Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Your weekly dose of Emmy and Finn (edition 112)

So, is Finn whispering sweet nothings into Emmy's ear, or is he biting her in an attempt to get her to play with him?

Knowing Finn, it's likely the latter.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Aura was born after the shift, which means she can see and communicate with ghosts. Not really her favorite thing, until an accident kills her boyfriend Logan. On the one hand she’s grateful that he’s not completely lost to her, but on the other hand, it does make it hard to move on. And the new guy in town – Zachary – really wishes she would move on.

I am always fascinated with the sorts of afterlife concepts authors can come up with, and Smith-Ready really has some fun ones. We learn right off the bat that in Aura’s world, ghosts take the form that they inhabited during their happiest moment on earth (that prevents murder victims from looking chopped up and cancer victims from looking wasted away). When I explained this to a friend of mine, she asked, “But what if their happiest moment was when they were a baby?” That one stumped me, although I do have to say if you’re happiest moment came as a baby…well, that’s just sad.

In any case, there are many creative world-building elements to go along with the pretty unique love triangle of Post-Shifter Aura, Dead Logan and Pre-Shifter Zachary. It’s also a credit to Smith-Ready that she kept me on my toes plotwise – you could never be sure what would happen next. So far no real villains have emerged, but you do get the sense that the government is getting stricter and less tolerant with their policy towards ghosts – mainly because some ghosts can turn into “shades” – giving them a dark power that the living are terrified of.

This is the first book in a planned series, but fortunately you do get some measure of closure. I’m excited to read the second novel SHIFT when it releases May 2011. SHADE is now available in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book Review: Yes, My Darling Daughter by Margaret Leroy

Something is off with Grace's four year old daughter Sylvie. She is terrified of water, has bad nightmares, and becomes obsessed with a ad from a magazine depicting a seaside town saying she lived there "before".

I loved the atmosphere in this one. Sylvie is creepy, and as her behavior begins to alienate all of Grace's social contacts, Grace's situation gets more desperate. As a last resort, she turns to a psychologist, Adam, who specializes in past life theories to try to help Sylvie.

Even though the book has its imperfections - the relationship/"romance" between Grace & Adam doesn't feel quite right, Grace seems way older than 22, and there are a couple of very convenient coincidences in the plotting - this is still a thrilling, gothic-tinged ride.

YES, MY DARLING DAUGHTER is available in now paperback. I got my copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. Find out more about the book, called THE DROWNING GIRL in the UK, at the author's website.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buffalo in the Wild + A Contest for a Signed Copy of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?

As you discover in the new children's picture book, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, the goofy and sweet titular Buffalo is certainly ready for kindergarten. But is he ready to face the world?

Let's see:

His first foray into the wild was to visit his birthplace. Here is Buffalo outside the HarperCollins offices in New York City.

While he was in New York, he made sure to check out The Empire State Building (I think he may have knocked over a hot dog stand and eaten all the hot dogs that rolled his way).

Then he went to Brussels, Belgium and just had to see Europe's most famous child statue Mannikin Pis. He told him, politely, that it's not polite to pee in public in kindergarten.

He also went to Barcelona, Spain to see Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Church. It's been under construction since 1882 and work is still going on. Buffalo thinks if they'd just hire a team of hard working Buffaloes, they'd be done long before the expected completion date of 2026.


And then he jumped back into his book so he could entertain kids all over the world. Here's a little friend of mine. She didn't want to let go of Buffalo even when she was sleeping.

Yep - I think Buffalo's ready to tour the world!

This is where YOU come in! Maybe you want to take a picture of Buffalo enjoying your corner of the globe? You might see the book in your local bookstore or library and snap a photo. Or you could download the Buffalo coloring activity sheet (opens a PDF), make Buffalo look spiffy and then photograph him having an adventure.

Anyone who sends a photo with the Buffalo to lenoreva at hotmail dot com by July 16th will be entered into a drawing for a copy of the book signed by Daniel + a $20 gift certificate to Amazon (US) or Book Despository (International). I'll also post some of my favorite photos here on the blog (with your permission of course) when I annouce the winner. (NOTE: Winner will be chosen in a random drawing).

Thanks for helping us celebrate Buffalo's launch week! Now back to my regular blog programming :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Author Audrey Vernick shares her 5 favorite picture books

Audrey Vernick is the creative mind behind the buffalo and his first adventure in IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? (as well as his second, coming out next summer). After taking a look at the illustrator's (Daniel Jennewein) favorite 5 picture books yesterday, today Audrey's going to share which picture books she goes back to again and again.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

I don't think I've ever said the title Roxaboxen without sighing with delight. Oh, Roxaboxen. A world of thorny cactus, desert glass, a dead lizard, ocotillo swords and little Anna May in jail. Special bonus: Barbara Cooney's art makes me swoon.

George and Martha by James Marshall

You'd think those two hippos in their fancy hats and accessories would be outdated by now, but there's something about their friendship, and their respect for one another, that stands the test of time. And I know it's wrong, but whenever I hear of someone named Martha, my first mental image is of James Marshall's Marha. For reasons I cannot fathom, this is not true of men named George.

Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Sometimes, ideas come along that are so spot-on and brilliant that it's almost as though they've been there all along. (I feel that way about certain songs, too.) But it took this combination of writer and illustrator to execute a great idea with such brilliance. And hilarity. And universal appeal.

Teammates, by Peter Golenbock, illustrated by Paul Bacon

I'm a sucker for baseball picture books, and it's hard to choose a favorite. I admire this one so much because of the way it shines a bright light on a single, easily forgotten moment between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese on a baseball field in Cincinnati, Ohio. Teammates is a celebration of baseball, friendship, and the power of doing what's right.

Big Rabbit's Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu, illustrated by Delphine Durand

A bad mood can suck the funny right out of you. But Big Rabbit's bad mood is personified. It's a character. A hilariously nasty one. Isn't that brilliant? This book is that rarest of things--one that is really funny to read and brilliantly illustrated.

Thanks Audrey!

Audrey Vernick is the author of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY, both to be published by HarperCollins this year. She is a two-time recipient of the New Jersey Arts Council's Fiction Fellowship and a lover of picture books. You can visit her online at http://www.audreyvernick.com/.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Illustrator Daniel Jennewein shares his 5 favorite picture books

Daniel Jennewein, debut illustrator of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? written by Audrey Vernick, is not only a fanastic illustrator, he is also my husband. Even though we don't have kids (yet at least), we have over 100 picture books on our shelves. Today, Daniel shares 5 of his favorites.

Rotten Island by William Steig
This book is actually my nr. 1 favorite. It is wildly funny and irreverent. In it, Steig introduces many creatures that compete in ugliness and evilness. They roam in the most horrific island imaginable, surrounded by boiling sea. I love its’ originality and freshness. Sample line: "Nothing could make these monsters shake so hard with laughter as to see another one suffering pain. They loved their rotten life. They loved hating and hissing at one another, taking revenge, tearing and breaking things, screaming, roaring, caterwauling, venting their hideous feelings." Don't worry - there is a happy ending!

Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak
My mother read this book to me when I was small and I am so familiar with it that it feels like a person I know. I think the German translation is great and I will always know the text by heart. I also think the book design is spectacular – how the illustrations grow larger as Max is more and more swept into his fantasy world, and then smaller again as he begins to want to return home. This is a classic for good reason, and I'm still not sure whether I should chance seeing the film or not.

Zeralda's Ogre, Tomi Ungerer
Tomi Ungerer is one of my biggest influences, and has been a favorite illustrator of mine since I was a young child. I am a huge fan of most of his books, but this is arguably my favorite. He often introduces horrible characters in his stories that start to grow on you while you read. This particular book is about a cannibal who loves to eat little children and how he meets a little girl called Zeralda who changes his life. By the way, if you are ever in Stra├čburg, France, you should definitely check out the Tomi Ungerer Museum.

Duck, Death and the Tulip, Wolf Erlbruch
This is a picture book about death, not such a common topic for the genre. I think it is amazing how it deals with such a difficult subject in such a light and accessible way. It is sad and funny and foreboding at the same time. Warning: It can make you cry. Unfortunately the English translation is not able to capture the simple and poetic language of the original German. Still, I think it is quite a powerful book.

Not a Box, Antoinette Portis
This book is based on a great concept and demonstrates the power of imagination. It is beautifully designed by the author Antoinette Portis and the wonderful HarperCollins Creative Director Martha Rago (with whom I was lucky to work with on the Buffalo books). I first became aware of this title when Martha spoke at a SCBWI meeting in Paris a few years ago. She told us that they found this gem in the slush pile! So it can happen. There is also a sequel called NOT A STICK which I like as well.

Thanks Daniel! Visit Daniel's website http://www.danieljennewein.com/ to see his work. You can see some spreads from IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? too. The next Buffalo book comes out summer 2011 and is called TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS. It is even cuter than the kindergarten book (if such a thing is possible).

He also maintains an illustration blog where he uploads a new drawing everyday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten Release Day: Emmy and Finn meet the Buffalo

Daniel's debut book as an illustrator is finally here! The Buffalo already has his share of fans (just look at Buffalo's Facebook page!), and now it's time for Emmy and Finn to meet him.

If Emmy likes it...

...then Finn has to check it out too.

I hope you'll consider getting a copy for all those kids about to start kindergarten that you know...or just for yourself!

Buy on Amazon (US)

Buy on Book Depository (international)

Tomorrow, Daniel will be sharing his 5 favorite picture books here on the blog, and then on Thursday, we'll hear from the book's author, Audrey Vernick, about her 5 favorite picture books. Then on Friday, you'll get to see some of the places the Buffalo has been spotted in the wild.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

Tilly Farmer loves her life. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, she’s a guidance counselor at the local high school and gets to plan prom every year, and at 32, everything’s in place to try for a baby. But then a chance encounter with a high school friend changes everything. Because old traumas – her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s death, her younger sisters’ carelessness – are all coming to the surface and even Tilly’s relentless happiness can’t keep them at bay forever.

I was really excited to read this one because I loved the high concept premise and surprising depth of TIME OF MY LIFE (read my review). This one’s also got a bit of magic realism – the fact that after meeting her old friend, Tilly can see scenes from her future. All of this is supposed to give Tilly clarity – or so her former friend says. But Tilly just thinks it’s ruining her life, and she wants the visions to stop – especially when she sees her husband packing up the house to move…

You see Tilly is a homebody - someone who loves her small-town life and is unwilling to uproot. This is partly because of her tough family history, and I really sympathized with Tilly for that part of her story. I know all about being the oldest sibling and trying to hold everything together after a tragedy. But that’s about where the sympathy – and my similarities with Tilly – ended.

Though there were a host of things that Tilly said or did that I found incomprehensible, what disturbed me the most was the way she treated her husband, Tyler. He obviously longs to do something more with his life, something that can’t be done in their small town, and has put his dreams on hold for Tilly's sake for years. Tilly won’t even consider moving, and she shuts him out so completely, it’s not hard to feel sorry for the guy. Ok, so he ends up making some pretty cowardly decisions, but despite all the “clarity” Tilly manages to find over the course of the novel, she never recognizes her own failures where Tyler is concerned.

So while I did appreciate Scotch’s deft observations about small-town life and the ways in which we can all get ourselves stuck, my dislike of Tilly eventually left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m still upset when I think about Tilly did at the end. Ugh!! I hope you will like her more than I did!

THE ONE THAT I WANT is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author's website.

This review has been a part of Allison's TLC blog tour. Check out the other tour stops for more (postitive) thoughts on this title.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Review: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Olivia Peters is overjoyed. Her writing has caught the eye of a famous author/priest who wants to be her mentor. At first, Olivia is so starstruck by her writing idol, she never says no when he suggests getting together to work on her story, even when these meetings become more and more frequent. Soon though, Olivia feels overwhelmed by his attention and starts getting the feeling that his intentions may not be as honorable as they appear.

Intense. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about this novel. The atmosphere is heavy and foreboding, even at the beginning. Thanks to a prologue that starts in media res, the audience is already wary of Father Mark at the start of chapter 1, even as Olivia is excited to make his acquaintance.

I really liked how the introduction of Jamie as a love interest for Olivia underlined the fact that something was very wrong with Father Mark. Olivia’s scenes with Jamie are as lighthearted and care-free as her scenes with Father Mark are oppressive.

My only real criticism with the book is the handling of the climax and conclusion. The wrap-up is perfunctory, which robs us of a really cathartic release after such an involving narrative.

THIS GORGEOUS GAME is now available in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author's blog.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Check out Snark & Bark for TV Musings from Book Bloggers

There's a new TV blog in town! Adele of Persnickety Snark recently started Snark & Bark and has asked me to be a part of the team, along with a score of other book bloggers. (Read all about my TV faves in my contributor bio and get to know the others as well.)

I'll be covering the series Mad Men once it starts back up at the end of July, but I just posted on memorable TV supporting characters. So please, go on over and leave a comment!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Yes, I finally read a romance novel! Thanks to everyone who commented with their recommendations. I chose LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase because many intelligent bloggers and readers have raved about it. So what did I think? The writing – especially of the amusing dialogue – elevates it considerably in my estimation, and yet, it embraces the tropes of the romance genre so exactly that I was able to predict its’ every move.

Meet Lord Dain, a man so notoriously bad, he’s not invited to high society functions despite his vast wealth. Instead, he hosts orgies, beds whores, and leads suckers to their ruin.

One of those suckers is the brother of Jessica Trent. She is a vision of loveliness, spunk, and shrewd moves, and when she comes in to save her brother from Lord Dain, she finds herself ensnared instead.

They meet in a Paris shop, where Jessica finds two diamonds in the rough: a dirty Madonna painting, which turns out to be a priceless Russian icon and of course Lord Dain, a scoundrel born and bred – just waiting for the love of a good woman to convince him of his worth…

Reading this, I was struck by the obvious fantasy wish fulfillment in the plot. Jessica’s character doesn’t change much during the novel – other than her lusty femme fatale side getting the chance to come out and play – because she’s awesomely kick-ass already. It’s Lord Dain that experiences all the growth as he works out his extreme daddy issues (and mommy issues) to go from being the Lord of Scoundrels to a Lord worthy of Jessica’s adoration. Such a plot is obvious catnip to women who think that their brand of loving can tame and transform the wildest of rogues (or get them to at least be considerate enough to put the toilet seat down).

Jessica and Dain do have some rather hilarious conversations as they try to one up each other during their “courtship”. Dain is someone who claims he’ll never get married…but I bet you can guess how that turns out.

As for the “naughty” bits, with the exception of a hot kissing in the rain sequence, the love scenes did little to make my heart race. Consummation of their mutual lust is a long time in coming because Dain is so BIG and MALE and he’s afraid of breaking someone as fragile as Jessica (which is why his whores have always been plump, buxom wenches – how considerate!).

All in all, a moderate success, but nothing that has me rushing out to stock my shelves with romances.

Here's a question for all you romance fans: Are all romances this predictable? I understand that the idea is for the hero/heroine to have a HEA, but are there some with say, love triangles, so at least there is a bit of suspense?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Double Blog Dare Tour featuring Alison Dare and Finn the Cat

Welcome to Day 9 of the Double Blog Dare Tour!

Alison Dare's life is full of adventure thanks to an archaeologist mother, a superhero father and an uncle who is an international spy and master of disguise.

In the two short graphic novels I was sent for review, ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES and ALISON DARE: HEART OF THE MAIDEN, Alison and her two friends get to make wishes thanks to a genie, fight off evil Germans bent on stealing priceless treasures, and much more. It's clear, of course, that most of the more unbelievable parts of the story are figments of Alison's very active imagination.

Some of the jokes made by the adults are pretty corny, but Alison's antics seem like something that would capture the attention of preteens. At that age, I was definitely hankering for voyages to far off lands, and would have been an avid fan of Alison's.

Reading these two volumes, I wasn't clear on exactly when the stories are set. They seem to have an Indiana Jones vibe, especially with the antagonists being Germans, so perhaps they are set around WWII? Not sure.

In any case, part of the blog tour was to photograph Alison in our daily environment, and since I live in Germany, I created an adventure for Alison where she attempts to hunt down Baron von Baron on his own turf...

Alison's first hurdle is pushing the crosswalk button so she can cross the street.

And then there are these "freshly waxed" giant stairs to contend with (3 flights of them!)

Baron von Baron is guarded by the most ferocious giant cat in the Northern Hemisphere: Finn.

How do you think this story ends? Let me know in the comments!

Meanwhile, you too can contribute to Alison's adventure around the world! Just save this image, print and cut them out, then snap pics like crazy! Send your photo(s) to tundra@mcclelland.com and you'll be entered to win an Alison Dare prize pack! It could quite possibly include signed copies of the books and more!

Find out more about the author and illustrator:
http://jtorresonline.blogspot.com/ and http://gobukan.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Club Report: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Last Thursday my book club got together and discussed Jane Austen's last novel, written while she was sick and published after she died.

Short summary: 27 year old spinster Anne Elliot regrets ever being persuaded not to marry her first love Frederick Wentworth - especially when he shows up 8 years later.

The group's verdict: We all enjoyed this one, even if it wasn't our favorite Austen (Pride & Prejudice and Emma fill that slot for us). We had a lively discussion. We listed many reasons for hating Anne's sisters and father (all very self-absorbed), and wondered why teenaged Anne would defer her own happiness for the likes of them. We pointed out that Anne's "loss of her bloom of youth" was probably due more to her sorrow over a bad decision than aging (because 27 is so totally NOT old). And we reasoned that if Jane hadn't died after writing her first draft, she probably would've written a much better scene at the end where Anne and Wentworth walk back to her house after he writes her that letter (and oh! that letter!). As it is, it seems like a place holder to be fleshed out during the revision process.

Up next: We're taking a break for July, and then reading Anne Patchett's THE PATRON SAINT OF LIARS for August. I actually read this title years ago and didn't much like it...but I do have a lot of friends who loved it. So it should be an interesting one to discuss!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday (110) = Picture of Emmy ... oh, wait that's Finn again

If I ever leave my drawers open...

...I get an unwanted guest. BTW - Emmy is in there too, behind the pulled-out drawer. I had to pull it out all the way to get her out.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie’s older sister Bailey was everything to her, so when she dies suddenly, Lennie is set adrift her powerful grief. Only Bailey’s boyfriend Toby seems to understand what she’s going through, and when Lennie’s with him, she feels Bailey’s presence most. But then there’s new boy Joe, who brings with him sunlight, sky, and joy – all things Lennie thinks are lost to her. Or are they?

I’ll be honest, despite all the glowing reviews I’ve seen around, I was wary. I really did not feel like reading another "teen dealing with death of relative" novel. Been there, done that…you know? And the first ...oh…35 pages…were fine, but not really exciting me on any level. Then page 36 happened. And my eyes got huge and I thought – ok then…I don’t think this is going to be like every other book out there.

It’s not. It’s so raw, so honest, and it’s not afraid to expose dark moments of the soul and to push them out into the light for incredibly close (and sometimes uncomfortable) examination. Lennie is devastated, not just by her sister’s death, but also by the realization that with her sister gone, she is finally able to come into her own – to sprout wings and fly. And if that’s not enough survivor’s guilt to carry around, Lennie also makes some questionable choices on the Toby front to satisfy certain primal urges that jeopardize not only her sanity, but also her mad-passionate/sweetly dorky relationship with Joe – owner of the best eyelashes in YA fiction. If you don’t swoon when he bats those puppies, you are dead inside, my friend.

It’s been awhile since I was so swept up in a story that I ignored the clock and read well past my bedtime, feverishly underlining passages. It brought me back to when I was 19…getting the phone call that my mom had passed away…and then feeling guilty for enjoying all the sympathy hugs I was getting from the hot guys on campus (yes – I finally admit to this…sad, but true). Let’s just say I completely understood where Lennie was coming from when she asks, “What kind of girl wants to kiss every boy at funeral, wants to maul a guy in a tree after making out with her (dead) sister’s boyfriend the previous night?” Not that I have a sister. But I think you get the point.

Anyway, there’s so much more to love here. To support (and counterpoint) Lennie’s emotionally charged character arc, we get a range of characters – the kooky grandmother, the most original pot smoking uncle ever, the winsome (and neglected) best friend – all who have their own issues to work through, but are also always ready for a good healing laugh.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is out in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website (where you can also see the book trailers). PS - I have the UK edition and it looks like this:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where My Last 20 Books Came From (8)

In the interest of full disclosure (and the FTC guidelines), I do a post every 20 books detailing where my books came from.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver - Given to me during publishing house tour at HarperCollins

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness - Bought

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway - Requested review copy

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens - Amazon Vine

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Accepted as part of a blog tour

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani - Picked up at BEA 2009

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner - Bought

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White - Bought

Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie - Accepted author pitch

My Double Life by Janette Rallison - Accepted author pitch

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater - Picked up at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson - Borrowed from a friend

Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens by Rachelle Rogers Knight - Accepted as part of a blog tour

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani - Accepted as part of a blog tour

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay - Won via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Runaway by Meg Cabot - Accepted as part of a blog tour

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot - Unsolicited review copy

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti - Accepted as part of a blog tour

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer - Bought

The Clearing by Heather Davis - Amazon Vine

Hmm...lots of blog tours this reading period. Usually I don't do that many. Could be doing better on owned books vs review copies, but I just have a ton of review copies. Where are you getting most of your books lately?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The one where I join the Bloggiesta

Since I have some time this weekend, and since I've been neglecting my blog of late, and since Natasha of Maw Books Blog is such a great hostess...I'm joining in the bloggiesta fun.

Things I need to do around here:

Update tags. I've been tagging book reviews by publisher since early last year, but I still need to go back and tag earlier reviews. Candace at Beth Fish Reads has some great tag advice to think about.

Register for BBAW. I'm probably going to throw my hat into the ring in the YA category and best interviews. Just need to pick 5 posts. My LIAR review and Lauren Bjorkman interview are definites, but still need to pinpoint my other picks. Any suggestions, loyal readers?

Reply to comments. I'm way behind on this, and I'm sorry! I hope to catch up soon.

Write the guest post I promised Nat of In Spring it is the Dawn about an interesting library experience I had in Japan. I haven't forgotten!

Work on plans for dystopian August. This includes coordinating my movie vs book feature, researching and writing my author interviews, solicting guest posts, etc.

Clean out my Google Reader. There are a lot of dead blogs on there. And try to figure out how to do that sharing thing I once heard someone somewhere talk about.

Update my challenge posts. I always let this slide. No more!

Visit other bloggiesta participants. Wow - there over 100 already.

Update GoodReads, Amazon, and LibraryThing with my latest book reviews.

Delete all cat pictures. Haha. Just kidding. No hate mail, please.

Maybe I'll think of more along the way.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Four mini-reviews of forthcoming YA novels

I read the following four forthcoming books recently and wanted to share a few impressions of them. Full reviews closer to pub date!

MATCHED by Ally Condie
Cassia lives in a society that decides everything for its citizens for the greatest good of them all – even who you marry. When Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, she is thrilled. But when viewing her matching card, another face flashes on the screen – that of mysterious classmate Ky. This seeming glitch awakens an awareness of forbidden desires within Cassia, and for the first time she begins to question a society where the individual has no right to choose.

MATCHED is without a doubt a well constructed novel, hitting all the expected beats of a YA dystopian novel. And while there may be few surprises for avid readers of the genre, there are some genuine discussion-worthy developments. I enjoyed this installment, but hope that the emotional impact quotient is raised in book two.

Come by my dystopian theme month in August for a full review of this title due to release in November 2010.

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (no official cover yet)
Lena can’t wait to get the surgery, that at 18, will cure her of the disease that took her mother – the highly contagious delirium nervosa (or in layman’s terms: falling in love). Lena’s main concern is passing the exam that will determine her future status in society. But then she meets Alex and soon becomes “infected”.

While certain aspects of this dystopian society’s set-up seemed a bit implausible (i.e. why would a society that abhors love allow the family unit to remain intact, putting its most vulnerable citizens – those uncureds under 18 – at unnecessary risk?), the world-building suited the main plot brilliantly. Lena’s relationship with her best friend is heart-breakingly real, and her burgeoning feelings for Alex make the novel soar to dizzying heights of emotion. And that ending...whoa! What are you doing to me Lauren?!

Visit my dystopian theme month in August for a full review of this title due to release in February 2011.

MONSTERS OF MEN, Book 3 of the Chaos Walking Triology, by Patrick Ness

Full scale war is on the horizon for the citizens of New Prentisstown. Will Todd and Viola be able to barter a lasting peace for those already on the planet and those on the way?

This last book in a fantastic series exceeded even my highest expectations. A third POV, from a spackle no less, adds even more to our understanding of the world’s politics. Todd and Viola are amazing protagonists – noble yet conflicted, but it is with the antagonists, Mayor Prentiss especially, that Ness really excels. I don’t think I have ever encountered such a layered villain. He’s someone you hate and wish dead – and yet – Ness makes you hope for his redemption. It is really an amazing achievement.

Visit my dystopian theme month in August for a full review of this title due to release in the US at the end of September (already available in the UK).

April, May and June are sisters who suddenly gain superpowers. April can see the future, May can become invisible and June can read minds.

There are a lot of clever ideas at play here, but overall, this novel was kind of a downer. The only one who has any fun at all with her power is June (I love how she used her mind-reading ability to try to get in with the popular crowd) while April and May just generally mope around. Despite the consistently witty/snarky dialogue, I got a bit exasperated with the sisters constant drawn-out squabbles. Group hug already, girls!

This one releases at the beginning of August.

Have you read any of these yet? If not, which ones are you excited to get to? If so, what did YOU think of them?

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.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

BEA 2010 Recap 3: Thursday and the Book Blogger Convention

Read my BEA Recap 1: Pre-BEA Activities
Read my BEA Recap 2: Tuesday and Wednesday

My plan for Thursday was to get to the Javits by 6:45 am so I could get a ticket for Mary Higgins Clark’s signing. I woke up late though, so I didn’t arrive until a little over 7 am – but fortunately, they still had 1 ticket left for MHC. I also picked up a ticket for Tim Gunn and R.L. Stine. Then I went and got in line for the Adult Author Breakfast with Candace, Dawn, and Swapna (S. Krishna Books). While in line, Donna came by, and I was able to give her my ticket for R.L. Stine, which she put to good use (she's a HUGE fan). Once we were allowed in, we hustled over to a good table (facing forward) and dug into our bagels.

I was very excited about the line-up. I don’t get to watch The Daily Show often, but Jon Stewart always cracks me up, and the breakfast was no exception. I was very touched by Condoleezza Rice’s speech about her parents raising her to be extraordinary. I’ve only ever read THE FIRM by John Grisham, but he’s a legend, so it was cool. And Mary Roach was probably funnier than Jon in her speech, which really got me looking forward to PACKING FOR MARS (the only actual book we got, since the rest all still need to be finished apparently).

Once they opened it up to audience questions though, the program went rapidly downhill. Why is it that no one in the room could ask a non-embarrassing, non-self serving question? There were a bunch of self-pubbed authors promoting themselves and aspiring authors asking the wrong questions (i.e. asking John frakking Grisham how he deals with conflicting feedback from agents). I couldn’t bear it any longer and had to leave early.

My first stop was Simon & Schuster to see if they had any copies of Cassandra Clare’s CLOCKWORK ANGEL left (it was 9:10 am already, and only 300 copies were being put out at 9 am, so I had my doubts) and they had a couple, so score!

I wandered around the booths again, eventually ending up at Sourcebooks for Cameron Stracher’s signing of WATER WARS. I then joined the LONG line for Mary Higgins Clark, and ended up waiting with Kathrin (Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic) who also came over all the way from Germany. Since the next line over was so short, and Author Staci Boyer looked so motivating in person, we scooted over there to get a copy of MOTIV8'N U.

Next I went to Chelsea Campbell’s RISE OF RENEGADE X signing. She had these cool embossers where you could choose to be a villain or hero. I asked her which she thought I was, and she pulled out a third, which was just an X, to emboss my book. I’m a mystery, I guess. While in line, I met Rebecca (Rebecca’s Book Blog) and we decided to go over to Laure Halse Anderson’s FORGE signing. We were more than a half an hour early and the rep insisted the line hadn’t formed yet, so Rebecca agreed to hold my place while I went to say hi to PJ Hoover at her EMERALD TABLET signing. When I got back, I noticed the line was SUPER long…as in no end in sight. Fortunately, Rebecca had staked us out a pretty good spot (next to Natasha, in fact).

After that, I thought it was time for the Tim Gunn signing, so I went over and stood in line for that. Turns out I was an hour too early…which ended up being a good thing, because that was the slowest, longest line there was. Tim spent quality time with each and every person in line, posing for pictures and sharing stories. I was maybe 30 people back in line, and I had to wait 45 minutes (on top of the hour) to get to the front. This was partly because at least 25 people also used their front of the line passes for this (a perk you pay for). Anyway, here’s my picture with the star of BEA:
When I made my way over to Beth Kephart’s DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS signing, I found out the time had been postponed, so that was a real disappointment. Instead I decided to go to the YA Authors of the Editor’s Buzz panel where I again ran into Michelle, Angie and Jenn. Authors on the panel were Erin Bow (PLAIN KATE), Rebecca Maizel (INFINITE DAYS), Ally Condie (MATCHED), Sophie Jordan (FIRELIGHT ) and Kody Keplinger (THE DUFF). (BTW - Look for my mini-review of MATCHED tomorrow.) All read a short excerpt and all sounded like winners, so we’ll see!

I walked with Angie over to Jeri-Smith Ready’s SHADE signing where I met Diana Peterfreund. Afterwards, Diana and I met Daniel at a diner close to the Javits and he gave her a special illustration of his Buffalo slaying a unicorn (a nod to her killer unicorn novel RAMPANT). We had a great time chatting, though I wasn’t aware I could have pressed her for details on her upcoming dystopian retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION. Why didn’t you tell me Angie?!

Now since it was our 4th wedding anniversary, I decided to skip the Book Blogger Con Author Reception and hang out with Daniel instead. Since it started POURING rain, we ended up in the hotel diner again. Unfortunately, this meant we had to miss The Book Smugglers party too, which is a total shame. But hey, you can’t do it all!

Since Daniel was leaving on Friday to go back to Germany, I skipped the BBC breakfast to dine with him one last time. He escorted me to the Javits and we hung out with Michelle at the registration desk for awhile (meaning I missed most of Maureen Johnson too) before he left.

If you want to know more about the panels, allow me to direct to you to Kim’s (Sophisticated Dorkiness) recap. I thought they were…fine. Panelists were well chosen for the topics and the topics were interesting in theory, it was just that they did not always lead to the most exciting of discussions. It seemed there was too much like-mindedness and not enough dissenting opinion.

For example, during the social responsibility panel, someone suggested e-mailing others and asking them to promote your causes. This is something that bothers me, because I’ve seen it so often happen that certain people while promoting certain causes get belligerent if you don’t immediately jump on their bandwagon with them. Of course it’s fine to ask friends to help you spread the word, but you also need to be able to take no for an answer. Not everyone has time or space or inclination to promote every cause that comes their way. It would have been nice to hear someone say this (I had my hand up, but wasn’t called on.)

In any case, my favorite part of the BBC was the social aspect, especially getting the chance to hang out with Sarah (Forever Young Adult, one of my new favorite blogs) and Angie (I forced both of them to stay longer than they wanted to).

Me with Sarah (photo curtesy of Sarah)

I would’ve loved a “getting to know you” panel, where everyone in attendance had a minute to introduce themselves and their blogs. I feel like I missed out on meeting so many people just because I didn’t know what they looked like. That said, it was so cool to finally meet Chelsy (Big Honcho Media), Nat (In Spring it is the Dawn – thanks for the red bean candy from Japan!), Avis (She Reads and Reads – didn’t recognize you without your cat), Beth Kephart and so many others.

Me with Beth Kephart (photo curtesy of Beth)

After BBC ended, Amy, Natasha and I slowly made our way towards a big blogger dinner at Dos Caminos. This was so much fun as I finally had some time to hang out with Allie (Hist Fic Chick), Jen (Devourer of Books) and Carey (The Tome Traveller). I also said my teary goodbyes to Trish (you rock, you know you do!).

Allie, Carey, Trish and me at Dos Caminos

I needed to go back to my hotel to pick up my bags, so I went on the subway with a group that was headed back downtown, including Amanda (The Zen Leaf) who told me all about the dystopian books she is writing (fascinating!!). After spending half an hour begging the hotel to release my bags to me (long story), I hurried off to Nicole’s for our post BEA slumber party and a fun edition of THAT’S HOW I BLOG (which you can listen to here).

After carrying suitcases full of books up and down many a flight of stairs and getting lost in the subway on the way to the airport (I made it with literally 1 minute to spare), It was time to relax (which is why it took me so long to post these recaps, sorry). But guess what?! I’m all ready to do it again. See you next year?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

BEA 2010 Recap 2: Tuesday and Wednesday

Read Part 1 of my BEA recap.

On Tuesday, I started off the day at MacMillan for a tour with the awesome Ksenia Winnicki. This is also where I got to meet Angie from Angieville for the first time. Ksenia showed us around the narrow offices (they are located in the Flatiron Building) and gave us a bag full of books and swag. Probably the book I’m most excited about from the bag is HALO by Alexandra Adornetto. We also met Amy, Nicole and Natasha there, so afterwards we all decided to eat brunch at a diner. Daniel ordered carrot juice because Nicole did, but soon discovered he was allergic to it! So Nicole got to enjoy a double dose.

Angie and I continued on to Penguin (on our way we discussed our love for Gen from THE THIEF by Megan Whelan Turner) - but just the adult division. I confess I would’ve preferred to visit the children’s/YA offices, but they are located in a whole different building. In the lobby I met Wendy (Caribousmom) and Deborah (Books, Movies and Chinese Food), as well as a bunch of other bloggers (sorry for my bad memory). We split into three groups. Our designated publicist took us around a few floors, showed us the Penguin reviewers database (I was in it, yay!), and let us loose in the Viking book closet.
She “sold” us Paolo Giordano’s book THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS by showing us the author’s photo (he’s hot!). After that, we gathered in a meeting room with the other groups and introduced ourselves one by one. I had to slip out early though because Daniel and I were meeting up with Author Lauren Mechling for a tour of the Wall Street Journal (amazing place) and for lunch.

It was so much fun to talk to Lauren about books, publishing, her upcoming wedding, her uncanny resemblance to actress Rena Sofer and her new venture on Slate (the serial novel MY DARKLYNG). We got a picture together, but I looked so ridiculous, I had to crop myself out (yes, Sarah, I was in the dreaded foreground). Sorry!
Lauren and Daniel

After lunch, Daniel went to HarperCollins to meet with his editor. The author of his book, Audrey Vernick, was also there so they got to meet for the first time. While he was there, he signed a bunch of copies of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and turned in the final artwork for the sequel, TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS.

Meanwhile, I met up with Kathy (Bermuda Onion) and Julie (Booking Mama) at the M&Ms store. I was hoping to score Mint M&Ms, but no luck. Kathy, Julie and I talked and laughed as we trekked the 14 blocks and 3 avenues to the Javits to pick up our badges and attend the Editor’s Buzz for adult titles. While in line, I got to meet Candace from Beth Fish Reads finally, but didn’t have my German chocolate with me (this would happen to me repeatedly, meaning Candace never got her chocolate…oh no!). We were a little worried we wouldn’t get a seat, but we did, towards the back, which turned out to our advantage later.

If you want to know a little more about the 6 books presented, Candace has a great write up about them on Beth Fish Reads. While the last editor was wrapping up, Julie, Kathy and I ducked out to get first crack at the ARC tables. I ended up picking up copies of ROOM by Emma Donaghue (I’ve already started it and the voice is sensational) and THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A BIOGRAPHY OF CANCER by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I dared Julie to get THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE by Benjamin Hale (the book with a monkey/human sex scene) but she wouldn’t bite.

Then Daniel and I met up again to go to the Class of 2010 signing at Books of Wonder. I met a whole slew of bloggers and authors here too, but my most memorable chat was with Shannon Delany, author of 13 TO LIFE, when she assured me that there was no werewolf sex to be found in her book. A group of us went afterwards to Rosa Mexicana (I love their guac!) but were too many to fit at one table. Daniel and I ended up at a table with Esme (Chocolate and Croissants) and Vania (Reverie Book Reviews). I loved hearing all the behind the scenes drama of Vania’s book trailer business (Vania’s Life Captures). She’s so much fun! Oh, and I should have gotten her to take a pic of us together, because the one I had taken with my camera did not turn out…like AT ALL. Next time!

Wednesday Daniel and I met up with Bri (Bri Meets Books) for breakfast, and she asked, casually, if Chelsea Campbell (author of THE RISE OF RENEGADE X) could join us. OMG – yes! Bri and Chelsea were dryly entertaining, and a perfect start to a BEA day. And because the Tick Tock Diner would not let us split our check (and neither Bri nor Chelsea had cash on them), I got to treat them.

Daniel and I booked it to the Javits and met Angie going in. We had to stop off at Chronicle first, because usually they have the best tote bags. I picked up PRISONERS IN THE PALACE by Michaela MacColl, which looks good. From there, we went on to Candlewick where I got a copy of STORK by Wendy Delsol. Then I went to Richard Peck’s signing and got THREE QUARTERS DEAD.

At this point, I sent Daniel off to Marla Frazee’s BOSS BABY signing and I went to the YA dystopias panel. Initially, I thought it would just be Ally Condie (MATCHED, which I am reading now) and Adam Dunn (RIVERS OF GOLD) but Lesley Hague (NOMANSLAND) and Sigrid Nunez (SALVATION CITY) were also on stage. I ended up getting all but Lesley’s book and got them all signed after the panel. The panel itself was a tad uneven, but still fascinating. I’ll probably wait to do a write-up (based on my copious notes) until Dystopian August – unless you all just can’t wait that long.

I went around the booths some more before heading to the Harlequin Teen signing. This was total chaos! A line had built up, snaking around single file for miles (it seemed) but once the authors arrived, everyone just made a mad dash for the front, making a lot of people very angry. I managed to meet Rachel Vincent and get MY SOUL TO KEEP signed – after being shoved around a bit. Craziness!

I next went to Mitali Perkins signing of BAMBOO PEOPLE and Alison Winn Scotch’s signing of THE ONE THAT I WANT. While in line for Alison’s book, I met Melissa (Sweet on Books) and noticed that Paul O. Zelinsky was signing his new picture book DUST DEVIL, so I had to get a copy of that too (and say hi).

I ran into Trish (Hey Lady!) and we visited a few more booths before meeting Jennifer Hart at Harper Collins to go to meet Adriana Trigiani and 4 other bloggers for the tea we won at Alice’s Teacup. I was a bit bummed to miss signings for Lemony Snicket, Lauren Oliver and Diana Peterfreund (Daniel stood in line for me to get ASCENDANT though), but what an experience! Adriana is so warm and welcoming, she made us all instantly feel like we were hanging out with a long-time friend. She told us stories, asked us about our lives and blogs, and insisted we try the pumpkin scones (to die for!). Sheila (Book Journey) has a great recap if you’re interested in hearing more and seeing lots of pictures!

Kathy, Julie, me, Adriana, Sheila, Dawn (She's Too Fond of Books), Trish, Jennifer

After dropping my bags of books off at the hotel, I walked to the Algonquin to HarperCollins’ blogger bash. I was so exhausted, I found a nice spot to sit next to Sharon (Sharon Loves Books and Cats), Laura (Laura’s Review Bookshelf) and Donna (Bites), and didn’t move the rest of the night, making people come to me. We were soon joined by Angie and Janice (Janicu’s Book Blog) and then visited by a ton of different bloggers including both of the Book Smugglers (Ana and Thea) and “my enemy Amy”. I also got to meet Marie (The Boston Bibliophile) and many others.

Me, Angie, Ana, Janice, Thea (photo curtesy of Angie)

As the party wound down, Donna gathered up a group of us and we took a subway to Max Brenner’s to indulge in some decadent chocolate creations. Unfortunately, we filled up on non chocolate, and didn’t end up even getting desert. Oh well!

April (Good Books, Good Wine), Laura, Donna, Alea, Erica (The Book Cellar) and Gail.

I shared a taxi with April and crawled into bed to get rest up for the next day’s adventures.

Stay tuned for more BEA recap! Coming soon…

Tuesday (109) = Picture of Emmy

While I was in Ohio last week, Daniel sent me this sweet picture of the kitties spending quality time together.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Darklyng hacks Presenting Lenore

Hello book (blog) lover!

Lauren Mechling, author of the Dream Girl books, here. I have hijacked Lenore's blog in order to convey some Very Important Information.

You might not know it by looks alone (no pink hair, no metal bar through my septum), but I've become a total hacker worthy of her own "Dragon Tattoo" installment. And I'm not just talking about how I've cracked the code and broken onto Presenting Lenore. My new book MY DARKLYNG, which I co-wrote with Laura Moser (my hilarious co-author on the "10th Grade Social Climber" books), is a YA thriller chockablock with multimedia awesomeness that will be appearing in serialized form on the awesome website Slate.com. The first installment runs today, and there will be more excitement every Friday for the rest of the summer. Also: it's free!

Slate is calling MY DARKLYNG its "juicy summer read for vampire lovers (and haters!)." It's about a normal 10th grade girl named Natalie Pollock whose own fiction addiction gets her into major trouble. She's been reading Fiona St. Claire's yummy "Dark Shadows" book series since middle school and when she sees a post on Fiona's blog about an open casting call for the model for the next book's cover, well, she can't resist. What she had thought was just a random field trip turns into a dark and terrible new-best-friendship, scarier and more thrilling than any of Fiona St. Claire's vampire novels.

MY DARKLYNG is different from anything you've ever read before--it's a first-of-its-kind story told in simultaneous platforms. Huh? you ask. Okay, so here's the deal: While you are perfectly free to follow the MY DARKLYNG chapters on Slate and leave it at that, we have been milking the magic world of the Internet for all its worth. Why limit a story to mere words? What about pictures and videos and weird Tweets and scary Facebook wall posts that bring texture to the story and bring the characters to life? With that in mind, we found real (and really awesome) teenagers to play our characters. Here's a picture:

Pretty, right? Expect to get to know these faces really well over the course of this book.

Without further ado, this is the Slate page that will host the chapters.

Here is Natalie's Facebook page--well worth "liking" so you can follow when weird things start happening on it.

Natalie's Twitter page is here.
Fiona's (the vampire writer) Twitter page is here.
Natalie's best friend Jenna tweets here.
James (the vampire model) tweets here.
And Fiona's loving sister Tilly uses this Twitter page.

Natalie and Jenna post Youtube videos here. Here's a sample video that shows them getting ready for the audition that will change their lives.

Now YOU can help make our great experiment in Internet fiction even more amazing. There is an upcoming scene that has a missing detail. We need to come up with a cliche that's all-too-often present in vampire novels. Again, we are desperately seeking A CLICHE THAT YOU HAVE SEEN A ZILLION TIMES BEFORE IN CHEESY VAMPIRE NOVELS. Please write in your suggestions in the comments section. The winner will be chosen in a week and featured in MY DARKLYNG--if your answer is selected, it'll be like the story is actually winking at you from the screen.

I know this is all a bit much to wrap your head around. Sorry for any confusion--just read the first installment and take it from there. Please please post comments or send us emails telling us how you're finding the series. We can be reached by my website.

And if you find yourself feeling afraid, don't say I didn't warn you!

your humble hacker,
Lauren Mechling