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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: series

My internet connection has been having problems – this is without images and posted later than I would’ve liked.

I’ve decided to write a collective review of the first three Louder than Words books, because each title is around 150-170 pages, and I feel this kind of review will cover them more thoroughly than three short reviews.

I’ve blogged about the series before, but here’s a quick refresher: It’s a collection of memoirs, consisting of blog entries, diary pages, poems, etc, of teens in their own words.

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon:

When she was fourteen, Chelsey’s father, a cruise ship entertainer, was violently murdered. The teen had already experienced parental loss with the death of her mother, to Leukemia, when she was six. Orphaned, Chelsey channels her emotion and anger creatively with writing. Shouldered with the burden of continuing school in the midst of being uprooted from her home, wanting to remain where it’s safe and familiar, she comes to terms with the loss. Chelsey finds solace in words, and eventually applies to the writing program of a performing arts school.

Emily by Emily Smucker:

Emily’s plagued with dizziness, stomaches, and fevers lately. Eventually, she learns she has West Nile, and it’s incurable. Suddenly, all of her plans for senior year put on hold. Now even the simplest things like traveling and attending classes are a struggle. Despite her diagnosis, Emily tries to continue her life as normal, even as her friends go on with their lives, while she’s left behind. A Mennonite, Emily’s faith both gives her strength and makes her question God’s plan with her diagnosis, until she finds peace with her situation.

Marni by Marni Bates:

Marni’s father is basically a stranger, her parents are divorcing, and school’s anything but easy. Unable to cope with the stress surrounding her, Marni begins plucking her eyebrows. At first it’s just heeding her sister’s beauty advice, until the urge to pick extends to her eyelashes, then hair. Scared to confront her family with the truth, Marni confesses to a classmate her habit and is met with disgust. Finally, after a talk with her mother, Marni finds a name for his disorder: trichotillomania and learns she’s not alone.

Each of the books in the series has an editor’s touch (Smart Girls’s mastermind, Deborah Reber), but the final products still bear the teen’s words. There’s almost a sense of voyeurism here – as if we’re reading an online journal we’ve stumbled upon. Within each account of the girls’ ordeals, I got a real sense of the author’s personalities from their writing – from Emily’s quirky sense of humor with her wryly-named cane, John McCane, to her diatribe against pink jellybeans. In their respective books, Chelsey’s complex search for an appropriate religion, and Marni’s resilience despite an absent father and troubling stress disorder stand out. The stylistic choices among the three authors differ, also reflecting the girls’ personalities well. Chelsey describes her ordeal chronologically, while Marni and Emily favor a more free-writing approach, using flashbacks and random anecdotes.

While I enjoyed all three books, Marni really struck a chord with me with its account of Trichotillomania, as I had a coworker and classmate who was stricken with the disorder. Reading a first hand-account of “trich” let me see what she was going through, as her situation was similar to Marni’s.

There’s been a deluge of biographies for adults on the market, but little for teens. Before Louder Than Words, “real” accounts for teens were the anonoymously-penned Annie’s Diary or Go Ask Alice. Now with the introduction of Marni, Emily, and Chelsey, Louder Than Words offers true stories teens were able to relate to, and definitely fills a niche. In the back of each title, readers will find book club discussion questions providing talking points for teens and parents.

Copies for review provided by the publisher.

Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: HCI Teens
Format: Paperback


I have the above three titles to give away to one winner. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Contest begins August 12, 2009 and ends September 9, 2009.


HCI Communications has released a new series that’s the first of its kind – a completely teen-authored memoir line for teens. Each of the teen authors shares their powerful stories, with the volumes consisting of poetry, diary entries, and prose. The tough topics covered include Emily Smucker’s battle with the West Nile virus, Marni Bates’ suffering from trichotillomania, and Chelsey Shannon’s emotional loss of her beloved father.

The team behind the memoirs is taking an unique step with the series, offering an array of online content, including live videochats with the authors and editor. The schedule is below, taken from editor Deborah Reber’s website Check out more content including the trailer, excerpt from the series, etc at There’s even playlists from the authors.

Monday, August 10, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber, “How the Louder Than Words Series Came To Be”
How were the teen authors chosen? How were the books put together? How much of what happened is true? What has been the most fun part of the project for you? What’s been the hardest part? Are there more books coming? How can I be a Louder Than Words author?

Tuesday, August 11, 8-9 p.m. ET – Marni Bates, author of “Marni”, Compulsive Behavior and How the Internet Can Help
Marni Bates answers questions about her book, “Marni.” Marni has trichotillomania — a irresistible desire to pull out her own hair. What do you have? Marni discusses how the Internet helped her understand the problem, and also how she feels about having her secrets revealed in a book.

Wednesday, August 12, 8-9 p.m. ET – Emily Smucker, author of “Emily” – Sickness and Faith, Pickles and Cake
Emily Smucker will answer questions about what it’s like getting through senior year with a chronic illness. Emily is a Mennonite but, don’t worry, it’s not contagious. She’ll also talk about blogging and writing books.

Thursday, August 13, 8-9 p.m. ET – Chelsey Shannon, author of “Chelsey”, Assembling a New Life with Pieces from the Past
Chelsey Shannon talks about fashioning a new life for herself after her father was murdered a week before her 14th birthday and she had to move away from home and school. She’ll talk about overcoming grief, and how she discovered a group of women writers who helped her get over.

Friday, August 14, 8-9 p.m. ET – Deborah Reber – How to Break Into Publishing for Teen Writers
Description: On Friday, series editor Deborah Reber will answer questions about how teen writers can break into publishing.

You can find all the videos this week at Kyte: Louder Than Words TV. The live streams are saved so you can replay them later if you miss the live chat.

Alyson Noel’s 2nd Immortals series arrived in bookstores July 2 (and is already # 1 on The New York Times list), and readers can go beyond the novels with the newly-launched

The website is a fully interactive experience with multimedia and exclusive content. The model for the website is Summerland -a place mentioned in Noel’s series.

Visitors to the site will find the following:

Overheard in Summerland – Hidden audio clips written exclusively by the author for the website. The clips are conversations between characters.

Aura Photo Upload – Visitors can upload their photo into a crystal ball and select which aura suits their mood. The photos can then be downloaded and saved to a computer.

Interactive Chakra Chart – Place your mouse over each chakra and the traits associated with that chakra will appear.

Downloads – Wallpapers, a screensaver in both narrow and widescreen versions for both Mac and PC, and a banner that can be embedded into fan blogs and MySpace profiles.

Author and Series Info – Visitors will find a note from Alyson, author bio, a list of scheduled tours and events, and links to Alyson’s other titles. They will also find Immortals Series book summaries, excerpts, audio book excerpts, and trailers. The site includes links to Alyson’s MySpace, Facebook page, Facebook fan group, blog, and Twitter.

and more!

Today I help end author Chris Rettstatt’s blog tour for The Sky Village, first book of the Kaimira Code series.

I interviewed him about his writing process, future Kaimira code books, and the influence of his favorite science fiction on the series.

In The Sky Village, another character, Lizard Girl, is mentioned as one of the mysterious book’s stories. Rom and Mei previously thought the stories they read were simply childhood fiction, but realize they are real accounts of each other’s lives. How many other Kaimira children will there be?

The third book in the series will reveal the identity of the third Guardian. But there are references in The Sky Village that there might be more Guardians. Exactly how many and who they are is still a mystery.

As the Kaimira Code is a five book series with differing characters, plots, and locations, I imagine a great deal of research has to go within each. What are the challenges of writing about such diversity, rather than one set of characters in a few locations?

A big part of the challenge is exactly what you’ve said, doing the research to get each location right. And though this is fantasy, I wanted to represent cultures in a way that would feel authentic, not only to American readers but also to people who grew up in those cultures.

But this is also where a lot of the fun is. I love going to a new place and losing myself in the culture. And when I’m writing, I love trying to find just the right details to give a similar experience of that culture to the reader.

On your blog, you mention you’re a parent of twin girls. When they’re older, what characteristics from your characters would like to your children to have?

During the wedding ritual in The Sky Village, Ai-ling’s parents tell her that they’ve tried to raise her to be “happy, healthy, strong, and wise.” This was inspired very directly by what I want for my own daughters.

I’d also like for my twins to learn early that even the most intense emotions are manageable, which is something Rom and Mei have to learn.

Finally, I want very much for my twins to be independent and adventurous. This is the hard one, because my instinct is to come running every time they encounter an obstacle. But when I see how proud they are, even at this age, to have worked something out on their own, I know I have to try to let them figure out their world in their own way.

Despite being the first book, The Sky Village already bears a rich mythology of its own, with its history of demonsmithing, the brief story of the Trinary Wars, etc. There’s excerpts in the novel from diaries and histories – would you ever consider expanding these plots into their own series, such as a book of Sky Village tales, etc?

That’s a dangerous suggestion. I love coming up with stories that fit the various nooks and crannies of the Kaimira storyverse, so much so that I tend to go overboard. But I can say that if readers want more Sky Village stories, It will be my pleasure (literally) to write those stories. And I’m hoping readers will write some of those stories, too.

You appear to be quite the science fiction buff, as evidenced by the technological aspects of the Kaimira Code, as well as your blog writings mentioning the genre. Are there any elements from science fiction or fantasy that inspired the series?

My favorite books as a child were fantasy and science fiction, and it’s still a favorite genre of mine. There are tons of influences that found their way into Kaimira, and probably a lot more that that I’m not even aware of.

A common theme since the beginning of Science Fiction was fear of science. We’ve seen so many stories that pit humanity against science and technology, and they never get old, because just as we’ve started to relax about a certain science, a new one comes along to scare the bejesus out of us.

And stories about humans against the untamed wild go back to the days of cave paintings. And these stories keep coming back, because the more we conquer nature, the deeper our fear that nature’s going to fight back.

Kaimira weaves both themes together, with science on one side, nature on the other, and humans stuck in the middle just trying to survive.

If it was possible, what animal-machine hybrid would you want as a pet?

The answer to that question changes daily. Some days I’d say Feifei, because I love the idea of a beautiful little pet you can keep in a pouch around your neck. Other days I’d say Spot, particularly if I were going to battle. But today my answer is going to be Robertson’s demon Shakes (whose name is short for Shakespeare).

I always ask authors…If you could live inside any children’s book, what title would it be and why?

Where the Wild Things Are. I’d love for every day to feature a Wild Rumpus and then be back home by dinner.

Thanks to Chris for letting me participate in his blog tour. Be sure to read my review.

Watch the book trailer below!

Mei takes flight with the Sky Village, a series of hot air balloons anchored together. Separated by her parents by the complex war between machine, beast and man, the twelve year old is alone in her new surroundings, as her father goes off to rescue her kidnapped mother. A stranger among the Sky Village citizens, Mei must learn their traditions after a peace treaty between human and bird is severed.

Meanwhile, in the shell of Las Vegas, thirteen year old Rom and his sister, Riley, fight daily for survival amongst the demons and beast that roam the ruins of the city. Rom scours the city for water and bits of technology he can barter, but Riley’s taken by demons – animal-mechanical hybrids, and Rom must travel underground to rescue her. Forced to fight in the demon-battling circuit, Rom discovers an untapped power within himself.

The two soon discover they can communicate through a journal, a book they previously considered a storybook where they read of other children’s and each other’s adventures. Animus, the mysterious being within the book, reveals a startling secret to their genetics: the kaimira gene in their DNA embodies them with beast and mek quailities.

When Animus ask for release, Mei and Riley are forced to confront their new inheritance, and face the remnants of the world: the aftermath of the Trinary wars, in which man, beast, and machine fight for control.

Monk and Nigel Ashland’s The Sky Village oscillates between pulse-raising action, and heartfelt takes on grief and loss. Both primary characters are richly written, and the emotional travails Rom and Mei face come across in sharp paragraphs and gripping situations. The depth of familial love is captured perfectly as Rom helps his sister construct puppets modeled after their parents, and Mei relishes her time with one of her mother’s pets.

Though a teen series, Rom and Mei wrestle with adult situations as both must save those around them by recognizing and controlling their newfound genetics. Throughout The Sky Village profound questions are raised, such as a futility of progress in science, the price of power, and what differentiates man, beast, and machine. The Sky Village is an exciting new entrance into the children’s literature world, and a worthy contender.

The action journeys from the page to the screen with the companion website, where the rest of the novel’s journals and excerpts are revealed.

The Sky Village arrives in hardback July 8 from Candlewick Press.

Review copy provided by the publisher.