Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

FOREVER is the third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, so if you haven't read the first two (SHIVER and LINGER), look away! Also, it comes out in two weeks (July 12), so this is a tad early (but just a tad).

I just finished FOREVER like .5 seconds ago, so you're getting my uncensored, immediate thoughts about it.

Back when I read SHIVER, I wrote in my review that Sam and Grace were one of my favorite literary couples, and I recall liking them in LINGER too, though I don't mention it specifically in my review of that one.  But for most of this installment, the once bright spark of their relationship was rather dull.  It could be because Sam was more mopey than usual and Grace more distant than usual, or it could be that the emerging relationship between Cole and Isabel just burned brighter on the page.

And I dare say FOREVER is Cole's book - he matures so much as a character and steals the show with his science experiments, his rock star grin and his growing realization that maybe life doesn't completely suck after all.  (Can we get a Cole spin-off series please?!)

I don't want to spoil any plot details, but generally I'm left scratching my head a bit.  The driving action of the book is Isabel's father's plan to arrange a helicopter hunt of the wolves - many of whom we've come to know and love during the course of the series.  While this part unfolded fine (if slowly) leading up to a fast and furious climax, there were other threads that I would liked to have seen resolved that weren't.

Anyway, on the whole, I enjoyed it.  And if you're a fan of the series already, I'm betting you will too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Buffalo Release Day (and obligatory cat picture)

Today you can finally find TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by my husband Daniel Jennewein out in the wild!

You can order the book on amazon.

And like his drumming page on Facebook.

And add him to your to-read list on GoodReads.

Since today is Tuesday, you also get a cat picture.  But not of my cats - just a wild Argentine cat who hopped on my lap in the botanical garden in Buenos Aires earlier this month.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Dead Rules by Randy Russell

In this inventive tragicomedy, Jana Webster dies in an apparent bowling accident and lands in Dead School, an afterlife way station for teen risers (those on their way up) and sliders (those on their way down).  Jana needs to figure out the Dead Rules to facilitate her plan of bringing her boyfriend Michael Haynes to the same plane as her so that they can be together forever.

Jana is the very definition of the smothering girlfriend.  Her identity is so completely tied up in being part of Webster & Haynes, she can’t fathom an existence without Michael.   She’s so single minded in her plan to kill Michael that she doesn’t care what happens to her – or that her skin gets all tingly when sexy slider Mars touches her.

On the surface, this is a wickedly funny story of Jana’s obsession interspersed with anecdotes of the other students about their deaths (all very bizarre – involving lawn darts, birds and drunken uncles).  But there is so much tragedy underneath the hijinks as Jana is revealed as a terminally lonely soul who doesn’t understand her own worth.  What Debut Author Russell set up and executed here blows me away and I desperately want to discuss this novel with others.  Get in touch!!

DEAD RULES is out now.  Find out more about it at the author’s website.

How I Got My Agent

I posted my agent story today over at Brave New Words for those of you who are interested.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Presenting my new author photo!

Three weeks I posted the nine finalists and asked for your opinions on which author photo to choose.  Your comments (over 130 of them - wow!) were incredibly helpful - thank you!

While a lot of you liked #9, it's true that glasses can quickly date a picture.  #4 was another favorite, but didn't seem quite right for the tone of my novel (maybe if I were writing romantic comedies).  Finally, after a lot of debate, I choose #1 (the one that Sab H. commented makes me look the most "bad-ass").

Thanks again to Vania / VLC Productions. She takes great pictures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Argentina Recap 1: Iguazu Falls

The definite highlight of our recent trip to Argentina was visiting Iguazu Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the world (actually a conglomeration of 275 smaller waterfalls).  Our first stop was the U-shaped Devil's Throat section - where about half the water of the Iguazu river tumbles off a 82 m high cliff.  It's very wet! Here you can see Daniel's back as he views the massive flow.

A pic of both of us at Devil's Throat.

A view of Devil's Throat from afar.

A view of the rest of the falls from the vantage point of the lower trail.

Posing at the lower falls.

View from atop the falls.

We didn't go on a helicopter tour like we did at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe (view my recap) because they don't offer them on the Argentine side of the falls and I didn't have a visa to go to the Brazilian side.  So we never got a true panoramic view.  But the area was so lush and lovely.  Truly a world wonder!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

London has a strange affliction - all her memories come from her future instead of her past.  So when she meets Luke and has no memory of him, she sadly surmises that he's not part of her future.  However, day after day, she meets Luke "for the first time" again.  So why can't she remember him?

FORGOTTEN has a great premise but it is one that is extremely tricky to pull off. Author Patrick does an admirable job of it, though the mechanics of London's affliction are somewhat hazy (especially as they relate to Luke).  Memories are so important to our understanding of who we are, and it made sense that London would be more confident than a typical teen because she remembers her future self.  Because of this confidence, her relationships with her friends and mother were both refreshingly free of unnecessary angst, though London came off as pretty manipulative at times (for example, in the situation involving her best friend). London's sweet romance with Luke was a highlight here - I love good guys in YA.

FORGOTTEN is available in hardcover now.  Find out more about it at the book website and watch two of London's video diaries here!

Thanks to Big Honcho Media, I have two copies of FORGOTTEN to give away.  If you live in the US and would like a copy, fill out this form by August 2nd.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (36)

Beware of Cat  (Kaia)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Advance Buzz Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Goblin Fruit, the first story in Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES collection, is one of my favorite bits of writing ever.  Still, when I heard the premise of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE - an angel and a demon once fell it in love and it did not end well - I thought it might be too high fantasy for my taste.

Fast forward to the YA Buzz Panel at BEA.  Laini's editor praised it with words like "best book ever" and I was intrigued enough to fight a crowd at the back of the room after the panel for a copy (the only book I can really say I made an effort - beyond line-standing - to get).

DAUGHTER starts out by introducing us to 17 year old Karou, a blue haired art student in Prague with a broken heart and a strange "family" of chimaera who run a magical shop that deals mysteriously in wishes and teeth.  Thanks to Laini's intoxicating writing and attention to detail, I was not only enthralled by Karou and the earthly locations she inhabits, but also by the stranger creatures and the "elsewhere" world they come from.  And this is no small feat - as the mere description of a monster or fantasy world usually makes me yawn and wish I were reading another book.

I don't want to talk too much about plot beyond the fact that Karou gets caught up in a war between angels and demons - except to say that I was surprised by where the book ended up (and yes, it's the first book in a series).  But I do want to give you a taste of some of the writing.  Here's a passage about Karou (and note that this quote is taken from a galley so may be different in the finished novel):

"Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn't. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and ... cancel her.  She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust." (p. 71)

And so it is that I can end this review with a satisfied smile and tell you I fully expect this amazing novel to appear on my year end best list.  Be sure to get it when it comes out on September 27th.

Friday, June 17, 2011


If you follow me on twitter or on Facebook, you may know some or all of the following, but I thought it would be good to collect it all in one place, just in case you missed something.

LEVEL TWO sold in its first foreign territory - Brazil!  How exciting is that?  It has also sold in a few other territories so far, but I'm not allowed to announce yet.  So stay tuned.

Old news for some, but you can add LEVEL TWO to your to-read list on GoodReads.  I'm closing in on 400 people adding it ... way cool!

Do you know The Apocalypsies?  It's a group open to all middle-grade and YA authors debuting their book in 2012, and it's a great way for you to get a sneak peek at all the awesome debut books that are due out next year.  Follow us on twitter too - especially if you want to be the first to see our cover reveals!  Oh and check out my Apocalypsies bio page.

I'm also part of a new group blog dedicated to sci-fi YA 2012 debuts: Brave New Words.  In true YA publishing fashion, we are fifteen women and one 6'7 man.  We'll be sharing stories about our paths to publication as well as other cool stuff.  Stop by!

The finished LEVEL TWO manuscript is currently with my editor, so while I'm waiting for her feedback, I'm spinning ideas for the possible sequel (LEVEL THREE?) as well as mapping out other projects such as picture books and a super secret fab novel idea.  I'm also trying to catch up on my reading and get a head start on Dystopian August - which is just around the corner.

If only my cats wouldn't be so clingy and always want to lay on my hands ...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Club Report: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

When I downloaded this to my Nook, I wasn't aware I was getting the Young Readers Edition, so I was quite surprised to get to the end of part 1 and find an author's note telling me that if I wanted to read the whole book, I should buy the print version!  This same thing happened to another book club member, so a lot of our discussion concerned the differences between the adult print version, the young readers eBook edition and the movie (two members watched the movie instead of reading the book).

Short summary:  Peekay is only 5 years old when he is sent to boarding school, a harrowing experience that shapes his life to come.  This book, set in South Africa during WWII, is part semi-autobiography, part myth.

The group's verdict:  Despite all the different versions we were going off of, everyone enjoyed reading about Peekay's adventures.  Granpa Chook, Peekay's pet chicken, was a favorite character and everyone got a kick out of Peekay's friend Doc, especially his sayings.  I think we probably would've had a better discussion if everyone had been on the same page, so to speak, so if you're thinking of reading this one for your book club, make sure everyone has the same version!

Up next:  Summer break!  Everyone was asking when they could read MY book for book club.  And that struck me as kinda weird.  Do authors discuss their books with their own book clubs?  I don't think I've ever heard of any examples of this, have you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums!

Hungering for more Buffalo hijinks after last year's IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?  You're in luck! Because the Buffalo is back in a new adventure that is out soon - June 28th to be exact.

And let me tell you - Buffalo is even cuter this time around - if that's even possible.

To celebrate the impending release, Daniel is over at Author Audrey Vernick's blog today taking about illustrating.  Check it out!

Also, I still have promo postcards which feature interior art from the book.  I handed these out at BEA, but if you didn't get one and you want one, fill out this form.  The first 10 respondents will get one.  Open internationally - of course!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (35)

Kaia is caught in the net ...

Monday, June 13, 2011

My BEA books

I'm finally back in Frankfurt after three weeks in NYC and Argentina, so you're finally going to get some posts and reviews from me!

First up, my BEA books!  Before I left, I said I was going to try to carry home less than 20 books.  You can see for yourself whether that happened or not.

This first photo shows books that I got at BEA.

MODELLAND by Tyra Banks (Chapter excerpt) - signing in booth
THE FOX INHERITANCE by Mary E. Pearson - signing in booth
IF I DIE by Rachel Vincent - signing in booth
ASHES by Ilsa Bick - signing area
FURY OF THE PHOENIX by Cindy Pon - signing area
CROSSED by Ally Condie - signing in booth
DARKER STILL by Leanna Renee Hieber - at booth

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor - at YA buzz panel
GLOW by Amy Kathleen Ryan - given to me by a friend
WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick - Children's breakfast

not pictured:
NAUGHTY TOES by Ann Bonwill - signing area

The following photo shows books I got at BEA week related events.

FURY by Elizabeth Miles - S&S blogger preview
EVE by Anna Carey - HarperCollins blogger preview
LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver - HarperCollins blogger preview
STRINGS ATTACHED by Judy Blundell - Scholastic This is Teen Event
VIOLA IN THE SPOTLIGHT by Adriana Trigiani - Lunch with Adriana
THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting - Meeting with my editor at S&S
SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa Walker - Teen Author Carnival
EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS by AS King - Drinks with Amy

FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater - Scholastic This is Teen Event
SINISTER SCENES by PJ Bracegirdle - Meeting with my agent
WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman - Picked up for me by Mitali
FRENCH LESSONS by Ellen Sussman - Random House Bloggers Night Out
THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McClain - Random House Bloggers Night Out
DON'T SING AT THE TABLE by Adriana Trigiani - Lunch with Adriana
BUMPED by Megan McCafferty - Books of Wonder signing

Not pictured:
THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin - Teen Author Carnival
SHATTER ME by Tahareh Mafi - HarperCollins Blogger Preview

I also bought a few books for my NOOK:

LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
SCARLET by Jordan Summers
THE POWER OF ONE by Bryce Courtenay

I brought 27 physical books back with me to Germany (I bought a South American Spanish version of THE HUNGER GAMES in Argentina) - so only 7 more than my limit.  I'm doing good!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (34)

Emmy doesn't like thunderstorms!

Shift book and bracelet giveaway

At the beginning of May, I reviewed SHIFT, the second book in Jeri-Smith Ready's YA series that began with SHADE.  It's such a fun series - so I'm thrilled to be able to offer one lucky reader in the US a copy of SHIFT and a ghost bead bracelet.

Find out more about the series at the official website and the author's website.

Enter the giveaway via this form by June 16th.  Good luck!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Help me choose my author photo!

Last Saturday, I met Vania in Bryant Park and she took a series of amazing portraits of me.  Which one should I choose as my author photo?  So far, my twitter peeps seem to prefer #9.  What do you think?

To view full size, check out this link:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

When popular Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room at Armitage Academy, students and faculty are shocked. English Dept Intern Madeline finds herself at the center of the investigation which takes some bizarre turns.

THE TWISTED THREAD is not what I expected.  It's a slow burn of a thriller that focuses on the reactions and lives of the adult faculty at a prestigious boarding school.  Maybe it's because of all my YA reading, but I felt myself wanting to know more about what the students felt more than the adults.  I think I also expected more of a scandal or shock a la THE SECRET HISTORY or SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS but this is a different sort of book.  More contemplative and concerned with dissecting the topics of tradition, privilege and wealth.

Look for it on its release date of June 14, 2011 and check out the book on GoodReads.