Monday, April 16, 2012

Reading Roundup

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue (ARC 5/1) by Kristin Cashore

I read this last month and somehow I forgot to post about it—how could I do that? I just adore with world and writing of Kristin Cashore. She is one of the best fantasy writers out there and the long-awaited Bitterblue did not disappoint. It’s set as Queen Bitterblue is really beginning to take charge and rule after her father, King Leck’s, disastrous reign. Her advisors have secrets; the people’s minds are still muddled. The kingdom is a mess and Bitterblue has to somehow figure it all out. Btterblue is a well-developed and sympathetic character, the romance is handled extremely well, and I loved the details about codes. This wasn’t my favorite novel in the Graceling realm (Graceling will always remain on top), though, because it was a bit long and meandering. The novel was really about Bitterblue figuring out what she didn’t know she didn’t know; and it goes without saying that that’s a difficult thing to write about! Luckily, as I mentioned before, I just want to live in this world so any slight flaws are easily forgiven. A recommended read.

Variant (Variant, #1)Variant by Robinson Wells

I read this book for a Harper-sponsored book club but only got about a third of it read before the discussion. Normally when that happens I just say “oh well” and move onto the next book I need to read. But for Variant I had to read it! It’s a great boarding school story that is actually told from a boy’s point of view which is so fresh. And the twist? I totally didn’t see it coming! There was a great mix of action, romance, and mystery in this book and I look forward to reading the sequel. A recommended read.

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

When Rory moves from Louisiana to a boarding school in London she doesn’t expect for a Jack the Ripper copycat to begin murdering victims in her neighborhood. (Spoilers head!) She especially doesn’t expect to see the murderer when sneaking out of school one night and become the star witness in the case. But Rory’s friend Jazza didn’t see anyone there and soon Rory is seeing lots of people that no one else can. When a third roommate shows up and Rory discovers that she’s an undercover cop—for ghosts—her whole life is turned upside down. Joining the ghost hunters Rory confronts the Jack the Ripper copycat ghost and succeeds in sending him away to the afterlife. My feelings on this book are surprisingly neutral. There are definitely some strong moments; Rory is an authentic teen (she and I literally had one of the same concerns before living in London!) and her friendship with Jazza felt so real. They were a great pair. The setting was well described, the pacing was quirk, and the language enjoyable. There were a few questionable elements, though. First, as soon as the undercover cop entered the book (roughly halfway through) Jazza is relegated to the background. Although ghost hunting is cooler than roommate-bonding Jazza was such an authentic character I really missed her. It felt very odd that such a major character in the first half could so quickly become a minor character in the second half. Secondly, there were brief sections from other point of views; adults (nurse, researcher, techie) who had something to do with the Jack the Ripper case. The book even opened with one of these sections. It was jarring to get these brief sections from other points of view; although the information they gave the reader enhanced the reader’s understanding of the situation it wasn’t necessary information and could have be presented through Rory listening to the news, for example. This is a new direction for Maureen Johnson and is missing the quirkiness I loved in Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. A good comp for this is a ghost-paranormal-with-slight-historical-bend the Haunting Emma series by Lee Nichols which I think is stronger than this title. However, I love London so any book that brings the city to life as much as I did is a fun pick. And the cover is fantastic!

The Moves Make the ManThe Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks

This is an engaging tween coming-of-age story about friendship and responsibly set on a backdrop of basketball. Jerome, an African American boy in the 1970s South, thinks he can handle everything—but when he’s the only black kid to integrate the schools he meets Bix, a troubled while boy with plenty of problems. As Jerome struggled through several problems, including his mother’s hospitalization, he tries to figure out Bix. The boys bond over basketball and form a tentative friendship.
The style of narration is sure to capture readers, especially reluctant readers, because the first chapter tells of what is to come with Jerome breaking into Bix’s house and telling readers that Bix has disappeared. This is a great hook and the rest of the book is spent as a flashback showing Jerome and Bix’s growing friendship. The issues, quick writing, and basketball backdrop, and 1985 Newbery Honor are sure to keep this book popular in classroom.

I can’t tell you have many people both inside and out of the industry have recommended this middle grade fantasy series. And all those people were so right—the world building of this book is such a delightful mix of contemporary London and true fantasy elements. The story centers on neglected but extremely talented magician’s apprentice Nathaniel who has raised a djinni to extract revenge on a powerful magician by stealing a powerful amulet. Multiple adventures ensue and Nathaniel even ends up saving the Prime Minister. One of the most charming elements of this book was the first person narrative of the djinni, which includes many irreverent comments, often in the footnotes. A recommended read.

Full Manuscripts: 8

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Have you all discovered Pinterest yet? Although my favorite use for it is collecting my ridiculously large list of recipes-to-make there are plenty of fantastic book-related uses. Here are examples of how Pinterest works for readers (here, here, and here, too!), writers, and editors. How do you use Pinterest?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reading Roundup

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella. There are plenty of Cinderella retellings but this one presents a unique world with great villains. The Lunar queen’s ability to change people’s emotions and actions, as well as use glamour to change her appearance, is intriguing and she’s portrayed as the perfect icy queen. Cinder’s stepmother is similarly well done; the moment when she sends Cinder essentially to her death as a plague volunteer is powerful. Some of the plotting, however, felt heavy handed. Often hints of plot points or reveals came too soon before the actual important plot point or reveal so that it was obvious what the author was trying to set up. Similarly, I could predict (SPOILERS ahead!) that Cinder was the Lunar princess by page 50 yet it’s supposed to be the big reveal of the book. On the other hand, some plot elements felt as if they were pulled, sometimes nearly word for word, from a traditional version of Cinderella. With predictable plot elements in both the unique retelling aspects and traditional expected parts it was difficult to get pulled into the story.

The Mighty Miss MaloneThe Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
This was just the most delightful middle grade—and historical, my favorite! The middle grade voice is perfectly appropriate, and despite so many bad things happening to cute Miss Malone, the tone is hopeful and uplifting.

Jacob I Have Loved

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

This is a bittersweet story about Louise, the older of two twins, who feels that her twin Caroline gets everything—a better education, her mother’s love, even her friends. The setting of a small island off the coast of Maryland during World War II added a nice bit of historical detail to very timeless themes. Louise’s anger is so spot on to the tween experience and the reveal of when Caroline triumphs over Louise, (SPOILERS ahead) especially by marrying Louise’s best friend, is heartbreaking.The religious basis for this novel (the title is taken from a Biblical passage and it is important for the sibling rivalry) was surprising and I’m not sure if it would appeal to a modern audience. Recently I heard that it was mentioned at the A Wrinkle in Time 50th anniversary celebration that that novel wouldn’t be published today because of the religious aspects and The Hunger Games wouldn’t have been published then because of the violence. Although Jacob Have I Loved is not nearly as old as A Wrinkle in Time a 21st-century reader’s lack of education or interest in religion could turn them off to reading this novel or, at the very least, cause the Biblical references go over their heads. I have to admit—for three quarters of the story I was waiting for a boy named Jacob to show up and for Louise to fall in love with him!

Full Manuscripts: 4 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reading Roundup

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus revolves around the stories of the people involved in a magical circus that is only open during the evening. It centers on two characters, Celia and Marco, who are rivals and destined to win a lifelong magical competition that is set at the circus yet has no rules. Other characters help bring that circus to life and, by the end of many years, feel entrapped by the world they’ve helped create. With the assistance of a young spectator, Bailey, Celia and Marco are able to free themselves of the circus, complete the challenge, and stay together.

This novel was a joy to read. The world is so fully developed that the entire time I felt I was floating along in this whimsical land that just came alive. The descriptions are lush and full. There are many intertwining characters and plotlines and the intersections of each is pleasingly unpredictable and satisfying. Although a very strong novel the ending was a bit out of place. The magic used to secure a happy ending wasn’t one that had been fully present throughout the rest of the book and decisions relied too heavily on a secondary character, Bailey, that was abruptly pulled to the forefront. It felt a bit convenient. Nevertheless, the strength of the world and the impressive handling of multiple characters and plotlines makes this a really strong novel, and the fact that it’s a debut novel makes it even more impressive. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was that the depth to it—compared to YA novels it’s a larger scope, covering more time, including more characters, and entwining more complicated stories. It was refreshing. A highly recommended read.

Pretty Crooked
Pretty Crooked (ARC 3/13) by Elisa Ludwig

This is a great caper story that flips the Robin Hood myth upside down: when Willa Fox moves to a wealthy town and realizes that the popular girls are bullying the scholarship students she decides to steal from them and give to the poor girls. It’s a really fun story and Willa is likeable, despite her questionable decisions. There is also an underlying mystery about Willa’s past and her mother’s activities that I look forward to finding out more in the second book.

The Hero and the Crown
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

This classic title was enjoyable to read, although I enjoyed the companion title The Blue Sword better. Aerin is a relatable character and her grown throughout the manuscript is nice to see. I found her relationship with Luthe, though, rushed and poorly developed, yet Aerin’s decision to put her kingdom before her relationship was still powerful. This is a great piece of early feminist fantasy and clearly beloved as it was a Newbery winner and continues to be read by fantasy fans.

Plus two absolutely delightful picture books:

Extra Yarn
Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Plant a Kiss written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Full Manuscripts: 6 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading Roundup and More

My goodness, how can it already be mid-January!?

Here are the books I finished up December with:

Emily the Strange: Piece of MindEmily the Strange: Piece of Mind by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner, illustrated by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker
This conclusion of the four Emily the Strange books doesn’t disappoint. Emily is as wonderful, crazy, creative, and unique as ever and the wrap up to the series leaves all the characters in the right place. The black and red illustrations also enhance the read.

NationNation by Terry Pratchett
This teen novel isn’t set in Pratchett’s famous Discworld, but rather an alterative Victorian world which is just as fun. When a royal girl gets shipwrecked on an island where Mau is only native survivor to a horrific wave, the pair—and later the other survivors—must figure out what home, family, and community mean. The interactions between Mau and Daphne are both funny and though provoking and you’re rooting for them the whole time.

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray
Libba Bray’s Great and Terrible Beauty is one of my favorite books of all time, but her more recent writing has taken a different turn. Although I haven’t read her Printz-awarding-winning novel Going Bovine it’s clearly quirky (to say the least!). Beauty Queens is similarly off-beat. The premise is a beauty pageant meets Survivor—when a plane of contestants crashes in a seemingly deserted tropical island they must not only survive until rescued, but practice their pageant dances and keep up their beauty routines. Overall, I was disappointed by Beauty Queens. It’s so over the top that moments to explore relevant topics such as a girl’s place in society and how to balance numerous pressures could be tossed aside because nothing seemed serious. There were too many characters as well, and most didn’t go beyond a caricature. I applaud Bray for not shying away from portraying topics that are often taboo in YA literature—there is a transgendered contestant, a lesbian relationship, and multiple descriptions of various sexual activities. This could have been a very thought provoking novel if the absurdity of the situation and ridiculousness of the characters had been scaled back—however, most of this was overshadowed and lost.

Surrender (Haunting Emma)Surrender by Lee Nichols
This is the conclusion to the Haunting Emma series—a trilogy that has special significance for me. Emma, Bennett, and the rest successfully hunt the ghosts that have been causing trouble since long before the book started. My favorite part about this series is the voice—Nichols manages to write in a voice that sounds just as if your best friend was telling you her adventures. Yes, there are some dorky puns and awkward joke about sex, but this somehow makes it feel more authentic than annoying. I’ve always found these books to be some of the more compelling paranormal out there.

The WandererThe Wanderer by Sharon Creech
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit because there was more to this story than just a coming-of-age adventure. Not only is Sophie literally learning how to sail a boat across the ocean with her uncles and cousins, but there is an added depth to the story when readers discover, through cousin Cody’s journal entries, that there is some mystery as to Sophie’s past and how, despite being adopted, she claims to know the grandfather’s stories. Cody’s narrative was also charming in its humor and brevity making it more relatable than Sophie’s poetic outlook.

Picture book: Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid
Full Manuscripts: 5

So, for 2012 that leaves me at: 77 books and 66 full manuscripts. Not too bad!

My reading goals for 2011 were to read 10 historical fiction novels and finish up three 19th century classics. Well, the second goal didn’t happen at all—there’s so much good YA out there!—but I did decently well with the historical fiction, coming in at eight books. I’m absolutely going to continue working on that, especially because there are several novels (What I Saw and How I Lied, The Vespertine, and Between Shades of Gray) that I still want to read!

I’m not going to set any reading goals for 2012—it’s clear that I read. A lot. And due to my job I read a wide range of genres. I still need to reopen those classics…but those will have to be saved for extra long vacations!

Do you have any reading goals for 2012?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Coming Your Way: December and January

This is a segment of my blog that shamelessly promotes the Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books that I have worked on (or that my team has worked on that I’m particularly excited about). You’ll see more “Coming Your Way” posts in the upcoming months—the books below are titles that I worked on in the very first few weeks of starting my job at HarperCollins.

Love and LeftoversLove and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.
(If only it were that easy.)
Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.
By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?
Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

My thoughts: This is such a realistic portrayal of a teen’s heartbreak and trials of growing up—Marcie is so relatable. The prose format makes this a quick read and was actually my introduction to prose novels—I highly recommend checking them out!

My role in its publication: I offered editorial feedback on a draft of the manuscript, and Sarah, the debut author, was so sweet to recognize that by including my name in the acknowledgement sections—my first mention!

Available: Now

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My thoughts: This based-on-a-true story narrative told from Ivan the gorilla’s point of view is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s received quite a bit of author praise and starred reviews so far and they are so deserved. If Ivan’s story doesn’t make you both cry and renew your faith in the world, I don’t know what will! (Also, check out the trailer—it’s fantastic!)

My role in its publication: I provided editorial feedback on a draft of the manuscript.

Available: January 17

IncarnateIncarnate by Jodi Meadows

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.  

Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?  

Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies--human and creature alike--let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?  

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

My thoughts: My favorite part about this novel is how it doesn’t fit into any one genre—it’s fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian. It’s unique and special in an oversaturated teen marketplace. Ana is a great heroine and her romance with Sam is so achingly romantic. Not to mention themes in this novel are really thought provoking!

My role in its publication: I offered editorial feedback and drafted the flaps. Incarnate was actually the very first manuscript I read and worked on once I started at Harper, so it’s extra special to me. Jodi is a great author and it’s been fun working on the sequel right now.

Available: January 31

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year! Did you rest and relax and eat all sorts of goodies this holiday? I hope so (I sure know I did!). Since it’s the beginning of January everyone is thinking about resolutions and I have plenty of my own. One of mine is book-related and I think it deserves sharing.

Resolution: To Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

How often in the past year have industry folk and the general public alike heard how independent (and big box) bookstores are struggling? How ‘evil’ Amazon is? How Amazon doesn’t care about local booksellers? Lots and lots. And, on the flip side, how often is it discussed that local bookstores know books and their customers better than anyone else? And who hosts author events? Local bookstores—we hear about this all the time! Although these discussions are complicated they make one thing clear in my mind: If we want the wonderful institution of local, independent bookstores to remain, we need to support them over online retailers.

I have not been doing this. Buying books on Amazon is (often) cheaper and easier than from a physical store. 99% of my books come from the online retailer—I even have an credit card which gives me reward points that I turn around and use at Amazon. I’ve embraced Amazon as much as anyone else—even knowing its pitfalls better than the general public. And I’m beginning to feel horrible about it.

And so, my New Years Resolution is to buy more books—at least 50%—at a local store. This means the books I buy are going to cost more, and being on a budget such as I am, I’ll probably have to buy fewer books. But with my reading levels staying the same I’ll have to visit the library to get that additional reading material—and that’s another fine institution to be more actively supporting!

Do you have any book-related resolutions for 2012?