Thursday, June 30, 2011

Character Revelations: Top Ten Chicago Hot Spots with Verity and Mo from "Torn" by Erica O'Rourke


I am delighted to host a pair of BFFs today!  Verity and Mo are from Erica O'Rourke's Torn are giving us a tour of one of my favorite cities: CHICAGO!

Everyone has secrets.
Even best friends.

Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the 'L', a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it's directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn't pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, "Run, Mo!" 

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend's murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she'll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

"Who doesn't love a character torn between two dangerous worlds and two risky guys? The only thing safe about this book is how good it is." —Lee Nichols, author of Deception, A Haunting Emma Novel

"Dark, exciting and totally addictive! Just. . .wow!" -Kristi Cook, author of Haven  (from GoodReads)

Here we go:

Verity & Mo's Top Ten Chicago Hotspots!

Wicker Park: Lots of fun, funky shops in this neighborhood on the north side of the city – a long trip, but they’d figure it was worth it.

The Art Institute: Verity likes the Modern Wing best, but Mo prefers the photography exhibit in the basement. There’s usually cute scruffy art students hanging out, too.

Garrett’s Popcorn: There are lots of places in Chicago’s loop to get Garrett’s, the messiest, tastiest popcorn of all. Chicago mix is cheese popcorn and caramel corn mixed together. A small bag is plenty for Mo and Verity to share.

Millennium Park: Next door to the Art Institute, the park features the Bean sculpture –formally known as Cloud Gate; it also has the Crown Fountains, two giant screens that project video of peoples’ faces. Every few minutes the faces “spit,” pouring water onto the kids playing below. On a hot day, it’s a great place to hang out and people-watch.

Photo from the Chicago Traveler
The Museum of Science and Industry: Mo loves this museum in Hyde Park, across the street from Lake Michigan. Verity goes to see the baby chick exhibit, and to visit the Japanese Garden located in a nearby park.

Taste of Chicago: They aren’t fond of the tourists, but Mo and Verity love the free Fourth of July concerts sponsored by WXRT, a local radio station (Note from Linds: OMG this annual food festival is going on right now).

Sox games at Comiskey Park/The Cell: Chicago’s two baseball teams, the Cubs and the Sox, play against each other each year in the Crosstown Classic. As South Siders, Mo and Verity ALWAYS root for the Sox.

The Sears Tower. Some people call it the Willis Tower, but for Mo and Verity, it will always be the Sears Tower. There’s a glassed-in ledge jutting out from the side of the building that lets you look over the city, but Verity’s the only one willing to stand on it.

Navy Pier: People watching, movies, a giant Ferris wheel. If the weather is nice, this is where Verity and Mo like to spend the summer.

Hyde Park: Home of the University of Chicago and all sorts of cute college boys. Mo and Verity spend a lot of time in coffee shops near the campus, planning their escape.

That's it for now!  Hope you had fun on the tour!  Special thanks to Erica O'Rourke and the Teen {Book} Scence.  Torn was released on Tuesday - check it out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.28.2011

General 'This & That' News

The Giver coming to the big screen?!?!?!  From Variety: "Bridges giving 'Giver' another shot".  Okay, if  this happens, is MUST be done right!  Can't mess with a classic, right?

From The Guardian, "How self-publishing came of age".  Subtitle: "What used to be seen as a last resort is fast becoming the most successful trend in writing. Alison Flood talks to the authors doing it themselves".

Did you hear about this, or did it completely sail over my head?  From BookMoot, "SYNC YA Literature into Your Earphones". SYNC will be offering two Free Audiobook Downloads Each Week, from June 23 - August 17, 2011.

From USAToday: "Harry Potter e-books plan worries bookstore owners".

Love this blog post from Art Attack, LOVE IT: "5 YA Novels By Rappers and R&B Artists We'd Like to See".  The first pick? "Twilight: Life After Death" by Notorious B.I.G.!  MUHAHAHAHAHA!

Lovely article on this year's Carnegie Medal winner and his books.  From The Independent: "Whole truth for teenagers: Patrick Ness's novels have attracted acclaim, awards - and censure".

From CinemaBlend: "Ben Barnes Replacing Sam Claflin In The Seventh Son," and from Variety: "'Narnia' star Ben Barnes is WB's 'Son'".

Sarah and Kelly over at Stacked presented at the ALA this year and graciously have made their presentation available over at their blog - check it out and leave a word of thanks! "YA Contemporary Lit: The Presentation".

The list of authors and the books they will present is up for Wordstock Festival 2011, which will be held in October in Portland, Oregon. It's an impressive list and includes Scott Westerfeld and Moria Young, just to name a few: "YA & MG Authors at Wordstock Festival 2011".

From the Wisconsin State Journal: "Teen boys have little to choose from, Herbach says".  Primarily an interview with Stupid Fast author Geoff Herbach.

via Shelf Awareness

VERY interesting.  From "What Shoppers Don’t Realize About Amazon’s Reviews". \

From MTV: "Neil Gaiman Reflects On 'American Gods,' 10 Years Later:Author talks about his 2001 book as a 10th-anniversary edition is released and with a TV show on the way."

From Entertainment Weekly: "'Hobbit' First Look: 3 Pics!"

From "Bookstores forced to turn a page".

From New York Times: "Using E-Books to Sell More Print Versions".

From Publishers Weekly

The creators of the "It Gets Better" campaign spoke at ALA: "Dan Savage Kicks Off ALA with Message of Hope, Inspiration".

On a hot topic at last week's Licensing International Expo: "At Licensing Expo, Digital Was Top of Mind".

On the "this is teen" tour: "Three YA Authors Bring Online to the Real World".

Cover Reveals

The UK cover for Bloodlines by Rachel Meade was released.  I got to say, I'm liking it better than the US cover.  It's less Top Model and more Miami Ink:

The cover for the Winter 2012 release, Everneath, by Brodie Aston was also released:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.23.2011

General 'This & That' News

From The New York Times: "Come Meet the Author, but Open Your Wallet".  Check out the opening lines, "Independent bookstores, squeezed by competition from Internet retailers like Amazon, have long done something their online brethren cannot emulate: author events. And now many bookstores say they have no choice but to capitalize on this grand tradition.  They are charging admission."

Hmmm, kind of a disappointing headline, but read on - sounds like there is going to some newly released material.  From The Bookseller: "Confirmed: J K Rowling to sell Harry Potter e-books exclusively from Pottermore website".

Amazon released its, "Essential Books for Young Adults".  It's a very, very good list!

This was a really sweet blog post from The Gaurdan: "Growing up with the Carnegie medal".

The authors behind Diversity in YA Fiction announced their "Diversify Your Summer Reading Challenge!" A great post with suggestions for everyone, from librarians to bloggers - check it out!

I really love this beautifully written post by author Malinda Lo, "A message to my adult readers".  

Some excellent points and relevant commentary raised by Channing Kennedy at Color Lines: "Will 50 Cent’s New Anti-Bullying Book Undo His Homophobic Past?" 

Well, don't I just love this?  From Entertainment Weekly: "'The Hunger Games': A doubter finally dives in" 

I tweeted this yesterday, but this article really ticked me off, so I am sharing it here, too.  From The Slate: "Writing Young-Adult Fiction: It's better than going to the prom".  I think it's just a wee bit condescending in tone, and frankly, they refer to 'slutty werewolves' in Twilight.  Have they even read it?!  NOT ONE PERSON is a slut in Twilight.  Even when I wanted them to be, damnmit!  And NOW I am sticking up for Twilight!  Hate this article!

News via Shelf Awareness

Flavorwire released their two cents on, "Books Every College-Bound Student Should Read". 

Very cool tumblr account: Awesome People Reading

 Hilarious!  And very blunt  And probably true.  From Gawker, "Book Store Owners Are Onto You, Cheapskates".

Cover Reveal

Kirsten Hubbard, author of the amazingly good Like Mandarin, revealed the cover for her upcoming novel!  Wanderlove, which will be released on 03.13.2012 - check out her post at YA Highway for more (and she does promise more, and SOON)!

Awards Announced 

The winner of the Carnegie Medal has been announced, and the winner accepted with a statement.  From The Guardian: "Patrick Ness accepts Carnegie medal with fierce defence of libraries: Receiving the honour for Monsters of Men, the author launches a passionate attack on library closures".  Ness is the author of the Chaos Walking series, of which Monsters of Men is the third installment.


The shortlist for the The Desmond Elliott Prize 2011 was announced today in the UK.  The prize is recognizes, "a first novel written in English and published in the UK. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the prize is named after the literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott.."  The shortlisted nominees are as
This is nothing new, but I missed it the first time around.  Back in March, the Romance Writers of America announced the 2011 RITA® Award finalists.  I wanted to put it in here as the winner will be announced July 1st.  The RITA® nominees in the Young Adult Romance category are:

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; Annette Pollert, editor)
     The Clearing by Heather Davis (Houghton Mifflin Graphia; Julie Tibbott, editor)
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; Karen Wojtyla, editor)
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan (Scholastic; Cheryl Klein, editor)
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen; Natashya Wilson, editor)
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (Walker Publishing; Emily Easton, editor)
The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells (Sourcebooks Fire; Deb Werksman)

***Please note that there is also a Young Adult category for the Golden Heart Award, as well, which goes to the best submitted, unpublished manuscript.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (21)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. I highly encourage you to get to know your fellow bloggers and see what's new and upcoming in the book world!

Here's what I'm waiting on:

The Name of the Star 
(Shades of London #1)
by Maureen Johnson
Releases 09.29.2011
Pre-order: Hardcover | Kindle

A modern-day thriller about Rory, an American high-school student who enrolls at a London boarding school for her junior year. Soon after her arrival, a series of murders begins to take place across the city—on the exact dates and in the exact style of Jack the Ripper. Rory’s ties to the killer bring her in contact with a secret paranormal branch of the British police, as they attempt to stop the mysterious killer.

  I really can't wait for this one.  I've increasingly gotten into some crime reading lately, and the hubs and I LOVE watching documentaries of Jack the Ripper.  I also adore London (if you ever have the chance to visit, GO GO).  Oh, and I've never read anything by Maureen Johnson, so this will be a great one to start with - can't wait!  Plus, isn't that cover gorgeous?

So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.21.2011

EXCELLENT discussion at YAtopia: "Violence vs Sex in YA".

Um, okay, I'd try it, I think.  From GalleyCat: "50 Cent Inks Deal for YA Book on Bullying". And so the lion will teach the lambs. The book will be published in January by Razorbill (a Penguin imprint, same publisher of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher).  Wonder what the cover will look like?

Awesome news from YALSA via the PR WebWire: "YALSA launches Network for Research on Libraries and Teens".

The Library Journal, "Announces 2011 Reviewers of the Year".

NPR needs opinions!  "Best Science Fiction, Fantasy Books? You Tell Us".

The history geek in me is drooling.  Big time. "The British Library and Google too make 250,000 books available to all".
The British Library and Google to make 250,000 books available to all

Good op-ed piece from The Hindu: "Talking Movies: A very long story, indeed".  The reporter states her opinion on Hollywood's selling techniques, and frequently uses the Harry Potter movies as an example.

Very nice review from The Salisbury Post for the recently released book by Jenny Hubbard, "Teen truths in 'Paper Covers Rock".  I'm really looking forward to reading this one myself.

From The Times Union, "Turning a teen boy into a bookworm".  Features the Guys Lit Wire!

From The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Smart, funny, moving teen tales".

via Publishers Weekly:

"Spotlights on five children's and YA authors and one illustrator who made notable debuts this spring"  Veronica Roth (Divergent) and Jenny Hubbard (Paper Covers Rock) both are featured.

Wow - really love the clever marketing scheme for!  If you haven't heard about the coordinates and letters just yet, be sure to check this out: " More Harry Potter? Rowling Reveals". 

Ahhhh, I completely remember reading Wind in the Willows for language arts class in 6th grade!  "'Wind in the Willows' Sequel Due in 2012". 

via Shelf Awareness:

On the Texas/Amazon debacle from The American-Statesman: "Amazon, state talk deal: 5,000 jobs in exchange for exemption on collecting sales tax".

Haha, this is kind of funny.  From Flavorwire: "The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History".  #27 is a dis on J.K. Rowling, though - grrrrrrr.  Them's fightin' words.

REALLY rad idea from The Guardian: "Join the Independent Booksellers' Week celebrations: Please help us raise a glass – and a flag – for the UK's best literary retailers with our Twitter bookshopping map and Flickr browsers' gallery".  Can we do this for the U.S., Canada and Australia?

Last, but never, ever least, this wonderful video from a host of authors and illustrators:

Monday, June 20, 2011

REVIEW: This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall

This Is Shyness
by Leanne Hall (website)
Released: 08.02.2010 (Australia)
272 pages
Text Publishing
Awards & Recognition: The Text Prize, 2009 
Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book for Older Readers, 2011
Source: received from the author for a fair and honest review

A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget.

In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night.

But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless...dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life

Here's the other reason I was intrigued: I really like the trailer, and the music in it reminds me of my '90s garage band music happy place.  Do you hear that guitar wrapping itself around you?


REVIEW: Holy Sweet Mother of dubs-tee-eff.  I'm still wrapping my thoughts around this one.  Here's what I've come up with: the Brothers Grimm meet up with Pablo Picasso during his Blue Period for a drink.  They decide it's going to be a GREAT idea to make a Before Sunrise martini with a younger lad and lassie splashed with the Neverending Story and shaken with the surrealism of a dream.

You with me?

On second thought, I am not really sure if it's possible to adequately define This Is Shyness.  Leanne Hall has managed to create something that feels entirely 'other'.  You can't put the book into any neat little category; it's simply young adult, and that's about as far as you are going to in terms of categorizing.

The good news is that this cocktail goes down fairly smoothly.  Hall's narrative swings through from start to finish, and Wildgirl and Wolfboy both are intriguing, resourceful characters who come to bat with their own set of problems.  Wildgirl comes from a way-less-than-privileged background and is dealing with some serious B.S. at school because of it.  Wolfboy is living in a singular pit of sorrow - you know the kind - it's the sort of hole a person has to fight and claw to get out of.  It's a random night that these two find each other, and it leads into an absolutely crazy, no-rest-til-dawn adventure.  Hall's writing really shines in her characterization of these two (check out the quotes down below - lovely, aching, sharp), and you will get to know them and their thoughts through the wonderful internal dialogue she gives to both. 

Beyond that, it's difficult to discuss the book without giving too much away.  Shyness is just over the border from where Wildgirl lives, yet she never heard how the sun doesn't rise there.  The fact that you can't really pin down the setting makes reading the book feel a bit like falling down Alice's rabbit hole - you can't tell if this is an alternative reality, a futuristic setting, a paranormal community - everything feels familiar, but it's not - I won't say it's like a dream - it's a bit more maddening than that.  It's something akin to Dorothy's returning to Oz and finding it turned upside down, or Mac's reaction to there being a 'secret' Dublin that's disappeared off of maps and been forgotten about in the Fever series.  It's a familiar unknown..  I got the feeling that the darkness which encompasses Shyness is somehow connected to Wolfboy's sadness, who holds special status in that community. Or perhaps his sadness is a singular symptom of its overall origin.  Things happen: embarrassments endure, deaths occur, addictions develop, social pressures constrict, etc.  It's the self-determination and the connections with others, the support that gets you through.  Shyness doesn't feel like a place of punishment for the things that have happened to you in life, but more like a place of suspension, a consequence of not talking about and moving through the things that have happened.

The balance and two-person dual narrations make this a fast-paced story that doesn't lag.  The surreal situations and people they encounter hold your interest and sometimes boggle you.  There is a play-counter-play between Wildgirl and Wolfboy's POVs, and it really offers insight into just how easily looks and words can be misconstrued, especially between two people who hold an attraction and growing affection between them.  There is a sweetness in their vulnerability that helps you connect to them as characters.  There is a bare bones honesty in their hushed confessions that make you repect their experience.  I'd love to be friends with them both.

However, that same connection also drove me nuts with not getting clear answers to some questions.  The upside is that This Is Shyness is so 'other', so unlike anything else that I've read, that it gave me the ability to 'just deal' with the lack of answers.  Here's the thing with with this book: as with any new person you might meet, you have to take the book as it is.  There is no comparing it, no standard to hold it up against, not with this story.  It has a beginning, middle, and an end that doesn't feel like an end - it feels like a continuation.  That's not to say that there is a sequel, because in all honesty, I get the feeling that there won't be one (although I would love answers to my questions).  It's more like the characters are going to 'swing through' if that makes sense. 

But, really, 'swinging through' does make sense in This Is Shyness.  The story here is not in some neatly wrapped up plot; it's in the character details: the shy looks, the hanging conversations, the private confessions and resolute actions.  They're like puzzle pieces that make up the same picture, but don't quite match up at the edges.  You try to force the edges into each other, rather than just let them complement each other, then you are going to come up frustrated.  But if you let the story just 'be' what it is, then you have something singularly special.  This Is Shyness is the quirky friend you might never fully understand, but once you stop trying to figure it out and pick it apart, you will fall into it's unique personality and truly appreciate it for what it is.  And the story is about two young people who don't find answers, but by coming together, they come to terms with facing the questions.  There's a lot of beauty in that. 

UPDATE: I heard it from Nic below and from Leanne, as well, but there WILL be a follow-up with Wolfgirl and Wildboy!  Woot!!!

"I imagine crossing Grey Street in the daytime.  Would night fall over me gently like a velvety curtain?  Or would the day turn dark in the blink of my eye?  I don't really need the sunrise to know that Shyness is different.  It's like there is a thin layer of static over everything that stops me from seeing what's really going on.  People here scuttle around like they're scared of their own shadows."
-Wildgirl, page 25

"We're all here to take care of ourselves, and ourselves only.  This is how I look at it: if a gunman rampaged through the flats, I'd barricade Mum and me in our place and forget about anyone else on our floor.  If the gunman broke into our flat then I'm not entirely sure I'd take a bullet for Mum, or vice versa.  When it comes down to it, we're all on our own.  Once you realise that, life becomes simpler."
-Wildgirl, page 29

"I howl at the roof like a hotted-up bomb doing donuts, full of screeches.  I howl like an air-raid siren, my arms stretched out wide.  Howls are like songs.  They can't be summoned; they just happen.  They come from a place that I barely understand.  And then something else climbs to the surface, something black and jagged, something from the deep.  Imagine all your worse feelings surfacing.  Imagine coughing up razor blades.  Imagine not being able to stop the pain from coming out, and not knowing when it's going to end."
-Wolfboy, page 110

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In My Mailbox (22)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren with inspiration from Pop Culture Junkie.

This is a great event where we share all the great books we've picked up to read for the week! Please join us in getting to know one another and sharing great reads!  Here's what I got this week . . .

Torn (Torn Trilogy #1)
by Erica O'Rourke
Courtesy of Kensington Pub/KTeen for blog tour (thank you!)

Synopsis from GoodReads

Everyone has secrets. Even best friends.

Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the 'L', a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it's directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn't pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, "Run, Mo!"

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend's murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she'll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

"Who doesn't love a character torn between two dangerous worlds and two risky guys? The only thing safe about this book is how good it is." —Lee Nichols, author of Deception, A Haunting Emma Novel

"Dark, exciting and totally addictive! Just. . .wow!" -Kristi Cook, author of Haven

by Cath Crowely

Synopsis from GoodReads

"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

by Chad Harbach
Courtesy of Hachette/Little, Brown and Co. (thank you!)

Synopsis from GoodReads
At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Superior, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for the big leagues. Then a routine throw goes disastrously off course and the fates of five people are upended.

Henry's life purpose is called into question. Longtime bachelor Guert Affenlight, the college's president, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes swept up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish to start a new life after escaping an ill-fated marriage.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets, and help one another to discover their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about the bonds of family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.

Divergent (Divergent #1)
by Veronica Roth
Courtesy of my awesome library

Synopsis from GoodReads

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

And because I am a nonfiction-lovin' infojunkie: 
 Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School
by Alexandra Robbins
Courtesy of my awesome library

Synopsis from GoodReads

When school lunchroom doors open, hungry students rush in, searching for tables where they wouldn't be outsiders. Of course, in middle school and high school, almost everyone is an outsider: the nerds, the new girls, the band geeks, the loners; even the "popular" cheerleaders. Alexandra Robbins' The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth takes us inside the hallways of real schools to show us how shifting cliques and permanent marginalization affect children. Following individual students over the course of year, she tracks the plight and possibilities of self-confessed nerds, freaks, punks, Goths, and weirdos. Her central message is heartening: Our increasingly homogenized society ultimately needs and welcomes the cafeteria fringe. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.18.2011

General 'This & That' News

OMGOMGOMGOMG check out this site:  IT HAS J.K. ROWLING'S SIGNATURE!  I tweeted this on Thursday, but wanted to share it again.  HUGE thanks to Shelf Awareness for sharing this - according to a source they spoke with, "It is not another Harry Potter book but we cannot reveal any more at this stage, fans will have to keep an eye on the website. It will be launching soon."  Em over at Emily's Reading Room has even MORE information (bless you, Em).  If you check out J.K.'s YouTube channel, there's a countdown there!  Ahh, less that a WEEK!

Love this post from the blog Novel Novice: "The Best YA Books for Father’s Day!".My dad loved Harry Potter, really liked The Tillerman Series, and now I am introducing him to the The Hunger Games - thanks for the suggestions, sgundell!

Really well-done post by Lurv a la Mode: "Solo vs. Group Blogging & Publisher Expectations".  Thanks to Lenore at Presenting Lenore for mentioning it on Twitter!

Really, really enjoyed reading this one from The Library Journal: "Not Just for Teens | A 35 Going on 13 Special: With more and more adults reading YA books, it's time to get to know the literature and promote it to grown-ups of all ages".

From NPR's Morning Edition, "A Writer And His Father, And 'A Barrier Between Us'".  A wonderful piece about young adult author Walter Dean Myers and his dad's struggle with illiteracy.  Myers is the author of several YA books, including the 2000 Printz Winner, Monster.

Huh, interesting.  Found this from accessAtlanta, who got it from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Decemberists leader Meloy, artist-wife to headline Decatur Book Festival".  I might be way late on this, but the hubs&wife team, "will be talking up the first installment in a young adult-aimed fantasy trilogy for HarperCollins, "Wildwood." 

Sad news for Australian readers and A&G employees - from the Sydney Morning Herald: "Retail woes worsen as bookseller sacks 51". 

This is rad.  Egyptian cabbies are running thier own make-shift libraries out of their taxis for riders.  From Today's News From Egypt: "Taxi of Knowledge: Reading on the road".

From Publishers Weekly, "Q & A with Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks".  These are the ladies who authored the recently released YA offering, Spoiled

Really nicely done college radio piece on young adult fiction from University Beat/WUSF in Florida.  Here's the blurb: "Today’s young adult fiction of wizards, warlocks and vampires in love can actually be critically read in the classroom. University Beat on WUSF 89.7 FM introduces you to USF English Literature major Courtney Pollard and talks to her about her surprising findings."

A new article on sort-of old news, but there's a few I didn't know about.  From The Wrap: "With 'Potter' & 'Twilight' Winding Down, Studios Hunger for Young Adult Novels".

And of course, the FINAL trailer for the last Harry Potter was released on Thursday.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Talking Culture, Blood & Books with "Bloodspell" Author, Amalie Howard

I am always happy to have an author over for a chat, and I am particularly happy to have Amalie Howard, YA debut author of the recently released Bloodspell!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

The spell was simple...

Cruentus Protectum (Defend the Blood)

But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds -- much less one that reveals she's a witch with unimaginable power.

What's more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own...

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood's deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

How about that gorgeous cover?  Want to know the mind behind it?  Read on to learn more about Amalie!

Amalie, your website makes it sounds like you've had such a cosmopolitan life!  What's one of your favorite travel stories/experiences that you can share with us?

Thanks! It’s sometimes odd to look back on everything I’ve done and the places I’ve been to, and I’m just amazed that I’ve been so lucky to be able to indulge my lifelong love affair with travel. Over the course of my life so far, I’ve visited 141 cities in 18 countries! Of all my travel experiences, the one that resonated the most with me was spending my junior year of college in France. It was a singularly exhilarating and terrifying experience—after all, being on my own away from everyone I knew in a foreign country was incredibly daunting. But once I got past the initial acclimatization and remained open to the experience, I really found myself being immersed into the local culture … food, language, arts, people, all of it. It was a wonderful experience. Apart from Paris being an extraordinary city (I’m part French so I have a huge affinity for it), I really discovered myself when I lived in France. Having had some problems fitting in as a freshman and major self-image issues, I returned for my senior year a far more poised and self-assured young woman. I credit that confidence and growth to my year in Paris, which is a city that totally rocks women being independent, fierce and fabulous. It was a life-shaping experience for me that I will always treasure. 

On Paris: "I really discovered myself when I lived in France. . .  I returned for my senior year a far more poised and self-assured young woman."

How have your travels and cultural education contributed to your writing?

Growing up, we were the family that saved money to travel, so I’ve been lucky to do that from a very young age and continued it into my older years. It’s given me a great foundation for experiencing different cultures and understanding the true meaning of diversity, which I think gives my writing a unique edge and voice. I also grew up in the Caribbean—an area of the world rich in occult folklore and mysticism, so I had more than enough inspiration to develop an early and ongoing obsession with all things fantasy. Word of mouth tales of voodoo or West Indian sorcery called Obeah, tales of the Soucouyant, a supernatural beast disguised as an old woman by day and a blood-sucking creature by night—those stories thrilled and terrified, and I always wanted more. Being able to leverage my unique background and my travel experience really allowed me to shape my writing and bring that little something extra to the table. The locations in BloodspellMaine to New York to the UK to France—all seemed to come together really well, adding to the overall breadth and depth of the story. I wouldn’t have been able to write about any of these cities with such confidence if I hadn’t lived in those places myself.  

Tell us a little bit about how Bloodspell evolved?  I understand it originally was a short story?

It did technically start out as a short story. Actually, it was a pretty terrible story that I wrote about ten years ago … I recently dug it up and it literally had me snorting and laughing in tandem. Anyway, the good part about the story was the main vampire so I ended up using him as a loose framework for Christian in Bloodspell. The heroine needed work so her development really ended up driving the direction of this novel. In the end, what started out as a story about vampires evolved into a story about a young witch trying to face her fears and embrace what she is, because in her world, her blood is the source and strength of her magic but it’s also a creature with a will of its own that’ll do anything to control her. Once I had that idea in hand, it literally just took over. The vampire element suddenly became peripheral and took a back seat to this unique twist that completely consumed me. I really identified with it because I loved the idea of having this monster inside of her that she had to overcome. Think of Victoria’s blood curse as a metaphor—for example, a disability or an eating disorder or self-image issues—something big and terrifying that any ordinary teenage girl may have to overcome in everyday life. The message is the same. Bloodspell is Victoria’s story of becoming, where she has to find herself, face her fears, and only then, really own who she is. She is not going to give up even when the odds against her to fail are so great. In the end, it’s about rocking who she is, no matter what. The core message of this novel is that being different sucks sometimes, but it’s not always going to suck—one day, you’re going to be psyched you’re the exception and not the rule. 

If we were to open both a CIA file on Victoria, and then a psychologist's file on Victoria, what would each have to say about her?

What an interesting question! On the CIA file, I’d have to say they probably wouldn’t have too much information on her. After all, she’s an incredibly powerful witch, and my guess is, if she didn’t want to be “found,” she could quite easily make certain information disappear! In Bloodspell, I describe the supernatural world as surviving in the proverbial shadows, as a “world that [exists] in the shadows on the periphery of human reality.” Victoria, for better or for worse, is a part of both worlds, and she, like the vampires, would be bound to protect her supernatural identity above all else. A CIA file on Victoria would likely have basic information like:

  • Victoria Warrick, seventeen-year-old female, born in New York City, residing at 12 Wolf Lane, Millinocket, ME, with one Holly Masters (no relation to subject). Subject attends Windsor Academy in Canville, ME as a transfer student. Parents, deceased in traffic accident. Known associates: Christian Devereux, foreign student attending Harland College (identity verified). Current assessment of subject: no threat found.

A psych file on Victoria would likely be a little different. I don’t think anything about her true identity would be available in her file, but it would definitely have information about her emotional or mental condition, especially if Victoria herself sought out the psychologist, perhaps to deal with post-traumatic stress after the death of her parents and her own near-death experience. It would probably look something like this:

  • Victoria Warrick, seventeen-year-old female, current student at Windsor Academy. Strengths: Subject indicates well-developed communication skills, and strong sense of empathy. Subject is highly organized and open to thinking outside the box, socially capable, and displays appropriate conceptual reasoning skills. Subject appears to cope relatively well with normal levels of coursework stress and pressure. Developmental Areas: Subject exhibits tendencies to make emotional decisions based on intuition, and tends to avoid confrontation wherever possible. Marked trust issues, keeps feelings hidden. Subject displays minor symptoms of paranoia, and claims to have terrible nightmares. Mild sleep aid prescribed. Clinical assessment: Ongoing.  

Do you have passions outside of writing?  What are they?

When I’m not writing novels, which is my driving passion (apart from Bloodspell, I’ve written another urban fantasy series about guardian angels with a twist, as well as a post-apocalyptic/dystopian sci-fi novel), I spend any free time I have reading. I love, love, love reading. I have foregone sleep for books many a time, especially if it’s a really good one. I positively adore Young Adult books! Some of my favorite authors are Suzanne Collins, Kristin Cashore, and Cassandra Clare. I do blog about the books that I’ve read, but I guess that would also count as writing. I adore going to the movies. I probably spend a ridiculous amount of money on movies, but there’s just something to be said for watching films on the big screen. I’m a very visual person so getting lost in a great movie is like candy to me. Other than that, I love surfing, as in actual ocean surfing, which I’m not doing yet because even with a wetsuit, the water would be freezing. I did get to surf while in Australia last December so that was awesome. I love spending time with my family—we tend to do a lot of things together, so that’s always fun. We spent a month in Zurich last summer, and a month in Australia this past winter. My family is incredibly important to me, and definitely tops the list of my passions.  

What's an overall theme that you see popping up in your writing?  Why do you think this is?

Amalie Howard
I think the themes of fitting in and self-acceptance appear consistently throughout this novel. As a teenager, life can be pretty tough. After all, you exist in a social world with your peers, who may not be as accepting of your differences as they should be—and if you don’t fit the mold, life can be pretty much suck. That’s unfortunately a sad fact of today’s society. For Victoria like any other teen, in the beginning, all she wants is to be normal and fit in, have friends, and be happy. I’d say that’s a pretty average teenage sentiment. However, the fact is she isn’t normal, and this is not something that she can just ignore—she has this powerful creature inside of her that will subdue her if she doesn’t face her fears and accept who she is. I think Victoria’s situation is a metaphor for anyone with any kind of seemingly insurmountable problem, whether it’s a broken home or an eating disorder or a learning disability. You can beat it. You can make sure it doesn’t control you. And you can win. This leads into the sister theme of choice and consequence. Growing up my mother drummed that into me—we are ultimately responsible for our own actions, and we have to be accountable for them. Giving up is a choice, just like choosing to not give up is also a choice … it may be harder, but in the end, facing adversity and overcoming it is far better than the alternative. I think these themes reoccur in the novel because they are both part of the core message—life may be tough today, but it’s not always going to be that way. Tomorrow is a whole other day with a whole lot of other possibilities, even if you’re a witch at the mercy of a blood curse that will do everything possible to completely dominate you! 

What can we expect from you in the future?

Bloodspell is the first in a planned trilogy, and I am working on the second book so you’ll be seeing a lot more of Christian and Victoria, plus some of the other characters like Leto (a lot of him!) and Angie, and maybe some new ones. The sequel is set in Paris so I’m really excited about that, and it really delves into Victoria’s past and how the curse started. Readers will also learn more about the Reii, the Vampire Ancients, and will come to understand more about Christian, how he was turned and why he is so important to the vampire society. In the third installment, Victoria actually becomes consumed by the blood curse so it’s going to be the story of how she survives it. Very excited about the next two books! I also have a completed novel for a completely different series incorporating angels and demons (although definitely not the warm and fuzzy kind of angels) with a very interesting mythological twist! I’m also working on a YA post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel, as well as one in a more literary vein about a girl in the middle of a culture clash. If I have anything to say about it, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me!  

What books are on your list that you think every young adult should read, ie. what are some of your favorites and the ones that most inspired you?  

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on. One of my teen favorites was the classic, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, which is still a wonderful book for beginning pre-teen and teen readers. The entire collection of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia includes some of my favorite books. During my older teen years, which were a very transitional age for me, I really delved into the fantasy genre, like David Eddings or Mercedes Lackey. Those epic fantasy worlds intrigued me to no end! Some of my epic fantasy favorites included The Belgariad and The Mallorean, and The Lord of the Rings. Here’s a short list of must-read teen books that I would recommend to young adults:- Little Women, Stardust, White Fang, Black Beauty, The Witches, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, The Count of Monte Cristo, Romeo & Juliet, Dracula, The Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials, The Princess Diaries series, Coraline, The Eragon series, The Hunger Games series, The Twilight series, The Mortal Instruments series, Fire, Graceling, The Lovely Bones, A Great and Terrible Beauty, Atonement, Go Ask Alice, Girl Interrupted, Wintergirls, and Divergent. I’m thrilled that there’s such a big resurgence and appreciation for Young Adult books today. While my teenage self would have undoubtedly loved to read Harry Potter and Twilight, I’m just happy that I have the chance to read those and more as an adult. Hopefully, teens today will enjoy my debut teen Urban Fantasy novel, Bloodspell, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Amalie!  Best of luck to you and writing!
And be sure to check back here on July 2nd for my review of Bloodspell!

Check out the rest of the Bloodspell Blog Tour, hosted by the {Teen} Book Scene

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.16.2011

General 'This & That' News

Well, it had to happen.  NPR finally ran something on the whole #YAsaves thing. Twice.  Once on their blog, Monkey Sees, with this post by Linda Holmes, "Seeing Teenagers As We Wish They Were: The Debate Over YA Fiction,"  and again on their radio show, Tell Me More, where they hosted, "Meghan Cox Gurdon, who wrote "Darkness Too Visible" in the Wall Street Journal and Christopher John Farley, editorial director of the Wall Street Journal's blogs. Also joining the conversation are acclaimed young adult author Patricia McCormick and young adult librarian Candice Mack."  Click to listern to, "The Dangers, Values Of Dark Teen Lit". 

ALSO, Entertainment Weekly nabbed an interview with Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher on his reaction to the now notorious Wall Street Times op-ed piece: "'Thirteen Reasons Why' author Jay Asher responds to controversial anti-YA article: 'I got very upset'"  His best-selling debut novel was recently released in paperback, and EW did a separate piece with him on the book, "Why teen-suicide novel 'Thirteen Reasons Why' is saving lives: An interview with Jay Asher". It's a great interview, and I highly recommend reading it (read my review of Thirteen Reasons Why).

I really loved this article from The Ocean City Patch about how YA author Carol Plum-Ucci feels about setting - both in her books and how it influences her writing: "For Author Carol Plum-Ucci, A Sense of Place Matters, and Her Place Now is Ocean City". Plum-Ucci is the author of many books, including the 2001 Printz honoree The Body of Christopher Creed.

Today (as in the morning MSNBC television show) recently posted, "Teen moms? Killer kids? 6 best young adult novels — for adults".  I kind of want to have a wittle tawlk with them for including Sweet Valley Confidential in there.  Cringe - someone had their nostalgia cap on a bit too tight, eh?  Not too shabby on the other picks, though!

Like nonfiction?  I do!  Check out this article from The Guardian, "The 100 greatest non-fiction books".

Another good one in The Guardian, "Don Calame's top 10 funny teen boy books".

Holy. Shite.  How jealous am I of anyone who's going to Comi-Con 2011 in San Diego next month?  Here's why, or rather, here's who, as in, who will be there: Veronica Roth, Andrea Cremer and Stephanie Perkins.  Did someone say 'YA panel'?  Read on at MTV for more: "'Twilight' At Comic-Con: Here's What We Know".

Muhahaha, did you see the new trailer for the recently released From Bad To Cursed by Katie Alender.  Way creepo.


The Canadian Children’s Book Centre announced the finalists for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the inaugural John Spray Mystery Award.  Most of the books are geared towards younger children, but there is some MG and ones that are rated age 13+.  Go here to see the full list of nominees.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lit News To Note 06.15.2011

General 'This & That' News

Really nice local radio piece out KCUR Kansas City, MO on book selling wars.  Very good audio.  (thanks to Shelf Awareness).

Um, some rather discouraging statements for bookstore owners were made the Australian Minsiter for Small Business.  From the Canberra Times: "Minister predicts demise of bookstores", (thanks to Shelf Awareness).

GREAT article about a veteran author writing his first YA novel.  From The Walrus: "Brother Grim:In his new young adult novel, Idaho Winter, Tony Burgess unleashes his trademark gore and gross-out humour on the kids".  I cringe slightly at the word 'kids', but here is an excerpt from the article, "In June, he published what might be his most surreal book yet: Idaho Winter, about a tormented boy who takes control of his surrounding world after learning he’s a character in a book."  Never read anything by him, but the premise has me intrigued.

Rather cool article from The Guardian that asks an interesting question: "Writing for a living: a joy or a chore?".

Okay, okay, I know that that #YAsaves! thing is a bit over, but I really liked these three posts:


The winners for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award have been announced:
  • General Fictions Winner: East of Denver by Gregory Hill
  • Young Adult Fiction Winner: Spookygirl by Jill Baguchinsky

The winners for the 2011 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards have been announced:
  • Fiction:Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
  • Nonfiction:The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin
  • Picture Book:Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor

The winners for the 2011 Red House Chidren's Book Award (UK) have been announced:
  • Overall Winner: Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
  • Young Childrens: Yuck!  That's Not a Monster! by Angela McAllister & Alison Edgson
  •  Older Readers: TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow 

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators announced the winners of the first ever
Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards.  Check out the winners and their beautiful covers here.