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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and lets bloggers share what books they’ve received, bought, or borrowed this week.  You can find more information here, if you’d like to participate.

Nice mix of books this week.  I had several more I wanted to buy, but maybe next week. 🙂

Bought

Just After Sunset by Stephen King

In King’s latest collection of short stories (following 2002’s Everything’s Eventual), he presents 14 tales.  (Scribner, published originally in 2008)

I love Stephen King. His short story collections never fail to entertain. Some might be duds, but there’s always an excellent one that sticks with you!

Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Connie Fletcher

This is a world that TV crime shows can’t touch.  Here are eighty experts – including beat cops, evidence technicians, detectives, forensic anthropologists, blood spatter experts, DNA analysts, latent print examiners, firearms experts, trace analysts, crime lab directors, and prosecution and defense attorneys – speaking in their own words about what they’ve seen and what they’ve learned to journalist Connie Fletcher, who has gotten cops to talk freely in her bestsellers What Cops Know,  Pure Cop, and Breaking and Entering Every Contact Leaves A Trace presents the science, the human drama, and even the black comedy of crime scene investigation.  Let the experts take you into their world. (St. Martins Press, originally published 2006)

I’m a crime junkie.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Her new summer job comes with baggage. Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings – Spencer, Lola, and Marlene. When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest called Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.  (Scholastic, paperback May 2009)

I started reading this at work and was so charmed, I had to have it.  The sequel, Scarlett Fever, just came out!

For Review

Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman

The best thing about sports is that you never know when a great moment is going to happen. And everyone has a different opinion about what the greatest moments are. Sportscaster Len Berman reveals his favorite moments in sports and offers this challenge—what are yours?

Hear the cheers, create and share your own memories, and let the debate begin! Plus, the included CD features many of the actual broadcasts—you’ll hear all the drama and excitement as it happened!  (Sourcebooks,November 2009)

This one looks like a lot of fun.  I hope the Red Sox winning the World Series (for the first time) is in there!

Noah’s Bark by Stephen Krensky

Why do animals make the noises they do? You may not have known it, but its all thanks to an old man named Noah, who once upon a time built an ark. Noah is trying to build an ark, but with the snakes quacking, the beavers crowing, and the pigs howling, he cant get anything done.  (Lerner Publishing Group, April 2010)

Just adorable and I love the art.

The Punctuation Station by Brian Clearly

All aboard! Join a family of giraffes on their journey to Punctuation Station. As the train chugs along, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using periods, commas, apostrophes, question marks, hyphens, quotation marks, and exclamation points! Playful rhymes from Brian P. Cleary and colorful illustrations from Joanne Lew-Vriethoff make learning about punctuation fun. So hop on board – this is one train ride you don’t want to miss!  (Millbrook, April 2010)

More children’s books need giraffes!

What did you get this week?

The Undercover Book Lover

The Undercover Book Lover is having a huge contest to celebrate her birthday! The winner will receive the prizes below. There are some amazing books up for grabs!

1 Finished copy of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
1 Finished copy of The Sight by Judy Blundell
1 Finished copy of Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
1 Finished copy of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
1 Finished copy of The Line by Teri Hall
1 Finished copy of The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
1 Finished copy of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
1 Finished copy of Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
1 Finished copy of Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
1 Finished copy of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

You can enter here!

The Frenetic Reader

The Frenetic Reader is giving away a copy of A Match Made in High School plus some swag!  It’s a US/Canada only contest.  Enter here!

Steph Su Reads

Steph Su is having a HUGE blogoversary giveaway! There’s a lot up for grabs, including several amazing ARCs: Will Grayson, Will Grayson,  Sisters Red, Linger, plus more!

Go check out all the details and enter!

Lara and her beagle, Amos

Lara Zielin is the debut author of Donut Days. She’s also a model for the Bluggie, and you can view her hilarious advertisement for that here. The Bluggie is like the Snuggie, but with bling!  Donut Days is the story of Emma Goiner, who’s facing some serious issues after her pastor mother told their congregation Adam was a hermaphrodite. But first, Emma has to make it through the weekend at the Donut Camp, where fans of the Crispy Dream donut stores are camping. Her plan? Write a story for the local paper and win a scholarship to a non-Christian college.

I loved Donut Days, and you can read my review here. Be sure to check out Lara’s website at Larawrites.com and read Donut Days, now in hardback from Putnam Juvenile, and arriving in paperback September 16, 2010.

Lara was kind enough to offer a $10 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card to anybody who comments on this interview! Leave a comment  by February 18 and I’ll draw a name via random.org on February 19!

One of the plot elements of Donut Days features a donut camp, where diehard fans eagerly await the Crispy Dream store opening.  Have you ever camped out for any, such as movie tickets, etc? What was it like?  If not, what would you camp out for?

Waaaeeelll, not technically. But one time? I stayed up really late (well, late for me) and went to the 12:01 showing of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It wasn’t a campout though the wait was eternal and, let me tell you, I was surrounded by some die-hard fans wearing cloaks and swords and stuff and things that kind of scared me. It was pretty intense. But, okay, it was totally worth it. I might not wear the cloaks and Hobbit ears, but I love LOTR with a passion that admittedly borders on the obsessive.

What’s your favorite kind of donut?

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to donuts. I love a really good powdered-sugar donut, or even a really good plain donut. Of course, if you give me a cruller or a cream-filled long john, I am SO not going to say no to it.

With a variety of characters, each contributing their own important part to Emma’s weekend adventures, was first person always your choice for Donut Days?

First-person makes a lot of sense to me when writing young-adult novels. It helps me get into the mind of the main character more, and helps me think about things from her perspective. In that way, I feel like I’m writing a more compelling protagonist who is going to be more vulnerable and authentic to readers. Of course, I don’t always execute that goal perfectly, but first-person definitely makes the most sense to me for YA.

What’s your writing process like? Do you have any lucky items, etc?

I write like I eat. I’ll go for a long while without doing anything, and then I’ll binge all at once. I wish in both areas I was a little bit more steady and didn’t behave in such a roller-coaster fashion. But with a full-time job, a house, a husband and a dog, my plate feels pretty full. So if that means I wind up writing 2,000 words over the weekend and not doing much during the week, I think I might as well stop fighting it.

I don’t have anything lucky in my writing space but … I have a writing space!! I am so happy that I have a room in the house that’s ALL MINE in which to do writing. I decorated it in pink and green, which are my power colors, and I have a huge comfy chair and an ottoman where I plunk myself down and get to work. I am so thankful for my sweet space!

There’s a heavy theme of Christianity and the inner struggle to be a “model Christian” in your novel, but it’s not marketed as Christian teen fiction. Few YA titles that are not Christian fiction approach this subject, why do you think this is?

The good news is, more and more mainstream YA novels are tackling the difficult—and often controversial—subject of faith. Eileen Cook, author of the fabulous WHAT WOULD EMMA DO?, joked with me about how similar our characters are. They are both named Emma, and they both wrestle with conformity in the church and feeling like they’re outcasts. Another awesome book is Robin Brande’s EVOLUTION, ME, AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE, which follows a Christian teenager who is caught up in the evolution debate and must figure out what she believes. And SHINE, COCONUT MOON by Neesha Meminger is an awesome book about a girl whose uncle shows up on her doorstep wearing a turban after 9/11. His “controversial” faith, which he shares with the main character in the weeks after the attacks, is dealt with thoughtfully and gracefully.

So, all that is to say that I think many authors are out there writing about faith and how hard it is for teens to sort out what they believe, especially amid pressure from people around them. And the more books on this, the better—if you ask me!

You recently wrote a blog post about the response to the Christian themes in your novel, mentioning some people told you they couldn’t relate or couldn’t even finish it.  Why do you believe this mentality exists?

I think religion is one of those things that, even in our politically-correct world, doesn’t always get a fair shake. If we were talking about race in a book, for example, it would be almost unheard of for someone to write to the author to say, “The main character is African American and I’m white, so I can’t read this because I can’t relate to it.”

Also, if a main character were African American and dealt with issues of race in a novel, would you call it an African American novel? I wouldn’t. I certainly didn’t call Sherman Alexie’s novel, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, a Native American novel. I just called it a totally awesome book.

But DONUT DAYS gets called a Christian novel all the time. Why is that? Now I’m the one asking the questions—d’oh! I’ll step down from my soapbox, but I think all this illustrates that people sometimes think about religion in very limited terms, and books that deal with faith can get labeled in ways that are sometimes unfair.

Your next novel is titled PROMGATE. Can you tell me anything about it?

The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore, and it’s due out in summer 2011.

If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?

WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS for sure! I was totally obsessed with that book going up. I loved the woods and hills and mountains where the book was set, and I’m a sucker for a good animal story. The two dogs in that book, Old Dan and Little Anne, were characters onto themselves. I also love the author’s personal story. He never thought he could be a writer, but with encouragement and support from his wife, he tried and look what happened! Yay!

In no particular order..

The Summer Before by Ann Martin. Have I not rhapsodized about my love for the BSC enough? Maybe a little more is needed! I am so excited for this new book and am dying for an ARC of it.  This new Publisher’s Weekly article got me a bit more excited.  It could be five pages worth of Claudia’s outfits and I’d buy it. (April, Scholastic)

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney.   Underground student justice league. Said league  inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird. Boarding school scandal. Need I say more? Plus Daisy liked my mockup cover! (Fall 2010, Little Brown)

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell.  I just love superheroes. Just love them. And to see them in YA fiction makes me really happy.  Judging from the excerpt the author posted on her website, this superhero is snarky, which I always enjoy.  (May, EgmontUSA)

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I’m a huge fan of Riordan, and have been lucky enough to correspond with him via email once or twice. I started reading the series when it was first released and haven’t looked back.  I love his writing for children (even though adults appreciate it too!), it’s layered with such humor, and depth, with relatable situations.  A new series is bound to be just as good as Percy Jackson.  (March, Disney Hyperion)

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride.  With a plotline that sounds like a good Law and Order: SVU episode, The Tension of Opposites looks like it feeds into my recently-kindled need for some good thrilling YA. A kidnapped teen turning up after two years missing might sound like it’s “ripped from the headlines” as the blurb on Goodread states, but what headlines can’t tell you is the emotional toll and grip such an event has on those left behind. And that’s what I want to see in this novel. (May, EgmontUSA)

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams.  A mysterious journal hidden in an attic. 1918’s flu epidemic, and a parallel to the present-day characters? Sounds like a book I would’ve loved to have existed when I was eleven, and reading Castle in the Attic. (April, Putnam Juvenile)

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer.  A girl who believes her sister is a murderer? That’s enough of a tagline for me. (May, Scholastic)

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis.  First, the cover art is adorable. And the title! Second, it’s about a young witch in Jane Austen’s England!  Who wouldn’t want to read? It’s also the first of a series. (April, Atheneum)

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. A new twist on the old tale of changlings, The Replacement looks excellent because it’s from the viewpoint of the replacement.  (September, Razorbill)

I haven’t done one of these in awhile!  This will cover a few weeks.  A very diverse range here!

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and lets bloggers share what books they’ve received, bought, or borrowed this week.  You can find more information here, if you’d like to participate.

I went a reading festival and met the following authors, and bought their books for autographs. I’m looking forward to reading them.

Bought

The Camel  Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

Fiona Sweeney wants to do something that matters, and she chooses to make her mark in the arid bush of northeastern Kenya. By helping to start a traveling library, she hopes to bring the words of Homer, Hemingway, and Dr. Seuss to far-flung tiny communities where people live daily with drought, hunger, and disease. Her intentions are honorable, and her rules are firm: due to the limited number of donated books, if any one of them is not returned, the bookmobile will not return.  (2008, Harper Perennial)

Read the story behind this book, it’s fascinating!

Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy

Mildred is a very focused eleven-year-old. Very focused on giant pumpkins. She’s growing the giants for her mother, who never got a chance to enter the Circleville, Ohio, Pumpkin Show weigh-off herself. After four disastrous growing seasons, Mildred is hoping to finally have a flawless pumpkin to enter in the contest. As long as busybody Aunt Arlene doesn’t interfere too much…and Daddy doesn’t need too much help at his veterinary practice…and her best friend Jacob can pitch in with some last-minute help…and the dogs don’t trample the seedlings…and the weather cooperates. (2009 paperback, Greenwillow)

Ray in Reverse by Daniel Wallace (I’ve read this before, I just wanted my own copy!)

Beginning when a dead Ray Williams arrives in Heaven, the novel unfolds as the deceased proceeds to tell his life story backwards. As dodgy and shiftless in the afterlife as he was on Earth, Ray finds himself in Heaven’s popular Last Words discussion group, where, for dramatic effect, he lies about his final utterances. A series of flashbacks reveals Ray’s defining moments, including his real last words and what they meant, in a funny, poignant narrative that moves with the clarity of a fable and the complexity of modern psychology. Ray spent his life hiding from the demands of marriage and fatherhood; from his fears of sexual ambiguityAand each chapter riffs on his signature confusion about reality.  (2001, Penguin)

Will Jesus Buy me a Doublewide? (Cause I Need Room for my New Plasma TV) by Karen Spears Zacharias

Karen Spears Zacharias believes Christians have been paying good money for a false doctrine: the Cash and Cadillac Gospel. With humor and wit in Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?, Zacharias unpacks story after story of those who use the name of God as a means to living their own good life, as well as some unlikely folks whose genuine faith has led them to a different understanding of wealth. (March 2010, Zondervan)

For Review

The Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire

Darina’s year goes from bad to worse when her boyfriend, Phoenix, is killed in a knife fight, making him the fourth student from their high school to die that year. She’s certain that she’s going crazy when she sees him and the others in an abandoned barn, but when Phoenix kisses her, she’s convinced he’s come back… to life?

Jonas, Summer, Arizona, and Phoenix have been brought back from limbo by the enigmatic and sometimes frightening Hunter, and are allowed to remain in the world of the living for one year in order to set right a wrong linked to their deaths. In exchange for being allowed to see Phoenix, Darina agrees to help the undead teens find justice, starting with Jonas… whose year is nearly up.

Darina must discover who is behind Jonas’s fatal motorcycle accident… without becoming a victim herself… and keep the Beautiful Dead a secret. She would sacrifice anything to help her beloved Phoenix, but setting him free might mean losing him forever. (March 2010, Sourcebooks Fire)

I also bought The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I’ve been so putting off reading the end of the Percy Jackson series, but I think it’s finally time.   Also Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein and The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty.

This is not a review post, but rather an assessment on a title I feel is worthwhile, but that I was unable to finish.

I Learned a New Word Today….Genocide by Elizabeth Hankins is about Javier, a Mexican immigrant child. His class is learning of genocide’s mark on history, from Sudan to Canada to Germany. Javier, understandably, is very upset at what he’s learned. The entirety of the book is written as Javier’s journal, as he chronicles his feelings about genocide.

The summary of the book states “Then he overhears a conversation that triggers a mysterious chain of events at his school. Now Javier is faced with the reality that no one is immune to the consequences of genocide. And perhaps everyone has a responsibility to help end it, even himself.”

I was unable to get to this part.  For I Learned a New Word Today, while well written, reads like a textbook mixed with a narrative. Pages devoted to historical accounts of genocides are intermixed with Javier’s journal.  In these parts, I felt like I was reading an adult trying to capture a child’s voice for some very intense things.  And this is where I had to stop reading. Even at an easy 150 pages, this book proved to be too much of a challenge for me.  In the classroom environment, I can see it being an excellent teaching tool on genocide, the Holocaust, and other atrocities.  It’s obviously a title meant for discussion, and not read on one’s own.

Copy provided by the publisher.

Title: I Learned a New Word Today..Genocide
Author:  Elizabeth Hankins
Date: 2009
Publisher:  Key Publishing House
Pages: 150
Format:  Paperback

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and lets bloggers spotlight the upcoming releases they’re anxious to read.

Yes, this is another “the book-is-far-off-from-release-date-yet-I-post-it-as-a-WOW-post.”  Like I did with Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds, I’m posting about another far off release.

This time it’s Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls.  There’s very little to go on here, but I managed to make a mockup cover that I like, which is pictured to the right.

Why do I want to read it?

  • Nova’s first novel, Dani Noir, just kills me. It’s so good, and so perfect. I re-read it occasionally before I tackle my own work-in-progress because it’s one of my favorite examples of first person for a young girl.
  • It has gothic fiction elements, and is compared to Shirley Jackson.
  • The plot.

Here’s the synopsis from Publishers Weekly:

The novel, which is tentatively slated for summer 2011, features various spooky elements—Penguin called it “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s supernatural family dramas”—and follows two sisters, one of whom is shunned by their town after discovering a dead body in the local reservoir.

And here’s what Nova has to say in my interview with her in September 2009:

It’s the story of Chloe, little sister of Ruby, the girl everyone in town looks to and wants to be. But one night something goes horribly wrong and a dead body is found. When the sisters are torn apart, Ruby will do whatever she can to make it right.

Alas, summer 2011 is a very long time.  In the meantime, visit NovaRen.com and read Dani Noir!