Archive | August, 2012

1 of (at least) 52 reasons to love Jessica Brody and her books!

29 Aug

Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either. Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteenth birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her.

In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him.

Jessica Brody’s 52 Reasons to Hate My Father was released in July (FSG) and Jessica’s been busy touring the blogosphere sharing fun facts (52 to be exact) about herself and her books. We’re happy to be one of the lucky stops on her tour! So without further ado, here is 1 of the 52 Reasons to love Jessica Brody and her books….

Top three books Jessica would bring to an island? THE HUNGER GAMES, BRIDGET JONES DIARY, and HOW TO GET OFF A DESERTED ISLAND (She’s not sure if that last one is a real book but it would definitely come in handy!)

For 51 other reasons, visit Reading Lark (August 28th), Anna Reads (August 30th), and The Book Scout (August 31st), and stay tuned for more!

Have you ever seen a Jessica Brody book trailer? Well, they look a little something like this….

…. and now, because you asked so nicely, here’s a behind the scenes look at all the hard work and (wo)manpower that goes into making such a “hollywood-style” book trailer (gotta love a behind the scenes video that highlights color correction!)….

Cannot Wait! So much DRAMA!

22 Aug

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating. And this Wednesday, among the many books that I am “waiting on”, I want to highlight a book that I’ve already read and loved: Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Why am I waiting on it if I’ve already read it? Well, since reading Drama back in June, I’ve been dying to put copies into the hands of young readers, so that I can make people smile like these fine ladies (my radio co-hosts)!

I’m also excited to see the graphic novel in full color, as the ARC was mostly black and white. Raina has a fun #DRAMADAY contest in the works too. Check out the info on her website! In the meantime (just another week!), enjoy the cute trailer from Scholastic:

Long Lankin

17 Aug

“Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned, And leave not a hole for a mouse to creep in.” The doors were all bolted and the windows all pinned, Except one little window where Long Lankin crept in.

Cora and her little sister Mimi have been sent to live with Auntie Ida at Guerdon Hall in the village of Bryers Guerdon. With a host who clearly wants them back home in London, very strict rules about where and when they can and cannot go, and a stiflingly hot house with boarded up windows and locked doors, it’s not the warmest of welcomes for the two girls. Luckily they meet two kids from the village, Roger and Pete, who are more than happy to keep them company and help them explore. But something bad has happened at Guerdon Hall in the past, something involving children and a man called Long Lankin, and Auntie Ida fears that a once dormant evil has returned with the arrival of her two nieces. As Cora and Roger search for answers to some of the mysterious happenings – words of warning on the wall of the church, ghostly apparitions – they begin to uncover startling truths from the past and learn that Mimi is in grave danger.

Wow! I loved this book. It was creepy, atmospheric, suspenseful, and at times quite charming. The story is told in alternating chapters between Cora, Roger, and Auntie Ida. While Cora comes across as the main character and really propels the story along, I was perhaps most charmed by Roger as a narrator. He is trust-worthy, responsible, playful, innocent, and brave. Cora is impressive as well and much more focused than Roger on the mystery at hand and in protecting her sister. Auntie Ida’s narrative turns are less frequent than Cora and Roger’s and perhaps this is why I felt less of a connection to her character and less excited when her chapters came along. Ida has also succumbed to that disease that many a character fall victim to: keeping things bottled up inside and not talking with anyone about anything and suffering the consequences. This of course is frustrating as a reader, but I can also sympathize with her overwhelming desire for her worst fears to not be realized, especially when Long Lankin is involved.

In addition to my fondness for our narrators, particularly the children, I was also impressed with Barraclough’s spot on pacing. The story never felt too rushed towards conclusion nor too slow in the tangents it took from the main story. I love that here and there the children simply play in the backyard, and even in their detective work they find time to eat some honeycomb or save a kitten from a coal bin. They get sidetracked from the mystery by sick babies and visits from relatives. This all makes sense. They are children after all, not private investigators. This everyday kind of pacing also connects well with the way in which Auntie Ida engages with the potential of a rising evil. While internally she is consumed by her fear, she doesn’t talk about what is going on, perhaps out of fear that talking will make it true, and thus has to carry on in the day-to-day as if everything is normal. Even with the casual pacing, there are moments where the pace picks up and doesn’t stop until you’re gasping for breath. I also love that I never once felt like I knew where things were going nor how, if at all, the story would be resolved. This added greatly to the tension.

And speaking of that rising evil…what a creepy story this is! Inspired by a folk ballad about the murder of a woman and her baby, Barraclough crafts a history of hauntings and murder that extends from the mid 1500s to the mid 1900s. That’s one epic haunting! The fact that Long Lankin prays upon children just adds to his creepiness. There are several scenes that take place in an abandoned church and churchyard (mind you where the children are not allowed to venture) that are absolutely eerie and for the first time in a long time, I found myself slightly scared of the dark. I’m not much of a paranormal reader, but Long Lankin was a perfect fit for me and an impressive debut. I’m excited to see what Barraclough comes up with next!

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Lindsey Barraclough
Publishers: Candlewick Press (July 2012)
Note: Review copy received from publisher for honest review

I should note that I read from a “to be Americanized” galley of Long Lankin. One thing I loved about reading this galley was all of the Britishisms used, from “chinwag” to “‘Cor blimey!” to “flippin’ Nora!”. I hope that some of these words and expressions are preserved in the “Americanized” version! (apologies for all of the cursing in this paragraph!)

Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You

13 Aug

Their last year together. This year, without Tink.

It is only in the minds of our narrators, Merissa, the over-achieving golden girl, and Nadia, uncertain and innocent, that we get to know Tink Traumer, the mysterious girl who showed up one day at Quaker Heights High School and changed their lives forever. All of them. Merissa, Nadia, Chloe, Hannah and sometimes Anita Chang. But, now Tink is d**d.

Joyce Carol Oates writes the most chilling type of fiction, no matter what the subject, because she immerses her stories in reality. Two or Three Things could easily serve as a textbook for adolescent girls with the magnitude of issues Oates covers.  Suicide, cutting, anger, depression, divorce, bullying…Oates has always had a penchant for the gritty under the pretty. Yet, while dark and tragic, her stories are never without redemption or revolution, especially in the lives of girls. These girls are smart girls, wry and witty and conscious of, though not certain about, the way the world works.

“I heard from Tink today,” they whisper between classes, in secret text messages, or at the lunch table. Neither wants to talk too much about it for fear it is not real and speaking of it would only make Tink disappear more. And, they can hardly survive in a world without Tink. It’s Merissa and Nadia who are most deeply affected by the d***h of Tink Traumer. Merissa is undergoing a painful evolution in the wake of her parent’s impending divorce and Nadia has been bullied ever since making out with Colin. Slut, they call her as she walks down the hall, or in texts, or on the message boards. Tink was their fearless leader.

In her absence, Merissa is breaking and Nadia is drowning. Both are struggling with destructive obsessions and both are contemplating Tink’s choice, beginning to think it makes sense. Their minds are punctuated with memories of Tink and her d***h. Tink was a girl lost in her own life, who maybe they didn’t really know at all but who they loved. And who loved them. It’s Tink who’ll keep them safe. And, it must have been Tink Traumer who inspired Merissa’s (awesome!) awakening to rebellion by her rejection of Jane Austen and the lead role in the school play, Pride and Prejudice, because “I don’t respect the Jane Austen world. It’s just silly and depressing.”

Oates’ novels are always informed by a clear commitment to female relationships and I love how this novel celebrates the undeniable importance of girl friends. Writing like she is one of the girls, Oates is always on her character’s side and Two or Three Things is testament to love and sisterhood in which the girls rely on each other to figure out their healing.

Alicia’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher: HarperTeen (August 21, 2012)
Note: ARC received from local bookseller

Two or Three Joyce Carol Oates Novels You Must Read

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (1993):
One of my all time top ten list and definitely top five, possibly my number #1.  They are making a new movie this year. The old film from 1996 stars a young Angelina Jolie and is terrible.

Man Crazy (1997):
I read this book in my first Women’s Studies class and loved it. Just read it.

Because it is Bitter, and Because it’s my Heart (1990):
A love story between a white girl and black boy during the Civil Rights era in the American South. Heart wrenching, fact based fiction.

Mixtape Madness Mash-up!

6 Aug

I have been playing a game with my Facebook and blog followers where I pose a theme and ask people to comment with the name of a band (I choose the songs). I take the first 10 responses and create a mix tape with my own additional 5 choices for coherence and transition. The first attempt, What Would Katniss Listen To, was successful and if you friend me on FB, I can share the Spotify playlist. We decided to try a similar idea here at Love YA Lit with a literary twist. In reflecting on National Black Music Month (June), I decided to create a top five in honor of Black music, Black authors and Black characters. This is a Mixtape Madness Mash-up, y’all!

The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

“Seems like people been teasing me all my life…. It’s bad enough that I’m the darkest, worse-dressed thing in school. I’m also the tallest, skinniest thing you ever seen.” (p. 4)

This is Maleeka Madison, a wise beyond her years middle school student battling the internalized racism of classmates, teachers and even herself. I loved how aware Maleeka was of other people’s ignorance yet found herself yearning for their acceptance. Her story is personal and unique yet completely relatable.

Song accompaniments:

  • India.Arie – Brown Skin
  • Lauryn Hill – Lost Ones

  • Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

    “You never think other folks got feelings. Like Janelle. I must’ve cracked wise a hundred times about her weight. Never even thought about it. It was just something I did for a laugh. Listening to her now, it don’t seem all that funny.” (p. 50)

    The story of an 8th grade English class and a teacher’s creativity, this book is an inspiring read about education, art and the overwhelming power of expression. I love books that switch narrators and Grimes takes it a step further by never appropriating a lead voice or main character in her story. The characters exist through the eyes of each other – classmates, rivals, crushes – and are self defined through the poetry they are writing.

    Song accompaniments:

  • Salt-N-Pepa – Expression
  • Mos Def – Hip Hop

  • After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

    “Maybe, while he was in jail, Tupac started thinking about his Big Purpose. That’s what D called it – our Big Purpose. She said everybody’s got one and it’s just that we gotta figure out what it is and then go have it. The night she said it for the first time, it was late in the summer of 1995 and we were all just hanging out – me, her, and Neeka  -watching music videos on TV.” (p. 7)

    Jacqueline Woodson’s novel continues to tell the story of three best friends and the omnipresent influence of Tupac Shakur on their loves and identities. Any music fan can relate to Woodson’s characters that look to music to help them understand themselves and their lives. Those of us who hold a special reverence for Tupac as an artist and a creative soul will be especially touched by the tenderness of D and the vulnerable elements that make her connect so deeply to a man and his music.

    Song accompaniments (a brief homage to Pac and especially to D and her girls):

  • 2Pac – Holler If Ya Hear Me
  • 2Pac – Keep Ya Head Up
    • I love how the juxtaposition of theses two songs (the 2 most successful on the 1993 album Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z.):) Illustrates the struggle of Tupac, both as an artist and an individual, and the essence of what his fans love about him.
  • 2Pac – Changes (originally recorded in 1992, but released 2 years after his death)

  • Caucasia by Danzy Senna

    “The less I behaved like myself, the more I could believe that this was still a game. That my real self—Birdie Lee—was safely hidden beneath my beige flesh, and that when the right moment came, I would reveal her, preserved, frozen solid in the moment in which I had left her” (p. 233)

    I was obsessed with this book when I first read it. It begins in the 1970’s in politically and racially charged Boston and tells the story of Birdie and Cole, daughters of an interracial couple who are separated when their parents flee from the law each going with the parent they look more alike.  The story is told in Birdie’s voice, the daughter who has been forced by her mother to pass for a white, Jewish girl, as she comes of age and comes to terms with her own self-discovery. It is a truly fascinating story about race and identity and the things we rely on to define ourselves.

    Song accompaniments:

  • Monie Love – It’s a Shame (My Sister)
  • Aretha Franklin – You’re All I Need To Get By

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

    “She cannot chain my soul. Yes, she could hurt me. She’s already done so. But what was one more beating? A flogging, even? I would bleed, or not. Scar, or not. Live, or not. But she could no longer harm Ruth, and she could not hurt my soul, not unless I gave it to her. This was a new notion to me and a curious one.” (p 246-247)

    Ok, technically I have not read this book but it is a fact-based fiction of 13-year-old Isabella and her sister, Ruth, struggling for life and freedom during the American Revolutionary War.  Written by the same author as Speak, I am sure it will be awesome. And, I will probably learn something. Double awesome.

    Song accompaniments:

  • Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution
  • En Vogue – Free Your Mind
  • August Goodies

    4 Aug

    I hate to break it to you all, but summer is ending. I know it’s just the beginning of August, but trust me, the end will be here before we know it. I know this because we’re busy planning our end of summer reading program party at my library and preparing goodie bags for our summer readers! (and yes, the goodie bags include books!) If someone was making ME a goodie bag this month, I’d hope for one of these August releases to turn up in my bag.

    Skylark by Meagan Spooner
    Carolrhoda Lab: August 1, 2012

    15 year old Lark Ainsley has always lived in a city protected from the outside world by a magical dome. As she comes of age, it’s her turn to be harvested for her magical energy – a task necessary in sustaining the protective barrier. But when it is discovered that Lark is special, those in charge want to take advantage of her special gift and Lark must escape the only world she has ever known and see what lies outside the walls. I’ve come to trust Carolrhoda Lab for delivering interesting new works and this book was really buzzed about at BEA this year. I’m a bit hesitant to dive into yet another dystopian series, but I’m hopeful that I won’t regret it.

    Survive by Alex Morel
    Razorbill: August 2, 2012

    Jane is on a flight home (from a mental hospital), but has no intention of landing. She is planning to take some pills mid-flight and never wake up. Instead, the plane hits some turbulence and the next thing she knows, Jane is waking up on a snowy mountaintop surrounded by the plane wreckage and the remains of her fellow passengers. Only one other passenger survives, and together the two of them join forces in their struggle to survive. Described as Hatchet meets Lost, the description also reminds me of how fascinated I was by the book Alive: the Story of the Andes Survivors as a kid (and the documentary film Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains as an adult), and I’m looking forward to this survival story and its snowy mountaintop setting.

    Three Times Lucky (audiobook) by Sheila Turnage
    Reader: Michal Friedman
    Penguin Audio: August 2, 2012
    Miss Moses LoBeau is a keeper. Like her namesake, she was abandoned by her mother as a baby and sent downstream. Now a rising sixth grader, Mo hopes to someday solve the mystery of just who her “upstream mother” is. But she has another mystery that needs solving – a murder mystery – when a man turns up dead in a boat that her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, “borrowed” (without permission) from the now dead man just a few days earlier. I started listening to this audiobook this week and it is absolutely darling. Michal Friedman was a fabulous vocal talent and her contributions to the audiobook world will not soon be forgotten. Just as she did with Max in Emma Donoghue’s Room, Michal brings Mo to life in the best possible of ways.

    Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates
    HarperTeen: August 21, 2012
    Uh oh! You’ve got to worry for your characters when a book is compared to Wintergirls and Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s doubtful this book will be an easy read, but I’ve never read Joyce Carol Oates and hoped for easy. I read her short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” in high school and I’m still haunted by it to this day. I’m excited for this story more for the author’s talent than for the story itself, which I actually know very little about (though Alicia does, because she has a review coming to Love YA Lit really soon!).

    Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon
    Aladdin: August 28, 2012
    I loved Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and The River and so I’m excited for this companion novel. In The Rock and The River, thirteen year old Sam learned about the Black Panthers through his older brother and his new girlfriend, Maxie. Fire in the Streets shifts focus to Maxie and her experiences during the summer of 1968. As Maxie struggles to find her place in the Black Panther movement, she discovers that there is a traitor in their midst – someone is leaking information to the cops. Maxie hopes that if she can figure out who it is, she’ll be deemed fit for more than just helping out around the office. But sometimes the truth comes with a price rather than a reward.

    The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
    Balzer + Bray: August 28, 2012
    Eva is a copy of someone else. If that someone else should ever die, Eva is tasked with replacing her. So she spends her life studying everything about Amarra (the someone else). After fifteen years of study, she should be ready. When Amarra dies, Eva has to leave everything and everyone she has ever known to go be the person she was raised to replace. I love the whole copy/replacement concept in dystopian novels, but while that is a big draw, I’m most excited for this novel because at least a portion of the novel is set in India, a place I’d like to see more of in YA (I spent a college semester in Bangalore, a city in South India, which is also the city where Sangu Mandanna grew up).

    Every Day by David Levithan
    Knopf Books for Young Readers: August 28, 2012
    Finally! Quantum Leap for teens! Well, sort of. Every day A wakes up in a new body. It has been like this since A was born. Every morning A must adjust to a new life, a new body, new friends, new family, new issues. A has established some guidelines for these “visits”: avoid notice, don’t interfere, and don’t get attached. But then one day, everything changes. A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon, while inhabiting the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend Justin. And now it’s harder for A to follow the guidelines, because A wants to be noticed, wants to interfere, and wants to get attached. But how can someone who changes bodies every day find love and hope to get it in return? I’m loving this one so far! I even started putting up with the weird reading style of the text-to-speech function on my eReader so that I don’t have to stop reading when I can’t keep my eyes open any longer or need to get ready for work.

    What August release would you want in your summer reading goodie bag?