Thursday, July 29, 2010


As promised, the first installment of the Lit Chicks.

Liesl’s Pick:

This book is about a girl named Sam Montgomery who is going to Whispering Pines, a sleepaway camp, for the summer as a CIT (counselor in training). She is reluctant to go and when the camp directors daughter Ashley starts messing with her it doesn't help her feelings. She then meets some really cool girls in her cabin who help her deal with the drama and frustration that Ashley causes her. She is also assigned to Alexis (the camp directors other daughter) who is the coolest and most coveted counselor who helps Sam learn the ropes of camp. Sam meets a guy named Cole , a fellow CIT, who ends up being her best guy friend at camp who she grows a crush on... there is a really fun plot in this book and the protagonist is someone that most girls can relate to. Her friendships and crushes and experiences at camp are things that could happen in reality - it was one of those books that i couldn't put down. I thought at first that having the mean girl be the director’s daughter was kind of cliche but the way that the author unraveled the plot fit perfectly and made me feel sorry for Ashley. I would definitely tell all my friends to read this! So go buy it! You should also read the CONFESSIONS OF MY HOLLYWOOD LIFE series also by Jen Calonita!

Portia’s Pick:

NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley

OK, so, I was reading this book club link online that Cynthia so kindly sent me, and they were just printing up the jacket blurb and saying something along the lines of, "This book was soo cute! Read it!" Well, reading that, you know what I thought, I'm sure.........."I'll just print the jacket blurb and say some nice little thing about the cool plot line, and be done! Score! I can hundreds of these!" But, that just doesn't seem very honest, so I'm going to try and preview this book as best I can.....This book being North of Beautiful (To underline or not to underline?)by Justina Chen Headley! I really really love this book. I found it one day at the library and I think I might have cried a couple times--Liesl would know--but anyway, it has held a loyal place on my wish lists for birthdays and holidays for a couple years, and I never got it until my dear grandparents visited this year a bit after my birthday and they brought a squareish package, and it just happened to be one of my favorite books of all time! Ha ha ha ha, I'm such a suck up.

But, this book is about a 16 year old girl, Terra, who was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on her cheek. Although, she is pretty blessed in the looks department, Terra is stared at and shunned because of her birthmark which she strives to cover using various lotions and potions. Terra graduates from high school a year early with high hopes of getting into a good college--like Williams?-- and escaping far far away from her stifling father and shy, overweight mother. When a car accident (I'm not going into details) puts her and her mom in the path of goth boy, Jacob, and his adventurous mother Norah, it changes their lives. Terra's mom befriends Norah and starts to become more independent, and Terra starts to question what she's doing with her life and how she looks at herself. Soon, the four of them end up in China visiting Terra's brother Merc--or rather, staying in his house wondering where the heck he is. While in China, Terra grows closer to Jacob, her mother, and herself, embracing the fact that she might actually be beautiful. When they return home to her dad, Terra's mom starts to stand up for herself to her verbally abusive husband and Terra decides to love herself with all her flaws.

OK, that was not a very accurate summary, but basically what happens. There's an unknown boyfriend in the mix, some surgery failures, and a couple brothers who never come home.

This was a really good book though. I'm all for those books that make you look at life and think about and question your friends and family and yourself. It was well written and I think it was easy to identify with the characters--main or supporting--and you find yourself cheering for and crying with Terra throughout her struggle to find herself and break free of her father to become her own (beautiful) person. If you like art, or China, or mapmaking, or books about dysfunctional families, or friends, or self-esteem, then this is a book for you. :) OK, it really is a book for everybody, but especially for you!

Thanks LitChicks! Stay tuned next Thursday for new reviews of their favorite books.

On this date: In 1981 Prince Charles marries Princess Diana.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Afternoon with Maggie Stiefvater

I love author signings, particularly when they aren't my own. I get to sit back, get to know a little bit about an author I really like and then take home my own signed copy. Bonus points when there are actual teens in the audience who ask great questions.

I got to meet Maggie Stiefvater yesterday, author of BALLAD, LAMENT, SHIVER and now LINGER.

(That's me - the shiny one on the right.)

As a musician, artist and author Maggie puts the rest of us to shame (check out the trailer for LINGER if you don't believe me), but she was absolutely adorable in person.

Maggie is one of those people I "know" from the Internet. She's active on the Verla Kay Blueboards (If you want to write for kids and don't hang out over there, you should go now. Seriously.) and gave me some great career advice recently. Hopefully, someday soon I'll be able to tell her it all paid off!

On this date: In 1943, Mick Jagger was born.

PS - I'm going to speak at the BAYA (Bay Area Young Adult) Librarians meeting tomorrow in San Francisco. If you're a SF librarian, I hope to see you there!

PPS - I got a glimpse of the first real Lit Chicks post for Thursday. Be sure to come back then because it is awesome.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Lit Chicks Interview Part 2

So last week, I sat down with Liesl and Portia to talk about books, what they love and don't love and what makes them pick up a book. If you missed the first part of our interview, click here.

Me: So how do you choose the books you want to read?

Liesl: When I go to the library I look at the spine first to see the title. If that looks cool then I pull it out and look at the cover. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by the cover but I totally do.

Portia: I was awful yesterday at the library. There was this book that looked pretty good but I pulled it out and the font was awful so I put it back. I was like ‘Oh, nevermind’. It wasn’t a new book though.

Me :That is the kind of thing that stops the heart of most authors.

Liesl: Well now that I know that authors don’t choose the fonts or the covers I might look a little more closely.

Me :Do you ever open up a book and read the first page to see if you like it?

Liesl: I open to the middle.

Portia: I read the inside jacket or the blurb. If that looks interesting, then I open to the middle and read a paragraph.

Liesl: Sometimes I’ll read a book and the beginning is really slow so I’ll flip to the end and see if it’s worth pushing through.

Me: That doesn’t spoil it for you?

Liesl : No. I don’t mind. I like chick lit books and romance and stuff and if they break up in the book I get so worked up that I’ll flip to the end just to make sure they get back together.

Me : You know, they pretty much always get back together.

Portia: No! You know, I just read (title redacted) and the end wasn’t like that. Nothing got resolved. She didn’t end up with anybody. I hated it.

Me: Let's see. What else would writers like to know? How real living breathing teens feel? I guess we want to know why you like that book over this book, what makes a book great. Why do you like a book like Shiver for example? Was it different from the Dark Divine?

Portia: Oh I like them both! Shiver was more cute than the Dark Divine.

Liesl: Well duh. It’s Dark.

Portia: They made the cover of Dark Divine purple, but I’m a big vibe person and the whole book was like purple because of that. But it wouldn’t have been purple if I hadn’t seen the cover. It didn’t ruin it, but I kept thinking this was a very purple book.

Me : Sometimes I don’t think the cover artists get to read the whole book.

Liesl: I was reading a book about a girl who played sports and the number of her jersey on the front wasn’t the number on her jersey in the book.

Me : So you noticed that?

L : Yeah, it totally bugged me the whole time.

Me: I think they often just get a blurb to read.

Liesl: Sometimes I’ll read a book and then go back and read the blurb and it’s nothing like the book I just read.

Me: Okay, there’s a good question. Have you ever read a book based on what we call ‘blurbs’, the quote on the cover from another author who liked the book?

Liesl: You mean those reviews on the book jacket? Yeah, I will.

Portia: Or if it’s an author whose book I didn’t like then I’ll think that maybe I don’t want to read it after all. If it’s an author who writes kind of chicky books then I’ll think it’s another chicky book.

Me: So they better make sure they get someone from the same genre.

Portia: Yeah. Exactly.

Me: So if I can get Cate Tiernan to blurb my next book I should?

Portia: Oh you totally should. That would make me pick it up. I loved Immortal Beloved.

I liked that she got to be immortal and not just the guy.

Liesl: Yeah. Why is it the guy that always gets to be immortal?

Portia: I liked that she was talking about a long time ago in Northern Europe – you don’t ever get books about that.

Liesl: I like how different authors write totally different books about the same topic. That’s why you can’t just say the book is about ‘that’ because it’s probably totally different from another book.

Me: Does it matter to you whether there’s a boy or a girl narrator? Like in Flash Burnout the narrator was a boy but the book was still pretty much one that girls are going to read.

Portia:I loved Flash Burnout. Liesl loved Flash Burnout because of that and because she loved it I read it and it actually was really really good.

Liesl: See? See?

Portia: It was good to see how guys think. But then because it’s written by a girl, how do I know that it’s accurate?

Me: That’s actually a big question among writers – about girly-men. Too many YA boys are really girly.(This interview was done well before yesterday's blog post.)

Portia: But there are guys who write as girls and they’re relatable enough. (A discussion ensued about how all of the boys they know don’t read.)

A big thanks to the Lit Chicks for talking to us. I have it on good authority that they've picked their first review books and will be ready for next week. They haven't told me what books they're doing, so I guess we'll find out together!

On this date: In 1977, Elvis Costello's debut album is released.