Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
The School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer
Release date: January 2009
One sentence summary: Bad girl Angela is sent to a reform school whose methods are questionable.
First sentences: All of the girls fell silent. The woman took a few seconds to look around the room, making eye contact with each of us. When she finally spoke, her voice was cold, with a slight accent that said she had lived years in places beyond our reach.
First chapter review: In the space of 8 pages, we are introduced to Hidden Oak, the girls, and a Dr. Spicer who asserts her absolute authority over the girls. We are also teased with flashbacks of what Angela might have done to be deemed dangerous - which is possibly murder. It's a solid start, but it's nothing that can't be put down.
Verdict: Return to TBR. The reviews I've read of this have been mixed, but considering David Levithan edited it, I'll give it a chance.
Suddenly Supernatural Book 2: Scaredy Kat by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Publisher: Little, Brown for Young Readers
Release date: February 2009
One sentence summary: Kat, who has recently discovered that she's a medium like her mother, investigates the disappearance of a boy in the abandoned house next door.
First sentence: The truth is, I find it very embarrassing when my mother talks to plants.
First chapter review: Although this is the second book in a series, I didn't get the sense from the first chapter that I needed to have read the first one to understand this one. The voice is fresh and fun and although I could've done without the e-mail correspondence, this is a nice set-up to what seems like a quick read with some spooky elements.
Verdict: This is one I definitely want to pass on to my favorite 11 year old. If I manage to get to it before I see her again, I'll read it myself. If not, I will pass it on to her with a good feeling.
The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Release date: March 2009
One sentence summary: 15 year old Catherine Howard catches the eye of Henry the 8th who wants to make her his 5th wife.
First sentence: The Thames is a messenger of fortune, rippling smoothly beneath the prow of this barge.
First chapter review: The first chapter is a mere 2 1/2 pages and has a very reflective, dreamy tone. In order to get more a sense of Catherine, I also had to read chapter 2, which introduces the central tension of the narrative. She's proud of being chosen as Henry's next wife but also terrified (considering what happened to Anne Boleyn). She knows she has to deliver another male heir or else... The writing flows well, but knowing what happens to Catherine is basically a retread of Anne's story, I'm not that intrigued.
Verdict: Pass on to a friend who loves Tudor historicals.
The Dracula Dossier by James Reese
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Release date: October 2008
One sentence summary: Dracula author Bram Stoker is the prime suspect in a series of killings that will be attributed to Jack the Ripper and he must work to clear his name.
First sentence: You do not know me, and you never will.
First chapter review: This dossier starts out with a letter from an unknown collector to a senior editor at William Morrow. With the letter he includes a lost diary of Bram Stoker which tells of his involvement with Jack the Ripper. It's a pretty dry start. I probably would've been more hooked had it immediately begun with Bram's diary whose first line states "It seemed wise to hide the bloodied knife."
Verdict: Meh. It sounds like an ok book, but I have a pile of books waiting with some amazing premises, so I think I'll pass on this. I'll donate it to the library.
Suffer the Children by Adam Creed
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Release date: none in the US yet, May 2009 in the UK
One sentence summary: After a paedophile is brutally murdered, Inspector Staffe must question the families of his victims.
First sentence: Staffe raises his head as high as he can, sucks in the underground air.
First chapter review: To be honest, I couldn't even finish the first chapter. It is written in third person present, which is beyond awkward, and the subject matter is just not my thing.
Verdict: Didn't hook me. Will donate to library. I did like this cover the most of the 5 though.
Anyone want to weight in and tell me if I making a huge mistake keeping or getting rid of any of these?
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Can you keep a secret? When 14 year old Faye Martin gets hit by lightening in front of Benji, the boy she’s had a crush on since the 4th grade, her parents inexplicably decide to send her off to summer camp. And not just any summer camp, but one that no one’s ever heard of, in the middle of nowhere where she’ll have no contact with the outside world for months. Her one small consolation is that Benji has been sent there too. Will they be able to unravel the mystery of the unusual camp before it’s too late?
Guest post by Faye Martin, main character of MILESTONESOkay. Introductions are in order. My name is Faye Grace Martin – though only my mother calls me that - and I’m fourteen years old. I’ve been asked to tell you all about my experience at camp Milestone. The thing is: I hate camp Milestone. Better yet, I loathe it. Despise it with every ounce of my soul. So I’d rather not write about it at all. Why should I give this poor excuse for a camp the satisfaction of writing about it? Or glorifying it? No thanks. Instead, I’ll write about another camp. The camp I wish I had gone to instead of camp Milestone. So here it goes. My informal essay about my ideal camp.
My ideal camp is not set in the middle of nowhere. It’s not isolated or secluded or whatever. It’s outside a big city where there are resources. My ideal camp is also “friendly”, and “comfy” and “lovely” and aesthetically pleasing. When you walk onto the camp grounds, you see beauty and nature and trees and you notice amazing activities taking place around you and you feel excitement. You want to be a part of it. You DON’T walk onto the grounds, look around and wonder where the hell you’ve landed. You don’t wonder if your cabin is made of rotting wood or some sort of straw. Because the cabins at my ideal camp are strong and sturdy and made of real wood .
Plus, my ideal camp is awesome. It has a hundreds of campers and dozens of camp counsellors. It doesn’t have a dozen campers and one counsellor. Cause that, my friends, would be weird. Weird and freaky. Oh! You know what else? You can so find my ideal camp on the internet. Yeah! It totally exists online. You can Google it, look it up and find out pertinent information about it. You can see pictures of previous campers and they all look like they’re having a blast. Like they’ve made friends. Awesome friends. The kind of friends you don’t want meeting your school friends. The type you want to keep to yourself and not share with anybody. You know that type, right? The kind you bond with and never let go?
On another note, my ideal camp is not the least bit scary. It doesn’t make you fear for your life. You don’t do crazy tasks and you certainly, certainly have some kind of access to your family and friends. I’m talking internet, cell phone…or heck, even a regular old fashioned phone. Furthermore, my ideal camp is not at all mysterious. What you see is what you get. Because people go to camp to have fun. I mean, isn’t that the entire point? To break free from school, stress and drama? And to have a summer romance or something? An unforgettable summer and yadda yadda? As opposed to freaking out, being more stressed than you ever knew you could be and wondering if you’re going to live? All the while trying to figure why in heaven’s name your parents (YOUR PARENTS!) would choose to send you to a place like this when you know for a fact that they love you? And you are constantly wondering, why, why, why they would this do this to you deliberately if they do in fact love you??? And you can’t help it but you find yourself obsessed!! Constantly second guessing! Constantly searching for evidence, for hints, for ANYTHING AT ALL that would explain why you’ve been sent to this hell hole…. without a phone………. without a clue……….without a paddle……….
THAT would be MY ideal camp in case you’re wondering.
Basically, it’s just a normal camp. A normal safe camp.
Not much to ask, is it?
My reviewOk, so here’s the deal. MILESTONES is incredibly clever and the concept/mystery is well executed and fun to try and figure out. Once you have that “a ha!” moment, everything clicks into place and what seemed pretty random finally starts to make sense. What I’m afraid of though, is that a lot of readers aren’t going to have that much patience. After the first chapter, a choppy, repetitive introduction to Faye where she complains (A LOT) about having to go to camp, I felt like Faye and I had something in common – she didn’t want to go to Camp Milestone and I didn’t want to read about her going to Camp Milestone. Fortunately, we both stuck it out, and in the end, I can say we’re both glad we did (despite what she says about it in her guest post today).
MILESTONES comes out in hardcover on August 1st. This post is a part of the MILESTONES book tour. For a list of the other stops and for more information about this title, go to http://www.eatabook.com/.
I attended many summer camps when I was younger, and the absolute worst has to be "Whistle Camp", a strict church camp in Michigan. I was looking forward to finally spending some quality time with my best friend Sommer who had been vacationing with her family for a whole month, but when we got there, they divided us into teams that shared activities, meals and cabins, splitting Sommer and me up, ensuring that we'd never see each other.
But that wasn't even the worst part - at anytime of day or night, the camp "elders" could blow their whistle and summon us to take our places at the designated spot for our team. Teams were rewarded for being complete and quick and punished for missing members and being slow. Not fun.
At one point, an elder suspiciously asked my friend Margie what she had in her water bottle. Margie being Margie (read: supremely sarcastic), she replied "It's my vodka. I need it to sleep at night." She tucked it in next to her pillow and left the room. When she returned, all her water (yes, it WAS just water) had been poured out.
How about you? Any camp horror stories to rival those of mine and Faye's?
Thursday, June 25, 2009
“Things disappear and vanish. That’s a fact. Before you’re ready for them to go, they go, and after that all you can do is keep the idea of them bright inside yourself.” p 80 ARC (may not reflect final published version)
I admit, ever since the death of my own mother when I was 19, I tend to shy away from books where the mother is recently deceased or dying. I’m just always afraid they’ll be too depressing, too sad to handle. But Beth has done a beautiful thing here – she takes us to the truth of what it’s like to deal with loss (the too-big house that feels empty, the withdrawing from friends, the keeping busy to dull the pain) and then lets her characters (and her readers) find comfort and a renewed sense of purpose.
The story elements, the well-drawn characters (Katie’s father, chic Ms. McDermott, and estate caretaker Old Olson were favorites), and spare, lyrical writing all contribute to making this a genuinely affecting reading experience. In fact, as far as books about grief go, I’d rate it up there with Kate DiCamillo’s THE TIGER RISING.
Beth will be doing a chat/reading/party at My Friend Amy’s blog on Tuesday June 30th at 9 PM EST. By attending or buying the book and sending in your receipt, you are entered into a massive contest with great prizes including amazon gift cards and a customized header by soon to be published illustrator Daniel Jennewein (IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? Balzer and Bray/HarperCollins July 2010). Attending AND buying the book (which is out now in hardcover) will get you two entries.
Not only that, but Beth agreed to an interview (lucky me!) right here on Presenting Lenore. Let’s begin shall we?
Nothing But Ghosts is dedicated to the memory of your mother. Are there pieces of her in the narrative? Is there something of hers that you hold on to that keeps her memory alive?
How do you balance writing novels, writing for your company, and writing your blog? What do you see as the perks/downsides of each?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I am also excited that Audrey Niffenegger is finally coming out with a new book, HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, on September 29th (see Alea's WoW post about it to see the cover if you haven't already). A lot of money riding on that one, as well as Dan Brown's new one (which I won't pick up - anytime soon at least - though I have to admit to reading THE DA VINCI CODE and ANGELS AND DEMONS).
Some books keep getting pushed back. David Mitchell's new one (slated for 2009 but now pushed back to 2010) is on my radar - hope it's more CLOUD ATLAS than BLACK SWAN GREEN though.
And what's going on with book 2 in the Joy of Spooking series by PJ Bracegirdle? It was supposed to come out this summer, but it isn't listed anywhere.
I would also most definitely be interested in new novels by Marcus Zusak, Lionel Shriver, Barbara Kingsolver, Douglas Coupland, and Michelle Richmond. (I've read or own 2 or more books by these authors, just to narrow it down a bit).
So tell me, in your opinion, which authors really need to announce that they are releasing a new book? You don't need to mention series books unless, like Joy of Spooking, they are overdue.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Beth Kephart's newest novel NOTHING BUT GHOSTS releases today. I am in the middle of it and loving it so far (review up on Thursday). The amazing My Friend Amy put together a live chat/reading/party with Beth set for next Tuesday, June 30th at 9 PM PST/6 PM EST on her blog.
Not only that but we are both sponsoring a contest/book drive where the prizes get sweeter the more books are sold. Our goal is to sell 200 books to support this deserving author and show that blogs CAN have an impact on sales.
There are two ways to enter the contest - come to the chat/reading or send your receipt for NOTHING BUT GHOSTS to Amy (if you buy over amazon, use this link to make your purchase count automatically.) . Doing both gets you two entries. The prizes are:
At 25 copies sold, a paperback copy of Undercover along with a limited edition not available in stores My Friend Amy keychain!
At 50 copies, a 10 dollar Amazon Giftcard.
At 75 copies, a copy of No Such Thing as the Real World and a special limited edition My Friend Amy pen!
At 100 copies, a 15 dollar Amazon Giftcard
At 125 copies, a surprise box of 5 gently read books
At 150 copies, a 25 dollar Amazon gift card
At 175 copies, a custom designed blog header by my husband Daniel. (He's the one who did my header, as well as the header for Zombie Chronicles and Readingjunky.) Daniel has a book coming out in July of 2010, so you have your blog header designed by a world famous published illustrator! The book, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? releases in July 2010 from Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins) Check out Daniel's drawings.
At 200 copies, a 50 dollar Amazon gift card.
Please help us spread the word! Thanks :)
Monday, June 22, 2009
I haven’t read many fairy/faerie novels other than THE STOLEN CHILD by Keith Donohue (not too impressed) and the ARTEMIS FOWL series (love them). Not sure why. I love fairy tales, but the current glut of fairy fiction never drew me in – until FAIRY TALE (formerly known as FAIRY LUST). It was one of the two books I begged for at last October’s Frankfurt Book Fair.
In any case, it was love at first page. Seriously, this is one of the most perfect first chapters I have ever read. It introduces Morgan as the class curiosity (she’s predicts her classmates futures with startling accuracy), establishes her enviable relationship with football star Cam, and ends on a killer hook.
So I thought – no way can the rest of the novel measure up. It has to start sagging somewhere doesn’t it? Nope. The tension rises so intensely that I was even tempted to do something I haven’t done since I was twelve – take a little peek at the end just to make sure everything works out.
Morgan is a super cool narrator and I enjoyed reading about her great relationship with her parents (“the world’s youngest senior citizens”), her closeness to Cam, and her growing appreciation for Pip. The voice is done so well, giving Morgan one hilarious one liner after another. Take one of my favorites:
“I have absolutely no idea how I ended up a psychic. You’d expect someone with such a gift to have parents with equally thrilling abilities, like telekinesis or the power to see through people’s clothes. My dad can say the capitals of the fifty states in alphabetical order, but that’s where the magic ends.” (p 29-30 ARC version – may not reflect final text).
FAIRY TALE comes out tomorrow. It’s an emotionally-involving page turner with a great cast of characters (even the minor ones shine) and a reality-based fantasy element that even non-fantasy fans can enjoy.
And now…and interview with main character Morgan (who I want to be my new best friend):
Yeah, like, no. I mean, he wasn't exactly the type of being I'd imagine running around, painting ladybugs or taking teeth from under kids' pillows. But in retrospect, he was a little odd. I mean, he's never had a zit in his life, and he could pull off impossible plays, like cutting through a line of defensemen, like magic. So maybe I should have seen this coming.
What about you? Were you ever particularly drawn to fairies? Nurse a crush on Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings, perhaps?
Not really. I never really thought about them until Cam told me he was one. I kind of thought of them as overgrown mosquitoes.
When did you first realize you could see the future? And what was your first vision?
I think I was 12, and watching Survivor and suddenly, I knew the order in which every one of the 18 contestants would be voted off. I could see them being voted off, clear as day. And so then I started testing the visions on other people, my friends, my family. And I realized I was never wrong.
Since you could predict who would win football games with 100% accuracy, were you ever tempted to bet on them to earn some extra money?
Yeah, but I'd never hear the end of it from Cam. He is too much of a goody-goody.
Did you ever wow your father by predicting General Hospital storylines?
I really am not very good at predicting what will happen in TV shows, especially soap operas. They're used to dropping completely unexpected bombs on their viewers. My gift has more to do with common sense, because most people don't use enough of their brains to see the obvious. I'm more like one of those British detectives, I guess. My gift is more about seeing human nature, which is why Cam surprised me so much... he's not human.
I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing some future predictions for us today. What is in store for Cyn Balog?
She will trip and fall and her dress will go over her head at her book launch party, and everyone will laugh at her.
How about Britney Spears?
I see... growth in her future... of her family and her stomach. She will likely fall head over heels for some other loser and pop out another 4 kids before she's 35.
Red socks. He will either wear red socks to his next public appearance, sparking a new trend among his minions, or he will throw out the opening pitch at a Red Sox game.
Um…how about me? (Just say pizza if you see a bunch of Precious Moments figurines, please).
You will win a contest and receive a lifetime supply of Banana Nut Crunch.
So what is my contest you ask? Well, basically, I let you pick any 2 ARCs from the following (unsigned) TBRs. I will move them to the top of my pile, read them, and then pass them on to the winner. How does that sound? Not only are you getting two really cool books before they are released, you are also dictating which of my books will be reviewed first!
Here’s my list:
AFTER by Amy Efaw (August 09)
ANOTHER FAUST by Daniel and Dina Nayeri (Aug 09)
THE ETERNAL KISS by various authors (Aug 09)
MY SOUL TO TAKE by Rachel Vincent (Aug 09)
AN OFF YEAR by Claire Zulkey (Sept 09)
ASH by Malinda Lo (Sept 09)
THE DEVIL’S KISS by Sarwat Chadda (Sept 09)
DREAMDARK SILKSINGER by Laini Taylor (Sept 09)
HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown (Sept 09)
THE MIDNIGHT CHARTER by David Whitley (Sept 09)
THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson (Sept 09)
SCHOOL OF FEAR by Gitty Daneshvari (Sept 09)
VIOLA IN REEL LIFE by Adriana Trigiani (Sept 09)
HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour (Oct 09)
HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick (Oct 09)
INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern (Oct 09)
THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (Oct 09)
SECRET SOCIETY by Tom Dolby (Oct 09)
WANDERLUST by Lucy Silag (Dec 09)
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Jan 10)
THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer Hubbard (Jan 10)
This is open internationally! I’m going to keep it open until July 7th at 11:59 pm CST. Please tell me which 2 upcoming books you are MOST excited for (do not have to be on this list) for one entry. One additional entry by linking to this post from your blog (sidebar is fine) or social media site and leaving a separate comment telling me you did so.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
As I mentioned in both of my reviews, these are titles which are solid YA offerings, deserving of a wider audience. But we could only choose one to move on.
Though they might not seem that similar on the surface – ALIVE AND WELL is a sober novel about dealing with a parent’s illness and STOP ME is a comedic look at a doomed first love – they actually have a few things in common. Both are realistic fiction set in small town high schools and poke fun at the high school social order, the minefield which is school lunch, and the sheer absurdity of pep rallies. Both have outsiders as narrators (who are alternately annoying and endearing). And both have some well drawn supporting characters (Hal, Marco, Violet and Matisse’s parents in ALIVE AND WELL and cancer-stricken Ryan, pitch-perfect in his vain villainy, in STOP ME).
I thought ALIVE AND WELL had a much tighter narrative and the predictably of the plot didn’t bother me as it did Ali. I had a hard time choosing a favorite, but if the choice were solely up to me, I’d give ALIVE AND WELL a slight edge just because I thought STOP ME dragged on way too long. Since Ali chose STOP ME as a clear favorite, due to its “excellent voice and characterization, and less predictable plot”, STOP ME will be the one that moves on to be read by My Friend Amy in the second stage of voting (up against FEATHERED by Laura Kasischke).
Albert tells us in the prologue that his love story ends badly, admits that he’s done some things wrong, and asks us to try to see the whole picture and try to understand who he is. It’s like an advance apology for the fact that he is about to go off on a lot of detailed (and often tedious) tangents during the following 370 pages. Albert is an unusual narrator – we don’t often get this much insight to the mind of a severe outcast – and he tries his best to put himself in the best possible light because “what is a story, really, but a narrator’s defense?” (p. 4)
So what does a girl like Mia see in a guy like Albert? No one can figure it out, not even Albert. In the microcosm of the summer hotel job, after one of the most painfully funny meeting scenes I think I’ve ever read, they are sweet together. But you know, both instinctually, and because you’re told on the first page, that their kind of “something” can’t last – Albert is just too much of a weirdo to ever successfully maneuver all the intricacies of the high school social scene (integral to the survival of any budding high school relationship). It’s funny – because of the title (a riff on the Smith’s song Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before I’d wager) – I kept thinking about the lyrics of the song whenever Albert (with increasing hysteria and dread) would ask Mia about their relationship status every couple of days:
Nothing's changed I still love you, oh, I still love you ...Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love
In another nod to the song, Ryan has his spleen removed. Good times.
Anyway, the highlight of the novel is the voice. Albert is just so delightfully dorky and immature but so observant and intelligent at the same time. His outsider insights on the ridiculousness of high school were spot-on. Many passages made me laugh out loud – especially the pep rally scene and the town’s overreaction to Ryan’s cancer.
But yeah, I’d say this is at least 100 pages overlong and often veers into outright parody (something like Tom Perrotta’s ELECTION). Still, it’s a nice slice of life love story from a perspective we don’t often see and that alone makes this worthy of a larger audience. Will this one beat ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK in the Nerds Heart YA tournament? Stay tuned!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
This was the first of two books I read for the Nerds Heart YA Tournament (the other being David Yoo’s STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE) and I have to say that I do think it’s very deserving of a bigger audience. The subject matter is not that typical for YA lit and it fills a void in the “living with a sick parent” genre (with emphasis on living since no one dies). It is well written, well researched, and genuinely moving in parts.
Because the story is about Matisse’s journey from denial and rebellion to acceptance of her new life situation it is the kind of book that you know where the story is going from the moment you pick it up. Yes, it’s predictable, but I think it needs to go where you think it’s going to go to be effective.
You could chart Matisse’s journey by the lunches she brought to school over the course of the book. In the beginning she brings spinach salad, French Brie, edamame and other fancy foods as a way of both holding on to her city girl identity and subtly sending a message to her new classmates that she’s above them. By the end, she’s happily eating country vegetables such as summer squash and thinking about just how yummy Prague’s famous apples really are.
But make no mistake, it takes the bulk of the book for Matisse to grow from whiny brat to sympathetic fighter, and although the last few chapters are satisfying and enjoyable to read, you have to go through a lot of hard times with Matisse to get there. It’s great that Author Daphne Grab breaks up some of the heaviness with a few family flashbacks on happier times and comic relief subplots such as rebel without a clue Cranston/Dylan and the aforementioned goose, because otherwise this might feel too much like “required reading”.
Tune in tomorrow when I review STOP ME and Ali and I make our final decision about which book moves on in the tournament.
Friday, June 19, 2009
1. The Nerds Heart YA Tournament: 20 bloggers are charged with picking one of 16 books from 2008 as the underdog title of the year. These are less well-known books that the panel feels deserve more attention. I am co-judging in the first round with Ali from Worducopia and we are reading ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK by Daphne Grab and STOP ME IF YOU THINK YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE by David Yoo (ummm..yeah...we got two of the longest titles). Look for reviews and our decision on Sunday. For more info including links to all the panelists' blogs and a judging bracket with all 16 titles, see Becky's fab post.
2. ChickLitTeens let me know that Shannon Greenland is offering up the 5th book in her SPECIALISTS series FIGHT TO THE FINISH for free on her website. Every Monday, she'll post a new chapter (so far, the prologue and first two chapters are up). I really enjoyed the first four books which I read last summer, and I think I can manage reading a chapter a week online.
3. Natasha of Maw Books Blog is hosting the Bloggiesta this weekend, a challenge to bloggers to catch up on their blogs. I can't participate because I am woefully behind on my "required" reading, but I've done some of the mini-challenges and plan to do some more.
4. I got a big box of books from Penguin this week to weigh down my sagging bookshelves even more. This gives me an extra push to get started on my First Chapter Challenge - so be on the lookout for that soon.
5. Ok, now the new kitty's name choices have been narrowed down to Sawyer or Finn. Finn is way ahead in the Facebook voting, but considering how his favorite new activity is chewing on all my books, I'd say either literary name is appropriate. Vote for your choice in the comments!
6. The Depeche Mode and All American Rejects concerts were both tons of fun. Depeche Mode played the Commerzbank Arena to a sold out crowd and my friend Tracy were on the 50 yard line so to speak. So we what we saw looked liked ants dancing, but energy was high.
All American Rejects played The Batschkapp, an intimate venue with a capacity of 700. Lead singer Tyson Ritter said it had been a long time since they had been so close to their fans (I was in the 3rd row - very, very close). As you can see from this picture, Tyson is hot, sweaty, and sweet (letting his fangirls hold his hand!). They didn't play a long set, but were very talkative and playful. Tyson even crowdsurfed.
Your turn! What are you excited about this week?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I got 365 entries and had so much fun reading the responses. Here are the most remarkable things people would do to get Catching Fire:
A few people said they’d participate in Hunger Games to get a copy of Catching Fire… Really? For a 1 in 24 chance of getting a copy and a very good chance of DYING? I'd prefer to wait for the September 1st release date (unless I had a terminal disease, and then maybe).
Some would even sell their soul! Although Leah would not let a creepy lamia drag her to hell.
Lizzy might even go on a hunger strike until she got a copy.
Kasey would sell her little sister. [!!!]
Barbrafl would do anything but kill or die, because death would mean not knowing what happens.
Liviania would do a highly public, silly dance and post it on youtube. [I'd love to see this!]
GreenBeanTeenQueen would fight her fellow librarians for a copy.
Maigan would travel around her entire town reciting passages from The Hunger Games and encouraging people to read it with signs and flyers.
Ella Press would parade through a huge avenue wearing nothing more than her underwear.
Sana would run around her school screaming "I'M A MOCKING JAY! I REALLY AM" while wearing a home made mocking jay costume.
Liz would try out for her school’s football team.
Danie88 would walk around town and hug everyone she saw.
Andalee would walk from one end of New York City to the other at midnight wearing only a towel.
Stacy would write “I Love Peeta” all over her body and run naked through the neighborhood.
Hillary would donate all her other books to the library.
Letter Garden would live without internet for 3+ months.
Dissectingperfection would give up carbs for life.
Robyn would give up her iPod.
ProdElektra would forgo talking for a whole year. [Now that's dedication!]
Stacey would give up her phone, computer and TV for a year.
Kayla D. would stay a virgin for the next 4 years.
Janssen would walk from California to Maine for a copy.
Charlotte would jump into the ocean in January.
Robolobolyn_03 would do pretty much anything, including swim with the jellyfishes.
Tabitha would leap of a fifty-story building with a pocket sized parachute.
Rema would live in the woods for a year.
Sassy CC would learn to breathe fire while walking on hot coals.
Olympianlady would be willing to jump naked into the Kenai River (in Alaska) in the dead of winter.
Becky would participate on a reality tv show that pours bugs on you.
Emily would advertise Presenting Lenore in Barnes and Noble.
Lorin would send me homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Andrea would be my online slave for a week. [Very tempting!]
Hilly-wa would catch Halley’s Comet.
Astrid would fight off zombie moles.
Amy would drink an “anything smoothie” possibly including mustard and/or cheese.
The Book Queen would let spiders crawl on her.
Robin_titan would eat 5 worms.
Kiirsi would dive (or belly flop) into a pool of jello despite her hatred of slime.
Samantha would lick a stranger’s foot.
Bitterwhip would paint her room with ketchup (which she hates) and then lick it all off. [This has to be my absolute favorite answer!]
Tuan would sponge bath 50 old men. [ummm….ew!]
Rakela would eat a bucket of worms.
Enlisting outside help
Niki Nicole would hire Katniss from Hunger Games and Katsa from the Graceling to do what they do best to get her that ARC.
@llie would hire a certain boy wizard to help her get the book.
Permanent declaration of adoration
The Brain Lair would paint Flame tattoos on both arms and neck to pretend like she’s Katniss.
Grace would tattoo Peeta Mellark on her butt.
Oh and of course there is a winner (picked at random) and that is Mim! Mim said: "I would go without sleep for more than twenty four hours. I would camp out all night in a line to get it too. I might do some crazy dare of some kind. I would beg, borrow and bribe for a copy of that book." Well congrats Mim! Tell us about how the 24 hours without sleeping goes. Maybe you can read all three of your prize books in that time :)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
There are a lot of gamers, Buffy fanatics and Trekkies represented in these stories, but it was nice to see the definition expanded to include lit enthusiasts and aspiring paleontologists. I don’t have much geek cred beyond my love of bowling and the new Battlestar Galactica series, my perfect GPA, and my one year on the high school Quiz Bowl team. I don’t play any games other than Tetris and Bejeweled, I’ve never seen a single episode of Buffy, and the only Star Trek I could stand to watch was the one with Scott Bakula and that was only because I love Scott Bakula and will watch him in anything.
My favorite story of all was David Levithan’s QUIZ BOWL ANTICHRIST. Like the main character, I was the alternate responsible for lit questions and one of my main motivations for being on the team was my crush on a fellow quiz bowler (an arrogant Swedish exchange student). I was good, but I couldn’t name 4 Pearl Buck novels. The narrative arc is sweetly satisfying while the voice is uproariously funny. After reading this and chatting with David, I definitely understand why Khy is stalking him, and I now have the urge to read everything he ever wrote.
I also really enjoyed Tracy Lynn’s ONE OF US, about a cheerleader who pays her high school’s resident geeks to teach her to speak geek so she can improve her conversations with her sci-fi dabbling boyfriend. It’s a fun look at different aspects of “geekdom” (I even learned a thing or two) where the popular girl is humanized for a change.
I NEVER by Cassandra Clare, about a non-gaming girl who goes to a gamer meet-up looking for a possible romance with a guy she’s been chatting with online, completely immersed me in an unfamiliar world. I like the idea of I NEVER too – it’s a game I like to play at baby showers (strangely enough). I always win points by saying I’ve never driven a stick-shift (successfully at least), read Harry Potter, or had a cavity. The best I NEVER I ever heard came from a 12 year old girl in a room full of adult females – she said “I’ve never had a period.”
M.T. Anderson’s THE KING OF PELINESSE and Wendy Mass’s THE STARS AT THE FINISH LINE were also standouts in the collection.
THE WRATH OF DAWN by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith (about a Buffy sing-along) and DEFINITIONAL CHAOS by Scott Westerfeld (about attending a convention) were a bit TOO geeky for my taste. Barry Lyga’s THE TRUTH ABOUT DINO GIRL was a clever revenge fantasy but was perhaps a bit TOO mean. And surprisingly, FREAK THE GEEK by John Green and IT’S JUST A JUMP TO THE LEFT by Libba Bray couldn’t hook me into actually reading them.
In addition to the stories, there are also one page comics on various geek topics. The few that are in the ARC version are interesting 30 second diversions but nothing really remarkable.
I was lucky enough to get to attend Little, Brown’s Geektastic bowling party during BEA and hang out with a few of these fab authors including David, Scott, Cassandra, Barry, Libba, Holly Black, and Sarah Zarr (who’s story didn’t make it into the ARC version either). In fact, I have pictorial proof that David was stalking me during the entire BEA weekend (seriously - he was EVERYWHERE I was - TAC, BEA, Books of Wonder, bowling, my hotel room - j/k on that last one, ha!).
Want to read GEEKTASTIC before its release on August 1st? Just come up with a fun and geeky headline or caption for the stalking picture (yes – a merit based contest!) and write it in the comments. You have until July 7th at 11:59 PM CST. I will ship my extra ARC copy internationally. May the force be with you.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Since I love time travel stories, Prada, and Jane Austen, this was a slam dunk premise for me. But the execution didn’t entirely win me over. I’m all about suspending belief, but I like the story to at least try to offer some logic as to the whole time travel component, and this one did not. It was bam!, she’s in the past, and bam!, she’s back. Are the red heels magic like in THE WIZARD OF OZ? Was it all a dream? I guess the fact that there were no rules frustrated me to the point that I had a hard time really enjoying the novel despite its undeniable charm.
Callie is a more complex character than you’d usually find in such a confection. Sure, she’s a clumsy, and at times clueless, blonde. But she’s also smart in math and science with a penchant for regaling her 19th century pals with all sorts of scientific trivia while they are riding around in elegant carriages on their way to fancy balls. She may not think things through all the way, but her heart is in the right place, and her brand of Girl Power just might start an Austen era revolution of sorts.
PRADA AND PREJUDICE just came out this week. Visit the author at http://www.mandyhubbard.com/.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Sierra Leone, in Western Africa, has been a trouble spot in the region, never more so than during its recent bloody civil war. I’m no authority on the subject, but I do feel like I know a lot more about it after having read THE SECRET KEEPER. Author Paul Harris is a foreign correspondent who has covered many countries in Africa and here, he writes what he knows – in this case, the story of rookie journalist Danny sent to cover Sierra Leone’s 2000 political crisis and his return to a nation at “peace” four years later to investigate the murder of his former lover Maria, an aid worker with War Child International.
The novel begins with a torture scene that would do Jack Bauer (from the TV series 24) proud. Then, we discover how everything led up to this opening scene through a series of alternating flashbacks to 2000 and the recent present (2004). It is a nice structure that doles out the mystery of Maria (the titular keeper of secrets) in tantalizing pieces, while also giving us a sense of the absurdities of war and the very real danger that lurks under the surface of Sierra Leone’s brand of peace.
I thought it worked well to give Danny a personal crusade to discover the truth, although I was never fully invested in the relatively fleeting Danny/Maria romance. It seemed to be mostly sexual in nature, with Danny also being in awe of her independence and tenacious character. I would have liked to have seen deeper interaction and conversation between the two to really show me that were soul mates or something, because while I understand why someone as beautiful and passionate at Maria could get under Danny’s skin, I found it harder to understand why he would literally give up everything to find out what really happened to her.
Still, this is a fast-paced, intelligent thriller that educates and entertains. I’ll definitely be keeping it on my shelf and am looking forward to lending it out.
I’m thrilled to be able to welcome Paul Harris today for a chat about the novel and Africa in general. It’s long, but it is worth it!
When did you first start to realize you wanted to take your journalistic experiences and novelize them?
I have actually always wanted to write fiction. I loved to do it when I was growing up though that was mostly creating very pale imitations of JRR Tolkien’s books. Then, when I was living in Kenya in 1999, I tried to write quite a grandly ambitious magical realism novel. It did not work. It was after that that I firmly decided to stick closer to home and write about my own experiences as a journalist in Africa. Suddenly I found the writing coming very easily and the characters just leaping out of me.
What current event/crisis makes the journalist in you want to drop everything to go cover it?
I think that depends on one’s age and experience. I don’t really have any desire to do much conflict reporting anymore. But I always regretted never having made it to the Congo when I was in Africa. Out of all the ongoing troubles in the world, I think the Congo is the one that could actually tempt me back in. Aside from that I have to say covering a US presidential election is unbelievably fascinating. Last year especially so. It really is an amazing process from the beginnings out in the Iowa caucuses right through to election day, this is how the most powerful man in the world is chosen.
Your novel reminds me a bit of The Blood Diamond. Have you seen it? Based on your experience with the diamond trade, would you buy diamonds or encourage others to buy them?
A great question. I have not seen Blood Diamond as I wanted to avoid any danger of accidentally incorporating parts of it into my book. As for diamonds, I think like all products there are ways to buy them that are more ethically sourced than others. If you can, make sure that you know where/how your diamond was mined. There are numerous schemes for doing this. If you do that then you are encouraging ethical corporate behaviour. Do not buy a diamond ‘blind’ (unless it is a vintage stone, I suppose).
You’ve said in other interviews that the character of Kam is based on your own driver in Sierra Leone. Did you send your driver a copy of the book? Is he aware of the homage?
Kam is the one character in the book who is simply written entirely from my own memory. Sadly, I lost touch with him when I finished my assignment in Sierra Leone. I regret that greatly.
Tell me a little about your experience in Zimbabwe. I went to Victoria Falls in 2007 for a week and fell in love with it – but the stories I heard broke my heart. And what I’ve heard since has not been encouraging. What is your stance on tourists visiting countries controlled by dictators? Are they helping or harming?
I have visited Zimbabwe numerous times. The last time was back in 2003, which seems like years ago, but at the time the country was already in deep crisis. The fact that Mugabe is still in power six years later shows just how deep into crisis the country has gone. I was there to report undercover on how opposition figures were being beaten and tortured. I posed as a tourist, flying in from Malawi on my US passport not my British one. I stayed in a quiet hotel for the first two nights until I noticed that a man next to me at the hotel bar was literally taking notes on the conversations I was having with people. Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation is not subtle! After that I contacted a friend of a friend and stayed in a private house. Much safer and under the radar of the thugs.
Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked but never have been?
I am going to use this excellent question to harp on about a key pet peeve of mine that I am always amazed never gets any political attention in America. So the question is: What simple thing would most improve America for Americans? My answer is: give everyone a minimum of four weeks vacation a year. Ideally, five. In Europe we are generous with our vacations. In America many people only get two. I find this astonishing. Sometimes newspaper columnists here in the US even laugh at the French/Germans/Italians for their long summer vacations and their smaller Gross National Products. Well, the joke is on them. Because those French/Germans/Italians are too busy sunning themselves on the beach, spending quality time with their families, reading great books and eating lovely food, to worry much about their country’s latest GNP. It is all a matter of getting your priorities right. The benefits of giving Americans two more weeks extra holiday are huge.
1) Productivity does not fall. Workers would simply do the same work in less time i.e. work harder but for not as long. Some of the most productive workers in the world are German and they get massive holidays. American companies would find their workers happier, more dedicated and just asproductive.
2) Four weeks vacation would allow Americans to travel more in the world. They would learn more about the world and the world would learn more about them. Excellent for everyone. Global prejudice on all sides would be reduced.
3) With increased leisure hugely important domestic industries like hotels, resorts, restaurants and tourist sights would get a massive boost thus creating jobs. American jobs.
4) It would soften America’s culture of working so hard, encouraging people to see life’s achievements as happening away from the office or simply getting up another pay grade. No one lying on their death bed ever thinks that they did not spend enough time behind their desk.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I have a good instinct about what books I'll like, so I don't find myself struggling through a book that often. This year, I've invoked the 50 page rule twice, and I wrote a post called I'm just not that into you... These two books are still on my shelf, but they may not be for long.
You see, I have a bigger problem than DNF and that is DNS (Did not start). I have a bunch of review copies of books that I picked up at book fairs, received unsolicited or won in contests that are gathering lots of dust. I am making it a summer project to read the first chapter of any review copy that has been on my shelf more than 9 months and then decide to keep it or purge it. I'll keep you all updated on my progress of course! Anyone want to join me? The more the merrier! I'll call it the First Chapter Challenge. Unofficial of course.
This week, you are going to have to work for your Emmy fix! I did a guest post over at Heather Zundel's blog about how I got started blogging, and Emmy is posing with the first books I ever reviewed on my blog. It's very cute, I promise.
Monday, June 8, 2009
The foreboding but fascinating fairy tale Jim tells over successive nights (which we read about in Fiona’s diary) permeates this mystery story. Is there something paranormal afoot or is Jim simply a really nasty human specimen? Especially impressive is the very authentic Irish atmosphere – amazing, really, when you consider Author Moerk is Danish and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
As far as the characters, we get a good sense of Fiona and Róisín by reading their diaries, but Aoife, the aunt and even Jim remain slippery, their motivations somewhat understandable but still quite puzzling. Unfortunately, the mailmain, Niall, seems more like a device to hold the narrative together than a fully formed, relatable character.
Things may wrap up a bit too neatly for such a haunting premise, but the story sticks with you. I’d recommend it to readers of “darker” novels such as John Connelly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS or Michel Faber’s UNDER THE SKIN.
Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program for providing me with an ARC of DARLING JIM. You can visit the author at http://www.christianmoerk.com/ and buy the book in hardcover.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
First up, the full color New York City guide 2009 from Fodor's. I didn't get this in time to actually plan my trip with it, but I did browse through while I was there. It is organized by area and provides a great overview of things to do as well as places to stay, eat and shop. There is a nice balance of information and entertainment in the writing and I especially enjoyed the "close up" features such as the one on the history of Times Square. I will definitely use this to plan my next trip!
At BEA, I grabbed a copy of Lonely Planet's New York City Encounter, which claims to allow you to discover twice the city in half the time. It is a small format, 280 pager that can be easily carried with you when you are out and about. Organized by neighborhood, it presents a few must-sees as well as some "hidden gems". No listing for The Strand bookstore, so it loses some points with me. I liked the interviews with NYC residents and would have like to have seen more of these.
Speaking of The Strand, we picked up a copy of the classic children's picture book This is New York by M. Sasek. It give a lot of fun stats about NYC then and now such as how many elevators operate in the city, how many churches there are, and how many miles of streets need to be policed (6,000 miles). I love the illustrations - especially of the squirrels in Central Park.
We also bought a copy of the recently released A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino. In it, a father and son spend a day in Manhattan starting in Grand Central Station and moving downtown visiting The New York Public Library, The Empire State Building and Union Square Park (all places I visited as well). It's both fun and full of interesting trivia.
What are your favorite NYC guidebooks or books set in NYC? I'd love some recommendations!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Group shot (Kelly Leonard, Anna Balasi, Miriam Parker, Nicole, Brianne Beers, me, Steph, Valerie Russo)
Our first stop was to visit Alice in the Little, Brown Young Readers division. I can't tell you how cool it was to see her desk piled high with ARCs of HATE LIST, ASH and PROPHESY OF THE SISTERS (all spoken for). No stack of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES because they went superfast!
She told us a bit about her job and that she gathers up ARC requests and then deals with them all at once about once a week. She loves digest e-mails, so if you owe her links to several reviews, it is best if you wait to send them all at once.
Me and Alice Morley in front of this season's Little, Brown Young Readers sign
We walked around and looked at a couple of the other departments and imprints, with Kelly telling us about what they do.
Kelly points out the various imprints
And of course, she had to show us the ARC closet that Brianne recently organized. I am sure I squealed when I saw it.
Brianne shows off her handiwork
Kelly showed us Hachette's video studio and then took us to a whole different floor to check out Hachette's in-house, state-of-the-art audio recording studio where actors and authors come in to record audio books.
What I'd look like if I was recording an audio book
Hachette is very pro-book blogger and were very early adapters in online marketing. They are both amazingly accommodating and genuinely thrilled to be working with us.
They've set up a platform on ning where book bloggers can sign up to host a Hachette giveaway and another platform where book bloggers can request upcoming titles for review.
Thanks again Kelly!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Liar - Justine Larbalestier
Once Was Lost - Sarah Zarr
Candor - Pam Bachorz
Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
Prophesy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink
Going Bovine - Libba Bray
Sea Change - Aimee Friedman
One Wish - Leigh Brescia
Also Known As Harper - Ann Haywood Leal
The Plague - Joanne Dahme
Lips Touch - Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld
The Unnamed - Joshua Ferris
Little Bird of Heaven - Joyce Carol Oates
Saturday evening was Little Brown's Geektastic party. Amy (My Friend Amy) and I had lots of fun bowling badly! I was also stalked by David Levithan (and have top secret pictorial proof). Thanks to the team at Little Brown for organizing such a fun event.
And now, something special for readers of my blog. While I was at BEA, I got three packages shipped to me. Liar, Shiver and Catching Fire. Since I already have signed copies of these three titles, I want to pass them on to one lucky blog reader. This contest is open internationally, and will run until June 17th at 11:59 PM.
For one entry, tell me either a great lie you told, something that makes you shiver, or to what lengths you would be willing to go to catch Catching Fire.
For a second entry, post a link to this contest on your blog or social network site, and tell me you did so in a separate comment.