Thursday, January 27, 2011

Author Interview - Michael Northrop

Today I'm very happy to welcome Michael Northrop to The Serpentine Library.  Mr. Northrop is the author of Gentlemen and Trapped. This was the perfect winter for Trapped to be published because of all the snow (well, in certain parts of the US) that has been falling. So grab yourself a mug of tea or hot chocolate or coffee to help keep you warm while you read about the snow filled Trapped.

Can you give us a quick, two sentence, summary of Trapped
Seven mismatched teens are stranded in their high school during a massive weeklong blizzard. The power and heat go out, the pipes freeze, the roof shudders, and they are forced to make life-or-death decisions.
Would Scotty agree with your summary? 
Scotty would be like, “Oh, great, now you tell me!”
Being stuck at school for a week sounds like it could be a nightmare even in the best circumstances for some people, what's one place you would not want to be trapped for any length of time? 
I’m a little claustrophobic, so I wouldn’t want to be stuck in any kind of small, tight space. Bonus nightmare points for anything underground or without fresh air. I’d make a horrible vampire!
Sometimes being snowed in can be fun…snowy days bring to mind fires, mugs of hot chocolate, playing board games, rereading a favorite book. What are 5 things you would include in your blizzard survival kit? 
Yeah, I am actually a big fan of blizzards, as long as they have the common courtesy to stop after a day or so. I would include coffee (for the morning), a window with a good view, a good pair of boots (so I could go stomp around outside for a while), a roaring fire (I live in an apartment in NYC, so I have fireplace envy), and of course, a good book.
Is there a playlist for Trapped
I didn’t really have a playlist in mind for Trapped, and the music they get on the radio is intentionally fairly random because I think everyone reacts a little differently to extreme situations. Some people might want upbeat music to raise their spirits, some people might want depressing or angry music to match their mood, and some people might just want their favorite music, regardless. I do think it would be kind of hilarious to play some goofy winter song, like Frosty the Snowman, at a really tense point in the book. Which is a pretty good example of why I shouldn’t be allowed to make playlists.
I love hearing about how authors name their characters.  Each author seems to go about it in a different way.  How do you choose names for your characters?   
Just between you, me, and the internet, I sometimes plunder real sources, like military history books or the rosters of Olympic teams. Then I’ll make little changes, like mixing and matching first names. It gives you a good, believably random mix. The name of the main character in Trapped—Scotty Weems—just sort of came to me, though. I kind of love it, and I think authors often reserve their favorite names for their main characters. It’s a fine line: You want some interesting names, but you don’t want to wind up with a narrator named Max Steele or something like that. Jason Bourne is a perfect example: believable but interesting.
Are there any essentials you need with you when you write?   
Caffeine, a computer, and a quiet location. I’m not one of those people who can write in a busy coffee shop. I usually write at my desk at home, but the back of a library will do in a pinch.
Can you gives us any hints about your next project? 
Yep, I’m writing two middle grade (ages 9 and up, basically) novels for Scholastic. The first is called Plunked, and it’s about a little leaguer who gets hit in the head with a pitch and loses his nerve at the plate. He’s always been kind of a jock, so it really turns his world upside down, and he has to fight hard to try to overcome his fear. It’s due out in spring 2012. Both middle grade books will have sports themes—I was a senior editor at Sports Illustrated Kids for years—but I don’t want to call them sports novels. They are novels about kids who play sports.
As a librarian, I spend part of every day recommending books and hearing about the books teens are loving.  I like being able to tell them what a favorite author or an author they have recently read is reading. What book is next on your “to be read” list? 
I am really trying to get to The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey. I enjoyed The Monstrumologist, and I’ve been interested in the wendigo since I first learned about it in the place where most people learn of ancient and sacred folklore: a comic book.
What advice can you give to teens (or anyone really) who are interested in writing?
 I have two pieces of advice. The first is kind of boring and they’ve probably heard it before, but it is so true: If you want to be a writer, you need to read a tremendous amount. The books you read provide an education in storytelling: in what works, what doesn’t, and in everything from the big ideas to the little tricks.
My other piece of advice is to always think about the believability of what you’re writing: Your stories should seem true, and part of that is that people don’t always say or do the right thing at the right time, coincidences work against them as often as for them, and things like that. One of the things that I think has really helped me as a novelist is my experience as a journalist, where I had to make the best possible stories out of the actual facts, which are sometimes fairly ordinary or disappointing.

A big Thank You to Michael Northrop for stopping by today!

Make sure to follow the rest of the blog tour, stop by The Teen Book Scene to see the other blogs participating in the Trapped tour.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - The Girl is Murder

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: July 19, 2011

It’s the Fall of 1942 and Iris’s world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop’s cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There’s certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business. (Summary from Goodreads.)

Historical mystery/noir - check
Private eye dad and daughter - check
Dancing - from the summary,  check
Romance - seems likely

The title alone would make me pick up this book to see what it was about.  But once I read the summary, I was pretty much hooked.  Would it be weird if I hoped that Iris was a 1940s version of Veronica Mars?

What book are you eagerly waiting for on this Wednesday?

**Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine**

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blessed Blog Tour - Interview with Kieren (and a Giveaway)

Today, Kieren from Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith is visiting The Serpentine Library to answer some questions. 

Hi Kieren! Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to stop by The Serpentine Library.  Since this is a book blog, let’s start with a book related question.  What's your favorite book? 

Call it a toss up between Alex Flinn’s Beastly and Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate.

Both great books in different ways. Since Blood and Chocolate has food in the title, what’s your favorite food or meal?

I like a rare beef tenderloin with a fist-full of peel-and-eat shrimp and beer-battered fries.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin?  

Fur on? Howling in the Hill Country. Fur free? Watch the moonrise over Lady Bird Lake with Quince.

Austin’s a great city, but if you could visit any place in the world where would you go?

Ireland—wherever in Ireland that my mom originally hails from. She doesn’t talk about her hometown much. I’m not sure why. I’m betting there’s a story there.

Hmm, you're probably right about the story. Wonder if your mom will ever share what it is. When did you first know that you were in love with Quincie?

Middle school. I got that she’s obsessed with Sanguini’s, her family restaurant, because it helps keeps the memory of her parents alive. For as long as I could recall, I found it boring when she talked about new recipes and napkins. I was polite, but…

Then one day, I found every word she said fascinating. Quince herself, fascinating. The way her lips moved… She could talk about napkins forever, and I’d be thrilled to hear it.

Aww, that it is so sweet! 

You seemed pretty anti-vampire there for awhile. How do you feel about Quincie being a vampire?

I’m still anti-evil vampire. Anti-soulless vampire. Anti the vampire who took her life away and tried to steal her love, too. But Quince didn’t ask for what happened to her, and she’s never hurt anyone. She’s strong enough to beat the temptation. I believe in her.

So, quite a few people have been moving to Austin from Chicago recently.  Let’s talk about those Chicagoans.  Let’s start with Zachary…there’s just something about him, maybe it’s his good looks or maybe it’s that sword he carries… What did you really think of Zachary when you met him?

That was not a good day. A lot of good Wolves had died, rain was pouring down, and I wasn’t sure if the ├╝ber vamp who’d attacked the pack was really gone or what.

But Zach.... He missed the battle, but he still seemed devastated. He couldn’t stand being unable to really help. The grief, the frustration, for Wolves he didn’t even know. It was radiating off of him.

My wereopossum pal, Clyde, he’s asked me if I mind Zach hanging out with Quince so much. And you know, I get that Zach’s a good-looking guy. I’ve got eyes.

But it’s not like that. He watches out for Quince the way I do my little sister Meghan, and that’s a good thing. Between me, school, the restaurant, and what she’s become, Quince has a lot to juggle. She can use a close guy friend who’s not her boyfriend, too.

I trust my instincts, and I knew from the start that Zach was okay. Besides, he’s totally enamored with his girlfriend Miranda.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

 I’m thinking about getting Quince a pair of turtles for Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by today Kieren!

Want more information about Blessed? Here is the official book trailer:

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL, TANTALIZE, and BLESSED, all Gothic fantasies from Candlewick Press. She also has written several YA short stories as well as books for younger readers.

TANTALIZE was a Borders Original Voices selection, honored at the 2007 National Book Festival, and The Horn Book called it "an intoxicating romantic thriller." A graphic novel adaptation of TANTALIZE is in the works.

ETERNAL was a YALSA Teens Top Ten nominee, featured at the Texas Book Festival, and Publishers Weekly said, ".readers should be hooked by this fully formed world, up through the action-packed finale." It debuted at #5 on the New York Times best-seller list and #13 on the Publishers Weekly best-seller list.

BLESSED crossed over the two casts. The Horn Book cheered: "Quincie has a zest for life that shines through as she balances supernatural duties with schoolwork and running her family restaurant, the vampire-themed Sanguini's. Romance blossoms, too, as she and her beloved werewolf, Kieren, prove their devotion to each other under deadly duress. A hearty meal for the thinking vampire reader." And Kirkus Reviews said the novel was "wild and ultimately fascinating.the pages fairly smolder in describing their [Quincie and Kieren] attraction to one another."

Cynthia may be found on the Web at www.cynthialeitichsmith.comBloggerLiveJournalfacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Don't forget to check out the dates and locations for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Blessed Tour - she might be visiting a bookstore or library near you!

Cynthia Leitich Smith has also provided a prize pack to be given away!  It includes a stuffed plush toy bat, a series tie-in pin (either Sanguini's logo or I HEART my Guardian Angel), an angel wing charm, and Sanguini's logo magnet and a Sanguini's menu wipe board. 

This giveaway is for US mailing addresses only.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie

The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie
Publisher: WestSide Books
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Source: ARC received from publisher as part of blog tour
Rating: 4 bookcases

The Short of It:
The Princess of Las Pulgas is a great "fish out of water" story about finding out that things aren't always so bad in your new surroundings.  With a great message and character development, it is the perfect book for someone who needs a reminder that things do get better.

The Long of It:
At one point or another almost everyone has felt like a fish out of water or an outsider. What would happen if everything you knew as "home" got taken away from you? How would you deal with it all?

After the death of her father, Carlie Edmund and her family have to give up their home, school and loves in Channing to move to Las Pulgas; a town much more urban than ritzy Channing. Carlie is so embarrassed by this that she doesn't tell anyone her new address - not her best friend or Sean, who might just be more than a friend.  Determined not to like Las Pulgas High, Carlie keeps to herself, apart from her new classmates.  But, soon she finds herself staring in the junior class play, Othello, and becoming accepting of her new school, while still trying to hold on to her life in Channing.  When Carlie's plans for Channing's Spring Fling dance get cancelled she starts to see the truth about her old friends and life.  Will she be able to find happiness in Las Pulgas?

I was very excited to read The Princess of Las Pulgas, because I really liked C. Lee McKenzie's debut novel, Sliding on the Edge, for its awesome grandmother-granddaughter relationship.  So I was expecting some great intergenerational relationships in this book as well.  Just like Shawna in Sliding on the Edge, Carlie has to start her life over at a new home and school.  In this case, the death of Carlie's father and the cost of his medical bills cause her family to move.  Carlie and her brother both fight the move and the resulting changes every step of the way - which is completely understandable, because change you don't want to happen is often difficult to deal with.  I found this part of the novel to be very realistic, although I was hoping that Carlie would at least let Sean in on where she was moving, to have at least one person from her old life know about her new life from the beginning. 

Carlie's journey from stuck up Channing transplant to more accepting to finding her place at Las Pulgas felt very real. She went into Las Pulgas not wanting to like it and hoping that it will be a short term visit. She focused on all the negative aspects instead of trying to find some of the positives, which included caring and supportive teachers and neighbors who understood what her family was experiencing. Ms. McKenzie also showed how Carlie's family was starting to come apart and how hard her mother was trying to keep them together. There was also an interesting part about Carlie losing her cat, Quicken, that to me read like a representation of Carlie's own struggles about her new life and her instinct to "run away" to Channing whenever she could.

I like how Ms. McKenzie showed the differences between Channing and Las Pulgas, while showing just how much alike the people in the two communities were. It was interesting seeing Carlie go back and forth between the two towns.  I found her best friend, Lena, to be very self-centered and only wanting to tell Carlie about what she was missing.  While Sean, who Carlie had a crush on, had his own agenda which wasn't clear at first.  I wanted Carlie to be more straight forward with Sean, to let him know how she felt and then maybe when she realized what was going on it wouldn't have hurt her quite so much.  But I was glad that they're friendship was sorted out.  I liked most of the teens from Las Pulgas almost immediately, despite Carlie's perspective, it was obvious that there was a lot she was missing because she didn't want to get to know them. Once she came around I was silently cheering for her. 

Even though I really liked The Princess of Las Pulgas, there were a couple of things that didn't sit so well with me.  One was the whole thing with Sean, but that was me wanting Carlie to be more open with him. The other was Carlie "hearing" her father's voice giving her advice. In the beginning, I expected some of that.  Losing a parent is difficult, at any age, and I would expect a character to remember or think of something that a parent might say to them in a difficult situation. But, I would hope that it would diminish over time, especially since the story takes place over ten months. I wanted Carlie to really break out of her habit of waiting for her father's advice and take the risk of making her own path. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Princess of Las Pulgas and won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a great "fish out of water" or outsider story.

Want to win your own copy of The Princess of Las Pulgas?  Check out this post for all the information.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Blood Magic

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Children
Publication Date:  April 26, 2011

For Nick Pardee and Silla Kennicot, the cemetery is the center of everything. 

Nick is a city boy angry at being forced to move back to the nowhere town of Yaleylah, Missouri where he grew up. He can’t help remembering his mom and the blood magic she practiced – memories he’s tried for five years to escape. Silla, though, doesn’t want to forget; her parents’ apparent murder-suicide left her numb and needing answers. When a book of magic spells in her dad’s handwriting appears on her doorstep, she sees her chance to unravel the mystery of their deaths. 

Together they plunge into the world of dark magic, but when a hundred-year-old blood witch comes hunting for the bones of Silla’s parents and the spell book, Nick and Silla will have to let go of everything they believe about who they are, the nature of life and death, and the deadly secrets that hide in blood. (Summary from Goodreads.)

Why am I eagerly waiting for Blood Magic?

First,  I love the cover!!  The red against the gray just pops, details like the chipped nail polish and that humped form in the background all make this cover stand out.

Second, witches.  Yes, that's right witches.  This year seems to be the year of the witch in YA, as there are several books about witched being published this year, with Blood Magic being the first.

Third, it is set in Missouri.  I'm not sure I've ever read a book set in Missouri before.

Fourth,  Tessa Gratton is a debut author, but I've been reading her Merry Sisters of Fate contributions and can't wait for Blood Magic.

What book are you eagerly waiting for?

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Guest Post: C. Lee McKenzie (and a Giveaway)

Today, I am excited to have C. Lee McKenzie, the author of Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas, at The Serpentine Library.  

Last semester in YA lit class, we talked about characters that were outsiders and why these stories resonate so much with readers.  Since characters in both of Ms. McKenzie's books can be considered outsiders I wondered what her opinion on this was.  

So I asked:  Why do you think "outsider" stories resonate so much with readers?

Interesting question, Maria. I think outsider stories resonate with readers because at some time in our lives we are all “outsiders.” In our teen years we’re especially vulnerable to those feelings of being left out or being different, of wanting to fit in, yet not knowing exactly what boundaries we should set so that fitting in doesn’t cost us our self-respect. It’s a time of such growth and such confusion, that I think reading about characters who are experiencing the same or similar situations is one way to find help or comfort or even solutions.  

I can relate to Carlie Edmund because I had to move from one high school to another in my junior year. I guess I drew a lot from how I felt during that time. My experience, of course, wasn’t like Carlie’s, but my emotions, my fears, my uncertainty of that time were helpful in developing her story. I was a stranger in a strange land and that’s not easy, but it can be done and when you’ve finally begun to fit in you may find, as did Carlie, that you really like where you’ve landed. 

For more information about C. Lee McKenzie and her books visit her website, blog or twitter.

Check out the book trailer for The Princess of Las Pulgas:

Thanks to Teen Book Scene and WestSide Books, I have a copy of The Princess of Las Pulgas to give away!  To enter please leave a comment about a time you felt like an outsider and then please fill out the Google form by.

A few give away reminders:
This give away is for US mailing addresses only
You must leave a comment, entries without comments will be deleted.
This giveaway ends on January 20, 2011

Ready...Set...Fill out this Form

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: hard cover - June 2009, paperback - January 11, 2011
Rating: 4 bookcases

The Short of It:
Fairy Tale is a fun, light read about fairies, relationships and how the future can change when the person you love the most learns the truth about themselves.  A perfect read for those looking for a fairy book that   takes place in a contemporary, suburban setting.

The Long of It:

Morgan and Cam have been best friends practically since birth (they were born on the same day), they live next door to each other, and have been dating since before it was cool to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Cam is the star quarterback who "can do anything" and Morgan, the psychic who tells classmates their futures.  They have been planning a joint 16th birthday party for months, but suddenly Cam starts acting distant, then his "cousin" Pip comes to stay and Morgan learns that Cam is a fairy.  Morgan desperately wants to hold on to Cam, but what (or who) is she willing to sacrifice to make it happen?

Fairy Tale was a fun quick read, I read it in one sitting because I had to know what what would happen between Morgan and Cam.  Told from Morgan's point of view, you can really see just how much she is affected by what is going on with Cam.  I found Morgan to be very relatable  (despite her psychic ability) as a character.  Maybe it was her Italian mother with the cooking and feeding everyone that reminded me of my own mother and aunts (because I mean what other book has sfogliatelle in it?), that made me feel like Morgan  was very real.  Also, she didn't just sit back and accept that things were falling apart, she tried to find ways to fix Cam's predicament.

I also really liked Morgan's interactions with Pip, from plying him with Taco Bell and Mountain Dew to get information about the fairies, to being his stylist, to realizing that just maybe there was a bit more to him that the awkward boy with the pencil case.  Watching their relationship grow and change was my favorite part of the book.  It was also interesting  to see that while Morgan (and everyone else) got to know Pip, Cam receded from the limelight.  At the beginning, it felt like Cam and Morgan's relationship was a little too perfect, but at the same time Cam wasn't quite as fleshed out as I would have liked him to be.  Once he acknowledges that he's a fairy and starts undergoing training, I was hoping that he would be a more rounded character, but that didn't happen.  And even though Cam's love for Morgan was evident from the start, I never quite liked him as much as Pip, who I liked pretty much right away, in all his glorious awkwardness.

The ending, on my the ending!  It was an interesting mix of sad and happy because you realize what Morgan has lost, but she seems to be happy with her life the way it is.  I know that's a very vague way of describing it, but I don't want to give anything away here.  It was the ending I was partly expecting since about halfway through the book, but it didn't make it any easier to read.

I really liked Fairy Tale for its take in fairy mythology and recommend it to readers who might be a little nervous about jumping into a book about fairies.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Island Sting Giveaway

How would you like to win your own copy of
  Island Sting?

Thanks to Teen Book Scene, I have one copy of
Island Sting to give away.

Simply fill out the form below by January 17th and you're entered to win!  This giveaway is for US mailing addresses only!

Don't forget to check out my review and a guest post from Bonnie J. Doerr 

Guest Post: Bonnie J. Doerr

Today, I'm happy to welcome Bonnie J. Doerr, author of Island Sting to The Serpentine Library.  Ms. Doerr is here talking about some of the books she enjoyed reading in 2010

Bonnie J. Doerr has always played with words, ideas, and nature. To be separated from nature—to be containerized—would slowly suck the breath from her. For years this therapeutic pursuit manifested itself in poetry. In recent years her play resulted in stories and novels for young adults. A lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Degrees in reading education, combined with a brief post as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries. Years of teaching and living in the Florida Keys provided irresistible material. Her novels celebrate caring, involved, “green” teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Her work has been honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education and has been included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides. When not nurturing her muse in the Florida Keys, she lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.

These novels represent my three favorite genres: southern lit, humor, and mystery. All of these loves have informed my own series of eco-mysteries. 

The Last Child by John Hart 
I read this NY Times best selling author’s novel so I’d be familiar with the latest release by a fellow mystery author panelist. We were on a panel of three for Bookmarks Festival of the Book in Winston-Salem this fall. I was certain I’d enjoy The Last Child, since John is also a fellow NC author, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. I found it unique in the sense that it was mainly told through two voices. Those of a thirteen year old boy and an adult detective, both investigating the same crime. The characters’ were absorbing as were the twists and turns of the plot and I especially enjoyed the surprise turn of events at the end. Since then I’ve also read Hart’s Down River which was also enjoyable.

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
I love everything Trigiani writes. She sucks me into her extensive, expressive family, and I feel like I know every member. I laugh and cry with them, and sometimes, quite frankly, I want to gently smack a character or two, then invite him or her for a plate of pasta and a glass of wine. Mostly, I want to buy a pair of her family’s soft, gorgeous shoes. After meeting her at the American Library Association conference this year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest. I’m looking forward to Big Stone Gap, the movie, also. You have to love someone who holds out until Hollywood agrees to shoot a movie in her own small hometown setting.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy 
No one writes quirkier, flawed, heart-breaking southern characters better than Conroy. South of Broad is a deep, rich, tangled tale of true and lasting friendship that endures tragic circumstances. Readers explore a densely layered Charleston that tourists never see. Long ago Pat, I, and two friends sat at a SC kitchen table discussing how the novel he was writing (The Great Santini) would further wreck his relationship with his father. I was already crazy about his work, the young teacher in me loved The Water is Wide (later the movieConrack), but little did I know what a literary giant he would become or that one day I would meet his daughter, Melissa Conroy, a children’s author (Poppy’s Pants) when she and I would both be speakers at a literary conference. Pat Conroy’s novels are worth the wait for him to lay his next story down in longhand.
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich 
I get a kick out of anything Evanovich writes. I love mysteries, and what could be better than one that makes me laugh out loud. Eleven on Top is not her most recent in the Stephanie Plum series, but whenever I find one I haven’t read I jump on it. I love the ridiculous situations bounty hunters Stephanie and Lula get into while trailing the bad dudes. Stephanie is like a human Roadrunner. Continually getting battered by a Wile E. Coyote in every imaginable form and shaking it off every time. I adore Ranger and his frequent say-it-all-with-a-word vocabulary: “Babe.” What a range of emotions the man in black attaches to one syllable. Then there’s Morelli, the tough Trenton, NJ cop. Stephanie has two guys to run to when she’s in trouble. Both hot in more ways than one. Evanovich is Plum amazing. 

Blacklist by Sara Paretsky 
Yep, another female crime fighter. This time a Chicago PI named V. I. Full name, Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski.  Goes by V. I. or “Vic.”  She’s tough. She’s smart. She always gets the bad dude or dudette in this case. Blacklist is a complicated mystery fueled by privilege, politics, and history (McCarthyite anti-communism and the activities of HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee). It’s also a treatise on the danger of societal fear and the Patriot Act which has changed the way the USA looks at personal privacy. One of the reasons I enjoyed Blacklist is because it contains a passionate teen character, Catherine Bayard, who stands up for her beliefs. In this case, to the detriment of her own safety. She’s not afraid to stand against the norm. To be different from most of her high school classmates. To fight fear or her family. She’s rich, but not jaded. An entitled child who feels a responsibility for others. Paretsky writes novels for the thoughtful mystery lover. This is one of her best. 

For more information on Ms. Doerr or Island Sting visit her website, blog or Facebook page.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr

Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr
Publisher: Leap Books
Publication Date:  January 6, 2010
Rating: 3.5 Bookcases

The Short Of It:

Island Sting is a quick read that is part mystery and part eco-thriller that carries a good message.

The Long Of It:

Kenzie and her mom move from New York City to the Florida Keys after her parents’ divorce.  The island of Big Pine has a close knit community, where everyone knows everyone else.  It is also home to the National Key Deer Refuge.  On their very first afternoon on Big Pine, Kenzie goes on a rescue mission when she tries to rescue what she thinks is a drowning dog.  This rescue sets Kenzie off on a series of adventures in which she helps solve several mysteries and help coordinate an island clean up day.

Island Sting was one of those books that had been on my radar, but I had never gotten the chance to read it.  When it came up for a blog tour, I was excited that my chance to read it had finally come.  I was expecting something along the lines of Hoot or Scat for older teens.  Instead, it was a story about a newcomer to the Florida Keys learning about Key Deer combined with a small mystery.  I say small because the information surrounding the mystery was handed out piece by piece, so that halfway through you know which character’s hunch will end up being correct. 

There was an interesting dynamic between Kenzie and her mother.  It was obvious that there were in the Florida Keys for a fresh start, to make a new life for themselves.  So it was odd that at first they both have negative feelings about their new home.  Also, you would think that Ms. Ryan would want Kenzie to explore a bit and become familiar the island, but instead she scolds Kenzie for going out.  Maybe I’m buying into the stereotype, but I hear New York City and I think “savvy, I can take care of myself teen.”  Ms. Ryan isn’t the only adult that treats Kenzie like she has no clue about keeping herself safe and this made me question her age.  There was mention of cars and driving amongst the Kenzie and the other teens, so I assumed that they were around 15 or 16.  However, they aren’t always treated like they were in high school and didn’t always act that age.  That plus the illustrations that were spread throughout that book, make we lean towards recommending Island Sting to tweens and middle grade readers as well as teen who like stories with an environmental theme.
Other than the age issue, I really like Kenzie.  She is inquisitive, clever, caring and willing to work to accomplish her goals.  A city girl, now living in a remote town, she learns as much as she can about the Key Deer and puts a lot of effort into helping her new friend, Angelo, solve a mystery that the local law enforcement has not been able to solve.  The supporting characters definitely add depth and roundness to the story.  In addition to Angelo and his father, Kenzie meets a group of teens, the priest of a local church, and the officers at the National Key Deer Refuge.  It’s obvious that Ms. Doerr worked hard to make Big Pine very culturally diverse.  I found this to be a nice touch.

The extras like that map of Big Pine and No Name Key and the information on Florida Key Deer were a great addition.  It was nice to be able to refer to the map as Kenzie travels to different points of the island.  And the author’s note and Additional Information page was perfect for readers who want to learn more about the Florida Keys Deer.  Again, I would recommend Island Sting to readers who enjoy reading books about environmental issues, as well as readers who like a little mystery.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Roundup

I've been struggling with choosing a top 10 list for 2010.  There were so many great reads, that it's been so hard to narrow it down to such a short list.  A huge THANKS to Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner for creating this awesome end of year survey! It was exactly what I needed to get my thoughts in order.  So, if you haven't been over to her blog yet, get clicking and check it out.

Best book of 2010?
For me the best book of 2010 had memorable characters, snappy dialog, and a world that I didn't want to leave.  In fact, I didn't want to stop reading because I wanted to stay in that world a bit longer, so I kept going back to reread different scenes.  The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan was that book.  It took weeks for it to get out of my head and more than 7 months later I still find myself taking it off the shelf to read favorite scenes.

Least favorite (or worst) book of 2010? 
Honest answer - I’m not sure.  There were books I thought were bad, not great, simply okay but not one that I could point to and say “that’s the worst of 2010.” I try to find at least one good thing about each book I read.  Maybe that’s a copout answer, but that’s how I feel. 

But, if you ask me what my least favorite book I read this year was, it was Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast.  I know a lot of people love this series, it just isn’t for me.

Most disappointing book of 2010?
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  I just expected a lot more from the author.

Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2010?
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.  Okay, I love fantasy, that's not a secret.  But, I wasn't really sure how much I would like Incarceron, it was my first serious dystopian read.  But the writing was just amazing and the world building terrific.  And there wasn't any explicit romance, it was all super subtle/make of it what you will, which suited the story beautifully.

Other books that surprised me were: 
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, for the relationships and the story within the story.
You by Charles Benoit, for the second person point of view and the intense but sparse prose.

Book you recommended to people most in 2010?
Recommending books is part of my job, so this list could get long really fast.  But, if I take out all the work related recommendations, the books I rec the most are: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (the whole series really, but since The Thief is the first book that's the one that actually gets put into hands), Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Mistwood by Leah Cypess, The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan and The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

Best series you discovered in 2010?
The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa - a series that just keeps getting better and better!

Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?
Leah Cypess, Julie Kagawa, Heidi R. Kling, Lauren Oliver and Rachel Hawkins - all debut authors in 2010, all authors who are now on my "automatic buy" list.

Most hilarious read of 2010?
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.  Two words - Tiny Cooper!  Although recently, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares was funny too.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?
Maybe not most thrilling, but the most unputdownable book: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.  I read it in two days and by the time I got to the end, I was in tears - partly because of the ending and partly because I was emotionally drained.  Plus, Ms Oliver grew up not too far from me - a town or two over from where I lived as a teen - so the characters really felt like people I could have gone to high school with or run into at the Dunkin Donuts or the mall.  

Book you most anticipated in 2010?
There were a bunch of books that I couldn't wait to read in 2010:
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
White Cat by Holly Black
Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megah Whalen Turner  topped my list.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Most memorable character in 2010?
I feel like there are expectations to answer Katniss or maybe even Rose (from Vampire Academy) and while I like both of them - they are both unforgettable characters - they were't the most memorable.  So to me one of the most memorable characters I read in 2010 was Mae from The Demon's Covenant.  She's feisty, a bit bossy, loves her brother dearly, knows how to diffuse a tense situation, and can help pull together an army of fighters.  Plus she's got pink hair! And she gets to kiss 3 guys, all in the same book.  Mae has gotten some heat for all that kissing, but I think she's young, smart and makes good decisions most of the time - she deserves some fun! Plus, if she was a guy, she's be getting pats on the back.  

I like Mae so much that I named my kitten after her because she shows some of the same qualities - she's stubborn and thinks she's in charge.  After being left behind by her mama and litter mates when she was only a couple weeks old (I have a feeling she was the runt of the litter and she has extra toes, so she was abandoned), she managed to find a hiding spot in my back garden and meowed/cried loudly for 3 days before she finally came out and adopted me (much like Mae and Jamie adopt the Ryves brothers). (I tried to find a cute picture, but Mae hates having her picture taken and actually runs away when she sees the camera)  

Most beautifully written book in 2010?
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Lyrical and pitch perfect in my opinion.  I can't wait to see how she wraps up Sam and Grace's story in Forever.

Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?
This is a hard one, but the book that had the greatest impact on me was Sea by Heidi Kling.  Sea is about the aftermath of the tsunami in Indonesia combined with the story of Sienna (Sea) dealing with the loss of her mother, facing her fears and finding romance in the most unexpected of places.  Sea is a book that really shows what the aftermath of a devastating event is like for people - from the residents who are directly affected to responders and people halfway around the world.  It also is a book about finding beauty and love among the chaos and while grieving.  Ms. Kling does a masterful job of combining all of the elements together.

Book you can't believe you waited until 2010 to finally read?
The Silver Kiss and Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause 
and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.  All three were out when I was a teen, but I didn't read them until this past year which is a shame because my teen self would have really enjoyed them.


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