Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

I've planned a day of shopping and sightseeing around New York City today. Must relax after two great but tiring days at BEA. It was such a gift to get to meet everyone - authors, bloggers, publicists, booksellers, librarians and other press people. I'll do a recap post again sometime in the next few days!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NYC and BEA update

BEA attendees, if you are stopping by Presenting Lenore for the first time, welcome! Regular blog readers, here is a short recap of my BEA experience so far.

After a 9 hr flight on Thursday, we arrived at JFK, got to our hotel, and finally made it to the Teen Author Carnival (very late) at 5:30. If you were watching the event live, then you might have seen me asking the final question to the third group of authors. I asked about the first blurb each was asked to write, and there were some great responses. Wish I would've taken notes, ha! Since I was so late, I missed out on a lot of authors, but I did get to chat with Pam Bachorz (Candor), Michelle Zink (Prophesy of the Sisters) and Sarah Cross (Dull Boy). Not to mention, I finally met a ton of bloggers for the first time in person! Steph, Alea, Steph Su, Dominque, Sharon, Marie, Kori, Devyn, Mitali, and ... my brain just shut down. In any case, Marie has a very unglam pic of her, me and Steph on her blog, as well as a better TAC recap and other pictures.

Then it was off to dinner with bloggers and Hachette publicists: Steph, her mother, Daniel, Amy, Julie, Dawn, Stephanie, Kelly, Brianne, Miriam and Literanista. Lots of fascinating bookish talk. The waiters took notice that Daniel was the lone male among many "bellas".

I got a couple hours of sleep before I met Amy and Julie to stand in line for Catching Fire tickets. We braved the pouring rain and were about tenth in line, so yes, we got tickets.

The rest of the day is a blur. I know I meet tons of lovely bookish people - at my signing (my blogger trading cards produced by the team at Firebrand are so fun! I will send one to the first 10 people who ask - signed even!), standing in long autographing lines, walking the convention floor, and at Books of Wonder later in the afternoon. I also got to chat with a few of my favorite authors including AS King (you are awesome), Gayle Forman (and her lovely daughter and husband), Melissa Walker, Joshua Ferris (so adorable!), Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray...and my brain just shut down again.

Oh yeah...did I mention I got Catching Fire? (And I saw a couple of people sit down on the floor and start reading it immediately. There was also this little boy there who said he hadn't read it, but he was getting it for his teacher who couldn't come. How sweet is that?)

Just about time to join the fray again. I hope to catch some panels today, including the book blogger panel at 2:00 p.m. in room 1E15.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BEA and NYC Plans

When you read this, I'll be on a plane headed to New York City! In case you are also in NYC and want to meet me (except scary stalkers), you might find me at the following events:

Thursday May 28 Teen Author Carnival at the Jefferson Market Branch Library

Friday May 29 Book Expo America

5:30 am: Standing in line for Catching Fire author signing tickets - wish me luck!

10 -11 am: Signing at Firebrand/NetGalley's booth #4077. See whole blogger signing schedule to see when you can meet your favorite bloggers.

11 - 11:30 am: Author Signing Table 9 Laurie Faria Stolarz signing the sequel to Deadly Little Secret call ed Deadly Little Lies.

2:30 pm: Start lining up for Suzanne Collins Catching Fire at Table 2 (hopefully, if I snag a ticket)

4 pm: Author signing table 20 Joshua Ferris for his new book The Unnamed

Saturday May 30 Book Expo America

Events tbd. But I want to try to fit in signings by Laini Taylor (Lips Touch), Justine Larbalastier (Liar), Maggie Stiefvater (Ballad and Shiver), and Sarah Zarr (Once Was Lost).

Geektastic Party at Lucky Strike Lanes! Bowling!

Sunday May 31 My Birthday. YAY!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (32) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This has been my most anticipated read since I first heard about its' sale to HarperCollins in May 2008. Not only does it have a cool do-over/groundhog day meets the afterlife premise, it is also represented by super agent Stephen Barbara who has excellent taste. It doesn't come out until sometime in Spring 2010, but it has a cover, so I have to feature it!

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

Lauren also has a very interesting post up about her inspiration for BEFORE I FALL.

I will read this the very moment I get my hands on it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (55) + picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: Is there anything you would like to see added to the Library Thing site? Is there something you like on another bookshelf style site that LT doesn't have?

You know, I don't even use LibraryThing to its' full potential, so it's hard for me to say. I do like how GoodReads lets you divide your bookshelves into read, currently reading, and to-read. I know I could do that using tabs on LibraryThing, but it just looks cooler on GoodReads.


Since I leave in two days for Book Expo America in New York City, I've been cleaning, packing, scheduling posts for the blog and printing out my airline confirmation, hotel confirmation, BEA registration confirmation, etc. (Still working on my schedule too!) Well, Emmy's sure helping me out with the printing...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: 20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

It’s my mission to make you care about these words, Anna. About these people and everything they say and everything they were. Every story is part of a whole, entire life, you know? Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but an entire life. And books let you know them.” (p. 167 ARC edition, may vary from final published version)

The title makes you think this is going to be a light and frothy summer vacation story about girls meeting a bunch of cute boys. And there is that aspect to it, but this is book that goes deeper than that, a book that gives you a front row seat to all the giddiness, sadness, and messiness that is first love, second love and close friendship – and most of all, a book that makes you care about the characters as if they were real people.

Anna has been best friends with Frankie and her older brother Matt since she was born – and she’s been secretly in love with Matt almost that long too. When Matt kisses her on her 15th birthday, they begin a romantic relationship that they keep hidden from Frankie for weeks. And before he can tell Frankie, he dies. Fast forward a year, and a still-grieving Anna joins a still-grieving Frankie on her family vacation to California. They make a pact to have the best summer ever, which includes a competition to see who can get the most boys. But is Anna really ready to let go of Matt? And can she ever tell Frankie just how much Matt meant to her too?

There's some romantic window dressing, but the fully realized friendship between Anna and Frankie lies at the core of this novel. I like how Ockler focused on them instead of diluting the narrative with a bunch of side characters. Of course there are the parents (abnormally permissive and unquestioning) and the California boys they meet and sneak out with on a nightly basis (Sam and Jake), but these take a back seat to exploring the nature of friendship and the nature of grief.

For example, Anna says, “Sometimes I think if she knew about Matt and me, it would bring us closer. If I could make her understand how much I cared about him, she’d let me into the exclusive club where all the members have a right to be irrevocably sad. Instead, I am an intruder. I look into the windows and see them crying, but I’m outside in the dark, and they can’t see me.” (p. 76-77 ARC edition)

There was one aspect that bothered me though, and it was the way virginity was referred to an “albatross” that should be cast off as soon as possible, preferably to someone you don’t care about and will never see again. I mean, ok, feeling like a reject because you’ve never been kissed at 16, that I get. But if kissing someone you don’t care about is icky (and it is*), then sharing the most intimate act of human bonding with some random guy just to get it over with? At 16? That’s just…there are no words for how wrong I find that. Fortunately, the “albatross” plotline is resolved in a semi-responsible way though that does make sense for the story.

Release date for 20 BOY SUMMER is June 1st, though many copies have already been spotted in the wild. Hunt one down now! Visit the author at

* Khy wanted me to write about about a 20 boy kissing competition I had with my best friend, alias M*Girl. The idea was to see who collect kisses from 20 nationalities first. I made my way pretty well around the South American countries, but M*Girl won. And this was when I learned that kissing guys you don't care about is icky.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: Swoon by Nina Malkin

Eventually all stories must be told. People simply aren’t built to hold them in. …. [It’s a] matter of finding the right person to tell it to. Since a story, even a sad one, is a gift.” (p. 417-418, ARC edition – may vary from the final published version.)

It may seem odd that I’m starting this review with a quote from the second to last chapter of the novel. And although the quote refers to a minor subplot, the truth of it really resonated with me and sums up my feelings about this superbly written book about impossible love and unimaginable loss.

But basic plot before I go any further – NYC transplant Candice (known as Dice in the nickname-loving, cookie-cutter Connecticut community of Swoon) meets 18th century transplant Sinclair (known as Sin, because he sins with abandon and causes others to sin as well) when he possesses the body of her hot but prissy cousin Penelope (known as Pen because …err… elope would sound weird?). Sin was strung-up by Swoon’s denizens’ snobby ancestors, so he’s out to get revenge. Only Dice is aware of what he’s capable of, but swept up in the spell of his charm, she’s very reluctant to stop him…

I really did feel like this story is a gift – and judging by the polarizing reviews on GoodReads and across the blogosphere – it’s one that’s not right for everyone. I can understand that some readers are turned off by the all “lustful” scenes Sin leaves in his wake, but these are strictly dreamlike in quality (think Patrick Susskind’s THE PERFUME), and in no way explicit or eyeball scalding.

Ok, I’ll allow that the paranormal plot is rather convoluted and does tend to meander at times, but the writing is so stellar, I honestly didn't mind the detours. I took a week to read this, not only because I had only stolen moments to devote to it, but also because I wanted to savor Malkin’s delicious turns of phrase. The story is told in first person, and Dice is so wry in her observations and so conflicted in her loyalties and desires I found myself identifying with her (despite our differences). I don’t know…maybe you have to have a certain maturity level (and I'm not talking about age, though this is more appropriate for older teens), and/or a certain familiarity with tragedy, to really connect with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and not only will it stay on my shelf, I know I’ll go back and read passages from it again and again.

SWOON was released last week in hardcover. Visit the author at

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Kitteh Update

Because I've been so busy with work projects this week and have STILL not finished Swoon (I really, really want to...I adore it), I thought I'd post a new kitteh update.

Dain von Dusterwald is coming home on June 11th, and in the meantime the breeder sends me pictures. We are actually looking for a new name, so you if have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

Our bratty kitty is the one on the right. The other one is one of the 17 kittens currently living at the breeder.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I have winners!

I had three different contests at the beginning of May all for signed books.

The winner of a signed paperback of Michelle Richmond's No One You Know is... Beth Kephart

The winner of a signed hardcover of Susane Colasanti's Waiting for You is...Celi.a

The 5 winners of signed hardcovers of Lauren McLaughlin's Cycler are... Carolina (instant win), AmandaSue, Amy (as in My Friend Amy), Staci, and SarahChristine.

Congrats to all the winners!

I'll send out e-mails to winner this weekend, but you can make my life easier if you send your mailing addresses to lenoreva at hotmail dot com asap!

There is still time to win a Penguin Fantasy Prize Pack or a Penguin Reality Prize Pack!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are you registered with Technorati?

This week I happened upon a post that talked about what publishers look for when sending out review copies to book bloggers. You can read the entire post at The Book Publicity Blog, but what stood out most to me is that publicity people look at your technorati authority rating. This shows how many technorati registered blogs linked to your content over the past 6 months and shows how relatively popular your blog is. Trouble is, if mostly unregistered blogs link to you, your rating will be low despite how popular you might really be. I have a feeling a lot of you out there with YA blogs are not registered, so why not promote your own blog and support the YA blogging community not just by linking to other blogs but also by making your links count? Register your blog at It's been awhile since I did it, but it must have been fairly simply since I managed to register successfully.

P.S. It is free!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Penguin Fantasy Prize Pack - Win 9 Books!

This time you have two chances to win! There is the Penguin Fantasy Prize Pack - the following 7 new and upcoming books plus 2 mystery books - and the Penguin Reality Prize Pack which you can find here.

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross May 14, 2009
What do you do if you can deadlift a car, and you spend your nights flying to get away from it all? If you’re fifteen-year-old Avery Pirzwick, you keep that information to yourself. When you’re a former jock turned freak, you can’t afford to let the secret slip.

But then Avery makes some friends who are as extraordinary as he is. He realizes they’re more than just freaks—together, maybe they have a chance to be heroes. First, though, they have to decide whether to trust the mysterious Cherchette, a powerful wouldbe mentor whose remarkable generosity may come at a terrible price.

Visit the author at

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow May 14, 2009
Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)

Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?
Check out for more info.

Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs June 11, 2009
Phoebe, who recently discovered she’s a descendant of Nike (the goddess, not the shoe), is finding that supernatural powers come with a crazy learning curve.
Her stepfather, headmaster of the Academy for descendants of the Greek gods, has enrolled her at Dynamotheos Development Camp—aka Goddess Boot Camp—with a bunch of ten-year-olds for the summer. Embarrassing as that is, hopefully it’ll help her gain control over her powers in time to pass the test of the gods, continue training hard enough to qualify for the Pythian Games, and enjoy her godly boyfriend, Griffin, all while avoiding the ultimate mistake of accidentally misusing powers.
It’s another fast-paced myth-inspired heroine’s quest that’s sure to bring out the goddess in anyone.
Visit the author at

Possessions by Nancy Holder Sept 3, 2009
The It Girl meets The Exorcist in this chilling, haunted boarding school tale.

New-girl Lindsay discovers all is not right at the prestigious Marlwood Academy for Girls. Ethereal, popular Mandy and her clique are plotting something dangerous. Lindsay overhears them performing strange rituals, and sees their eyes turn black. It doesn’t help that the school itself is totally eerie, with ancient, dilapidated buildings tucked into the Northern California woods, a thick white fog swirling through campus. There are hidden passageways, odd reflections in the windows at night, and scariest of all is the vast lake rumored to have captured the ghost of a girl who drowned many years ago.

What Lindsay doesn’t yet realize is that Mandy and her cohorts are becoming possessed by spirits who have haunted the school for two hundred years. Spirits who want someone dead...
And that someone is Lindsay.

Dreamdark: Silksinger by Laini Taylor Sept 17, 2009
One faerie, the last of her clan, must fight to complete her sacred duty
Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor.

And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy.
Visit the author at

Fire by Kristin Cashore October 5, 2009
She is the last of her kind . . .

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, whilecrebel lords in the north and south build armies tocunseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.
Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.

Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate November 12, 2009
A steamy Southern beauty makes one fatal mistake.
Natalie Hargrove would kill to be her high school’s Palmetto Princess. But her boyfriend Mike King doesn’t share her dream and risks losing the honor of Palmetto Prince to Natalie’s nemesis, Justin Balmer. So she convinces Mike to help play a prank on Justin. . . one that goes terribly wrong. They tie him to the front of the church after a party—when they arrive the next morning, Justin is dead.

From blackmail to buried desire, dark secrets to darker deeds, Natalie unravels. She never should’ve messed with fate. Fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.

Cruel Intentions meets Macbeth in this seductive, riveting tale of conscience and consequence.
Visit the author at

To enter to win, just tell me which of these 7 fantasy books you want to read most, and which upcoming fantasy book (any publisher) you are most looking forward to (can be the same book of course!).
As always, +1 if you link to this contest from your blog or social media site and leave me a separate comment saying so.
+1 for being a follower. Just leave me another separate comment for it to count.
This contest is open to US and Canadian addresses only and ends on June 3rd at noon CST. The winner will have 24 hours to provide a shipping address or I will have to pick a new winner.

Penguin Reality Prize Pack - Win 9 Books!

This time you have two chances to win! There is the Penguin Reality Prize Pack - the following 7 upcoming books plus 2 mystery books - and the Penguin Fantasy Prize Pack, found in a separate post.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen June 16, 2009
It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect. Visit the author at and join Sarah-land at for latest news and more chances to win.

After by Amy Efaw August 11, 2009
An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .

Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.

And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible— she turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon’s unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption.
Visit the author at or for more book info.

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck September 17, 2009
The return of one of children's literature's most memorable characters is a gift indeed.

The eccentric, forceful, big-hearted Grandma Dowdel is the star of the Newbery Medal–winning A Year Down Yonder and Newbery Honor–winning A Long Way from Chicago. And it turns out that her story isn’t over—not even close.

It is now 1958, and a new family has moved in next door to Mrs. Dowdel: a Methodist minister and his wife and kids. Soon Mrs. Dowdel will work her particular brand of charm—or medicine, depending on who you’re asking—on all of them: ten-yearold Bob, who is shy on courage in a town full of bullies; his two fascinating sisters; and even Bob’s two parents, who are amazed to discover that the last house in town might also be the most vital.

As Christmas rolls around, the Barnhart family realizes that they’ve found a true home—and a neighbor who gives gifts that will last a lifetime.

I'm a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb October 13, 2009
Family Guy meets Election in this hilarious young adult debut!

Twelve-year-old Oliver Watson’s got the IQ of a grilled cheese sandwich. Or so everyone in Omaha thinks. In reality, Oliver’s a mad evil genius on his way to world domination, and he’s used his great brain to make himself the third-richest person on earth! Then Oliver’s father—and archnemesis—makes a crack about the upcoming middle school election, and Oliver takes it as a personal challenge. He’ll run, and he’ll win! Turns out, though, that overthrowing foreign dictators is actually way easier than getting kids to like you. . . Can this evil genius win the class presidency and keep his true identity a secret, all in time to impress his dad?

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollen Young Reader's Edition October 15, 2009
“What’s for dinner?” seemed like a simple question—until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers’ adaptation of Pollan’s famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.

In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore’s Dilemma serves up a bold message to the generation that needs it most: It’s time to take charge of our national eating habits—and it starts with you.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour October 20, 2009
An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction.

dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica November 3, 2009
What would you do with a million dollars, if you were 13?
Nate Brodie is nicknamed “Brady” not only for his arm, but also because he’s the biggest Tom Brady fan. He’s even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he’s never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars.

Nate should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad lost his job and his family is losing their home. It’s no secret that a million dollars would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure, and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Even worse, his best friend Abby is going blind, slowly losing her ability to do the one thing she loves most—paint. Yet Abby never complains, and she is Nate’s inspiration. He knows she’ll be there when he makes the throw of a lifetime.
Mike Lupica’s latest sports novel is also his most heartwarming. Visit the author at

To enter to win, just tell me which of these 7 realistic books you want to read most, and which upcoming realistic book (any publisher) you are most looking forward to (can be the same book of course!).
As always, +1 if you link to this contest from your blog or social media site and leave me a separate comment saying so.

+1 for being a follower. Just leave me another separate comment for it to count.
This contest is open to US and Canadian addresses only and ends on June 3rd at noon CST. The winner will have 24 hours to provide a shipping address or I will have to pick a new winner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (54) + picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: Were you aware that LT had a mobile version of the site? Do you ever visit sites via a mobile device? Can you think of anything this would help you with?

I wasn't aware of it, but I'm not surprised. Guess what though? I don't have a PDA and my cell phone is not web-enabled so I have no way to visit via mobile device (short of stealing Daniel's cell, which is web-enabled). I guess I should probably get with the program and get a web-enabled mobile device, but I am really a late adapter in these kind of things. I didn't even have a cell phone until about 5 years ago. I can imagine that having one would make me an even bigger internet addict than I already am, so it is probably for the best that I don't have one.


Now that the weather is finally warming up, I've stacked the extra blankets next to our bed (for easy access just in case). Of course, Emmy now likes to play the princess and the pea...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: Red by Jordan Summers

I see so many reviews for paranormal romances around the blogosphere that I thought I’d try expanding my reading horizons and see what all the fuss is about. I chose RED (Dead World, Book 1) by Jordan Summers because I liked the tagline (What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?) and because it is set in a dystopian future where the ozone is gone, the Earth is scorched, and most of the population lives in highly monitored republics.

Summers dedicates the book to her readers saying, “I wrote RED with the belief that there were other readers in the world like me who enjoy a grittier love story.” Guess that should have clued me in that I was about to have my eyeballs scalded by explicit werewolf sex – in the first chapter, no less.

But I persevered. And I found myself quite liking this story of Gina ‘Red’ Santiago, a field officer with an elite tactical team, who stumbles upon a gruesome crime in Nuria, a border town which is also a hangout for “Others” (super soldiers created during the last world war who turn into paranormal creatures when agitated). As she investigates the crime, she gets romantically involved with the town’s alpha male, Sherriff Morgan Kane. I personally would’ve liked less of the romance and more of the fascinating world-building, but this IS paranormal romance after all!

Strangely enough, Summers plots the story so that the answers to the big questions – who the killer is, Gina’s true nature, will Mike and Raphael’s reunite –are extremely and frustratingly obvious. But her characterizations are surprisingly deep for genre fiction, and I rooted for Gina throughout.

Book 2, SCARLETT, comes out next month. And I just might be a little bit excited to pick it up.

Find out more at

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top 100 Children's Picture Book Poll and my Top 10

Elizabeth Bird at Fuse 8 held a 100 top picture book poll at the beginning of March and asked for our top 10 picks. She's been revealing the top vote getters bit by bit on her blog and now all 100 (101 actually, due to an error) are up in a concise list of Top 100 Children's Picture Books.

Here are my picks and my comments (with where they ended up on the master list in parenthesis):

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963). The art direction, the story, the writing, everything is just perfect. (also #1)

2. The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer (1961). Great atmosphere and story. I picked this one because it is one of the few Tomi Ungerer books on sale in the US. But I could have also picked Zeralda's Ogre or others. (not on list)

3. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (2006). What a great idea for a book. So simple and so creative. (#90)

4. Wild about Books by Judy Sierra, ill. by Marc Brown (2004). My favorite rhyming book. So clever! (not on list)

5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1979). Lovely illustrations and art direction. (#3)

6. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964). Makes me cry everytime! But not for the reasons you might think. (#93)

7. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003). Interactive and silly. (#5)

8. Hondo and Fabian by Peter McCarty (2003). Gorgeous illustrations and Fabian has fun just like my cat does with the toliet paper. (not on list)

9. Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola (1975). This is so fun to read to kids aloud. (#44)

10. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, ill. by Betsy Lewin (2000). Hilarious. (#32)

And here are others I own and enjoy that made the list (links lead to descriptions on Elizabeth's blog):

#22: The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, ill. by Mike Smollin (1971)

#26: Corduroy by Donald Freeman (1976)

#46: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt (2006)

#56: Frederick by Leo Lionni (1967)

#57: Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, ill. Harry Bliss (2003)

#60: Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak (1962)

#65: Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (2003)

#68: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006)

#88: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (1993)

#99: Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal, ill. by Jen Corace (2005)

There are a bunch more that I've read but don't own, and also some I didn't know and want to buy now.

What are your favorite picture books? Did you participate in the poll?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lisbon and OFFF Design Conference Highlights

I was in Lisbon last week for 4 days of sightseeing and 3 days of the OFFF design conference featuring some of the world’s leading designers including Stefan Sagmeister (best known for carving text into his body with a knife for a poster about suffering for your art), Paula Scher (amazing corporate identities), Joshua Davis (the most purely entertaining speaker), and Kyle Cooper (creator of over 150 movie titles including Gattaca, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and Seven).

Sightseeing highlights included the Lisbon Aquarium (Oceanario de Lisboa), Lisbon Barrio Alto (where we had our apartment and drank 10 year old tawny port wine most evenings), the Botanical Garden in Belem, Roca Cape Cliffs (the western most point of continental Europe) and Historic Sintra (a UNESCO World Heritage site) including Pena Palace, Pena Park, and Sintra National Palace.

Sagmeister was the biggest highlight for me at the OFFF. He came out wearing a swingy dress over jeans and immediately launched into a story about being at an aquarium and seeing a perverted fish. He talked about happiness and what makes him happy as a designer. He also talked about his project Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far which includes a series of art installations, a book (pictured at left, and yes I own it and enjoy looking through it), and a website where users can upload their own life lessons. He also introduced the logo and corporate design he developed for La Casa de Musica in Porto, Portugal as well as some furniture he is designing while on his one year sabbatical in Bali.

Paula Scher introduced some of her recent projects including the new corporate identities for MoMA and the New York City Ballet. Another highlight was the customized LED newsticker she developed for the Bloomsburg building.

Former professional skateboarder Joshua Davis uses programming tools like Bezier curves and perlin noise to create his colorful designs. He leapt all over the stage during his presentation and talked about his work and inspirations with such a high energy level, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He said he’s been recently inspired by Spanish and Portuguese tiles (such as the ones found in Sintra), Japanese wallpaper, and WWII airplane, especially the leopard print Italian planes (quote: “We go to war, but we go BEAUTIFUL”).

Kyle Cooper introduced many of the main title sequences he’s done for feature films with his former agency Imaginary Forces and his new agency Prologue. He told little stories about each one. My favorite was that for the Mimic titles, a woman from an animal protection agency was paid $500 a day to make sure he didn’t impale any bugs!

Digital Kitchen is another agency that does main title sequences, mainly for television. They did Dexter, House and True Blood, among others. They screened the titles for True Blood and then spent the hour talking about the making of. Apparently the baptism scene was filmed in a lake infested with snakes.

PES showed us many of the innovative short films he does in stop motion animation. I really liked the film where a peanut is drowning in a sea of peanut butter and his film Western Spaghetti where he used everyday objects in place of food (butter = post it notes, sea salt = googly eyes, boiling water = bubble wrap, dry spaghetti = pixie sticks, cooked spaghetti = rubber bands). Go to to watch all the videos. Totally worth it!

Multitouch Barcelona showed their Human Interaction box and Guten Touch - an interactive wall where you can play Space Invaders by throwing rubber balls at the screen (I tried this and failed miserably). They also talked about twitter, saying WARNING: Twittering a moment may reduce your enjoyment of the moment. Ha, ha. So true.

Karsten Schmidt from Toxi introduced, an online tool which reveals cross-connections between conversations on Twitter. He also talked about Faber Finds, a fully automated print on demand service from publisher Faber + Faber that prints unique covers for out-of-print books.

Jason Bruges Studio showed some interative stuff he's developing for the 2012 London Olympics, such as Fast, Faster, Fastest, an installation that lets you run against the moving world record line.

Champagne Valentine mentioned their upcoming show about the Facebook/Internet stalking phenomenon called My Lover the Server which will premiere in Amsterdam and then travel to other international cities.

There were a bunch of other speakers as well, but those were the highlights for me.

And now, here are a couple of pictures.

Roca Cape Cliffs

Pena Palace in the mist

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (10)

1. Ever wonder how much street buskers make in 4 hours playing guitar with a tip jar out in front of them? Well, I now have an answer for you.

Remember that ice skater. Mitch, we met awhile ago? Well, his tour is over and he asked if he could stay with us a few days. He said he was bringing a friend. The friend is playing guitar and singing on the streets all over Europe. Yesterday he rocked out in Frankfurt's shopping district and came away with 95 Euros for 4 hours of playing. Not too shabby! See him in action on YouTube.

2. You might recall that Amber Gibson, teensreadtoo reviewer and model, won a copy of Beautiful Americans back in November. Now she's competing in a Facebook competition to be the next face of Smashbox cosmetics. So if you are on Facebook, take a minute to support a fellow book lover and vote for Amber. (Just type Amber in to the search field to find her more easily). You can vote daily until June 21st, and each time you vote, you'll be entered to win a swag bag from Smashbox. I love their Photo Finish primer especially.

3. Did I mention I am going to BookExpoAmerica in NYC?!! And that Steph, Alea, Amy, Natasha, Trish, Kathy, Jenn, Candace, Carey and I (and Sharon? Julie?) are going to be waiting in the Catching Fire line at 5:30 am? If that isn't blogger bonding, I don't know what is! I am also going to be part of a whole book blogger signing extravaganza at Firebrand's booth (4077), and my slot is on Friday, May 29th at 10:30 am - 11 am. (See the whole scheldule.) I just ordered cards to pass out, so hopefully they'll be done on time. Come by and see me. Maybe I'll have chocolate too.

4. Got a ton more blog awards since I last did a FF post, but I'm pressed for time, so I will just say a general thank you to everyone. I really do appreciate each and every one. It's always nice to hear that you like my reviews - makes putting in all the time especially worth it.

5. Crazy, Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted landed in my mailbox!

6. Had a wonderful trip to Lisbon and my recap with pictures will be up tomorrow latest (sorry for the delay, but things have been crazy around here!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Reviews: Generation Dead and Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

KISS OF LIFE, sequel to last year’s GENERATION DEAD, came out on Tuesday and I read both of them last week in Lisbon. Since plot points are running together in my mind, I’m just going to review them both as one with no major spoilers.

All over the US, newly dead teens are reanimating. But these aren’t your typical zombies – they are merely “differently biotic” and they just want to continue living with their families and going to school. For whatever reason, there are ton of them at Oakvale High School and non-dead goth girl Phoebe becomes their number one sympathizer and supporter. But not everyone is so accepting of the “living impaired”…

GENERATION DEAD got very mixed reviews – some praised it for its themes of tolerance while others derided it for its stereotypical and one-dimensional characters and overtly preachy tone. KISS OF LIFE is really more of the same, though it does add some novelty with long passages straight from the mind of a zombie (choppy and annoying to read, but certainly innovative). While the whole concept is intriguing, 800 pages of zombie inaction prove there just isn’t enough inherent drama in a bunch of peaceful zombies who yearn to be loved.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some bright spots. Waters humorously skewers goth culture and marketers by inventing a whole line of products ostensibly for zombies but really for zombie wannabes. The Slydellco products include t-shirts with snappy sayings, Z (the body spray for the active Undead Male), Lady Z, and Kiss of Life lip gloss worn to great effect by highly functioning zombie Karen who “passes” as alive to keep her salesgirl gig at the Oakvale Mall.

Speaking of Karen, she was probably my favorite character. See that model on the GENERATION DEAD cover? That could be Karen. But I guess it isn’t – because Karen isn’t a cheerleader. In fact, no zombies go out for cheerleading (false advertising!) which was kind of disappointing, really. In any case, Karen was the most lively and entertaining of all the characters and I would have preferred to have her as the main character instead of dull Phoebe (though I did love Phoebe’s bright wardrobe phase). Oh, and the KISS OF LIFE cover is inaccurate as well, just so you know.

KISS OF LIFE ends on a cliffhanger which has to mean there is a third book on its way. Not sure I am really up for another 400 pages of this story though.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (31) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I've been seeing this one around for a few weeks, and I have to say I love the cover and the fairy tale quality of the story.

Then I got an e-mail from Elise at Reading Rocks alerting me to the fact that someone has put an ARC of the book, due in hardcover on August 1st, up on ebay (read the whole story on Maggie's blog).

I am completely against selling ARCs (though should I make an exception for NYC's The Strand bookstore since I hear publishers themselves actually dump ARCs there?) and though it can be hard to figure out what to do with ARCs you don't need anymore, I try to either pass mine on to other reviewers, give them to friends, or donate them to charity. I know some say you should destroy them, but I am incapable of hurting a book!

In any case, here is the summary of Shiver:

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

You can pre-order SHIVER from Amazon by clicking here. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can pick up a copy of this at BEA. Maggie is signing at the Scholastic booth on Saturday from 3:30-4:30 pm so hopefully I can fit that in!

As always, Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (53) + picture of Emmy

Wow - I've been at this Library Thing meme for a whole year now. I didn't always include pictures of Emmy in the early days, but now it's quite the tradition that I am apparently not allowed to break.

In any case, here is the question for week 53 from Wendi:

Do you add your reviews to the books you add to your library? If so, do you put your full review on there, or a quick review (one - two paragraphs)? Do you find other people's reviews helpful? Do you know of any other ways to enter your reviews (Other than Edit Book, or Quick Edit)?

Not all the books in my library have reviews. When I started out, I tried to add reviews for books that didn't have any reviews or very few reviews. I usually cross post all my full blog reviews to LT, and if I don't, it's just because I forgot. I use my LT account for all genres, and my GoodReads account just for YA books. I only post reviews on amazon anymore if the author requests it. I do enjoy reading others reviews, especially when it's a book I've just read or one I am thinking of getting to read.

Anyone doubt that Emmy is very fluffy?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Presenting Lenore Presents...Dystopias (part 2): Who's dystopia is it anyway?

A couple of days ago, I was watching a documentary featuring Jim Jones and his cult The People’s Temple. In case you don’t know, he’s the crazy guy who convinced over 900 people to commit mass suicide by drinking kool-aid laced with cyanide in Jonestown, Guyana way back in 1978. By that point, the group was mired in controversy with relatives accusing Jones of brainwashing, but no one saw such a violent end coming. In the early days of his ministry, Jones was known for progressive views on racial integration, and his social enlightenment was one of the main selling points for people joining the group.

The documentary showed a propaganda film produced by the people’s temple starring a smiling guy proclaiming that Jonestown was a utopia. And he was not the only one at the isolated Jones compound who thought that. Which got me thinking: in life and in literature, one person’s dystopia is another person’s utopia.

Take Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER for example. The world Jonas lives in seems perfect. There is no war. No fear. No pain. Everyone contributes their share for the greater good. A person's mate and job are chosen for them. And when they are no longer useful, they are peacefully "released". Everyone seems happy. And yet when Jonas becomes a giver, the one person in society who holds memories of the past, he begins to realize that peaceful living comes at a great price. No freedom of choice, no familial bonds, no romantic love and worse than that, euthanasia and infanticide. Still, interview most anyone in the book and they’d tell you they were living in a utopia. (Do keep in mind though that they are all popping emotion suppressant drugs...)

Gemma Malley’s THE DECLARATION presents another type of perfect world. Modern science has found a way to grant mortals immortality via a longevity drug. There is a slight downside: to counter an unsustainable population explosion, anyone who takes the drug must sign a declaration that they won’t have children. But hey, who needs children when you can live forever right? I mean some pesky people are kind of disgruntled about not being allowed to procreate, and surpluses, children of rule breakers lead pretty crappy lives in unfriendly institutions. But yeah, ask the man on the street, and he’s going to smile and call the place a utopia.

In Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND, no one dies waiting for organ donation because high quality organs are readily available thanks to The Bill of Life, a result of the Heartland War between Pro-lifers and Pro-choicers. It declares that a person’s life cannot be legally terminated from conception to age thirteen. However, if someone doesn’t prove their worth by that age, they can be "unwound", allowing them to continue to “live” in a “divided state” and to contribute something more valuable to society than they ever would be able to in their "undivided state". So maybe not a such a great deal for those who prove unworthy, but think about how happy all the organ recipients are. Ask one of them if they are living in a dystopia, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

As you can see, sometimes it’s all a matter of point of view: One person’s dystopia is another person’s utopia.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hot Topic: Deep Sea Monsters

I know I can't be the only one fascinated by the incredibly strange creatures roaming the depths of Earth's oceans. Most of them look like something straight out of a horror or science fiction movie. As scientists and explorers have been able to go deeper than ever before in recent years, we are just starting to really discover the wealth of very unusual species that lurk below...

That's why I'd like to share two of my favorite books on the subject. The first is actually a picture book by Steve Jenkins just released this week called DOWN DOWN DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. It's a beautifully illustrated introduction to all of our ocean's inhabitants, starting at the surface with sharks and dolphins and progressively going deeper through the sunlit zone, the twilight zone and the dark zone until reaching the abyssal plain and then spotlighting the Marianas Trench. There is a lot of helpful scientific information presented in an easy-to-understand and fun way. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

The second is a book of extraordinary underwater photography by Claire Nouvian called THE DEEP. In addition to the jaw-dropping pictures of ferocious sea beasts (many of which are tiny in real life), there are essays by top oceanographers and marine biologists. So not only is it a blast to flip through and look at the pictures, you also learn a lot by reading the text. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Diversity in Reading

I found this diversity meme at Nymeth's blog and Susan and Ali of Worducopia are always encouraging me to be more diverse in my reading with their joint meme CORA Diversity Roll Call, so I thought I'd give this a go and see how I'm doing.

1. Name the last book by a female author that you’ve read.
Actually, I've been reading WAY more books by women than men lately. So the last one was the last book I read!

2. Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you’ve read.
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith in January 2009.

3. Name one from a Latino/a author.
Ok, it's been awhile from this category. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz back in January 2008. I used to read a ton from Latin authors, so obviously I need to start seeking them out again.

4. How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?
Got quite a few of these recently. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun.

5. What about a GLBT writer?
Sarah Waters (Fingersmith) is a favorite as well as Jeanette Winterson (The Passion).

6. Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you’re feeling lucky?
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer.

7. Any other “marginalized” authors you’ve read lately?
I got this amazing picture book recently from Croatian illustrator Svjetlan Junakovic called Mali Veliki Svijet. I didn't really "read" it because i don't understand the language, but I love the illustrations!

How about you? How diverse is your reading?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley + 5 of my Rhodes memories

The year is 227 B.C., shortly before the earthquake occurs that destroys The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Tessa of Delos has been enslaved 10 long years as a hetaera (a Greek courtesan) to the island's most powerful men, and she wants nothing more than to end her life. But when her current owner's rival plots to take over the island, Tessa is drawn into a web of political intrigue as well as an unlikely romance with a stranger (who just might find a way to finally set her free).

My stepmother read this last September and she liked it so much, I just bought her the newly released book 2 in the Seven Wonders series about the Pyramids at Giza called CITY OF THE DEAD.

The story and the character interaction held my interest well enough, but the real star of this show was the setting - and the fact that I was actually in Rhodes while reading this. Although all traces of the Colossus are long gone, I did visit the harbour area and Jewish quarter where a lot of the action takes place.

SHADOW OF COLOSSUS is available in paperback now.

So now I can finally share a few "highlights" from my Rhodes trip (one for each day I was there).

1. Most memorable was my friend Heather driving our rental car into the sand on the beach and getting stuck. We didn't panic though. Soon enough, a whole group of Greek men was helping us try to dig it out and pushing with all their might. When that didn't work, a man with a tow-line was called in and our car was pulled to safety. My other friend Tracy has a ton of pictures which I hope to be given one of these days (hint, hint!).

2. My sightseeing highlight was walking along the wall that surrounds Rhodes Old Town. You get great views of the city and the ocean, and it just feels cool to walk around on something so ancient.

3. I also very much enjoyed just walking through the tiny, winding alleys of both Rhodes Old Town and Lindos Old Town. There are a ton of cute little shops and restaurants with very friendly yet polite propriators.

4. We visited a couple of very nice beaches as well that were practically empty. The water was too cold for me to swim (though Heather took a dip) but the sun was warm (and shining - unlike Frankfurt) and the general atmosphere was very relaxing. Low season rules!

5. I think I mentioned that the food was amazing. There wasn't one thing I put in my mouth that I didn't just want to rave about. Rhodes is known for its delicious Thyme flavored honey and let me tell you, the resulting baklava is to die for.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin

What if when you turned 13, instead of just getting your period, you got a cycle each month where you endured a painful physical transformation into a boy for four days? Well, that's Jill's fate in this edgy, high concept novel. Jill finds out it's not easy sharing a body with her alter ego Jack. According to Jack, Jill is a “lame goody-goody” and according to Jill, Jack is a porn-loving annoyance.

The basic plot, Jill wants a date to the prom and hopes Jack doesn’t mess it up for her, seems a bit tame for such an innovative premise. And the parents are pretty one note – the yoga-loving, basement dwelling father and the “prison warden” mother could have been more fleshed out considering how much face time they get. But the VOICE! It’s amazing and it makes this book. Jill’s sections are just so much fun to read. She’s really hilariously clueless in a lot of things and she had me ROTFL more than a few times, especially in her misguided attempts to capture the attention of the new, mysterious hottie in town. Jack’s sections are completely different in tone – creepy, crass, and yet also utterly fascinating. And it all seems so effortless.

And because I think you too should give this novel a chance, I’m pleased to welcome Author Lauren McLaughlin to my blog for a Q & A as well as to host a giveaway for 5 signed hardcover copies!

In Cycler, the two sides of your main character are named Jack and Jill, just like the nursery rhyme. Is there a particular symbolic reason for this?
I did like the sound of the names Jack and Jill. There's a nice rhythm to it. But also, if you recall the words to that nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill do not quite make it over that hill with their dignity intact. There's a bit of slapstick and some bruises. That made it seem all the more appropriate for Cycler.

Jill's BFF Ramie is really into fashion, constantly trying to start new trends such as "Chubby Chic". Your husband is a fashion photographer (who shot the excellent cover for Cycler). Any connections there?
I've learned so much about the fashion industry from my husband. Though I've always loved clothes, my understanding of the industry itself has given me a new appreciation for the mystery and complexity of it all. In particular, I love the whole feedback loop cycle of it, the way people take what comes off the runway and mix and mash it up. Then designers will take inspiration from what "the street" is doing and use that to create new designs. And on and on. Also, I really wanted Ramie to be one step ahead of Jill and the rest of her peers. I wanted her to be the kind of high school senior who's mentally already graduated, already begun her career. The only careers I felt qualified to write about were film (which is my background) and fashion (which is my husband's).

Cycler has been out in hardcover since August 2008 and is coming out in paperback this August, at the same time as the sequel, (Re)Cycler. How has your experience with the published book been? Any fun anecdotes come to mind that you'd like to share?
It's been a fascinating adventure since the hardcover came out. Reading reviews and emails from fans (and non-fans) has given me a whole new perspective on the experience of reading. I've always been an avid reader, but it's been a solitary experience. Once your own book is out there in the world, you read all the reviews, all the feedback, and you realize that one book will resonate in a thousand different ways for different readers. There have been readers who deftly picked up on every social critique I layered into the novel, as well as readers who believed I was endorsing a sexist paradigm of rigid gender differences. There have even been readers who uncovered layers of psychological complexity that somehow snuck in there purely via my own subconscious. I think my favorite reaction was from a gay teenage boy who thanked me for creating a positive bisexual character. He was anxious to share the novel with his friends. That really warmed my heart.

As someone else with a foot on both sides of the pond (Wichita, KS and Frankfurt, Germany), I am fascinated that you live in both NYC and London. How does that work for you? What do you like most/least about the arrangement?
Wichita and Frankfurt? That sounds like fun. I really enjoy straddling the pond. My husband and I have apartments in both London and New York, along with a full complement of friends in each city, so we feel at home in either place. Since I'm a full time writer, all I need is my laptop and some wifi. When my husband is called to London or Paris on assignment, we pack up and go. I write in hotels, cafes, wherever. Sometimes, when I wake up, it takes a minute to figure out where I am, but I don't mind. If I've been in one city for more than a month, I find myself looking up at planes flying overhead and thinking, hmm, this is boring, let's move.
On other days, I dream about having a single home with a garden, and a greater sense of permanence.

I've been asking a bunch of YA authors (Julia Hoban, Jennifer Banash, Susane Colasanti) for NYC tips since I am making my first ever trip there this summer. What are your NYC recommendations?
Oh boy. That's a tough one. I've lived in New York since 1990 so it's hard sometimes to step back and look at it through the eyes of a first time visitor. Other than the obvious landmarks, I would suggest venturing out to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Take the L train to Bedford Avenue and check out the cafes, bars, and boutiques. If you like vintage clothing, Beacon's Closet on North 11th Street between Berry and Wythe is a must see (and also a key setting for (Re)Cycler). If you're looking to splurge on state of the art molecular cuisine (and if money's no object) WD50 is amazing. For excellent cheap pizza, try Rosario's in the Lower East Side and, if you're into meat, you can't beat Katz's deli. Central Park is lovely, but the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are spectacular in the spring and summer. And if you're here on a Saturday, don't miss the Union Square Farmer's market. Amazing food and great people watching

Thanks Lauren! And now onto the big giveaway...
To enter to win one of 5 signed hardcovers of CYCLER, simply answer one of the following questions in the comments:
1. Describe a fashion trend you'd like to start
2. What would your opposite sex alter ego be named if you had one? Mine would be named Leonard0 ;)
+1 entry for posting a link to this contest on your blog or social media site and telling me so in a separate comment.

You have until May 21st at 11:59 CST, and since I have 5 copies, I am going to offer up one of them to the first person with a mailing address in the US or Canada who responds. (If you've had an INSTANT WIN before, you are ineligible, and I know who you are!) Sorry that none of my current contests are international, but I'll have one soon to make up for it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (30) The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Ok, so I haven't read any recent Katherine Paterson, though I adore her classics Jacob I Have Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. But I saw this on the list of ARCs to look out for at BEA and the cover and short description (A Muslim family of Albanian refugees starts over in Vermont) just grabbed me. I once did an overnight global village immersion program at the Heifer Project International in Arkansas where I drew the short straw and had to "play" a refugee (no shelter, no food for 18 hours) and it gave me a new awareness of the plight of refugees.

Summary from amazon:

Meli Lleshi is positive that her drawing of her teacher with his pelican nose started it all. The Lleshis are Albanians living in Kosovo, a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors, and suddenly they are homeless refugees. Old and young alike, they find their courage tested by hunger, illness, the long, arduous journey, and danger on every side. Then, unexpectedly, they are brought to America by a church group and begin a new life in a small Vermont town. The events of 9/11 bring more challenges for this Muslim family--but this country is their home now and there can be no turning back. A compassionate, powerful novel by a master storyteller.

THE DAY OF THE PELICAN comes out on October 19th, but if I'm lucky I can grab it at BEA.

Speaking of BEA...I'll have to do a wishlist next week with the signings I hope to go to and the galleys I hope to find. It's just a shame that some of the signings are at the same time. How am I supposed to pick between having Justine Larbalestier sign LIAR and Sarah Zarr sign ONCE WAS LOST?! Maybe the lines will be short? We'll see! I am just super excited to go. CATCHING FIRE, here I come!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (52) + picture of Emmy

Placeholder for Tuesday Thingers. If this isn't up, it means I haven't found an internet cafe in Lisbon yet. But at least you still get your dose of Emmy.


Here are some action shots of Emmy drinking out of our kitchen faucet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Susane Colasanti Waiting for You Blog Tour Stop #2 + Giveaway!

So, I've only read the first three chapters of WAITING FOR YOU that are available in this Susane Colasanti sampler, but I'm totally hooked on her breezy writing style, so I will have to get a copy pronto!

Today I have Susane's second of ten myths about high school, three interview questions & answers, and a giveaway of a signed hardcover of WAITING FOR YOU. So read on...

Myth #2. You’re going to use this later.
As I’m sure you already know, you’re learning a lot of useless stuff. When are you ever going to have to know what endoplasmic reticulum is in the real world? Unfortunately, the curriculum for most of your classes is decided upon by people who don’t really have a clue about what’s best for you. It would be awesome if the topics you had to learn were both interesting and meaningful. Schools need to be improved in ways that most of the people who can implement those changes are ignoring. I worry that these improvements will never be made. It’s a disgrace that so many kids hate school.

The thing is, classes aren’t really about interpreting what some line of Shakespeare is supposed to mean, or determining the value of x, or memorizing all the state capitals because you already did that in sixth grade but no one can remember so everyone has to memorize them all over again. Classes are about acquiring skills. As you’re learning all of these random things, you’re establishing a skill set that will make you more successful when your better life starts. You learn about astronomy so when you watch I Love You, Man, you get the “Tycho Bro-he” reference. You learn about psychology so when someone refers to a “Pavlovian response,” you know what they mean. You can interact with society in a more meaningful way. You can also make sure that you receive the correct change at ShopRite.

So yeah. You don’t need to know most of the stuff you’re learning. But exposure to these things will help make you a functioning member of society. Which is, you know, a good thing.

And now for my mini-interview with Susane...
If you could pick any day of your life to relive, what day would you pick and why?
September 10, 2001. After many years of working towards achieving inner peace, I finally felt this overwhelming calm that summer. I felt better than I had in my entire life, like I could finally believe that anything is possible. Although I still believe, everything is different now. After September 11, that euphoric feeling of loving life to its fullest disintegrated. I’m sometimes cynical now in a way I never used to be. And I really miss feeling that pure happiness. I’d love to return to that blissful time in my life, even if it’s just for a day.

Your books are classified as realistic teen fiction. Do you ever think of trying your hand at another genre - say dystopian fiction or an illustrated book about birds?
Oh, I think I would suck at either of those! The fun part of writing for me is focusing on what I’m passionate about. I feel that my purpose is writing for teens because my goal is to improve their lives as much as I can. I want to reach out to my readers and let them know that they’re not alone, that things will get better. All of my ideas for books are exclusively for teens. Plus, I get to write about soul mates, which I find extremely fascinating.

I'm going to New York City this summer and I've already gotten great tips from Authors Jennifer Banash and Julia Hoban. What are your NYC recommendations?
I took a look at their recommendations and must agree with the Strand! It’s the absolute best bookstore featuring both used and new books you will ever experience. Luckily, the Strand recently renovated to include air conditioning, so you won’t swelter in there the way I have during many past summers Since summer is hot and humid here, I definitely recommend visits to lots of cool places in between your walks. Cones on Bleecker Street has excellent homemade gelato. The Angelika movie theater features all the hot indies, but you have to get there early for a good seat (which is fine since they have a nice café inside). Oh, that reminds me – you will find the ultimate cupcakes at Crumbs, which has several locations. They have buttercream icing and come in a wide variety of delicious flavors.

One thing I love to do is just walk around the West Village. There’s a lot of interesting history here and the brownstones are gorgeous. You can make your way west down Perry Street, Charles Street, or West 11th Street to Hudson River Park. It’s refreshing by the water. I love sitting there at sunset, watching the city lights blink on. If you go at night, look for a building across the river in Jersey City with a slanted top. It has cool light stripe shows!

Thanks Susane! I am so excited about my trip to NYC, especially now that I am signed up to go to Book Expo America for the first time.

Read the rest of the myths on these blogs:
Friday – 5/1 Myth #1
Taylor – For the Love of Books
Tuesday – 5/5 Myth #3
Khy - The Frenetic Reader
Wednesday – 5/6 Myth #4
Kristi – The Story Siren
Thursday – 5/7 Myth #5
Carol – Bookluver-Carol
Friday – 5/8 Myth #6
Kelsey – Reading Keeps You Sane
Monday – 5/11 Myth #7
Lauren – Shooting Stars Magazine
Tuesday – 5/12 Myth #8
Alea – Pop Culture Junkie
Wednesday – 5/13 Myth #9
Laura – Laura’s Review Bookshelf
Thursday – 5/14 Myth #10
Tirzah – The Compulsive Reader

Win a hardcover of WAITING FOR YOU signed by Susane Colasanti herself!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me one thing you learned in high school that you have used later/think you might use later (because you know, you DO use SOME of it). Or, if you don't want to do that, leave any comment that relates to the myth or Susane's interview. Just so I can tell you read it and didn't scroll down only for the giveaway ;)

Contest ends May 19th at 11:59 PM CST as is open to US and Canadian addresses only.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

We all think we know the myth. Hades kidnaps Demeter’s daughter Persephone and takes her to the underworld and in her grief, Demeter lets the Earth go barren. Only when Zeus intercedes is Persephone allowed to return for part of each year, thus creating our seasons of spring and summer.

But then comes along RADIANT DARKNESS and with it, Persephone’s chance to set the record straight. You see, in reality, Persephone yearns for her independence from a mother who still sees her as a little girl. Demeter has Persephone locked away in a vale with no men, no humans, and no fun. So when Hades shows up, Persephone takes up his offer of escape eagerly, and without really thinking about the consequences.

This was a very clever and thoughtful spin on the Persephone myth, which even offers up a touching subplot involving a young mother Persephone meets in the underworld and her undying love for the daughter she left behind. I didn’t buy that Persephone and Hades are soul mates though. He’s depicted as a very manipulative, selfish guy (not untypical for men, ha!) and Persephone is so naïve and desperate, she probably would’ve run off with ANY guy who showed up (though maybe that’s the point?). In any case, this is an excellent read for fans of Greek mythology and those who’d like to know more about it.

RADIANT DARKNESS just came out in hardcover.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Giveaway: Signed Copy of No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

One of my favorite reads from last year, Michelle Richmond's NO ONE YOU KNOW, is coming out in paperback on May 19th. To celebrate, Michelle is offering a signed paperback copy to one of my readers!

I reviewed this last July and you can read my review here.

Or here's the summary:
All her life Ellie Enderlin had been known as Lila’s sister. Until one day, without warning, the shape of their family changed forever. Twenty years ago, Lila, a top math student at Stanford, was murdered in a crime that was never solved. In the aftermath of her sister’s death, Ellie entrusted her most intimate feelings to a man who turned the story into a bestselling true crime book—a book that both devastated her family and identified one of Lila’s professors as the killer.

Decades later, Ellie is given a notebook that Lila carried everywhere, a piece of evidence not found with her body. She explores the mysteries of Lila’s notebook, filled with mathematical equations, and begin a search that has been waiting for her all these years. It will lead her to a hundred-year-old mathematical puzzle, to a lover no one knew Lila had, to the motives and fate of the man who profited from their family’s anguish—and to the deepest secrets even sisters keep from each other. As she connects with people whose lives unknowingly swirled around her own, Ellie will confront a series of startling revelations—from the eloquent truths of numbers to confessions of love, pain and loss.

A novel about the stories and lies that strangers, lovers and families tell—and the secrets we keep even from ourselves—Michelle Richmond’s new novel is a work of astonishing depth and beauty, at once heartbreaking, provocative, and impossible to put down.

All you have to do to enter is answer one of the following questions in the comments by May 19th at 11:59 PM CST:

1. Ellie, the narrator of NO ONE YOU KNOW, is a coffee buyer, and the author happens to be a coffee addict. What's one thing you couldn't give up?


2. NO ONE YOU KNOW is a novel about sisters, but it's also about storytelling. What's one story that you and a sibling or parent remember very differently?

For a second entry (leave a separate comment) link to this contest on your blog (sidebar is ok) or a social networking site and tell me you've done so.

This contest is for the US and Canada only.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Club Report: Atticus by Ron Hansen

I finally found a book club to join! I had no part in picking the book - a literary fiction/mystery novel published in 1997 - but I did enjoy the resulting discussion (a week ago Thursday) very much.

Short summary:
When Colorado rancher Atticus hears that his wayward son Cody has been found dead in Mexico, an apparent suicide, he travels to the scene to do his own investigations. What he finds makes him suspect that Cody was murdered.

The group verdict:
Most of the group wasn't that impressed with this one. The main criticism was the abrupt change in tone that occurs midway through the book. I personally thought the narrative was solid if a tad unexciting up to the big reveal that changes everything. And then it did get pretty strange!

A few in the group really liked the parallels with the bibical story of The Prodigal Son and everyone seemed to respect Atticus as a character. He's the reserved cowboy type, but his actions belie a deep love for his son.

The supporting characters felt very sketchy, and nobody could really figure out Cody's girlfriend Renata's motivations. We had a long discussion about why people leave their native countries and came up with four main reasons: a job, love, to find themselves or to escape from something. Renata didn't seem to fit in any of these categories.

It wasn't the most exciting book to read and not everyone finished, but it did lead to a fun discussion, so I would deem it a moderate success.

Up next:
The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos. It is billed as a haunting story of three cops - one good, one bad, one broken - and the murder that reunites them in a showdown decades in the making.