Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Monday Muse: Mary Hogan

This week's muse: Mary Hogan
Starring in an: interview
Haha. I know it's not Monday, and I know I'm totally behind schedule on my posting (School. You know how it goes), but why save a perfectly good interview for later when you can have it now? (:
Bookworm: Where is your favorite place to travel?
Mary: I LOVE road trips across the US. If I wasn't a writer, I'd probably be a trucker. Though I'm sure I'd annoy everyone with my horn. How could you resist honking that amazing horn? Our country is phenomenally beautiful when seen from the road. And, of course, roadside diners are the best.

Bookworm: Have you ever had any funny/particularly memorable travel experiences?
Mary: Last year, I went on a two week road trip/book tour across New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. To keep myself company, I bought several classic disco CDs (I know, I'm a freak...a super freak, I'm super freaky). There's something about a great disco song, like Boogie Wonderland or Disco Inferno, that really revs me up. So I was driving and car-dancing (lots of head action) and singing at the top of my lungs. By the time I arrived at my first school visit, i had complete laryngitis! (I think it's called party-all-nightis when it happens in a club). I had to squeak my way through my first book event, then lip-sync my disco songs for the entire rest of my trip.

Bookworm: Out of all the characters from your books, which one can you relate to the most?
Mary: Honestly, I see a little of myself in all my characters. Or, at least, the self I'd like to be. My characters all tend to be slightly outside of the mainstream, trying to figure things out. That's definitely me. Which is probably why I'm a writer. I've always been on the sidelines watching everyone, trying to figure out how the game is played. The trait I love most in all my characters is their dogged determination. They NEVER give up. Which, to me, is the secret to life. That, and a great disco song.

Bookworm: What book are you currently working on?
Mary: I just finished the last book in my teenage Susanna series. It's called Susanna  London. It's set in London, and will be published by the English publisher, Simon & Schuster UK. I love, love, love the way the whole series turned out....definitely an international affair. I feel very global.
   While I was on my laryngitis road trip last year, I had an idea for an adult novel. I thought I'd give it a try, and that's what I'm writing now. I can't tell you very much about it, but I promise there won't be any disco in it. Well, maybe a little...

Bookworm: What is your favorite YA book?
Mary: When I first started writing YA, I read all the greats: Holes, Harry Potter, Princess Diaries, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging...I couldn't believe how many talented writers there were out there! I remembered thinking, "My goal is to write good books that just happen to be for teens, not TEEN books." Any YA novel that does that successfully has my undying admiration.

Bookworm: What is your advice for young adults who want to become authors?
Mary: Tell your personal truth. Be brave. Let it all hang out. To me, that's the best way to tell a completely unique, utterly riveting story. 
But, if you write about real people, change their hair color. For some reason, no one recognizes themselves if you change their hair color. Except my parents, of course, but you can't hair everything.
Thank you so much, Mary, for the awesome interview!
Check out a review of Susanna Sees Stars here!
Check out a review of one of Mary's standalone titles, Pretty Face, here!
Have a very happy, safe, and fun Halloween! 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My So-Called Family

Title: My So-Called Family
Author: Courtney Sheinmel
Pages: 208
Simon and Schuster, Otober 2008
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended for: Preteens, ages 10-13
Rating: A-

Everyone wants a normal family, but it depends on what their definition of "normal" really is... For thirteen-year-old Leah Hoffman Ross, having a loving mother, stepfather, and stepbrother isn't enough. She's always felt "different" due to the fact that she lacks a real father: instead, in order to have Leah, her mom got donor #730 from the Lyons' Reproductive Services, and Leah's been trying to hide her embarrassing secret for her whole life. So when Leah's parents announce that they're moving from their home in Baltimore, Maryland to New York, Leah finds herself excited at the prospect of meeting new friends who don't know about her secret. But even after meeting 3 new friends who like her for who she is, Leah can't help but wonder if her donor fathered other kids, leading her to search for possible half-siblings through the Lyons' site. And when she meets her half-sister, a girl her own age, without her frustrated mother's permission, she begins to question the true meaning of family...
   Debut author Courtney Sheinmel's unique new novel is modern, fresh, and fun. Leah experiences situations that tween girls can truly relate to, such as curfew, belonging, family problems, and is overall a truly realistic character. From page one, I was sucked into this extremely well-written novel, and when I finished, I felt like I personally knew all of the characters. Two of the best features, I think, are the point of view that the story is written through, and the dialogue. Leah has a real voice that actually sounds like something a thirteen year old girl would say. The dialogue is flowing and reflects each characters' personalities, and I loved how Ms. Sheinmel snaked a little subplot into the story (Chase, Avery's brother, and his college issues). My one complaint would be that I found My So-Called Family to be a bit lagging and slow in the middle. But as the plot neared the end, it picked up again and flowed to the very last page, where it ended in the perfect way. Brava, Ms. Sheinmel, for creating such a lively story for preteens!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Monday Muse: Courtney Sheinmel

Today's Muse: Courtney Sheinmel, author of new release My So-Called Family (Simon & Schuster, 2008).
Starring in: An interview!
Bookworm: What inspired you to write My So-Called Family?
Courtney: There were a few different things that all happened around the same time - a friend of mine used a donor to have a baby, and my best friend told me about a movie that featured a number of donor kids. Then one day I was watching The Today Show, and there were a bunch of women being interviewed whose kids all had the same donor. I thought about what it would be like to have siblings you might not even know about, and the character Leah was born.

Bookworm: Which character can you relate the most with?
Courtney: I think I relate to Leah, the narrator, the most. Even though I have a dad and not a donor, I did give Leah a lot of my personality traits. Worrying what other people think of me was a very big thing for me in middle school and high school, much in the way that it is for Leah. I also picture Leah looking something like me - green eyes, light brown hair, and on the short side.

Bookworm: What do you like most about writing for kids/young adults?
Courtney: I think the tween/teen years are just about the most interesting years of life. In a lot of ways, the person you're going to be as an adult is shaped by the people who are around you and the experiences you have during that period. At least that's the way it was for me. Also, writing for kids and young adults gives me an excellent excuse for reading other MG/YA books, which are some of the greatest stories I've ever read.

Bookworm: What is your favorite modern young adult book?
Courtney: I read Shug by Jenny Han a couple years ago, and I fell in love with it. I bought it for my niece, and talked about it with her and her friends. And now I'm anxiously awaiting her next book. Some other recent favorites are Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, After the Joyce Carol Oates, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt, and of course the books by my fellow Class of 2k8 members!

Bookworm: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Courtney: Read, eat good food, go to movies, go to Broadway shows, and just hang out with my family and friends.

Bookworm: What do you want your readers to know about you?
Courtney: I want readers to know how thrilled I am that they are actually reading my book! I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I used to staple loose leaf pages together to make "books". So the fact that a real book with my name on the cover exists in the world is the most exciting thing - and the idea that people will pick it up and read it makes me feel so honored.
Many thanks to Courtney for the awesome interview! Keep your eyes peeled for a review of My So-Called Family coming soon, and don't forget to check it out (it was released yesterday-so, yes, you can find it on Amazon)!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Flashback: Misty of Chincoteague

Today's Flashback: Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (1947)
Yes, I know, I'm very indecisive, but I've made another change to the Friday Flashback criteria...from here on, Flashbacks will be only about classics. I'll post pictures and facts about the certain book I've chosen for the month, and then there's space for discussion in the comments area. I'd love to hear what your favorite thing of Misty of Chincoteague was, or memories that you relate to this timeless children's classic!
Misty of Chincoteague is a story about a two siblings, Paul and Maureen Beebe, who live on Chincoteague Island with their grandparents. They're saving up money to buy the most elusive wild pony mare-The Phantom, and her new colt at this year's Pony Penning! But can they capture-and buy-the mysterious mare? Three words to describe this cute n' easy chapter book: sweet, sweet, sweet! Younger readers will love this horsey tale.

Interesting facts about Misty*:
- Misty is a TRUE story
- Marguerite Henry, the author, went to Chincoteague Pony Penning in 1946 to research her book, and ended up meeting the Beebes and Misty.
-Misty was born on Jule 20, 1946
- Marguerite Henry wanted Misty for her book, so she and Grandpa Beebe struck a deal: she'd pay $150 for Misty and feature Maureen and Paul in her story.
- Misty's most famous foal's name is Stormy (Stormy, Misty's Foal, the sequel to Misty of Chincoteague, is about him).
- A movie was made about Misty, and the colt who played her was black, dyed white for the film
- Misty died on October 16, 1972, and Stormy died in 1993. She was stuffed, mounted, and put on display in the Beebe's former ranch-house.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CONTEST!!! Win A Copy of Popular Vote!!

Hey, everyone!
Here's your chance to "vote for Erin" by winning a signed copy of Popular Vote, written by the lovely Micol Ostow! (For a review of Popular Vote, click here. For an interview with Ms. Ostow, click here.)
Here's how to enter:
FOR ONE ENTRY: Comment under this post. Since it's election season, and Popular Vote's plotline revolves around politics, come up with a clever slogan for your presidential nominee of choice (either Obama or McCain). (For instance, make up something like "Obamarama" or "I'm a McCainiac", etc). 

FOR ADDITIONAL ENTRIES: Comment on any Bookworm Readers post/author interview and/or "follow" Bookworm Readers on Blogger. Then comment back over here and let me know what you've done so I can give you your extra entries!

Entries close November 7, 2008, so please make sure you enter before the deadline! I'm excited to read what you come up with! Good luck!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Monday Muse: Introducing...Susan McBride!

Today's Muse: Susan McBride, author of The Debs (Delacorte Press, 2008)
Starring in: An interview! (see below)

Bookworm: Who is your favorite character in The Debs?
Susan: You know, when I started writing, Mac was my favorite because she has a lot of my sarcasm and cynicism in her. She's tough on the outside but a marshmallow on the inside. The more I got into the book, the more Laura took over. She's a size 14 in a sea of size zero girls, and she doesn't care that she looks different (aka, she's not a lollipop!). Laura's not afraid to dream big and to go after what she wants. She has guts, and I admire that, especially at a time in most people's lives when they're afraid to take chances for fear of making fools of themselves. I also have to say that it's very fun writing about Jo Lynn, the former beauty queen whose mother has basically taught her to win at all costs. She's like Debutante Barbie, but on the inside she's more insecure than anyone knows. She's definitely a formidable foe for Laura, so look out for plenty of catfights to come!

Bookworm: Were you yourself ever a debutante?
Susan: I grew up in the area of Houston that I describe in The Debs (it was called "The Bubble"for a reason), and I definitely incorporate personal memories in the plot. But, no, I was never a debutante. I did have plenty of friends and acquaintances in Texas who debuted and who invited me to their parties, so I'm pretty well-versed on the whole scene. Besides, it's fiction, and the fun part of writing fiction is making things up!

Bookworm: If The Debs were made into a movie, who would you want to play each character?
Susan: Wow, I haven't even thought of that. Hmm, Ellen Page might make a good Mac. Emma Stone has the right coloring to play Ginger. I would love for Blake Lively to be Laura. She's the right height and so pretty, but she's too thin! Amanda Seyfried might be a good Jo Lynn, but she already played a similar part in Mean Girls, so I'm not sure. I'd love to hear what you think!

Bookworm: How many books are you planning to write in The Debs series?
Susan: Right now, I'm just thinking of one book at a time. I'm in the middle of writing Book Three, and we'll see what happens after that. A lot depends on how The Debs does and then Love, Lies, and Texas Dips after that. So I'm crossing my fingers and toes and trying not to hold my breath too much...because it's so hard to write if I'm passed out on the keyboard.

Bookworm: Will you give us a sneak preview of the next Debs book, Love, Lies and Texas Dips?
Susan: Love, Lies, and Texas Dips will be out June 9 [2009], and it's even juicier than The Debs (I know, that hardly seems possible). If you thought Jo Lynn was nasty before, she gets even nastier in LLATD, as she thinks Laura Bell is messing around with her boyfriend. Not only do Jo Lynn's evil plans nearly get Laura kicked off the debs list, but they almost ruin her life as well. Mac realizes she's falling for her best guy friend, only it may be too late. Ginger has another potentially disastrous encounter with a guy with a shady past. That's all I'll spill so I don't ruin any secrets!

Bookworm: What is your advice for young adults who want to become authors?
Susan: Read as much as possible in a variety of genres. Write as much as you can, whether it's short stories, novels, or journaling. Play the observer and pay attention to people around you: how they speak, what their gestures and clothes tell you about them. Learn about the publishing business and how it works by attending author events and asking questions. Email writers whose books you enjoy and find out how they became published. And don't ever give up if it's what you want to do. It's not an easy path, but so worth it if words are your passion and you can't imagine doing anything else.

Bookworm: What do you like most about writing YA novels?
Susan: It seems like there are fewer boundaries in YA fiction, and I love that. YA books tackle so many subjects, from really fluffy to topical and disturbing. I like to mix things up in my novels, doing whatever it takes to tell my story the best way possible. When I wrote mysteries, it felt like there were so many rules to follow (and I'm not great at following rules!). With The Debs series, I feel free to be both fluffy and topical, and I get into the nitty-gritty of my characters' lives without someone saying, "You can't do that in YA!"
Thanks, Susan! And don't forget to check out The Debs official site to enter the contest sponsered by Random House and Lilly pulitzer to win a trip for four to NYC and a shopping spree at the Lilly store on Madison Avenue! The deadline is October 27, and it's for girls ages 12-18 as of August 26, 2008. Good luck!
Click here for a review of The Debs, and watch out for Love, Lies, and Texas Dips, debuting in June 2009.

The Debs

Title: The Debs
Author: Susan McBride
Pages: 246
Delacorte Press, 2008
Genre: Chick Lit/Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Teen girls, ages 14 and up
Rating: B-

It's debutante season in Houston, which means that girls of the city's wealthiest families are preparing themselves for the biggest annual social event for worthy daughters of the ├╝ber-privileged: the choosing of this year's Glass Slipper Club Rosebud "debs". And this year, the race is going to be anything but clean and fair...
   Three best friends are eagerly awaiting their invitations to the deb ball, but this year holds more drama, catfights, and un-ladylike behavior than before.
   Laura Bell's biggest dream is to become a Rosebud, despite her size 14. Unfortunately, her biggest rival holds a scandalous secret that could crush her debutante eligibility... Ginger Fore, daughter of a well-known billionaire, also shares her friend's debutante dreams, but when her love of the environment gets her into a sticky situation that might put her into a Texas-sized amount of trouble, she might just have to kiss her fantasy good-bye. Meanwhile, their best friend Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie, is anything but excited about fulfilling her late mother and peppy stepmother's dream of debdom. Why get dressed up in frilly dresses and long gloves when you could be reading? Unfortunately for this trio of best friends, their longtime rival and former beauty queen Jo Lynn Bidwell, who is used to winning no matter what, will stop at nothing to make sure that these three girls don't get what they want....even if it means spreading vicious rumors, and stealing their boyfriends....The heat is on in "H-Town", but who will come out on top?
   Susan McBride's first YA novel is a success, in my point of view. Colorful, fast-paced, and packed with all sorts of drama, The Debs will definitely appeal to the older side of teens. Readers will be rooting for the three protagonists the whole way, right up to the eagerly-awaited climax and almost cliff-hanging ending. My favorite character was by far Ginger, but it was also fun to get into Jo Lynn, (the "mean girl")'s head, loathing her almost as much as Laura, Ginger, and Mac did. I loved how the characters took turns telling the story, and the little quotes before each new chapter were hilarious. While I thought The Debs was a little shallow, not my idea of a hard, serious read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Four Things My Geeky Jock-of-a-Best-Friend Must Do in Europe

Title: Four Things My Geeky Jock-of-a-Best-Friend Must Do in Europe
Author: Jane Harrington
Darby Creek Publishing, 2006
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Recommended to: Preteen-Teen girls, ages 11-14
Rating: B+

Brady's headed for Europe on a Mediterranean cruise for weeks of relaxation, new cultures to experience, bonding with her crazily eccentric mother, and...four instructions Sharpie'd onto her hand by her best friend Delia on what to do for the length of her trip! Some "rules" are easier, such as writing letters back home every day (which, duh! She would've done anyway), while others (like rustling up the courage to wear a teensy bikini in public when you're not exactly made for miniscule swimsuits) are harder. In between meeting international teens on the cruise, visiting the ruins of Pompeii, experiencing a major bikini malfunction in the French Riviera, and trying to spot a "code-red Euro hottie", this spunky, funny teen is just trying to keep sane....Yep. This vacation is going to be anything but ordinary, but one thing's for sure: readers will be cracking up as Brady hops from Italy to France to Spain, experiencing hilarious overseas escapades and funny situations that will have readers happily flipping pages for the entire lighthearted story.
   The best part of this book, I think, are the awesome, kick-butt characters. Their personalities are so eclectic and fun. Brady's a kick in the pants, Clare is funny in her own special way, their mom's character is absolutely hilarious, and how could you not love Delia? Jane Harrington has a real voice that appeals to teens, and she tells a fast-paced story that's full of lighthearted humor, overseas adventure, and fun that will keep readers occupied and won't have them bored. The setup of the novel, in letter form, is easy to read, making the reader feel like they're peeping in on the private world of Brady as she writes home about all of her international adventures, her mom, and her four summer goals. Whether experiencing your own summer adventures or simply at home with a craving for a good book, Four Things will keep readers satisfied from page one. Although not many people know about it, Four Things is perfect for teen girls who will relate greatly with the spunky protagonist. Brava, Ms. Harrington!