Friday, November 11, 2011

Carly Reads: Alumni Edition with David Levithan

What’s up readers?

It’s been a few weeks since my last Alumni Edition post, and I’m so looking forward to reintroducing the feature with one of my all time favorite books, “The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan (TBF alum 2007 and 2009). Technically, “The Lover’s Dictionary” is an adult book, but it definitely has older teen appeal. There is also a “Lover’s Dictionary” Twitter feed (@loversdiction), which I am TOTALLY obsessed with, so if the idea of a novel written in dictionary entries intrigues you, get an idea for the format by checking it out on Twitter.

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

Struggling to find a word to describe love? In “The Lover’s Dictionary,” you’ll find more than 200 of them.

David Levithan, the author of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Boy Meets Boy,” “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” and many other acclaimed young adult novels, as well as the editor of the wildly popular “The Hunger Games” series, made his way into the adult fiction world this January with his newest novel, “The Lover’s Dictionary.”

“The Lover’s Dictionary” tells the story of two nameless, twenty-somethings living and dating in New York City. Their story is revealed to the reader in dictionary entries written by the narrator, slowly revealing parts of his relationship with his sweetheart. From the good times (“breathtaking, adj. Those mornings when we kiss and surrender for an hour before you say a single word.”) to the bad times (“reverberate, v. Why did your father leave?”), readers follow the narrator and his lover through the ups and downs of their relationship.

Written by Levithan as a Valentine’s Day gift for his friends, “The Lover’s Dictionary” is not arranged chronologically, but rather alphabetically. According to Levithan, he opened an old book of ‘words you need to know’ to random pages in alphabetical order and then constructed “The Lover’s Dictionary” from these random words. Despite it’s unconventional origin, readers will have no trouble piecing together the story told in “The Lover’s Dictionary.”

“The Lover’s Dictionary” is a lyrical read. It flows beautifully from one word to the next, and will leave the reader dreading the end of a letter’s section, because the end of section means that the book itself is nearing an end. Lovely prose, endearing characters, and a sweet storyline make Levithan’s latest endeavor ethereal. (“Ethereal, adj. You leaned your head into mine, and I leaned my head into yours. Dancing cheek to cheek. Revolving slowly, eyes closed, heartbeat measure, nature’s hum. It lasted the length of an old song, and then we stopped, kissed, and my heart stayed there, just like that.”)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interviewin' Cyn

Hi Readers,

On Monday, I promised you an interview, and now I’m here to deliver! I am pleased to present the first interview of the 2012 season … an interview with Cyn Balog.

Carly Reads: Your books deal with the paranormal, which is a very popular subject at the moment, but your novels include less popular forms of the paranormal, namely fairies, sandmen, and ancient astrology cults. How did you stumble upon these subjects in the first place? What made you interested in writing about them, and did you research the subjects? Cyn Balog: I come up with the subject matter all different ways. With “Fairy Tale,” I was lying in bed just thinking about all the books that feature a girl learning she is a fairy princess. How lucky she would be! She'd be the envy of all her friends. I realized that by turning it on its head, making the GUY learn he was a fairy prince, it was much more interesting. Imagine HIM discussing that in the locker room with his buddies after football practice! For “Sleepless,” I was driving home, listening to a child's song about a sandman (my daughter was in the car with me), when I got the image of a sandman sitting outside a girl's bedroom, waiting to put her to sleep but secretly in love with her. For “Starstruck,” I was watching the news about the H1N1 virus and part of the story was about how the word "influenza" was based on the ancient belief that stars influenced our behavior and could make us ill. So yeah, my ideas come from all over the place, and I think that's the case for anyone... Ideas are all over.... but it's the job of a writer to recognize them, or to twist them around and work with them until they'll make good material for a novel. I've found that I'm getting better at that as I go along!

CR: Your story of bullying is one of the many included in the new anthology “Dear Bully.” What do you think the importance of books like “Dear Bully” is? And what advice do you have for teens who are struggling with bullying? CB: When I read “Dear Bully” for the first time, I was struck by the fact that bullying is not something that happens to a select few. It pretty much happens to everyone at one time or another. Still, being bullied can make you feel so alone. Those people who said high school is the greatest four years of a person's life are nuts. I had a bad case of body dysmorphic disorder and obsessed constantly about my appearance, where I was checking myself in the mirror every two seconds and thinking everyone was looking at me, analyzing my flaws. I was bullied as often as the next kid, but I chose to believe those baseless comments, to internalize what my bullies said and hate myself for it, which made it so much worse. I distinctly remember as a teen, thinking that if this was the best it was going to get, I should probably just pack it in right then. I'm glad I didn't listen because things get waaaaaay easier when you are older. For one, I stopped seeing my every flaw as life-ending and learned to like myself a lot more.

CR: Are you currently working on any new projects (new books!) that you can tell us about? CB: Yes, my new book, coming out in 2012, is called “Touched” (Delacorte) and it's about a boy who can remember his future, all iterations of it, so every time he changes something small, it can have disastrous results. I also have a book called “Dead River,” which is coming out most likely in 2013, and am in the process of trying to sell a dystopian series while writing another paranormal novel about a girl who is hired as a caretaker at a strange mansion, that I hope will come out in 2014.

CR: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? CB: I was obsessed with everything Stephen King. I loved “Pet Semetary” and “Misery.” I also loved everything Judy Blume.

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? CB: Actually, when I was growing up, another one of my favorite books ever, that inspired me to write my first novel (I was 14) was called “The Year Without Michael.” When I read “Life as we Knew It,” I loved it (even though I don't think I slept for days as I was planning my basement fall-out shelter), and was so surprised to find out that the author of that book was the same author that I'd read as a teen, Susan Beth Pfeffer. It will be like a dream for me to finally meet one of the greatest influences for me and my writing! I also adore all of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, and there are many other authors that will be appearing that I admire... Jenny Han, Beth Fantaskey.... oh, the list just goes on and on! I think I will probably be so starstruck when I get there that I will probably throw up on one, or several, of them.

Cyn, I am so psyched for you to meet Susan Beth Pfeffer. I think that is the coolest story ever. Thanks so much for taking the time answer these questions for us, Cyn! We can’t wait to meet you in May.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Calling All Artists!

Hello Readers!

I’m back, and I missed you! I am DROWING in work over here. Between homework, graduate school applications, and writing my 50 to 70 page Honors Thesis, reading and blogging have gotten put WAY on the back burner. So for that, I apologize! I’m trying my best, and I hope to be able to get back into posting more regularly, especially since interviews have started arriving in my inbox!

Be on the lookout for an interview with one of our TBF 2012 authors on Wednesday, but today, I want to share some information about an exciting opportunity for all the artistic teen fans out there. The TBF planning committee is searching for teens to design the TBF 2012 program and the TBF 2013 tee shirt. All of the details can be found here

So if you are an artistic teen fan, or know an artist teen fan, spread the news!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Waitin' on Interviews and More Time to Read

Hello Readers,

I wanted to check in and let you all know that I'm hopping to resume regular posting in the next week or two. Unfortunately, I've gotten behind in my TBF reading, so I don't have any books to review until I catch up again. I'm currently in the middle of "Everybody Sees The Ants" by A.S. King (which is WONDERFUL), so be on the lookout for a review of that coming soon.

I also just sent out the first batch of 2012 author interviews, so those should start trickling in soon and I'll be able to share them with you!

Keep checking back, I promise I haven't abandoned the blog!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Carly Reads: Alumni Edition with Jennifer E. Smith

Hi Readers,

It’s time for another installment of Carly Reads: Alumni Edition. This week, I’m featuring a review of “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” by the very talented Jennifer E. Smith. Jennifer, who works as an editor for Ballantine, an imprint of Random House, attended TBF 2010 where she presented on the production of a book from an editor’s perspective.  In addition to “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight,” she is the author of “The Comeback Season” and “You Are Here.”

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18B. Hadley's in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I love all of Jennifer’s books, and this one was no exception. “The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight” is a unique novel in that it’s written in present tense and takes place over the course of only 24 hours. I can't think of anything else that I've read in present tense except for "Love at First Sight" and "The Comeback Season,” but it’s so natural in "Love at First Sight" that about halfway through I started second guessing myself as to whether it was even unusual and had to page through a few other books to reassure myself that books are not usually in present tense. I also loved that it took place over 24 hours. I was worried that, because of the timeline, the story would feel rushed or would drag, but the timing was perfect.

Readers, in case you haven’t noticed yet, characterization plays a huge role in whether or not I like a book. I have to like a character, and relate to a character, and feel invested in a character in order to enjoy a book. And I didn’t just like Hadley and Oliver, I loved them. I loved Hadley's voice and I REALLY loved Oliver, especially his sense of humor.

Jennifer has a way of writing lines that literally stop me in my tracks. Her prose is gorgeous and beautifully constructed, which can be so hard to find in young adult literature.

I come back to Jennifer’s books again and again, rereading them in their entirety or sometimes rereading just a chapter, or a paragraph, or a line. And each time I do, I find discover something new about the way a scene is put together, or I connect to something she's written in a way that I haven't before.  “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” is no exception to this rule.

Unfortunately, readers, you’re going to have to wait until February 2012 for the “Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight,” but add it to your Goodreads queue and start a countdown to release day. It will be well worth the wait.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Share the love! Support TBF!

Hello Readers, 

Remember last year when I blogged about my second favorite day of the year? The TBF Read-a-Thon? Well, it’s coming up again!

This year’s Read-a-Thon will be held on October 15 from 1-5 p.m. at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble. 

In case not all of you are familiar with the Read-a-Thon, allow me provide you with brief explanation. Imagine curling up in a chair in the Pittsford Barnes & Noble with a book, surrounded by tons of other teens and adults that all love YA lit as much as you do, and reading for four hours straight. Sound like a fantasy? At the Read-a-Thon, it becomes a reality! 

The Read-a-Thon serves as TBF’s largest fundraising event. It began as a collection of smaller Read-a-Thons held at individual schools across the county. (I still remember my first Read-a-Thon, held in my high school’s library. I came straight from taking the PSAT exams. Ugh.) Now, the Read-a-Thon is an area-wide event, bringing together teens and adults with a mutual love for YA fiction and TBF. 

This year, each reader who participates in the Read-a-Thon is asked to bring a donation of at least $20 to support the Teen Book Festival. Donations can be collected via sponsorships. So, just as you would go to family and friends asking them to sponsor you for a charity walk, ask your family and friends to sponsor you for the Read-a-Thon. 

Like last year, there is an added incentive for readers in this year’s Read-a-Thon. The teen who collects the most money in pledges will win two tickets to this year’s author dinner, held the evening before TBF 2011.

Barnes & Noble will also hold an in-store bookfair the day of the Read-a-Thon, so if you bring this voucher to the clerk, part of the profit from your purchase will be donated to the Teen Book Festival. 

Another great reason to participate in this year’s Read-a-Thon? TBF 2011 and 2012 author Charles Benoit will be visiting the Pittsford Barnes & Noble for a reading and book signing during the Read-a-Thon! 

Pre-registration IS required for this year’s Read-a-Thon. So, if you’re interested in participating (and I hope you all are!), get in contact with the TBF committee through this page right here

If you’re not able to make it the Read-a-Thon, there’s another great way to support TBF. From October 16 until October 20, you can support TBF by buying books online from Barnes & Noble’s website. You need to enter a special code in order for TBF to get a portion of the proceeds and you can find that code right here

Teen Book Festival happens every year because of donations from generous groups and individuals and events like the Read-a-Thon and the Barnes & Noble Bookfair. So share the love for TBF! Attend the Read-a-Thon, buy a book in-store on October 15, or shop online from October 16-20.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Carly Hearts Carter

Hello Readers!

I hope you had a relaxing weekend full of reading. I, unfortunately, did not. I was in the newspaper office until 1 a.m. last night (by which I mean this morning) attempting to figure out how to convert an Adobe InDesign file into a PDF so that I could submit our first issue of the newspaper to the printer. I finally figured it out. And had time to write this post. Aren’t you impressed? I’m quite impressed with myself.

HOWEVER, we are not here tonight to sing my praises. Rather, we are here to sing the praises of Brent Crawford and his book “Carter Finally Gets It,” which I love. Really love. Really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really love.

Will Carter is a freshman with ADD, a stutter when he talks to girls, and a desperate desire to make his first year of high school as successful as possible. Unfortunately for Carter (but fortunately for the reader), things don’t go exactly as planned.  Carter narrates the ups and downs of his freshman year, from his first date to his first (and second) disastrous encounter with shaving, his first college party to his first (and second) run from the cops, and everything in between. 

“Carter Finally Gets It” is one of the funniest books I have read (ever!), and it’s also such a realistic portrayal of 14-year-old boys everywhere. Any reader, though, will be able to relate to Carter and his struggles to fit in and keep up.  As the sister of a teenage boy, I found “Carter Finally Gets It” to be especially relevant. Readers, pick up a copy of “Carter Finally Gets It.” You’ll gain a newfound respect for how hard it is to grow up from a boy to a man in our modern society, but you’ll also have a heck of a good laugh.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Carly Reads: Alumni Edition with Libba Bray

Hi Readers,

Welcome to the second installment of Carly Reads: Alumni Edition. In case you missed edition one, check out my original post. It gives a little bit of background information about this new Carly Reads feature, and it includes a review of Robin Brande’s newest book, “Into the Parallel.”

This week, we're talking about Libba. Libba Bray, of course, and her newest novel, "Beauty Queens."

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner. 
What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?
Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

The brilliant Libba Bray's newest novel "Beauty Queens" celebrates diversity and girl power while tackling how hard it is to grow up as a girl in America, no matter your background. Tongue-in-cheek and darkly humorous, "Beauty Queens" is chock-full of situational comedy and one-liners that had me laughing out loud. I love a good satire, and “Beauty Queens” is one of the best examples of great satire that I can think of. It tackles everything from reality TV to dictators, and it’s the most fun journey I took through a book all summer.

Get yourself a copy of “Beauty Queens” ASAP, you won’t regret it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thoughts on "Mindblind"

Hola Readers!

Happy Wedneday. You know what Wednesday means, right? Most importantly, it means that Friday is only TWO DAYS AWAY! But it also means that I finished “Mindblind” three weeks ago, and now I have a review to share with you.

Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel Clark is in a rock band, has a crush on his mom’s best friend’s daughter, and gets wildly drunk at his first high school party. He also learned to read at age three, has already completed high school and college, and is filling out his grad school applications. Nathaniel has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism, so even though he has a memory like a computer, he has trouble understanding and engaging in social interactions and doesn’t always quite understand how to relate to other “neurotypical” kids his age.

As someone who has spent the last three years of my life studying cognitive communication disorders like Asperger’s Syndrome, I enjoyed this book. Jennifer Roy did an excellent job of portraying Nathaniel realistically, while also making him entirely likeable and relatable.

“Mindblind” is an excellent example of diverse YA lit, and I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it any reader.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Starstruck" Winner

Hello Hello Hello, Readers!

I have a winner of the “Starstruck” contest! Congratulations to

Mikki P.

Mikki, I’ll be sending you an email to find out where I should send the book.

If you didn’t win this time, readers, don’t lose heart. There will be many more contests this year, so keep checking back!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Carly Reads: Alumni Edition with Robin Brande

Hello Readers!

Remember on Monday when I said I had a really exciting announcement to make up for my absence last week? Well today is the big day! Today I am introducing a brand new Carly Reads feature. I’ve been thinking a lot about our TBF alumni lately. Over the past six years, we’ve had so many AMAZING authors attend TBF and although they are not all returning for TBF 2012, they’ll forever be part of the TBF family. As I was scrolling through my Goodreads list last week, I realized that almost half the books I’ve read in the last year are written by authors who’ve attended TBF in the past.  Therefore, today I introdice Carly Reads: Alumni Edition. Once I week, I will review a book written by a TBF alum who isn’t attending TBF 2012, but will always be a part of the TBF legacy.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to kick of Carly Reads: Alumni Edition than Robin Brande. Robin is one of my all-time favorite authors. All of her books are incredible and she is totally awesome.  Recently, I read “Into the Parallel,” the first book in Robin’s in-progress “The Parallel” series, and I LOVED it. REALLY, REALLY, REALLY loved it. I gushed about it on Goodreads … and Amazon … and Barnes &, but it’s definitely a book deserving of more gushing.

So here I go (I hope you’re making a ‘drum roll’ noise right now) … Carly Reads: Alumni Edition presents a review of “Into the Parallel” by Robin Brande.

Description: Science has become the new magic . . . High school senior and amateur physicist Audie Masters has discovered what no other physicist has been able to prove: that parallel universes do exist, and there is a way to journey into them. She also discovers something else: a parallel version of herself, living the kind of life Audie never could have imagined for herself. Now Audie is living that life, too, full of adventure, romance, and reality-bending science. It’s all more than she could have hoped for – until something goes wrong.

I don't even know where to begin reviewing Robin Brande's latest book, so let me start with this: it was, like everything she has written, excellent. "Into the Parallel" had the same spot-on characterization, emotion, and dialogue that I have come to expect from Brande, but it also added aspects of reality that read like fantasy to mix. "Into the Parallel" will undoubtedly satisfy both fantasy fans and the contemporary realistic fiction crowd with its mix of quantum physics that seems too crazy to be true and a smart, adventurous narrator who couldn't be more true-to-life.

Brande effectively brings some of the most complex theories of quantum physics down to a level that the average reader can understand, and, as she's done in "Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature" and "Fat Cat," shown that science is way more cool than the every-day high school chemistry teacher may lead you to believe. With a cliffhanger ending that has me counting down the days until book two is released, "Into the Parallel" has me shouting off the rooftops that everyone should read this novel.

"Into the Parallel" is available as an ebook on Barnes&, Amazon, or Smashwords, or as a paperback through Barnes& and Amazon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blog Tour

Hi Readers,

I’m not sure how many of you are also book bloggers, but I some exciting news for those of you who are.

Maya, of Not on Shelf, approached me several months ago with the brilliant idea of a TBF 2012 Blog Tour. I’m still working on the details, but before I know for sure if a Blog Tour is going to happen, I need to know if there are bloggers interested in participating!

If you have a book blog and you would be interested in participating in a TBF 2012 Blog Tour (it would take place in April of 2012), please fill out this form. Filling out the form does not commit you to taking part in the tour, I’m just trying to get an idea of how many bloggers are interested.

Maya and I are really hoping this idea takes off, so pass along to message to any of your fellow TBF-loving blogger friends!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Struck by "Starstruck"

Hi Readers,

Clearly, I didn’t make it back to the blog on Wednesday, but I have really cool news that is going to make up for my absence. The only bad news is that you’re going to have to wait for that news. I know! I know! The torture! But I promise, it will be worth it.

In the meantime, allow me to distract you with my review of Cyn Balog’s “Starstruck.”  I won “Starstruck” from Random House during their #labordayreads Twitter contest. It was the first time that I ever won a book via Twitter and it was VERY exciting.  I entered because Cyn is a TBF 2012 author, but I didn’t know anything about the book, and boy was different from anything I’ve ever read.

Gwendolyn, stuck with the unfortunate nickname “Dough,” has been dating her best friend Wish for a few years. Their relationship is not exactly a typical high school one, though, in that Wish moved away just before their started dating so for the last few years, they’ve communicated only through email, instant messaging, and phone calls. When Wish announces that he’s moving back to New Jersey, Dough is less than excited. While Wish has grown from an awkward kid to a golden-haired surf god, Dough has spent the last few years as the class outcast who drowns her sorrows with donuts from her mother’s bakery.  When Wish returns to New Jersey, Dough can’t imagine why he’s still interested in her, but the mysterious newcomer, Christian, a literary scholar disguised as a dreadlocked slacker, who’s landed a job in Dough’s mom’s bakery, suggests that there may be more to Wish’s transformation then meets the eye.

I really enjoyed the paranormal twist to this book. (I know! I enjoyed a paranormal twist!) It’s practically unheard of, but “Starstruck” struck my fancy. I don’t want to give out too much information about the paranormal side of this novel, so I’ll say only this: it was a fascinating and unique concept that I was completely unfamiliar with before reading “Starstruck,” and I love how Cyn incorporated it into the story.  Although I did get frustrated with Dough because she is SO dissatisfied with her body and SO down on herself, the paranormal aspect made this a book that I enjoyed.

Okay readers, I won “Starstruck” in a contest, so I think it’s only fair that I return the favor. I’m passing on my copy of “Starstruck” to one lucky reader. Fill out this form to enter. The contest will until Sunday, September 18 at 5 p.m. and you may enter once per day between now and then.  Good luck!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm back!

Hello, hello, hello, Readers!

Long time no see! And when I say "long time," I mean "really long time." Apparently my fancy shmancy (and by "fancy shmancy" I mean "not really that fancy at all") "1 Day Until Carly Reads returns" message didn't post ... I'm still figuring out this whole Blogger scheduling thing. (One day, Blogger, I will conquer you!) Anywho ...

I took a long hiatus from the blog in order to prepare for my final year at Nazareth, which is both a happy and sad fact ... but now I am back and ready to return to blogging! I'm trying to get myself onto a steady posting schedule for this year. I'm thinking I'll post on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but don't hold me to that because I may change my mind!

In the meantime, allow me to dedicate this blog post to directly you away from the blog. (Yes, I too recognize the irony.) Direct yourself to the official TBF website (<-- click on that handy link right there!) and check out the awesomely huge list of authors that are confirmed for TBF 2012.  "Oh" and "Ah" over it, and then start thinking about an interview question that you want one of the confirmed authors to answer. There will be a contest soon, and the prizes will be big. Stay tuned for more details.

Missed you, Readers! I'll be back soon. (Hopefully Wednesday!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's Not Summer Without "The Summer I Turned Pretty"

Hi Readers!

A number of authors have recently been confirmed for TBF 2012, so head over to the official TBF website right now to check out the growing roster.  One of the recently added authors, and a TBF alum, is Jenny Han, the author of “Shug,” “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” “It’s Not Summer Without You,” and “We’ll Always Have Summer.” 

Contemplative and endearing, “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is the perfect contemporary YA read for anytime of the year, but especially for summer.  Belly lives for summer.  For her, the other nine months of the year are nothing more than days that she can’t be at the beach house with her family and her mother’s best friend, Susannah, and her two sons, Conrad and Jeremiah.  But one summer changes everything for the two families and as the events of the summer unfold, Belly grows and matures and develops new relationships with the people who have always been there for her during her summers at Cousins Beach.

It really is the setting and the quality of the characterization and relationships that make “The Summer I Turned Pretty” as wonderful as it is.  Han has created a summer paradise that feels so real and genuine – Belly’s beach house is not a McMansion on the Jersey Shore where teens party like it’s Spring Break in Cancun.  Cousins Beach feels simple, and welcoming, and beautiful, but still rustic.  Reading “The Summer I Turned Pretty” makes you feel like you’re laying in bed on Cayuga Lake with a cool breeze blowing through the window and the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore roaring comfortingly below.

As for the characterization and the relationships of the characters, Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah are as real as it gets. I’ve heard complaints that Belly is annoying, or selfish, or immature, but it’s Belly’s raw realness that makes the book so genuine.  Belly makes the same mistakes that all teenagers make and she has the same thoughts, and worries, and feelings that all teenagers have.  I should also add that “The Summer I Turned Pretty” flashes back to summers of Belly’s past, when she was twelve, eleven, ten, and even younger, and those chapters are as spot-on as the rest. 

Summer is coming to an end (I know, I know! Don’t think too hard about it!), but before you submit to the cooler temperatures and turned leaves of fall, let summer live on a little bit longer by borrowing “The Summer I Turned Pretty” from your local library and living vicariously through Belly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Blood Wounds" ARC Contest Winner.

Congratulations to

Laura W.

the winner of the "Blood Wounds" ARC contest.  Laura, I hope that you enjoy "Blood Wounds" as much as I did!  Keep an eye out for my email with directions as to how to claim your prize.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Sneak Peek at "Blood Wounds"

Hi Readers,

I’m sure that most, if not all, of you have heard of or read Susan Beth Pfeffer’s award-winning series affectionately known as “the Moon books.”  The series, which begins with “Life As We Knew It,” details the events that follow a catastrophic collision between the moon and a meteor that knocks the moon out of orbit and sets off a chain of events that forever alters … well … life as the characters knew it. 

Although Pfeffer is currently working on a fourth book for the moon series, her latest novel, “Blood Wounds,” due out on September 13, 2011, deals with a very different type of catastrophic event.  In “Blood Wounds,” Willa Coffey is a high school junior living a relatively normal life.  She resides in a wealthy suburb with her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters, attends a very nice public school, and sings in the chorus. But Willa’s life is forever changed when her father, whom she has not seen since she was a young child, murders his new wife and their three young children and then heads north, presumably towards Willa, forcing her and her mother into hiding under police protection.  

Although the publisher’s description of “Blood Wounds” suggests that the novel is a suspenseful, action-packed account of Willa fleeing from her father, the book is really much more about the aftermath as Willa attempts to come to terms with her own identity and how she fits into the many families in her life.  In fact, “Blood Wounds” opens with a scene in which Willa reflects on a Tolstoy quote from "Anna Karenina" about families and that quote sets the scene for the entire novel.  “Blood Wounds” isn’t about running from a madman as much as it’s about realizing that no family is perfect, and no family is the same, but nevertheless, family is important and sometimes it’s all we have.

“Blood Wounds” is a must-read and since I’m so excited about it, I am going to give my copy to one lucky reader.  If you want to get your hands on an ARC of “Blood Wounds,” fill out this form. You can earn extra entries by tweeting about the contest, promoting it through Facebook, or posting about it on your own blog! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review Flashback

Hi Readers!

As you may have noticed, I've been taking it pretty easy this summer.  I have three(!) summer jobs, so the blog has been pushed a bit to the back burner, but don't worry - I'm saving up all my good stuff for the fall. :)

While you anxiously await the good stuff, I figured I would link back to reviews of books that TBF 2012 authors that I've published previously on the blog.  Follow the links and enjoy!

Last June, I reviewed "Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side" by Beth Fantaskey.  I said that "Twilight" fans and non-fans alike would appreciate this novel with a kick-butt heroine, and I stand by the statement.

Guest reviewer Colleen reviewed "Jekel Loves Hyde" by Beth Fantaskey in February, saying that she thought the expansion of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story would appeal to many readers.

In March 2010, I posted a review of Ellen Hopkin's "Tricks" which had originally been published in Nazareth's student newspaper, "The Gleaner." My favorite of Ellen's books thus far, I raved about the novel-in-verse.

Jordan, my first ever teen guest blogger, provided her review of "Crank" by Ellen Hopkins.  Jordan raved about the book and wrote that she loved the way "Crank" allowed her to get into the mind of teenage drug user Kristina.

One of my very first reviews on the blog covered Terry Trueman's "Stuck in Neutral" and earlier this year, I reviewed its companion novel, "Cruise Control."  Both are must-reads, and good preparation for "Stuck in Neutral"'s sequel, which is on its way to publication.

I reviewed one of my favorite reads of last summer, "Violet on the Runway" by Melissa Walker more than a year ago.  I love Melissa's writing and she is one of the authors that I am most looking forward to meeting at TBF 2012.  Also be sure to check out my review of her newest novel, "Small Town Sinners," which celebrated its book birthday this past Tuesday!

So readers, hopefully this blast from the past provided you with at least one new review and a few books to add to your TBF TBR pile.  And like I said, get ready for this fall - exciting things are coming. (New reviews! Giveaways! Interviews! Sneak Peeks! Can you feel the excitement?)

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Wintergirls" in Summertime

Hi Readers!

Okay I realize that it has been waaaaaay too long since I last posted, and I apologize, but I have a pretty good excuse.  I was in Harry Potter World! And it was incredible! I’ve been dreaming of going since they first announced the project and this year I was lucky enough to finally get the chance.  My family spend half a day there and it felt just like living one of the Harry Potter books.  I wandered around Hogsmeade, wound my way through Hogwarts, poked around in Zonkos and Honeydukes, and whizzed around a “broomstick.”  It was so worth the years-long wait.  But enough babbling about the awesomeness that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter … I have TBF business to get to!

TBF 2012 will mark the third time that the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson has attended Teen Book Festival.  She was an attendee at the very first TBF, which is where I first saw her speak.  I actually stumbled upon her presentation by accident – I was looking for Alex Sanchez’s room, turned the corner too soon and ended up the cafeteria where she was presenting.  It was the best wrong turn I ever took.  Her presentation was hilarious, and serious, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Although she’s most well-known in the young adult world for her novel “Speak” she has authored four other YA novels: “Catalyst,” “Prom,” “Twisted,” and “Wintergirls.” 

In “Wintergirls,” Lia and Casie were best friends until Casie’s death.  Twins in mental illness, both Lia and Casie struggled (and continue to struggle) with eating disorders.  Bulimia stole Casie’s life, and although Lia is no longer in treatment for anorexia, she is still hiding her illness from her dysfunctional family.  Booklist described “Wintergirls” as “a brutal and poetic deconstruction of how one girl stealthily vanishes into the depths of anorexia.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this book.  It’s disturbing and hearth wrenching, but it’s also eye-opening.  It provides the reader with a glimpse into the mind of a teenager struggling with a very serious and very real issue.  “Wintergirls” is not a book to be taken and read lightly, but it is a book with the potential to change lives, and that is an astounding thing. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TBF 2011 Video!

Hi Readers,

This is two videos in a row, but I haven't exactly started my TBF 2012 reading yet and this is another awesome video that I want to share with you.  So check out this video produced by Nazareth.  And if you were at TBF 2011, look for yourself in the crowd scenes!

Monday, June 20, 2011

It Gets Better

Hey Readers,

I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the It Gets Better project which has been floating around cyberspace for a while (and there's even a Google Chrome commercial featuring the project showing on TV right now!), but have you seen this It Gets Better video?  It's authors and illustrators assuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens that life does indeed get better after high school and the teenage years, and about halfway through you'll see Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King, Coe Booth, Lisa McMann, and Matt de la Pena, five incredible TBF authors, featured.  Check this video out and know that it's true, readers.  It gets better.

Last minute addition: Whoa, readers.  I completely overlooked the fact that the awesome Laurie Halse Anderson (TBF 2006, 2010, and 2012) is also featured in this video.  So sorry, Laurie!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Poppa Was a Rolling Stone

Hi Readers,

I’ve been taking a brief(ish) hiatus from the blog, using my “free” time to work and read, but I am back and I have lots of awesome posts planned for the upcoming summer months.  To kick it off, today I have a very special post featuring Torrey Maldonado (TBF 2011).  Torrey was asked to write a guest post for the Latina Book Club for Father’s Day, and the Book Club published his post on June 17.  Torrey was kind enough to give me permission to run his guest post, as well, so I am honored to share Torrey’s essay with you this weekend in honor of Father’s Day.  Enjoy! 

Poppa Was a Rolling Stone
By Torrey Maldonado

"Your father’s dead. He's gone."

That's what my mother told me over the phone.

I didn’t know how to feel. He was absent for so much of our lives. Wasn't he already “gone” to us? Yet, here I was experiencing his real death. The kid in me suddenly wanted him back to give us what he never had: his full and fully positive presence.

True to the song, my “poppa was a rolling stone.” He regularly disappeared for years and, during his absence, I didn’t know him. When he returned, my mom let him stay with us and I didn’t know him. He often disappeared into the streets, came home, and disappeared into his bedroom. From my first day of daycare to my first gray hair, he spent more time outside with guy-friends and almost no time doing "fatherly" things with my sisters and me. Yes, he was a “rolling stone”, “macho”, and what my students call a “hard rock”.

At some point, my mom told me about his rough upbringing filled with close relatives being more distant, "hands off", and cruel with him than loving. She said he fathered me how he was fathered; he loved me the best way he knew how. Whatever the reasons, his absence produced two reactions: first, I searched for father-figures with mixed results; next, there was an empty dad-seat that my mom worked overtime to fill.

Before I knew about Oprah, I knew a quote she loves: “It takes a village to raise a child.” During my Vassar College freshman summer, I taught in the Harlem Freedom Schools for Geoffrey Canada and “It takes a village” was our mantra. It sums up my life: a village-effort set up by my mother raised me to be the first in our immediate-family to attend college. Within my village, two villages of men shaped me.

During the early years of my life, Red Hook projects was a haven where kindergarten kids played late outside. It birthed the NBA star Carmelo Anthony and raised him until age eight (cool personal side-note: my sister was his daycare teacher). Then drugs ripped Red Hook apart and, by 1988, LIFE magazine ran a nine-page photo spread calling it “The Crack Capital of the U.S.A.” and “One of New York City’s Worst Neighborhoods.” The crises in Red Hook created a crisis in guys around me and in me: I call it “the boy crisis” ON STEROIDS. In 1992, my elementary school principal, Patrick Daly, was shot in the chest and killed in Red Hook. As boys, the two charged with his murder and I briefly ran wild together.

Growing up, we saw our fathers—good men who got caught up in unfortunate situations—jailed, killed, waste away from addictions, and run away. That cut a huge hole into our community and that void was quickly filled with one-sided images of men from our streets and media. During my pre-teen and teen years, a lot of guys and I spent countless hours idolizing “hard rocks”—real or Hollywood-created. I’d race to see Hulk Hogan on TV rip his shirt apart, brag about his twenty-two inch pythons (arms), and body-slam anyone who disrespected him. I couldn’t watch enough Iron Mike Tyson fights where he KOd guys in early rounds. If I wasn’t imagining I was Schwarzenegger terminating people in The Terminator, I pretended to be Darth Vader bullying the universe. I held onto these men because, in having them I had a constant male-presence and, in imitating their toughness, I was becoming my father. Males around me (both younger and older) were slowly splitting into two groups: positive Gs (Gentlemen—who only worked to increase the peace) and Gs (what my students call a guy if he gets money, power, and respect—especially on the streets. They say, “He’s gangster.”). My father, like many males, spent time being both Gs and it blurred which G was he, but most agree he was a G.

A G could be a great guy but, like Anakin Skywalker, sometimes falls victim to the Dark Side. What traits does a G have?

First: money, power, and respect (and my friends and I wanted them because our families had unmet needs, experienced powerlessness, and often were disrespected).

Second, Gs on a daily basis were seen or heard talking about fighting other males, disrespecting, killing, or helping them down destructive paths.

Third, these guys often lived fast—fast cash, fast everything—and sadly died young.

As sure as the sun came up, one of those things was seen in my neighborhood before sundown.

“Like father like son” isn’t what my mother wanted so she convinced positive Gs from Red Hook and beyond to usher me into manhood.

No “bom chicka wah wah” ever happened between my mom and these men. They respected her, her parenting, and they sat in my father’s empty dad-seat every now and then.

I didn’t immediately bond with them. They weren’t the “hard rocks” my friends and I admired. But they had my back.

Some just policed me from their hang-out spots to make sure I behaved. Others invited me to visit their jobs daily so they could hand me coins or (when times were better for them) bills so I didn’t watch with hungry eyes as my friends ate “treats” paid by their two-parent allowances.

A tug of war began in me. Picture me as a little boy, clipped to the center of a rope and the positive Gs and Gs yank me in opposite directions. My small feet dangle over a yellow line on the floor and my white t-shirt asks a black-letter question: “Where Will I Stand?” That’s how I felt.

Not all Gs did, but many Gs disagreed with the positive Gs on one subject: education.

My young mind needed distractions from household and neighborhood drama. Reading and writing helped. Yet where I’m from, female-readers get called “geeks” and studious males get called the other “g word” since school is considered a “girl’s thing.” So I hid my passion for school to avoid being bullied. Why did my mother have to tell the positive Gs that I had writing-talent and honor-roll potential? That turned them into broken records: “Education’s your ticket”, “School’s your weapon”. As for the other Gs, people convinced them school wasn’t manly or shouldn’t be top-priority. They passed that message on to me. Did my father value education and know good grades would improve my life? Yes. But he grew up in a home that said academic-guys weren’t “real men”. I still remember times he yelled at me to stop studying inside so much. “Go outside! Hang with other boys!” I worshipped him and nearly followed his advice to chase street-thrills instead of chasing my dream to be who my mom wanted me to be.

My mother, my village of positive G's, and others kept guiding my hands to piece the puzzle together until I saw the big picture: men like President Obama are “real men” too and I could excel in school and still be a "real man". As I started to examine this picture more closely, I realized positive Gs weren’t “hard rocks” but maybe rare diamonds because they had more developed and polished sides.

I used to feel jealous when I heard people say that, as a youngster, they had read this or that life-changing book. As a pre-teen and teen, I wasn’t introduced to that book. Growing up, I found something else. Comic books pumped me up the way sports, video games, and movies did—not chapter-books. I’m approaching my tenth year as a public school teacher and I annually see the same thing. Lots of kids don’t like chapter-books and, second, most of the books they love give them brief escapes from reality but returns them home without tools to solve daily problems.

A couple of years ago, two of my “hard rock” male-students—both with deadbeat dads and more negative male-influences than positive—experienced life-changing incidents. One embraced the street-life, visited another neighborhood, and was murdered. The other boy’s father stopped flirting with leaving his family and fully abandoned them. The boy came to me in tears; his change in grades reflected how much of him was taken away when his dad left. He soon graduated and I don’t know what’s become of him. Those boys made me say, "If I could go back in time, I would’ve done more as their teacher.” The boy in me who experienced similar losses wished he could time-travel back and also help the Gs of my upbringing.

In reality, I can’t rewrite history to maybe save the life of my one student and strengthen the other. I can’t have my father back. If he was alive, I couldn’t change him. But I can practice another quote Oprah loves: “When you know better, you do better.”

A few years ago, I reminded myself that I knew how to write and I knew one thing to be true: if we want better men, we must get more boys reading, period. Reading freed me then polished me.

So I pumped myself up: "Torrey, write the book that you, your dad, and Gs needed as a teen.” So I devised a plan to write a novel so real that it would be a page-turner to “A students”, Darth Vaders, and everyone in between. “It’ll show the roadmap your mom and the village made that led you to who you are,” I thought. “Make it an escape from reality then return readers ready to solve daily problems.” It was from the fire that I forged Secret Saturdays.

This year:
It became an American Library Association 2011 Quick Pick for Young Adults (12-18),
NBC and others have showcased it, and
Colleges assigned it as required-reading in Education Departments alongside S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.

These are dreams coming true and magic happened during a school-trip. A few “hard rock” students who remind me of middle-school versions of my father approached me. They hate to read. One said, “Mr. T., I know one of the raps from your book by heart.” Then, he lit up and quoted my book so perfect that you’d think he read it from a cloud. He asked me where he could get the album of my character Black Bald and his jaw dropped when I told him, “I made up Black Bald and his raps.” He said, “You? You wrote that? That’s gangster.” Here is a young male who hadn’t shown he loves school or books he admires me, he has holes in his life that I’m filling holes with positivity, and he’s being polished into, maybe, a rare diamond because of my teaching and writing.

My father didn’t live to see me take lemons he gave me and make lemonade. All my positive Gs and Gs aren’t around to see how they helped sweeten that lemonade. Yet, the two villages of men that shaped me influence my teaching and writing to show boys that a lot influences their choices and they can choose differently: to evolve into better men and fathers. I think of the 2011 boy-versions of my father who feel so moved by my work that they come from behind everything dumped on them to show positive emotions about education. Through them, it feels as if my father is alive and there is a chance for him to “know better and do better”.

Thanks again for granting me the right to print this great essay, Torrey!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wavering Faith

It is so rare to find a book about religion that avoids preaching, but Melissa Walker’s newest novel "Small Town Sinners" is far from preachy.  “Small Town Sinners” introduces the reader to Lacey Anne Byers, a teenage girl raised by parents firmly rooted in their deep Christian faith in a town where the large fundamentalist church is the cornerstone of society.  Good girl Lacey is the opposite of a rebellious teen – she doesn’t object to her early curfew, she actually enjoys hanging out with her parents, and one of her greatest desires is to play the role of “Abortion Girl” in her church’s annual Hell House.  However, a series of events – a long-lost childhood friend, Ty, moves back to town after being away for several years and Lacey’s best friend’s sister, a girl Lacey always idolized, becomes pregnant – causes Lacey to begin to question her steadfast faith. 

Walker has crafted "Small Town Sinners" in a way that avoids leaning towards either a religious or anti-religious perspective.  “Small Town Sinners” is an intriguing and well-done exploration of faith and what happens when life causes you to question everything you’ve ever believed.  Walker’s latest is a must read, regardless of your belief system. 

(And as a bonus: how awesome is that cover? Love it!)

“Small Town Sinners” will be released on July 19.