July 31, 2009

Book Memes

Both of these are taken from Robbie, over at Boy With Books.

What author do you own the most books by?
No clue, but probably K.A. Applegate as I still have a nearly complete set of Animorphs and Everworld.

What book do you own the most copies of?
THE TRICKSTERS by Margaret Mahy (3)

What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Secretly? I love lots of them openly. The first was probably Jake from the Animorphs. Doing a close read of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is rekindling my love of Darcy.

What book have you read more than any other?
Again, no clue. I'm going to guess FIRST TEST or PAGE by Tamora Pierce. I didn't own PAGE for more than a year after it came out, so I was continually rechecking it. Eventually all of my friends were so used to the sight of my reading both of these they just went, "Oh, that again." I never liked the other two in the series as much as the beginning . . . they really hit me at the right time. I was also rereading THE CHINA GARDEN by Liz Berry pretty frequently around the same time, but I haven't reread it in years. (In August of 2001 I read it once every day, no lie.)

What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Same as now - WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams

What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
*shrug* I don't really retain the titles and such of books I didn't like. Why waste the mind space?

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Don't ask that! Like I have a clue.

What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
A WINTER'S TALE by Shakespeare - haven't finished it yet (have just a few more acts to go), but several of the speeches are incoherent even to scholars.

Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I've read more French authors. I'm ashamed of how few of the Russians I've read. No Nabokov, no Dostoevsky . . . I'm a terrible English major. I have read some Chekov, and I like the popular novels by Sergei Lukyanenko. And I do love Russian folktales, such as "Ivan and the Firebird."

Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?

Austen or Eliot?
Austen - coincidentally, both of the people I'm in Oxford to study.

What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
See above. I really hate how little Russian lit I've read. I'd like to read my Japanese literature too.

What is your favorite novel?
WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, as stated above.

What is your favorite play?


What is your favorite poem?
"The Sick Rose" by William Blake

What is your favorite essay?
"At a Fire" by Mark Twain

What is your favorite short story?
"Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

What is your favorite non-fiction?
THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom

What is your favorite graphic novel?
ANGEL SANCTUARY by Kaori Yuki (Don't judge me.)

What is your favorite science fiction?
Tough question! Possibly TUNNEL IN THE SKY by Robert A. Heinlein.

See non-fiction.

Favorite History/Historical Novel?
A NORTHERN LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly

Favorite mystery or noir?
THE KILLER INSIDE ME by Jim Thompson (noir) and TEN LITTLE INDIANS by Agatha Christie (mystery)

Favorite romance?

Favorite teen book?
It's probably by Tamora Pierce. But it could be by Margaret Mahy.

Who is your favorite writer?
Depends. I wish more people read Rob Thurman. Her books are so much fun.

Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
Joyce Carol Oates

What are you reading right now?
A WINTER'S TALE by Shakespeare

What book do you wish someone wrote so you could read it?
One is a rare book dealer. One is a saucy librarian. Together, they fight crime.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? Honestly?

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Schuldig, Cal Leandros, and Eugenides. I might not survive the experience but it would be fun.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

I don't know but it's by Herman Melville.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP.)
THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton - short, accessible, and respectable.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
I reread most of my fave books once a year anyway. Possible GREEN EGGS AND HAM by Dr. Seuss. Even if I get sick of it it wouldn't take me long.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead—let your imagination run free.
The library from Beauty and the Beast will do. Possible substitutions include the library from Atonement or the Long Library in Blenheim Palace. I'd rather like to pick out the books myself. There's something about digging through a store that really gets me.

July 30, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Weeks Twenty-Seven - Thirty)

Thursday just kept passing me by, but I know ya'll where waiting with baited breath to see what I've been reading.

Week Twenty-Seven

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The King of Attolia (The Thief, Book Three) by Megan Whalen Turner (Bought, reread)

The Thief (The Thief, Book One) by Megan Whalen Turner (Bought, reread)

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The Queen of Attolia (The Thief, Book Two) by Megan Whalen Turner (Bought, reread)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Textbook)

Week Twenty-Eight

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Deathwish (Leandros Brothers, Book Four) by Rob Thurman (Bought, reread)

Red (Red, Book One) by Jordan Summers (ARC)

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The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans (ARC)

Amazon Ink by Lori Devoti (Review copy)

Week Twenty-Nine

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My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers, Book One) by Rachel Vincent (eBook, review copy)

The Illegitimate King by Olivia Gates (eBook, review copy)

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The Highwayman by Michele Hauf (eBook, review copy)

Week Thirty

Wings by Aprilynne Pike (Bought, UK)

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Knife by RJ Anderson (Bought, UK)*

Hollywood is Like High School with Money by Zoey Dean (Review copy)

*In other words, I have the cool cover, not the one pictured. Plus, the bookseller gave me a bookmark featuring the cover art after I said I was buying it here because I hate the US title and cover.

Review: Hollywood is Like High School With Money

This is apparently my 300th post. Pretty exciting, no?

By the way, I finally added an end date to the SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE contest. August 17th, my sister's birthday.

By Zoey Dean

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My confession: I've read the A-list series. It was summer, the local library didn't have much in stock, I was bored. What I got was pretty much what I expected - fun enough to read but not really memorable or well-written. (Except for the book where the main character and the girl who once had a lesbian crush on her get high on mescaline and wander around Mexico. It was so weird.) Unlike that series, HOLLYWOOD IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL WITH MONEY is for adults. Like it, I knew the trajectory of the story when I started.

Zoey Dean does a good job with the classic nice girl must become like mean girls to survive, becomes too mean, gets slapped down, becomes nice again and her life falls into place. (Reading the novel, I started thinking while Taylor made a terrible decision, "I want someone to write this story where the protagonist remains true to his or her ideals. It will push the moral conflict, but the protagonist never crosses the line." If anyone has read this book, please tell me. If anyone is trying to get it published now, you know who to put on the ARC list.)

I was worried that the book was going to be awful after I finished the chapter, due to a simile on page 10:

She reminded me of Sienna Miller in the film Factory Girl, playing Edie Sedgwick, except that her hair was long and wavy and dark gold, with butter-colored highlights that framed her face.

Why not just compare her to Edie Sedgwick? I felt like the simile was trying to be hip, but then why reference a several years old movie that was never popular?

But things quickly improved. Taylor Hennings is quite charming, with her weekly notes to the director who inspired her to work in the movie industry and begging a teenager to teach her how to act cool. I really fell in love with the way she dropped clothing brands after teen queen Quinn gave her a wardrobe of last year's clothing. She describes the events of a night out and then gives a little squeal at the end of the chapter, "And did I mention I was wearing Zac Posen?" She's cleary overwhelmed but reveling in the pricey clothing, and what normal girl wouldn't?

When she does step over the moral line, it feels fake. She knows it's wrong and says it, before being instantly convinced to do it. Like her roommate says, she's like a cute little dog. Her mean girl persona never feels as real as the awkward, friendly Taylor. It really is relieving to see the real deal return at the end.

HOLLYWOOD IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL WITH MONEY isn't groundbreaking, but I didn't expect it to be. It's a fun summer read, with a far more likeable protagonist than the A-list series. Zoey Dean is also the author of TALENT and PRIVILEGED, now a show on the CW.

July 28, 2009

Music Meme!

Because I want to post and don't have the patience right now to code photos, you get a music meme.

Instructions: Open up your iTunes (or WinAmp, or whatever, though iTunes is easiest for this I think) and fill out this survey, no matter how embarrassing the responses might be.

How many songs total: 4598
How many hours or days of music: 13.1 days, 24.23 GB

Most recently played: "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits

Most played: "Arco Arena" by CAKE

Most recently added: "Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2" by Les Claypool's Frog Brigade

Sort by song title.
First Song: "A" by The Gits
Last Song: "***" by Regina Spektor

Sort by time.
Shortest Song: "Welcome" by The Offspring (0:10)
Longest Song: "Ellington Medley" by Charles Mingus (26:46)

Sort by album.
First album: Abbatoir Blues (Disc 1) by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Last album: 5ongs from 5ideways by Pete Gresser

First song that comes up on Shuffle: "The Song is Over" by The Who

Search the following and state how many songs come up:
Death - 15
Life - 62
Love - 165
Hate - 8
You - 395
Sex - 24

Anyone who wants to fill out the meme can.

July 24, 2009

One Contest Ends, Another Begins!

The winners of the Harry Potter contest are:
Reawarded to Crystal Adkins
Already won, reawarded to Katie
Already won, reawarded to Kimberley Derting
teenreadersgather (Princess Ashley)

Blurry cell phone pic of Millenium Bridge, destroyed in the opening of the HP6 movie.

Gloomy photo of people waiting to tour Christ Church, where the Great Hall scenes are filmed.


Some serious loot is up for grabs, including:

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Complete ELITE series thus far-
and the second season of Nip Tuck on DVD-
and Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl-
and Audrey Wait! by Robin Benway-
and Don't You Forget About Me (the final Gossip Girl novel)-
and a Jamba Juice gift card!

No lie, that's some serious winnage.

To win, leave a comment here telling me your beverage of choice. For extra entires, comment on my review of SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, Jennifer's TV appearance, link to the contest, and follow mine or her blog. Capice?

Give away ends August 17th.

Review: Simply Irresistible

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By Jennifer Banash

I was apprehensive picking this one up. As far as I know, it's the last book in the Elite series. I enjoyed the first two, and was thus wary of the goodbye. The ending is open, ripe for a fourth book. Some characters do not end the story happily. But others are moving up and moving on. Casey McCloy's arc does come to a kind of conclusion, and I imagine she has a satisfying life, since she has a good personality. I likewise imagine good things for Phoebe and Sophie, and hope Madison one day figures out how to express herself better.

But. oh. my. stars. Drew annoyed me so much in this book. It really is hard to imagine how much distance is between twenty and seventeen, but . . . I know I had a different view of open relationships then. (Still can't imagine one for myself. Just, no.) But there's a much bigger difference between two married adults who know and do nothing about the other having an affair and cheating on your girlfriend. I'm not trying to glorify Drew's father by any means. I'm just trying to point out how much of a douchebox with wings Drew is in SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE.

Of course, this makes me take some issue of the fact Madison and Casey are still girlfighting over him. Both of the girls deserve better. (Luckily, Casey has a totally adorable rocker boy waiting for her to drop Drew.) As for Madison . . . well, she's getting her comeuppance. And ouch. Jennifer Banash has always done a great job of getting in Madison's head and fleshing her out instead of leaving her motivelessly malicious. It makes it painful to see her get hurt even as you know she needs to take a few knocks to facilitate a personality adjustment.

So here's my goodbye to the Elite series. I vote it a member of the "good trash." Yeah, there's brand-dropping and ridiculously rich teens. But there's also a reality: parents, bargain racks, and being too awkward to tell the guy/girl what you're feeling. (Just jumping into SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE might be confusing. I do recommend starting at the beginning, with THE ELITE. Three books won't kill you.)

Jennifer's blog
Review of THE ELITE
Review of IN TOO DEEP
Interview with Jennifer
Jennifer guest blogs on IBWB about her 20s
Jennifer guest blogs on IBWB about her favorite purse

July 18, 2009

Interview with Ellen Jensen Abbott

My plans for the second half of this week were messed up since I was locked out of my blog. Luckily Google fixed it quickly.

WATERSMEET, by Ellen Jensen Abbott, has gone into reprints and is up for YALSA's Best YA Book of 2009. She's been busy with the end of the school year, but took some time out of her schedule for an interview.


1. WATERSMEET deals with religious laws that can be pretty sickening. Did you have any historical events in mind or were you trying to avoid reality, in order to avoid certain connotations?

I'm not sure that it makes sense to say this, but I was trying to do both. I wasn't specifically referring to any historical moment, but there are plenty of examples of horrible religious persecution through history. Religion is a powerful force—and it seems like it should be a powerful force for good, but so often, it's bad! That was what I wanted to explore. Once I had that theme in mind, I let my imagination go. There is one religious ritual in the novel that is particularly intense, and it was an exciting scene to write, in its own bizarre way.

2. How would you describe WATERSMEET without using the blurb?

WATERSMEET is a quest. The physical quest the main character, Abisina, goes on has adventure, hardship, challenges, beauty and ugliness. And these elements are also present in her internal quest. She faces monsters outside—centaurs, minotaurs, the White Worm—but she also must face her own monsters—the prejudices she has been taught in the village where she was born. Conquering all of these monsters makes up the action of the story—with friendship, humor and a hint of romance thrown in.

3. Since I know you're working on the sequel now, I have to ask: anything you can share with us?

I can give you some hints! Readers have asked if Abisina is a shape-shifter like her father and if she will find romance in the next novel. I'll only say that both of these questions will be answered in the next novel—but I won't say how!

4. Which character do you identify most with and why? How much of your personality do you put into each character?

I think elements of me are sprinkled through all the characters. Because of this, I am not sure who I identify with. I know Abisina started out very similar to me, but as I wrote and revised, she insisted that she was not my clone. There are still ways she is like me—her longing for a home is very similar to how I felt as a child when my parents broke up, for example—but overall, she is her own person. I will say that one of my favorite characters is the dwarf, Haret. I love his crusty, grumbling exterior, masking a gentle soul within.

5. On your blog (linked to above) you have teacher, librarian, and book club guides posted. How did you develop those?

I've taught high school and middle school English for many years, so I did what I would do for a book I was teaching: consider the themes, characters and images and then construct questions and activities to help readers access those ideas. I had a great time doing it, too, because I wasn't limited in how many weeks I had to teach a book as I so often am when teaching. I could just let myself go as far as I wanted to so that teachers would have a lot of options as they considered working with my book. The faculty at the Westtown School, where I teach, has recently studied the theory of Multiple Intelligences and how they can be used in the classroom so I made a point of developing projects for all the different kinds of intelligences. For example, for kids with musical intelligence, I suggested they compose the music that the fairies might have danced to. For kids with Naturalist intelligence, I suggested they investigate more about herb lore and healing. For kids with spatial intelligence, I suggested they build a model of Watersmeet. In fact, this fall, I will get to put these lesson plans into action! WATERSMEET was chosen as a summer reading selection so I will be teaching my own book in September. And if I may say so myself, it really offers a lot of options for discussion and projects so I am looking forward to teaching it.

6. You're an English teacher, and we love English teachers here at In Bed With Books. What books do you really love to teach? Any parts of the canon you would never want to teach?

As a fantasy writer, I love teaching THE ODYSSEY. Monsters, heroes, magic, romance—what's not to love? TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is another one of my favorites. I also love teaching Shakespeare. I get the kids up and acting before they have time to get intimidated by the language, and we have a ball. This spring I taught two really different electives: Jane Austen and Science Fiction. Can you imagine more disparate topics? (We did read a little of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES in my Jane Austen class, which may be the one place the two worlds sort of come together.)
I love Virginia Woolf, but I've never taught her. I would not want to teach Henry James or T.S. Eliot. And I remember hating ETHAN FROME when I was in ninth grade, so I'd like to avoid that. (Please don't tell any of this to my department chair!)

6. What inspired the setting of WATERSMEET? Your bio says you lived by the mountains in New Hampshire, but was that all?

New Hampshire really was the inspiration, but I think it was the mountains as I saw them as a child. They're pretty amazing on their own, but in WATERSMEET they're grander, more otherworldly, more mysterious, more alive. I also return to New Hampshire every year for new doses of images. My family gets tired of me ignoring them while we're hiking, but I'm busy thinking about how to incorporate what I'm seeing into the next chapter or next book.

7. Did any childhood experiences shape WATERSMEET? What kind of books did you read as a kid?

I read the Chronicles of Narnia over and over and over again. THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER was my favorite. At the time, I didn't realize that this series was Christian allegory; I just responded to the creatures and characters and world. I'm sure my love of these stories is central to why I write for young adults and why I write fantasy. I was also a big fan of historical fiction, especially with adventure thrown in. I loved THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, THE LITTLE PRINCESS, stories about the sea, the WHAT KATY DID series—oh, I could go on and on! And that's another reason I write for kids and teens—that was when I was the most enthralled with reading. As I grew older, I continued to read a lot, but not with the same complete involvement. Reading got more cerebral. Now I get to read and write in that same excited, thrilling place all the time!

9. So you teach and write, but what do you do to relax? If you had the spare time, what hobby or skill would you cultivate?

I have two kids, so a lot of my non-work time is devoted to them and their activities. For relaxation I love to read, knit, and downhill ski. We ski as a family most weekends during the winter. I would love to spend more time in my garden. I love weeding! I would also like to join a choir. I was in one before I sold WATERSMEET, but once I made the sale I knew I needed to cut back. Someday, I hope to go back to singing.

10. What is most surprising about being an author?

Hearing from readers. Of course, I hoped I would hear from readers once my book was out in the world, but it's been so thrilling that it is actually happening! I have been especially touched by a few kids who have told me that they are not generally readers, but that they have loved my book. One mom said that her daughter stayed up all night for two nights to read WATERSMEET and then asked her mother to please find her some more books to read! Up until that point, she was an avowed non-reader. To think that my book may contribute to someone discovering the joy of reading—there's just nothing more exciting than that!


Ellen and I read several of the same books as children! But while I owned a copy of WHAT KATY DID, I never did read it.

July 14, 2009

Review: ghostgirl and ghostgirl: Homecoming

By Tonya Hurley
Visit the ghostgirl website
Visit Tonya Hurley Productions

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Charlotte Usher only feels invisible. That is, until she chokes on a gummi bear just after becoming her crush's science partner. But she doesn't move on - the Afterlife is just more classes. And Charlotte's sure her unfinished business is her relationship with Damen. (Some of the other ghosts are fed up with her clearly deluded behaviour.)

Charlotte discovers a way to get what she wants with the help of independent Scarlet, the younger sister of Petula - Damen's girlfriend. Of course, Scarlet may decide she has different goals. Who wouldn't, when Charlotte is such a whiny brat? I really had trouble identifying with her.

I don't mind books that show teenagers as self-obsessed. That's accurate, in my opinion. But all the kids in Dead Ed have one track minds. The end implies this may be a consequence of the lessons they need to learn, but throughout the book it's resented as one of the satirical elements. I don't think teenagers are that shallow. None of them (and this is pointed out) even think about their parents! Charlotte's entire focus in the book is popularity and Damen. She's a total stalker.

GHOSTGIRL was fun, but Charlotte really bothered me. The end did give me hope for the next book. It is about Charlotte's growth; I just wished it started earlier. It felt like it came on suddenly at the end in order to finish the story nicely. I did like most of the supporting characters, especially Scarlet.

And I can't ignore the design. This is a gorgeous book. Normally I buy paperbacks, but this hardcover is hard to resist. For those who haven't seen it in person, the interior design is quite lovely as well.

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GHOSTGIRL: HOMECOMING picks up a little while after GHOSTGIRL, when Charlotte has had some time to get used to the next phase of her afterlife. Not that there's much for her to get used to. She's supposed to be counseling troubled teens, but her phone never rings. The one day it does, her frenemy roommate answers it.

Scarlet has her own troubles: Petula developed a staph infection from a pedicure. (Why this causes other girls to go to that salon, I don't know. Even if you want to show tragically romantic solidarity you wouldn't go somewhere known to be contaminated with a fatal infection.) Scarlet knows Charlotte is the only person who can help her sister. What she doesn't know is how to contact her now that she's moved on.

I enjoyed this one more than GHOSTGIRL. Charlotte did develop as a character, though it takes awhile to realize how much. I like that Tonya Hurley avoids writing big misunderstandings between Damen and Scarlet. Scarlet knows what it means to him to see his ex-girlfriend in a coma, but she can also know what she means to him.

I was kind of afraid that this one would be a slog after feeling iffy about GHOSTGIRL, but I really did enjoy it. The characterization could be more subtle, even considering the books are supposed to be satire. They do have more depth in GHOSTGIRL: HOMECOMING, which goes so far is to reveal the (somewhat) softer side of Petula. If I had the choice, I might even skip the first book and go straight to the second.

July 13, 2009

Interview with Elle Newmark

Elle Newmark is the author of THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF, which I reviewed last week. The pacing didn't quite work for me, but I can tell why so many people love it. (And I may give it another try when I'm in a different mood because of that.) Elle first visited Italy at four years old and attended kindergarten there. She originally self-published THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF, but happened to invite literary agents to the release party she threw herself.


1. THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF starts when Luciano steals a pomegranate and becomes involved in a secret network of chefs and a metaphorical cookbook. What kind of food do you enjoy? Do you have a favorite (literal) recipe?

I'm sure it will be no surprise that I love Italian food. It's familiar and it's good. I just came back from a month in Italy and I can't figure out why Americans can't make gelato like that. The fruit sorbettos taste like biting into the real fruit only better. Ben and Jerry, pay attention! And once you've eaten fresh pasta with a complicated and delicate filling there is just no going back to frozen ravioli stuffed with faux cheese. I have a lot of favorite recipes but there's a special place in my heart for a really good tiramisu. It's so rich it should probably be served with a heart pump, but oh my goodness...

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2. Do you prefer the cover of the US or the UK edition? Why?

I like all the foreign covers but I must say I adore the U.S. cover. They did a painstaking and magnificent job on every detail. It's rich and beautiful and I particularly like the bleeding fig and the insects that hint at corruption. My editor was so attentive to detail she actually had the font specially designed for the title. It looks positively mischievous. And the end papers are gorgeous, good enough to eat.

3. You spent time as an advertising copywriter. How did this kind of writing help you when it came to composing a novel?

It was actually very helpful. Writing ads means learning how to get to the point. You have X number of lines or words or inches or minutes to work with and within those constraints you have to say something compelling enough to make people buy something. Writing ad copy taught me how to be economical with words. Perhaps that's why Unholy Mischief is a bit briefer than most historical novels, but I take pride in that. Mark Twain once wrote a friend a lengthy letter and closed with, "I would have been briefer but I didn't have the time."

4. What activities do you like to do in your spare time? What skills do you find most valuable? Any you regret never learning?

I like to read and then I like to read some more. Always been a bookworm. However, reading and writing alone do not make for the healthiest lifestyle, so I've also learned to love walking. I'll never be a gym rat, but I do enjoy a long walk over the hills around my rural California home. Especially in spring. Lovely. But when I'm working on a book I walk with a tape recorder.

The skill of balancing sedentary activities with walking and swimming is very valuable. If I didn't make an effort to fit a little movement into my day I'd probably have to be surgically removed from my favorite chair.

I regret never learning how to play an instrument. When I was a kid my mother asked my sister and me whether we wanted ballet or piano lessons. My sister said ballet and I said piano. My mother apparently realized then that piano lessons would mean buying or renting a piano, which we had no room for in our Chicago apartment. We got ballet lessons. These days, I have surprisingly little need to strike poses, but it would be lovely to be able to play Chopin.

5. How do you feel about the success of THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF? What comes next?

The success of Unholy Mischief has left me stunned, thrilled, amazed, grateful and pleased and friggin' punch. Perhaps the most gratifying thing that has every happened to me.

Next is a novel set in India. I just delivered the manuscript to my editor and will begin revisions this summer. It is the story of parallel love stories set against a backdrop of parallel wars. I spent March in India researching and look forward to seeing it launched.


This review was arranged by Pump Up Your Book Promotion.


Don't forget my contest for a copy of HP7 and a pin. And come back Friday for an interview with Ellen Jensen Abbott!

July 12, 2009


Just wanted to let ya'll know I am in England now. I had a fairly awful flight, but my first day went well. Went to lunch with a bunch of the other girls, shopped and explored with a smaller group, went to orientation, brief nap, ate dinner, hung out at the college's underground pub. I found alcohol I actually like! Pimm's (mixed drink) is quite good, as is Corky's strawberry vodka (shot). I didn't really like the [College Name] Ballbuster. (Those who are more familiar with shots told me it was a good one. I will admit that it was my second shot ever, the strawberry vodka being the first. I wish it were the other way around as I ruined some of the enjoyment of the Corky's by getting some of it in my nose.) It was fun though, since it was the college's special drink. There's a ritual for drinking it and you get stamped when you finish. I spent a little less than five pounds on lunch, a little less than two on shaving cream, and three pounds in the pub. Of course, that's equivalent to fifteen dollars. Stupid exchange rate. Oh yeah, pics of my awesome dorm room coming as soon as I upload them.

(I don't think I'm drunk despite drinking so much when I'm not used to it, as I appear to be able to type just fine. And yes, I am under 21, but it's perfectly legal for me to drink in the UK. I am not advocating for anyone to break the law.)

(Also, the post time is weirding me out since I'm now on a totally different schedule.)

(SUPER PLUS! Interviews with Ellen Jensen Abbott and Elle Newmark this week.)

July 10, 2009

Reading Mudflap Girl

I watched the pilot of the 10 Things I Hate About You series since I liked the movie and they have it free on iTunes. (You can also stream it on the ABC Family site.) Kate, the shrew, had an awesome rearview dangly of a mudflap girl reading.

Screencap via Jezebel.com

The origin, apparently, is a Wyoming library marketing campaign. I know almost nothing about Wyoming, but apparently their libraries are awesome. I think it's a fun campaign. Why not take a sexist symbol and add some substance to it? I like that they don't completely take away the sexy, since there's nothing wrong with associating reading with sexiness. (People who read are sexier than those who don't, after all.)


If you do think she's too sexy, Reading is Sexy on Cafe Press has a design of a clearly clothed girl reading in the mudflap position. It comes on a variety of items, from T-shirts to buttons.


How do ya'll feel about the reading mudflap girl?

July 8, 2009

Review: The Book of Unholy Mischief

Book Cover

By Elle Newmark

Luciano is a thief. He doesn't have many other options, living on the streets of Venice. But one lucky day he is taken as an apprentice by the doge's chef, who has his own reasons. After Luciano witnesses the doge murdering a peasant - and then pouring liquid down the dead man's throat - he begins questioning Chef Ferrero to find out what's going on.

I enjoyed the setting. The Borgia Pope is in power, the Renaissance is underway . . . it's a time when new knowledge mingled with codified superstition. The city of Venice is pretty interesting itself, and I love touches like the disdain the inhabitants have for the Germans, who drink beer and smoke pork. My only problem is sometimes the characters will say something that takes me out of the setting. Luciano mentions his short childhood, but seems to refer to the post-Victorian version of the concept. Chef Meunier, the former teacher of Chef Ferrero, finishes a statement with, "True story." Now, I liked when Micol Ostow used those same words in GOLDENGIRL - because I thought it was a good use of modern slang. For a brief moment the Frenchman sounded like a teenage girl in my head.

I think I would've been less distracted from the setting if the story had been more absorbing at first. Though it starts with a murder, THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF takes a number of pages to get moving. The first part of the novel tells of Luciano's early life and how he originally spent his time in the kitchen. It takes him awhile to notice the mysteries and intrigues occuring and to become interested.

Chef Ferrero is educated and believes strongly in the power of books. He possesses one that the entire city of Venice is looking for. There are recipes for things other than food. It can be used for a love potion, or darker purposes. And everyone wants it for their own reasons. Even Luciano wants it, to try to win the love of the nun Francesca. (Luciano's love is somewhat grating at points, as it's of the moony, young sort. He's quite passionate about it before even speaking to the girl.)

I love books, I love food, I love intrigue, I love thieves and spies, but THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF didn't quite work for me. Luciano was a charming protagonist, but he was bogged down by the slow beginning. Elle Newmark does offer some answers even at the beginning, since the older, narrating Luciano knows more than the younger one, but the pace still didn't work for me. THE BOOK OF UNHOLY MISCHIEF does play with a number of interesting concepts and does improve once the plot starts rolling.

July 7, 2009

Review: Eyes Like Stars

Traveling to Teens is a tour event for Young Adult authors of any genre. Visit the T2T website for giveaways and more!

By Lisa Mantchev

Lisa Mantchev grew up in the small Northern California town of Ukiah and can pinpoint her first forays into fiction to the short stories she thumped out on an ancient typewriter. She makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband Angel, her daughter Amélie and four hairy miscreant dogs. When not scribbling, she can be found on the beach, up a tree, making jam or repairing things with her trusty glue gun. A list of her short fiction can be found on her authorly website (http://www.lisamantchev.com/) and Eyes Like Stars, her debut novel, is due out in the Summer of 2009 from Feiwel & Friends. You can read more about it at http://www.theatre-illuminata.com/.

Book Cover

All the worlds her stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book-an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family-and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

Open Curtain


Lisa Mantchev throws you right into the world of the Théâtre Illuminata. It's disorienting at first, until the rules governing Bertie's world become clear. I think it works well though, because it allows the consistency and detail of Mantchev's world to shine through.

I enjoyed this book when I read it. I loved the sweet romance of Nate and Bertie as well as the sexual tension between Ariel and Bertie. (She can have her cake and eat it too, right? Usually I know which guy I want to get the girl but I rather liked both options.) I loved that Mantchev developed Ariel's motivation, because it is the rare villain who can be convincing without a montive other that being evil for the sake of being evil. And it's what Ariel deserves, coming from THE TEMPEST. The play has some thorny moral issues that are only more confused by a post-imperialist reading.

But I love it even more since I've been reading the hideously detailed introductions to the Shakespeare plays for my class. (If you're using a college level text, like the Arden Shakespeare or Oxford World Classics, the introduction will be as long as the play itself.) These introductions spend quite a bit of time discussing staging. What the most famous versions were like, how things hanged as the interpretation changed, what changes are made to emphasized one or two themes of the play . . . it makes it so beautiful that Bertie decides her place in the Théâtre Illuminata is as a director. The director's vision is vital to a performance. It keeps the play relevant, focused, and innovative.

The Théâtre Illuminata faces more danger than that of Ariel's actions. Attendance is flagging. The characters mock Bertie since they all know their lines perfectly - but it's kind of terrible. They do the same performance every time. Variation gives plays vitality. It's only fitting for the spunky Bertie to direct.

In addition to delivering a great plot, Mantchev knows how to give enough answers to satisfy while leaving enough threads open to make the reader eager for Act II. I can't wait for more rescues and revelations, nor can I wait to see how the consequences of Act I unfold. And if you like the characters, I do recommend reading some Shakespeare. Especially A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, the sourse of Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Moth, and Cobweb. It was my first Shakespeare experience, back in seventh grade. And it's a good one to start with because it's hilarious.

EYES LIKE STARS is a strong debut, and I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy. I also can't wait to see what Mantchev does outside of Théâtre Illuminata. It's books like this that convince me a faerie on the cover is a sign of quality.

July 5, 2009

Along for the Ride Winner

Alexa, please e-mail me your address.

Sorry I haven't been around much. Trying to get everything together for my trip is my priority right now.

July 3, 2009


I'm now on Twitter.

Books Read in 2009 (Week Twenty-Six)

Yes, it's a day late. That's because I was compiling info. Light week since I'm mostly doing research, writing, and other last minute prep.

Week Twenty-Six

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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, ed. Marilyn Butler (Textbook, bought)

Book Cover

Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum, Book Fifteen) by Janet Evanovich (Hardcover, bought)

Half-year details:

Books I forgot to list but know I read:
My Wicked Enemy by Carolyn Jewel
Watch and Learn by Stephanie Bond
Outcast Season by Rachel Caine
Love Celeb (Vols. 1-7) by Mayu Shinjo
Shugo Chara (Vols. 5-6) by Peach-Pit
The Wallflower (Vol. 18) by Tomoko Hayakawa
Dogs: Prelude (Vol. 0) by Shirow Miwa
Total: 14 (2 Romance, 1 Urban Fantasy, 11 Manga)

Week One: 12 (9 YA, 1 Romance, 2 Urban Fantasy)
Week Two: 5 (2 YA, 1 Romance, 2 Fantasy)
Week Three: 8 (4 Romance, 2 Urban Fantasy, 1 Fantasy, 1 Non-fiction)
Week Four: 1 (Romance)
Week Five: 6 (4 YA, 2 Romance)
Week Six: 3 (1 YA, 1 Urban Fantasy, 1 Mystery)
Week Seven: 3 (1 YA, 2 Urban Fantasy)
Week Eight: 5 (4 Urban Fantasy, 1 Textbook)
Week Nine: 4 (1 YA, 1 Romance, 2 Urban Fantasy)
Week Ten: 2 (Textbooks)
Week Eleven: 10 (5 YA, 2 Romance, 2 Urban Fantasy, 1 Fantasy)
Week Twelve: 3 (2 YA, 1 Suspense)
Week Thirteen: 11 (1 YA, 10 Manga)
Week Fourteen: 4 (1 YA, 1 SF, 1 Non-fiction, 1 Manga)
Week Fifteen: 3 (1 YA, 1 Romance, 1 Urban Fantasy)
Week Sixteen: 7 (3 YA, 3 Romance, 1 Women's Fiction)
Week Seventeen: 21 (2 Textbook, 19 Manga)
Week Eighteen: 9 (2 Urban Fantasy, 7 Manga)
Week Nineteen: 7 (1 YA, 1 Urban Fantasy, 1 Chick lit, 4 Manga)
Week Twenty: 6 (3 YA, 1 Romance, 1 Women's Fiction, 1 Fantasy)
Week Twenty-One: 11 (6 YA, 2 Fantasy, 1 Suspense, 1 Graphic Novel, 1 Literary Fiction)
Week Twenty-Two: 4 (3 YA, 1 Urban Fantasy)
Week Twenty-Three: 8 (2 YA, 1 Romance, 1 Urban Fantasy, 1 Fantasy, 1 Chick lit, 2 Manga)
Week Twenty-Four: 7 (3 YA, 4 Urban Fantasy)
Week Twenty-Five: 12 (7 YA, 1 Romance, 2 Urban Fantasy, 1 Graphic Novel, 1 Textbook)
Week Twenty-Six: 2 (1 Mystery, 1 Textbook)

Grand Total: 188 (56 YA, 20 Romance, 1 Women's Fiction, 19 Urban Fantasy, 8 Fantasy, 2 Mystery, 2 Suspense, 2 Graphic Novels, 2 Chick Lit, 1 Literary Fiction, 1 SF, 1 Non-fiction, 7 Textbook, 43 Manga)

The numbers don't add up yet (165 to 188) because I did it all in my head. I'll fix it later.)

July 1, 2009

Contest: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will hit theaters this summer – the 6th film in the series. Why not catch the finale NOW by reading the page turning final installment of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – released in paperback July 7th. It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve. Do you stay the course you started, despite your lack of progress? Do you detour and follow a new lead that may not help? Do you listen to your instincts, or your friends? Lord Voldemort is preparing for battle and so must Harry. With Ron and Hermione at his side, he's trying to hunt down Voldemort's Horcruxes, escape danger at every turn, and find a way to defeat evil once and for all. How does it all end? Find out in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by J.K. Rowling.

You can find out more about the book on the Scholastic site.

Book Cover

Until I was putting this contest together, I didn't think about the July 17 release date meaning I would be in England when the movie comes out. I bet that will be a fun thing to do. (Mocking my lameness will invalidate your contest entries, just so you know.)

This contest is going to have five winners, who will receive a paperback copy of the seventh Harry Potter along with a pin celebrating the 10th anniversary of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE. (I refuse to believe it's actually ten years old. I should, considering I read it when I was ten and I'm now twenty. But that makes me old! And I just lent my hugely beat-up paperback - it is ten years old - to my seven-year-old cousin. How can she be reading chapter books when I remember her being unable to even crawl?!)

And yes, you can enter even if you have the hardcover because that thing is a beast to lug around. To enter, tell me about a Harry Potter memory: reading one of the books, seeing one of the movies, a launch party, a conversation, whatever. For bonus entries, follow my blog, link to this contest, and/or share a picture of yourself in costume. (What can I say? I like cosplay.)

US only, no PO boxes. Contest ends July 17.


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