Saturday, July 31, 2010

Buffalo in the Wild: Your contest entries!

As part of launch week celebrations for IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, I posted a bunch of pictures showing the Buffalo taking on the world. Then I asked you to take a picture of Buffalo in your corner of the globe, and the response was great! Today I am going to share some of my favorites.

Kristen M of We Be Reading and her son took the Buffalo to the Seattle zoo and she sent a whole series of photos showing Buffalo interacting with the animals there. Here's one of Buffalo and a polar bear.

Jude and Madeleine of Kansas took their Buffalos to the Kansas Cosmophere (among other places including the library and their 4th of July party). Here's one in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall - am I seeing double?

Julie of Ohio took her Buffalo to help her pick out music for her stint as a guest DJ at a Colombus alternative radio station. Julie says Buffalo especially enjoyed LCD Soundsystem's music.

Bridget is a librarian at Tennessee Wesleyan College Merner Pfeiffer Library and sent this cool collage of what Buffalo did one day.

Janelle of Brimful Curiosities sends her daughter's vision of a rainbow colored Buffalo.

And finally, Kathy of Bermudaonion shared this picture of her husband Carl and dog Milou enjoying Buffalo's story at their home in South Carolina.

Via a random drawing, Daniel picked Bridget as the winner of the Buffalo book signed by Daniel and the $20 Amazon gift card! But my other 5 finalists here are all winners too - of a personalized, signed bookplate. I'll be in touch about getting your mailing addresses.

Let me know about YOUR Buffalo sightings in the comments!

Oh, and congrats to Audrey & Daniel on their starred review in Publisher's Weekly!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mockingjay Tour: I'm representing District 10

Just in time for Dystopian August, I got an invite to be a tribute from district 10 for the official 13 District Mockingjay Tour!

As part of the tour, I'll be posting on a very exciting topic and hosting a contest for a fab Hunger Games series related prize on August 23rd - the day before Mockingjay releases and we can all finally find out what happens to Katniss and co.

The full tour will be posted tomorrow at the Official Hunger Games Facebook Page:

Oh, and as a founding member of #teampeeta, I say Peeta BETTER NOT DIE. That is all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Jennie’s brother and fiancĂ© have both been killed in the Civil War which jeopardizes Jennie’s position in her aunt and uncle’s household. When she finds herself getting closer to her dead fiancĂ©’s brother Quinn, strange things start happening. Are ghosts trying to tell her something?

The atmosphere and all the lovingly rendered period details really sucked me into this one. It was a quick read with a mostly satisfying twist at the end (the fact that it was so surprising had to do more with a bit of a lack in the character development, imho).

Although Jennie is of marrying age which makes this YA, the novel is written with a certain simplicity that reminds me more of middle grade novels.

This was one of the books I took with me on my Dublin trip, and the first I started after Finn died. I kept wondering if the spirit photographer would be willing to take a picture of me to see if Finn would show up. He'd probably be biting my ear!

PICTURE THE DEAD is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

Haven is stuck in small-town Tennessee, mocked and scorned for the visions of a past life and a past love that have haunted her since childhood. One day, Haven faints when she sees celebrated bad-boy heir Iain on TV. Could Iain be Ethan, the past love she seems destined to be with? Haven needs to get to New York to find out…

I was absolutely in love with the idea behind THE ETERNAL ONES – the idea that certain loves are so strong that they bind souls across multiple lifetimes and each new life is a chance to love again. It’s a tantalizing, intoxicating premise and Author Kirsten Miller (who looks so much like a high school friend of mine, it’s scary) pulls it off for the most part.

It does start out slow, and the first section seems only to exist to make sure the reader knows that Haven is not missing out on anything by skipping out on her current life to research past lives. The townspeople, with the exception of Haven’s fab best friend Beau, are grating and I was sorely tempted to skim so I could get to the good parts quicker.

The good parts, of course, commence with Haven’s explosive first meeting with Iain. I admit I read this section about 10 times I was so taken with the giddy romantic feel of it.

Naturally the course of true love never runs smooth, so we see Haven start to doubt Iain, who engages in all sorts of inexplicably shady behavior. As Haven digs deeper into her past lives and gets closer to the mysterious society that reaches out to her, the tension mounts. Who can Haven trust?

Iain/Ethan is the novel’s biggest asset, but not perfectly executed. He’s terrifyingly magnetic, but although my emotional swoon was set to full tilt, my intellectual swoon was more cautious. I think it’s just that we are promised a more swoonworthy Iain than is actually delivered on the page. No matter – even days later, I can’t stop thinking about him and the novel, and that’s a sign of a winner.

THE ETERNAL ONES comes out in hardcover on August 10th. Find out more about it at the official website.

Kitty Update

Now that Emmy's test results are in, it would seem Finn did not die of FIP, but of something else. To test for FIP in a live animal, the vet takes a blood sample and a stool sample. They look for antibodies in the blood and rank these on a scale of 0-1600. 0-25 means definitely no contact with FIP, 25-400 means unlikely contact with FIP, 400-1000 means possible contact with FIP and 1000-1600 means likely to definite contact with FIP. The main problem with the blood test is that a cat may test higher due to stress, and of course the whole experience of being at the vet and having blood taken is very stressful. The stool sample either contains virus or it doesn't.

Emmy's blood test came back with 100 and the stool was negative for virus. 100 is already very low on the unlikely contact part of the scale and when you account for stress and look at the stool sample basically means she does not have it.

This is great news - not only because it means Emmy is healthy, but also because we can get a new kitten companion for Emmy asap. Emmy is very lonely and depressed. She constantly calls for Finn and lies around more than usual. She's also not eating as much. It's so heartbreaking to see her this way. That's why it is very important that we find her a new pal soon. We have some options we are looking at, and may be able to bring a kitten home as early as the end of September.

As for Finn, his cause of death will remain a mystery. The breeder and the vet suspect it was a combination of an undetected heart problem, the brutal heat, and a normal virus (such as the flu) that got together to create a deadly cocktail. It is incomprehensible to me that a cat who was so young, healthy and active could just keel over like that with no warning. We keep asking each other if we could have done things differently - but there really were no signs at all. It's so scary.

In any case, I want to thank everyone for their massive outpouring of support and condolences during this difficult time. My tribute post for Finn had over 100 comments, my twitter was flooded, and I got a ton of Facebook messages and e-mails from cat lovers sharing their own kitty stories and happy memories of Finn.

I'll leave you with the last ever picture taken of Finn. Daniel took it with his phone on Friday afternoon, just about 18 hours before he took Finn into the vet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In Loving Memory of Finn (March 13, 2009 - July 18, 2010)

Some of you already know via Facebook and Twitter that tragedy struck our house this weekend and our precious Finn was taken from us all too soon and without warning.

Daniel noticed on Friday evening that Finn wasn't feeling well. He couldn't even be persuaded to eat his kitty crack - rare for a cat who would eat nearly everything, from dried mango to raw green beans. The next morning, he didn't seem any better, so Daniel took him to the vet. The vet noticed he had an enlarged heart and started treating him for that. Daniel called me (I was in Dublin) and said the vet didn't think his prognosis looked good (probably a heart problem like HCM). By afternoon, however, he had stabilized and the vet said she'd like to keep him over the weekend and run tests on Monday. We were upset, but hopeful.

As the evening progressed into night, the vet noticed that Finn was taking a turn for the worse. He developed an infection in his stomach and his other organs started to fail. On Sunday morning she called Daniel to tell him that putting him to sleep was the only humane option at that point, and she suspected FIP.

And that's how, in 36 hours, Finn went from being a completely active, healthy cat with no symptoms to a victim of a deadly disease. We'll never understand how something so terrible could happen.

But enough about his untimely death. The purpose of this post is to celebrate his life. I've heard it said that a measure of an animal's life is not quantity but quality, and we did everything in our power to make his quality of life the best it could be.

His whole life was chronicled here every Tuesday. You can relive his public antics via this link. I also wanted to add a few more gems from my huge archive (you can imagine how much I sobbed as I went through them).

Finn was born Dain von Dusterwald. This picture of him at 8 weeks old really shows his spunky personality. One of our favorite stories to tell is one the breeder shared with us. How Finn stole a cookie from her toddler daughter and then defended it with all his might. He was always jumping on our kitchen table too - waiting for an opportunity to run off with our food. Daniel had to guard his morning cereal closely if he didn't want a little tongue lapping up his milk.

Both cats liked to be in the same room with us, and since we both work from home, they spent a lot of time hanging out on Daniel's desk. Finny also spent a lot of time grooming his elegant, fluffy "squirrel" tail.

Finn loved this chair. It was one of his favorite spots to doze. And he always curled up in such amusing positions.

This is our dear Finny hanging with Emmy in their cat palace cubby hole, a very recent photo. Emmy, of course, misses him. While I was going through all my photos, I came across a video of the day we brought him home. In it, he was meowing. And when Emmy heard that, she came running across the room, looking for him.

One of Finn's last photo sessions, less than a week ago. Playing with his "fishing mouse", one of his favorite activities.

The house feels emptier here without Finn. Now that he's gone, we realize how much space he took up. He was always the first to greet us when we came in the door. He jumped on our laps whenever they were free. He scratched our bookcase trying to climb up to get at his toys. He kept Emmy balanced. He made us so very happy. He was a light in our lives. He was so loved.

"how did it go so fast
you'll say
as we are looking
and then we'll
we held gold dust
in our

- Tori Amos GOLD DUST (Which of course she played last night at the concert I attended in Paris. I was a wreck.)

I hope you'll understand that my Tuesday tradition of posting cat pictures will go on hiatus for a while. I probably won't be blogging too much in the next 2 weeks either until Dystopian August. Hopefully that will be able to pick up my spirits (the irony!).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway: Maggie Stiefvater discusses Shiver and Linger

As part of the launch promotion for Linger (which a I gave a rave review), I was asked to conduct an interview with Maggie Stiefvater. Intimidating! Maggie posts all the time on her blog and there are about 3 zillion interviews with her on the web - how was I going to come up with orginal questions?

But after doing hours of research, I felt up for the challenge. And I asked Maggie to give me an interview score at the end...

So here goes!

Let’s say you were asked to write a novella featuring a minor character from your Mercy Falls series (a la SM and Bree Tanner). Who’s the star and what’s the story?

Oh, I have fantasized about released the THE BRIEF LIFE OF THE UNNAMED GIRL IN ZIP-TIES for a very long time now, and to know it could be a possibility . . .

Okay, I’m kidding. Beck. Hands down. It would be fun to look at Beck, Ulrik, and Paul and see how this strange arrangement in Mercy Falls came together. I get to play with tiny bits of Beck’s back story in the series as it stands, but because he’s not there for much of it, and because so much of it is through Sam’s memories, it’s only a tiny window.

Perhaps someday, when I’m 80, I will do THE WEIRD AND FANTASTIC WOLF PACK OF GEOFFREY BECK.


Ha! I was totally thinking of Beck when I asked that question. Awesome! LINGER is now available in ton of foreign editions. If a fairy godmother were to grant you the ability to speak any of those languages fluently, which would you choose and why?

Yeah, can you believe it? I sure as snot cannot. Every time a new cover comes in, I clap my hands like a seal; it never gets old.

If a fairy godmother were to grant me the ability to speak one of them fluently . . . mmmm . . . I am always working on my German, but I think I’d have to go for one of the languages that’s supposedly very difficult to learn, like Greek or Japanese. Because they I could skip all the annoying bits of grammar and learning to change the pitch of my voice or writing with weird characters and just go on to shocking and awing party guests.

Take it from me, Japanese is hard! Good choice. So, if Oprah came to you and asked you for three book picks to kick off her new YA book club, what would be your response?

“How did you get this address?”

Well, no, that aside, assuming I knew Oprah was going to show up, hmmm . . . well, book club books should be ones you can discuss endlessly, so . . .

1. FEED, by M. T. Anderson, because it’s good for you, and it’s raw, and unflinching, and will make you afraid of billboards.

2. MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, by Francisco X. Stork, because if you’re going to read a coming of age novel, it might as well be a beautiful one.

3. STOLEN, by Lucy Christopher, because I just read it and I want a book club to discuss it with now. NOW.

I completely agree with your choice of FEED (read my review). Sounds like the fantasy Oprah Teen book club will get off to a great start! Changing gears...will your October visit to Germany this year coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair by any chance? Emmy and Finn would love to meet you!

It will indeed coinciding with the Frankfurt Book Fair -- or at least that’s the plan at the moment. I don’t have my official schedule which is why there’ve been no blog announcements. *pets hairy creatures, virtually* The plan now, actually, is to tour overseas in October and December in over six countries, which is insane.

Insane but exciting!! What is a question you get asked all the time that makes you roll your eyes and think “not again”?

Oh, that’s easy. “What inspired you to write this book?”

Book gestation is such a slow and random process that even when there is an A-HA! moment, it’s usually still such a small moment that it makes for an extremely tedious answer. :)

Thanks Maggie! How'd I do?

You get 11 out of a 10 for your question score. They were EXTREMELY fun. Thank YOU!

Aww! Yay! Now how about a 2 book giveaway to celebrate?

I have one paperback copy of SHIVER and one hardcover copy of LINGER to give away to one lucky blog reader. To enter, leave a comment telling me one interview question that you think is way overused or just say something relevant to the interview. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win. This contest is sponsored by a publicity company and is open to those with mailing addresses in the US only. It will remain open until July 30th at 11:59 CST.

LINGER is out now...what are you waiting for? Go, go, go!

One last thing... Maggie's having a twitter party on Thursday, July 22, between 8:00 and 9:30 p.m. EST. Check out this post at The Story Siren for more information.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: 7 Souls by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando

Mary’s 17th birthday is not going as expected. Her friends ignore her, she receives strange warnings that her life is in danger, and she keeps having terrifying visions.

I’m going to stop there, as to say more would to go into spoiler territory. True, I picked it up based on the jacket copy which is spoilerific (read at your own risk), but I think it must be even more fun to go into this knowing as little as possible.

This really reminded me of old school Christopher Pike and it kept me up into the wee hours because I just HAD to know what would happen. It’s a lot of fun, and logical in its own convoluted way.

I loved the opening scene where Mary wakes up naked in a Crate & Barrel in NYC. It felt so original, and that same creative storytelling propels the novel forward.

Although this is mainly Mary’s story, we also get to know the 6 other souls that are part of the title in surprising ways. All in all, very cool. Highly recommended!

7 SOULS was released yesterday in hardcover. Find out more about it at the publisher’s website.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Your weekly dose of Emmy and Finn (edition 114)

Daniel cut a little window into a wine box for Finn. He likes to hide in there.

And stick his head out a bit.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

At 53, Pete Dizinoff feels like he has built a successful life for himself: successful marriage, great friends, a respected physician practice and all the trappings. But when he sees his only son, Alec, veer off the path Pete hopes for him, Pete’s desperation to “save his son” devastates his whole life.

To be honest, Pete reminded me a bit of Neil Perry’s father in Dead Poets Society (you know, the mean man who wouldn’t let Sean Robert Leonard pursue his dream of acting), and that made it very difficult for me to sympathize with him at all. He actually thinks things like if his son doesn’t graduate from college, he won’t be able to look people in the eye anymore because they will give him looks of pity. Ummm…ok.

The novel is actually set up in such a way that we start by knowing Pete has done some horrible thing which has distanced him from his wife, son and longstanding best friends Joe and Iris. And we suspect it has something to do with Joe and Iris’ oldest daughter Laura, who has come back to town after more than a decade away and begins a relationship with Alec. Laura, by the way, is by far the character with the most intriguing story – at 17 she gave birth to a premature baby in the library bathroom and smashed in its skull – but unfortunately her motivation is never explored in any real depth which makes her seem more like a plot point than a real person. In any case, due to this narrative structure, you are compelled to read on to find out what Pete could’ve done that was so terrible he even lost his practice.

Grodstein is a great writer – scenes flowed, sentences impressed, the story engaged – but I was a bit disappointed in the big showdown at the end where we finally find out what Pete did to fall from grace. The revelation was frankly disproportionate to the amount of pages it takes to get there.

Where it does excel is as a portrait of a middle-aged man trying to come to terms with life and death and contemplating his own legacy. So if you enjoy in-depth character studies of not-so sympathetic men as they grapple with family dynamics, this one is a real winner.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is available now in hardcover (the book jacket featured is from the paperback which will come out in November 2010). Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

50th Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird - My Thoughts

To Kill A Mockingbird 50th Anniversary

It was August 2003. I had just discovered the tiny library in my Frankfurt, Germany neighborhood had an even tinier section of English books, mostly classics and Oprah Book Club picks. I was hungry for books in English, and buying enough to satisfy me was not an option due to the high price of imports.

The first novel I checked out was Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I'd heard a ton about it, but I'd never commited to reading it. I vividly remember opening it, and just getting lost in the story. I loved Scout's voice, her innocence. And I loved Atticus Finch - how tender he was with her. I know the characters are very idealized, but that's part of their charm. I remember putting the novel down at the end with a satisfied sigh. And then grabbing my library card and going back to that single bookshelf tucked away in the back and gathering up other gems.

All the rest of that summer and fall I kept going back for more. It was my classics renaissance. I read:

THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath
OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck
DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey
ON THE ROAD by Jack Keroac
MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot
THEM by Joyce Carol Oates

with a few of the Oprah approved books mixed in. Then I found the main branch of the library, with its rows and rows of books in English, and started reading more modern literary fiction. But I still remember that reading period fondly. And it all started with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Find out more about the 50th Anniversary of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and share your own thoughts about the novel at the official 50th anniversary website.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Review: Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

After discovering her sister Athena was plagued by similar nightmares before her death, Persephone “Phe” Archer decides to attend the boarding school in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts Athena applied to. Once she gets there, Phe finds herself investigating the town’s haunting past and how she might fit into it.

Despite a tentative beginning (I might have groaned a bit when the novel started with a dream), I was hooked by the end of chapter 1 with an electrifying meet-cute in a graveyard between Phe and her “dream” guy Zach. Their palpable chemistry is a main attraction in this fresh, thrilling take on the paranormal romance genre.

Phe is inquisitive and spunky, and though she tells us she’s broken inside, I didn’t really get that vibe from her. If anything, she felt too put together and self-possessed to be a 15 year old mourning her sister’s death. Zach is your typical brooding hottie hiding a paranormal secret, but he’s surprisingly gentlemanly and non-possessive. These two seem destined to be together…too bad Zach’s sister Corinne is dead-set on keeping them away from each other “for their own protection”.

And just why they'd be better off apart despite their undeniable, magnetic attraction is part of the mystery. The more secrets about the townspeople, their strange genetic make-up, and her own seemingly mythological part in the whole affair Phe uncovers, the more the more danger she puts herself in. Though we get enough answers and teases in this installment to get a good sense of what might be going on, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the end of Shadow Hills. And that’s fine by me – because I want more!

SHADOW HILLS will be released in hardcover on July 13. Find out more about it and read chapter 1 at the author’s website.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dystopian August is coming!

Some of you were around for my Dystopian February feature. Well, we had so much fun, we all decided it needed to happen more than once a year and Dystopian August was born. It's going to be even bigger and better than February because first of all, it has a button!

Isn't it lovely? (Thanks Daniel!) But the coolness doesn't stop there. I'll be reviewing over 20 dystopian books - old, recent and forthcoming (and assigning them a famous Zombie Chicken Rating from 1 - 5 based on their must-read status - or lack thereof), interviewing a ton of fascinating authors, giving away a boatload of books, and much more.

Since I am way more organized this time around, I am also including a community component and I'll be soliciting your help. The first activity on the agenda is a set of Dystopian Reader Questions that I'd like you to answer. I've already put the call out on twitter (from my handle @lenoreva) and gotten amazing response, but I didn't want to exclude anyone in case you missed it there. So if you'd like to participate, either comment with your e-mail address so I can send you Qs or send a message to lenoreva at hotmail dot com with the subject line: Dystopian Reader Questions.

August is going to rock!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Instead of getting a summer job, Alton agrees to be a cardturner for his blind and rich great uncle Lester Trapp’s bridge games. Along the way, he learns life lessons and how to play the game.

After reading this novel, I’m convinced Sachar can make any subject fascinating. I went in knowing next to nothing about bridge, and I put the novel down at the end not only with a rudimentary understanding of the game, but a healthy appreciation for it.

Sachar knows he’s not going to interest everyone in the intricacies of bridge strategy and culture, so he employs a very creative device known as the “Moby Dick” whale. Sachar precedes sections where potentially “boring” details could get in the way of the story with an icon of the whale and then follows them up with a short summary. I can think of a ton of novels that would benefit from this brilliant device (first to mind is Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN – a whale icon could have spared me that whole plodding section on the migration habits of medieval monks in Eastern Europe).

As it did in HOLES, Sachar’s storytelling shines. Alton befriends another bridge playing teen related to Lester named Toni who may or may not be crazy. Together they help Lester fulfill his dream of playing in the national bridge tournament. The novel also has a philosophical bent, touching on themes like coincidence and synchronicity, religion and afterlife.

Here are some passages I really liked.

On the eternal life of ideas:

One way or another, the body of Alton Richards will cease to exist,” he said.
“But the idea of Alton Richards will live forever.”

“So what happens to
ideas that are not communicated?” asked Gloria. “Do they die?”

“An idea
doesn’t die,” said Trapp. “It exists somewhere, in its own dimension, waiting to
be perceived
.” p. 123

On coincidence:

He said that synchronicity was different than mere coincidence. With
synchronicity you feel there’s a definite connection. You just don’t know what
that connection is.”
p. 144
On creation:

Maybe that’s what religion is all about. Is life just a highly improbable
coincidence, or does an impossible explanation make more sense?”
p 313

THE CARDTURNER is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Your weekly dose of Emmy and Finn (edition 113)

Emmy catches a mouse...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Review: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

In the summer of 1799, Dutch clerk Jacob de Zoet arrives at the Japanese trading post of Dejima, hoping to serve five years and return to Holland a rich man. However, Jacob is an honest type, and it would seem that it takes a serious lack of scruples to get ahead in this pit of corruption. Jacob tries, as any mortal might, to shape circumstances in his favor with his intelligence and loyalty. But what can one man really do in the face of a changing global landscape?

David Mitchell’s GHOSTWRITTEN and CLOUD ATLAS are two of my favorite novels of all time, so though I wasn’t as enamored with his BLACK SWAN GREEN, I was definitely excited to pick up this up. In many ways, THOUSAND AUTUMNS is a return to form for Mitchell – a chance to show off his skill at writing various POVs (though this is written in 3rd person, a departure for author who until now has written in 1st), in bringing historical periods to life, and in believably weaving in a touch of mysticism.

In terms of structure, this is a more conventional effort (a straightforward narrative told in three parts), but the ambitious storytelling is still there. In part one, I was fascinated with Jacob’s struggles to combat corruption and to gain precious moments of face time with a Nagasaki midwife, Orito, who has caught his fancy.

And then the story shifts in part 2, following Orito as she is confined to a mountain hideaway of a sinister and powerful Japanese Abbott. This section, with its crazy dystopian society closed off from the rest of the world, is chilling yet incredibly riveting. Oh and I love the way Mitchell describes the Abbott, on his first meeting with Jacob: “The lips are tight, the cheekbones high, the nose hooked and the eyes ferocious with intelligence. Jacob finds himself as little able to evade the man’s gaze than a book can, of its own volition, evade the scrutiny of a reader.” (p 43 ARC edition, may not reflect final published version.)

In part 3, the story opens wider to address the repercussions in the far east of the shift in geopolitics during the Napoleonic period in Europe. Mitchell picks up all the disparate narrative threads and brings the story to a satisfying, if bittersweet, close.

Despite its heft (nearly 500 pages) and eye to dense historical detail, my attention never lagged. This was due, in part, to the fact that even the minor characters are worth spending time with. Their back stories are so rich, you at once feel that whole novels could be written about them and don’t begrudge them their short interruption of the main plot.

Even though I was thoroughly entertained and captivated by THOUSAND AUTUMNS, I can’t say it reached the dizzying heights of adoration I reserve for GHOSTWRITTEN and CLOUD ATLAS. If you’re new to Mitchell, I’d advise you to start with one of those (unless you aren’t one for experimental narrative structure).

THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: Borderline by Allan Stratton

As the only Muslim-American teen in his neighborhood, Sami has always struggled to fit in. It’s difficult to balance hanging out with his carefree friends and living up to his parents’ strict religious expectations. After his father cancels plans to take Sami to Toronto for a father-son bonding weekend, Sami becomes suspicious of his father’s recent secretive behavior. Is his ultra-conservative father having an affair? Or is he involved in something far more sinister?

The best part of BORDERLINE is the character of Sami. As a teen caught between cultures, he’s very sympathetic and it’s easy to relate to his feelings of alienation. It’s because I liked Sami so much that I was willing to go with the flow even when the plot became a bit soap-operatic in the later chapters.

It’s not really a spoiler to say the FBI gets involved, and that there is a terrorist investigation of Sami’s family, because the book is marketed to accentuate that plot point (though it doesn’t come until about halfway through the novel). The portrayal of the FBI here was a bit strange, and I got the feeling the novel was strongly criticizing their procedures. It’s a controversial subject, to be sure. On the one hand, it’s good to know that the FBI and anti-terror agencies are thorough. On the other hand, they can be very quick to jump to conclusions which have long-lasting, life-ruining implications on the accused and their families who are mercilessly battered by the court of public opinion.

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

Friday, July 2, 2010

The one where I register for Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010

The third annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week is to be held this year from September 13th-17th. It's a great week of celebrating everything that's awesome about book blogging. This year, everyone is invited to register their blogs for the week and to choose a niche category that best represents their blog. Part of this process is picking out 5 posts that you feel best represent your blog for awards consideration (optional).

Although I have very eclectic taste (and was in fact shortlisted for Most Eclectic Taste during last year's BBAW proceedings), my blog is most associated with reviewing Young Adult books.

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past year for consideration in Best Young Adult Book Blog:

Review: Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Review: Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Interview: Lauren Bjorkman
International Book Blogger Mentor Program Featured Bloggers (2)

I'm also quite proud of my interviews and would love to be considered in the Best Author Interview category:

Interview: Lauren Bjorkman
Interview: Patrick Ness
Interview: Diana Peterfreund
Interview: Mary E. Pearson
Interview: Thomas Randall

Hope you'll register too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: Slept Away by Julie Kraut

Upper East Sider Laney’s vague plans for a summer lazing in the city are dashed when her mother signs her up for a six week back to nature camp in the Poconos.

There’s only one way to describe the writing in this one: Entertainment Weekly on speed. The formula is: snark + cute turn of phrase + reference to celebrity or pop culture. Example: “Maybe Apple hadn’t spread their product out to the suburbs yet. Kind of like the message that David Hasselhoff is a giant drunk douche hasn’t spread to Germany yet*.” p 116. Taken in small doses, it’s fun. But sometimes it can feel like too much of a good thing (like when you eat too much chocolate chip cookie dough).

Laney is either apathetic or dismissive about everything. She has a pretty swank life in NYC (despite an annoying new-agey stepfather), so the rustic camp she goes to is obviously a shock to her system. Usually in novels like this, you’d expect the pampered heroine to grit her teeth and make the best of it, learning important lessons along the way and even being sad when camp ends. Not Laney. She acts more like a martyr, participating in camp life the least amount possible and without a sliver of enthusiasm.

Ok, well she is enthusiastic about one thing – setting up her nerdy bunkmate with the nerd king of the camp. Too bad the girls have exactly three opportunities to talk to boys during the whole summer (including the shortest dance in the history of teen lit – couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes long, tops), because otherwise that plot point might have pumped some sort of urgency and excitement into Laney's life.

SLEPT AWAY may well be an accurate portrayal of a spoiled city brat going off to sleepaway camp for the first time. And it is at times very, very funny  (the butt slogan mean girl clique totally rocks, for one). But ultimately it comes down to caring. And Laney doesn't act like she cares.  Maybe not even whether you read this book or not.
SLEPT AWAY is out in paperback now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

*Actually, Germans will glare at you mightily if you suggest that they like David Hasselhoff. Not recommended.

This article was originally published by Lenore for Presenting Lenore. It cannot be republished without express written permisson. If you are reading this elsewhere, it has been stolen.