Saturday, October 31, 2009

In My Mailbox This Week!

How cool is it that the week where I'm celebrating dystopian teen fiction, I get an ARC of an appropriately themed book?

Numbers by Rachel Ward looks really great. It looks like it was originally published in the UK, and is available in North America in February. The author is writing the sequel for it.
Jem looks at people and sees numbers in her head. It is the date of that person's death. It makes her avoid relationships until she meets Spider, someone like herself, and she takes a chance. There also seems to be a scifi angle in the story too. I don't want to look too much into the premise because I am sufficiently intrigued. I want to retain the mystery of the story and find out as I read.

A thing I love about galley editions of books is that sometimes you get neat extras. Like in the case with Numbers, there's a little introduction by the publisher that won't make it into the finished edition:

This is a startling book. It starts off as the ultimate thriller, and turns into an incredible love story, too--even though, to the end, the countdown clock is tick, tick, ticking!

What if you knew the day that someone, anyone, everyone would die? Everyone, that is, except yourself. How could you possibly live with such a terrible secret? How could you ever look a friend in the eye if you'd only, always be reminded of his expiration date?

Rachel also has a website and I found this neat little blurb in her Q & A:

‘Numbers’ is a book for teenagers and young adults, although I think a lot of adults would enjoy it as well. It’s the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Jem, who can see a number when she looks in someone’s eyes – the date of their death. She gets involved with a boy at school, Spider, who she knows only has a couple of months to live. On a day out in London, Jem notices that people in the queue for the London Eye have the same number, and it’s today…

It’s a thriller, but it’s also a love story. The idea came to me on one of my early morning dog walks. I was influenced by Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ in which a girl has an extraordinary gift. It made me think about how someone with a gift would fare in the UK today. I was also fascinated by the TV series ‘Six Feet Under’ which was set in a funeral home and featured a death scene at the start of each episode with a name and date of death on screen. It made me think that there is a date out there that will apply to each of us. Would it make any difference if we knew it? Turning 40 also made me ponder mortality, and as I was thinking about it quite a bit, I thought that perhaps I should write about it. Maybe it was therapy and I was writing my way through my mid-life crisis!
The top cover is what my copy looks like. The bottom cover is the UK edition.
Mandy

Friday, October 30, 2009

Interview with *Jeanne DuPrau* Author of *The Ember Series*!

I was so impressed with The City of Ember when I read it last year. It's the first book in The Ember Series, and from page one I desperately needed to know its secrets. Here you have an entire city, somewhere!--you don't even have a handle on where the city is located--and which is swamped entirely in darkness. It's powered by electricity, candles and batteries are possible myths from the past, and the lights have just started flickering for the first time in remembered history. It is probable that they will go out completely.

I raced along reading this book, feeling like if I read fast enough, got to the bottom of it, the lights wouldn't go out! The mystery of it all was so riveting. And so I just knew that if I was going to throw a dystopian party of any kind, Jeanne DuPrau was on the "A" list. She generously agreed to answer my frantic questions about The City of Ember.
***

Lina and Doon are only twelve in The City of Ember, the book that jump-starts the series, but they are the ones who see the limitations of living in the city. They aren't afraid of witnessing the flaws around them, the dimming lights, the dwindling supplies, and wonder what lies beyond.
Both have this innate heroism that most of the adults around them don't. What is it about the time when you are coming-of-age that makes it a powerful time for making social change? Especially in a crumbling dystopia like Ember?

One reason is probably the lack of experience. That is, young people haven't experienced the repeated attempts and failures that most older people have; they don't pay much attention to people who say, Oh, we've tried that, it didn't work, it can't be done. Look at the Sixties, when a whole generation of young people was convinced that world peace could be achieved pretty much right away! Young people can be willing to try outrageous things that their jaded parents never would.

And I'd guess that another reason has to do with power of youth--a physical and mental energy that engenders optimism. We're strong, we're smart, we can do it! So they do.

The people of Ember are told that the pitch blackness of the Unknown Regions goes on forever, that there is nothing beyond Ember. In this way they are controlled by their fear and confusion. Can you tell me a little more about how a place like Ember sustains itself on the fear and confusion of its citizens?

Ember's resources are increasingly limited. There isn't enough for everyone. Everyone wants more, and those with the most power are in the best position to get more. So they want to hold onto their power, and a good way to do it is to make everyone else afraid--afraid to break the rules that keep them from exploring and experimenting, afraid to challenge their leaders for fear of being locked up or publicly humiliated. The Builders' initial decision to teach the Emberites that there was nothing beyond their city was benevolent: they wanted to keep people from finding their way to the dangerous world above. But as the years went on, this rule also became a handy way to keep people under control. People who are afraid--of the Unknown Regions, of the river in the Pipeworks, of fire--are less likely to try anything that would challenge the status quo, even if the status quo is about to kill them.

Everyone has a particular job to do in the city, but the people's fates have nothing to do with their interests or skill-sets. Jobs are given out purely by chance and when people are too young to know what they want. How important is this way of life to sustaining a city like Ember? I also love that Lina and Doon find a way around this societal rule in the book.

Quite a few of the necessary jobs in Ember are jobs that no one especially wants to do--trash sifter, rat catcher, Pipeworks laborer. The city government has solved this with the job lottery. The jobs assigned in the lottery, however, are only for three years. After that, workers might go where there's more need, or they might do what Lina and Doon did, and trade for jobs they like better. So there's a downside and an upside to giving out jobs this way. The downside is that some people have to do work they don't like, which is true in any society. The upside is not just that the work gets done, but also that young people get experience in how the city operates and find out what kind of work they like and don't like. Though I don't say this in the book, I imagine that as time goes on and it becomes clear to young people (and their employers) what kinds of work they're good at, people with the right skills will migrate into the right jobs. And no one will have to be a trash sifter forever, because new beginning workers will always be coming along.

The Mayor of Ember is a great character! He can be bumbling but he's also very scary as the highest authority in the city. What does the Mayor's character say about how life is dictated in Ember? The amount of power he has and how he uses it?

The mayor pretends to have the interests of the people at heart, but he doesn't. He has his own interests at heart. He makes pronouncements about how it's a crucial time and everyone's help is needed, and he and his guards enforce the rules that keep the people in line. But really, the mayor understands that Ember is on its last legs, and he wants is to keep himself going as long as he can. He is shortshighted, however. He collects material goods in his secret room, which he can
enjoy now, but he doesn't think about how little those things will help him if the city dies. If he were a wiser mayor, he would reward the efforts of the citizens to find a way out of Ember instead of punishing them. In The People of Sparks, readers will see how the mayor's greed determines his fate.

Ember is dank and dark and relies on stockpiled materials to maintain itself. Even in this type of dead environment, Doon naturally seeks out bugs and plants. He's fascinated by the bit of life that is found in the city. How important for you was it to show this evidence of unsupressed life in the story?

Very important! I think in a place like Ember, all people who had not been deadened themselves would be drawn to evidence of life. Doon's curiosity and Lina's wondering questions about the bean sprout are central to the story. They both know instinctively that life is a mystery and that the bugs and the plants are somehow clues to it. They both have the sense that something outside Ember must exist. Since people didn't make the bugs and plants, where could they have come from? I hoped readers would imagine what it would be like to live with almost no life around you except human beings--and then to come out into the natural world! Lots of people have written to me that the story gives them a new appreciation for things we take for granted,
like trees, and grass, and the sun.

Thank you so much, Jeanne!

Mandy

Review of *The Giver* by Lois Lowry

Okay I have to pull myself away from internet research to find out why Lois Lowry wanted a photo of this man on the cover. Not why there's an old man on the cover--he looks like he could portray The Giver from the story--but why this man? Lois Lowry is credited with the photograph and I found out that Cliff Nielsen is the cover artist! To re-cap, Cliff has created the cover art for Ice by Sarah Beth Durst and The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare. But I wonder if Lois knew the man she photographed and why it's important for the cover of her book. It would be awesome if it was simply, "I thought he looked cool".

Although I don't love the cover, myself. It's actually put me off reading the book. I only took it up because I found the title on a list of dystopian themed books and I thought I'd give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised.

I really like The Giver. I'm still disturbed by the ending. It's a book that I can see myself reading again sometime just so I don't miss anything. Although I've seen alot of online reviews from people who have hated this book; I don't think it's for everyone. I love how strange it is--I took a lot out of this book, and simultaneously, nothing. I found it ultimately jarring.

An airplane accidentally flies over the town/compound(?) where Jonas lives and a voice from the public speaker system instructs everyone to stay inside their dwellings. The only other time a plane has been illegally seen by people is when a cargo plane lands to bring them their supplies. After a few minutes of confusion, the speaker announces that "Needless to say, he will be released", meaning the pilot. However you soon find out what it means exactly to "be released".

Up to half of the story in The Giver is setting the stage for a possible utopian future where pain and confusion have been eradicated, where families live together joined by empathy and consideration, and where all choices are made for you, eliminating the anxiety of possible regret or guilt. While I was reading I was thinking, "Hey some of these ideas aren't so bad". I even loved Jonas' father who is a caregiver for the government; he takes care of the babies produced by the birthmothers and makes sure they have a proper start before they are given to a family.

And then Jonas turns twelve and, like everyone else who turns twelve or has ever turned twelve in this community, he is assigned his career for life. And he is called upon to be the Receiver. Receiver of what? Jonas soon meets The Giver, the most important member of his society, and finds out the price of living in a utopia.

I really don't want to give too much away. I went in with no background info and loved finding out as I went along. Even the back cover synopsis of my edition keeps it wonderfully vague. I guess I wasn't surprised by how sophisticated the story is because of its awards and recognition, but I really enjoyed its depth. The Giver actually makes you see the necessity of pain in life and its absolute meaninglessness. And that ending...
The world in The Giver depicts more of a social dystopia or anti-utopia. There is no technology, no religion, and no Outside. I was also excited about its magic-realism elements (just the smallest dash) and the mythic manifestation of the human psyche. The Giver is a little hard to classify.
Mandy

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kicking Off *Dystopian Teen Week* with a short intro and a Book Giveaway!


Dystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or political system. From ReadWriteThink

***

It's funny. I've been reading a lot of so-called dystopian books in preparation of Dystopian Teen Week, and I realize how slippery this term is. I worried and worried about defining it, having specific books that fit directly within the parameters of this theme. But I've decided to throw most of that out the window.

I want to know how many different books share similar dystopian themes. I'm using the small 'd' for dystopian this week because readers who enjoy books which can be classified as speculative fiction will usually read everything under its umbrella. That said, while I enjoy a good steampunk novel or crazy zombie post-apocalyptic story, any book with elements of a dystopian theme really captures my attention.

What I love is a good mystery, and I realize that what makes a good dystopian read is the driving question, "How did it get this bad?" Usually you are plunked down in the middle of a setting which is so foreign to you that every sense is heightened. In The Maze Runner by James Dashner (review to come) Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator-like lift, with no memory of who he is, except his name. Or so he thinks. Right away I was like, "Where is this kid? What happened to him? Is he in a building? Is he in space? What does he have to do? What would he remember if he could?" (I always think people are in space when I am confronted by a strange setting in a novel which I know will be speculative in any way. Space is cool). So right away I am driven to find out what's going on in this world, what it's rules are, how it's governed, where it came from, and really, what its secret is. I read and read until I can pull back the curtain.

So I thought I would kick-off Dystopian Teen Week with a Giveaway for a finished copy of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins! I loved reading The Hunger Games a month ago, which really was kind of the catalyst for events this week, and you can read my review and a spoiler-filled reading of the last hundred pages here. The extreme popularity of the first two books in the series has opened up a trend in dystopian themed teen fiction, and I love it. So, simply leave your name and your e-mail to win a copy of Catching Fire! I also invite you to tell a friend about this contest or about Dystopian Teen Week in general, spread the word electronically and add "x2" beside your name when you enter for TWICE the chance to win this book! So pass on the link to this contest or my blog in general and enter twice to win; it's the honour system but I trust ya!


This is only the beginning of events here this week. Check back for more book giveaways, very cool author interviews and author guest blog spots, and of course, book reviews!


Mandy

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Retro Review of *A Drowned Maiden's Hair* by Laura Amy Schlitz

I read A Drowned Maiden's Hair last year sometime and I don't think it's getting the attention it deserves. It's available in paperback now (bottom), although I prefer the hardcover artwork (top). I love the title font and how it's set against a starry sky. The scene on the front which shows Maud exactly how I picture her when I read the book (rare!) and a ghostly looking girl in the background, set against a night-time tide coming in. This scene is directly from the book and gives you a sense of the mood of the story.

Maud lives...no wait, actually I want to start this review by reprinting Laura Amy Schlitz's inspiration for this book, taken from the back sleeve bio:

Maud first appeared to me when I was halfway between sleep and waking. From the first, she was alive to me--I saw her vividly--but I didn't know how to begin her story until I remembered the outhouse of the Quaker meetinghouse I went to as a child. That outhouse was a terrible place--to be resorted to only in the direst emergency. Once I'd imprisoned Maud in the outhouse, her story began.

The story opens with Maud locked in the outhouse of her orphanage as a punishment. She makes the best of it, sitting in the dark and singing. You also find out it's the best day of her life.

Three older sisters, Hyacinth, Judith and Victoria, women of independent means, will come to adopt Maud that day, wisking her away from the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans. The life they give her, however, is a mystery to Maud.

At first the four females live in a grand house with beautiful furnishings and clothing. Hyacinth in particular seems like a warm mother-figure to Maud, and she thinks she's the luckiest girl in the world. But the sisters have asked Maud to hide in their house, not let anyone know she lives with them. She becomes more kept than loved, even though Hyacinth seems sincere. And then, one night, Hyacinth and Judith sneak her out of the house and through the town to Hawthorne Grove, their place by the beach, which I seem to remember as a kind of summering cottage. There Maud learns the tricks of the family buisness and finds out exactly what the three sisters were doing adopting a young girl.

The book is set in 1909 and the gothic tone is realized so well. The setting is vibrant and lush; it's the part I remember the most about this book, the beach and the boardwalk. The plot is involved with the beginnings of the Spiritualist movement, when it was the in thing to go to Seances and spirit-raising gatherings. There was also a lot of money and prestige for anyone who could orchestrate this entertainment. Man, I want to re-read this book sometime soon.

Ooh, the author has worked as a playwright. That makes sense. The story has this stagey feel to it, plot-wise and tone-wise. It makes you feel, while reading, that the curtain can be pulled aside. A Drowned Maiden's Hair has a heady atmosphere, for sure.

And recently I received a copy of Laura Schlitz's new book, The Night Fairy, which is coming out in February. It's a short story, about a hundred pages or so, and the published edition will have illustrations throughout. Although my little galley copy has NO illustrations. So sad.

Mandy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review of *The Twilight Journals*


So I received a copy of the new Twilight Journals gift pack. It includes four keepsake journals in a collectible tin. I'm including a picture of the journal set to your right but I thought it would be cool to open this plastic-wrapped set with you here, now, and review as I discover.
First off, it's heavy. What initially caught me was the detailed silver scrollwork against black on the tin's lid. There's a slash of red peaking out behind the sticker.
So here we go *plastic crinkling*
Oh, I'm happy with the understated tin cover. The red ribbon-looking slash across the front has "The Twilight Saga" written in lowercase across it. The silver scrollwork is embossed, so it puffs up away from the black background. The sides are solid black. And the dimension is slightly wider than a standard tradepaperback book size.
The tin is really nice actually.
*lifting lid* The journals are laid in the tin according to the chronology of the books! I love little details like that. The book on top is Twilight inspired, of course. The very-familiar image of blanched hands holding a red apple are on the cover. But the image has been shifted to the right and cropped. To the left a bit of the text from Twilight, written in cursive, is superimposed, and wraps around to the back cover. "Twilight A Journal" is written on the spine. The journals are hardcover, *flips open*, 96 pages (unmarked), and without lines inside. The pages are mostly white. Scattered throughout are greyscale forest landscape images reminiscent of the Twilight movie, but really without looking specifically like the movie. You can write over them.
There are also quotations from the books written in red, and greyscale and red scrolls accenting every second page or so. But it's not overwhelming; there's plenty of space to write. Stephenie Meyer has a little introduction, but it's reprinted exactly in all 4 journals. Here's a snippet:
...I wrote and wrote, just for the sake of writing, just to see where the story would go. I hope The Twilight Journals will encourage you to do the same. Filled with my favorite lines from the Twilight Saga and the works that inspired it, this journal is your space to write down your dreams, your memories, your stories, or anything you like.
Oh that's right. There are quotes from other books like Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, *flipflip* Wuthering Heights, The Merchant of Venice (interesting choice), and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Oh, and depending on who is speaking in the quote--Bella, Edward, Jacob--their font is differentiated.
*replacing lid* Apart from Stephenie Meyer's introduction being reprinted in each journal (I would have liked to see some new sentiment each time) and the lack of red-ribbon bookmarks (which would have really been cool--you can still go out and buy some to use), this is a well-designed gift set. I especially like the tin and the fact that you can keep your little journals in it. It's more secret; it doesn't say "Hey I contain a set of personal diaries please don't read me". It's understated and really pretty. Whatever shall I write in my journals?

Mandy

Monday, October 26, 2009

EOS & MLP 4EVA!


I love the Michael L. Printz Award, every year has a great selection of titles. Last year Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta won, and the Honor Books were chosen well. I like that they don't just announce one book as a winner, but they include a line-up of Honor Books which, I feel, is like choosing 5 books to win every year. It's hard to choose one book to represent everything that is good about YA/Teen publishing that year.

About a month ago I sent a general e-mail to the Printz Board people asking if there was a longlist of titles being considered for the 2010 Award, and I received a very nice response saying that any longlist of titles being considered is not available to the public. At first I was like, "oh, why not?!". But then I mentioned it to Dave, who I work with and who is a book trade knowledge guru, and he said that maybe Awards committees shouldn't release longlists or shortlists. It sends publishers into a printing frenzy and then, often, when the books don't make the number one spot, this printing overstock just sits. And that may not be a good thing for smaller publishing houses. On the other hand, it is nice to know who made the shortlist, because that is no small feat either.

Anyway, my lady also told me that the MLP Awards are being announced on January 18th, 2010. So I'll just have to wait. But until then, I could join The Printz Project, created by Suey from It's All About Books and Jessica from The Bluestocking Society. They have created an entire blog space dedicated to readers who are taking on The Michael Printz Award Challenge. And we're talking the whole list; 5 titles every year since 2000, the main winner and each year's Honor Books included. So, 50 titles, soon to be 55. Oop, make that 50ish. There weren't always 4 Honor Books each year.

But what a cool, and beautifully laid out plan. The Printz Project blog is so easy to navigate. Each of the 50ish books has its own entry with a brief synopsis and joiners are welcome to leave their own reviews, post comments and discussion, or leave URLs. It's an on-going challeneg which means there's no due date, per se, but there's been a bunch of traffic and reviews left already. Also, you don't have to sign up or sign anaything or make a lifelong commitment to the challenge. Read what you want when you want.

So I think I'll join.
Mandy
(Emily, I should have included the link to The Printz Project in my last entry!)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In My Mailbox This Week!

I got the most attractive books this week!
I didn't even know about Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I've read her book Saving Francesca which I liked, but haven't gotten to Jellicoe Road (a Printz Medal winner: I love the Michael L. Printz Awards. I think it's my favourite. I keep thinking of joining the Printz Book Challenge, which has its own website, but I'm afraid of over-extending my reading. *sighs* I'll probably end up joining it...). Finnikin of the Rock looks like quite a departure for Melina. From the back blurb, this one looks like an Arthurian/ancient magic/knights n' armour tale. It's coming out in February.
Captivate by Carrie Jones is the sequel to Need. Both books are about Pixies. In this world, Pixies look like humans and can be deadly, "Never let a Pixie kiss you. EVER". The covers on both books are phenomenal, really beautiful. I am a huge fan of the black background with the surfacing image; very simple, gorgeous and lush images.
Like The Dark Divine by Bree Despain. I want her toenail polish. I really love this cover. The story is such a mystery to me and I relish reading it for the first time. I love that I really have no idea what it's about. There's a disappearance, strange circumstances with a brother, someone covered in blood and the possibility of Grace losing her soul. I can't wait to get into this one. It's out in December.
Oh, and Fallen by Lauren Kate? So excited! I'm pretty sure it's about fallen angels and if it's anything like Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick I am on board. The above cover is so attractive. My galley copy is just midnight blue with white writing. Fallen is also out in December. Catch the trailer for the book which is on the shortlist for the Kirkus Video Awards, here.
Some cool things that have happened this week at Edge of Seventeen:

Considering *Because I Am Furniture* by Thalis Chaltas
What's Been Said About *Lament* by Maggie Stiefvater
I've Got Love For *Lauren Myracle*
Review of *The Heights* by Brian James
In My Mailbox Last Week!

Mandy

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren!

Considering *Because I Am Furniture* by Thalia Chaltas

Our lovely Penguin representative sent me a very intriguing book that I've never heard of. Because I am Furntiure by Thalia Chaltas is written in a loose poetry form and tells the story of Anke, a girl recovering after watching her father abuse her siblings. She is "spared" the abuse, forced to just watch and feel unworthy of even the most horrible attention. The book looks pretty dark. Here's how it opens:

I am always there.
But they don't care if I am
because I am furniture.

I don't get hit
I don't get fondled
I don't get love
because I am furniture.

Suits me fine.

Then Anke makes the volleyball team and finds her voice in a sport where you have to yell "Mine" to make a play. Because I Am Furniture looks like it focuses more on Anke finding her voice and recovering from the abuse around her. I really like the cover art. I forget what the technique is called, but when you place a cut-out over a photograph while you develop it, a white silhouette is left behind. It's always an eerie feel when it's done well. Although this could have been reproduced by Photoshop. It still looks very cool on the finished book. The paper used for the cover is also dense and has a bumpy texture, blacks and purples make the image look haunting. A washed out set of french doors is on the back cover.

This book had a starred review by Publisher's Weekly, and I still haven't heard of it.
Thalia also has a website with an in-depth links section, including connections to poetry resources online, links to cool authors and industry information. I can't wait to get into her book.
Mandy

Friday, October 23, 2009

Music Is My Life

Well, not really, reading is. But I do find that I have to be listening to music while I read at home or I have this funny sense that someone is going to jump out at me, screaming. Having music on while I read kind of calms me and let's me fall into that very inner space where real reading happens, when the world disappears.
I usually listen to Coco Rosie, Dead Can Dance, Mazzy Star, some classical like Gorecki. Just something beautiful and lilting to keep me mellow so I can focus on the page. Reading in a public place does the same thing for me. I love to read in a coffee shop with a huge cup of beany goodness. Possibly a pastry.

So I guess it shouldn't surprise me to learn that some authors listen to music while they write. And some even have "soundtracks" for their books; music they recommed which connects in some way to their book. Just yesterday I was looking up info on Maggie Stiefvater for her book Lament and she has actually written and arranged her own enchanting music to accompany her book. Head over to her blog for a sample. Maggie plays the harp, lovely.
Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List mentions that there was a "soundtrack" that was playing in her head while she wrote her book. Here's the link to her Hate List playlist. Very awesomely, Jennifer also includes notes on why she picks each song and how they relate to her book. My favourite is: "3) "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult -- Even though my first thought is "cowbell," my second is that it helped bring Nick's thoughts clearer to me... and also that I grew up loving this song". You're gonna want that cowbell.

Guy Gavriel Kay has a spot on his website to showcase songs inspired by his books. Each song has little annotations as to how it was inspired, which book and scene it connects to. There is promise of a possible recording of Rachel's Song from The Summer Tree, including a cello! I think it might make me cry if I heard it. That book...

Do you read and listen?

Mandy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's Been Said About *Lament* by Maggie Stiefvater?

I have read and loved Shiver by Maggie and have been hearing some great things about Lament, the first book in her Books of Faerie series. Ballad is the sequel and it was just published October 1st.

Here are quotes from the reviews I've been reading:

Maggie Stievater has done something to me. Something good. She’s taken me prisoner in this world she’s created full of magic, mystery and intrigue. Maggie’s first book LAMENT is a story of a talented young girl whose harp talent is mesmerizing and enchanting. When a strange and mysterious Luke Dillon approaches her to play together at a competition Deidre’s world is then swiftly unwound and she is then thrust into a world full of folklore and magic and her place in this world is quickly realized... from Reverie Book Reviews

Although the fey are somewhat common in literature, I loved Stiefvater’s take! I also enjoyed the musical element that was displayed throughout the novel, it added so much to the novel. The plot itself was paced well and was thoroughly engaging! I had a very hard time putting this book down, even when I really needed to!! Lament has a little bit of everything; suspense, romance, intrigue, and action. The bittersweet ending will leave you yearning for more. Watch out Melissa Marr and Holly Black, there is a new faerie Queen in town!... from The Story Siren

Where to begin? Faeries, an assassin, telekinesis, a love triangle so good that I couldn't decide which couple to root for (though I do feel myself leaning in a very definite direction), prose with a rhythm and cadence and dreamlike quality that fit the chock-full of Celtic folklore storyline but that still felt that it fit in the here and now, a heroine who is bright and likable and who, though she is attracted to a beautiful boy, doesn't lose her own self because of it (*cough* Bella Swan *cough*). Lament is very definitely a must-read for fans of Melissa Marr and other stories about the dark and dangerous side of Faerie... from Bookshelves of Doom

Wow, I'm pretty excited about this one! I can't decide which cover I like the best. I love the texture of the bottom cover art, it looks like the texture of tombstones to me and adds this crypt-like tone.
Has anyone else written a review of Lament? Send me the link in the comments field. Alternately, leave your review in the comments if you don't have a blog. I'd love to read more about this book.
Sometimes it's like that for me; getting really excited to read a story after hearing so much about it. It casts this magic about a book that I just love.
Mandy

My Day Has Been Made Thanks To You!

And by You, I mean everyone who is part of Edge of Seventeen having 100 followers! Holy Crow!

I know other blogs have many more people who regularly read their blogs, but these 100 people, plus really EVERYONE who reads this blog and leaves comments, well you guys just make my day! And today especially.

All of you amaze me.

After Dystopian Teen Week, I'd like to do something special as a response. Stay tuned.

Mandy

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I've Got Love for *Lauren Myracle*

The first book I read by Lauren Myracle was Kissing Kate. It's her first novel for teens and was an ALA Best Book when it came out. And it is good. Good enough to give me blanket interest in anything else Lauren writes--Lauren writes a grocery list? Pass it on. Can I Get it signed?

Kissing Kate was one of those quiet stories where you think maybe nothing is happening plot-wise until you reach the end and realize that the entire world has come down in slo-mo on Lissa's head and she's not exactly the same girl you started the book with. Lissa and Kate have been best friends 4-eva until Lissa kisses Kate at a party one night when everyone's boundaries are down. While Kate takes a few weeks away from Lissa, avoiding her, when Kate attempts to finally reach out to L, she is rebuked. Although Kate's form of reaching out is attempting to talk Lissa out of being a lesbian. Instead, Lissa meets Ariel, a girl who is vibrant and outspoken and just a little crazy, and Lissa finds a new way to see herself.

Kissing Kate could have easily fallen into the tone of an after-school special but remained afloat; one of my favourite teen books.

Then I read Rhymes With Witches because I loved the title and the cover-art. A very different book than Kissing Kate, RWW is a bit like Carrie and Mean Girls put together. Jane is a freshamn and is practically invisible. Although still bullied by the most popular group of girls in school, the Bitches. One day Jane kind of snaps and decides that she wants to BE one of these girls. Maybe just to get an insight into how they see her. But she realizes that the sacrifices made to be a Bitch get to be too much, even for social-climber Jane. There is a paranormal aspect to the story although the tone is more a focus on popularity and what it takes to stay on top; popularity as a series of choices along the way. Anything paranormal is a bit like Buffy The Vampire Slayer; a bit of a metaphor for the real horrors of highschool.

And then I read Bliss because it's a bit of a prequel to RWW. You can definately read it as a stand alone, and I would recommend it over RWW, if you were stuck in a room on the set of Saw 32 and had to read only one book of two before a gruesome death and these were your only choices. Otherwise, read them both.

Bliss is probably more like Carrie that RWW. It's set in 1969 and the chapters are interspersed with quotes from The Andy Griffith Show and news articles about the Charles Manson Family murders. The whole tone has this pitch-perfect eeriness. Bliss is dumped off on her affluent grandmother's porch after her hippie parents take off unfettered. She starts boarding school and is a total fish-out-of-water as she's only ever grown up in a commune making her own soap. Her need to make friends places her perfectly in the grasp of a schoolmate's dark obsession with a historic murder. Bliss is a bit of a psychic and her sensitivity is preyed upon by an incredibly unstable girl.

One thing that can be said about Lauren is that she's a good writer of
the highschool dynamic and it's potential to get very dark.

Mandy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review *The Heights* by Brian James

So I saw *The Heights* by Brian James in a catalogue and immediately yearned to read it. The Heights is a re-telling/re-imagining of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte...I Know! How cool is that?

I'm not in the torn-about-re-tellings camp at all. Bring them on, I usually say. Generally the re-imaginings have been fairy tales, such as the Once Upon a Time series published by Simon & Schuster, which takes a new look at tales such as The Little Mermaid and even The Snow Queen (my favourite fairy tale ever!). Re-tellings are cool; they take a beloved story and tell it again or in a different way. There are usually enough references to the original material that are fantastic to find, so I find re-tellings fulfilling.

And The Heights is no exception.

I haven't read Wuthering Heights in years but it was, along with Jane Eyre, one of my FAVOURITE books when I was in highschool. If my highschool-self saw me have to reference wikipedia.org to remind my now-self of the content of the book, she would scorn me with narrowed-eyes.

Wuthering Heights is such an interior book. The story hinges on a few romantic couplings, but the meat of the story is the emotional whirlwind of Heathcliff and Catherine's strange inner lives. Anyway, I want to talk more about The Heights.
The Heights is also a very interior story. It's told in the he's thinking-she's thinking way, alternating between the inner thoughts and feelings of Henry and Catherine. (I do have one point to bring up--why couldn't Henry have been named Heathcliff, or Heath? Why Henry? Also, random factoid: Heath Ledger was named after the literary Heathcliff. Thank you wikipedia). When the story opens, Henry and Catherine have been living happily with Catherine's father, Mr. Earnshaw, who adopted Henry. At five, Henry was found wandering around in the cold and immediately took to Catherine when Mr. Earnshaw brought him home. Since then, Henry and Catherine have been inseparable. Although Henry has no interest in anyone outside of their trinity. He acts like a jealous boyfriend around Cat's friends and pulls her away from any outside influence. You can tell within the first few pages that Catherine is beginning to buckle under this type of possessiveness.

And even then, Catherine is in love with Henry though they've grown up as brother and sister. Thinking everyone around them would think it's gross, Cat stays quiet. We hear from Henry that he's also quite in love with Catherine, but he doesn't care what anyone thinks; he's just afraid that she might reject him. I also picked up on Henry's potential for going berserk. He's pretty moody without Catherine's quelling presence. You can tell, this far in, that Henry is hanging on by a tenuous thread and very reliant for his sense of balance on Catherine, his father, and their life together. You can imagine what he'd be like without this element in his life.

And then Mr. Earnshaw dies. And even though I knew it was coming, my response was "Oh, crap". Because The Heights really is Henry's book. And it all goes downhill after Hindley, Catherine's brother, moves back into the house and tears Henry and Catherine apart.

One of the marked differences between Wuthering Heights and The Heights is the way I responded to the characters. When I read WH, I was in love with Heathcliff and his intense passion for Catherine. In TH, however, Henry is shown in the truer, less romantic light, of his character. He's a bit of a sociopath, uncaring for the deaths of people around him. And he's SO possessive of Catherine. He whines in the book about Cat changing in ways he can't control; her talking to people they made fun of in the past. If Henry were my boyfriend I would punch him in the head. He's so controlling.

And Catherine. I don't remember exactly why but I thought Catherine was a bit of a jerk in WH. But in TH she is completely believable as a character who changes because new people have entered her life. She is not a coiled thing like Henry. She's passionate and full of movement, and so she takes to growth more readily. Henry recoils from change of any form and lashes out violently whenever he feels slighted or threatened. And it takes the slightest breeze to threaten him.

Here's a little of Henry's inner monologue, near the beginning:

Catherine was different than ayone else in the world. I knew it just by staring at her. She wasn't just another girl...more like a star plucked from the sky and trapped between tiny bones...a star capturing heat that I could hold on to for warmth. My very own star that I knew would guide me forever as long as I held on tight and never let go. It's the only thing I've ever understood as easily as she seems to understand everything.
--Henry? What are you thinking about? I mean right now, what are you thinking about?--she asks me suddenly. Her voice has a way of pulling me back from my thoughts...pulling me toward her no matter how far away I've drifted.
I hold her hand a little tighter as we walk.

There are so many differences between the two stories that getting into The Heights is a completely new read, even if it has elements of an old story.

Mandy

Winner of *Pretty Dead* by Francesca Lia Block!!



*drumroll* The winner of *Pretty Dead* by Francesca Lia Block, a pretty awesome book if I say so, and one of the best Vampire books I've read is:

Wendy from Such a Lush Blog!

Wendy was chosen at Random(.org) and had this nice thing to say in her comments:

Fab review! I definitely want to read Pretty Dead, I love the cover!

Congrats!! I will be e-mailing you with the cool news.

Thank you, everyone, for reading the review and entering to win this book! Keep abreast of any contests happening at Edge of Seventeen in the future.

Have you entered to win a copy of *Fat Cat* by Robin Brande SIGNED yet? See the link in the righthand column. --->

And don't miss out on Dystopian Teen Week starting October 30th, Devil's Night *oh!*. There will be giveaways, oh yes. And really cool surprises that week.

Mandy

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In My Mailbox This Week!!

The Unwritten Rule, by Elizabeth Scott.

I am SO excited about this one. I've only read one Elizabeth Scott book, Living Dead Girl and it was dark and kind of a short read, only like 190 pages or so. This one looks like it may be light and even funny by the cover, but it's about a girl who's in love with her best friend's boyfriend. The back cover says that she and Ryan, the boyfriend, spend a night together and Sarah feels guilty about it ever after. Obviously there will have to be a confrontation scene, so I can't see that this book will be as light as the cover suggests. But I don't know! I can't wait to read it. It comes out in April, so I'll wait to read it for awhile so my review will show up closer to the publication date. Awesome!

Orca Books have sent me an advanced reading copy care-package which included some cool titles too:

Hannah's Touch, by Laura Langston

Hannah is stung by a bee and has a near death experience. During the time she experiences being out of her body, she meets with her dead boyfriend, Logan. She wakes up with the ability to heal. It looks like she stays in some sort of contact with Logan and he starts using her new power for whatever purpose. Kind of a neat premise. It just came out this month.

In The Woods, by Robin Stevenson

Cameron finds a baby in the woods and it's considered a miracle that he's saved its life. But it wasn't luck that had Cameron happen to be riding his bike through the woods when he heard a baby cry: His twin sister had told him to go there. How did Katie know about the baby? Is she keeping secrets for someone? What will Cameron do with what he knows?
Another title out this month. Cool premise, as well.

I also received this week:

Taken, by Norah McClintock (read a teaser for this one here)
Salt, by Maurice Gee (read a teaser for Salt)

Mandy

Some other cool things that have happened this week at Edge of Seventeen:

Watch the AWESOME books trailers for the 2009 Kirkus Awards
Are We Ever Too Old for Choose Your Own Adventure books?
Interview with Robin Brande, author of *Fat Cat*, and special giveaway!
My review of *Fat Cat* by Robin Brande



In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. The Story Siren was cool enough to mention my blog on her Fresh Face Friday shout-out this week! Every Friday she takes a look at some new YA book bloggers out there. Thanks, Kristi!

Cool Book Trailers for 2009 Kirkus Video Awards

Reverie Book Reviews put me on to the 2009 Kirkus Book Video Awards finalists, which includes a book trailer for Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn (out in January). The competition is for student filmmakers to create and submit trailers for teen books. The books are pre-chosen and are published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House. You can still vote until October 30th. The winner will be announced on November 10th.


Here are the three finalists:






Wow. These are some of the best book trailers I've ever seen! Although if I HAD to vote, it would be for Very LeFreak, made by Rosie Lambert. Go on over and cast your vote!
Mandy

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are We Ever Too Old for *Choose Your Own Adventure* Books?

Okay *prepare yourself because I wasn't*. Random House has a line of books called The What If Books and they are Choose Your Own Adventure stories for older teens. I found a few of them at a used book store the other day and my immediate reaction was, "Psshh, What?".

So I'm going to walk you through the first one in the series, What If...Everyone Knew Your Name, by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James. Haley Miller is your alter ego. She's fairly average; averagely smart, averagely dressed, with a potential to either be very cool or very nerdy. She's kind of a blank slate until you choose how she'll react to her first few weeks at a new school, Hillsdale High:

Every decision Haley faces, you get to make for her. You determine her fortune--her grades, her friends, her love life. With Haley's many positive traits, you'll have no trouble helping her achieve success...or will you?

Haley wakes up to her new life to her dog licking her face and her mom in the front seat of the car flipping through radio stations. They are on their way to their new house in the suburbs. They'd been driving from their old house in California and have just pulled up in their new driveway. MeHaley already has an eye for the boys next door:

These were grade-A East Coast hotties, shirtless, suntanned and sweaty, their rippling muscles flexing and firing each time they connected with the ball or the court.

She fixates on one guy in particular, Reese, and decides that she has a crush on him. The first chance to choose what MeHaley will do happens on page 16. Up to that point you've been introduced to her family, her new house (which has a window view into Reese's bedroom *gross*), and a convertible full of popular girls, lead by Coco, who has a past with Reese. The cards are lined up and then another voice, ala Gossip Girl, interjects and sums up MeHaley's position in bold:

Boy, does Haley ever have a lot to learn. She's about to be thrown to the wolves of the New Jersey public school system. And if she's not careful, they're going to tear her apart.

It goes on to say that MeHaley is cute for thinking that Reese would be taking the bus with her to school and that she better watch out for Coco. Then you have to make the first move. Either you call your dad's cell phone and demand that he drive you to school or you take the bus alone:

It's a brand-new year at Hillsdale High, and for Haley Miller, it's a brand-new life. Her grades, her friends, her love life, her future--it's all up to you. So get ready to change the fate of the girl with the most potential at Hillsdale High.

Okay, so although I don't think that there are any choices that will make me die a horrible death (which pretty much happened all the time in Choose Your Own Adventure books), I still think this one over. But I'll decide to phone my dad and get him to drop me off at school. So I'm on to page 27 *flipflipflip*.

When I get to page 27, MeHaley is already at school, we just assume that she's gotten a ride from her dad. MeHaley is assigned to Annie, who volunteered to show MH around on her first day. Their first class together is Spanish and MeHaley is pretty adept at speaking the language, well except when we're caught off guard by the smouldering hottie standing in the class doorway, the infamous Sebastian, Spanish exchange student.
The next opportunity to choose what you'll do comes quicker than before. You now have to decide if you'll join Coco and the popular girls to help boost their marks in Spanish for a group project or if you'll stick by Annie and her group, which includes sultry Sebastian.
This is a hard one. I think I'll go for the guy and keep my grade average up, missing the opportunity to get in with the popular girls. So I go to page 56 *flipflipflip*.

Okaay. So now Sebastian is hot and heavy with MeHaley and my next choice has come up (after three pages), which suggests that Sebastian's advances are lecherous even though the story never says what MeHaley thinks of Sebastian. I have this feeling, reading, that one author wrote a story and another came in and created a Choose Your Own out of it. It doesn't feel like it was originally intended. Anyway, I'm going to go to dinner at Sebastian's house with my original group, for some "authentic" Spanish food (because the guy never ate at McDonald's in Spain, he only eats "traditional" food). Anyway, I'm going for dinner on page 92 *flipflipflip*.

Hey I'm almost done the book! Ha! Okay I have to type this out:

"David!" Sebastian said when they arrived in the kitchen. He temporarily left the paella and lunged toward Dave.
"Um, hi," Dave said, jumping out of Sebastian's way. If Dave got jittery just standing next to a girl, there was no way he could handle a European man kiss.
"But this is how we greet our friends in my country," said Sebastian, scooping Dave up in an embrace and lifting him several inches off the ground.

Sebastian also has a vineyard. He's offering wine to everyone and I have to choose if I'll partake or not. And I do so I continue reading on. Annie gets wasted and has to sleep over at MeHaley's house to avoid going home and getting caught. I'm going to skip a few parts but I prefer Sebastian to Reese and Annie is getting on my nerves but apparently wherever Sebastian goes, Annie goes, so I'm stuck with her. *flipflip* Coco has adopted me and wants to pull a Pygmalion for the Hallowe'en party. *flip* I don't care about Whitney's personal problems and skip to getting ready for the party.

Huh, Coco humiliates me at the party when I show up as a pile of leaves, but Reese stands up for me even though he doesn't make a move. Although now there is Spencer, the charming preppy guy who has an interest in me. I think I'll be going to his illegal gambling party. And apparently I find the seedy underbelly of Hillsdale, where we smoke pot and gamble. I have to admit that I choose to go upstairs with Spencer rather than go looking for boy-next-door Reese.
Hahahaha! And it seals my fate! Spencer jumps on me and we're interrupted by the cops! Spencer is sent to boarding school in Geneva and I am stuck at Hillsdale for the rest of my life as "the random stoner girl Spencer was having sex with when he got busted by the cops, whose mom turned everyone in." Go back to Page 1 and try again!
Dude, I made some bad choices! Is it worse than dying a horrible death? I died a horrible social death.

Who can do better than me? Who wants a copy of this book to read, choose your actions, and blog about it? Let's see if someone else can avoid social death at Hillsdale.

Mandy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

*Shelf Grazing*

Just picking up stuff at random on our shelves at the store. Stuff I had NO idea was out there in the world, unread by me.

Thinandbeautiful.com, by Liane Shaw. I like the title of this book. And the cover. The back has the image of feet on a scale. But the feet have candy-coloured striped socks on, which doesn't really go with the topic of the book. The book's about a girl who is anorexic and addicted to a pro-anorexic website. Girls log-on to encourage each other to lose weight, like a support system. The group is called "Girls Without Shadows", which gives me the chills.

Then Maddie finds herself in a rehab facility and she's keeping a diary of her feelings. She's banned from her websites and angry with everyone--"Will a tragedy change her mind?"

The author, Liane Shaw, mentions in her author bio that she struggled with anorexia herself. And yes, the book's website IS http://www.thinandbeautiful.com/! It looks cool. I tried reading Laurie Halse Anderson's Winter Girls, but I think I was in the wrong mood for it. I definately want to go back and finish it. I truly loved Speak.

Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund. Okay, so I knew about this one before but hadn't seen a published copy yet. I am sold on the premise: "astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns". Awesome! On the cover there is a little unicorn reflected in the sword and knowing he's a killer makes the image very cool. Also, the author seems like a neat lady. She's had all these life experiences that I've only read about and is afraid of unicorns. Rampant looks really good and I've seen some great reviews of it on the other blogs.

I also had a look at The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The cover is really neat! It looks like a tall labyrinth covered in foliage with spikes shooting out and precarious ropes hanging about. It's about solving the problem of the Maze in order to get out. Except the Maze looks to be unsolvable. It looks a little like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I was thinking of reading this one for Dystopian Teen Week but am not sure if it would fall within this category. Has anyone read it?

So that's what I've found while grazing on my shelves. What do you have on your shelves?

Mandy

Get Edge of Seventeen in your Inbox!

I finally found out how to offer a subscribe by e-mail option for my blog! This in itself is cause for celebration.

So get Edge of Seventeen in your inbox. I promise only to deliver the coolest content. Don't miss any book giveaways, reviews and interviews I'll be posting.

And as it says in the sidebar --->, It'll be fun!

Mandy

Winner of *Gone* and *Wake* by Lisa McMann


The winner of the double book giveaway for *Gone* and *Wake* is.....


Mandy from Mandy Can Read


Congratulations!! *fanfare* I've sent you an e-mail. And I SWEAR that I used random.org and chose the winner that way...NOT because her name happens also to be Mandy!! :)
Two other giveaways going on right now under your nose:
I also want to thank the 69 (!!) people who stopped by my blog and entered to win these two books. You guys are amazing! I hope you'll come back to read more content and check out future giveaways. Most notably, check out Dystopian Teen Week happening here on October 30th.
Mandy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with *Robin Brande* and a Special Book Giveaway!

With my funner blog entries sometimes I just don't even know how to start writing! I'm just sitting here, thinking excitedly, like you would hear a little contented whirring noise if you leaned in close to my head.
Robin Brande has written two very cool books, Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, and most recently, Fat Cat. In my review for Fat Cat, I mentioned that Evolution... had me consumed by reading fever from the first chapter. Ditto, Fat Cat.
So I was beside myself when Robin agreed to be interviewed for Edge of Seventeen. Especially when her responses were so funny and insightful. And, AND!, Robin has offered a wonderful chance to win a copy of her book, Fat Cat, SIGNED, to a lucky winner! I am truly jealous of this last part!

*****

Did you "method write" to create the right experiences for Cat in your book? Did you become that naked Neanderthal woman?

I’ve always loved the method writing aspect of my work. I love to put on my character’s life and wear her around for a while. So yes, I absolutely did everything Cat does in the book—which led to some hugely-positive (and several unexpected) changes in my life. I gave up all processed food. I went back to cooking. I tried to give up as much technology as I could while still writing a book!
As for Cat’s ultimate choices about what foods to eat, I had no idea that’s where the book would go. But the more research I did into food and health and the modern chain of food supply, the more I realized that both Cat and I would have to come to the same scientific conclusion about what was a healthy way to eat. So I’m grateful for Cat’s experiment, because I’ve continued to eat that way for the past year and a half, and I feel so much better than I ever have in my life. Although, confession: I have gone back to drinking coffee. Not too much, but just enough to make my little coffee taste buds happy.

At one point Cat is assessing her life so far and she realizes that she's been holding onto the same ways of thinking, even when they've hurt her. She mentions this great image of holding your thumb down on a bruise and that just letting go means you just remove your thumb. Can you tell me a little more about Cat and the way she holds on to things that hurt her in the story, how she understands destructive patterns?

Sometimes it takes a radical, dramatic change in your habits to make you realize how asleep you’ve been—how you’ve just continued to do the same thing for years and years, even when it doesn’t serve you anymore—or worse, it actually harms you.
I think Cat had a lot of different issues to work through and finally let go of: her anger, her feelings of hurt and betrayal, her shame at feeling she didn’t look right, her personal health habits, her choice to lock herself away from everyone except her best friend and the best friend’s boyfriend. Sometimes we isolate ourselves out of fear that people will reject us or ridicule us or otherwise make us feel worse than we already do. Part of Cat’s transformation that I loved so much was seeing her open back up to the world. A big part of that was letting go of all of the hurt from her past.

Nick is my favourite character. He's a science nerd and a total recluse when he's in school but during the summer breaks he does well with the ladies. I loved his whole wooing Cat section in the book. How did you create his character? Is he currently single, can you hook me up? :)

Oh, my gosh, isn’t he hot? I’m glad you liked him, because I had SO MUCH fun writing that section of the book. He’s based in part on a couple of different guys I’ve known in my life, and I’m sort of wondering if any of them will read the book and think/know I’m talking about them. But part of Nick is also pure invention. I just loved the idea of having a guy be so smart, so disciplined, and so unexpectedly passionate that it would really throw someone like Cat off her game.

Do you have a background in any Sciences? Both your books have a strong emphasis on Science class for the main characters. Both girls figure out the world through research experiements. Did you have a special science teacher who inspired you?

I was completely anti-science when I was younger. Thought there was nothing more boring or difficult. I have no idea why, but I’ve become a late-blooming science geek. Now I watch all the science shows on PBS, I read science books for fun—and I’m currently doing the research for my next novel, which involves quantum physics and string theory. It will be a romantic comedy, of course. Because don’t we all like to get our science that way?

I am giving away a hardcover edition of Fat Cat to a lucky winner. Is there a "virtual inscription" that you would pass on? How would you ideally inscribe a copy of Fat Cat to a reader?

No need to be virtual. You pick the winner, and I’ll personally send him or her a signed copy.


To participate in this generous book giveaway offer, simply leave your name and e-mail address and consider yourself entered to win! I'll choose someone at random (using random.org) on October 27th.

Check out, also, Robin's official website and Blog (and check out some very exciting film news about Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature!)

Mandy

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review of *Fat Cat* by Robin Brande


I had no idea that Robin Brande was going to have her second book published this month. I had read her first book, Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature in one sitting at the library last year. I was browsing the shelves and picked it up at random, thought I'd just read the first chapter to get a feel, and found myself a few hours later having finished it. So I was very excited to get a copy of Fat Cat this week.

When I saw the front cover online I thought the purple form being squished by the measuring tape was a person's body, but it's actually a purple book. There are curled pages along the right hand side, if you look closely. Catherine, Cat, is a science nerd. She feels she's overweight and is addicted to sugar, caffeine, and other additives. She's an overeater and is generally lazy about her eating habits, often eating from an emotional need rather than a sense of bodily hunger. Her addiction to crappy food also fuels her cravings for more crappy food. One thing I loved about Fat Cat is that Brande never gives out the numbers; we never know how exactly "fat" Cat is, or how skinny she gets when she starts eating right. Which is great. You just get this sense of how Cat feels about herself at the beginning and how she feels as the story goes on. Her weight is measured by how good she feels inside.

So Cat is in her highschool research science class and her teacher Mr. Fizer is describing their big project of the year. The project is independent and each person has 7 months to work it out for themselves. Everything is top secret and the final presentation is very important for college applications and scholarships. Secretly, winning with her project is important to Cat because it would mean beating Matt McKinney, her nemesis. According to Cat, Matt is a total jerk. We're also told that Matt did something unforgiveable years ago that Cat has held onto, and now she's making it her personal goal to beat him.

The project is assigned randomly. Students pick a picture out of a face-down pile and have to form a hypothesis based on the image. If you're lucky you'll get a picture that has something to do with your strengths; like Matt's strength is Astronomy, and when he picks his picture, peers at it and smiles, Cat is beside herself. It just fits in with her image of him as someone who gets everything in life so easily. Cat's picture, however, gives her a lot to think about:

The picture was worse than I thought.
Naked Neanderthals.
No, I take it back. Not Neanderthals, but something even more ancient--Homo erectus, to be exact. Early hominins from 1.8 million years ago, the caption said. Great. Highly relevant to my own life, not to mention my fig wasps.

At first she is lost in self-doubt. Then she takes a good look at the woman Neanderthal:

And she was thin. Not emaciated, fashion-model thin, but that good muscular thin like you see on women athletes. She looked like she could run and hunt and fight just as well as the men--maybe even better.
And that's when I realized: I wanted to be her.
Not her in the sense that I wish I had to fight saber-toothed hyenas just to get a decent meal, but her in looks. I want--and I know this sounds incredibly shallow, but science requires the truth--I wouldn't mind for once in my life seeing what it's like to actually look...good. Or at least better than I do right now. Maybe even pretty, if that's possible.

So Cat does some research and finds out what Neanderthals would have eaten at this point in their evolution and she follows the spirit of their diet for the next 7 months. She has to get over her cravings, give up sugar, diet coke, caffeine, crappy foods. She even gives up most forms of technology, although allows herself necessities like running water and cooking with a stove. Her early hypothesis is that modern people have let themselves go soft; they are lazy about what they eat and its led to all types of modern problems like Diabetes and obesity. But this need to be like that Neanderthal woman is at the heart of Cat's new lifestyle.

At about the three-quarter mark in the story, I started to worry that the basic science part of Cat's project was lacking, that she was only doing it to look better. And seriously, like two pages later, her teacher brings this exact idea up with her. Cat's priorities take a turn and it adds this depth to her story that I really appreciated while reading.

Fat Cat is also really funny:

He took me to Goony Golf and we sat up inside the giant Mondo Head in the dark and he kissed me, which I was prepared for, but then he made an unauthorized reach for the breast. Luckily I was wearing my new special sports bra with all the complicated hardware and about fifteen layers of fabric between me and the outside world, impervious to both nuclear weapons and unauthorized groping, and when I pushed Greg away and said, "What are you doing?" he answered, "Come on, babe, I love you"...

My favourite character is Nick, Cat's classmate. He's a science brain and keeps to his own during school season but in the summer he's a "major hound dog", hooking up with science geek babes at summer camp. He and Cat have a fling in the book and it's the funniest section.
I really enjoyed Cat's transformation. It was subtle and I knew what was probably going to happen by the end, but the way Robin gets us there is the real story. I felt happy for Cat by the end and kind of pumped to eat apples slathered in peanut butter.

One more hilarious quote to finish off this review:

Research Project, Phase II: Effects on male population of changes in female appearance. Experiment #1...

The question is, can I do this right? There are so many variables when you start involving other people. It isn't like working with fig wasps. I can't just crush boys into a petri dish and extract their DNA. Or really, in this case, their whole psychological makeup.
But it's like what Einstein said: "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?"

Mandy

Friday, October 9, 2009

In My Mailbox This Week!

I got a few great books this week!

Thirst No. 1, by Christopher Pike. I didn't read Christopher Pike growing up; he's been writing teen thrillers since the 80's. And Simon Pulse is releasing The Last Vampire series (6 books) as Thirst 1 and 2. It was originally published in 1994. I really like the new cover. And the fact that they've collected three books into one. The story is about Alisa, a 5,000 year old vampire who goes back to highschool and falls in love with a human named Ray. Her creator comes back to hunt her and she has to rely on Ray for help. And there seems to be a lot of historical references in the story from India and Egypt. Seems cool. The new edition just came out in August.

Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher. I'm pretty psyched to read this one. Although I made the mistake of reading too much of the inside jacket premise. I feel like it tells me the whole story! I prefer to find out while I'm reading. Logan is devastated after his girlfriend cheats on him and walks around school like a zombie. Until he meets the new student, Sage, and he feels a strange attraction to her. There is a big twist in the plot that I won't wreck for you here because I would have preferred to find out for myself while reading. Booklist compares Brian Katcher's previous book to John Green. Almost Perfect is released this month.

Fat Cat, by Robin Brande. I really enjoyed Robin's first book Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature. I actually hounded a publisher's representative to send me a copy of Fat Cat, I wanted to read it so badly. I'm almost done it now and it's so good. Check back for a review. I want to save all my comments for a review post! Fat Cat is out this month.

Funny Business: Conversations With Writers of Comedy, by Leonard S. Marcus. I was really excited to get this one because I had read Leonard's collection of interviews of Fantasy writers and it was so good. This one is a collection of interviews of YA writers of comedy such as Beverly Cleary, Louis Sachar, Daniel Pinkwater, Judy Blume, Carl Hiaasen, Jon Scieszka, etc. Leo does a great job of structuring his interviews and adding cool things like childhood pictures, prints of manuscripts, stuff you usually don't get to see. I am especially lucky because this one came in hardcover and it's heavy and smells good. Like a real book. This one is also out in October.

Some cool things this week at Edge of Seventeen:

Review of *The Broken Thread* by Linda Smith

A Little *Sarah Dessen* Love

Plotting and Planning *Dystopian Teen Week*!

Mandy

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