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Cher-y-lynne {sher-uhl-lin} –noun 1. One who formerly sold and recommended children’s books at a bookstore; a specialist in young adult, middle grade, and picture books. 2. A para-educator at a middle school. 3. A struggling young adult writer. 4. A lover of chocolate and popcorn. Archaic: An Audiology and Speech Language Pathology major at Brigham Young University. Questions? Suggestions? Books you'd like me to review? E-mail me at cherylynne1 (at) gmail (dot) com.
This is a blog for my ranting, raving, and occasionally brilliant opinions. You have been warned. Enter at your own risk.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review: Lynn Visible by Julia DeVillers

DeVillers, Julia. Lynn Visible. New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2010.

There we were. Taylor smiling, in the outfit I’d put together, looking very happy.
And me, also looking very happy. In my navy-and-white plaid shirt. And my hot pink tutu skirt that flared out superwide. Belted with a wide black leather belt. I also wore my navy-and-white knitted knee socks. On my head was a vintage black fedora wwith a large hot pink bow. And on my feet, sneakers that I’d hacked up and filled in the holes with tulle I’d trimmed off my skirt. And a necklace I’d made from old pink-and-red Polly Pocket shoes.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That’s what she’s wearing the first day of school?
You won’t be the only person thinking that today.

When it comes to fashion, Lynn is either a genius who is decades ahead of her time, or she's crazy. If you asked the popular girls in school, they'd tell you the latter.

But that doesn't stop Lynn from dreaming about being the new It girl in the new GlITter Girl competition....the prize being featured in the hottest fashion magazine in the world. Will she face the same rejection she's dealt with her whole life? Or will she finally be validated?

Cute, very cute. Great for the tween girls that are really into fashion. Predictable? A little. But still, you can’t help but cheer for the main character and all the shenanigans she gets herself into.
Perfect for girls that are still a little young for Meg Cabot, but too old for Fancy Nancy.
Book #17

Nameless Book Review #6

Book #13
Set in a historical period that FASCINATES me, I had high hopes for this one. But no. It spends a ridiculous amount of time avoiding conflict and instead focusing on the historical facts. Worth reading if you want to read a textbook, but otherwise…

Book #14
I am so disappointed in this novel. It started with an AWESOME premise. AWESOME. I thought this would be one of my top favorite books this year.
Then, about halfway through, I discovered a subplot. A subplot that the author obviously wanted as the main plot. Except that it was too boring, so she had to demote it. And as soon as she introduced it, the main plot unraveled. The resolution was BORING. After all that build-up, for nothing? And the subplot took over. And guess what? I DON’T CARE.
So, read the first half, and write your own second half.

Book #15
Definitely full of fun and girl power. But it went a little over-the-top. Oh, what the heck. It went WAY over-the-top. Really cute idea, but then it went crazy. Anything that wasn’t over-the-top was a complete cliché. If it were me, I would have knocked down the character’s age by a few years and marketed it to 8-year-olds. But for YA? It’s a failure.

Book #16
I should have loved this novel. I really should have. The main character could have been based on me. And this is a dream I’ve had most of my life.
But I didn’t. Because quite frankly, it was kind of dumb.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Best Hunger Games Video EVER!

I think my title says it all. I could just watch this video over and over and over again.

If you're wondering where my reviews are, they're coming. I promise. I'm on book #60 of the Cybils and I'm reading about 4 hours a day...I just haven't had time to post the reviews. BUT I WILL!

And stay tuned...publishers are sending me more free books than I know what to do with, so sometime in the new year I will be having a HUGE giveaway. At least 50 or so books. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Many Have YOU Read?

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

*Bold those books you've read in their entirety.

* Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt.

*Bold and italicize books you have read more than once

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible (Old Testament Only)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistr

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Donnelly, Jennifer. Revolution. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010

"Take it down," I said, my voice cracking.

Dr. Becker held up his hands. "Okay, Andi, If you would like me to take the picture down, I will."


"Damn it, Andi! Who do you think you're talking to?" Dad shouted.

"I can't do it right now," Dr. Becker said. "I need maintenance to do it. But I give you my word that it will come down, all right?"

I nodded stiffly. It was something. Some small win. I couldn't protect my mother from Dr. Feelgood but at least I'd saved her from Thomas Kinkade.

The traffic jam gives a bit. We pick up speed and few minutes later, we're on the outskirts of Paris. The road to the city is lined with shabby stone houses, used-car lots, falafel dens, and hair salons, their signs all shining garishly in the dark.

"It might do you good, you know," my father is saying as we hit the Boulevard Peripherique. "It might take your mind off things."

"What might?"

"A change of scenery. Paris."

"Yeah. Sure. My brother's dead. My mother's insane. Hey, let's have a crepe."

We don't talk for the rest of the ride.

After Andi's brother died, her family essentially fell apart. So when her father swoops back in and sends her mother to a psych ward and drags her off to Paris, she is not happy.

Then she discovers a guitar that’s over two centuries old. And with it, a diary that reveals a side of history that no one has ever heard before.

Brilliant concept. I LOVED the diary parts. As well as the music reports. The character is smart and creative, and it’s difficult not to adore her, even though she can be pretty snarky.
I wasn’t thrilled with the way it ended, but overall, it’s definitely worth your time. And if you love European historical fiction, you can’t miss out on this book.

Book 12--done!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Godbersen, Anna. Bright Young Things. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

The faces of each guest turned toward the bride, and though some of them tried to smile, their eyes seemed to say, I know what you’ve done.
Lest their looks cut her, Cordelia reminded herself that she was only half one of them. While her mother had been raised in Union, the other half of Cordelia came from some glittering, far-off place, and like Letty, she was too big for the town she’d grown up in. Letty was right, Cordelia now realized with some relief, to have insisted on a veil. Not only to protect her from the guests’ stares and the judgment in their expressions, but also because of John, who was now reaching for her hands. His eyes were shining, but she couldn’t meet them. She didn’t want any memory of the happy, expectant way he was gazing at her.

Cordelia and Letty believe that their destinies lie far beyond the dull small town they've been raised in....they belong in New York City. Letty is going to be an actress, a singer, a star. And Cordelia is determined to find her father.

Beautiful prose. And I love that it's a historical fiction set in the 20's, we don't see much of that. Lots of twists and turns, you're never quite sure what's going to happen next. The characters were just reckless and stupid enough to make me happy...it made them real. Especially since they admitted they were being stupid. Then did it anyway.

If that doesn't ring true as a teenager, I don't know what does.

If you're a huge fan of Chicago, then this is a great book for you. I can't wait to see what happens in the rest of the series.
Yay for Book #12! I'm so excited to be liking books again!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nameless Book Review #5

Yep...I was right about Book #11.

The first twenty pages were so abominable that there wasn’t much chance of it being redeemed. Don’t get me wrong, it tried. The middle parts were decent. But then the ending got all screwed up again. That whole incest subplot? It did NOT work for me. It came out of the middle of nowhere, and had no reason to be there. Nothing was even remotely resolved. When you write a novel from alternating POVs, there must be a REASON. Especially if you’re just going over the same old ground over and over again. There was no reason for the POVs, and there was no reason for the novel in general.

I've heard good things about Book #12, though...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nameless Book Review #4

Book #10

Not impressed….the slang constantly took me out of the story. Also, I didn’t realize the setting until I was halfway through the book. The plot was fairly uninteresting, though it did pick up a little at the end. And why were there three mini-climaxes? I want one big climax! Come on, people, give me a solid story arc!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nameless Book Review #3

Okay...so I can't tell you what I didn't like about Book #9, because that would give away what book it was.

I'll just say this...It's been awhile since I've been this excited about a concept, and I was SO disappointed. *sigh*

Books #10 and #11 aren't looking too promising either, but I'll push through!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Baratz-Logsted, Lauren. The Twin’s Daughter. New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.

I could her her step growing closer to the doorway, and I rose from my seat thinking to go to her, to warn her somehow first—although warn her of what exactly, I couldn’t say—but her energetic glide was too quick for me and as she blew into the room, the woman who had been seated across from me rose as well.

I stood between them looking from one to the other: the one who was dressed and coiffed in a way that showed she had every advantage in the world—my beautiful, gorgeous mother—and her mirror image, but dressed and coiffed far differently. I can say with near certainty that I am the only child in the world who can claim she was there the first time her mother met her twin.

My mother fainted dead away.

Lucy’s mother and her Aunt Helen were separated at birth…but now Aunt Helen has found her twin, and is determined to find her rightful place in society.

But there are darker motivations at work…and if Lucy fails to uncover them, she could become the next victim.

Another one that I loved!! It’s sort of like Little Women meets Edgar Allen Poe. Creepy. Twisted. Brilliant.

I kept thinking I had it all figured out. I kept being wrong. It had my favorite feature of a well-written novel…not one wasted word. Everything was there because it was essential to the climax. This is the first novel of this length that I’ve ever seen do that. It was so incredibly impressive to me.

I loved the characters I was supposed to love, I hated the characters I was supposed to hate, I was confused about nearly everyone else…just as the author intended. I fell for every red herring, like I was supposed to. It was amazing, knowing that the author could control me the way she did. Brava, Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Yay for Book #8!

Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Vivan, Siobhan. Not That Kind of Girl, New York: Push, 2010.

“Hey! Come on, Natalie. I’m only kidding with you.” His smile lengthened into a sneer. “You could never give me a hard-on. You’re like…dick repellant.”

Anger burned hot through my body, and I gripped the sides of my chair. Mike Domski wanted to hurt me, and the best way he knew was to call me ugly. I hated that, despite the fact that I would rather eat vomit than touch a hair on Mike’s head, it worked. It took all my self-control not to hock the biggest, wettest ball of spit right between Mike’s eyes.

Natalie has the perfect plan for senior year. She’s going to get elected to student body president, still get perfect grades, and get into every college she applies to. She and Autumn will stay just as close as ever. And no boys will get in the way.

Then Spencer comes along…a girl who isn’t even remotely afraid to show off her sexuality. And Natalie finds herself wanting to save her, to show Spencer what people are saying, and convince her that taking your shirt off in the middle of a crowded hallway is the wrong way to get attention. Which should be easy—if Natalie could stop getting distracted by a boy that is wrong for her in every way.

I loved this novel, and I’m not sure why. I know I definitely related to the main character…but I’m pretty sure that to most people, Natalie would be sort of unlikeable. Hmm. I’m not going to think about what that says about me. Link

Also, I loved the take on feminism. Both sides of the argument are brought up, and I think they’re dealt with well. It’s clear that the author is on one side of the fence, but I think you can read it and not cross over.

The voice was vibrant, the characters are memorable, and the overall plot is done well. I had some trouble putting this one down. As a warning, there is some sexual content. I thought it was tasteful, but I can definitely see some controversy for conservative areas or younger readers.

Back on track with Book #7!

Buy this book now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nameless Book Review #2

Book #6

Ugh. That's all I have to say.

I'm just kidding. I always have more to say.

It was predictable, it was BORING, and it was utterly unoriginal. Nothing I hadn't read before. I finished it, just to see if it would redeem itself...it didn't. I was so happy to get to the last page. It reads like a first draft, and I'm wondering if an editor ever got a chance to even glance at it.

Seriously, how do these books get published?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nameless Book Reviews #1

I didn't love the last two books that I read for the panel. I'm not going to tell you which books they were...but I am going to say what I didn't like.

Book 4:

Well, first off, I wasn’t thrilled with the character’s voice. I thought it was weak, especially at the beginning. And I know that she’s supposed to be all depressed and detached from everything, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to not have voice. Also, the plot was cliché, and a little didactic at times, to be perfectly frank. When are we going to see a well-done bullying plot?

One of the biggest problems for me, though, was how in-depth it went with tips on suicide. Don’t get me wrong, I hate censorship, but when I find myself deciding which method is best for me, something is wrong. Teens are much more susceptible to that kind of suggestion than I am.

Another thing I didn’t like was that the character wasn’t saved by any realization of her own, but by other characters that decided to like her, and not back off no matter how badly she treated them. Most teens won’t have that, and by not having it, will decide to go through with killing themselves.

I did find myself relating to the main character, though. I liked her. I thought she was sad without being annoying, and I liked that. Love interest was also very likeable. Every girl’s dream.

Basically, potential, potential, potential, and nothing more.

Book 5:

Again, lack of voice bothered me. It’s told from three different points of view. If you’re going to pull that off successfully, the voices need to be RADICALLY different. I could kind of tell, a little bit, but…not enough.

Also, the title promised more than it delivered on. I needed something juicy, something unexpected, something that would make me gasp. None of that happened. It was cute, it was interesting, but it wasn’t exceptional in any way.

It did have an EXCELLENT premise. It was the mystery that pulled me through the entire thing. It was just the execution that bothered me.

Let's hope I do better with Book 6!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Christopher, Lucy. Stolen. New York, Scholastic, 2010.

“I had to take you.”
The bed creaked and my body rose a little as you sat down on the mattress. I dragged myself away. I tried pushing my legs to the floor, but still they wouldn’t go. The whole world seemed to turn around me. I was going to slide off. I pointed my head away and expected to be sick at any moment. It didn’t come. I hugged my legs toward me. My chest was too tight for crying.
“Where am I?”
You paused before answering. I heard you take a breath, then sigh it out. Your clothing rustled as you changed your position. I realized then that I couldn’t hear any other sounds, anywhere, other than yours.
“You’re here,” you said. “You’re safe.”

At first, Gemma thought Ty was cute. It was flattering, really, to have a hot older guy hitting on her.

Then the world started to get fuzzy. And when she woke up, she was so far from home that she might as well have disappeared from the face of the earth.

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. This is now on my list of all-time favorite books. Every word counts, subplots and descriptions double as foreshadowing and symbolism. The storyline is gripping, pulling you through every single page…and since there aren’t any chapters, it’s easy to lose track of time.

Ever since I finished it (in one sitting) I’ve been thinking about it. Over and over and over again. I can’t get the characters out of my head. I’m DESPERATE to talk to someone about it, debate about the ending, the meaning, the themes…what fantastic discussions you could get out of this.


Wow, how is it possible that each Cybils book I read is better than the last? This streak has to end sometime.

Book 3—Done!

Buy this book now!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Book Review: Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

Oppel, Kenneth. Half Brother. New York, Scholastic, 2010.

Some of this I’d heard before, but it did sound exciting. It was like something from a sci-fi movie. One day people would read about it in Popular Science, and I could be a part of it. I caught myself nodding as Dad carried on, his eyes bright, his hands grasping at the air for emphasis.

“And that’s why the project’s whole design is so radical,” he said. “We’re trying to teach another species our language. Human language. So we need to raise Zan like a human baby, so he can learn language just like a human would. No cages. No labs. He’s one of us now. He has a crib and clothes and toys. And most important, he has a family. He has a mother and a father—and a big brother, too.”

Ben’s father is a renowned behavioral psychologist who’s just gotten his big break. Finally, a university willing to fund his experiment—to try teaching a chimp sign language. But in order for that to happen, the chimp must be raised as a human, which means Ben finds himself with a new baby brother.

Brilliant. This is one of those books that rings true in every way. The characters, the family dynamics, the emotions…I feel as though I’ve lived through this. I didn’t think there was any way Oppel could steer around animal rights discussions without sounded didactic, but he did. All sides of every argument were presented flawlessly. He manages to work in deeper themes without ever losing the tension.

This is great for discussions, perfect for book clubs. I would rate it as 13+ due to a few (very) mild sexual references.
Definitely a book to put on your "to be read" list. Go ahead and try not to fall in love with Zan. Really. I dare you.

Book 2 of the Cybils....Done!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review: Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Henry, April. Girl, Stolen. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2010.

"Who the hell are you?" His voice broke in surprise.

"What are you doing in Danielle's car?"

Their words collided and tangled. Both of them speaking too fast, almost yelling.

Sitting up, she scrambled back against the door, the one farthest from him. "Stop our car and get out!"

"No!" he shouted back. The engine surged as he drove faster.

Cheyenne realized she was being kidnapped.

But she couldn't see the guy who was kidnapping her or where they were going.

Because for the last three years, Cheyenne had been blind.

Cheyenne was just supposed to wait in the car for a minute while her stepmother ran in to pick up a prescription. Instead, she ended up being kidnapped and held for ransom.

The story picked up fast and didn't let down for a minute. I loved the twist of the kidnapped girl also being blind. Everything, literally, was working against her. And yet she was still strong, a great role model for girls. Cheyenne has that Nancy Drew-ness about her, always analyzing her situation and finding the best way out.

I also loved the complexity of Griffin. Great character. I absolultely fell in love with him. (Should I say "He can kidnap me any day?" No, I shouldn't. Okay. I won't.) I love the way April Henry shows us his character...instead of saying "he wanted to be a better person than his father" she has him clean the kitchen, something the father would never do.

This is perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney and Lois Duncan. It's a thriller, fun of action and thought-provoking situations.

And Book 1 of the Cybils is finished!

Cybils 2010!

So, for those of you who don't know, I've been chosen as a panelist for the 2010 Cybils award on the Young Adult Fiction panel.

*uncontrollable shrieking and jumping up and down*

Ahem. Yes, I'm very excited.

So, let me tell you a little about how the Cybils are going to work. First, people nominate books. And by people, I mean YOU. If you haven't nominated your favorite book of the past year yet, then you need to. Just click here. You have until October 15th!

Then we read, read, read. We've already started. This is the part I plan on chronicling here. Every book nominated is required to be read by at least two people, and at least 50 pages need to be read. After that, we battle it out to come up with a shortlist of 5-7 titles.

Those titles go to the Round Two judges. They have to read all of the books shortlisted, and then they will make a decision about the winner.

Are you all psyched? I'm psyched! This is going to be awesome!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Edgy Books BELONG in Young Adult Fiction

In celebration of Banned Book Week, I thought I'd talk about why teens should (not just "should be allowed to" but "should") read edgy books.

Let's face it, the teenage years are difficult. You feel like an adult, but adults treat you like a child. You're supposed to make decisions that will affect the rest of your life before you've even figured out what kind of person you're going to be. Peer pressure is a constant in your life, and everything that you either give into or walk away from determines your reputation, and your reputation is everything. Add to this the fact that your hormones are completely psychotic and over-the-top, and...well, let's just say that you couldn't pay me enough to relive those years.

Now, I can see why parents don't want their children reading certain books. They're trying to protect them, keep them from learning about particular evils in the world, keept them as pure as possible for as long as possible.

I hate to break it to you, though, but teens have already been exposed. Unless your child never leaves the house, never speaks to peers, never watches TV or listens to music, they've been exposed. I was hearing explicit sex jokes in the third grade. Being fairly innocent, I didn't know what they were, and just laughed along with everyone else in order to fit in...I didn't actually understand those jokes until years later.

"Well, I can't stop that kind of exposure, but books are something I can control, so I should control it." I disagree. The difference between books and movies or lewd jokes is that books generally work themselves out. They take these issues and work through them. Edgy YA that is done well is a constructive way of working through these kinds of problems. Even if the character makes the wrong choices, we are able to watch it, from a safe distance, and point out exactly what they did wrong.

Now consider how much more likely a teen is to make the right decision when they've essentially "lived through" the wrong decision.

No matter how much we would like them to, teenagers are VERY unlikely to come to adults to figure out their problems. They want nothing to do with adults. How limited will they be if they only have the advice from their peers? I admit, edgy YA books are a hidden way of getting teens to take advice from adults. And as long as the moral isn't heavy-handed or didactic, TEENS WILL LISTEN.

I really think we need to change our views on edgy young adult fiction. It's not damaging our teens. It's giving them an opportunity to work through bad decisions and difficult times without negatively affecting their lives.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Other Views: Love Triangles in YA


"After all, why have one boy when you can have two?"


Fun list of the top ten YA love triangles of all time.


A student comes one day with a "Team Jacob" water bottle and the next day with a "Team Edward" shirt...


The #1 reason women love triangles in romance. I think that says it all.


"We want the protagonist to choose the right guy...for her. Sometimes we get confused and like the right guy...for us."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

This review is based on an uncorrected advance galley, and the author may make changes before the book goes to press.

Cremer, Andrea. Nightshade. New York: Penguin Group, 2010.

I sighed. "The Keepers have been on you too?"
Ren pulled his gaze from mine. "Efron expressed some concerns about my...habits. Worried that you'd be unhappy or concerned about fidelity." He chewed on the last word like a piece of gristle.
I doubled over laughing. For a minute he looked chagrined.
"Serves you right, Romeo." I aimed my fingers at his chest, miming a cocked pistol. "If you weren't Emile's son, your pelt would already be nailed over a fireplace belonging to the father of some brokenhearted girl."
Ren flashed a wicked smile. "You're not wrong." He put his hand against the locked just above my shoulder. "Efron has visted our house once a week for the last month." His grin didn't fade, but his eyes looked troubled.
Fear curled my fingers around his shirt, pulling him closer. "Every week?" I whispered.
He nodded, passing a hand through his espresso dark hair. "Don't be surprised if he's packing a shotgun at the union."
I smiled, but my breath caught in my throat as he leaned down. His lips brushed against my ear. I pulled away. The Keepers took this purity thing seriously, even if he didn't.
"I think they're worried the next generation might not fall into line. But I'd never leave you at the altar, Lily."

Calla (nicknamed Lily) has never questioned her destiny. She's an alpha, a Guardian, a werewolf, destined to form a new pack with Ren as soon as they both come of age. And with Ren promising to do away with his playboy ways and the two packs willing to tolerate one another, everything is falling perfectly into place.

Until she saves a boy that should have died. And suddenly, everything she thought she knew about the "myth" of love comes crashing down around her.

Everyone knows I don't like werewolves, but I liked this. (I keep saying that, don't I? Maybe I should give in. This is the third werewolf novel I've liked.) Great love triangle. I'm totally Team Ren, by the way...not sure if this is one of those series where we need to pick sides, but just in case. I love a playboy that's willing to dedicate himself to me and only me.

One of my main concerns was that not enough would happen, that it would just be 450-ish pages of sexual tension. But that's not true. There's action, there are twists I didn't see coming (the cave! The cave!) and there's plenty of "I might be a girl, but I can handle anything" attitude from Calla.

Overall, phenomenal debut novel, and I will be very surprised if this doesn't hit the New York Times bestseller list when it comes out in October.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Love to Hate Them: Love Triangles in Young Adult Literature

I'm Team Peeta, Team Damon, and Team Zane...and I will stand by those choices until death do us part, and in some cases, even past that (seeing as technically, Damon's already dead.)
The power of love triangles is astonishing. It turns sister against sister, mother against daughter, friend against friend. I myself have created an eternal family feud that will persist through the generations with a Team Gale-er. And there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to my choices...sometimes it's the bad boy, sometimes it's the nice guy, and sometimes it's just the underdog. But I always manage to make a choice--then change my mind about five times--then make another choice by the time the book ends and I find out what really happened.

I love to hate love triangles. I really do. Because it's so heartbreaking when she finally has to choose, and it tells you so much about her character. And I've grown to love or hate the boys along with her. Do you know why I loved "The Notebook?" (The movie, not the book.) Because they made both of those boys so compatible with her. It was her choice, it was her growth, and it was choosing the road less traveled by.

That, to me, is the best way to do a love triangle. Make both of the choices appealing in different ways. And don't, for the love of all that is sacred in romance, just kill off one of the boys. That doesn't help us (or your character) at all. It's just a cop-out. Making her choose is the most important thing you can do for her, because it lets us see what honestly matters to her. Each boy should represent a different ideal. Will she choose passion over comfort? Love over status? Desire over duty?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go build up some of my defenses around the fortress...the Team Stefan-ers seem to have breached security. I might need some back-up here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Utah Loves Young Adult Fiction

I mentioned in my last post that our store was the top-selling store in the top-selling district for Mockingjay, and it started me thinking...why does Utah love YA?

There are a couple easy answers, so let's start with those:

First of all, there are a lot of kids in Utah. Let's face it, Utah families just tend to be bigger than in other states. That means there are more teenagers in Utah than in other areas.

Another easy answer is the strong religious influence in this area, which means that people are often looking for "clean" literature. Now, just because something's in teen, does that mean it's "clean"? No. But most people don't know that. And so they think they can read anything YA without fear of too much swearing or sex. These people I kindly steer away from anything I would describe as "edgy...."

But I think Utah County's obsession goes deeper. As much as I see the two groups I already mentioned, there are two even bigger groups: housewives and college students.

Here's my theory: Young adult fiction moves faster than adult fiction. It doesn't waste a single word. Even literary young adult fiction has to be interesting, while literary adult fiction, unfortunately, often just has to sound pretty.

College students are busy and in general, don't have time for fiction. So if something is going to drag them from their studies, it had better generate constant suspense and never slow down enough to let them think, "I should really be studying right now..." Another thing, it should be smart, so they don't feel like it's just brain candy. With the example of Hunger Games, it can both keep them frantically flipping pages, as well as provide them with sociological aspects that they can correlate with all that, you know, "smart stuff" they teach you in college.

Now the other group is housewives. Let me tell you, housewives are the busiest, most harried people I see in the store. Business professionals? Naw, they've got their whole lunch hour. But mothers are juggling a crying baby, a toddler who just learned how to run and climb bookshelves, and a whining middle grader who doesn't understand why he has to do a book report on a biography instead of a fantasy.

How these women find time to read is beyond me. But they do. And they make the time for YA lit. I think part of it is the same reasons as the college students...it's intelligent and fast-paced. But I think another part of it is the natural escapism that is in YA. With things like adult sci-fi and fantasy, you have to really be paying attention to figure out the government, the terrain, the maps, and sometimes even the language...not the easiest thing to do while multi-tasking. But YA will take you far away into incredible storylines and fantasies without making you memorize too much. It can make you relive all the good and bad parts of high school without (re)traumatizing you. Hopefully.

Those are my thoughts on it...what do you guys think? Are there other reasons that YA does well in this area?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sequels: The Sequel

So last week I talked about how every fantasy book seems to have a sequel…and if you need to write a sequel, here’s a collection of the some of the worst problems that I see.

First of all, I think any first novel should be a standalone. But if you have a larger storyline in mind, make it a standalone like Hunger Games. Answer your main story question.

Let me say that again: Answer your main story question.

This is a problem I’ve seen with a lot of new series. They bring up a problem and don’t answer it in the course of the book, because they “need” a sequel. THIS IS WRONG. It completely ruins the arc. Just don’t do it! For example, if it’s a paranormal romance, we need to know what kind of creature the romantic lead is, and why they’re where they are instead of in another realm, or planet, or dark forest somewhere. You cannot leave that for the second book. And yes, there is a bestselling book out there right now that does this.

Also, make sure the stakes are high enough in the second and third novel. Granted, if they already saved the world in the first novel, this will be hard to do. But what would be more important than saving the world to your character? Is there someone who, if you’ll excuse the cliché, means “more than the world” to them? That would be raising the stakes. And what a great chance for character development, to see how they deal with pressure closer to the heart.

Another thing you need to be careful about is the world-building. If you built the world correctly in the first novel, there will be clues planted there that can be expanded on in the second novel. Shannon Hale does this really well in her Books of Bayern series. The plot for the sequel should not come out of nowhere. The foundation should have already been laid in the first novel. On the flip side, don’t write your first novel assuming you will get a sequel…it’s not a guarantee. But a well-written novel will always have ideas and concepts the can be spun into full fledged books. A sentence here, a comment there…these are the kind of things that you can use to support an entire second novel.

The hardest part of a novel, I think is the character arc. If your first novel was written well, then your character developed throughout the story, transformed into a (hopefully) better person. This is the starting point for your second novel…which can be difficult. You have to keep the same tone as the first novel, but you can’t take your character back to square one. It’s necessary to find something that the character can continue to develop into.

And the most important part of writing a sequel: Don’t recycle your plot. If it took the entire first novel for the two love interests to get together in the first novel, don’t break them up in the first chapter of the second novel and make us watch them get together again. If we wanted to see them get together again, we’d reread the first one. Love changes, develops, grows…there must be something more creative that you can do than break them up and make them fall in love again. Apply this to whatever the plot of your first novel was.

Does this sound hard? It should! A sequel should be hard to write. You already have characters that you can’t mold to your every whim, you have certain rules you have to stick to, and you have a tone you have to match. It has to be more exciting, more daring, more creative than your first novel, which was previously the best thing you were capable of writing. A good sequel is not just a way to get more money out of your fan base. It’s a necessity that grows from a character whose story isn’t quite finished.

Oh, and have fun. (That was implied, right?) You get to live through new adventures with your character!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Room on the Shelf (maybe): Sequels

Today I had someone who was building up a teen library, and she wanted popular books. So I walked her around, showing her this series and that series…then she asked, “Are there any popular books that aren’t part of a series? In case I don’t get remember to come back for the rest of them.”


Now, normally, I get the other side of the question…everyone is desperate for teen series, books they can get hooked on.

But a popular, bestselling book that isn’t part of a series? At first, I couldn’t think of a single one. Then a few started coming to me, like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. For the most part, it seems, all bestselling fantasy books have a sequel (whether or not The Book Thief should be considered fantasy is debatable, I know...)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that nearly all of the bestsellers right now are paranormal or fantasy. But is it essential for fantasy books to have sequels?

The case for sequels: Like I said, it’s great getting teens addicted to a series. And with fantasy, you spend so much time building up the world in the first book, you need the rest of them just to enjoy what you already know. It’s all about branding, about a character everyone knows and loves. And of course, for the writer, if the first book is successful, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll do at least moderately well with the rest of them.

Let’s take the example of Hunger Games. It’s a trilogy, of which the final book comes out this Tuesday (YAY!!! And yes, the Orem Barnes & Noble is having a midnight release party.) Now, could the first book have stood on its own? Absolutely. The main story question was answered. Would we have wanted it to stand on its own? NO. We needed more from those characters. It wasn’t just a story we were interested in now, it was a life, a history, a world. That is a series we couldn’t live without.

The case against sequels: When it comes down to it, are all of them necessary? Or is the writer just milking a good idea for all it’s worth? I’m sure we can all think of examples of a great book or movie which was followed by sequels that were just sort of…blah. And let’s face it, these sequels give a bad name to series everywhere.

So what separates a good sequel from a bad one?

Yep, you’ve guessed it, I have some ideas. Unfortunately, as I started to write them down, I realized that it was getting too long for one post. So stay tuned for next week’s post- Sequels: The Sequel.

I promise I did not do this on purpose.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

I shook my head. "Sorry, I'm not interested in kissing a frog."

"I've been told taht kissing a frog is good for the complexion," he said, sidling toward me.

"I doubt it. anyway, my complexion is fine."

"What about the old saying, kissing a frog would bring you luck?"

"I've never heard that saying. It can't be too old. I think you just made it up. All kissing a frog would bring me is slimy lips." I shuddered and backed away. "The answer is no, so quit asking!"

Baker, E.D. The Frog Princess. New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.

Princess Esmeralda isn't pretty and dainty like a princess should be...she has a laugh that shakes the birds from the trees and a walk that's more like an elephant than a kitten. But she's smart. Smart enough to know that kissing a frog, even a talking frog, won't turn him into a handsome prince.


They say that this was the book that inspired "The Princess and the Frog" by Disney. Good movie. Great book. Quite frankly, I don't see much similarity between the two. Yes, both were based on a fairy tale, but they took radically different paths.

This book was adorable. I loved it. The dialogue, the characters, the plot...such a fun story. I had trouble putting it down, even though I already knew the ending. Great chemistry between the two characters, which doesn't always happen. The voice is lively, energetic, and just plain fun.

It's perfect for tweens, because it's squeaky clean, but still exciting and lots of fun. If they loved Gail Carson Levine, this is a great, slightly older series to move on to. Also great for the kids that loved The Sisters Grimm, but aren't quite old enough to tackle Shannon Hale (though as soon as they are old enough, Shannon Hale is a MUST!)

If you want a new twisted fairy tale, this is a series you've got to try!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Good Books Becoming Bad Movies: Can It Increase Sales?

We’ve all seen it happen: A beloved book gets turned into a terrible, low-budget, poorly acted and poorly directed movie. It’s so bad that we have to tell our friends (or, in my case, customers) that even if you hated the movie, you’ll still the book, because it’s amazing!

And so it begs the question—is it better to have your book turned into a bad movie, or just stay on the shelf as a good book?

I bring this up because I recently changed my mind about the answer. And the reason I changed my mind was because of the brilliant Gail Carson Levine.

I went to meet Ms. Levine (pronounced Le-VEEN, I learned that from her…I was pronouncing it Le-VINE before, like a grapevine) when she came to the King’s English for a signing.

Now, we all know about the amazing Gail Carson Levine. Newbery Honor winner for one of my all-time favorite books, Ella Enchanted. We also all know about the movie that was made from this incredible book.


I should say that it isn't the worst adaptation that I've ever seen. I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway, like I always do, and I loved seeing the way someone else imagined the world. But not everyone was quite as happy with it.

Well, someone in the audience asked Ms. Levine how she felt about the movie. Reading between the lines, you could tell there were some things that she wasn’t crazy about. She said, “I asked them, did we really need an evil uncle and a talking snake? Apparently we did, because they ignored me and put them in anyway.”

But then she said something that amazed me. “I’m very grateful to them for making the movie. Sales of my book increased in leaps and bounds.” And then she passed around a picture of herself with Anne Hathaway and added, “Yes, Anne Hathaway hugged me, so if you touch me, you’ll have touched someone who touched Anne Hathaway.”

(Um…If I touch you, I’ll have touched GAIL CARSON LEVINE!!!! She’s so modest.)

Anyway…I always thought I would be one of those authors that would be really extra protective of my books, never letting a director touch them until I was certain he’d love them as much as I did. But then I started watching sales. And Ms. Levine is right. Books do better when they’re made into movies, even bad movies. I can’t believe that Ella Enchanted ever had trouble selling, but she would know better than me.

I tried it out as an experiment on some of my customers (yes, sorry, if you come in, I’ll probably be experimenting on you one way or the other, that’s just how it goes.) I’d try to pitch a book (like Ramona or Beastly), something that I really loved, and see how they were taking to it. I’d get a lot of side to side head movements, hems and haws, etc.

Then I’d say the magic words, “Oh, and it’s being made into a movie.”

Suddenly, the customer will desperately try to snatch it out of my hands, and I have to jump back for fear of being bitten by the venomous fangs they’ve just sprouted.

I don’t know what it is. Really, I don’t. But it even affects me. When I heard Pretty Little Liars was being made into a TV show, I finally decided I had to read it (and I’ll say that it’s because customers will be asking about it, and I have to know what I’m talking about…though everyone knows I’m a liar. I just want to read the books.) I’m not the kind of girl that reads the last chapter of a book before the first, and I actually get really upset if someone spoils the ending, but I always want to have read the book before I go see the movie. Always. It would drive me crazy to have it the other way around. Or I want to read the book to decide if I want to see the movie.

So my new opinion? A bad movie will increase sales of your book. There is absolutely no way that it will decrease sales of your book. Movies become household words, and it’s all about the branding. So when someone recommends your book, people will be more likely to remember it, because they knew of the movie, for better or for worse. And they’ll be curious to see just how badly the director messed up something that was so beautiful to begin with.

For the love of jelly bellys, will someone think up a sign-off for me? It goes right HERE!

Oh, and P.S. Ms. Levine said that a teacher once read a story of hers and wrote that she was "pedestrian." It made her stop writing for years.

Listen to the squeak in my voice, right here, it's funny: "Gail Carson Levine? PEDESTRIAN?!?!?"

So to all of you "pedestrians" out there...Keep writing.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Other View: Mystery and Horror in YA

Here's what other people are saying about mystery and horror in YA:

Monster Librarian:

I think this might be my new favorite website. Fantastic reviews of all that's new and scary in young adult literature, as well as mentioning content.

Familial Dysfunction in Young Adult Horror Fiction:
Here's my true geek coming through...I actually think this is fascinating! A study in how young adult horror novels almost always have a dysfunctional family, and resolving the family issues is the real resolution of the novel.

So You Want to be a Horror Writer?:

This is someone who completely disagrees with me, and thinks that selling a horror novel (especially if it's your first) has astronomical odds. Still, of all the horror novels sold in the year she refers to 21% were young adult...and I just think that number will keep rising.

Horror for Readers:

Gives great definitions and examples of horror and its subgenres.

A New Era of Gothic Horror:

Great article from 2008 that agrees with me...horror's coming back.

Mystery Genre Study:

A series of questions to ask yourself about your mystery novel.

Writing Young Adult Mysteries:

Quote: Young adult mysteries are often better-written, more exciting and more unique than adult mysteries.
Darn right they are!

The Edgars:

And of course, the award every mystery writer wants to win, the Edgar Allan Poe award.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Review: The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson

"One, two, three!" Patrick said. "Careful, now."

The body was stiff, in full rigor, and as it rolled the hair fell forward to cover the face in a chestnut-colored web; gently, her father removed it, and then his eyes grew wide. "Oh, no," he said. "Oh, God, please no."

And then Cameryn saw the perfect oval face and the eyes staring blankly, and she felt her hand fly to her mouth and tears blurred her vision until she couldn't see anymore.

Ferguson, Alane. The Christopher Killer. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Cameryn Mahoney has always been fascinated by forensics. If it involves death and decay, she's there. And since her father is the coronor in their town, she manages to convince him to let her join him as his assistant.

But then a serial killer comes to town.

Great storyline. For any teen that loves CSI, this is the perfect novel. It's incredibly well researched and thought out. Be warned that some of the descriptions do get fairly graphic, but if I can handle it, I'm pretty sure most people can (I have very low tolerance for blood and guts.) The characters are fantastic, and everyone is thrilled when they find out that there are four (with a fifth one promised!) in the series. Alane Ferguson is a great author to get kids "hooked" on, and one of the few YA mystery authors actively publishing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Room on the Shelf: Upcoming Trends

We all know that, as writers, we have to write the story that we’re passionate about writing, rather than the “trends” or “cycles” that are happening in the world.

But it can’t hurt to talk about them, right?

Here are the two genres that I, in my infinite booksellerly wisdom, think should be making a comeback in the next five years: mystery and horror.

Horror is already well on its way, with the resurgence of the Darren Shan books and Rick Yancey’s new Monstrumologist series. Keep in mind, I do not count Twilight (or similar books) as horror. Those are paranormal romance. When I say horror, I mean scary vampires. Blood and guts. Serial killers. The kind of book that made you leave the lights on and lock the doors and windows when you were a kid.

Horror was huge back in the 90’s with R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Stephen King, etc. Now, Stephen King has stuck it out, but we all know that horror just hasn’t been selling well since then. But I get kids coming in all the time, asking for books that will scare them. Really scare them. And from what I’ve heard, this isn’t just a request from teens. Apparently editors and agents the world over are searching for the next Mary Downing Hahn (Wait Till Helen Comes.) It’s just a matter of time before a new horror writer takes the kids world by storm.

Mystery is probably one of the most commonly requested genres. For younger kids, it’s not hard, there are plenty of older series, like Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew. But these are a bit antiquated, and it’s hard for kids to relate. There are a few new series sneaking in, like The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Name of This Book is Secret, and 39 Clues. And so far, kids are eating them up, especially boys. And we all know that anything that appeals to boys is going to do well.

So the next focus will be in young adult. Quite frankly, what we need are more books like Alane Ferguson’s Forensic Mystery series. I can’t tell you how often I have teens coming in looking for mysteries that love CSI, and want murder mysteries with science and forensics tied in. Authors that are getting reprints right now are Lois Duncan and Caroline B. Cooney. So if your book is similar to theirs, you’ve got the right idea.

Again, make sure you write the book you’re passionate about. But if you’re passionate about two books, and one is “Twilight but with ______” and the other is a terrifying serial killer murder mystery with a fantastic twist, I’d recommend going with the second one.

I really need a sign-off. “And that’s my two cents!” “You heard it from the bookseller!” Wow, I’m terrible at this. Can anyone think of a good one?

Until then—


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Life of a Book in a Bookstore

So it's come to my attention that the way "returns" work between bookstores and vendors is sometimes misunderstood, even by professional writers. Keep in mind, this is just how things work in my particular store. Other stores might have different policies. Here's how it usually goes:

A book is published. Yay! It's returnable, it's in our warehouses, it's available to bookstores everywhere.

With some books, our buyer (a person who rarely, if ever, comes to our store or even our state) will order certain titles into the stores, predicting how many we'll need based on what we've sold in the past of that genre or that author. With other books, we will read the description and look at the cover and decide on a case-by-case basis whether it will do well in our store.

Then the book comes in. We display it in our "New in _______ (Teen, Fiction, Non-Fiction, etc.)" section. In general, we keep it for 90 days to see if it sells.

After that, things can get difficult. If it doesn't sell at all, we'll return all copies to the vendor. If it sells slowly, like one a month, we'll all copies to the vendor. If it sells one every two weeks or so, we'll probably keep one copy. If it sells twenty a week, we'll give it its own display.

Pretty simple, right? Here's where it gets tricky.

After the 90 days, the computer gets a say in what stays in the store and what goes, regardless, sometimes, of sales within the individual store. These are called "due outs." The computer pulls up a list of books every month that are doing poorly on the national level, and requests that we return them to the vendor.

This is where I can sometimes step in. If a book does poorly on a national level but really well in our store, I can take those sales figures to the manager and request that we keep it. It's not a guarantee, but it can help.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have what is called "modeling." This is the best thing that can happen to a book. Modeling occurs after about 6 months, when the computer predicts how many copies of that book our specific store will sell every two weeks. Then, whenever we sell below that number, we are automatically sent more copies. With unmodeled books, we have to manually reorder when we run low...and it can be easy to forget those books sometimes.

Now, for the question every author asks: "Why isn't my book on the shelf?"

Unfortunately, it is all about the money. It's not personal. As with any other product, if it's in the store, it is taking up the space that could be given to something that would sell. Yes, I do fight for my local authors. But I can't keep a book in the store if there aren't sales to back it up. So if you want your book on the shelf, don't let your fans buy books online! Books purchased in a store will stay in stores, and books purchased online will stay online.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Or maybe I wanted someone to point a finger at me and say, "Hannah. Are you thinking about killing yourself? Please don't do that, Hannah. Please?" But deep down, the truth was that the only person saying that was me. Deep down, those were my words.

Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin, 2007.

Hannah Baker's suicide is still haunting Clay Jensen. Was there something he could have done? Were there signs he could have caught? While desperately trying to assure himself of his innocence, he receives a box of cassette tapes. From Hannah. Sent to the thirteen people who led her to commit suicide. Unable to listen to the horrifying story, and unable not to, Clay tortures himself with one question: Is he the reason the girl he loved killed herself?

One of the most chilling stories I've ever read. This is the kind of story that could change a teen's perspective on life. I think this should be required reading in all schools. It points out the things to watch out for, and things that no human being should ever do to another, no matter how insignificant it seems at the time.

What's amazing is that you can watch the way a series of small incidents can lead someone who is beautiful and talented to believe she has no other options. Was Hannah looking for excuses to kill herself? Yes. But could something have been done about it? Yes. This is the perfect opportunity to teens to evaluate the way they treat people.

Besides that, it's simply brilliant writing. Jay Asher goes back and forth between Hannah and Clay just enough to keep us interested in both stories. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire time. I could not put this book down for a second. I ate a bag of chips for a meal because I didn't want to stop reading long enough to make a sandwich. It was absolutely heartbreaking with characters who were so vivid that I sometimes talk about them like they were real people.

This was quite honestly the best novel I have read in quite some time. Next time you want to read a book in one sitting, pick up this one. Just have some tissues ready. And a ready-to-eat meal, if you don't feel like chips.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Kid and Young Adult Bookstores Will Never Go 100% Digital—Part Two

Let me preface this by saying that I have a nook, and I LOVE IT. I feel like I read even more than I used to, because it’s so convenient. There are thousands of books available for free, and others that go on sale periodically for less than five dollars. I can download books from my local library and read them on my nook for up to 14 days, then it automatically goes back.
I’m going to start with the young adult genre, because this is the most likely to go digital. Teens love technology. I bought my younger sister a nook, and she is madly in love with it, reading longer than she ever has before. So, what’s the problem? Why won’t teens go completely digital?
Book covers. I have to say, the young adult publishing industry is doing a phenomenal job with their covers. Every week, I see new ones that are even cooler than the ones the week before. They have finally figured out the benefit of a good cover, and they’re willing to spend money getting a good one. Look at recent bestsellers such as Hush, Hush, Fallen, and Incarceron. All have phenomenal covers, and I see teenagers picking up these titles every day because of it.
Now, does the nook show covers? Yes. It will show the cover in black and white on the full screen, and in color on the touch screen. But is it enough to draw someone into a book that they might not otherwise have picked it up? I don’t think so. Especially with a cover like Incarceron, which is iridescent, or Fallen, which is made of a material that feels almost like suede.

So moving on to the middle grade age. The covers are still a big deal for them, but not quite as much. They’re still at the age where they are required to read from particular genres, but get to choose the books themselves. Therefore, for many of them, they just need descriptions. Also, they have more series, as opposed to the trilogies that rule young adult. The series in middle grade can get up into the hundreds, like “The Boxcar Children.” So younger kids are just anxious for the next in the series, no matter what the cover is.

However, that’s not the biggest problem with middle grade. The biggest problem is that they’re still kids. They drop things. They spill things. They break things. No parent wants to give them a $200 device if they can help it, even if they did get the protection plan.

And for our grand finale…picture books. I don’t think anything will ever replace hardcover picture books. Yes, I have seen picture books on the nook. They’re cute, but they’re in black and white. And yes, I’ve seen them on the Ipad. It’s like looking at a computer screen. For me, that’s not conducive to a bedtime story. And bedtime stories are one pastime that I don’t think I’m ready to leave behind.

Let me say one more time that I love my ereader. It has completely replaced paperbacks for me, because let’s face it, I only buy paperbacks because they’re cheap. And if they’re even cheaper on the nook, then why wouldn’t I get them there? On the other hand, books that I want in hardcover I will still buy in hardcover (hello, Mockingjay!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Kids and Young Adult Bookstores Will Never Go 100% Digital--Part One

In this installment, I want to discuss the .com issue…both Amazon and the websites of physical bookstores. In next week’s installment, I’ll discuss ebooks.

So….the websites. Let’s face it—they’re convenient. And cheaper. No overhead. Just straight from the warehouse to you. You can instantly see what other customers thought of the book, you can compare to other books, and you have a search engine that you can type in the “almost title” or “almost author” spelling and get the book you’re looking for. Very useful.

Well, at least it’s convenient for adults. We know what we’re looking for most of the time. We heard about it from a friend, or a blog, or a newspaper. And if we’re kind of iffy about it, there’s the customer reviews to make up our minds.

But it’s not like that with kids. Not most of the time, anyway. Kids are still trying to figure out what they like. And they want to see the different options. They want to hold the books in their hand and see the covers, the length, the size of the font, how much white space each page has. These kinds of things make a difference.

This hands-on approach becomes even more important with picture books. You can tell, right away, if a kid lights up when they open a picture book. You can tell if this is going to be their new bedtime book that you have read three times a night, every night, for the next two years.

And…sorry, I have to say it…websites can’t replace booksellers. They just can’t. They can tell you what other people have purchased when they purchased your book, or lists that other people recommend. But it’s not truly personalized. And as of yet, book ratings aren’t standardized. If there is something you don’t want your child to read, you have to find someone that’s read it. You need a bookseller.

Now, I’m a specialty bookseller, so I’m the exception, but I work very hard to stay well-informed about everything that’s big in kids and teen. I read for two hours every day. I spend at least an hour networking, watching all of the major authors on Twitter to see what they’re working on, when their books are coming out, what the new books are about. I also use that time to read all of the newsletters from all of the major reviewers (like Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and New York Times.)

Also, when I’m reading, I try very hard to keep track of which swear words are used (i.e., whether it’s the “biblical” swear words or the harder ones) as well as how frequent they are. I also keep track of the sexual activity. These are the kinds of things that parents need to know, and computers can’t always tell them. Now, are some websites, like Common Sense Media, making great strides toward this? Yes. But it’s not perfect, and sometimes you really need to know what another actual person thought.

Another thing that I work on is knowing what grade level a book is on. When you have a fifth grader on a second grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that won’t make them look like a baby. And when you have an eight-year-old that is on a ninth grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that will appeal to her without any bad content whatsoever. Websites can and do separate books out by ages…but that doesn’t help when you have kids ahead or behind their reading level. You need a bookseller.

Another thing booksellers can do that a computer never can… “So, I started reading a series a few years ago, and there are five girls in it…or maybe four…or maybe six…Anyway, I know there were 12 books in the series. Though maybe there are more now. I don’t remember part of any of the titles, I don’t remember anything about the author’s name, and I don’t remember anything about the plot.”

Believe it or not, I actually figured that one out…Beacon Street Girls.

Score one for the bookseller.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

I put down my fork. The hunk of meat loaf in my mouth felt like Styrofoam when I swallowed. "I saw Daniel today."

Mom glanced up from trying to prevent James from chucking his food across the table. The look that said, We don't mention that name in this house, passed over her eyes.

We discussed just about everything around our kitchen table: death, teen pregnancy, politics, and even religious injustice in the Sudan--but there was one topic we never talked about anymore: Daniel.

Dad wiped his mouth with his napkin. "Grace and Jude, I could use both of you at the parish tomorrow afternoon. We've had a great response to the charity drive. I can't even get into my office, it's packed so full of canned corn." He gave a slight chuckle.

I cleared my throat. "I talked to him."

Dad's laugh strangled off, almost like he was choking.

"Whoa," Charity said, her fork paused halfway to her mouth. "Way to go with the revelations, Grace."

Jude slid back his chair. "May I be excused?" he asked, and put his napkin on the table. He didn't wait for a response and walked out of the kitchen.

I glanced at Mom. Now look what you did, her eyes seemed to say.

Despain, Bree. The Dark Divine. New York: Egmont, 2009.

Grace Divine is from a perfect family. Her father is the local pastor, her mother is a homemaker, and her brother Jude is the hottest, sweetest, and most popular boy in school. But there's one secret that they never talk about--Daniel. A boy who lived with them for awhile, then disappeared after a tragedy involving Jude. A tragedy that no one has ever disclosed to Grace. So when Daniel reappears in town, she wonders if everything has been exaggerated, and if there's any chance that forgiveness will find its way into her family's heart again.
Loved it. Seriously loved it. Is it just a paranormal romance? No. It's also a retelling of the prodigal son. Fascinating. I've heard some people say that they felt the religion was overdone--I disagree. I think the religion was perfect. I feel like I understand Grace Divine, and her struggle to exist in a world where she is seen as a "walking morality barometer" simply because she's the preacher's daughter. That is essential to the story.

I loved these characters. For once, we have subplots and minor characters whose lives are just as interesting as characters in the romance. I loved Jude! What a complex character he is. He had so many layers, and we just kept getting peeling the onion. Incredible. I could understand Daniel and all his bad boy-ness. I felt for him. I fell in love with him. Why? Because he actually screwed up in the past. No, really! It wasn't some misunderstanding, it wasn't justified or rationalized, he really and honestly and truly screwed up! YAY! Just like real people do!

And the ending was the way it should have been. I HATE HATE HATE when the first book in a series ends in a cliffhanger. Actually, I hate it when any book does that, but particularly first books should be standalones. The way Suzanne Collins did it in the first Hunger Games was correct: Leave the reader wanting more, but not needing more. In the Dark Divine, you find all the answers you were looking for, but there's a new problem that arises at the very end of it that leaves you wanting more. It's one of those "Oh, I'm glad we figured that out. Wait...holy crap, what are we going to do now?"

All in all, for a novel trying to walk that fine line between being popular and being well written, it does great. It works on both levels. Whether you like literary or commercial fiction, it's definitely worth a try.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Marketing: An Interview With the Brilliant Bree Despain

True story: I went to work one day last year, thinking everything was going to be normal.

First phone call of the day- "Do you have The Dark Divine by Bree Despain?"

I checked. We had four come in (a typical number for a new, unknown author) and ALL FOUR were already on hold. Unheard of for a debut author.

I offered to order it in, and wrote it off as a fluke. Maybe all four were on hold by the author herself, I figured. Stranger things had happened.

Half hour later- A customer walks in, wandering through the teen section. "Do you have The Dark Divine by Bree Despain?"

Sigh. It's always a long day when I know I'm going to have a long line of unhappy customers.

Long story short, by the end of the day, I'd ordered 15 copies to come in (on top of the ones that customers had ordered for themselves) and our community relations manager was frantically searching for a way to contact Bree to get her to come in for a signing.

Nowadays, Bree is a sensation nationwide with her book trailer appearing before Eclipse showings throughout Utah. That's right. A book trailer. In movie theaters.

Looking at the evidence, I have to say that Bree is one of the most brilliant marketers I have ever seen. Lucky for us, she agreed to share with me some of her secrets to success.

1. You're a well-known author now, but what did you do to get excitement for The Dark Divine before it came out?

Well I tried to do a lot of things. I started a blog and twitter account and joined a few networking sites specific to books and reading. That helped start to get the word out. The best group I joined was the Tenners, a group of authors debuting in 2010 to both network and help cross promote each others books.

After the blog had a bit of a following, I recruited followers to be on a Street Team to help me spread the word. They received bookmarks, stickers, t-shirts and advanced copies of the book and went out to different events helping to pass out the materials. We had a lot of fun and I think it was a good way to generate excitement. Of course we did a lot of other things together with my publisher, like developing the TDD nail polish or previewing the first six chapters via the Romantic Times blog, to name a couple.

2. What did you do to make your book signings successful?

Mostly I am just enthusiastic about the events when talking about it with my twitter followers and on my blog. But we also passed out printed invitations to all our family and friends with a bottle of our TDD nail polish before my debut party. I think this helped to have them, in turn, talk about the signing with others. I was also lucky enough to be reviewed by some local newspapers that published a couple of my first signings along with the review.

3. What other events do you do? Are there any events that you turn down?

I have done everything from speaking on a author panels with local writing organizations, online chats with different groups of bloggers, teaching a class at conferences, flying out to Washington DC to participate in the American Library Association (ALA) conference, to visiting book clubs and book groups. Basically the only time I've turned an event down is when I just don't have the time to go.

4. What, if anything, have the publishers done for you that required zero effort from you?

Really, I have been highly involved in most of the marketing and promotions- whether it was initiated by me or by my publisher. But Egmont has done a lot on their own as well. For example, they placed some advertisements on Publisher's Weekly, Justine Magazine, Perez Hiltion's blog, and The Romantic Times. They are also currently doing a summer beach bag promotion that lets you listen to the first chapter of three of their Paranormal Romance books (including The Dark Divine of course).

5. How important are online networking sites (i.e. Facebook, blog, web site, Twitter)?

Extremely important. This new age of social media offers authors a new medium for reaching potential readers that they didn't have before. I am able to connect with readers all over the country and even in other countries quickly and easily. However, these sites shouldn't be used just to advertise or spam followers with constant "buy my book" speech. It is a place to converse with the book community and make connections and develop relationships. If it wasn't for my blog and Twitter, I can guarantee I would not have sold as many books as I have.

6. What is the most effective thing you've done to promote your book?

This is a tough question. I've just talked about the importance of the social media efforts, but if I take that out of the running, perhaps I'd say the nail polish. It has been a great give-away because, unlike a book mark or a business card, it is something that people will keep and use. And I've found its an incredible talking piece. People constantly ask me about where I got the great color, giving me a chance to talk about TDD. I have heard several similar anecdotes from my friends and fans telling me about how often they end up talking about my book with their friends because they've asked about the nail polish.

Overall though, its been a matter of trying to keep the momentum going by keeping an open mind and always trying new things. I am just so excited about it, and I want to share that with as many people as possible... and hopefully they will love the book as much as I do.

Speaking of trying new things-- I've just launched an awesome contest to help share a the new official The Dark Divine book trailer that you and your readers should totally check out. So far it has been a lot of fun. You can check it out

I just want to weigh in on a few things that Bree talked about. First of all, that Street Team is a work of absolute genius, and I honestly think that it is because of them that we had such a huge response on the first day The Dark Divine came out.

Secondly, I want to point out that she was involved with nearly all of her promotions, and I firmly believe that that is why she is so successful. One mistaken idea that many authors have is that bookstores or publishers will do your advertising for you.


When you are going to do a signing at a bookstore, we are only providing a venue. YOU are in charge of promoting your own signing. I have run dozens of signings, and I can tell who promotes and who doesn't.

Bree is successful because she takes charge of her signings, and she makes them successful. Believe me, this is a good thing! Your signings no longer have to be a matter of luck! YOU can make them amazing.

And since you're all dying to see it, here's Bree's incredible trailer!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

In honor of tween week, I thought I'd post about my FAVORITE tween series by Ally Carter.

Carter, Ally. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You. New York: Hyperion, 2006.

I was just starting to get into the rhythm of our little game, when Mr. Solomon said, "Close your eyes," in Arabic.

We did as we were told.

"What color are my shoes?" This time he spoke in English and, amazingly, thirteen Gallagher Girls sat there quietly without an answer.

"Am I right-handed or left-handed?" he asked, but didn't pause for a response. "Since I walked into this room I have left fingerprints in five different places. Name them!" he demanded, but was met with empty silence.

"Open your eyes," he said, and when idid, I saw him sitting on the corner of his desk, one foot on the floor and the other hanging loosely off the side. "Yep," he said. "You girls are pretty smart. But you're also kind of stupid."

Cammie Morgan goes to a school for spies...though to the rest of the world, it looks like a school for girl geniuses. She speaks fourteen languages fluently, she could kill a man in seven different ways, and she could probably hack her way into any CIA computer.

What don't they teach at Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women? How to talk to boys.

So when Cammie meets a boy, she knows how to analyze his trash, follow him while staying "invisible," and write detailed reports about his behavior and what it means...but isn't quite sure how to talk to him.

This has to be one of the most adorable series out there right now. I freaked out when it took a whole day after the fourth book came out (which was Tuesday, by the way) to get it on ebook. Seriously, I started researching who to call at the publishing company to right this kind of injustice.

The characters definte the word "loveable," and the plot line is phenomenal. My favorite parts are when Cammie writes up detailed "summaries of surveillance" about Josh. I was honestly laughing out loud. And the best part? It's cute and sweet and absolutely, 100% squeaky clean. That, more than anything, is what makes me classify this as a perfect "tween" book. Will older teens love it? Of course. It's the perfect blend of "Alias" and "Princess Diaries." But it's also appropriate and accessible to younger girls that are looking to read up.

If you haven't read this series yet, I strongly recommend it. Straight fun from beginning to end. Also, don't miss Ally Carter's other equally fun series Heist Society.