31 July, 2011

Comic-Con Recap

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program with a recap of Comic-Con 2011. Warning that this post is a bit long.

For those of you who don't know, Comic-Con is a massive event for lovers of all things comics, books, video games, art, pop culture and other geeky goodness. It is made of awesome and is one of the highlights of my year. There weren't too many big studio panels I was interested in this year, which left me with room to scout out some of the smaller panels as well as wander the exhibit floor more.

Books publisher were there in full force, with a lot of focus on YA and fantasy. On Thursday I went to the No Damsels in Distress Here panel. The panelists were sci-fi and fantasy authors and the discussion was strong female characters -- what it takes to write them and the challenges of doing it. Not necessarily YA but a couple of the authors do have YA books. Panelists included Sherrilyn Kenyon, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Jeanne Stein , Chloe Neill, Merrie deStefano and Marie Lu. I was very impressed by all of them. They all had strong opinions and were very articulate in voicing them. It's clear that, while writing kick ass women still has its challenges, these authors are helping to break down those barriers by continuing to write strong characters.

  no damsels in distress here panel 
no damsels in distress here - from left to right: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, 
Jeanne Stein, Chloe Neill, Merrie deStefano and Marie Lu 

 I also went to two publisher panels, The Scoop at Simon & Schuster and What's Up Penguin. Both panels were packed and it is clear that the enthusiasm for YA is still going strong. It looks like a lot of exciting releases are coming down the pipeline and my to-read list has grown exponentially. There were also some really great raffle prizes during the panels. Unfortunately I did not win (boo!).

Here is a shot of the Penguin Teen booth. I am actually on the wrong side here 
so you can see some of the Star Wars booth next door, but you get the idea.

simon & schuster booth 
The simon & schuster booth. I pretty much want to read everything in this picture

The Penguin Teen booth was giving away books and ARCs every few hours. Of course that means I stalked their booth. I managed to get some awesome books, including Crossed by Ally Condie (squeee!) which I stood in line for. Also picked up Legend, by Marie Lu, which I have since read (it's good - review coming soon). Pics of a couple of the signings: Here's Andrea Cremer signing the paperback edition of Nightshade

Doesn't she have a great smile?
  andrea cremer at sdcc 2011 

 And Marie Lu signing Legend. marie lu 
pardon the blurriness

I totally stole this photo of Lisa Yee. I spotted her while I was wandering around and when her friend was taking a pic of her with Darth Vader, I took one, too. Sneaky, I know.

  lisa yee and darth 

I missed the Diversity in YA panel on Saturday but did make it to the signing afterwards. I was super excited that Kiersten White had advance copies of her new book Supernaturally available. Kiersten was so sweet and didn't freak out when I asked her to sign a big stack of books. Also said hi again to Cindy Pon, whom I had previously met at YA in Bloom. I was really hoping that I would be able to find copy of Vera Brosgol's graphic novel, Anya's Ghost, so I could have her sign it, but it was sold out. :(

  diversity in ya signing 
diversity in ya signing - left to right: gene yang, vera brosgol, elizabeth bunce, 
kiersten white, cindy pon, dave roman, malinda lo

kiesten white 
Kiersten knows I'm trouble but she was nice to me anyway. 

My last panel of the con was High School Bites, where YA authors talked about their reasons for writing about high school and what high school was like for them. This was a really great panel and all of the authors were really cool, though I think Heather Brewer may have been my favorite of the day. Other big news announced was that Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series is going to be both a movie and a manga. Guess that means I should read it soon. I know, I know, I'm behind, OK?

  high school bites panel 1 
westerfeld and laini taylor

high school bites panel 3 
laini taylor, anna carey, debbie viguie

high school bites panel 2 
heather brewer, margaret stohl, kami garcia 

We've reached the end of my not so brief recap of Comic-Con. I leave you with a pic of some of the awesome swag that I picked up at the con, some of which, you will have a chance to win.

  comic-con books 
Sorry, these are mine. You can't have them.

But you can have this. 

Stay tuned to the blog for some fun giveaways!

Say "twee"!

30 July, 2011

Diversify Your Reading Challenge

This summer, Kimberly is embarking on the Diversify Your Reading Challenge! Authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo of Diversity in YA are challenging readers to read beyond their comfort zones.

Publishers have provided some awesome prizes for a library and one lucky blogger/reader to win. There's still time to join! You can get all the details on the challenge page. The deadline for entries is September 1, 2011.

Here's what Kimberly is reading for the challenge:

Diversify Your
Reading Challenge

We'll be updating this page as she reads more of the books and/or adds titles, and her essay contest entry will be posted on the blog, too!

Thanks to Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo for this great challenge idea and chance to win!

29 July, 2011

Texas Gothic - Review

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Publication date: 12 July 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN 10/13: 0385736932 | 9780385736930

Category: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Format: Hardcover (Also available in eBook/Kindle format)
Keywords: Ghosts, romance, family

Alethea's Review:

The author and I both attended RT's first Teen Day Convention last April. I listened to Rosemary Clement-Moore read one of the first chapters of Texas Gothic, where Amaryllis "Amy" Goodnight meets her next-door neighbor clad only in her undies (and rain boots) while trying to chase away his cattle, who happen to be humping her Mini-Cooper. If there had been room to roll on the floor, that's where I would have been.

The book just came out a few weeks ago... there were lots of other great books to keep me occupied since April, but Texas Gothic stayed pretty much in the forefront of my mind! When I finally did crack it open, I didn't put it down until I turned the very last page (at about 4 am). That's a true RNSL 5-star rating!

There's nothing like humor, sass, and a Texas twang to really get me hooked on a book. Did I mention the neighbor is a hot cowboy? Ok, he's a little cranky especially where Amy's concerned, but she's no wilting violet (though she has a cousin Violet... still, none of the Goodnight women sound like the wilting kind).

Amy and her gorgeous older sister Phin (short for Delphinium--do you sense a theme?) are smart, fairly responsible young people who are spending the summer taking care of their aunt's farm, which happens to be smack in the middle of Cute Cranky Cowboy's ranch. (Er, not the character's real name. Everyone who's not Amy calls him Ben McCulloch.)

So while they do get into some scrapes of both the realistic and otherworldly varieties, they've both got the brains and guts to get themselves out of trouble. I really enjoyed them. There are some great side characters, too, like the ghost of their late Uncle Burt, Ben's grampa Mac McCulloch, and the students volunteering at a dig site on the ranch. Think Scooby-Gang lite.

Aside from writing a great cast of characters, Clement-Moore does a great job of interspersing magic, science, and history to tell a hell of an entertaining tale. For a ghost story, it wasn't that scary (but then, the last time I really got creeped out by a book was The Shadow of the Wind and that was a few years ago) but the family dynamic, romance, and mystery were spot on. Pour yourself an ice-cold Dr. Pepper and prop your feet up on the porch to enjoy this fun summer read to the fullest. 

Visit the author online at www.rosemaryclementmoore.com and follow @rclementmoore on Twitter.

27 July, 2011

Peter and Max - Review

Peter & Max by Bill Willingham
with illustrations by Steve Leialoha
Publication date: 13 October 2009 by Vertigo
ISBN 10/13: 1401215734 | 9781401215736

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover (also available in eBook, Kindle and audiobook)
Keywords: Revenge, Siblings, Fairytales, Folktales, Fables

Thuy's review:

Peter & Max is a stand alone novel set in the Fables-universe of author Bill Willingham. Fans of Fables will be familiar with the folk and fairy tale personalities that show up in the story. However, those who haven't read the series need not worry. You don't need to be a fan of even very familiar with Fables in order to enjoy the book (though you should be, so do yourself a favor and pick up Fables asap ;).

Peter & Max is the story of Peter and Max Piper of Pied Piper fame. Their entire family is part of a traveling minstrel show. One dark night, soldiers invade their lands the family is torn apart. Alone and scared, Peter becomes a thief to survive. Max, having gone down a dark path, works to perfect his dark magic. He vows that one day, he will find and kill Peter, taking the flute which he believes should have rightfully been passed down to him. Hundreds of years pass and Peter is living a quiet life in a new world with his wife, Bo Peep, when he learns that Max has been spotted. Knowing the death and darkness that Max brings, Peter leaves on a quest to find his long lost brother and end their feud once and for all.

I didn't know much about the legend of the Pied Piper before reading this book. Most of what I remember is from an old Tom & Jerry cartoon. However, I was quickly pulled into the story of Peter Piper and his brother Max. The story shifts perspective between Peter and Max and we see through each of their eyes the events that end up shaping them and eventually pulling them apart. Max's descent into darkness is fascinating to watch and he definitely creeped me out.

Willingham does a fine job of translating the Fables world into a full length book. He blends what we already know about a story with his own ideas so that it is one seamless world. Like many traditional fairy tales, Peter and Max is at times dark and violent. It's a world where wondrous and terrible things happen and where not every ending is a happy one. Lovely black and white illustrations by Steve Leialoha add to its storybook quality. For Fables fans it's a nice addition to the universe. For fans of dark fairy tales or modern retellings of classic tales, it's a quick and fun read.

say "twee"!

Visit the author at http://www.billwillingham.com.

Check back soon for Thuy's recap of her trip to the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con!

20 July, 2011

Sister Mischief @lauragoode - Review

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
Publication date: 12 July 2011 by Candlewick Press
ISBN 10/13: 0763646407 | 9780763646400

Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover (Also available on Kindle)
Keywords: Hip hop, GLBT, suburbia

Alethea's review:

I can't do a better blurb than the one that's already on the jacket, so here it is, from goodreads.com:

A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.
Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.
I cried about 6 times in 360 pages, and I laughed about 30 times or more. Esme's voice is so vivid that I felt every twinge of hurt and every sweet burst of joy she experienced. I loved that she's a booklover, and a biker, and a writer. I loved the way she thinks! Though I have to admit, at times some of the lyrics sounded weak to me (this, from a brain mostly hardwired more for showtunes than hip-hop--I'm no expert, is what I'm saying) they got progressively stronger throughout the book. And anything I might have found lacking in the lyrics, the prose made up for in spades.

This novel struck me as vastly educational: I loved how Goode worked in not just poetry and music theory (and the history of hip hop, of course) but also religion, law, ethics, gender/race issues--even chemistry. The author clearly loves language, as do the mischievous sisters. They speak and sing in praise of intelligence, creativity, courage, freedom, and love. Think Sister Act 2, set in the suburbs but easy on the cheese and with a little more Lauryn Hill.

One of the other things I like about this book is how there's no outright villain (ok, Mary Ashley is pretty much a more evil version of Amanda Bynes's character in Easy A, but I digress) and that even as the sisters rebel they also respect authority. The book police might object to coarse language, sex and weed :o (no graphic sex is depicted, but there is pretty much a primer on how to take a toke) so I'd recommend this to mature teens, kids who've grown up a little too fast, and those sheltered ones who might need a little intro to the real world.

I finished the book wanting to go back, read it again, and take notes. This novel is a hot hot mess & I love it no shit. If you love love, words, and women--sister, this is the book for you!

Visit the author online at www.lauragoode.com and follow @lauragoode on Twitter.

This novel was provided for advance review by the publisher through Netgalley.com.

19 July, 2011

Spellbound - Review

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
Publication date: 28 June 2011 by Harlequin Teen
ISBN 10/13: 0373210302 | 9780373210305

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Paperback (Also available in eBook and Kindle formats)
Keywords: Past lives, reincarnation, romance

Alethea's review:

It's like déjà vu all over again... I keep looking for a great reincarnation romance but time after time I get let down. However, while the story fell flat and the romance between Emma and Brendan fizzled toward the middle--let's face it, there's only so many times you can tell me love is doomed before I start believing it--a couple of secondary characters save Spellbound from being just another metaphysical train wreck.

First up is Francisco--he's fabulous and funny. Any time Emma starts feeling sorry for herself, he's usually around to buoy her spirits. Next is Angela--my bad--Angelique. She's smart, sassy, and well... she's a witch. No, like, really a witch. Without them, I would have ditched Spellbound much earlier. For all its alluring cover art, it just couldn't keep my attention.

It took me quite a while longer to get through this book than it normally would have. It seemed thematically disjointed--part after-school special, part total-wish fulfillment, part crime-drama. I kept drowsing through the parts where everyone's being agreeable and rich... the plot wraps up so conveniently, I couldn't help but lean back and let the conflict resolve itself. I woke up for the funny bits and villains.

This novel won't reveal to anyone the mysteries of time, space, and the hidden places of the heart, but most readers will be entertained for a few hours. Or lulled to a gentle state of relaxation--bonus if you're on a plane, lying on a beach, or just trying to beat the heat.

Visit the author online at http://caralynnshultz.wordpress.com.

17 July, 2011

Hurricane Dancers - Review

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle
Publication date: 15 March 2011 by Henry Holt & Co.
ISBN 10/13: 0805092404 | 9780805092400

Category: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Pirates, Diversity, Historical Fiction

Kimberly's review:

A gorgeously written account of the first Caribbean pirate shipwreck in the 1500s. Our hero, Quebrado, is a slave of Taino Indian and Spanish ancestry. He belongs to no one, a child of two worlds, of two languages. He is a slave on the famous Vernardino de Talavera's pirate ship, the first of its kind in the Caribbean Sea, and a very important hostage is on board with them, Alonso de Ojeda.

The story is based on actual events, though Quebrado himself is fictional. After the shipwreck, Quedbrado is taken in by local natives where he befriends young star crossed lovers Caucubu and Narido and their native families. Here, he begins to belong and live as one of them, his old life coming back, before he was a slave. But fate has a mind of her own as Bernardino de Talavera and Alonso de Ojeda also survived the shipwreck, and find Quedbrado and his new friends.

The five characters' voices are strong, swimming in emotion and lyricism. I felt the rocking of the hurricane, the shipwreck, Quebrado's thoughts. No wonder the book's setting is near water. The prose flows gently, waving up and over catching you and pulling you in.

I read it in one sitting and had to re-read this powerful book. (I already have plans to buy it. This is definitely a book to keep on the shelf, recommend it to friends, and pull off the bookcase for a delightful journey.) The magic is there. The strong themes of hope, forgiveness and survival propel this story forward. It's amazing to read in the author's note she is a descendant of the indigenous Cubans, like her characters in this book, who survived after years of genocide.

Do yourself a favor. Get this book. Relax for an hour or two one afternoon and be swept away in a world of pirates, natives and one boy who had the strength to not lose hope.

Visit the author at http://www.margaritaengle.com. Kimberly read this for the Diversify Your Reading Challenge. Find out more at http://www.diversityinya.com/challenge.

14 July, 2011

Inside Out and Back Again - Review

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Publication date: 22 February 2011 by HarperCollins Children's
ISBN 10/13: 0061962783 | 9780061962783

Kimberly's review:

Beautiful prose and a heartwarming story await you inside the pages of Inside Out & Back Again. The story is of Hà, a ten year old Vietnamese girl who lives in Saigon before its fall in 1975. Her family escape on a boat to Guam, where they find refuge for a time, only to be sponsored by a cowboy and brought to live in Alabama.
Her world now drastically changed, she must not only adapt to her uprooting, a new environment, language and rules, but also to the dark side of suddenly being very different than everyone else and fighting to belong.

I read this story in one siting, the lovely language rolling off the page. Kudos to Ms. Lai who described Hà's journey beautifully and captured the emotional storms of Hà and her family so vividly. Her culture, language, the essence of who she is and where she came from slowly develops into something new. 

Hà straddles two worlds, not really belonging in either. To cling to who she is, and find a new voice makes this a strong story of growing up. The tropical feel of Vietnam contrasts well against the journey to America and Alabama. Hà and her family adapt to her new home, keeping small pieces of themselves along the way. Universal themes take on a sharper sting as we see her struggle with adolescent issues as well as cultural and racist problems. 

Lai should know, as this story is loosely based on her own experience fleeing Vietnam and ending up in Alabama.  Overall, a wonderful book which should be savored and read again and again. And bravo to Harper Collins, for publishing a diverse book with colorful characters and diversity.

Check out HarperCollins's website for more info about this book. Kimberly read this for the Diversify Your Reading Challenge. Find out more at http://www.diversityinya.com/challenge.

13 July, 2011

Plain Kate - Review

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Publication date: 1 September 2010 by Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN 10/13: 0545166640 | 9780545166645

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover (Also available in eBook, Kindle, and audiobook formats)
Keywords: Loss, grief, revenge, superstition, folktales

Alethea's Review:

I didn't really have this book on my radar until I saw the trailer--and hello, people, REALLY? Only 12 people have liked this trailer on Youtube? Sorry to go off on a tangent but I really feel like this is a less well-known book that does deserve much more attention. ;) Before I tell you why, take a look at this trailer:

Did you like it? Give it a thumbs-up!

Plain Kate is a woodcarver's daughter. When her dad passes away, her innate gift with carving wood becomes both a blessing and a curse. Her skill is considered akin to witchcraft, which could be responsible for the sleeping sickness sweeping the countryside. Without her father to protect or provide for her, the town's tongues start to wag. Plain Kate does the best she can all alone, until a stranger comes along one day... and makes everything just that much worse.

Feeling the town's trust (barely there to begin with) begin to dissipate with the morning mist, Plain Kate makes a deal and makes away with the few meager possessions she holds dear, including her cat, Taggle. Hitching her wagon to a band of Travelers provides her with some safety--she makes the first non-feline friend of her life there--but also draws her nearer and nearer to the source of the danger that plagues the whole area.

I really got hooked in by the clever language (some of which you see in the trailer)--the stranger's songs really pop amid the dry, terse narration that tells most of Plain Kate's story. Taggle takes feline behavior to the max and back, with hilarious effect, and provides the little bit of comic relief that I look for in every serious story. Plain Kate's stoic nature and the sad turns her life takes could have made for some unbearably heavy reading without that nip of humor. She's weighted down by grief, betrayal, and stigmas brought on by superstition; but what doesn't kill her does make her stronger--and that's what kept me rooting for her throughout the book.

Fans of romance will be a tad let down--there's a thread of it, but not your average, mass-market, at-first-sight kind of love. It's a deeper emotion that draws the characters to do some crazy things, and not all of them good. Anyone who enjoys the atmosphere of Eastern European folk tales and a balance between drama and comedy will really like this book.

Visit the author online at www.erinbow.com. You can follow her on Twitter @erinbowbooks

10 July, 2011

Rosie and Skate - Review

Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman
Publication date: 11 August 2009 by Wendy Lamb Books
ISBN 10/13: 0385737351 | 9780385737357

Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Format: Hardcover (also available in eBook and Kindle formats)
Keywords: Children of alcoholics, sisters, recovery, romance

Kimberly's review:

Realistic YA fiction just got another stellar book on its list with Rosie and Skate. Rosie and Skate's alcoholic dad is in prison again and things are tough. Rosie's holding out hope for Dad to get better. Skate is trying to deal with her boyfriend going to Rutgers and starting a long distance relationship. Skate lives with her boyfriend's mom and Rosie is in their worn home, being looked after by her cousin. As life moves on, the girls' grow up.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. If I had seen it at a bookstore, I may not have picked it up. (So special thanks to Alethea, book guru, who recommended it to me!) But I'm here to tell you that the front flap blurb doesn't do the book justice.

Short, sweet and well written, each girl's journey is sometimes difficult to experience, but I did--and that's good writing. There were moments when I was cringing, or I felt like my heart was breaking, or I would keep shifting on my couch to find a better position only to realize it wasn't my beat up couch making me squirm. It was the dialogue, the feeling, the love in this book.

This novel may be not suitable for younger readers, as there are references to sex and drugs; but all of these taboo topics are dealt with in a delicate and tasteful way. The characters are full and complicated. Bauman doesn't shy away from uneasy themes. Hope, love, disappointment--it's all there in a bittersweet story that made me wish there was more.

You can find Alethea's review here.

01 July, 2011

Freedom Giveaway Hop

Ack! I knew I was forgetting something... time for a giveaway.

Thanks once again to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Simply Stacie for hosting this blog hop!

You may not see us on the linky list, because I forgot to put my post up early--oh well.

You get to choose 1!

US/Canada only please... if you've already won a giveaway from me this year, please don't enter.

If you win I'll email asking which one you want (the center one is the Silver Phoenix paperback, the left and right ones are hardcovers of Silver Phoenix and the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, both by Cindy Pon.)

Make sure you fill out the form--writing a comment will not enter you in the giveaway!

Don't forget to visit the other 200 blogs on the hop!