Monday, December 27, 2010

Perfect read for a snowy day

 On Sunday afternoon and evening, while the wind was blowing at 40mph and the snow was swirling around my house...

... it was the perfect atmosphere for finishing the ARC of Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (Dial, pub date: December 28, 2010 -- tomorrow! -- and fine for ages 12 and up).

Wow!  What an exciting read!  Catherine Fisher does an excellent job of world-building. This is the kind of futuristic fantasy novel that makes me despair of ever being able to write well.  Several storylines interweave to create a richly-textured narrative that makes us question everything. 

First, we see Attia and Keiro, still trapped within the dark, chaotic world of the living prison that is Incarceron.  They'll do anything to find a way Out.  They meet an eccentric magician named Rix who claims to have the glove of Sapphique, the legendary prisoner who Escaped long ago.

Next, Claudia tries to prepare Finn for his coronation as Prince Giles.  But is he the true Prince Giles? Why can't he remember more of his past? How will he prove he's the real prince when a Pretender, supported by the Queen, appears and claims the title for himself?

Finally, Jared, Claudia's tutor and a Sapient, who is struggling with his own illness, attempts to find a way to fix the portal, damaged by the Warden when he disappeared into Incarceron.  Jared thinks he may have an answer to all their problems, especially when a disaster occurs in the Realm.

The living prison of Incarceron is, of course, amazing, especially when it begins to search for a way to escape itself, but what I find most fascinating about Fisher's world is the Realm, a vaguely-18th-century world where since the Years of Rage, nearly everyone observes Protocol, wearing long gowns or breeches and powdered wigs, riding in horse-drawn wagons, and ignoring the techno-gadgetry behind it all.  Kind of a Williamsburg gone mad.  Do you think people would ever be willing to go back -- or pretend to go back -- to a simpler time?  

If you've never read Incarceron, you definitely should start there. If you've already read the first book, grab a copy of Sapphique and enjoy the sophisticated plot and the fine writing.

On a side note, a movie is being made of Incarceron, supposedly with Taylor Lautner as Finn.  I refused to picture him when I read Sapphique, because I already had a firm image in my mind from reading the earlier novel, and that image wasn't of any particular film actor.  

Do you picture movie stars when you're reading a book?  Or does your mind create an original image?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Wish You A Merry Christmas (along with the flash mobs)

Off topic: 
Thanks to Elizabeth Bluemle over at the ShelfTalker blog 
for the link to this YouTube video from November 2010: 


And here's another flash mob* from March 2009 in Antwerp, Belgium:

Hope these make you smile.  To those who celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful holiday!

*According to Wikipedia, "a flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then disperse." 

What do you think?  Are flash mobs entertaining or annoying?  Are they the next social revolution?  And can the above examples even be called flash mobs or are they simply performance art?  

Police in Philadelphia have had trouble with flash mobs that turned violent. Should we come up with a different name for the musical performances that have entertainment value and are not the least bit dangerous?
Is there a book idea in there somewhere?

Questions to ponder after Christmas.  I'll be spending the next few days enjoying my family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, by Josh Berk (Feb 2010, Knopf, ages 12 and up).

Will Halpin is the new kid in school.  Okay, so what sets this book aside from other high school books about the new kid?  Well, to start with, Will's overweight. 

And then there's the fact that he's deaf. 

Will transfers from his all-deaf high school to a mainstream Pennsylvania high school because he feels he no longer fits in at his old school. Carbon High can't afford to hire an interpreter, but Will can read lips really well, so the teachers are supposed to seat him where he can see them and the faces of his classmates.  Sitting in the corner isn't exactly helping his chances at popularity. Most kids snub him.  Some of the teachers, like the hot Miss Prefontaine, make fun of him.  Devon Smiley is the only kid who talks to him, and Devon's low on the food chain himself. 

Lip-reading, especially on the school bus, turns out to be an amazing way to learn about your fellow students.  And Will quickly realizes that popular jock Pat Chamberlain is having a party and using a deck of playing cards to invite his friends. It's also easy for Will to figure out who the cool kids are, including Leigha Pennington, Purple Phimmul, Derrick Jonker, and A.J. Fischel. 

In history class, Will discovers there was a famous deaf coal miner, also named Will Halpin. Was he a relative?  Why have Will's parents kept him in the dark?

The class goes on a field trip to a coal mine and a popular student falls to his death. Will realizes there are a lot of suspects. The police interview everyone, including Will and Devon, but can't seem to solve the murder. Can Will and Devon team up to figure out who the killer is? Or will the wrong person get arrested?

The mystery of the deaf coal miner adds an interesting layer to Will's search for himself.  And the murder mystery ratchets the story up another notch, making it a real page-turner.

Yet even if this book were just about Will trying to fit in to a new school it would be worth the price, because Will seems like a real kid, smart, sarcastic and with a great sense of self-deprecating humor ("...a guy with the body of a sedentary manatee."). He's also sharply observant of his fellow students and comes up with appropriate nicknames for them all.  Even if it's been a while since you were in high school, you'll recognize the students, the teachers, and even the bus driver (Jimmy Porkrinds is hilarious!).

To learn more about Josh Berk, visit his website and also be sure to check out Donna Gambale's recap over at The First Novels Club of the recent signing with Josh Berk and Amy King (author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz -- which I reviewed here).  Thanks, Donna!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- Boom!

Shannon Whitney Messenger started this awesome meme and I'm slipping in to recommend another marvelous middle grade book from May 2010 that you may have overlooked. BOOM!

No, I'm not trying to startle you. 

That's the name of the book.

And you'll notice it's written by Mark Haddon, he of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time fame.  Yep.  Same Mark Haddon.

Which means this book is very British. And I applaud Random House for NOT Americanizing it. Yay!  I believe we should give kids some credit and let them figure out this stuff themselves.  Okay, so a biro is a pen and plasters are Band-aids. (I lived in England for a year, so I know some Brit slang.)  If kids don't know these and other terms, they can Google them or get it from context.  Right? 

Kids ages 8 to 12 (and especially boys) should give this book a try because it's freaking hilarious.  Jim and his best friend Charlie overhear two of their teachers speaking a strange foreign language after school.  They say things like "Toller bandol venting," and "Loy garting dendle." 


It doesn't take Jim and Charlie very long to figure out their teachers are aliens. There are a lot of shenanigans involving food, policemen, motorcycles, Jim's sister Becky, her cretin of a boyfriend, and a certain loch in Scotland.  The chapter titles alone are worth the price of the book.  I won't spoil this for you by going any further. 

Just find a copy and read it. 

Chances are good I won't be posting a MMGM post for the next few weeks because I'm up to my eyeballs in Christmas preparations (still haven't done my cards -- AGH!) and of course, I'm exhausted from increased hours at work (this is a bookseller's busiest time of year).  I'm also catching up on YA reading right now and *blushes* haven't read any new MG novels

I did, however, manage to finish revising my third draft of my own MG fantasy novel.  And I'm now putting it on a back burner to simmer gently.  For several months.  Or a year.  Hope it doesn't boil over.

What about you?  Are you accomplishing what you need to this December?  And here's a different question: Do you think British kids' books should be Americanized, or not?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What booksellers wish publishers knew

This may become a regular feature on the blog because I have a lot of pet peeves about the publishing industry. Like why those cardboard display dumps never lock in properly and always end up falling over.  And why pop-up books are the bane of a bookseller's existence.

But right now I want to talk about holiday gifts.  Yes, it's that time of year (and I'm sorry I just missed saying Happy Hanukkah to everyone who celebrates that holiday -- hope it was great!).  The bookstore where I work is in a mid-size Pennsylvania town, not a big city, and most of our customers tend to be grandparents buying books for their grandchildren, so a NYC editor may not be thinking along the same lines.  But here's my problem:


They may be fantastic reads.  Look at The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, for instance, which is on my TBR pile and has gotten lots of good buzz.  Or look at You by Charles Benoit.  The latter blew me away.  Talk about compelling.  Reading You is like watching a car accident happen in slow motion. You're fascinated and you can't turn away. 

But does it make a good Christmas gift?  Hell, no!  Not to a sweet little old lady looking for something for her 14-year-old grandson.

And Paranormalcy by Kiersten White is one of the funniest, sexiest (without being raunchy) YA novels I've read this year.

I've tried to handsell it to plenty of people this month, to no avail.  Why? The cover makes it LOOK dark and scary.  If it had a brighter, lighter cover (think of something Evie uses that's pink with rhinestones), I'd probably have sold dozens. Grandmas want something that looks sweet, like Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski.

And then I have a related problem.  There's a wonderful, inspiring book called The Running Dream (which I reviewed here).  It would make a great gift for any tween or teen girl.

But it pubs in January. 

January!  This is useless to me when I'm recommending Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for people.

When will publishers start listening to booksellers, the people in the front lines?  Humph. 

Okay, I'll get down off my soapbox now and stop acting like Scrooge. 

A hearty welcome to my new followers.  I'm glad you're here.  And I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, or Winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrate.  The next two weeks will be my busiest at work, so I may not post as often (although I hope to be back on Monday with a hilarious MMGM recommendation).

What about you?  Anything in the publishing industry you want to rant about?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- No Passengers Beyond This Point

The amazing Shannon Whitney Messenger started this meme and I wish I'd thought of it first bow to her genius.  Hooray for Middle Grade!!  Be sure to check out all the other MMGM posts today: one from Shannon O'Donnell, another from Myrna Foster and also from Elle Strauss.  It's a veritable Middle Grade Love Fest!  You do know that Middle Grade is the new YA, right?

Add this one to your TBR list:  NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT by Gennifer Choldenko, coming in February 2011 from Dial Books for Young Readers.  (Yes, she's the Newbery-winning author of Al Capone Does My Shirts.)  Like a modern-day Wizard of Oz, this book will swoop in and carry you away. Buckle yourself in and hold tight!

Twelve-year-old Finn has always been a worrier.  As the only guy in his household, he feels responsible for his mother, his older sister India and his younger sister, Mouse (real name: Geneva).  But when Mom tells them she's lost the house to foreclosure, and she's sending them to Colorado to stay with Uncle Red, Finn and his sisters have to work together to survive an even more urgent crisis.  Because where the plane ends up definitely isn't Colorado.  They know something's wrong when the plane lands early and they're met by a driver named Chuck. He drives a shocking pink taxi adorned with white feathers.  Yes, you read that right. Feathers.  Worse, Chuck has never heard of Uncle Red.

No Passengers Beyond This Point is one strange trip indeed. The three siblings, who take turns telling the story, find themselves in a place called Falling Bird, where they are greeted by adoring crowds and each given a house of their own.

For one night.

After that, it's someone else's turn to be met and adored.  The siblings are offered jobs if they want to stay in Falling Bird.  And this is where the book really begins to get its talons into you.  Should they stay?  India certainly wants to.  Can Finn and Mouse convince India they need to go home -- wherever home may be?

This is one of those books that resonates long after you finish reading it.  I read it a few weeks ago, and I'm STILL thinking about it.  The ending may send chills up your spine.  Even if you think you can guess what's going on here -- you'll probably be at least slightly wrong.  Because things are not what they seem.

What Middle Grade marvels have YOU read recently?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What should I read next?

You may remember, waaay back in July (actually, I can't even remember back that far -- I had to go look at my blog archive, heh heh), I posted this post about the first 49 books I'd read this year.  Go take a look.  I'll wait... *drums fingers on desk*

Oh, good, you remembered to come back!  Whew!

And then there was Psst! Wanna hear a secret? in which I confessed I'd never read Anne of Green Gables.

Well.... Guess what?

Here's the rest of what I've read so far in 2010.  (And yes, I'm woefully heavy on the fiction, and yes, I read very few adult books.)  Please note that most of these were ARCs, aside from the obvious ones (I mean, wow, can you imagine owning an ARC of #99?):

50. Plain Kate - Erin Bow
51. Scumble - Ingrid Law
52. Matched - Ally Condie

53. Bleachers - John Grishham
54. Sophie Simon Solves Them All - Lisa Graff
55. The Candymakers - Wendy Mass
56. Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare
57. Girl Parts - John Cusick
58. As Simple as it Seems -- Sarah Weeks
59. You - Charles Benoit
60. Paranormalcy - Kiersten White

61. My Abandonment - Peter Rock
62. Hunger - Jackie Morse Kessler
63. Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
64. Blue Fire - Janice Hardy
65. The Unidentified - Rae Mariz
66. Nightshade City - Hilary Wagner
67. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
68. Moon Over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool

69. Fortune of Carmen Navarro - Jen Bryant
70. Payback Time - Carl Deuker
71. Haven - Kristi Cook
72. Steps Across the Water - Adam Gopnik
73. Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld
74. Carnival of Lost Souls - Laura Quimby
75. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Browne & King
76. The Mermaid's Mirror - L.K. Madigan
77. Annexed - Sharon Dogar
78. On the Blue Comet - Rosemary Wells
79. A Finders-Keepers Place - Ann Haywood Leal
80. Delirium - Lauren Oliver
81. Where She Went - Gayle Forman
82. Please Ignore Vera Dietz - A.S. King

83. A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
84. Three Quarters Dead - Richard Peck
85. One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia
86. The Mockingbirds - Daisy Whitney
87. Claim to Fame - Margaret Peterson Haddix
88. The Running Dream - Wendelin Van Draanen
89. Unearthly - Cynthia Hand
90. Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg - Rodman Philbrick
91. Like the Willow Tree (Dear America) - Lois Lowry
92. No Passengers Beyond This Point - Gennifer Choldenko
93. Nightshade - Andrea Cremer

94. The Red Umbrella - Christina Diaz Gonzalez
95. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
96. Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Paul Curtis
97. Museum of Thieves - Lian Tanner
98. Boom! - Mark Haddon
99. Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery

Yep.  I'm reading Anne right now.  Well, not at this exact moment, no. Don't be silly. But this weekend. And, my, how times have changed.  Lucy Maud Montgomery doesn't introduce her main character until PAGE 10!  And just think about all that lovely description, the kind we're not supposed to write anymore. And the adverbs - oh my! But it works, because she tells a good story, with memorable characters.
So, when I finish that, what should I read next?  You'll notice the last 4 books on the list are MG.  Next up should be a YA, don't ya think?

Should I read:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins?
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff?
Trash by Andy Mulligan?
Any other wonderful suggestions?

And what's on your TBR list?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I did it!

Throughout the month of November, Tara Lazar hosted a wonderful event called PiBoIdMo.  That's short for Picture Book Idea Month.  I suppose Tara started this for those who prefer to think about picture books instead of novels during November when all those brave novel-writers are struggling through NaNoWriMo (although some people participated in both!).

This was the first year I participated in PiBoIdMo (thanks to my writing group for the nudge) and I did it -- I came up with 30 (actually a few more) sparkly new ideas for picture books.  Some of them are just titles, some have characters and a conflict already, some are variations on a theme.  But it's enough to keep me busy for the next year (along with starting to write my second novel -- I'm a slow novel writer so NaNoWriMo isn't my cup of tea).

What about you?  Did you participate in either event?  Did you complete your task?  Would you try it again next year?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Ah yes.  I'm getting into the act.  Shannon Whitney Messenger has an awesome meme she calls Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Hop on over to her blog because she has a great contest going on there right now.  Kudos to Shannon for shining a light on middle grade, since YA seems to get more attention online.  She has lots of marvelous middle grade posts, so I won't link to all of them, but here's what I believe is the first one.  So you can find out how this awesomeness started.

And it's catching.  The other Shannon, Shannon O'Donnell, has a marvelous post too.  And another one.

I was about to post a review of two middle-grade books anyway, so, heh heh, I'll just call them Marvelous and add my two cents. My apologies if you read other reviews of these months ago.  I just discovered them recently.

Both have terrific Newbery potential and the awards will be announced in January.  That's why I think they deserve a look now, if you haven't already read them.

First up, we have The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Knopf, May 2010).

The setting is Cuba in 1961.  Lucia is 14 years old and just wants to go to the beach, hang out with her friends, and dream of her first crush.  But the revolution that started in 1959 takes a dangerous turn.  Soldiers begin to appear on every street corner. Neighbors disappear.  Freedoms are taken away.  Lucia's parents decide to send Lucia and her little brother Frankie to the USA, where they will be safe in foster care.  

They're taken in by a kindly older couple who run a farm in Nebraska. Nebraska is nothing like Cuba.  It's cold!  The food is way different.  Although Lucia knows some English, it's hard to understand people.  And then she and Frankie have to adapt to a new school.

Why is the book called The Red Umbrella?  Back in Cuba, Mama had a large red umbrella.  It always embarrassed Lucia because it was so big and so red.  There are two wonderful moments involving this red umbrella that might make you cry, but you'll be smiling through your tears.

A sweet and touching historical fiction novel that deserves to at least win a Newbery honor.  Lucia is a likable character who learns a lot about the meaning of home.  You'll learn a lot about Cuba and the time period, while enjoying a fast-paced read.

Second is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, February 2010), which has gotten a lot of Newbery buzz among librarians and booksellers.  It also deserves to win.   Like The Red Umbrella, this is historical fiction, set in the 1960s.  Also like The Red Umbrella, this is about a girl being sent far away from home and learning something new.

Delphine is 11 years old in 1968.  She and her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern live in Brooklyn with Papa and Big Mama (their grandmother).  Papa decides to send them to Oakland California to spend the summer with the mother they barely remember.

Cecille is cold and distant.  She won't cook for them or even let them in the kitchen, because it's where she keeps her printing press.  She writes and publishes poems under the name Nzila, and she's friendly with the Black Panthers.

In fact, Cecille sends all three girls to a summer camp in the city that's run by the Black Panthers.  They learn about rights and revolution, and they also get free food.  One of the best lines in the book is on page 73, when nine-year-old Vonetta says, "We didn't come for the revolution.  We came for breakfast."

Despite that, they end up learning a lot about their rights and about revolution.  Mostly, though, this is a story about family relationships and love.  The three sisters have a wonderful rapport, and constantly finish each others' sentences.  It's like poetry. From page 77: "When my sisters and I speak, it's like a song we sing, a game we play.  We never need to pass signals."  This is so true-to-life, it's inspiring.  Although Delphine is clearly the protagonist, all three girls come to life.  This is marvelous writing.

What marvelous middle grade novels have you read recently?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In which I am seduced by a cover -- or two

Okay, I admit it.  I bought a copy of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (Philomel, Oct 2010, for ages 12 and up) because the cover was just so luscious.  (Well, and also because one of my teen friends reviewed it for me and said she stayed up until one in the morning to finish it.)

Then I read it and was drawn in by the writing. Calla's world is fully-realized. Andrea Cremer has a PhD in early modern history and the book is sprinkled with sophisticated references to Locke, Hobbes, and other philosophers. You might even learn a little Latin!  But this isn't some dry, dusty treatise -- it's a paranormal romance, so witchcraft and shapeshifting abound, along with plenty of action, suspense and longing (lots of kissing, and it's fine for 12 year olds).

What struck me, though, were the similarities between Nightshade and another book I'd just read: the ARC of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (coming in January 2011 from Harper, for ages 12 and up).

1) They're both paranormal romances.

2) They both have pretty purple covers.

3) Both girls, Calla in Nightshade, and Clara in Unearthly, fall in love with human boys.  Even these girls' names are similar.

4) Both books have a strong sense of place.  I've never been to either Vail, Colorado or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but after reading these books, I feel I could recognize these towns.  And now I want to go there. The writing is so good that the setting becomes a character in each of these books.  

5) Although one book is about shapeshifting werewolves and one is about angels, both are about girls fulfilling their destinies as special beings with powers.

Differences?  Calla has always known her destiny as a Guardian who serves the Keepers, but Clara didn't find out until recently that she's part angel and has a "purpose" to fulfill.

By chance, Calla saves a human boy from a bear in the first chapter of Nightshade (ah, the first chapter is all action and no telling, just the way I like it). The human happened to be hiking on the mountain where Calla (in wolf form) was patrolling.  She thinks her destiny in life has nothing to do with this human boy, but rather with another shapeshifter, an alpha male named Ren.

In Unearthly, Clara has just learned that her entire purpose in life has something to do with a boy and a forest fire.  The vision is vague at first but it's important enough that Clara, her younger brother and their mother (all angels, of course) uproot themselves and move from California to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, based on the license plate in Clara's vision.

I won't spoil the plot of either by going any further.  Just pick them up and read them.  You may not stay up until one in the morning, but you might be tempted.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dear America is Back!

Okay, so maybe it never went away, but for a while the Dear America series didn't seem as popular at the bookstore.  Now they've been reissued with sparkling new covers (which is a smart move on Scholastic's part). 

Compare this for instance:

to this new cover:

Much better, wouldn't you agree?

I've always avoided actually READING the Dear America series because I thought the books looked rather boring.  Then this ARC of a brand new Dear America book fell into my lap:

It's called Dear America: Like the Willow Tree, The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce (coming January 2011 from Scholastic, for ages 8 to 14).

And it's written by LOIS LOWRY.  Yes, that Lois Lowry.

It takes place in Portland, Maine, during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.  Lydia and her older brother Daniel are orphaned by the epidemic and taken to live with the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake. 

The Shakers do everything differently.  Lydia isn't allowed to talk to her brother, because men and women are kept apart.  Her beloved copy of The Secret Garden is taken away from her because no one is allowed to own things.  But Sister Jennie, the older Shaker who is in charge of the young girls, reads the book aloud to all of them while they work, so Lydia still gets to hear the story.

Lydia doesn't understand at first why she can't go talk to Daniel.  And when Sister Jennie demands Lydia's ring, saying "we Shakers do not ornament ourselves," Lydia screams at her and calls her names. Gradually, Lydia grows to accept this new way of life, but her brother Daniel can't handle it and runs away.

It's not The Giver, but I found it entertaining and I learned a great deal about the Shaker community.

Have you read any interesting historical fiction recently?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

They're Lining Up on the Tarmac

My shiny new ideas, that is.

I'm halfway through revising my first novel, a 36,000-word middle grade fantasy. When I'm finished this revision, I'm putting it away for a good long while.  Maybe a year.  It, uh, reeks royally has a few problems.

In the meantime, shiny new ideas are clamoring for takeoff inside my brain (Laurie Halse Anderson said recently on PW's Shelftalker blog that if you've seen popcorn popping you know what it's like inside her head -- I used to use the same analogy for my own idea-filled brain, but lately it's more like huge jets awaiting takeoff clearance).

So I have these shiny new (and somewhat noisy) ideas:

 -- Another 1st-person middle grade novel
but a realistic, contemporary one

-- A chapter book mystery, in 3rd person

        -- A YA, told in 1st person by a 16-yr-old guy.

How do I know which one should take flight next?  

How do YOU decide?

(I'd also would like to welcome new followers Medeia and Amie.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Running Dream

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen is coming in January 2011 from Knopf, for ages 12 and up.

Jessica Carlisle is a junior in high school and a track star.  She sets a new record in the 400 meter during an away meet.  Then on the bus ride home, there's a terrible accident.  One girl loses her life.

But Jessica loses her leg.

I know what you're thinking.  Whoa!  A track star losing her leg?  That's terrible! What a downer of a book!  You couldn't be more wrong. This book is full of determination and hope and even lots of humor. The story of how Jessica heals and learns to walk with a prosthetic leg and meets a new friend named Rose is a story you won't soon forget.  It's not as much about running as it is about facing and dealing with adversity.

I am so impressed by this book.  It breezes along as fast as a race around a track.  Lots of one-sentence paragraphs and a present-tense narrative make it a super fast read.  But more importantly, you feel as if you're reading an actual memoir by a real teen named Jessica Carlisle. The voice is that authentic. In fact, I feverishly checked the acknowledgments, thinking surely Wendelin Van Draanen simply interviewed Jessica Carlisle and then wrote up her story.  Easy peasy. 

But this is a work of fiction. There is no Jessica. According to her own blog, Wendelin worked with experts in four different fields.  It involved a ton of research and she almost didn't want to tackle the book because of that.  I'm really glad she did.

This story of working through a difficult situation gives me the perfect segue for a mini brain aneurysm lesson.  If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm a survivor of a ruptured brain aneurysm.  And like Jessica, I had a long healing process.  But it was nothing compared to what some others have gone through.  As a brain aneurysm survivor, I've "met" many other survivors online.  One of the most amazing is Greg Wagner.  This young man, now in his 20s, was only 3 years old when his aneurysm ruptured.  He's managed to graduate from college, earn a blue belt in taekwondo and complete four marathons, despite continuing problems with nerve damage, balance and coordination.

Like Jessica and her friend Rose in The Running Dream, Greg Wagner wants us to see the person, not the disability.

What are you reading that's amazing?

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Drink of Water


If you love short middle grade novels written in spare, unemotional prose, you need to read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Clarion, Nov 2010, for ages 10 and up).   At a slim 120 pages (Note: I read the ARC), this is so short and flows so smoothly, you're almost sorry when it's finished.

You probably drank a glass of tap water or a bottle of spring water in the last few hours. Where did it come from?  Was it clean?  A Long Walk to Water makes you realize just how lucky you are. Many third world countries do not have easy access to water.  And what the people drink is often muddy and contaminated.

A Long Walk to Water takes place in Southern Sudan.  Expertly-crafted, it's actually two parallel stories in one.  First we meet Nya in 2008.  Tall for her eleven years, she's responsible for walking barefoot many miles to bring back water for her family.  She carries a jar on her head.  And she does this twice every day, for a total of eight hours of walking.  Every day. 

Second, we meet Salva, an eleven-year-old boy in 1985, during the Sudanese Civil War.  He's in school one day when gunfire erupts outside. His teacher tells the boys to run into the bush, not home to their village where the soldiers will go next. Salva runs until he can't run anymore, and then walks for hours.  Away from home.  He joins other refugees, heading east to Ethiopia.  Salva becomes one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and will end up walking for years before finding a home. 

How these dual narratives merge near the very end is breathtaking. 

Linda Sue Park (author of A Single Shard and other memorable novels) based this book on Salva Dut's own written accounts and on many hours of interviews with him. 

Have YOU read any books this year that were based on a true story?  I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ten Reasons to Pay Attention to Vera Dietz

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Knopf, Oct 12, 2010, for ages 14 and up. Includes mature content).


1.  The voice of the 18-year-old narrator is spot-on.  She's sardonic, smart, sarcastic and very real.  By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this is a story about a girl desperately trying to survive her senior year in high school by flying under the radar as she always has. But she's barely holding it together because her best friend Charlie has betrayed her and then died in suspicious circumstances.  Suddenly Vera starts seeing him everywhere.  He even talks to her (trying to convince her to go to the authorities and tell what she knows about his death).  He even occasionally talks to us ("A Brief Word From the Dead Kid"). 

2. If you're a writer, you'll appreciate the the masterful juggling of the non-linear plot.  I don't know how Amy King does this, but it's extremely well done.  She goes back and forth in time, revealing little by little what happened in the past and what's happening now, the week after Charlie's funeral.

3. Have you ever been to Reading, PA?  You'll recognize the setting of this novel (even though she doesn't call the town Reading, so it's a fictional version).  The Pagoda even becomes a character in a few chapters ("A Brief Word From the Pagoda").  If what the Pagoda says is true about the percentage of children who go hungry in that town, it's chilling.

4. Shortest prologue ever.

5. Occasional short chapters from not only Charlie and the Pagoda, but also from Vera's father, Ken Dietz, an accountant who thinks flow charts can help you get through life, and who has actually managed to do an all right job as a single dad.  You can see how much he cares about Vera.

6.  Vera is a "pizza delivery technician" and the details about the pizza place are so right, I could  swear I smelled pizza sauce while reading this.  Vera's struggling to earn enough money to put herself through college and she still manages to keep up her grades.  She's tough, she's funny, and you find yourself cheering her on.

7.  A.S. King (also known as Amy) is a champion of Indie bookstores.  Woo hoo!

8.  And she's not afraid to tackle some very tough issues -- domestic abuse (Charlie's family), underage drinking, drugs, child porn -- yet it's never gratuitious. Despite the whisper of paranormalcy here (um, you know, Charlie keeps showing up and he's, uh... DEAD), this is a very realistic look at today's society.

9. Treehouses are cool.  Vera and Charlie built one in Charlie's yard when they were younger and Charlie was basically living in before he died.  And there's a secret hidden in Charlie's treehouse.

10.  I'm going out on a limb here, heh heh, and predicting that this book will win an award.  I'd wager at least a Printz honor.  If I'm wrong, tell the Pagoda, not me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Those Chewing Children

Bookseller rant of the week:

What on earth makes people think it's okay to bring toddlers into the children's department of a bookstore and let them and their new teeth loose on the toys and books?

At least I'm not the only person who grumbles about this. Eugenia Williamson of The Boston Phoenix started her October 13th article about careers in the book industry with this wonderful quote:

"Some people visit bookstores so their children can chew objects outside the home."

Yay, Eugenia!  Your sarcasm hit the nail on the head.

This definitely calls for Teeth Are Not For Biting -- a board book by Elizabeth Verdick, published in 2003 by Free Spirit Press.  Other titles in the series include Feet Are Not For Kicking and Germs Are Not For Sharing, also by Verdick, and Hands Are Not For Hitting, by Martine Agassi.

Have you noticed a distinct lack of manners among little kids these days? Do you think books like this help, or do you think parents need to step up?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pssst! Wanna hear a secret?

Come a little closer. I'm embarrassed to say this too loud.

Lean in a little so I can whisper it.

Okay, that's better.  You see, um, I have this embarrassing secret.  I mean, it's pretty bad for a Children's Bookseller who's read, like, over a thousand books, and is supposed to be an expert on the books she sells.


I've never read Anne of Green Gables.

Nope.  Never.

Devoured plenty of other classics, like The Secret Garden and The Jungle Book, and more modern classics like Charlotte's Web and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Giver. And lots of contemporary books that are destined to become classics. Books like Savvy and When You Reach Me and Maniac Magee.

But I've never read Anne of Green Gables.  In fact, when librarian Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 Productions over at School Library Journal announced the Top 100 Children's Novels of All Time in April of this year (and, hey, keep checking her website because she's bound to do a YA poll starting possibly in February 2011),  Anne of Green Gables was the only one of the top ten books I hadn't read.  

I had a customer last week who wondered if it would be a good choice for her granddaughter who likes historical fiction. She asked me point blank what I thought of it.  So what could I do?  Heh heh (*cringes*).  I nodded and smiled and said, "Oh, sure, that's a great choice for your granddaughter."  (Did you notice how I worded it so I didn't actually say I'd read the book?  Sneaky of me, eh?)

Go on.  Admit it.  There's at least one classic of Children's Literature that YOU'VE never read. Right?  So tell me. What is it?  And do you think you'll ever get around to reading it?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Can you make a living writing books?

I was going to post about something entirely different today (it being 10/10/10 and all), but then I read the hilarious Maureen Johnson's post from Friday about whether or not it's possible to make a living writing books.

Maureen is the author of one of my favorite YA books of all time, 13 Little Blue Envelopes (and I'm excited to learn from her website that a sequel is arriving in May 2011).

I have to quote this passage from her Friday post that made me snort:

The reality is that the VAST MAJORITY of book writers do not make their living solely from writing books. The reality is that many advances are small, and you only write so many books in a lifetime (with the possible exception of V.C. Andrews, who has written over sixty books since her death as opposed to the six or so she wrote while alive, which is VERY IMPRESSIVE WORK).

Well, actually there were lots of passages that made me snort.  Go read it.  No, wait!  Come back. There's a question below: 

Are you an as-yet-unpublished writer like me? Do you think you'll ever make a living writing novels?  Or even nonfiction?  

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Disturbing Trend?

Today's Shelf Awareness ("daily enlightenment for the book trade") asks the question:

Has the golden age of the picture book for children passed?

Wow.  Not a good time to be writing picture books?  Shelf Awareness goes on to quote a New York Times article  which suggests not only that the economy is at fault, but also that picture books are no longer being purchased by parents who want their kids to read "big-kid" books at increasingly earlier ages.

I see this as a disturbing trend.  Picture books have always been and will always be enjoyed by kids and parents (or grandparents) together.  There should still be several years of picture book enjoyment between the board book and the Early Reader.  Sometimes there's nothing more comforting than snuggling on Mom or Dad's lap while being read to.

Of course, the New York Times article also goes on to say:
"...perennials like the Sendaks and Seusses still sell well — but publishers have scaled back the number of titles they have released in the last several years, and booksellers across the country say sales have been suffering." 

I guess I'm lucky to work for a bookstore which still sells oodles of picture books (and not just Seuss and Sendak) to parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and others who appreciate them for the stories and the artwork.  Yes, we sell fewer than we did five or ten years ago.  But they still sell.

Case in point:  the new David Wiesner book is called ART & MAX (Clarion Books, Oct 2010).  And it's sheer genius, just like Wiesner's other books.  The Caldecott committee may as well just hand him the medal now!

Will picture books survive?  The article doesn't even mention the looming spectre of the e-book, but it seems to me that picture books are one genre that still need to be produced as physical books you can hold and share with a child.  What do you think?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This new tab thingie

Okay, I think I finally got a handle on this new page tab thingie.  If something isn't working, will someone please let me know?  Trying to spruce up the blog and give it a new look.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh, Rats!

Just read a great middle great adventure story... about RATS!  Yep, that's right.  Normally, I would never go near a book about rats.  But this is packed with excitement and suspense and some memorable characters, who, well, just happen to be rats.

It's also the debut novel of a fellow blogger, Hilary Wagner.  And I think it's no coincidence that the cover boasts a blurb from Rick Riordan.  Just like THE LIGHTNING THIEF and the other Percy Jackson books, NIGHTSHADE CITY (Holiday House, October 2010, ages 9 and up) starts with action on the very first page.   There's none of the boring background information so many novelists feel they have to force on us.  Vincent and Victor Nightshade, orphaned brother rats in an underground city of rats, are on the run from the High Minister's nasty lieutenant, Billycan.  They find refuge with a group of rebel rats who knew their father. There will be strategy and conniving and lots and lots more action.  There's even a cute and clever girl rat named Clover. And I must add my deep appreciation for the character of Mother Gallo, an older female rat who has an important role to play in the upcoming battle. 

If you're a fan of the Redwall series or other animal fantasies, you should burrow into this book.  Look for Nightshade City at your local indie bookstore.

What fun middle grade animal fantasies have you read recently?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Close

Yes, it's Banned Books Week again.

Can you believe some of the books that have been banned by various groups around the USA? I mean, hello?

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary?

The Bible?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear?

Wait -- what? Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? You're kidding, right?

Nope. Apparently the State Board of Education in Texas got Bill Martin mixed up with another Bill Martin, who wrote a book called Ethical Marxism. They wanted to ban all books written by Bill Martin. And heaven forbid that we read a book to our two-year-olds which might possibly be written by a communist. Just how closed-minded are people?

On second thought, don't answer that.

There's some great stuff all over the internet right now about the evils of book banning. Read Laurie Halse Anderson's moving post about Speak. And this is the ALA's official site. I defy you not to cry when you read C.J. Redwine's post about Speak. And finally, for something lighter, here's a wonderfully sarcastic post by Liz B over at A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy.

They've all said it much better than I can.

And now, I'm going to pick up one of these banned books and start reading. Celebrate the freedom to read! Tell me -- what's YOUR favorite banned book?

Update 9/29 : I actually didn't know when I posted this yesterday that Jo Knowles has a fun meme over on her blog. Here's what you do:

1. Go find your favorite banned book.
2. Take a picture of yourself with said boo
3. Give that book some love by explaining w
hy you think it is an important book.
4. Post it to your blog.
5. Spread the word!

So here I am reading my old yellowed copy of The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

This book, more than anything else on the list, made me want to write for children. Well, that and The Secret Garden -- but that hasn't been banned as far as I know. The Professor, the silent boy, Marshall, and the mystery of who is killing neighborhood children all drew me in, of course. But April and Melanie's game itself fascinated me. I'm sure this was because when I was little my parents had a small wax bust of Nefertiti on their bookshelf.

It looked exactly like this:
I loved to look at it, even though I had no clue who she was -- but she was exotic and mysterious.

And besides that, Zilpha Keatley Snyder can write up a storm.

Spread the word! Post a pic of yourself reading YOUR favorite banned book.

And tell me about it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Scott Westerfeld is my hero. He's a master craftsman. And writes books you want to keep reading.

I've been a fan of his since I read So Yesterday in 2005. Then Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras made me love him even more.

In 2009, he switched gears with Leviathan. It was my first experience with steampunk. And I found it awesome.

Behemoth, the second volume in the Leviathan trilogy, arrives on October 5th. I've read the ARC and the story is even more exciting than Leviathan.

And, most awesome of all, I get to meet my hero on Wednesday, October 6th, when he is scheduled to appear at Chester County Book & Music Company at 7 pm (*coughcough*shameless plug for my employer*coughcough*).

If you live anywhere near the suburban Philadelphia area and you want to meet Scott Westerfeld and buy a copy of one of his books (and get it signed!), please join us.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Coming in November:

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro, by local Pennsylvania author Jen Bryant (Knopf, ages 12 and up).

And isn't that a cool cover?

As a bookseller, I'm always eager to support local authors (see my post about Dianne K. Salerni's book). The amazing Jen Bryant has written fifteen books for children, including the award-winning River of Words: the story of William Carlos Williams, and The Trial (about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping), Pieces of Georgia (which takes place in Chester County, PA and the Brandywine River Museum), Ringside 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial, and Kaleidoscope Eyes.

All of those novels were written in verse. The Fortune of Carmen Navarro, however, is a straight-forward prose narrative. This feels different from anything Jen has written before. And I love it.

Like Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater, the story is told by four different teen characters in alternating chapters. It's a compelling read, loosely based on Bizet's opera Carmen, with a modern twist. But even if you know nothing about the opera or the original novella that inspired it, you'll still be moved by this book.

Carmen is a high school dropout, working at the Quikmart with her best friend Maggie, and hoping to make it big with her band, The Gypsy Lovers. Then one day two cadets from nearby Valley Forge Military Academy, Will and Ryan, walk into the Quikmart, and everything changes. Ryan falls instantly in love with Carmen, who is happy to flirt with the cute soldado. They go on dates to places like Valley Forge park and the King of Prussia Mall (which you'll recognize if you're from anywhere close to the Philadelphia suburban area). She writes a new song inspired by him, a song that gives the band their first chance at a recording contract.

Ryan's feelings for Carmen soon become obsessive, even unhealthy. Previously a model student and cadet captain, he stops caring about school, friends, and family. His grades slip. He wants to spend all his time with Carmen. But Carmen is too independent to be the girl Ryan wants her to be.

A timeless story of obsessive love.

What's your favorite obsessive love story?

Monday, September 13, 2010

To the Well-Organized Mind

Yes. That's Albus Dumbledore speaking on page 297 in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

"After all, to the well-organized mind,
death is but the next great adventure."

I've been trying to think of something to say about Joe Drabyak, my fellow bookseller who died just over two weeks ago. All of us in the bookselling community and especially at Chester County Book & Music Company are shocked and saddened by his death. Joe was a staunch supporter of independent bookstores, and of new authors who had slipped between the cracks and were left behind by the big chains. Joe was the only bookseller I knew who had at least a dozen characters in books named for him. You can read more eloquent obituaries here and here and especially this touching one from Michelle of Michelle's Minions.

I wanted to say something here, but I didn't know what to say. But then I thought of Dumbledore.

It's not such a stretch. Joe was a wizard of a bookseller. And although he sold adult fiction and nonfiction and didn't know much about kids' books, Joe agreed to portray Dumbledore once for a midnight Harry Potter party. Unfortunately, I have no pics of that momentous occasion.

But you can see the resemblance, right?

Rest in peace, Joe. Hope you are having the next great adventure.

And that it involves lots of books.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

What have you accomplished lately?

This past weekend (a holiday weekend here in the US), I finally finished writing the rough draft of my first novel, a middle-grade fantasy.

Millions of people write children's books. So why is this such an accomplishment? Not because I'm a brain aneurysm survivor (although I'm happy I finished it in September in honor of Brain Aneurysm Awareness month). No, it's because I started the novel in 2008, wrote a couple thousand words, got stuck and put it away for six months, went back to it in 2009, wrote a few thousand more words, got stuck...

I didn't tackle it head on until January 2010, when I was challenged by a member of my critique group (to whom I owe undying thanks) to write 1000 words a week. That's all.

No big deal, right?

For me, it was. I'd been spending two years writing a few dozen 500-word picture books.

Well, something clicked this time and I steadily added to my word count. In eight months, I wrote 33K words. My total now stands at 38, 496.

Of course, it's just a rough draft. I've got a lot of revising to do. And it's so full of plot holes, if it were a ship, it would sink.

But it's FINISHED.

It may never be published, but so what? Plenty of authors never published their first book.

T.A. Barron told me in September 2008, when he visited the bookstore, that his first novel is still in a drawer and it's going to remain there.

Even the wonderful Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli had at least three novels rejected until he finally scored with Space Station Seventh Grade (shown here with newer cover).

Tell me about YOUR accomplishments this summer (or winter, if you live in Australia). Did you finish a novel? Or start a new one? Did you write something special? Did you read more than you did the summer before? Did you raise money for your favorite cause?

Feel free to share. We can all use some good news.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

True Places Can't Be Found On Any Map

Coming October 12 to a bookstore near you:
Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte, for ages 9 to 12).

Moon Over Manifest is one of those rare novels that you want to start reading all over again the minute you finish it.

It's that good.

And touching and sweet and funny.

Vanderpool's debut is impressive for its depth, characterizations, rich texture and many-layered plot. My WIP is a middle-grade novel and I despair -- DESPAIR, I tell you -- of ever being able to write this well.

It's 1936 and twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is sent by her daddy to spend the summer with Shady Howard, an old friend of his, in Manifest, Kansas. Gideon Tucker has to work a railroad job and thinks Abilene is getting too old to tag along.

Stuck in the small dusty town during the height of the Depression, Abilene tries to avoid getting to know any of the townspeople. After all, she'll only be here for the summer. But she's drawn in anyway. Soon she's hanging around with Lettie and Ruthanne, trying to solve the mystery of who The Rattler is, or doing chores for Miss Sadie the fortune-teller, who begins to weave a tale for Abilene. Abilene finds a cigar box full of old treasures, and Sadie's stories gradually explain the treasures and what they meant to two friends in 1918.

Writing two alternating timelines HAS to be difficult, but Vanderpool pulls it off beautifully. As you read, you find yourself beginning to truly care about these people, the hardworking citizens of Manifest, both in 1918 and 1936, the miners, the merchants, and especially Hattie Mae, Sister Redempta, Miss Sadie, and Shady Howard, who all appear in both timelines.

Along with Abilene, you wonder when her father will come into the stories, because Abilene hungers for any insight into her quiet father's character. It isn't hard to guess who her father is in the stories from 1918, but it doesn't matter because it's so touching.

This isn't just a story about family and love and sacrifice. It's about friends who are like family. Really, it's about an entire town and its people -- people from many different ethnic backgrounds -- and how they come together in a crisis. The author expertly juggles numerous characters and you get to know each one.

You also feel you are actually there. Clare Vanderpool has done her research. But she's not feeding you dry facts about Prohibition or the Spanish Influenza. She makes history come to life with lots of sensory details, colorful characters, and vivid dialogue.

This would be an excellent book for teachers and librarians, and anyone who loves historical fiction.

What books have YOU finished lately that you wanted to start reading all over again?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SPOILER FREE Mockingjay Review

I promise.

Well, unlike the lucky people who went to midnight parties and then read all day yesterday, I couldn't start reading it until last night, since I had to work all day yesterday (selling lots of copies of Mockingjay, the third and final volume in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games Trilogy). I finished it this morning.

Was it worth it? Oh yes, by all means. Buy the book. Or borrow it from a friend. Or beg for it if you must. Will Katniss accept her new role as the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion against the Capitol? What does this involve? Does it have anything to do with flaming arrows? And how will the rebels treat her and her family and friends? This is like a bizarre form of "Survivor" gone crazy, when even war is televised for entertainment. There's a terrific quote about bread and circuses, which you'll understand when you read the book.

You MUST read it for yourself.

Mockingjay is expertly crafted and plotted. It all comes together in the end. The writing is seamless. And Suzanne Collins is a master of the cliffhanger chapter ending, so you have to keep reading and reading and reading. She fires off one exciting event after another. Lots of familiar characters from the first two books return. And there are numerous surprises. I'm sure my mouth was hanging open at certain parts.

But I'm also drained.


So much violence. Which reminded me an awful lot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Too many deaths. No spoiler there -- this is war, people.

I won't tell you who dies, though.

And I definitely won't tell you who Katniss ends up with. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you if you're solidly on one "team" or another.

In fact, I'm taking a stand here. I may be the only one who feels this way, but -- dare I say it? -- the romance was NEVER an important part of Collins's trilogy. Never.

It's all about the folly of war.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, I'm reminded of the first sequence of children's books Suzanne Collins wrote, The Underland Chronicles, starting with Gregor the Overlander. Though written for a slightly younger audience, the Gregor books showed the senselessness of fighting and did it beautifully.

I'll leave you with a quote from Mockingjay:

"Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its differences... The truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen."

Have you read it yet? What did YOU think? Was the romance the most important part? Or the war?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jordan Sonnenblick Hits the Big Time!

It's that time of year.

High schools and middle schools will be back in session soon. So of course this means the procrastinators (you know who you are) are scrambling to purchase their required summer reading books.

And then read them in a week or less...

What's different about this year's summer reading rack at the bookstore where I work?

Two words: Jordan Sonnenblick.

You know an author has really succeeded when one of his books is now required reading, cozying up to the likes of Jerry Spinelli, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Erich Maria Remarque, and Upton Sinclair. Let's take a closer look at that, eh?

So congrats to Jordan for making it big. It's well-deserved.
Notes From the Midnight Driver is funny and touching, with a depth rarely found in contemporary YA fiction. Nobody else (with the exception of Jerry Spinelli) writes teen boy voices as authentically as Jordan Sonnenblick. I've read all of his books (and reviewed Zen and the Art of Faking it for Booksense in 2007). I laughed and cried through them all.

What's YOUR favorite Jordan Sonnenblick novel? (What?!? What do you mean you haven't read any? Get busy!)

And what contemporary author do YOU think deserves to be required summer reading?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mockingjay Fever?

Are you like me?

Dying of anticipation?

Looking at your calendar every day, willing it to be August 24th already?

While you're waiting for MOCKINGJAY, the most-highly anticipated YA novel since, well, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, run on over to Sara's brilliant post at the First Novels Club blog and add your two cents.

Which Disney Princess would win the Hunger Games?

(My money's on Pocahontas. She's got that whole living in the woods thing going on.)

What do YOU do when you're eagerly waiting for a new book to arrive?

Read a different book?
Work on a manuscript?
Chew your nails?
Eat tons of chocolate?

*Wipes mouth* Um, don't look at me...

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This book is adorable. Kiersten White had me on page 2 of the ARC with this line:

"And trust me: Vampires? Not. Sexy."

Oh, you've gotta LOVE anything that makes fun of Twilight and its ilk. This is hilarious. And sweet and sexy without being raunchy (which I think is a difficult thing to pull off).

Evie is 16 and can see through glamours. This makes her extremely useful to the IPCA (the International Paranormal Containment Agency). She's an orphan with no memory of her parents and she's lived at the Center almost as long as she can remember. The Center, run by Raquel, took her in and gave her a place to live and a job. Evie finds vampires, werewolves, goblins and more, and brings them in for rehabilitation. Faeries provide instant transportation if she needs to go to, say, Budapest, in a hurry.

But now something unknown and deadly is killing paranormals. Does Lend, the strange but totally hot waterboy, have anything to do with it? Or is there someone else out there? Someone who has something in common with Evie?

Evie is a refreshing character, wise-cracking and yet vulnerable and sweet (she wants more than anything to go to a real high school and have a locker). She loves fashion. And did I mention she's funny? Read Kiersten's terrific blog for more details.

Coming on August 31 from Harperteen, and fine for ages 12 and up.