Wednesday, March 31, 2010

International Book Blogger Mentor Program Featured Bloggers (1)

Yes, the International Book Blogger Mentor Program is up and running! All March mentees should have gotten their books by now, and today I am introducing the February mentees and mentors.

First up we have Audrey at Brizmus Blogs Books who lived in France but is moving to Japan right about now. Audrey chose 3 books from my pile including MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jacyln Dolamore which she gave a very positive review. I thought it brought across very well why she enjoyed it. Here's an excerpt:

MAGIC UNDER GLASS a love story like no other, and I have always been a sap for forbidden, strange love. Nim, a lowly trouser girl, and Erris, a fairy prince, are so different, and yet their circumstances are so similar that it is easy to see how their friendship, as it develops, easily turned into love. I fell hard for them both, and I couldn't stop turning the pages, practically praying that things would work out for them.

So if you like passionate reviews, Audrey's is a great one to check out and subscribe to! I'm sure she'll also be sharing stories from her new life in Japan very soon - just like she's been doing with her life in France on her personal blog.

Because I had such overwhelming response to the IBBMP, I solicited blogger mentors and author sponsors to help me out. (See my IBBMP FAQ if you are interested!)

The wonderful Trish of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? was my first blogger mentor volunteer and I paired her up with Marjolein of The Netherlands.

Marjolein has been book blogging at MarjoleinBookBlog since April 2008 (same as me!), and really wanted some help with layout and promotion. Trish seems to have given her some great advice! She also received 3 books from Trish as part of the program and reviewed THE ROSE OF SEBASTOPOL by Katherine McMahon. Here's an excerpt:

Overall [THE ROSE OF SEBASTOPOL is] a very interesting historical novel, very well written and romantic, and a lovely cover too as a cherry on top!

Marjolein's reviews are concise and fun to read. She'd love it if you stopped by! ETA: Her second review, of Thrity Umrigar's THE WEIGHT OF HEAVEN, is also up!

I was thrilled when the amazing AS King agreed to be IBBMP's first author sponsor, especially since I adore her debut so much. I paired her up with Ruby from the Philippines who blogs at Ruby Loves Adventure. In addition to her own book, DUST OF 100 DOGS, which Ruby reviews here, AS King sent her three other YA favorites. And I was also thrilled that Ruby loved D100D! Here's a excerpt of her review:

[DUST OF 100 DOGS] is a must read. I would never have picked up this book if it wasn't recommended to me and I'm more than happy that it was recommended. A friend of mine who I loaned the book to was asking if this was going be the next movie blockbuster. I just hope it will be, as the concept of the book was utterly awesome.

Ruby's reviews are very honest and amusing. Show her some love!

If you would like to be part of the International Book Blogger Mentor Program, see my IBBMP FAQ for all the details on how to apply!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday (99) = Picture of Emmy

More cats in a box:

It's nice that they are learning how to share!

Monday, March 29, 2010

6 Things I learned in Bologna + 2 Book Giveaway

Last week I went to Bologna, Italy to attend the SCBWI pre-Bologna symposium and the Children’s Book Fair. Here are a few things l learned:

1. Lauren Oliver (author of BEFORE I FALL) should sing on Broadway

I am beginning to suspect that Lauren is the Meryl Streep of publishing. You know, the type that can do everything (including walking in 6 inch heels), and do it enviously well? As we walked the streets of Bologna, Lauren broke into a rousing rendition of the The Little Mermaid’s Part of Your World and we sang Part of Your World (Reprise) together. Then we sat in her hotel lobby and drank French tea (packaged in cashmere sachets) while Daniel regaled us with stories of his childhood chasing rats (don’t ask).

Another day, Daniel, Ann and I met Lauren for dinner together with her agents Stephen Barbara (a rock star of publishing) and Hannah Gordon Brown. It was excellent food and conversation (see Lauren’s recap) if not a tiny bit frustrating to be sitting at a table with 2 of the 3 people in the whole world (besides Lauren) who have read Lauren’s forthcoming dystopia DELIRIUM and listen to them rave about it when I won’t get to read it for such a loooooong time. She did share some tidbits on her WIP (a middle grade fantasy) and it sounds amazing (of course)!

Lauren Oliver, me and Stephen Barbara

2. Some 12 year olds are not as innocent and sheltered as we would hope

Author Ellen Hopkins spoke at the SCBWI symposium and shared letters from her readers that would break your heart. She advised us not to write down to teens. Don’t sanitize your stories. YA is a hungry market, and what they hunger for is authenticity.

Ellen shared a startling statistic that she became aware of while researching TRICKS – the average age of a prostitute in the US is 12 years old. Not every 12 year old comes from a happy family, and even those who do may feel empty inside, and yearn for someone to understand what they are going through.

Ellen’s not afraid to court controversy in order to give her readers what they want. She talked about how Karin the Librarian won an author visit with her for her school in Norman, Oklahoma and how a parent forced the school to cancel the event on the eve of banned books week (the venue was changed). The story was picked up by the national news media, and sales of Ellen’s books soared.

Me and Ellen Hopkins

3. Richard Peck can do a hell of a “mean teacher” face

Author Richard Peck also spoke to us at the SCBWI symposium, and told us the reason he got into writing fiction at the age of 37 was because he realized he wasn’t reaching students the way he wanted to by being a teacher. Was it because his students were terrified of him? His “mean teacher” face does rival the famous author photo of Shel Silverstein…so it’s possible!

Here are a few nuggets of his wisdom:

- Stories should move in a straight line with hope at the end.

- Make your character jump in the deep end…you can protect or create a character, not both.

- Dialogue is best written standing up – it improves the pace. Get up and act out every one of your scenes.

- No one ever grows up in a group.

Richard’s new book, coming in October 2010, is called THREE QUARTERS DEAD. It is paranormal horror, a deadly serious story about those two inter-reacting killers: distracted driving and peer-group allegiance, a story about a girl with a cell phone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.

4. You never know who you’ll see walking around the Bologna fair

Two years ago, Scott Westerfeld was the author-to-spot. This year, I saw Cassie Clare and Kristin Cashore. Though I didn’t get to chat with Cassie, Ann and I spent a few minutes with Kristin at her Italian publisher’s stand. When I gave her my card, she said she knew my blog (*squee*) and she tucked in into this fab photo album she had with her FULL of pictures of her new nieces.

5. If you want books, you better stay until the last day

Reps at the Bologna fair are so busy, they actually have appointments on the last day (unlike in Frankfurt). I saw beautiful copies of AS King’s PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, Linda Gerber’s TRANCE, and Lesley Hauge’s NOMANSLAND, and I had to walk away from them. I did, however, get a copy of Mary Hooper’s new one FALLEN GRACE and Maggie Stiefvater’s LINGER.

6. Even though Italy & Germany are both part of the EU, you still need a passport to fly by plane between them

Well, not that Germany cares, since I managed to fly to Italy with no problem whatsoever. But when Ann took the earlier flight on Thursday, she called to tell me that they had checked her passport 3 times, and that Lufthansa reps told her one could absolutely NOT fly without a passport. So, I spent my last day in Italy on a train to Florence to visit the US consulate. I got to pay $100 to get an emergency passport with 3 months of validity (which of course means more headache later, when I have to get a whole new passport and German residence permit). The kicker? I was not asked even ONCE for my passport at the airport and boarded my flight without incident. Next time? I’ll bring my passport no matter what.

And guess what I have for you?!

I have a signed hardcover of Lauren Oliver's BEFORE I FALL and a signed hardcover of Ellen Hopkins TRICKS for one lucky reader anywhere in the world!

This contest will remain open until April 3o, 2010 at 11:59 PM CST. To enter, just leave a comment on this post that lets me know you've read at least some of it. "Filler" comments (i.e. "I want to win") will not be accepted as a contest entry. I'd also appreciate it if you'd tweet a link or post this contest in your blog sidebar. Thanks for spreading the word, and good luck!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: Soldier X by Don Wulffson

Based on a true story. 16 year old Erik is drafted into Hilter's army in 1944 and sent to the Russian front as an interpreter thanks to his fluent command of the language. When his unit is overrun, an injured Erik decides his only chance for survival is to masquerade as a Russian soldier.

This has one of the best prologues I've ever read. Two pages - but they pack a punch. I read them aloud to Daniel, and he's hooked!

The prose is simple and unadorned here - ideal for a story which gives such insight into the horrors of war. Erik is a great protagonist. Even though he is a German, he is also Russian. Even though he is a soldier, he is also still a child. He is able to look beyond the surface - the uniform, the language - and see the person inside.

In a time when one was considered lucky just to survive, in addition to his setbacks, Erik is allowed by fate to experience genuinely happy moments, and even to fall in love. The story reminded me a little bit of the movie Europa, Europa - though that was a jew masquerading as a Hitler Youth. Both are really incredible true stories.

SOLDIER X is available in paperback. Find out more about it at the publisher's website.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review: Back Home by Julia Keller

Rachel’s father, a member of the National Guard, has been injured in Iraq. The family must prepare for the big changes living with an amputee with traumatic brain injury will bring.

Rachel is 13, but her father’s condition makes her wise beyond her years, and her achingly honest voice is what made this novel for me. She’s upset about the changes to her life – how friends no longer know what to say so they drift away, how the strong dad she used to know is a shadow of his former self, and how her mother now has a hard edge to her – and she expresses her frustration. But she’s also supportive and understanding in a way most 13 year olds really aren’t.

Here’s a passage from right after Rachel’s mother tells her that her father is coming home:

I didn’t blame her for not knowing what to say. I felt sorry for her. Kids, I think, have a lot more reason to feel sorry for adults than adults have to feel sorry for kids. I know that sounds backwards. I know that’s not how most people would see it. But here’s the thing: kids know what they know. And that’s it. Adults know all the things they don’t know, all the questions and doubts and puzzles and darkness. Kids are all sealed up with the little bit they know. Adults, though, are leaking out all over the place, with everything they don’t understand but think they should.” (p 23 ARC, may vary from final published version).

I also really liked the family dynamic as seen from Rachel’s point of view, and how she realizes that her dad, even though he’s still her dad, doesn’t really fit in her family anymore. Rachel even muses that in many ways, her life would be easier if her father had died – that people would be better able to deal with that and wouldn’t feel like they needed so much distance. It’s heartbreaking.

This would make a great read for children of injured veterans, and really for their classmates too. Unfortunately, I can’t really see tweens gravitating towards such a serious premise – it seems too much like what you’d find on the dreaded required reading list. That’s why I think Ginny Rorby, author of Penguin’s upcoming THE OUTSIDE OF A HORSE (May 13, 2010), may be more successful with what is a similar topic (teen dealing with an amputee Iraq vet father) because she’s packaged it with the irresistible hook of caring for horses.

BACK HOME is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy isn’t old enough to legally drink, but he’s old enough to fight in Iraq. When he wakes up in an army hospital in the Green Zone with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and little memory of how he was injured, he’s given a Purple Heart medal. As Matt struggles to get better so he can rejoin his squad, he keeps having flashes of an Iraqi boy he befriended that he might have killed in the incident that took him out of commission.

There are two sections to this novel – in the first, Matt is mostly in a haze, protected in the cocoon of calm that is the Green Zone. In the second, Matt rejoins his squad and we see him and his buddies in action – a false bravado covering up stark terror.

The writing is tight and revealing without ever being sensational. I especially liked this passage – a conversation about the death of Matt’s squad leader:

“Benson died fighting for our country,” Justin finally said. “He died for us. I don’t care how it went down, he died a beautiful death.”

“If I’m going to die,” Wolf said, “I want to be doing something important, something where they can say ‘he died doing something for somebody else,’ not in a plane crash or in, like, some drunk-driving accident.”

“The other two nodded. “You know what Johnny Rambo says, boys,” Justin said. “Live for nothing or die for something.”

Matt had never really understood that line. (…) The whole squad quoted Rambo all the time and that was another thing that seemed weird to Matt: how when things in Iraq got confusing or deep, that the person they turned to was a fake action hero from the ‘80s. (p. 150-151)

The novel illustrates very clearly how complex the war in Iraq really is. For example, it might seem to some that there is no harm in a soldier befriending locals. But military policy forbids it for a very good reason - one that’s actually quite major to the plot, so I won’t spoil it here. Suffice to say, I definitely teared up more than once while reading this one.

PURPLE HEART is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Post by Trish Doller: Researching Military YA

Reading all these YA books this week got to me to thinking about how much research must go into these books to get the facts and the tone right. Fortunately, Trish happened to comment on a tweet about Purple Heart that she was writing Military YA, so I asked her to share her research process. And boy was I blown away by the sheer amount of time and effort she's been putting into her new novel. So here's Trish:

My current project--tentatively titled The New Normal--is about Travis Stephenson, a young Marine who comes home from Afghanistan, wounded on every level. Too much more would be spoiler-y, so let’s leave it at that.

I got the idea after doing a newspaper interview with a 19-year-old Marine who was home for the holidays after being deployed to Iraq at the beginning of the war. It struck me then that he had seen and done things that his high school friends couldn’t even imagine--and how different it must feel to be around those people afterward. You might say he was my initial research, along with several other local soldiers who shared their stories of Iraq with me while I worked for the newspaper.

Since getting serious about writing Travis’ story, I have read a ton of books, including firsthand accounts like Colby Buzzell’s My War and Ryan Smithson’s Ghost of War. I’ve read books about Marine Recruit Training (boot camp) at Parris Island and Evan Wright’s account of being embedded with the 1st Recon Marines, on which the HBO miniseries Generation Kill was based.

Speaking of Generation Kill, I’ve watched each episode at least a half a dozen times--not only from a technical standpoint, but to study the way the characters interacted with each other. And while the world was buzzing about The Hurt Locker, I was using it as research material, as well.

I also have a real life Marine who serves as my “nitpick questions” advisor. He’s answered stuff like, “Is it realistic for a guy to graduate boot camp, be assigned to a unit that’s deployed to Iraq, and go join them?” and “How likely is it that two guys from the same recruit platoon would be assigned to the same unit?” While I have no idea if any of this information will make the book, you just never know.

Because my story is about the war in Afghanistan, I’ve been following the blog of an Air Force officer stationed there. He features pictures and accounts of his daily life. I also monitor the news all day long because Operation Moshtarak is happening now. Every single day there are pieces of information that weave themselves into the story. I have a Muslim friend who helps me maintain authenticity when it comes to the people. I’ve studied the weather, the food, the culture, and even what languages are spoken in which parts of the country.

But because my story is also about a young man returning from combat, I’ve also read endlessly about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, I even bought The PTSD Workbook and began filling it out as if I was my character to find out what he might be feeling and how he might respond to his surroundings. One of my friends spent time in Iraq and I am constantly reading her bits of the story to make sure Travis’ responses are natural.

In addition, Travis has been physically injured, so I’ve done some research on his type of injury. In fact, after I started writing, I discovered a real life Marine who has suffered the same injury. I emailed him to ask if he’d answer questions for me, but sadly, never heard back. So far, I’ve used the Internet for medical research, but I can see that soon I will need to speak with medical professionals so I know what his timeline for recovery will be, as well as what sort of aftercare he will perform on himself.

Of course, my character is not living in a vacuum, so I’ve been spending a lot of time scouring forums for military parents. There I’ve discovered how afraid they are for their children and the stress they experience when their soldiers don’t call or write. They support each other and they’re full of interesting tips on what to include--and what not to include--in care packages. Did you know that some of the guys asked their moms to send them solar showers because of a lack of hot water? All of these little tidbits serve to make the story more authentic.

Everything I’ve learned has been fascinating, so much so that it’s hard to know when to stop, when “enough” research becomes “too much”. But I’m only on my first draft, so I don’t think I need an intervention--yet.

Trish Doller is a pre-published author, represented by Kate Schafer Testerman (a.k.a. Daphe Unfeasible). She lives in Florida with two dogs, two teenagers, and one husband. Visit her website at (You can also read a kick-ass excerpt from The New Normal there.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday (98) = Picture of Emmy - Military Style & All About MREs

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from high school was stationed for 2 months at a US base in Frankfurt. He was responsible for loading and unloading military planes from war zones. He saw a lot of boxes of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and even gave us a box of his own rations as a gift. Since I don't have to eat them, I think they are quite fun. And so do the kittehs.... check them out:

It's when you open them that they get really fun. The kittehs can play with the empty bag, and I can check out the contents.

This one happens to be Menu #19 Beef with Mushrooms from 2002 (the menus are improved yearly and apparently this wasn't a favorite since it is no longer produced). In addition to the main course, you also get a side of yellow and wild rice pilaf, crackers and strawberry jam, cocoa beverage powder, oatmeal cookies, a plastic spoon, a flameless heater (that's the green thingie under the spoon), and a packet with hot sauce, salt, pepper, chewing gum, moist towelette, coffee powder, creamer, sugar, matches, and toliet paper/napkin.

MREs have an official lifespan of anywhere from 1 month (say in the hot desert sun of Iraq) to 10+ years (say in the cool expanse of my basement), but some say as long as the individual components aren't damaged, the practical lifespan is a very, very long time. In fact, in Justin Cronin's upcoming THE PASSAGE (which I reviewed during Dystopian February), people are eating and enjoying MREs 100 years after manufacture (this is fictional of course).

Find out more about MREs, including people doing taste tests on 20+ year old MREs, at It's really a fascinating site!

Anyway, now you know what books are taking about when they mention troops eating MREs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: Out of the Blue by S.L. Rottman

Stu’s mother is a Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force and he moves with her to Minot, North Dakota when she takes over the position of base commander there.

OUT OF THE BLUE paints a picture of both the sacrifices military personnel and their dependents have to make in the service of their country, and by focusing mainly on the disadvantages of the military life, it comes off as a bit unbalanced in the critical direction in my opinion. Now obviously, Minot is NOT the best assignment. Stu’s family was assigned there once before and his parents often joked that the only two good things they took away from Minot were Stu and his brother. (My parents might have made the same joke, since both I and my brother were born there as well.) And a teen most definitely has nothing to cheer about when his family is sent to the middle of nowhere – I get it.

But aside from a scene at a dining out where we see some military camaraderie and a scene at an air show where Stu picks up some free swag (including a t-shirt), most of the story would probably make you want to stay as far away from the military as possible.

Not that this critical focus makes it any less enjoyable from a pure story arc perspective. Stu has to come to terms with his absentee parents while at the same time keeping an eye out for 9 year old neighbor Billy who may be a victim of child abuse.

The novel also explores or touches on the following topics:

- Military personnel are held responsible for the behavior of their dependents and a dependant’s bad behavior can even end a career.

- It is often frowned upon for children of officers to fraternize with children of enlisted personnel.

- Married people who both serve may not always be stationed together – the needs of the military come before the needs of families.

Overall, a very insightful look at the life of a military dependent. OUT OF THE BLUE is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Theme Week: Military in YA

I planned to do a theme week for military in young adult literature to coincide with Veterans Day back in November...but instead, it's happening this week!

Some of you might know, I grew up as a military "brat", and moved around frequently. We were stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Hellenikon AFB in Athens, Greece (closed in 1993), Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah, McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California (closed in 2001), and Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. I'm also familiar with Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (near where I attended university), Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada (friends lived there for 3 years), and various installations around Germany.

My dad was lucky in that he served his 20 years during "peace" time. He did go TDY (temporary duty) some, especially to Turkey while we were in Greece, and he served one remote tour (an assignment without dependents) in South Korea when I was in 6th grade, but fortunately he didn't have to be away from us all that often.

Growing up, I had a relatively positive view of the military. Sure, I missed Saturday morning cartoons when we lived in Greece, and I wasn't that fond of moving every few years and having to leave my friends, but the military lifestyle did make me very flexible and adaptable. Oh, and it gave me serious wanderlust (I've been to 55 countries and counting).

In any case, I noticed that I had several military themed YA novels for review and on my wishlist, so I decided to make a theme week. Here's what I have planned:

Monday: Book review of OUT OF THE BLUE by SL Rottman (with focus on military dependents)

Tuesday: Emmy and Finn introduce us to military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

Wednesday: Author Trish Doller shares about her research process for her WIP military themed YA novel

Thursday: Book review of PURPLE HEART by Patricia McCormick (with focus on teen serving in Iraq)

Friday: Book review of BACK HOME by Julia Keller (with focus on military dependents with injured parents)

Saturday: Book review of SOLDIER X by Don L. Wulffson (with focus on a Hitler Youth during WW II)

What YA novels with a military theme have you read? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Club Report: Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

My book club met again on Thursday to discuss our latest pick.

Short summary: The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways in this twisted novel about identity and identity theft. Miles is once again on the search for his troubled twin brother Hayden who has been on the run for ten years. Lucy graduates high school and leaves town with her charismatic history teacher to hole up in a long deserted hotel. Ryan fakes his death when he finds out that his uncle is really his father and decides to reinvent his life.

The group's verdict: Everyone appreciated the innovative structure and plot of this one, though some were disapointed that many of the characters never really got closure in their character arcs and that fates were left ambiguous (that didn't bother me though). We spent some time discussing what might have happened to the characters where the story left off, and also about how easy/hard it is to reinvent yourself when you move to a new town where no one knows you. A very thrilling book to read which lead to some interesting chats in our group.

Up next: THE TOURIST by Olen Steinhauer

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Fabulous! (22)

Things I am very excited about this week:

1. In an interview on Cynsations, HarperCollins Art Director Martha Rago talks about a variety of interesting topics including Daniel !! and his upcoming book with Audrey Vernick: IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?

2. Brackets have been announced for Nerds Heart YA and I am judging the final round! Can't wait to see what books I'll get to read. There is still time to nominate underrepresented YA from 2009! Deadline March 31st. I think that I am judging the final bodes well for KU's (University of Kansas) chances in the March Madness college basketball tournament. Number 1 seed! Make us proud Jayhawks!

3. Book Blogger Appreciation Week isn't until September, but A LOT of planning goes into it, so My Friend Amy is accepting volunteer applications now.

4. Two bloggie pals of mine just got awesome book deals! Jen K Blom has her middle grade debut POSSUM SUMMER coming out with Holiday House in Fall 2011 and Beth Revis has a very exciting YA sci-fi dystopia called ACROSS THE UNIVERSE coming out with Razorbill in March 2011. Beth is celebrating by offering 2 very cool prize packs - one for writers and one for readers. Check it out! Congrats ladies - I can't wait to read your books!

5. Emmy and Finn may not have won their catagories in A Novel Menagerie's Beautiful Baby contest, but Sheri awarded them a special prize: Best Kitteh Story! They are celebrating by fighting over the perfect kitteh sized box in which Kimberly Derting sent me my THE BODY FINDER street team essentials.

6. I'll be in Bologna next week...attending SCBWI's pre-Bologna conference, meeting Lauren Oliver, checking out the Children's Book Fair, eating a ton of yummy Italian food and gelato, and pitching a few picture books. Wish me luck!

ETA: uh...this week you get 7. There's a new list over at Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations that I contributed to called Young Adult Books Featuring Women of Another Era. Check it out to see all 11 picks!

What are you excited about this week?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Latest Contest Winners (2)

This post should catch me up on all contests that have closed. Congrats to all!

The winners of DARK LIFE by Kat Falls are:

The Book Bug (Chloe)
JKB (Jen)

The winners of INSIDE OUT by Maria V Synder are:

Jessica Secret
Diane Estrella

The winners of THE LINE by Teri Hall are:

Jenny N.
Book Mac

The winner of SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher is:

Sandra Stiles

The winner of the 1st 2 books in Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy is:

InABox (Erin)

The winners of WHEREVER NINA LIES by Lynn Weingarten are:

Allyson A.
Travis P.
Krystalyn D.

The winners of MY SOUL TO SAVE by Rachel Vincent are:

Amanda W.
Raelena P.

The winner of THE LAST SURGEON by Michael Palmer is:

Rebecca T.

Whew! I think that's all of them! All winners have been contacted.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

33 year old Valentine Roncalli loves fashioning the custom shoes produced by her family’s 100 year old wedding shoe company in NYC’s Greenwich Village. Unfortunately, her grandmother has run into some financial trouble and her brother wants to sell the property to pay off the debts. Valentine tries to find a way to save the company, and a design competition offers the opportunity she needs to get Angelini Shoes back on track.

Maybe it’s because I’m going to both NYC and Italy soon (both important settings in the novel), but I really enjoyed reading this one. Usually I’m not one for overly descriptive writing, but I was fascinated by the details involved in handcrafting shoes, in cooking Italian food, and just about everything else Trigiani set her keen eye on. For example, I really appreciated the truth of this passage:

"I miss big, bulky old-fashioned cameras that you wear around your neck on a strap. Most of all I miss the fact that you used to have to save the film for the best moments because it was too expensive to squander. Now, we take pictures of everything, including pictures of people taking pictures." (p 298)

Valentine was just the kind of character I really like too – complex, approachable, witty, driven and independent. Her family and friends keep telling her she needs a man in her life, and she does enter a relationship with a fellow work-a-holic, restaurant owner Roman, but he’s not her focus which I found quite refreshing. This isn’t one of those chick-lit novels where the entire romance is predictable – rather, it keeps you guessing, just like real life.

VERY VALENTINE is out in paperback now and you can read the first 62 pages online at HarperCollins. It is the first in a trilogy, and the second, BRAVA VALENTINE (which I will be reading next month) was recently released in hardcover. Find out more about the books at the author’s website.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday (97) = Picture of Emmy..err..Finn

For his 1st birthday, which was this past Saturday, Finn wanted two things. The first was to star on Presenting Lenore for the first time solo. The second was to drink out of the faucet:

Happy Birthday Finn!

Next week, back to our regularly schelduled Emmy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Violet has the strange ability to sense an “echo” from people (and animals) that have been killed. The echo is unique for each killing although it matches the echo given off by the killer. Usually, this “talent” is a nuisance – Violet can’t even go near her cat because he kills mice. But when a serial killer starts offing teen girls in her area, Violet’s power might just come in handy.

If that premise sounds enticing to you, take note: the actual novel is 1 part thriller to 6 parts teen romance. Now, on paper, such a set-up shouldn’t work for me, since I don’t seek out romance as a genre. And, truthfully, I was a bit worried at first. Once Violet’s ability is established and the serial killer makes his first snatch, the plot concentrates on Violet’s super-crush on her best friend of many years – once just Jay, now the hottest guy at school. Everyone but Violet can see that Jay carries a major torch for her, and there are a bunch of high-sexual-tension and avoidance scenes that make you scream “get it on already you two!”

But let me tell you, once those two best friends finally connect romantically, the resulting fireworks are totally worth it. As I was telling Trish on Twitter the other day, I am a very emotional rater – which is why I don’t usually give ratings on my blog reviews (dystopian fiction being the exception). I do give ratings on GoodReads and LibraryThing though, and this one got a big fat satisfied 5 star rating from me for the emotional impact alone.

5 stars for a book that had a character taking foolish risks to fit the plot (a pet peeve of mine)? Yep, it was THAT emotionally engaging that when all was said and done, I came away able to overlook certain deficits (such as the at times strange pacing and some logic problems concerning the serial killer part), and just revel in the experience of reading.

THE BODY FINDER comes out tomorrow in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Where My Last 20 Books Came From (6)

It's that time again! The sources of my last 20 reviewed books:

The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie - Provided by publisher after I accepted author query

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst - Provided by publisher after I accepted author query

Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato - Amazon Vine

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Amazon Vine

The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm - Bought

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten - Provided by publicist after I accepted query

The Passage by Justin Cronin - Borrowed from the incomparable Trish

Exodus by Julie Bertagna - Picked up at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien - Traded with Sharon

Dark Life by Kat Falls - Picked up at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder - Requested from publisher

The Line by Teri Hall - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody - Bought

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler - Bought

Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Bought used

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Bought

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher - Bought

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher - Bought

Lockdown (Escape from Furnace) by Alexander Gordon Smith - Unsolicted review copy

The Things that Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley - Requested via Shelf Awareness

Thanks to Dystopian February, my sources were pretty balanced this time around. I'm pleased to be getting a lot of my bought books read!

Where are your books coming from these days?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Discussion Topic: Advertising, Menstruation, and the book FLOW

Some of you know that I work as an advertising copywriter. When I first started this blog, I talked about my work sometimes, but about two years ago, posts about books took over and Presenting Lenore became a book blog.

Recently Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog reviewed a book about menstruation called FLOW, and it got me thinking about the few months I worked on a project for Procter & Gamble on the femcare account Always.

Apparently, the authors, Elissa Stein and Susan Kim are very critical of the way femcare companies and advertisers have transformed menstruation “from a natural function…into a veritable hygiene crisis.” In her review, Rebecca says, “Flow’s overarching message is that it is high time women took back control of the menstruation conversation from the femcare companies who have shaped it for many years now.”

As an advertising copywriter on the European Always project, it was my job to “get inside the heads” of women who wear pads. Part of this process was to be an observer during focus group interviews. P&G invited about 20 pad-wearing British women to get together and talk about their periods. As someone who shunned pads since high school (more on that later), these interviews were extremely eye-opening.

For the first time, I heard women say that they LOVED having their period because it made them feel like powerful women who had the unique ability to bring life into the world. When their time of the month came around, these women got out their “granny knickers”, put on the biggest pad they could find, and lounged around on their sofas, reveling in their womanhood.

After the focus group, my team (3 other women, 1 very embarrassed man) got together to talk about the findings and how we could incorporate them into our latest project, a mailer with a coupon for a free package of the latest Always maxi pad featuring a “cottony soft topsheet”.

The conversation was interesting to say the least. 3 of us (well, 4, if you count the man) were not pad wearers for various reasons. The 4th woman admitted to wearing pads, but only because her body had changed after having a baby and tampons couldn’t do the job anymore. We all had a hard time believing that there were woman out there who not only wore huge pads, but actually seemed to enjoy doing so.

We shared the reasons why we preferred tampons. One team member was very sporty and active and felt that pads (and her period for that matter) slowed her down and inconvenienced her. Another cited hygienic reasons and said it couldn’t be healthy to “marinate for hours in your own blood.” The one who did wear pads said she wouldn’t wear the big ones if she could help it because they were so bulky and crinkly that she was sure everyone was staring at her and thinking about how gross she was. The ironic thing? These were all attitudes shaped by consuming years of femcare advertising! And we knew it.

My own period history is one primarily of avoidance (feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t like oversharing of personal information). My first period came late – at 14 (almost 15). As a very skinny teen who was active in sports (basketball and track), I had very little body fat and an extremely irregular period that came maybe 2-3 times a year. But when it came, it was debilitating. I had such bad cramps that I was dead to the world for a week each time. I had my share of bloody accidents too. Yes, I was that girl wearing white pants at school with a crimson stain steadily getting larger (major mortification). And pads always seemed to let me down, even the ones with wings. Friends on the track team extolled the virtues of tampons, and despite two early bad experiences with them (a wrong insertion technique and a TSS scare), I quickly latched on to them for their convenience and the fact that they let you forget about your period for hours at a time.

In college, I was diagnosed with a hormone imbalance, and put on the birth control pill. It was like a miracle to me. Not only did my skin clear up, but my periods were 2 days at the most without cramping or PMS. Then a (male) doctor told me I could skip periods altogether by simply taking the pill continuously. I’m sure the femcare companies weren’t pleased, because that meant I bought their products only a couple times a year if that. But for me, it made me feel like I had total control over my body.

I wish I could stay I started a revolution at the advertising agency – that I helped women see their periods in new, less shameful, light – but I was only on the femcare team a few months before moving on to another agency and other products. The project I was working on, at least, didn’t have an offensive tone. The main message was that the “cottony soft topsheet” could help women have a more comfortable period.

FLOW sounds like an incredibly important book, and I look forward to reading it. Tell me, how has advertising shaped your attitudes about menstruation?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie

Sarah’s husband David has been dead (killed in flash flood) for three months when she sees him in a grocery store. Then she starts meeting him more often – even talking to him and letting him make her ham sandwiches. Is he ghost? Did he fake his death? Or is Sarah creating an elaborate alternate reality in her head to deal with his passing?

Not only does this novel present the reader with the engaging mystery of David’s existence – or lack thereof – it also presents a searing portrait of a marriage that had grown stagnant, a cage for both Sarah and David.

Sarah always wanted a child, but at 39, and with multiple miscarriages behind her, she blames her body for letting her down and withdraws from an increasingly controlling David. Meanwhile, David felt trapped in an unfulfilling career, and would’ve liked to quit. However, he probably never acted on these impulses because of Sarah’s negative vibes:

Sarah liked to imagine that she would have been supportive (…). But truthfully, if David had come to her in the past year and said that he wanted to give up his job to become an artist, she wouldn’t have tolerated it. Sure she might have acquiesced in a muttering way, but all the while she would have held him back – a nagging, resentful anchor.” (p 114)

It’s a great psychological exploration of grief, marriage, and the mysteries of life. I found myself thinking about it a lot, even when my attention was supposed to be on other tasks. I especially liked the dynamic between Sarah and David’s dashing brother Nate. The widow’s group also added a nice spark to the story. And of course I can’t forget Sarah’s cat Grace. She seemed very comforting and sweet. Would be perfect for book clubs.

THE WIDOW’S SEASON is available in paperback now. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book Review: Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Cassie has grown up at an arctic research station with her father, hearing her grandmother tell the fairy tale about the polar bear king, and how he will one day claim the daughter of the woman promised to him by the north wind. Because the woman hid from the north wind to marry a human man, when the north wind found her, he blew her beyond the ends of the world where she was captured by trolls.

When she turns 18, Cassie meets a strange talking polar bear who claims her as his wife. They make a deal that if the polar bear can bring her mother back from the trolls, she will marry him. And thus begins this very clever and wonderfully satisfying retelling of the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun, West of Moon.

Raised on the ice, Cassie is a winter survivalist, used to making split-second decisions. With that in mind, it wasn’t so difficult to understand Cassie actions in the story – actions that might seem illogical or rash when done by a less independent character. I liked Cassie, and I liked the polar bear king, known as Bear. As strange as it might seem, they made a great team.

Not that I didn’t have my share of “ewwww” moments (Drinking from a polar bear mother’s teat? Really?), but fortunately, Cassie’s romance with a polar bear didn’t gross me out like I initially thought it might, thanks to some shape-shifting powers. They were given time to properly develop a real attraction to each other, so that later, when the plot demands that Cassie go to great lengths to rescue Bear, it seems like a totally natural act.

While the first half is really engaging and well done, the pacing was a bit off for me leading up to the climax. Cassie spends so much time trying to get to Bear that once she finally does, the end feels rushed. Their reunion is so sweet, I really would’ve liked more time with them. Overall, I was thoroughly entertained and enchanted, and highly recommend this one to fans of romance, fairy tale retellings and fantasy.

ICE is out now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday (96) = Picture of Emmy

Emmy and Finn tried out our clothes drying rack....

but didn't find it that comfortable for hanging around.

So, Daniel fixed it up for them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato

Mathilda Savitch’s beautiful older sister Helene has been dead a year and she and her parents can’t get over it. Searching for some sort of closure, Mathilda breaks into Helene’s e-mail account and contacts one of Helene’s boyfriends, hoping he can provide answers to the mystery of Helene’s demise.

This novel is all about what grief can do to families. How it pulls them apart and shuts them down. Mathilda’s parents, especially her mother, can’t deal. They withdraw, and Mathilda resorts to acting out to get their attention – dropping plates, inviting boys over to spend the night in her basement, chopping off her hair.

Because the novel is from the limited viewpoint of a rather disturbed pre-teen, whether you enjoy the novel or not depends on how taken you are with the narrative voice. Mathilda has that particular self-absorption common to her girls her age (never explicitly mentioned, but likely 12) as well as a morbid curiosity and a tendency towards precocious observations that make her seem wise beyond her years.

Sometimes I feel bad for the house as much as anything. Standing there completely stuck and having to put up with all of us. Do you ever think of the lives of houses? I mean the walls and the doors themselves, not the people inside. (…) The thing is, I don’t want to end up like Ma and Da. In a house with books and dust and all the love gone out of it. (…) I want something else, but the words for it haven’t been invented yet. At this point it’s just a bunch of mumbling in my stomach.” (p 218-219, ARC, may vary from final published version)

There’s really not much in the way of plot, and although the visit to Helene’s boyfriend yields a revelation of sorts, you aren’t entirely sure you can trust it, because Mathilda can be quite the unreliable narrator.

It’s ok, but there are any number of better books about grief and any number of wacked out characters that are more fun to spend time with than Mathilda.

MATHILDA SAVITCH was released in paperback this week. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Review: Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Lindsay Scott was a child star until a special talent to hear everything anyone said about her manifested when she was 11 and caused a nervous breakdown. Now, 5 years later, she is a virtual hermit in a “safe” house that somehow blocks her power and gives her peace. Until the day two fans kidnap her.

I was really intrigued by the concept of being able to hear what people say about you. I could imagine that being tough for a normal person, but for a celebrity? It would be a curse for sure. And Lindsay certainly has it hard – she is afraid to leave her safe house at all, but especially when reruns of her TV show are on because of the cacophony of voices inside her head, all talking about her.

But this novel was just weird. It’s a middle grade book, but it’s about a 16 year old girl and talks a lot about transcendentalism. It quotes Thoreau. There’s a kidnapping, a recently deceased father, a minor living alone, a mother in a mental hospital, a family secret, a plan to get rid of meddlesome busybodies, a convict slowly making his way towards “that sweet girl on the TV show,” and it’s too much – the narrative buckles under the weight of so many half-baked plot threads.

It’s not a terrible book. The writing flows well, and Lindsay’s voice is completely believable. There’s also the nice message hiding in there somewhere about learning not to care what others think about you because no matter how hard you try you’ll never please everyone. I just wish the story itself had been more coherent and concentrated on digging deeper into a couple of issues instead of introducing a bunch of subplots and wrapping them up in a big shiny bow at the end.

CLAIM TO FAME is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Club Report: The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but my new (non-paranoid) book club has a few native Germans sprinkled in (we are mostly Americans). For our February meeting, we read Uwe Timm's THE INVENTION OF CURRIED SAUSAGE and our hostess treated us to what else? Curried Sausage! Daniel ended up reading the book and coming with me, and everyone seemed pleased to have a man's perspective on the novel.

Short summary: A man recalls eating currywurst as a child at his neighbor's fast-food stand and is convinced that she invented the recipe. He goes to her nursing home to talk to her and get the true story. But it is no simple explanation, rather a very in-depth narrative that starts with an affair she (Lena) had at the end of World War II with a Nazi soldier (Bremer) she hid in her Hamburg apartment.

The group's verdict: This gem from 1993 is listed among the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and everyone in the group that finished it agreed that it was worth reading. We had a interesting chat about conditions during the war, and the Germans in the group told us some family stories from that time period. We also talked about the parallels of Bremer's experience to that of Odysseus' and what tactics Lena used to keep both Bremer and the author of the story captive. A great pick! Oh, and I read this in the orginal German, which counts towards my personal challenge of reading more in German.

Up next: AWAIT YOUR REPLY by Dan Choan

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Fabulous! (21)

Here's what I am excited about this week:

1. The sun appeared in Frankfurt! I got to wear my new sunglasses for the first time this year yesterday.

2. Dystopian February was a great success! I've had over 200 people answer my survey (including my dad) so far and have gotten some great feedback and suggestions for Dystopian August. Are you interested in dystopian movies? Write me an e-mail (lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com) if you'd like to participate in an August feature on movies.

3. Charlotte of The Book on the Hill recently featured Suzi from Packabook, a new website that helps you pick out books set in the country you plan to visit! Right now, the site has recommendations for 25 countries and they plan to add more in the future. Fun!

4. Great news for international book bloggers - now we too can participate in one ARC/book tours. Just head over to International Book Tours to get all the info and fill out the reviewer sign up sheet!

5. IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, one of my favorite books of 2009, is getting a sequel. It's called WHERE SHE WENT and it's from Adam's point of view. And Gayle talks about it on her blog.

6. Nominations for this year's edition of Nerds Heart YA are now open! Share your favorite 2009 book that you felt was under represented in the blogosphere (under 15 reviews) and help it get a wider audience! Deadline for noms is March 15th.

So what about you? Let's hear what you are excited about!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

16 year old Ellie’s older sister Nina disappeared two years ago without a word. Ellie occasionally thinks she’s found a clue that will lead her to the truth of Nina’s whereabouts, but the clues never pan out. Until one day, one does. Ellie hops in the car with a cute guy she’s just met and embarks on a cross-country adventure to track Nina down. But will she like what she discovers?

So, I was really intrigued with this concept, and always thought that the cover was giving some sort of clue that Nina was kidnapped. I expected the novel to have more of a thriller feel, so was initially disappointed when it started out like a typical teen novel with Ellie bantering with her super cool gay co-worker at the coffee shop she works at.

Then there was this scene where Ellie and her best friend Amanda go to this party to follow up on a lead and the house they are in catches fire and burns down. And this is no big deal! It’s also not TOO big of a deal that Ellie decides to leave town for a few days with a total stranger. You see, Ellie has the sort of absentee mother prevalent in teen lit who doesn’t seem to give a damn where her kids are. OK, not my experience certainly, but OK.

And the road trip. Yeah, it’s something I might have done in college, but at 16? Whatever… go with it! I got the feeling the author was going for a sexy, devil-may-care vibe but was getting more a cheesy, creepy vibe and just when I couldn’t take it anymore, BAM!! The narrative takes a turn for the dark and brilliant. And by the end, I could see the first half in a whole new, much more appreciate light.

So…yeah. If you’re the patient type, you’ll be richly rewarded with this very clever, very twisted tale.

WHEREVER NINA LIES is available in paperback now. Find out more about it at the publisher’s website.

I also have 3 copies to give away to my readers. First 3 (US residents) to claim a copy in the comments, get a copy. ETA: All copies have been claimed. See sidebar for a ton of other contests you can enter!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday (95) = Picture of Emmy

Emmy says: "Go get your own copy of BEFORE I FALL, Finn. You aren't touching mine!"

Fortunately for Finn, today is Lauren Oliver's release day, so BEFORE I FALL is finally out in the wild.

Read my review. And then go buy a copy (I've already bought 3 copies). It's one of my all time favorites...and Emmy's too, of course.

Dystopian February Survey & 3 Mega Prize Packs!

Dystopian February (see wrap-up post) is going out with a bang!

I have 3 prize packs on offer, and all you have to do to enter is fill out my short survey/contest form below.

Prize Pack #1 Penguin Dystopia Prize Pack (provided by publisher, open US and Canada Only)

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (ARC, read preview)
The Line by Teri Hall (Hardcover, read my review)
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Hardcover, read my review)
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman (Paperback, read my review)

Prize Pack #2 Dystopian Sampler Prize Pack (Open internationally)


Genesis by Bernard Beckett (ARC, read my joint review)

Exodus by Julie Bertanga (Paperback, read my review)

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (ARC, read my review)

Prize Pack #3 Choose Your Own Dystopia Prize Pack (Open wherever The Book Depository ships)

If I have under 950 followers by end of contest, 2 books (from the genre) of winner's choice from The Book Depository (or other online store)

If I have between 950-999 follwers by end of contest, 3 books (from the genre) of winner's choice from The Book Depository (or other online store)

If I have over 1000 followers by end of contest, 4 books (from the genre) of winner's choice from The Book Depository (or other online store)

See Index of All Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore

And now for the survey/contest entry form (you may choose multiple prize packs. Contest open until 11:59 PM CST on March 31st, 2010):

NOTE ON FILLING OUT FORM: If you are entering from my blog and cannot see the submit button on the bottom of the form, scroll down within the form until you do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dystopian February Wrap-Up

Dystopian February has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! I read 20 books this month (1 was for my book club, so has not yet been reviewed) which counts as my most successful reading month since I started book blogging 2 years ago.

Just for clarification, the Zombie Chicken rating system is ONLY for dystopian fiction, and shows how I would rate the novel within the genre. If a book receives a 5 rating, it means I think you should read it before a 4, a 4 before a 3, and so on. A book I give a 3 here, might very well receive a 4 on my GoodReads account when compared to all other genres, so these aren't strictly quality ratings. Here's an overview of what I rated this month (sorry about the spacing issues, I am having soooooooooooo much trouble with it lately - please debug blogspot Google!):

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Things that Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Dark Life by Kat Falls

The Line by Teri Hall

Lockdown (Escape from Furnace) by Alexander Gordon Smith

Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

The Resistance by Gemma Malley

I also had 4 authors by for interviews:

Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Triology)
Jasper Fforde (Shades of Grey Trilogy)
Teri Hall (The Line)
Kat Falls (Dark Life)

3 Fabulous Guest Bloggers:

Megan on little-known dystopian gems part 1 & part 2

Jen Robinson on Michael Grant's Gone Series

Rhiannon Hart on YA Dystopias

AND there are 5 contests you can still enter:

Since I had so much fun, I may do it again next February. Or maybe even in 6 does Dystopian August sound?! Thanks to everyone who contributed and commented to make this such a successful theme month.

Book Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere – The One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years – she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.” (p. 1, ARC, may vary from final published version)

Now how can you resist such a first line?! It’s difficult for me to provide a succinct summary for this one, because it is such a sprawling narrative (Marie – The Boston Bibliophile – says it reminds her of LOST, and in terms of storytelling and scope I can totally see that, so if you love LOST, you'll probably love this). But basically, it’s about a top-secret US military project to produce super soldiers using a “vampire” virus that, of course, goes horribly awry. The first section of the book is pre-outbreak while the later sections occur some 90 odd years into the “North American Quarantine Period” (it is unclear what state the rest of the world finds itself in).

The atmosphere has more the entertainment thriller vibe of Stephen King’s THE STAND than the bleak, literary vibe of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. And while it falls squarely into the post-apocalyptic genre, I loved that there were a couple of limited-reach dystopian societies thrown in for good measure.

The central character is Amy, though we never experience the story from her POV. There are, in fact, multiple POVs over the course of the narrative and all are important from a big picture perspective, though at the page level it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

What I enjoyed the most, probably, were some of the details of living so long after a complete society breakdown. Obviously nothing new has been produced or imported, so survivors have to make due with stuff from Before. How long can batteries last? Canned foods (best by dates be damned)? Army issued MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)? What would you call blue jeans if you found them at an abandoned shopping mall and had never seen before? How would react if you saw the movie Dracula after being mercilessly hunted by vampire-like creatures your entire life?

I can definitely see this being a big hit when it comes out in June, and I WILL be reading the rest of the trilogy, assuming of course we are not wiped out by a vampire virus by then. Find out more about THE PASSAGE (and request a review copy!!!) at the publisher's website.

My Rating – 4 Zombie Chickens: An Excellent Example of the Dystopian (Post-Apocalyptic) Genre
See Index of All Dystopian Reviews on Presenting Lenore