Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Theodosia Eyes of Horus - R.L. Lafevers

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus by R.L. Lafevers
When I discovered Theodosia (Theo) last year, she was already into her second adventure "Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris I kept putting off reading the book but eventually got to it and loved it. Eyes of Horus was just as good. Theo's parents own the Museum of Legends and Antiquities. Theo is able to detect and remove curses and black magic on artifacts. Theo finds the Eyes of Horus, a very valuable Egyptian artifact in the museum's holdings. Theo must quickly figure out who she can trust, and avoid the people looking to harm her.

Smart and independent Theo was one of my favorite female protagonist of 2009 and she didn't disappoint. This is simply a very well done mystery series and a whole lot of fun. Its perfect for fans of Glida Joyce.

An excerpt from The Eyes of Horus

An excerpt from book one, which is available in paperback.

I took the time to link to two excerpts because this series is that good.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teenie - Christopher Grant

Teenie by Christopher Grant
Freshman, Martine (Teenie) is at the top of her class, she's been working hard to get accepted to Young Scholars Study Abroad Program. Getting in would mean a free trip to Spain.

After Teenie gets her braces off, Cherise, the best friend convinces Teenie to wear something boys will notice. The new look catches the eye of Gregory, a senior and basketball captain.

While Teenie is book smart she needs Cherise help navigating outside of the classroom. After the two have a falling out. Teenie has no one turn to and ends up in a compromising position with Gregory.

Grant doesn't create any wild and unbelievable scenes, the truth of possibility is going to catch many reluctant readers. From Teenie falling for a senior with bad intentions to Cherise chatting online with someone in college.

Teenie's parents are West Indian. The author does an excellent job of intertwining Teenie's cultural background into the story. It was such a pleasure to read a hard too part down contemporary YA novel with a Black female character with Caribbean roots.

"My dad has these sayings - I call them Bereisms and teefin is one that he uses most frequently. Teefin or stealing is done by a teef (thief) or when my dad's really angry, a teefah. It's no wonder that growing up I thought Queen Latifah was a criminal mastermind."

Teenie is a very believable and likeable character.

"At Tech, the lunchroom is the place to be seen. Since I roll with Cherise, I get to sit in the cool section with other freshman. We have to wait our turn before we can mingle with the upperclassman. In our section, the middle of the northwest area, we sit with our clique.

Our area is prime real estate, not too far from the lunch line and within earshot of the football team. Today, for the first time ever I heard them asking about me, the shorty in the Wade dress.

I really liked Teenie. (The story and the girl) ages 13up

Google preview via Powells

Monday, December 27, 2010

I, Emma Freke - Elizabeth Atkinson

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson
12yr old Emma is the tallest girl in her school 5 ft 10 in, and her full name Emma Freke sounds like Am a freak. This was one of those books with funny characters and funnier moments that I love.

Emma lives with her mother Donatella, her grandfather Nonno and his old dog, eggplant. Donatella owns a bead shop but Emma does most of the work. Donatella believes in a lassisez - faire approach to parenting. Emma and Donatella are nothing alike and there isn't more of a resemblance. So when Emma's best friend Penelope who is adopted, asked Emma if she may be adopted as well its seems more possible then not.

Though Emma isn't adopted she simply takes after her father's side of the family. Emma has never meet her father and knows nothing about his family. Donatella lets Emma go to the annual Freke family reunion in Wisconin. Amongst the Freke's Emma no longer stands out, and she learns a lot about her father's side of the family and herself.

This was one of those books with funny characters and funnier moments that I love falling into. I, Emma Freke works so well, because Atkinson, establishes Emma's voice from the very beginning and the dialogue is great. Penelope has two moms and it not a big deal, it simply is.
Check out the excerpt to get a glimpse of Emma.

Professional reviews via the author's site

Friday, December 24, 2010

La Maza - Silvio Rodriguez

I live in a predominately Spanish speaking neighborhood. Sometimes when I miss the city bus, I ride the $1 van which cost a $1.50 to the train. The last time I rode the van, the driver played a song and I just had to know what it was. Its was crazy beautiful. I felt it was moved by it. I was not getting off until I found out who was singing.

The song was La Maza by Silvio Rodriquez, who is considered the best known Cuban Folk singer.* This is an amazing performance, everyones insync. From Rodriquez voice, to the guitars, percussion and Nirkua Gonazalez on flute. Gonazelez, crushes a solo about 3 minutes in. I have much respect for any flutist that can work it like that, that takes some serious breath control.

* I am going to do a quick book tie in. I recently read a great new picture book on Odetta Holmes called " Odetta :The Queen of Folk" by Stephen Alcorn. Odetta influenced many artist including Bob Dylan.

Will review The Queen of Folk after the holidays. Until then Feliz Navidad

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trapped - Michael Northrop (On Sale Now)

Trapped by Michael Northrop
Scotty is a Sophomore at Tattawa Regional High School in New England. When an unexpected blizzard comes to town, seven kids are stranded at school, including Scotty and two of his friends Pete and Tommy. Les, Elijah, Krista and Julie are the other four students.

Scotty is one of the survivors, so we hear his story of being trapped at school for seven days.

Before I started reading, I wondered how Northrop would manage to have seven students still at school during a snow storm. I couldn't help thinking, everyone would be on their way home, making this scenario impossible. But the author quickly made it seem very possible. After that is was easy to lose myself in Trapped. It's a serious page turner.

Everything that happens, from the school losing power to physical violence was inevitable. What makes this story that much more powerful and scary is the fact that it doesn't seem that far out there.

" I remember the snow, drifting sideways into half crescents in the windowpanes, and I remember that I didn't eat my corn. I don't know if I took a bite and thought it was a little too soggy or if I just remembered that it had been soggy the last time, but I left it there on my tray.

As dumb as this sounds, that bothered me for days. I mean soggy or not, it was decent corn prepared by people who were at least borderline professionals. It was definitely a whole lot better than what I'd end up eating soon enough, and I'd just thrown it away, I still remember the little flash of yellow as I pushed the tray onto the conveyor belt that took it into the back of the kitchen, where the giant, hissing dishwashing machines were. Whoever thought you could be haunted by corn niblets?

Trapped is great winter time read. It's that much easier to picture the never ending snow. While walking in the cold, I found myself sympathizing with the characters, and wondering what I would do if I was in their situation. Imagining being stuck with six people anywhere thanks to a week long blizzard is scarier then any fantasy novel because of the possibility factor.

*I requested and received an arc of Trapped, which was scheduled to be released it February. It is out now, or at least where I work. Amazon still has Trapped listed as a pre-order, but trust me I've seen the finished copy in store for sale. So check your local bookstore.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Flavors of Dumb - Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Piper is a senior and the best player on a two member chess team. The day after Dumb, a high school band plays an unauthorized concert and gets detention, she becomes their manager. Josh, the lead singer offered the job as a sort of challenge after Piper disses Dumb's ability to capitalize on a recent win. Piper is severally hearing impaired but this doesn't stop her from saying yes. She has one month to get the band a paying gig.

In a family of five, Piper is the only one who is deaf. The author doesn't dwell on Piper's deafness, nor does he ignore it, it simply is.

"The scene on the steps was oddly compelling, even aesthetically pleasing. The bright, late September sun glinted off the teen proof tempered windows. Beside me, Kallie Sims, supermodel wannabe, was a vision of flawless dark skin and meticulously flat ironed hair. Even Dumb's instruments looked shiny and cared for. And all the while I could feel the music pounding in my hands, my feet, my chest. For a moment, I understood how Dumb might have won the Battle of the Bands on pure energy alone."

Dumb started out with three members, Josh Cooke, the vocalist, his twin brother Will on bass and Tash Hartley on lead guitar. Ed Chen, Piper's best friend (and the other chess member) is Dumb's new drummer, after blowing everyone away with his skills. The final member is Kallie Sims, another guitarist. Kallie isn't a great musician but she loves and needs music. Josh tricked Piper into help voting Kallie into the band. Now he expects something in return from Kallie

Piper must figure out a way to get these five different people to play as one. She has personality and skill level clashes to contend with. At home Piper must come to terms with her parents using her college fund to play for her baby sister's cochlear implant surgery. Piper's doesn't have a great relationship with her father, who has never taken the time to learn sign language.

Someone realizes Piper isn't familiar with Seattle's musical influence. This anonymous person has Piper visit the homes of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. The outings become bonding moments for some members of Dumb.

" Ten minutes later, we joined the rush hour traffic heading east on I-90 across Lake Washington, fighting a stiff breeze that whipped waves against the bridge. I peered in the rearview mirror occasionally, but no one on the backseat was talking. Whatever thoughts we were lost in we were lost in together"

This is one of those books where everything comes together so well and all I wanted to do was keep reading. I was pleasantly surprised by how emotionally charged it was, getting beyond the superficial. The author excels here, by not forcing it, he simply lets everything and everyone develop naturally. Piper might be the main character but everyone in Dumb has their moment.

I loved watching female band members, Tash and Kallie come into their own. There's a great scene when Piper, Tash and Kallie come together and simply leave the boys and the chaos behind. Five Flavors of Dumb has many layers and I loved them all.

Kallie's need and pure understanding of rock touched me so much, I had no choice but to break out my Nirvana unplugged CD while reading.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Well Done, Bloomsbury

Recently, Justine Larbalestier's Liar was released in paperback. Before the book was released there was a cover controversy

Thankfully a enough people spoke out against a White girl on a cover of a book that featured a biracial protagonist the cover was changed.

I loved this new cover, and even better I didn't have to miss a great story. Liar was one of my favorite novels of 2010.

With the big push back over cover misrepresentation I thought Bloomsbury learned it's lesson. I was wrong. 11 months after writing that Dear Bloomsbury letter, I am very happy to have reason to write this.

Bloomsbury released two great Middle Grade novels by African American authors this year.

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson

And Finding Family by Tonya Bolden

Now when I think of Bloomsbury Childrens my memory is linked to these very good stories, that are far from more of the same. I will never forget the cover controversies but I more than willing to move forward. Earlier in the year, I gave much space to the cover malfunctions. So it only seems fair to acknowledge Bloomsbury's move in the right direction. Well Done.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Picture The Dead - Adele Griffin, Lisa Brown

Picture The Dead by Adele Griffin illus. by Lisa Brown.
Jennie and her twin brother, Toby moved in with their Uncle Henry and Aunt Clara after their parents died. Jennie's distance Uncle and Aunt, are well to do and have two sons, Will and Quinn.

After Toby dies in battle (Civil War) Jennie was left alone, but Toby's ghost did visit on occasion. Aunt Clara doesn't think much of Jennie. In 1864, the only thing keeping 17 yr old Jennie in good standing is her engagement to Will. When Quinn returns wounded from the war, with news of Will's death, Jennie knows are future is in question.

Will may be dead but his ghost won't leave Jennie alone, she must figure out why. Does Will have something to tell her? Or is Will refusing to let Jennie go even in death? Or is he jealous now that Jennie has fallen in love with Quinn?

Griffin's lauguage is the right amount of beauty and questioning darkness. And 100% lovely.

"Quinn, I didn't draw on the glass." He takes another step away from me. "Who, then? My brother's damaged and wandering spirit? As a reminder of his everlasting love for you?" I feel his exasperation pulse through every moment . I have no answer the tears that well in my eyes.

"If this is your game, then so be it," he says levelly. "But remember, love isn't a nightmare, or an empty bed, or a print on fogged glass. Love is flesh and blood. Don't you see me? Because I'm right here, and I'm very much yours."

Then he leaves, shutting the door firmly behind him. I'm pained to have led the conversation into such a fraught and stupid place. Now I'm alone with my view and a knowledge that no matter how lovely this room is, it won't give me the peace I crave. I press my forehead to the window. "If I'm a ghoul Will, it's your doing," I say under my breath. " Let me have my future. If you ever loved me, you'd free me."

Picture the Dead sounded like something I would love and I did. It's a well crafted, entertaining, page turner. Griffin kept me guessing until the very end. Lisa Brown's illustrations added another dimension to the story. I only put the book down when there was nothing left to read. Ages 13up
Read an excerpt

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Museum of Thieves - Lian Tanner

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner
Goldie lives in the city of Jewel. The city has lived through disastrous times and now the people live in fear of everything. For their protection kids are raised and chained to a Blessed Guardian until they are 12 yrs old.

When the book opens 12 yr old Goldie is being punished on Separation Day. Goldie has spent much of her time with The Blessed Guardians in trouble, the last day is no different. Many of the kids are excited about separation day but they worry about everything from colds to kidnappers. Goldie only wants to be free.

Separation Day is canceled after Fugleman, leader of the Blessed Guardian gives word that there was an explosion. Goldie couldn't take it anymore and dared to escape. Goldie finds shelter at Dunt, an old museum with many secrets and hidden doors.

The museum is home to four keepers who disagree with the power of the Blessed Guaridans and are dedicated to doing what's best for the city. One is a boy named Toadspit. Everyone at the museum teaches Goldie, not to be scared of everything and how to fight the Guardians.

This was a great page turner. I found myself holding my breath for Goldie. Even more so, because its visually well done.

"As they crept from wagon to wagon, Goldie's skin itched with the knowledge that the sentries might return at any moment. She tried to tell herself that this was a war from hundreds of years ago, that it was over and done with, that surely it could not hurt her. But the camp around her was as real as anything she had ever seen. Flies settled on her face and arms. her feet kicked up little clumps of mud. High above her, the slaughterbirds wove a dance of death."

There were moments when the message of , the need for freedom and living should not be sacrificed for fear was a little heavy handed. Though I liked Goldie so much I was more then willing to focus on what worked, which was a lot.

The author created a great bad guy in Fugleman. One of the books many strengths are the developed secondary characters. I am really looking forward to seeing where Tanner takes this series.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Invisible Things - Jenny Davidson

Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson
Its 1938, after being snuck out of Scotland, 16 yr old Sophie is living in Denmark. Sophie knows little of her parents, scientists who died in an explosion, when she was very young. She was raised by her Great - Aunt Tabitha until she had no choice but to leave Scotland. In Denmark, Sophie is staying with Fru Peterson and her son Mikael, where she's surrounded by some of the top scientist of the world.

Sophie is trying to learn the truth behind explosion that killed her parents. She really wants to speak to Alfred Nobel, their former boss. Its taking Sophie time to adjust to Denmark but there's no going back to Scotland. Everyday brings talk of a possible war.

I enjoyed Invisible Things even more then Davidson's debut The Exposionst- when readers are first introduced to Sophie. The author's language is detailed and beautiful, at times I loved losing myslef in it. Davidson did an excellent job of making Sophie's thoughts, opinions and observations very real.

"It was not so much that Sophie minded actually riding a bicycle. It was quiet enjoyable, really, once one was rolling along, so long as one did not allow oneself to become flustered when a dog took chase or a small child rushed directly out into one's path. But bicycles themselves were so troublesome and awkward! One banged one's shins on them and knocked into things as one tried to wheel them out of congested areas, and it still seemed to Sophie impossible to imagine walking and wheeling the wretched contraption at anything like a normal pace. "

"One of the things that most amazed Sophie about the institute was the unending stream of conversation, conversation exceptional in its quality as well as its quantity. Bohr seemed to think best in the company of others, a mode of operating Sophie found intriguing but strange, and he conducted himself during these endless conversations with an utter lack of reserve."

Though I don't have a brain for science, I was still fascinated by the various scientific conversations. And the what ifs that could've changed the outcome of WWII. When I found myself lingering on passage, I couldn't help but think of how much crossover appeal this book has for adult readers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer - Lisa McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lisa McBride
Since dropping out of college, Sam's been working at a local burger joint with his best friend Ramon. The two are also friends with Brooke and Larry, the new guy. Sam's life is very ordinary, that all changes after he accidentally breaks a car taillight while playing potato hockey.

The car's owner Douglas is a necromancer. Sam is unaware he is also a necromancer, Douglas knows and he doesn't like competition. Sam and his friends are struggling to understand what's going on, especially after Douglas sends a very violent message.

I am making this sound darker it is. I probably should've started by saying, this is very funny. The author does an excellent job of balancing the action and the humor. I loved the characters and the dialogue. The story moves at a great pace. Set in Seattle, McBride takes the time to visually paint a picture of city. Thankfully this looks like the first book in a series. I am looking forward to seeing all of these characters again.

Read an excerpt

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Morris Debut Award/ Book Predictions

The William C. Morris YA debut award finalists were recently announced.

About the Morris Award
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

The award's namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.

The Finalists
1. Hush by Eishes Chayil
2. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
3. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
4. Crossing Tracks by Barbara Stuber
5. The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

I've only finished two of the five and I loved them both. Guardian of the Dead and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. The stories are very different, though they did have one thing they have in common, diversity.

YA literature is a popular genre right now, so there are a lot of debuts. Unfortunately, many lack any type of diversity. Yet, two of the five feature a diverse cast and a third finalist, Hush is set in a Jewish Community.

I don't know if these means anything but I love seeing it and it gives me hope that inclusion will soon be the norm.

I am getting in some end of the year reading. So I can make my children's awards predictions.

I recently read 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores -Galbis. Since Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Mccall released date was pushed back to May. I believe I've read but one of MG and YA titles eligible for the Belpre. I only I haven't read it Mr. Mendoza's Paintbursh by Luis Alberto Urrea. I still want to read, A Long Way Gone by Rene Saldana. It sounds great but past the eligibility range.

I finally plan on reading How Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. I've had it for a while, I just couldn't read it so soon after The Warmth of Others Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and They Called Themselves the kkk by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I also plan on checking out Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson and Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

One title that is going to be a the top of my Newbery list is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. The author will be doing a book signing with four other authors, this Monday, Dec 13th.
There's still time to call 347- 770-8114 to order a signed copy.

I've been reading a lot of great Y recently, which is going to make guessing the Printz much harder. I can't do any worse then last year. I only guessed one honor book. Though I still believe author Franscisco X Stork was sadly overlooked for Marcelo in the Real World . Though thanks to last years Printz I did read and love The Tales of Madman Underground by John Barnes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Scrawl - Mark Shulman

Scrawl by Mark Shulman
Tod Munn is a school bully. After, he and three friends are caught doing something which could've landed him in juvie hall, Tod is given daily after school detention. He must keep a journal, the only other person in the room is Mrs. Woodrow, the guidance counselor.

Tod's voice is very realistic and funny.

"With lifetime penmanship detention, I don't have to come home and give my mom's husband new reasons why I still haven't gotten an after-school job. It wouldn't matter. It's not like they're suddenly going to cut off my supply of macaroni and chese and instant mashed."

I have Elizabeth Blumele to thank for putting Scrawl on my radar. I loved Tod Munn. He's one of my favorite male protagonist of 2010.

I didn't do this book justice. So please check out the excerpt

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour - Day 5

Check out today's WBBT interviews.

Marilyn Singer at Writing and Ruminating
Jennifer Donnelly at Shelf Elf
Ted Chiang at Shaken & Stirred
Sofia Quintero at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Maria Snyder at Finding Wonderland

Every year I am wowed by WBBT, and this year is no exception. I loved it because its obvious from the questions and answers that both the interviewer and interviewee are want to be doing the interview as opposed to going through the motions.

All of the interviews (including the two I did) can be found here

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interview with Heidi Ayarbe (2010 WBBT W/Giveaway)

I read Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe back in May. Months (and many books) later its still one of my favorite YA novels of 2010. In 2009 Ayarbe's debut Freeze Frame won the IRA Children's and Young Adult Book Award

I wanted to reach out to the author when I first finished Compromised to see about doing an interview but I assumed there would many positive reviews in the blogosphere and the author's inbox would be filled with blogger interview request.

All the reviews I've seen are positive but there aren't that many. Compromised being under the radar, meant I hadn't lost my chance at interview with Heidi Ayarbe. ( Lucky Me)

Hi Heidi, Congratulations and thank you for a wonderful new novel.

Thank you for having me. I like this idea of having a stealth novel out there. Though being more conspicuous would probably be better for my career. :-)

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Compromised?

My big sister and best friend, Carrie, is my self-proclaimed biggest fan. My parents are definitely two of the strongest, most honorable, loving people on the planet. (no hyperbole there. Really. They are. I grew up in Carson City, Nevada, went to college in Reno and moved to Colombia, South America in 1997 which, considering I had spent the better part of the first 23 and a half years of life within an arm's reach of my family, was a Big Move.

A year and a half after arriving to Colombia, six months before finishing my teaching contract, I met my now-husband and subsequently stalked him for five years until he buckled and decided he'd either have to marry me or have a weird neighbor. We traveled all over the world, living and backpacking throughout 26 countries until we decided one day, sitting in a bar in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina drinking Gancia that it was time to share our lives with someone else.

Amelia Marie was born approximately ten months later. We haven't really traveled since, except to visit Nevada in fall because, well, I can't imagine a life without leaf pile jumping. So we live in Colombia and storm Nevada every fall! (And I do go up with Amelia when I have book releases, too!) Probably Way too much info there. And most likely the wrong kind!

Compromised is my second novel. (Freeze Frame, my first, came out in October 2008). Compromised was a really tough novel to write, but one I'm glad I hung in there to do because it's sometimes hard to see the truth and even harder to tell it without getting too corny or hopeless.

There are no wrong answers (in this case, that's actually true) What's the YA market like in Colombia?

Not existent. Unfortunately. In Pereira, the city where I live, the books-read-per-year average is fewer than one per person. That low. Nationwide I think it's fewer than two per person. (Only counting urban areas). I'm not really sure why, but I'm thinking that a lot has to do with a culture of oral tradition and music more than written tradition and reading.

I work at a non-profit bi-national institute and we Really try to make reading an incentive -- something that comes from the home. There are Harry Potter books here and Twilight, but the wealth of children's books we have in the States hasn't arrived. The libraries here are good. And they're being used. But it's an uphill battle -- one I'm willing to wage! So, basically, when I say I write YA books, I get blank stares.

I thought the beginning was great. Sometimes as a reader I like when authors don't hold my hand at the onset, but get right into the story. Maya and her con-man dad are in the middle of having everything they own repossessed. And, the dad is very close to being caught.

How many opening scenarios did you dismiss before you decided this was the one?
This was always the beginning. This, in fact, was where Compromised was born. One evening, Cesar and I were out to dinner with friends and one told us about the time he arrived home to see everything in his house repossessed. That seeded the idea -- the idea of a young girl losing everything she owned, then, ultimately, everything she had that defined who she believed she was as a person. I never changed this first scene ... just the rest of the book!

Maya's scientific thought process and know it all personality could've easily turned me off but didn't. One of the reason I liked Maya, she was who she was, outlined Hypothesis and all.

When did you know science and scientific reasoning would be Maya's thing? And Why?

I have a rule of thumb for novel characters. Protagonist or antagonist, they have to be good at something. They have to excel so we can admire them (even if we might hate them). So, one day, while imagining this character, I asked my husband what she should be good at, and he said plants. (He grows exotic flowers and foliage for exportation). I felt like plants and botany alone was too limiting, but I liked the idea of the science behind it, then moved forward from there ... I wanted the reader to see the world through Maya's lens -- and hers was one of reason because giving into emotion would put her too much at risk.

But her reasoning mind put her more at risk on the streets because she was so detached to what might happen, not listening to her "gut", busy trying to find ways to make sense of things that are senseless. Maya's science, I felt, was a great place for constant conflict in a book in which survival depends a lot more on instinct than setting up a hypothesis and going through the procedure.

After Maya's dad is arrested, she's placed at Kids Place, where she meets Nicole who geeks Mafia facts and has always been in the system. I found Nicole and Maya, slowly getting to know each other while on the run, very refreshing. First they tolerated each other, then accepted and finally friendship.

When Maya and Nicole hit the streets together, Maya brings the book smarts, Nicole the street smarts. Which do you believe is more important?

I think the book shows that balance is the most important. I got book smarts from my education and street smarts from traveling around the world, and now I feel much more prepared having both ... and valuing both.

The diagloue between Maya and Nicole is very good. It's writing students should be paying attention and taking notes good.

What's the key to good diagloue?

Revisions! Okay. Actually good dialogue comes from honest characters. Honest characters come from somebody who knows them inside-out. Characters who aren't trying to be anyone but who they are (which, in a world of appearances, is sometimes hard to create). Sometimes they'll "surprise" you while you're writing, but when going over the surprising scene, you'll see how it was just right.

What's important to remember in writing is that every single scene, dialogue, exchange is an opportunity to reveal something about your character. And everything that character says Must Be From That Character... not you, the writer. So at the end of the day, you can put that character in any situation and know how she/he will react.

As the two try to find Maya's aunt Sarah, who may or may not exist, 10 yr old Klondike, who suffers from tourette syndrome, quickly attaches himself to Maya and Nicole.

When Kondike enters, the story Maya and Nicole have great chemistry. Kondike could've easily disrupted that, but doesn't.

At any point did you ever reconsider adding a third character into the dynamic?

The story always needed Klondike because he is, I believe, who ultimately brings Nicole and Maya together. Without him, they'd never have truly become family. And they would never have taken the emotional and physical risks they did had it not been for him. Compromised couldn't exist without him. It would've been too cynical. He was the heart of the story.

When you were creating Klondite, what did you do to make sure you were protraying a character with tourette's to the best of your abilities?

He was tough to write because with Tourette's being such an extreme condition, over-writing him would've been simple. In fact, in my first draft, the poor kid was just a walking tic. I watched several documentaries about Tourette's. I had read Motherless Brooklyn and was fascinated with that character. I spent a lot of time investigating the syndrome and asking friends who work with kids with Tourette's about the subtleties of the disease.

The ending was simply WOW for me. I loved the far from perfect feel of it. Like the rest of the story the strengths lies in its believably.

I actually changed the ending about six times because I knew what I wanted to happen but knew what I thought would probably happen -- and the two didn't coincide. It was tough to find that place where it felt right ...

What are some of your favorite genres?

Contemporary YA and adult fiction. I also really like historical works. (When I'm writing I don't read contemp YA so I try for adult fiction, biographies, historical fiction etc.) Plus, I'm a bit obsessed with Everest novels, climbing high mountains, extreme conditions, not being able to breathe on earth. So I love those kinds of biographical novels

Maya geeks, science, Nicole geeks the Mafia. What do you geek?

I worked for a few years, off and on, at a specialized sporting goods store for backpackers, kayakers, skiers etc. I used to really geek gear. (You would've have found me dead in a Columbia jacket -- only Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Arc'teryx and all that stuff!) ... That was several years ago. Now I don't get gear at cost so my gear geeking is over! ;-) I'd like to say I geek books, but compared to most agents, editors, book reps, sellers, and librarians out there, my book geeking is pretty minimal. These people read first then breathe. Amazing!

Three must see places for anyone visiting Colombia?*

The Coffee Region (where I live) is exquisite with its mountains, bamboo forests, butterflies, hummingbirds, and wonderful people. Cartagena -- on the Caribbean -- is a magical place. An Colonial city with cobble-stoned streets, the best juices on the planet, and a history filled with pirates, rebellion, gold/silver/emerald exportations to Europe and more!

Boyaca -- North of Bogota, the region where emeralds are mined, is a favorite of mine. It's a region dotted with fantastic villages, all known for something particular: artesan crafts, a particular fruit, colonial villages with names like Mongui, Paipa, Raquira and Sogamozo ... Who wouldn't want to visit a place with those names?

COMPULSION -is a starkly honest, compelling read. It will grab you and plunge you into the unusual, yet strangely familiar mind of Jake Martin and you will come out different.
— Francisco Stork, author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming release Compulsion Which is scheduled to be released in May 2011

I'm pretty excited about Compulsion. It's a big risk because it takes place over a period of four days in which the main conflict is within my main character's head. Jake suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and everything falls apart for him over the course of one weekend. Writing about a mental illness that's so hard to understand, about which our only cultural references about OCD come from the TV show Monk or Hoarders, was a huge challenge.

It was a subject I really wanted to explore. I loved creating Jake and one of my all-time favorite characters, Mera. It's scheduled for release May 3. I'm grateful for my publisher, Balzer and Bray, editor, Ruta Rimas, and agent, Stephen Barbara, for giving me opportunities to write about things that are risky like this. I'm pretty lucky to have such a strong professional team behind me.

Heidi, Thanks so much your time. I wish you much non stealth success in the future.

The author is graciously, giving away one signed copy of Compromised. (Open to United States residents only)

The lucky winner will be the first person to leave a comment. Please name one of your favorite YA novels of 2010 , you think more people should know about.

Be Sure to check out the other WBBT interviews

Kathi Appelt at Shelf Elf
Julia DeVillers & Jennifer Roy at Bildungsroman
LeUyen Pham at Finding Wonderland
Paula Yoo at Hip Writer Mama

If you've missed Monday - Wednesday, no worries. The round up can always be found at Chasing Ray

*This final image is from Heidi's blog. I wanted a visual that represented Colombia. Check out the original post about Simon Velaz, an award winning Colombian architect who specializes in bamboo.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour - Day 3

Today's 2010 WBBT

Andrea Seigel at Shaken & Stirred
Adele Griffin at Bildungsroman
Susan Campbell Bartoletti at Chasing Ray
Charles Benoit at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Sarah MacLean at Writing & Ruminating
Allen Zadoff at Hip Writer Mama

For anyone who appreciates a good interview

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Interview with B.A. Binns (2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour)

If you read my blog you know I love doing interviews. (If you're stopping by for the first time, for the 2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour. Welcome) When I finished Pull, an excellent YA debut, I knew I wanted to interview the author, Barbara Binns. She writes under the name B.A. Binns. My review

Hello Barbara and welcome. Please tell us a little about yourself and Pull?

Born and raised in Chicago. While I am not the main character in Pull, he and I are both products of divorce. I was the eldest of five children (meaning he does not know how lucky he was to have only two siblings). I graduated from Hyde Park High School in Chicago, earned college degrees in Biochemistry and Computer Science and worked first in the medical field and then in the IT department at AT&T.

I began writing seriously in 2007 just after I retired. I’ve taken courses at local junior colleges, as well as becoming a member of RWA and SCBWI and taking many on-line writing courses. I won’t begin to count how many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written since then. Pull is my first published novel, but not my first completed book.

P. S. I don’t play basketball, I don’t do construction, and I have no sons. I have an adult daughter, and teen boys are just the creatures I used to warn her about.

Pull is set in your home town of Chicago. Have you had the opportunity to do a event at Hyde Park ?

No, but I would love to, especially since many of my memories of Hyde Park helped create my fictional Farrington High School. When I first sold I tried to visit with the vice-principal, the school year was ending and there was no time time. When school started up again I sent them a letter about myself and my book but never heard anything back. I know I should persevere, so maybe I'll give them another try, especially now that other schools are issuing me invitations.

Hyde Park better hurry up and schedule an event, while you can still fit them in.

I must admit, I am prone to judge a book quickly, from the start David Albacore comes across as someone I want to know.

Did anyone you know in real life inspire the character of David?

David is loosely based on my nephew, Craig Houston Jr. Although neither a basketball player or into construction, he was a wonderful young man, always cheerful and helpful, even after his parents divorce. He too found school a chore, but had reached college when he died at twenty-one following an asthma attack.

After school David works at job he loves construction, to help support him and his sisters.

Where did this love of construction come from?

I assume you mean David, because I’m like that guy who can’t drive a nail straight. Although I did share a pizza slice with a young construction worker one winter night when I first started writing Pull. But that’s another story and besides I only used him for research. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

David went into construction first because he needed a job that paid more than minimum wage and found a family friend willing to hire a part-timer. Once in the trade, he found himself a natural. Some people learn from books, some from their hands. He’s the latter. Add in co-workers who treated him like a man from the start, and a boss he learned to respect, and he was hooked. I think he likes the solitary nature of the work too. There is a crew, but mostly he gets to work alone, just him and his thoughts. And at the end of the shift, he has something tangible to show for his efforts.

"Tantly written gripping and realistic, the strength of this story comes from the
author's refusal to take shortcuts or make up a traditional happy ending, but to let a true story twist,turn, and play out to its realistic, unromanticized, satisfying conclusions." - Tanita S.Davis, Coretta Scott King Award winning author of Mare's War

David falls for Yolanda Dare. I was surprised that Yolanda turned out to be the girl ,David was interested because the "supposedly easy girl" is never the love interest. This was one of the many things I liked about Pull.

Why did you decide the love interest would be the girl with the reputation?

Yolanda didn’t start out that way. According to her original character sketch she was supposed to be a typical little princess, a youngest daughter with an impressive set of older, overprotective brothers who didn’t like this David person who wandered into her life. But for some reason, when I wrote the cafeteria scene, Barney and Yolanda became immediate enemies. I made the decision not to fight that, which meant changes in other areas.

Yolanda’s boyfriend became the catalyst for their enmity, and he couldn’t be a nice guy, because she was going to leave him for David. Which meant I needed a reason why she would stay with a creep. That led to self-esteem issues and secrets she needed to hide, so suddenly, by the magic of Goal-Motivation-Conflict she lost the loving family and developed reputation that kept her from having friends who might pry into her secrets.

Every school has these so-called bad girls. Every student knows who the bad girls are, and a lot of girls envy their apparent freedom and fun lifestyle. I used Yolanda to show readers, especially young female readers, that fun can be a facade and that everything isn’t always what it seems.

There are many things standing in the way of David and Yolanda getting together. Including Yolanda's, cheating and abusive boyfriend Malik.

Do you think David had it in him to be a Malik, if things had worked out differently?

Oh yes, I fear the potential is there, especially with David’s male role-model a wife abuser who modeled the behavior that men had to be in charge. I think at the beginning his fear that he could repeat his father’s violence is justified. And let’s face it, he’s got looks, and talent, and he’s a basketball star—he’d have girls all over him and no matter what he did. His need to protect his sisters and eventually Yolanda, were the catalysts to facilitate his change. As one of my critique partners told me, there is a fine line between Alpha Male and Obnoxious Male. To me,these two guys stand just barely on their side of the line.

David keeps a close eye on his sister Barney. Though Malik still finds a way to start sweet talking Barney. I really liked this storyline. In YA you already ever see the unsuspecting girl being worked on by an older guy. Yet,so many girls Barney's age end up in bad sexual relationships because they're vulnerable. That could've easily happened to Barney, after being exposed to her parents abusive relationship and uprooted to a new home.

If Malik is so bad, why do so many girls try so hard to get his attention?

Before I start a new work I have two quotes from my research into teenagers that I reread. One reminds me that teenage girls have a near universal fear that “a girl unremarked by boys ceases to exist.” The other that “there are few forces more potent to the adolescent girl than the male gaze.” I used that to develop Malik and his relationships with Yolanda, Barney and the other girls around him.

Malik has it all, looks, money, a car and he’s captain of the basketball team. He’s a silver-tongued devil as well. He spends time and energy perfecting his image. He also at least pretends to be exclusive, giving girls the feeling that they need to fight to get him. He’s the ultimate bad boys and those guys have always been attractive, even adult women find themselves taken in by the allure of the independent maverick. Even when intellect tells us he’s wrong, emotions overrule

Add in any kind of self-esteem issue which too many high school girls have, and he ends up being one of those sticky-glue traps that are easy to fall into and hard to get out of again.

I can't do this interview and not mention the first kiss, early on in the story. It takes place in the cafeteria but doesn't involve David. He and Barney are simply sitting at Neill and Carl's lunch table when they kiss.

I was reading Pull the week it seemed teen gay suicides were being reported daily because of bullying. Neill and Carl's kiss was unexpected and much appreciated. I had pretty much given up hope finding any gay or lesbian characters in any YA books by Black authors this year.

Was Neill and Carl's relationship a conscious decision?

Neil was a conscious decision. I wanted a gay youth that was neither a stereotype nor someone David had to rescue. Neill’s job was to be strong, confident, intelligent and David’s friend. Carl was added in to put Neill in a committed relationship, so there would be no “lusting after the new hunk” complications. The kiss was absolutely organic, the characters made the decision to act as I wrote the scene; I just went along with them.

At the end David had to make a difficult decision, either follow his mother's dream of college or his love of construction?

I agreed with David's choice, because it seemed liked the right one for him. What do you want readers to take away from David's decision?

I hope readers see that David agonized over the decision. One size does not fit all. David put a lot of thought into his choice and he made a plan. To me, the plan is the sign of his maturity, he acknowledged there were risks and sought assistance to make things work out. And that’s why I’m sure he will succeed.

I hope that both young people and adult readers faced with difficult decisions will be able to
consider consequences before jumping into situations, and not just accept the easy or popular or authority sanctioned solution.

I see you bribed, I mean gave a TSA agent a copy of Pull.

So how many books did you have in your suitcase? Are there any you think we should know about?

I swear it wasn’t a bribe, and she still undid my suitcase to prove it. She just loved the idea of “the contemporary novel that has a seventeen-year-old male African-American protagonist” and gushed over it so much I felt honored handing one over to her.

Besides my own books I had fourteen others inside the suitcase (please don’t ask me how I did it, and it took the both of us to repack the bag.) In keeping with the YALSA theme, Diversity, Literature & Teens, I picked up a number of titles that I might never have seen otherwise, and all of them are proving unputdownable so it’s hard to only name a few. . but here goes

Ash by Malinda Lo – a GLBT retelling of the Cinderella story with a
far eastern twist where the Cinderella, a.k.a. Ash, falls for the King’s
huntress. (By the way, I also got the prequel – Huntress A paranormal
with no vampires or werewolves but very interesting creatures from
Chinese mythology.)

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman – A story of a fourteen-year-old whom
the world thinks is severely retarded due to cerebral palsy and whose
father may, or may not, have decided to kill him. At the end of the book
I’m the one dying…I want to read the forthcoming sequel.

Jazz in Love by Neesha Neminger – A culture clash story of a seventeen-
year-old American born, high-caste girl of Indian ancestry whose parents
launch a Guided Dating Plan to find her a suitable pre-screened mate.

Muchacho by Louanne Johnson – where an extremely intelligent Latino
boy plays dumb for all the wrong reasons, until he meets the beautiful, and
highly intelligent, girl of his dreams and has to make decisions about his

David geeks construction. What do you geek?

I'm a big time huge science geek!! I received degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin (yeah Badgers!) and Michigan State. After working in that field for about five years I went back to school and got yet another degree in Computer Science from DePaul University. I'm also an amateur astronomer with a lifetime membership at Chicago's Adler Planetarium and have a history of eclipse chasing.

Eclipse chasing sounds very cool. Barbara, hopefully your love of science will find its way into future stories. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all these questions with such care. Congratulations on a wonderful YA debut

The first few chapters of Pull are available for download on the author's website

Be sure to check out the other WBBT interviews today
Josh Berk - Finding Wonderland
Adam Gidwitz - Fuse #8 Production
Salley Mavor - Seven Impossible Things
Daisy Whitney
- Bildungsroman

The rounds up can always be found at Chasing Ray

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Give Autographed Books (Support the Economy & Authors of Color)

It's no surprise that many books by children's authors of color have to be ordered. So why not order an autographed copy for the holidays

Tuesday December 7, this Tuesday, YA author Caridad Ferrer will be signing her newest book When the Stars go Blue @ Third Place Books - (206) - 366-3333

When the Stars go Blue is so very good and visually beautiful. I loved the main character Soledad Reyes. This contemporary YA retelling of the Carmen is a great gift for any one who loves the arts.

A personalized copy of When the Stars go Blue would make a wonderful gift for a music or dance instructor.

On Monday December 13th,

Authors - Zetta Elliott, Christopher Grant, Kekla Magoon and Rita Williams -Garcia will be signing @ Daddy's Basement Bookstore - (347) 770-8114
This line up is some serious WOW.

If you've been visiting my blog for awhile now, you know I love Zetta Elliott's A Wish After Midnight - my review when it was re released by Amazon Encore this year, I talked about A Wish After Midnight again will pretty much mention AWAM whenever I can. Its that good.

Teenie is Christopher Grant's YA debut. Its very good. It was such a pleasure to read a hard to put down, contemporary YA novel featuring a Black female character with Caribbean roots.

The Rock and the River is Kekla Magoon's wonderful, award winning middle grade debut. It's historical fiction novel set in 1968 Chicago. 13 yr old Sam must decide which path for change will work better from him. I believe this is the first MG novel that deals with the Black Panthers. (about time). The Rock and the River is very good and shouldn't be missed.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia was a 2010 National Book Award finalist. It's 1968, three sisters will be spending the summer with their mother in Oakland. The sisters spend most of their time at a local committee center run by The Black Panthers. This is one of my favorite middle grade novels of the year.

Every once in awhile, someone on the news will talk about ways to help improve the economy. I have yet to hear anyone give the most obvious answer. Don't Do All Of Your Holiday Shopping Online.

Sure Amazon can give you free shipping, but can Amazon give you a personalized gift? NO!

So order some autographed books for the Holidays. If you do, you'll be supporting the economy, authors of color and giving some great gifts. Everyone wins.

2010 Winter Blog Blast Tour

Colleen has posted the Winter Blog Blast Tour schedule over at Chasing Ray. Along with the Cybils awards, WBBT is one thing I always look forward to each year.

Starting on Monday, December 6th through Friday, December 10th bloggers will be posting interviews with children's authors and illustrators.

I will be posting two, Tuesday with YA author B. A. Binns Thursday with YA author Heidi Ayarbe

I love good interviews. I can always find great ones thanks to The Winter Blog Blast Tour.

So you know what to look forward to check out 2009 WBBT

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finding Family - Tonya Bolden

Finding Family by Tonya Bolden
Its 1905, 12 yr old Delena is being raised by her grandpa and aunt Tilley. Both are very cautious when it comes to what Delena is allowed to do. (usually the answer is no) The house is filled with family photographs. Delena wonders about everyone's story. Her grandpa isn't talking and aunt Tilley only shares a little, sometimes. Since, Delena was little, her Tilley was telling what to be wary of (pretty much everything). Delena's aunt also told her many stories about the mother's she's never seen, who died giving birth and her father who was never heard from again.

In the beginning Delena's grandpa, Samuel Hannibal is very quiet. He doesn't talk much about his years in slavery. After, Delena's grandpa brought his freedom, he settled in Charleston, WV. By the end, Samuel is opening up about searching for family members by putting ads in newspapers and going to churches in hopes of hearing any news.

After aunt Tilley dies, Delena learns many of aunt's stories weren't true and there's no need to be afraid of everything.

Bolden uses her very own antique photographs in the novel. It's a beautiful touch, even more so with Delena using them to guess everyone's personalty.

" I liked the way aunt Rachel decorated herself. She had the same sense about her as Eula. Top boss of her world! And I was hoping aunt Tilley had mixed Eula up with somebody else. I wanted her name to be Emma, like was on the back of her photograph. "Emma" sounded more bouncy. Above all, may she not be passing. Or dead. that way when she came for the funeral she'd tell me all about her life as an opera singer or something that had her traveling around the world, but now she was tired, so tired. Tired of crossing oceans. Tired of keeping up with hatboxes and steamer trunks. She was ready to stay put where she had family. "

I really liked Delena and enjoyed watching her slowly begin to sort things out for herself, beginning with the photographs. Delena also learns the truth about her parents. Bolden surrounds Delana with well developed characters. I loved the straight forward telling of this novel, it made it very easy for me to connect with Delana.

Finding Family was very good and a pleasure to read. An excerpt

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When the Stars go Blue - Caridad Ferrer

When The Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer
18 yr old Soledad has just graduated from a performing arts High School in Miami. She studied dance her entire life. Soledad was going to spend the saving up money to move to NYC. Soledad impulsively changes her plans when, Jonathan, another recent graduate offers up a new dance challenge and his heart.

Jonathan is a trumpet player and a member of the Florida Raiders drum and bugle crops. During the summer they compete against other drum crops. This year the all male team will be doing Carmen. After Jonathan convinces Soledad to audition the part is hers.

This book was so good. I loved Soledad. She wasn't humble about her dancing talent nor was she conceited. She simply owned it and would not allow any one to tell her otherwise.

"As I walked the length of the bleachers and out onto the floor eyeballing the dimensions and staking out a good starting spot, I heard, "What do you want to bet she'll be kiss-ass predictable and do something from Carmen? said fairly quiet, but not that quiet. My gut clenched some but otherwise? Bitch please. I met the offender's gaze head on and smiled that smile I'd learned from Mamacita - the serene,
"come too close and I'll cut you" smile. "

Soledad and Jonathan's relationship comes about fairly quickly, its very believable in its intensity. After the first few fair competitions the Raiders kept running into the same 20 and under all star soccer team from Spain. Soledad catches the eye of Taz, one of the best soccer players. Soledad knows her heart belongs to Jonathan but he just can't see that.

When the Stars go Blue is keep turning the pages good. Part of that comes with the beautiful balance. This is one of the best YA romances I've ever read, yet the author doesn't forget drum crop competition. I could see the Raiders on field with all eyes on Soledad. It was very nice to see Soledad embrace her Cuban curves.

Soledad, Jonathan, and Taz were all very good at what they do. One of the many things I liked, all three had keep practicing to continue to be the best.

This novel has one of the best middle of the book "WOW" didn't see that coming moments I've read in a long time. Ferrer totally crushed it. What made it even better, I was already very much into the story.

This modern retelling of Carmen is a must read for all artistically inclined people. And those who are simply smart enough to appreciate the beautiful art when they see it. An excerpt

On Tuesday Dec. 7, Caridad Ferrer will be signing at Third Place Books in Seattle. @ 7pm. An autographed book would make an excellent holiday gift. A little S&H is nothing when it comes to a well thought out personalized gift. 206-366- 3333