Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Few Weeks' Worth of In My Mailbox

Yes, I've failed as a blogger for the past few (days? weeks? months?). School is back and time is short...Anyhoo, here's what's been in my mailbox for the past few weeks:


  • You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
  • Troy High by Shana Norris
  • The Not-So-Great Depression by Amy Goldman Koss
  • My Double Life by Janette Rallison
  • Goddess Games by Niki Burnham
  • Plus by Veronica Chambers
  • How I Chose the Perfect Dress by Maryrose Wood
  • Model by Cheryl Diamond
  • The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
  • And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman
  • And Then I Found Out the Truth by Jennifer Sturman
For review:
  • Torment by Lauren Kate (9/28/10)
  • The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green (9/14/10)
  • Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson (11/23/10)
More posts to come soon...sorry! :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)

Author: Justina Chen Headley
Pages: 241
Published: 2006; Little, Brown
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: A

All her life, Patty Ho has felt incomplete. Incomplete because she's half white and half Taiwanese, and doesn't really fit in anywhere. Incomplete because her white father left her when she was two. Incomplete because her strict Taiwanese mother worships Patty's older brother (he's going to Harvard, you know). So when a fortune-telling grandmother spies a white guy on Patty's horizon, Patty's no-nonsense mom decides to ship her away to Stanford math camp. Just when Patty's sure that her summer is going to be a major bust, life starts looking up...With the help of her friends, a camp love interest, and a long-lost relative, Patty might just find herself along the way.

My thoughts: Justina Chen Headley writes meaningfully and lovingly in a way that makes me think that she based the story off of her real-life experiences. The writing was so rich and deeply written, and I loved the diverse cast of well-developed characters. Not only bi-racial teens will be able to relate to Patty: the way that she told her story really had me rooting for her to overcome all odds, and she was honest and humorous. I also loved Patty's mom and how the author totally had me thinking that she was a horrible, harsh person. And, of course, all the people that Patty met at math camp were wonderful and realistic: I loved all the adventures that Jasmine and Patty shared.
Although the book starts off very slowly, Ms. Headley had the great ability of being able to wrap it all up in the end. I closed the book with a smile, wanting more of her writing! If you're looking for a meaningful, sincere, and still funny story about acceptance and family, then I'd highly recommend Nothing but the Truth.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interview with Jane Harrington


Bookworm: What was the inspiration behind 4 Things and My Best Friend?
Jane: When my middle daughter (Emma) was thirteen, I took her on a Mediterranean cruise. It was, like Brady's trip in the book, a "not mitzvah"--an event my husband and I made up to help out daughters feel that coming-of-age could be important even in a family with a mixed religious heritage. So, that was the inspiration for Four Things. The storyline is totally made up, but settings and characters are, well, familiar.
My Best Friend continues Brady's adventures, and is more imaged than Four Things, I guess you could say. I had our local high school in mind (TC Williams HS in Virginia, actually, which was the school from the movie Remember the Titans), and modeled some characters after neighborhood kids. Delia's sense of humor certainly mirrors that of one of Emma closest buddies. I had tons of fun writing My Best Friend: the characters were just off the map most of the time, and even I would crack up in surprise in the things they did and said. Hm...that sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it? Maybe the creative process is really just a form of insanity. A good insanity, though!

Bookworm: Where in the world have you traveled, and where would you like to go?
Jane: From the time I was born in 1959 until I graduated high school in 1977 I never traveled beyond the east coast of the US. And then I went to college locally, in the DC area, so I STILL didn't get anywhere. But I've been trying to make up for that since. I've been to various Caribbean islands, Mexico (Mayan ruins are COOL), and in 2000, I made it to
Europe. Ireland was my first venture across the pond, then Paris another time, then the Mediterranean cruise (Italy, France, Spain, & Malta), and then Ireland three more times. That has become a bit of an obsession.

Oh, yeah! And I've gone to lots of other awesome places IN the US now, like the Grand Canyon, which is AMAZING. We went on a family rafting trip down the Colorado River there in 2009, when my oldest daughter Meghan graduated from law school. We hiked all the way down from the rim to the river, and then spent a week whitewater rafting and camping under the stars--I totally recommend that! Next trip in the works? And Alaskan cruise. CAN'T WAIT.

Bookworm: Do you have a funny travel story?
Jane: Well, there are a lot of funny things that happened on the Mediterranean cruise with Emma, and I just had a fairly zany trip to Ireland with my three sisters (for instance, our mother bought us matching raincoats for the trip, which is both funny and not funny at the same time, considering we’re all kind of OLD for that), but I think I’ll share a memory from a trip I took with my youngest daughter, Lucy, since she hasn’t figured into this interview yet. She was 18 at the time.

We were in Ireland (of course), the summer of 2009, and we decided to climb a mountain to look for a holy well from ancient Celtic times. It was the kind of place where people used to “do rounds,” which was all about chanting and going in circles, and leaving offerings, etc. People did it to get cures for illnesses, or to appease the sidhe folk (which were always causing trouble to humans), or to get good weather, a bountiful harvest, stuff like that.

We had a map, so we kind of knew where the thing was supposed to be. It took an hour to climb the mountain, and once at the top we looked and looked and looked, but couldn’t really find this well. Then Lucy noticed a small fenced-in spot in the middle of a sheep pasture, so we figured that had to be it. (It had become very obvious that this well had not been so popular in modern times.) This sheep pasture was steep, and the grass was really long. But we were determined to see the well up close. So, we carefully made our way down to the fenced-in place, and, sure enough, it was a pretty little well with purple heather growing around it. Water trickled from a rock at its base. We made offerings and wishes, and were really, really satisfied with ourselves for finding it.

When we were done, we looked back up the grassy pasture, and then down to the bottom of it, where there was another trail. I decided that going down would be easier than going back up to where we came from. Lucy didn’t agree, so we parted—she headed up, I headed down. Very soon I came to realize that under the thick grass at my feet was a LOT of water. And it was moving swiftly. As these invisible currents pulled at my shoes, and it became harder and harder to lift my feet out of the matted sod, I started getting crazy thoughts about disappearing into a watery Celtic underworld where the sidhe would shrink me or turn me into a changeling, or
marry me off to a merman, or whatever it is that sidhe do in a situation like that. SO, I did what any normal human would do in a situation like that: I starting screaming. Looking back up the hill, I could see that Lucy was standing, quite safely, on the trail above the field, while I still had half the hill to scale in order to reach bottom. She was “encouraging” me to continue on—if you consider laughing at your mother a form of encouragement—and lifted her camera and began memorializing my predicament.

Okay, this wasn’t so funny for ME, maybe, but I do laugh at the memory. Here’s one of Lucy’s pictures (obviously, I lived to tell!):

Bookworm: What's next for you, writing-wise?

Jane: The book I’m working on right now is a departure from my past published works. It’s a lengthier mix of a contemporary story of a teen traveling to Ireland + a story of an Irish family just before their exodus from that land during the Great Hunger (a.k.a. the Famine) of Ireland. The contemporary story of the teen is not a new thing for me (though humorous antics are not part of her repertoire), but the historical fiction is what has become quite a project.

The nineteenth-century Irish family is based on the genealogic record of my own Harrington ancestors, so I have felt compelled to find out as much as I can about them. I had not done any genealogy work before I started on that quest. I love it, it’s fascinating, but it’s also addictive. I spend too much time trying to piece together their lives—both in Ireland and in the US—and not enough time actually writing about them. Every time I get a chapter done, I go back and ask myself questions like, “What kinds of berries would have grown around them? Where did they go to the get water for cooking and bathing? What did their clothes look like? Did they have shoes?” I don’t mind fleshing out characters, making up dialogue and putting them into scenes (it’s fiction, after all), but I won’t be satisfied with the work unless I’ve made it as authentically honest as I can.

The desire for this authenticity has also turned me into a wannabe Irish historian. In order to get inside the heads of my characters, I needed to understand why the Irish peasants were so poor, why they starved, why they fled in such great numbers. (A million left during the years of the Great Hunger, a million more died on the streets…in a country the size of New Jersey.) So, it took a lot of reading, and a lot of imagining, and searching newspaper articles in Irish libraries, and visiting memorials, and reading old manuscripts (some in the Irish language, which I had to have translated). Whenever I could, I made this a focus of my own English graduate studies—looking at the Great Hunger through poetry from the period, for instance. I have LOVED the research. But with my master’s degree earned now, four trips to Ireland completed, and a bookshelf and laptop computer chockfull of texts, it’s time for me to finish the writing. (I repeat, now, to myself: IT’S TIME FOR ME TO FINISH THE WRITING!)

Bookworm: What is your favorite part about writing for teens?

Jane: I guess what I appreciate most about the teen reader is her complexity. When I'm writing for teens, I know I have to earn every laugh, every tear. I've written for younger ages, and that's totally fun, but there's a definite satisfaction in knowing I've pasted muster with the high school crowd. That's my goal right now, with this latest work. So I better continue on with that. (And now for the requisite metaphor:) Though it may take some serious effort to get ther--splurch, splurch, AHHHH!--I can see that path at the bottom of the hill, and it's gonna feel GREAT to stand on it.

Thanks so much, Jane! Visit Jane online here

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Confessions of a First Daughter

Author: Cassidy Calloway
Pages: 214
Published: HarperTeen, 2009
Genre: Realistic fiction
Age Range: 12 & up
Cover Score: B-
Overall Grade: A-

Aside from nearly identical looks and manners, 18 year old Morgan Abbott is nothing like her mother. Accident prone and klutzy, every single one of Morgan's many slip-ups makes the front page of newspapers and gossip mags. Why? Because her mom is the president of the United States. To top it off, her already nonexistent social life is being ruined by her clingy, serious, barely-older-than-she-is (but still slightly cute) new Secret Service agent, which makes dates with her boyfriend impossible. But when Morgan's mom needs to slip away on secret business, she needs a good decoy, and Morgan is the only one who can cover for her. Can she pull it off? Or will it be another Morgan Abbott Mess-Up?

My thoughts: Fun, fun, fun! Morgan's story was hilarious, engaging, and still managed to be realistic.
I loved the "first daughter" aspect. It was fresh and interesting, and I appreciated how Ms. Cassidy included real information about the White House and a president's responsibilities. Morgan made a great, well-rounded character that teenage girls will be able to relate to. She was clever, charming, and funny. Readers will be rooting for her throughout the novel! I do think that Max, the Secret Service agent and possible love interest, could've been better developed. I feel that if the book were longer, I could've gotten to know and like him better.
The entire book took place over 214 pages, and I wish that there could've been less buildup, getting straight to the best part of the book (when Morgan impersonates her mom), which was too short for my taste. Nevertheless, it was a fun, fast, and super-cute read that stays light but also is easy to get into and hard to put down.
While the ending of Confessions was very predictable and on the cheesy side, I still can't wait to sink my teeth into the second book, Secrets of a First Daughter, coming out this fall.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Author: Sarah Quigley
Pages: 302
Published: Dutton, 2009
Genre: Realistic fiction
Age Range: 13 & up
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: B+

Becca Farrell has a bad habit: nicknamed "the Overshare Queen" by her friends, she often confesses and blabs on and on about personal information to anyone who'll listen. But when a TMI moment leads to her sweet band-geek boyfriend breaking up with her, Becca decides she needs a change. With the pressure of keeping a new friend's deepest secret, getting the lead in the school's rendition of Grease, having to share a stage kiss with her crush, and her mom's pregnancy, Becca needs an outlet. So she turns to an online blog, where she is free to gush and spill as much as she needs through her alter ego, Bella, who tells it like it is, gory details and all. It's not like anyone's ever going to read it...right?

My thoughts: TMI was a light, refreshing, and funny read that has great characters and relatable events.
I loved Becca's character: she was honest, hilarious, and charming. Even though I felt that she could be a bit obnoxious at times, she was really realistic and came off as mature beyond her years. Her blog entries were hilarious--I wish there had been more scattered throughout the plot! Secondary characters Jai, Katie, and Matt were well-developed and came off as people I'd really like to be friends with: they were real and fresh.
However, the story started off really, really slow, and sometimes it felt like there were too many words. True to form, Becca's narration tended to ramble in an unnecessary way, but the plot picked up about halfway through when Becca's big blogging secret was spilled.
I really liked the way Ms. Quigley tied the story up--it made me hope for more Becca and more of Ms. Quigley's addictive writing! Overall, a quick, fun debut.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Author: Sara Shepard
Pages: 298
Published: HarperTeen, 2007
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Age Range: 13 & up
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: B+

Four pretty little liars are still up to no good: Aria's family has kicked her out, Emily's questioning just what she really wants, Hanna's about to fall from her throne of popularity, and Spencer's a plagiarizing cheater who just can't quite remember exactly what happened the night Alison DiLaurentis went missing. These four girls better watch out, because this time, A isn't afraid to spill their secrets. And it may just turn out that one of them could be a pretty little killer...

My thoughts: After the thrill and excitement of the first two books in this series, Perfect fell a bit short. It started off reallyreally slow: there was some action (Aria getting kicked out, Hanna and Mona fighting, etc) in the beginning, but the plot only really picked up towards the last few chapters of the book.
Still, I was hooked throughout the entire story. Once again, Ms. Shepard's descriptions, realistic characters, and suspenseful storytelling had me constantly flipping pages. Ms. Shepard also has an amazing talent for tying up loose ends that were brought up in the first two books so that everything made sense.
The addition of the "Rosewood stalker" added some excitement, along with the thought that A's identity will be revealed in the next book, Unbelievable. The cliffhanger ending of Perfect had me wanting more--I've already got a copy of book #4 on hold at the's an addiction, I swear! A must-read.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Artist Arthur Interview

Here's part two of a recent blog tour I hosted for Artist Arthur's Manifest (released yesterday by KimaniTru). Different bloggers were able to submit their questions for Artist (yes, that is her real name), and super-publicist Lisa Roe put them together into an awesome community interview! Here are a few of my favorite questions:

Me (Bookworm): What drew you to the paranormal genre of YA?
Artist: I've always been a fan of the paranormal genre adult and YA. I like that there are no boundaries to the world that can be created.

Diva's Bookcase: Is the character of Krystal based on yourself or someone that you know?
Artist: Krystal is a combination of myself and my daughter. We are extremely moody and stubborn, but once you get to know us you can't help but love us. OK, that might be exaggerating, but yeah, I drew a lot of my own experiences and feelings as a teenager and then on some moods I've seen my daughter in to create Krystal.

Star Shadow: How did you come up with the amazing idea for the basis of the book and the Mystyx group/their powers?
Artist: I love watching the weather channel. I kept thinking that something has to be left behind after all these storms and natural disasters. My daughter came up with the names of the Mystyx characters, and I gave them powers. I wanted different powers, ones that would fit each character specifically.

LuAnn: What sort of research did you need to do for your novel?
Artist: I had to find books on the weather that would back up what I'd seen on the weather channel. Books on Greek mythology that I already had because I love the subject in general. Then, I just wanted to spend time with teenagers to get a real feel for their lives, loves, issues, dreams.

Faye: The paranormal genre is big in teen/YA literature right now. Most bestsellers feature vampires, werewolves, faeries, angels or the like as a main character. In your opinion, why are teens currently fascinated with all things paranormal?
Artist: I think, like everyone else, they want a break from what's currently going on. They want to be taken away to another time, or another place, or the same place with a different cast.

ladystorm: If Manifest became a movie, who would you like to see play the main characters?
Artist: I've actually been asked this a lot in the past month so I've been thinking about it. I like Selena Gomez for Sasha. Zac Efron would be great for Jake but I think he might be too old. Keke Palmer for Krystal.

Sherry: What, if any, are your writing rituals (certain lighting, room, food, etc)?
Artist: I can write just about anywhere at any time, but I really like to write to music.

Jami: Who are some YA authors that inspire you? Can you name any YA novels that you read and loved recently?
Artist: I'm so in love with Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers. I really enjoy Laurie Halse Anderson and Alyson Noël as well. Just recently I read Fallen by Lauren Kate and enjoyed her voice.