Monday, August 31, 2009

Teaser Tuesday *Wings*

I am super ashamed to say that I forgot I had Wings by Aprilynne Pike. It's an advanced reading copy that is not so advanced now that May has passed. So I want to showcase it today because I am very excited about this book, it has been bumped bumped bumped up my to-be-read list to the top. And I'm addicted to the author's blog, too, she's so pretty.

From Aprilynne's website:
Aprilynne Pike's #1 best-selling debut, Wings, is the first of four books about a seemingly ordinary girl named Laurel who discovers she is a faerie sent among humans to guard the gateway to Avalon. When Laurel is thrust into the midst of a centuries-old battle between faeries and trolls, she's torn between a human and a faerie love, as well as her loyalties to each world. In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.

And here is your teaser:

She didn't even have to turn to see the new development. Long, bluish-white forms rose over both shoulders. For a moment Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful--almost too beautiful for words.

OOh, what will happen! In a way I love re-remembering books that I get jazzed about all over again.

I was just perusing the acknowledgments section at the back and Aprilynne is so funny:

{about friends from} "You are all awesome like whoa"

Aprilynne Pike is awesome like whoa.


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

*Catching Fire* releases Tuesday

Catching Fire, book two in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, is available tomorrow in stores. Here is a clip of the author reading the second chapter of her book!
I'm just reading The Hunger Games for the first time now, and loving it of course. I don't know why it took me so long to get to it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Who were those models?

I went to a matinee movie this afternoon to see District 9 (so great!), and I was reading through their Famous free movie magazine. They usually have the teen edition but I didn't see it anywhere. But this issue had a neat little article about Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer's Body, Veronica Mars) and how she used to be a model for teen novels by Francine Pascal (Sweet Valley High fame)!

The three Victoria Martin books written by Francine Pascal all feature Seyfried on the cover, and my favourite is for My Mother Was Never a Kid with half of her hair crimped and half straightened. These titles were originally published in the eighties but they must have been repackaged in the nineties because Seyfried is 23. Oh, no, I just looked down and saw that they were repackaged in 2003. And apparently she starred in Mean Girls just soon afterwards (she is 11 on these covers).

Hanging Out With Cici was Pascal's first YA novel and it was later renamed My Mother Was Never a Kid after it was televised. AND it's actually a time-travel book as Victoria Martin goes back in time to see her mother at her age. Here's what one person on wrote about this book:

The creator of Sweet Valley High digs deep in this fantasy about a girl who gets caught passing a joint, bumps her head, awakes in the 1950's and befriends the one person on earth she can't tolerate: her mom.

Many people mention liking the Victoria books better than Sweet Valley High! It's funny because I often wonder who is on the cover when books decide to package with photographs of people. Obviously most are just teen models, but I often want to know who these people are!

Monday *Ask a Bookseller*

This week for *Ask a Bookseller* I was asked by Katie from Read What You Know:

How would you like to interact with librarians in your community?

I just watched the movie I Love You, Man with Paul Rudd (which was awesome) and I have a similar problem finding librarian friends that he had finding guy friends! I haven't been able to break into their world. I really DO want to call out each week as I go into the library, "Just a bookseller here looking for teen books if anyone wants to come over for a chat, I'm gonna be here for like an hour".

Actually, I have this funnysad story of me asking if I can join the teen reading challenge this summer even though I'm not a teen. It was a read-as-many-titles-as-you-can-that-are-supernatural/paranormal-in-nature challenge! I just got this really bad why-would-you-want-to? look that actually made me shudder. My library is the downtown location and I can tell that many of the ladies there are defensive only because they have to deal with some pretty crappy everyday things. One day some punk kids were running around toppling the planted trees and screeching. So they often have a lot on their plate.

But I would love to have the type of relationship with librarians in the sense that we could inform each other about great books. Like, the world of Manga is a world unknown to me. But my librarian friend Kiirstin (a book a week) reads them and reviews them frequently. She's totally won me over to the whole phenom with her reviews. And apparently they are pretty popular where she works. But, I can count on one hand the amount of Manga titles we've sold at the store. And that's mostly the special orders people place with us for particular volumes. So, what titles are we not carrying that we should? I have picked this info up from Kiirstin (thanks!).

I would also like for booksellers to have a role in all the cool awards that librarians get to choose and be on boards for. It is this whole other world of books that we don't get to be in. Our stigma, possibly, is that for a bookseller a book is an awesome literary experience but also an item of commerce. We sell books and therefore don't care as much about people reading or promoting cultural excellence. And I think that sucks.

I have just finished reading Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli, queen of The Leaky Cauldron the number one Harry Potter fansite, and she constantly mentions the role of independent bookstores in not only promoting Harry Potter titles but of helping to initiate its success:

The books were still all but nonexistant in the big chain stores. The hand-to-hand selling and word of mouth that had occurred in the U.K. was now mirrored in America, for a reason: independent booksellers had the luxury of choosing what they wanted to feature; they could decide what they liked and wanted to sell instead of going by incentives from corporate recommending it to the first customer who came into the store or putting it on display up front--before clearing their decisions with corporate higher-ups.

So we don't just sell books, we keep our eyes peeled for important literature. Which is exactly why indie stores are cool; we get to choose what we promote and handsell and my own choices come from my own reading experiences. I am totally about pairing the right book with the right person, and introducing great and important books to their readers. Isn't that also what librarians do?
Librarians are very important people and through history have stopped books from being banned, and have been the keepers of knowledge. They are a great resource for keeping great books in print by keeping people reading those titles and demanding them. And to that I say a resounding "Can I play too?".

Thanks, Katie!

*Ask a Bookseller* is a weekly question and answer posting that happens every Monday. Leave your questions in the comments field or e-mail them!

In My Mailbox This Week

Just one book this week, but an awesome looking one. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl arrived for me earlier in the week. And I had no idea that it was 600 pages!
I'm not really sure what it's about; the premise is very mysterious, which I love. I will read this book for the cover alone!

From their website:

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

What could it all mean? I'm pretty excited to get into this book.
It's written by two authors, and Margaret had been a video game writer. Very cool. There is a great section on their blog for photos of the setting for Beautiful Creatures, all graveyards, weeping willow paths and pie.

Has anyone read this one yet?

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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Once Upon a Time *Road to Bliss*

Road to Bliss by Joan Clark is a little lower on my to-be-read pile. Not for any reason against this book, actually it looks really good. I just have a lot to go through! I try to read the galleys that I receive just before their publishing date, so the review isn't months before it is available. But, I have too much going right now that I didn't get to Road to Bliss before its September publishing date. So, I at least wanted to read the first chapter, for my own curiosity.

From the ARC back jacket blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Jim Hobbs, alienated from life in Toronto, hitchhikes to the Prairies on a whim, where he finds shelter in an abandoned farmhouse. There, he encounters his neighbours, members of Majestic Farm, a group that abides by an old-fashioned, ultra-conservative set of rules enforced by their ruthless pastor. When Miriam, one of the pastor's daughters, secretly befriends Jim, they must hide their blossoming love for one another--or they will face terrifying consequences.

And here is how it begins:

Without his guitar, Jim Hobbs felt like the loneliest guy on the planet. Here he was on a sweltering August afternoon, parked on the running board of a transport truck waiting for the driver inside to wake up. Above him ABC Household Movers was printed on a shiny white door. Not a lick of shade anywhere, not a tree in sight, nothing to shield him from the sun smashing down. Though he'd taken off the woollen tuque he wore winter and summer, sweat dripped from his forehead onto the pavement, where it sizzled like drops of water in a frying pan before being sucked up by the sun.

Road to Bliss reminds me of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, which is about a young girl living in a fundamentalist compound with her family. The new preacher has a stricter rule in place and book-burnings and forced marriages between older men and much younger women are not uncommon. Kyra is in love with a boy her age and she sneaks away to read illicit books in the bookmobile that parks just outside the compound every week. The Chosen One was a really good book.

Also, there are no reviews for the book on yet. Joan Clark is better known for her adult fiction. Maybe because the book seems "literary" vs. genre her publisher hasn't put out the kind of teen marketing appeals that other books get. It makes me interested to read this book and find out.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review *Shiver*

The cover is so attractive; Shiver called out to me from the shelf. It was like in a romantic movie when suddenly the heroine's eyes dart exactly over and into her leading man's, a stranger to her but not for long! I was at work when I stopped and looked immediately to the teen shelves directly to my left. Under the "S"s sat this gorgeous spine, different from the rest (it could also be that one of my co-workers shelved it on my day off, otherwise I have my YA and teen sections memorized--this was something new!). I think I actually verbalized "wow" when I checked out the front cover.

Interestingly, I didn't notice the light blue wolf peeking out of the vines in the right corner, so when I was checking out the cover later on I had this great experience of suddenly realizing something was looking right at me; not dissimilar to the sensation of looking into a forest and suddenly seeing something looking back at you. So, well-done to the cover artist.

And the insides of Shiver didn't disappoint. This is a unique werewolf/shapeshifter novel; the mythos developed for Sam and his pack, the rules and laws of werewolves in this world, is new. Although I would argue that Shiver is more of a book about shapeshifters than werewolves. Actually, Stiefvater meshes both myths toegther to get what she needs for the story, and it works. Once bitten by a werewolf a person will spend some time switching back and forth between wolf and human until only in cold weather will he or she remain a wolf. Then, after so many years of living as both, a person becomes a wolf fully, leaving their human life.

Grace was dragged into the woods by wolves when she was younger, but never changed. Ever since she has had a connection with one yellow-eyed wolf in particular who watches her from the edge of the woods by her house. Until one day she meets Sam and can't shake the feeling that she "knows" him somehow. Grace and Sam have a few dilemmas around their romance as Sam's pack attack a too important human and the whole town is up in arms, and a few of Grace's friends discover their secret.

Shiver is aptly named. Even though the book is set in September, I couldn't shake the chilled feeling I had while reading it, as if it were December. Grace's woods, also, were amazingly described.

I enjoyed the developing relationship between Grace and Sam; it had this fated quality. They were sweeter with each other, there wasn't this focus on the sexual tension between them, or at least I didn't feel like "okay, just do it already" while I was reading. Actually Sam might have been a little too sweet; at one point he turns to her while they're watching a movie and is all like "tell me about the strained relationship between you and your parents". It's a little too emo for me. I was like "dude, seriously, there's a better time for it and she'll tell you when she's ready not when she's being put on the spot". But he DOES take her to a bookstore on their first date, so he made it up to me.

Shiver was a quiet, beautiful, and unique read. It's also nice to see some werewolves represented. Also, I am hugely not a fan of the paperback art (bottom, right). The tone doesn't touch the content of the story and it looks vampirey.

Shiver. Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic. 390 pages of pure werewolf love.

My Favourite Reads *The Last Unicorn*

I was obsessed with The Last Unicorn the movie, made in 1982 and, I feel, I watched every two weeks ever since. Play the theme song, performed by America *Yes!*, and I begin blubbering. So why didn't I read the book by Peter S. Beagle until two years ago for the first time? Probably because it would have scared me more than the movie did!

A particularly loving premise write-up from
The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien's The Hobbit, Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.

The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician--whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended--when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.
This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream.

My reading experience:

Where to begin? In ways the book is very similar to the movie: I love that the movie kept its ending, dark and sad as it is. They didn't sanitize anything for little kids. The ending in the book is even sadder and perfect, because you get Beagle's flawless prose taking you there. If you read The Last Unicorn for no other reason, it is masterfully written.

But with the book you get all of the nuances of the story that had to be left out of the movie. The unicorn's aloofness, being an immortal mythic being is better captured in the book. Schmendrick is more of a rogue and kind of a jerk, whereas in the movie he's more bumbling. There is a darkness to Schmendrick. And Molly, the lady who is too old now to have a unicorn approach her, even though she's waited for it her entire life--I cried for her story.
I'm losing my objectivity for this book, now, just remembering it!
The person I had the most pathos for was the prince, son of King Haggard, who falls hopelessly in love with the unicorn as she is in her human form. And I literally mean hopeless: you know from the beginning that the unicorn is not meant to be human. That is her purpose. She is a rarity and a changeling and you only really get a sense of her from the others in her travelling party.

I really don't want to give anything away about this book. I don't keep a lot of fiction at home on my shelves that I have already read; I usually give it away, trade it at used bookstores, etc. But I am inspired to track down every edition of this book to collect for their varying and beautiful covers. I read the blue frame edition but I am completely in love with the 80's cover. There is something so right about it.
This blog entry has made my day! Thank you, whoever is out there, for coming along with me as I wax emotional and nostalgic about one of my favourite books OF ALL TIME *cue America*


My Favourite Reads is a weekly meme hosted by At Home With Books.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interview *Half World's Hiromi Goto and Jillian Tamaki*

I have had the great fortune to interview (via e-mail) Hiromi Goto (right, top), author of Half World, and Jillian Tamaki (right, bottom), Half World illustrator. When I read Half World, an eerie and fantastically imaginative tale, I was blown away; it’s such a unique story. And then I had questions, Oh so many questions! And Hiromi and Jillian were generous enough to respond to my exciteable fanmail. What follows is an amalgam of separate interviews, combined for an organic read:

(Mandy) I found the first chapter gripping, Melanie's parents fleeing Mr. Glueskin and the nightmare denizens of Half World. Your story can be so dark and even gruesome at times, which I love because it's a tale for a younger audience. What made Half World a story that needed to be written for younger people? Can kids handle this type of darkness?

Hiromi Goto: Childhood is often socially constructed as an "innocent" site, but children are the most vulnerable to poverty, violence and abuse. They are dependent upon their caregivers and have no individual rights. They are also often inadequately protected by programs meant to protect them. Even for children who do not grow up in such dire circumstances, there is so much darkness in the world around them that cannot be justified or eliminated (i.e. war, rape, abduction, violence, sexism, racism, etc.). Half World is a story about the potential and capacity of a girl to move from despair and into light. In our lived lives there is no age limit as to who enters darkness. I think children and youth are often closer to the darkness than adults or parents imagine. To speak these things is a way to be able to understand it and move toward being an active force rather than passive. Children understand darkness. I think they need more examples of how to move through and out of it. And, if we also turn to original fairy tales and folk legends, there's a long legacy of horrific tales written for children. These stories can be cathartic and the symbolism found in them resonates on many levels. Like the workings of dreams and nightmares....

(Mandy) Mr. Glueskin is a great bad guy! His presence in the book is so strong; he is a consummate bogeyman. Where did he come from and did he scare you when he showed up?

Hiromi: When my son was in elementary school he had a dubious "art project" assigned that involved glueing strands of short pieces of yarn onto a piece of paper so that it would eventually depict a logo of a hockey team.... The deadline was drawing near and he wasn't finished and so I helped him. As we were attaching the strands to the paper our fingers were covered with glue. The glue hardened and then we would peel it off.

"It looks like skin," I crowed. "Skin. It's glueskin!"
"Yuck," my son responded.
"What if you met someone who was called Mr. Glueskin?" I asked.
"I'd be scared," my son said in a small serious voice.

I find Mr. Glueskin to be deliciously awful. He's complete id, personified. What I find most frightening about him is that there is no reasoning with him. He _doesn't care_.

(Mandy) How did you decide what scenes and aspects of Half World should be illustrated? Was the choice up to you entirely? Was it hard to choose what would be included? Were there any illustrations that didn’t make the final cut?

Jillian Tamaki: I'm afraid it's not very romantic... I was told which general scenes to illustrate, for reasons of pacing and whatnot. That was the art director's/editor's decision. When I plan out the illustrations themselves, I try to give them variety and action, while staying true to the story.

(Mandy) How did you decide that Half World needed accompanying illustrations? Did you decide what was illustrated and what wasn't? How was Jillian Tamaki chosen for the role?

Hiromi: My editor at Penguin suggested including illustrations and I was thrilled, and immediately asked if Jillian Tamaki could be contacted. I knew of her work through the original chapbook of _Skim_ (now a graphic novel), and she's a brilliant illustrator and artist.

(Mandy): Why are there no illustrations of Mr.Glueskin? I think it makes him seem scarier in the text. Was this intentional?

Jillian: Yes, I think it's exactly for that reason... to maintain a sense of mystery.

(Mandy): Half World has a very strong message about the heroism of the average person. Melanie learns that there is power in being able to make change in a fixed world. There is no magic per se in the world of your story, but you speak directly to the potential in everyone. Can you speak a little more about this and about the insights Melanie gains through her journey?

Hiromi: Although Half World is a novel that is categorized as "fantasy", I approach the subject matter "realistically". Having "magic powers" is fun and neat-- who hasn't wished to be able to magick unpleasantness away? But I'm not interested in writing escape fantasy (mostly!). I'm
interested in not only how the average person can survive, but in how the average person is heroic. I believe in the daily acts of heroism of people who will never be profiled on tv or in films. The woman who was physically abused as a child, but manages not to abuse her own
children-- that is heroic. Melanie, who does not feel like she has any power or impact, learns that her small part in the world has enormous consequences. I believe this is the same for every living creature upon this earth.

(Mandy): You capture Melanie perfectly. I really mean this. You have a complete sense of her character and it comes through with each image. In particular there are two Melanies on the front cover (which is gorgeous by the way!). Can you tell me how you developed the cover illustration for the book? I may be daft, but why two Melanies?

Jillian: There are two Melanies... the "pre-Half World" Melanie, and the "post-Half World". The Half World is a strange mirror or reflected image of our own, so that's perhaps where that image came from.

(Mandy): What inspires you? In general?

Jillian: Anything, really. Art, design, my friends' work, people in my neighbourhood, photography, nature, traveling...

(Mandy): The themes of awareness and memory are important in Half World. To not remember is a type of waking death for characters and to be aware of your predicament is to prolong your life between the fixed emotional trauma patterns that trap each Half Worlder. I thought this was a very insightful way of looking at a purgatory situation. What is the importance of awareness and memory for your characters?

Hiromi: The capacity to be self-aware and to learn and accept from experiences from the past is a key component of the characters' continued evolution. In order to evolve, the characters need to know where they have come from, and what they have inherited. A fabulous science fiction writer, Octavia Butler, had a great line in her novel, Parable of the Sower: Life is change.... Without change there is no growth.

Ladies, thank you so much! I really encourage anyone to pick up Half World, and to check out both Hiromi's website and blog (I've been kind of addicted to reading about her life and work, little insights she has) and Jillian's gorgeous sketchblog (it will make your day).

You will also enjoy:
Review of Half World
Book Trailer of Half World

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday Book Trailer *Shiver*

Whoa *Joey style*. I was poking around YouTube looking for my perfect Wednesday trailer when I found one for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, a book that I am just finishing up. And it is gorgeous. It relies mostly on the beautiful cover art for the book, yet it is haunting. Kind of a perfect book trailer.
But I AM really enjoying the book. I want to save all of my thoughts up for my review to come soon, but the setting is immaculate. Perfect and chilling. Here is your trailer:

And, AND, Maggie MADE this following trailer for her book, and it too is beautiful:

So, great catch this week, I think! Check back for my review of Shiver, soon to come.


Teaser Tuesday *Intertwined*

Most of Gena Showalter's other books have naked men on the covers. But they're also marketed for an adult audience. One thing I like about the new Harlequin Teen imprint is that the covers are toned down: they may be sexy books but the guy on the front is fully clothed. I like a little mystery in my leading men, I don't want to know if he has an inny or an outy bellybutton before I've cracked the book.
So I really like the cover of her newest for the imprint, Intertwined. Although half his head is cut off, the guy is wearing jeans and one of those waffle shirts. He's even got a white teeshirt underneath, covering up any chest sneak peeks! The title's text is a little tattoo-y, but cool. Just, there is such a HUGE trend in paranormal romance to have everyone tattooed.

Actually, let's take a quick Teaser break and insert this awesome video having a hilarious look through paranormal romance covers--and YA isn't exempt! (seriously, it gets so funny near the end):

"The heroines don't always wear pants"

Back to the Teaser. From the publisher:

Like most teens, Aden Stone has friends.
They just happen to be the four human souls living inside him. One can time travel; one can raise the dead; one can possess other bodies; one can foretell the future—and has even predicted his death.
Everyone thinks he’s crazy, which is why he’s sent to a halfway house for wayward teens. But he doesn’t mind.
For months he’s been having visions of a beautiful girl entering his life—a girl who will either save him or destroy him. And even though he’s half in love with her before she ever arrives, he’s unprepared for the centuries-old secrets she brings with her.
Together, they’ll be forced to enter a dark underworld of intrigue and danger... but not everyone will come out alive.
And the Teaser:

(This one is from the first meeting between Aden and Mary Ann. MA's hilarious best friend is speaking to him)

"Here's her number. If you still want to call her, that is, considering her rudeness," the girl named Penny said, sliding a piece of paper toward Aden. "The second number is mine. In case you decide you want someone a little more available." Then she, too, stood and walked away from him.

Looks pretty good so far.


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Monday *Ask a Bookseller*

On last week's *Ask a Bookseller* post, I was asked this question by the very-soon-to-be-bestselling-author Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush Hush will be big. I've already started customers at the store pre-ordering it with us):

How do you decide which books to recommend to people? The other day, I was in the teen section of the bookstore, and I overheard a mom/teen daughter duo trying to figure out which book to buy. The daughter wanted a "funny" book. I walked over and suggested Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, but in the end, they didn't buy it and I felt like I'd let them down. So, yeah. How do you do your best to match a book with a reader?

First off, Audrey, Wait looks great! I haven't heard of it before, but I'll put it on my TBR pile.

And, from my experience, recommending books is a lot of fun but it's a lot of work. Most often I find that people just want to re-create a specific reading experience. One of the biggest questions I got after Twilight really got going was, "now what do I read?". My recommendations at the time were to read the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray (#1 A Great and Terrible Beauty), Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.

The Gemma trilogy was a good pick because I suspected that these girls wanted the same themes they found in Twilight; paranormal mystery and romance (I found the tension between Gemma and her leading man compelling enough). But for those who didn't much care for the paranormal aspect, I recommended Just Listen because it has a great flowering relationship (and Owen is totally dreamy). And, for those who were under 14 who wanted to read Twilight, I recommended instead Wildwood Dancing because it is a really great book filled with magic, adventure and some immortal love. More often than not they would choose WD over Twilight. I also handed out a lot of copies of Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, which I think is a great book for the dudes who have an interest in Twilight but would prefer a vampire book for guys.

Basically I follow body-language cues when I speak to someone. My first question is "what was the last great book you read or last great movie you saw". This translates as, "what book are you trying to re-capture again?". And then I ask them what aspect they enjoyed the most about that book/movie (I ask about movies because often people don't read all that much but when they do they just want a really good book). Then I talk up the books I love and focus on fulfilling that thing they are looking for.

The best thing is, is that I can recommend books that are awesome but just don't have the notoriety of something like Twilight. My most favourite recommendations are to people who come in and just want something good, anything will do. I'll pull off 3 things and let them choose.

But the key, really, is knowing what people are looking for, asking questions about what they like and such, and taking cues from what they say and their body language.

Regarding something funny, I always recommend Abundance of Katharines by John Green, or The Boyfriend List by e. lockhart, The Space Between by Don Aker. Actually, my funny recommendations aren't as strong, but I would absolutely recommend checking through Bookshelves of Doom for her recommendations; she has a great eye for funny teen books. Check her list.

While we're on the topic, when Hush Hush is made available in October I will be comparing it to Twilight but with funny bits. It has the satisfying romantic tension but is lighthearted, not bogged down with too much pining. Whatever anyone thinks about the Twilight series, the first book is a great adventure romance. And again, people are pre-ordering Hush Hush already, so it must be touching a chord.

Many times people will reject all of my recommendations. I think sadly, "but you're missing out on a book that you will love!". It is very hard to recommend anything to another person, without really knowing anything about them. It's a bit like picking out Christmas presents for your boyfriend's estranged aunt. But when you really connect with someone and send them along with one of your favourite books and they've already cracked it walking out of the store, it's Hallmark priceless.


I really enjoyed creating this post! I'd love to hear from anyone with questions for a bookseller (I'm still not sure what I'm doing completely but send 'em along. This was total fun. And thank you, Becca, for kicking it off!). Posting will be every Monday.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Winner *How I Live Now*

Oh, I almost forgot about my giveaway ending today!

Linda Ellen is the winner of a copy of How I Live Now, which comes with a signed bookplate with a sticky peel-away back. I'll send you an e-mail!

From my earlier post:

New Yorker Daisy exiles herself to stay with estranged cousins (actually she's never met them) in the English countryside. Four precocious cousins and their mother live in a sprawling, charming old house, embedded in the lush natural landscape. Her Aunt Penn is busy in the city with some hazy government work and the 5 of them make due at home without any adult supervision, filling their days with farmwork, picnics and reading. Idyllic, until the war begins.

I was blown away by this story. I love that Rosoff had decided to set the events during an imagined war, one that feeds on confusion and seems to be a historical pastiche of conflicts during the last century. Rosoff is a master storyteller, an impeccable writer, and dammit, she made me weep. HILN proves the resonance of literature and its importance for the human heart.
Please keep checking back for more giveaways. There is still room for more draws for the Pete Hautman double pack, How To Steal a Car and Sweetblood (check my right sidebar for links).

In My Mailbox This Week

This week was very generous to me, book-wise.

I received a copy of The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go. It came with a note that suggested the use of nefarious means just to get this title on my desk! I was just talking about needing this book last week. It's slated to be a trilogy and the first one ended on a cliff-hanger. So great to get back into that world.

I also received Libba Bray's newest, Going Bovine, which I mentioned like 3 posts ago. It is really different from her Gemma Doyle trilogy, and will be a fun and funny read.

And, Harlequin publishing sent me two of their new teen imprint titles, My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent and Intertwined by Gena Showalter. They look great and the packaging is very attractive. I'm very impressed by their new line of books for teens which attempts to capture the integrity of books like Twilight, Hunger Games and The Book Thief (from their website).

Oh yeah, Frank Portman's newest, Andromeda Klein also arrived for me! It was no longer available as a galley, so I got the real thing, a big beautiful hardcover. King Dork was so awesome, I can't wait to get into this one. Especially with this blurb: "Andromeda Klein is a quiet, booky girl with an unexciting life". That's me, That's ME!

Except this week, which was hugely exciting.
I was thinking that I need a day off just to have a mini reading marathon. I have a bunch of great material here. My favourite thing to do is sit in a coffee shop and read. A little cliche, but it keeps me focused. Plus coffee, yum.
Where is your favourite place to read? Can you read in public?
What great books have you found this week?
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Once Upon a Time *Book of a Thousand Days*

Funny, this week's Once Upon a Time pick absolutely fits because it is a fairy tale reconsidered! Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days takes it's inspiration from a Brothers Grimm tale, from Shannon Hale's website (a cool place to browse around):

One night in the spring of 2003, I lay in bed reading the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I was drafting my second book, enna burning, and wanted to seek inspiration from the old tales. That was the first time I discovered “Maid Maleen.” It’s the story of a noble lady who refuses to marry a rich king because she’s in love with a prince. In anger, her father locks his daughter and her maid in a tower for seven years (read the rest here).

I loved this book so much that I feel possessive. Stephenie Meyer has a front cover quote saying, "My very favourite recent read", and in its simplicity it says exactly what I feel about it. Here is how it opens:

Day 1

My lady and I are geing shut up in a tower for seven years.

Lady Saren is sitting on the floor, staring at the wall, and hasn't moved even to scratch for an hour or more. Poor thing. It's a shame I don't have fresh yak dung or anything strong-smelling to scare the misery out of her.

The men are bricking up the door, and I hear them muttering and scraping cement. Only a small square of unbricked sky and light still gape at me. I smile back at its mean grin to show I'm not scared. Isn't it something, all the trouble they're going to for us?

My reading experience:

When I read this book last year I had already read Princess Academy and Goose Girl. So I was struck immediately by the maturity of this story. Which is absolutely not to say that Shannon's other books are immature in any way; both PA and GG deal with a few darker themes and the way that magical ideas are written in is inspiring and very insightful. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Book of a Thousand Days to an 18 or 19 year-old; this is fairy tale magic-making at its deepest gravity.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was that Dashti, the narrator and maid of Lady Saren, chronicles the verging insanity of being locked up for such a long time with no windows and very little else. Lady Saren deals with this worse than Dashti and Dashti watches her lady sink deeper into misery. Dashti is also a healer of a type. She can feel where people have a sickness or illness and heal it through her songs. But with Lady Saren, Dashti doesn't know what song will heal her. Only later does she understand what her lady needs.

And there's some romance, of course. Only not between the two people its intended for! I'll leave this secret for the reader to discover.

Remembering now, there is so much going on in this book. And you wouldn't think it since the main characters are trapped in a tower! But everything just really works in this book, and I am still chilled by Dashti's nemesis, the man Lady Saren refuses to marry.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cover Considerations

My co-worker and I were discussing YA cover art today. Specifically the new paperback cover for Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (my favourite Hale title). But also generally the trend within YA to show photographs of girls. I guess the idea is that readers get into books when they can relate to the cover girl. Like books for babies have pictures of babies in them. But, have a look at these very different covers of another Shannon Hale book I love, Princess Academy.

There's something that happens when Shannon Hale novels go from hardcover to softcover. They take on photos of girls, full-on face and body shots. Where the hardcover has a more whimsical, less obvious cover, the softcover becomes a portrait. And none of the girls remind me of the main characters. Well, maybe the blue cover below looks more like Miri than the rest. But that cover also looks like it could depict a bible story re-telling, with the goats in the background and the white sheet dress.

I have a bias for the hardcover children leading each other down a beautifully painted mountain. Maybe because this was the edition I read initially. But the colours are beautiful, the setting is evoked in the cover, and you only have an idea of what these girls looks like.

The pink cover just scares me. It looks like Paris Hilton's journal. Although it has some redeeming qualities like the attractively drawn clouds and mountains. The diamond-heart at the top is a bit much, though. And pink explosion doesn't say anything even remotely close to the story in Princess Academy.

Actually, I don't think any of the covers perfectly captures the story. The hardcover edition is really pretty, but it reminds me of Madeline (not a bad thing, just confusing). I'm not about to shout "more goats!", but there is something unsatisfying about this cover, despite being the best one of the lot.

I'm not sure what my conclusion is to this, but I wonder what other people think of these covers. Which one would you pick? And has there ever been cover art for a book that absolutely matched its story? Something so perfect you couldn't think of that book being packaged any other way? What book would that be?

If you haven't read Princess Academy yet, I really recommend it. It is a great story and has more depth than I expected. This and Book of a Thousand Days are my favourite Shannon Hale books.


Review *Everlost*

Yesterday was a great reading day for me. I had the day off *bliss* and I sat in a favourite coffee place finishing off Everlost. Then I read half of Harry, A History by Leaky Cauldron fansite lady Melissa Anelli and started Going Bovine by Libba Bray (which I realize now is 500 pages; I audibly gulped). So a pretty good day.

From Neal Shusterman's website (this blog is turning into a shrine!):

Nick and Allie don't survive the crash, and now their souls are stuck halfway between life and death in a sort of limbo called Everlost. It's a magical yet dangerous place, where bands of lost souls run wild and anyone who stands in the same spot too long sinks to the center of the Earth. Frightened and determined, Nick and Allie aren't ready to rest in peace just yet. They want their lives back, and their search for a way home will take them deep into the uncharted areas of Everlost. But the longer they stay, the more they forget about their pasts. And if all memory of home is lost, they may never escape this strange, terrible world.

My Reading Experience:

It's funny because this description and the cover of the book don't give away anything of the developing plot and the structure and depth this story takes on. Everlost is intended for younger readers than Neal's newest book, Unwind, and you can tell that in a way while you're reading. But at the same time I was struck by how sophisticated the story became. I wouldn't hesitate to convince a 17 year-old to read Everlost.

It starts simply. Nick and Allie, travelling in separate cars, collide and are thrown from their vehicles. They wake up in a forest and standing over them is a strange and exited boy who says he's been trying to wake them for 9 months! When they finally realize their situation, they set off to find answers and try to get home. But the world of Everlost is a lot more complex, and a lot more menacing, than it seems at first.

I was surprised by how imaginative Nick and Allie's world became. Everlost is a kind of dystopian, Lord of the Flies, Peter Pan place where only kids under the age of 15 "live". The explanation, given by Everlost's guardian Mary Hightower, or Mary Queen of Snots, is that adults have a fixed idea of the afterlife and usually get where they're going whereas kids are more easily thrown off path.

Mary Hightower is a very neat character and has an interesting role in Everlost. She has collected children and keeps them safe, from monsters or sinking into the earth. She has also written more books than anyone can read about their world and how to exist in it. Except, once Allie notices a few glaring discoveries about Mary, she leaves to find her own answers.

My only qualm is with the convoluted ending. It kind of ends on a flatter note, with a lot of action and confusion and a few things pulled out of nowhere. But, it is the first of a trilogy (the second is available November '09), and you can feel that by the not-completely-satisfying ending. Otherwise, the characters are totally engaging, and the mystery of Everlost keeps you reading. There are a lot of gems in this book, just like in Unwind, and it is a satisfying read.


In her book, You're Dead--So Now What?, Mary Hightower offers the following warning for the restless soul: "Wanderlust is a dangerous thing. In Everlost there's safety in staying put. Afterlights who are cursed with a desire to travel don't last for long. They either succumb to Gravity Fatigue, of they are captured by feral packs of unsavory children. The few that escape these fates become Finders, but the existence of a Finder is full of peril. Better to seek a safe haven, and stay there. And if you haven't found a safe haven, by all means, come see me"


In her book, Everything Mary Says Is Wrong, Allie the Outcast writes: "There are mysteries in Everlost. Some of them are wonderful, and others are scary. They should all be explored, though-perhaps that's why we're here; to experience the good and the bad that Everlost has to offer. I really don't know why we didn't get where we were going, but I do know this much: being trapped doing the same thing over and over again for all time is no way to spend eternity--and anyone who tells you so is wrong"

I forgot to mention how funny Everlost can be, too.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Books to Covet by their Trailers

I haven't read any of these books yet, but would love to after viewing their book trailers!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (yeah, still haven't read it)

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley (I really want to read this one!)

My Favourite Reads *Unwind*

Right now I'm reading Everlost by Neal Shusterman and I'm reminded of how much I love his books! Which is funny because the only other one I've read is Unwind. But, when I finished it last year, even while I was reading it, I had this sense that I would pretty much follow Neal anywhere storywise. So, knowing that the sequel, Everwild, is soon to be released (Nov '09), I started reading the first of the Skinjacker trilogy. But today I want to talk about Unwind as one of My Favourite Reads.

From Neal Shusterman's website:

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

Why it is a favourite read:

I started reading Unwind because the cover was so awesome. Also, I pretty much pick up anything that seems in anyway science fiction or dystopian for teens, which is an aftereffect of experiencing Ender's Game at a tender age. And, the thing that I'm realizing with Neal's books is that yes, he hooks you initially with a gripping premise--kids meticulously taken apart piece by piece but still legally alive as a way to salvage unwanted social outcasts--but he doesn't just ride this one narrative hook. He completely explores any and all themes associated, through a cast of well-written and memorable characters. So you have the idea that a person's body parts can be used to help others; What are the specific implications for a person not choosing this fate? What about people who DO choose to unwind themselves for possibly religious reasons? What about the people who, instead of using salvaged body parts to help them live, decide they just want nicer teeth? Also, how do these new body parts affect their owners?

Neal explores every possible ramification of his premise, he doesn't just go "oh, here's something that will catch them, now I just have to sit back and let the adventure plot do the work". He thinks about all of the ways the idea of unwinding could affect people and their lives, and he explores each idea through his characters. Unwind is very thoughtful and crafted. And I remember actually being surprised by this, by finding this type of attention to detail in Unwind. It was being marketed as an adventure, and it IS, but it is also a lot more.

Whenever I point this book out to my customers I have to downplay the dark nature of the premise. Maybe it's because it is usually parents coming in for books for their kids, but I find most adults unsettled by the idea behind Unwind. If a younger reader was browsing, he or she would probably be more apt to pick it up. Or see it in the library and find it attractive. But I actually get the gruesome-reeling-back face from adults. Although one lady told me that she didn't want to pick the book up for her teen because she worried that he would see her as the type to volunteer him for the process, and she herself said it wouldn't be out of character for her. I peered closer, waiting for the "just kidding", but it didn't come. It is to his credit that Neal writes books for his intended audience and not for their parents.
And now Everlost has me hooked.

My Favourite Reads is a weekly meme hosted by At Home With Books

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesday *Going Bovine*

Yesterday I received a copy of Going Bovine, Libba Bray's newest (thank you!). It looks very different from her Gemma Doyle trilogy. It also looks hilarious and like the funnest book I could be reading!


Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?
All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

And the teaser. This week I have chosen TWO. Just cuz. Well, just funny cuz. This is from Libba's three page acknowledgments:

I would like to thank everyone I've ever kissed or punched* {footnote} *For the record, the only person I have ever punched was my older brother, Stuart. And he had it coming. No one should get to wear the Batman cape all the time. The word is "share". I'm just saying.

And from the text proper:

{About the Small World Disney ride when he was five}
I don't know exactly how I made the connection, but right around Iceland, apparently, I got the idea that this was the afterlife. Sure, I had heatstroke and had eaten enough sugar to induce coma, but really, it makes sense in a weird way. It's dark. It's creepy. And suddenly, everybody's getting along a little too well, singing the same song.

I have only had time to peruse the story, and fully read the acknowledgments (I love seeing which writers are BFFs. Also, her shoutouts are hilarious). But I'm actually very pumped to read Going Bovine. I read recently on Libba's livejournal that she was wandering around in a cow costume to promote her book and I have searched desperately for a picture, just for YOU guys! But there are none, and I think Libba is behind that. However, please be content with this hilarious worth-your-seven-minutes-or-at-least-the-first-four video interview I took from Goodreads:


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading!

Monday, August 17, 2009

*Ask a bookseller*

I have this fun project in mind. But first I must put my bookseller's cap on.
At work, a superb independent bookstore in Waterloo Ontario, a place where I go to browse even on my day off, I am asked a bevy of different questions relating to books, publishing, book recommendations, etc. I answer questions all day. And I love finding out the answers!
I would like to take this dynamic to the blog. Now, granted, people who read blogs have access to the internet and so have access to hunting down their own answers. But, has anyone NOT had the experience of asking a book recommendation of a bookseller or a librarian? I still do it! And surely there might be some other things I can find out for you. Let me do the research.
The other week I was asked how a new blogger can get a hold of galley books, or advanced reading copies. I had my own thoughts about this and I also re-directed this question to The Story Siren's fantastic response. It was fun looking up resources and articles and answers.

I will re-craft and post my answer to this question, at least, for next Monday, to kick off *Ask a Bookseller*, and see how it goes from there!

And here's where you guys come in. Ask me something! And I will craft a blog entry answering your questions for next Monday. But I will also sweeten the pot each week with free books! Exact number to be determined, but at least 5 people will receive a free book in their mailbox. One of those books will be Liar by Justine Larbalestier, pre-controversy cover.

So e-mail me (address is top right) or leave a comment here and I will do my very best to find a great way to answer it! You can also ask anonymously, I won`t be publishing names, and still win swag!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review *How to Steal a Car*

Pete Hautman is one of my top 5 favourite authors. I say that without telling you who the other four would be only because I want it left open-ended. I just want you to know that I've read a lot and that a top 5 placement means something. I like Pete Hautman books more than I like anything written by John Green, Libba Bray, Chris Lynch. Hautman is on par with Cecil Castellucci, in my heart. Again, that's saying a lot.

So I was ecstatic when I received a copy of his newest, How to Steal a Car, in the mail this week. Seeing as I didn't even know a newest was available! And it has a great little cover; little cop car figures chasing down a red convertible. All of my reading took a back seat to my time with this book. Which turned out to be no time at all as I read it in 24 hours.

I devoured it so quickly for two reasons. One, it's a good, gripping read. It doesn't let you put it down. Kelleigh, like the heroine of Sweetblood, is a delicious mystery as a person. In the opening scene she's witnessed a man drop his car keys at the mall, and she picks them up and keeps them. The rest of the novel is almost an explanation for her actions. But the story never comes right out and tells you what's going on in Kelleigh's head. It works its way around the story, circling closer and closer to the "real" story of who Kelleigh is. And Hautman is a master of narrative involution. It's what keeps me coming back.

And two, I don't actually think this book is more than 200 pages, so it was a quick read. But, when I finished, my first thought was "I wish this was 70 pages longer". I wanted more of the story. Nothing is missing and it has a satisfying ending, the characters are all fleshed out; this is a full story. But I wanted more. I wanted more, specifically about the situation leading up to the fate of Kelleigh's parents. I wanted more passages written about Kelleigh's homework reading, Moby Dick, and how it connected with her experiences. I wanted more of her own essay she's working on, How to Steal a Car.

Don't get me wrong. I was not dissatisfied with the story. It is an addictive read. It has all of the elements I truly loved in Sweetblood, Godless, Invisible. I just wanted that same story to last a little longer.

Although her role is largely off-screen my favourite character is Kelleigh's grandma, the hippie pregnant teen, one-time (that we know of) car thief. I love how Kelleigh digs up her past after her death and connects with her in a way she couldn't when she was alive. This piece fits in so perfectly in the book.

But I encourage you to check out Pete's blog and website. I hope he won't mind but I've scavenged this video of him reading from his book. It's really great! Top 5!


I also truly recommend:
Sweetblood by Pete Hautman

Actually, I've decided to make this review an impromptu giveaway. I want to give away a copy of Sweetblood and How to Steal a Car to a lucky winner. Please leave your name and e-mail to enter!

In My Mailbox Sunday

This week was exciting. I received a copy of Pete Hautman's newest, How to Steal a Car, which I've just finished. It should have been 70 pages longer at the least, full review to come.

I love surprise mail because when I requested this Pete Hautman title I was also sent three other titles from Scholastic that they thought I might like. There was no note, however, which is okay (reps are busy and I appreciate everything they do for our store). But, I was also sent Hannah: Daughters of the Sea by Kathryn Lasky. Incidentally, her name sounded SO familiar to me. Then I looked her up and she's the writer of The Guardians of Ga'hoole and some Royal Diaries books. Hannah looks like a mermaid/selkie story, which is awesome. I heart mermaids.

Also, I was sent How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. Which I was coveting on a few other blogs I read! I love synchronicity. Although it happens often because I am around SO many books. Scholastic also sent me another title which I left at work for now and I absolutely forget the title of. Tacky, sorry. I'll make an addendum blog post on Monday.

And, I now have a copy of After by Amy Efaw, which again I was coveting elsewhere. After is published by Viking via Penguin.
Ha. I just peeked on the back to see the marketing campaign info for this book and it states that they've sent it out to "industry big mouths". And I thought I was just blahblahblah-ing.

And that's my week in books recieved in big lovely yellow envelopes which make my eyes water when I see them. Seriously, our delivery person thinks I have a crush on him, the looks I give.

I hope everyone else found some great books this week!
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren


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