.

  • Robin K
    December 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

    The books look fantastic. Please enter me as well 🙂

  • alana
    December 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I got to second Mia. lol

  • Stephanie
    December 27, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Love the post, Malinda! I also thoroughly enjoyed White Cat. I’m also embarassed that I haven’t read Ash yet even though it’s been on my to-read list for months!

    Also, I just want to thank Ana and Thea for having such a great blog. I’ve been a lurker for a while now, and this is my fist post. I check everyday for new updates 😀

  • jpetroroy
    December 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Can’t wait to read Huntress. Thanks for you recommendations, Malinda!

  • Noobling
    December 27, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Nice to see more and more Asian-American writers in the speculative fiction field. Thank you so much for a second chance at this; I was so disappointed I didn’t win Huntress earlier. Please enter me in the contest, my fingers are crossed!

  • Kelsey
    December 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I got the chance to meet Malinda Lo earlier this year, and she was lovely! I am eagerly awaiting the chance to read Huntress.

    Though at the rate that this blog is giving me recommendations, I’m not sure I’ll ever keep up! x

  • Marie
    December 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Ash has been on my to-be-bought list for awhile, but the already-bought TBR stack has taken precedence. I’d love to add both of these books to the tower!

  • Tiffany M.
    December 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I’m looking forward to the next book by Holly Black, too! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Terra Mae
    December 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    This is a great giveaway. I just added these books to my to read list, just incase I don’t win 😉 Thanks for the opportunity to read some great books! They both sound amazing. 😆

  • Jeannie Lin
    December 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’m glad I stopped by just to learn about the Diversity in YA tour. I loved Silver Phoenix and I’m hoping there will be a tour stop in the Midwest somewhere in the vicinity of St. Louis…if you’re taking requests. 🙂

  • Poppy
    December 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    That is a gorgeous cover for Ash!

    Great Giveaway!

    I really loved Ash, it was one of my favorite reads for 2010.

  • Kristen
    December 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Ash and Huntress both sound wonderful. The former is already on the wish list, but I’ll have to add Huntress too because I really like the sound of it!

  • wandering-dreamer
    December 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hope that they manage to swing by NC on the tour and now I gotta remember to pick up Huntress next year.

  • Kristen H.
    December 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    What a fabulous giveaway. I had the great fortune of meeting Malinda two summers ago at ALA and she was fantastic. I can’t wait to read Huntress! 🙂

  • April
    December 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I definitely want to read Ash and Huntress as well as all of the other books Malinda Lo mentioned.

    It’s amazing how many great books came out this year and how many equally great looking ones are coming out in 2011.

  • Teri C.
    December 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Oh gosh, Ash was amazing. I cannot wait for Huntress!
    I loved the growth of Ash and how the characters interacted and began to fall for each other. I loved the rich world building.
    With several family members in same sex relationships I loved that this book us brining that element into the world in books.
    Thank you for writing such a rich and beautiful book.

  • Breanne M.
    December 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Ash is alread in my TBR pile but I LOVE the UK cover too, and would love to own it as well. Thanks for the contest!

  • Andrea
    December 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Can’t wait to read Huntress, I loved Ash when I read it earlier this year.

  • Sara M
    December 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I absolutely loved Ash and am eagerly anticipating Huntress!

  • Amanda Lee
    December 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    “Ash” is on my to-read list, and the UK cover looks amazing!

  • Adrienne
    December 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    I loved Ash and told as many people to read it as I possibly could. Huntress looks amazing (and pretty cover!). Thanks for the give away

  • Lillian Maloney
    December 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Super excited to read Huntress as I loved Ash to death!

  • Ashleigh
    December 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I would absolutely love to get my hands on those books. I just discovered how totally awesome LGBT books can be and I want to find more good ones! Ash and Huntress sounds like they’ll fit the bill.

  • Rachel
    December 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    These look so good! I’ll definitely hunt them down at my local library.

  • Audra Holtwick
    December 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Pleas I would love to read these books – i like the new take on the cinderella story

  • Scribe Kira
    December 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    SOOOOOOOOOO excited to read these books!!! they look fantastic!!!! 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

  • Erin
    December 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I enjoy that the blogosphere is full of year end round-ups. I loved Ash and can’t wait to read Huntress!

  • Doreen R
    December 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Yippee! What a treat. Thanks and Happy almost new year.

  • sylviasybil
    December 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Ash has been on my to-buy list for a while so it would be fantastic to win a copy!

  • SaraC
    December 27, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I’ve heard fantastic things about Ash – it looks like a great book!

  • Bethie
    December 27, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway. I can’t decide if I like the US or the UK cover for Ash better. They are both so good.

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    December 27, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Please enter me in contest. I am a follower and email subscriber. I would love to read the books.

  • Dottie
    December 27, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    New author and books to me, can’t wait to try them!

    Thanks for a great giveaway!

    Dottie 🙂

  • Linda Henderson
    December 27, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I would love to read both books. I like the sounds of both of them. Great covers too.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  • vvb
    December 27, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    have had my eye on the passage for awhile. glad to hear about the character development.

    i’m getting excited for the huntress!

  • Aliyah W
    December 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I received an ARC of Huntress and enjoyed reading it-but a signed copy would be even more awesome! Plus, I haven’t read Ash yet, so this is my chance =)

  • Caitlin George
    December 27, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I’ve really wanted to pick up a copy of Ash for a while! I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it! Thanks so much for the giveaway 😀

  • jennie m
    December 28, 2010 at 12:50 am

    i just put ash in my amazon cart, so i would love to win it here! thanks for the contest!

    (also, i’m really excited to see lbgt relationships being explored in YA literature. this year i really enjoyed will grayson, will grayson, and what they always tell us.)

    thanks for the great post! happy smugglivus!

  • Jen
    December 28, 2010 at 5:53 am

    Can you please enter me? I would love to get a chance to read Ash!

  • Marlene Breakfield
    December 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

    The books sound awesome. Please enter me in the giveaway.

  • Megan
    December 28, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’ve heard such great things about Ash, so I’d love to win this giveaway!
    mearley1979 at gmail dot com

  • Dana
    December 28, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I’ll read “Ash” one way or another but I hope I win it!

  • Amy
    December 28, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Ooh, so White Cat’s sequel is Red Glove? Hmm, I should stay updated on these things. Though the cover does look different from White Cat; it looks more like an adult book than a YA book…

  • jennifer
    December 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

    omg i was going to buy this book 2 days ago!

  • Su
    December 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

    That tour sounds like a great idea! Please enter me in the contest. =) Thanks.

    December 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    i am like the only person on earth who hasn’t read ash, so sign me up!

  • Kaethe
    December 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’m insanely excited at the possibility that one of the girls in Huntress might have her name pronounced like mine.

  • Haley
    December 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Ash and Huntress both soundsamazing! I’d love to read them!

  • RK Charron
    December 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you to Malinda for the great post.
    Happy New Year!

  • CC
    December 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, please! I would love me some Melinda Lo. Can’t wait for Huntress!

  • Lisa
    December 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Would love to win this. Thanks!!

  • Melanie L
    December 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I have heard so many great things about Malinda Lo’s books. I would love to read them.

  • Rachel
    December 29, 2010 at 12:17 am

    I’ve been dying to read “Ash” forever, and “Huntress” looks equally awesome!

  • Stacy
    December 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read Ash for a long time. I’d love to win it!

  • Katie
    December 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I heard about Ash and thought it sounded really good: I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Thanks for another great giveaway!

  • Suzanne
    December 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Because of you guys, and your amazing guest bloggers, my TBR list is filled with enough books to leave me broke the next time i step into a bookstore. I have not read Ash yet, but i hope to do so soon.
    Sadly, my city is not one of the stops for the diversity in YA tour. 🙁

  • Isabeleeta
    December 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks for offering this contest. Ash is a book I look forward to reading in the coming year.

  • heatwave16
    December 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Ash sounds amazing, and I am definitely going to pick it up in the near future. I have some Christmas gift cards to cash in. 🙂


  • DragonRose
    December 30, 2010 at 12:29 am

    I am so excited for Huntress and Red Glove!
    Have a happy 2011! Take Luck! 😛

  • Throuthehaze
    December 30, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I have been wanting to read Ash for quite awhile now 🙂

  • A'lina
    December 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve got both books on my wishlist. They sound awesome and the covers are gorgeous. I can’t wait to read them! Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • InnocentButler
    December 31, 2010 at 7:33 am

    The book sounds terrific–those covers are amazing.

  • Chelsea B.
    December 31, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Your books sound great, Malinda! I love finding new authors to read!

  • Shannon S
    December 31, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    just finished ash, it was unexpectedly really good and the other suggestions sound great!

  • Sandra Betz
    December 31, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    I would love to read Ash and Huntress – my curiosity is delightfully overwhelming – Thanks

  • Hann1bal
    January 1, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Bart: What’s your name?
    Jim: My name’s Jim, but most people call me…[long pause] Jim.
    Blazing Saddles

  • Tina
    January 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Huntress both looks and sounds awesome: the cover is beautiful and the synopsis sounds really interesting. I keep going to the library get Ash, but it’s always checked out. I’m sad I haven’t gotten to read it yet but happy that so many other people seem to like it!
    Thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  • InnocentButler
    January 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    This looks amazing! I would love to win.

  • The annual assessment, 2010 - Malinda Lo
    March 29, 2017 at 11:57 am

    […] go! The Book Smugglers invited me to participate in their fabulous Smugglivus celebration, where I blogged about my favorite reads of 2010. I’m also giving away a signed ARC of Huntress and a signed U.K. edition of Ash, so if […]

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