Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Grade: A+


It's not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the WIll Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old--including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire--Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most awesome high school musical.


Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 10/10!
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 7/10
Total Score: 62/70

Obtained: Library

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Frequently and without shame.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some teen drinking (and false ID use) and drunkenness, as well as references to drugs.
Sexual Content: Much reference to sex, sodomy, porn, etc, etc.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Nothing really...


This book contains a surprising number of strange and wonderful things, but one thing that is consistently wonderful is the brilliant, if off-color, wit of this god-like writing team. John Green and David Levithan, two of the most intelligent and imaginative of today's YA fiction authors, paired up to create this massively original masterpiece of two normal-ish boys and their trials and errors as they navigate teenage life.

That is one thing that I feel Green and Levithan have captured perfectly in this book--teenagerdom. And though, yes, not every teenager is like this, they treat their characters respectfully, as kids with a full range of human emotion and a properly functioning brain (i.e. defying all stereotypes), something I think many YA authors, regardless of age, overlook. Green and Levithan create three-dimensional characters with three(or four, or five)-dimensional problems that have no easy solution. And though their lives may be odd and unconventional, they still seem to reflect the demographic they represent. Yes, emotional, rash, sometimes petty, sometimes selfish, sometimes cruel, but essentially good, essentially true, and always searching for their perfect place and peace of mind.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a book that is tight with pent-up emotion, full of tangled messes, and, at times, flamboyantly gay. But it is humorous in a way that will make you laugh out loud, touching in a way that will make you cry, and beautiful in a way that will make you think. A fantastic read.


John Green
David Levithan
Will Grayson FAQ
Interesting ShelfLife.com interview with both authors
Looking For Alaska by John Green review
Paper Towns by John Green review
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stay with Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Grade: A+


Stay With Me
is about how


Character Development: 10/10!
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 69/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? R

Cursing: Yes, but limited.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some adult drinking, references to using pills illegally (forged prescription)
Sexual Content: Much. Several actual scenes that are kind of graphic, in a sense. A lot of discussion. Also, illegal relationships/sexual activity because of age.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Suicide is a major theme. References to the 9/11 attack on New York.


Stay With Me  is a true masterpiece of character development, as well as being one of the most touching books I've read in a long time.The story was challenging, strange, intelligent. It expected the patience and awareness of its reader, and was unapologetically true. It did not try to be spectacular or extraordinary or stand out--and yet it did all these things, quietly to itself.

This deals with all sorts of difficult subjects--divorce, independence, suicide, sex, love, broken families, dyslexia. But the narrator, a teenage girl working through all these issues by herself, is such a strong, beautiful character, and just so real, that it makes these things relatively minor. It isn't about the struggles, or how hard life is--it is about Leila, her emotional growth, and learning to live. Her narration is like a transcript straight out of her heart, and, though she has problems I have never dealt with, they resonate universally, because they are not normal. How many of us actually deal with problems we think of as "normal"? Leila's life--and the book itself--is the opposite of normal. Or maybe it's unusually normal. But her analytical, self-doubting, good-hearted nature complements her story so well, you cannot help but hurt and heal along with her.


Garret Freyman-Weyr

Monday, November 15, 2010

50 Books Every Woman Should Read

Associatedegrees.com has compiled a list of 50 books every young woman should read, divided into Classics, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Coming of Age, Young Adult and Children's Lit, Female Relationships, Nonfiction, and Stories, Poetry, and Plays.

I most want to read Ariel by Sylvia Plath, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortinson and Oliver Relin, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Attwood.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Night Star Trailer

Alyson Noël's newest addition to the "Immortals" series, NIGHT STAR, will be available November 16.

"Night Star continues the epic love story that has enchanted readers across the world. In this installment, Ever and Damen face down bitter rivals, jealous friends and their own worst fears—all in the hope of being together forever. Night Star is guaranteed to mesmerize fans and leave them breathlessly awaiting the sixth and final book!"


Immortals Series Website:


Immortals Series Facebook Fan Page:


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Interview with Jonathon Maberry and EXCERPT from Rot & Ruin

is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer.  His books have been sold to more than a dozen countries.  His novels include the Pine Deep Trilogy: GHOST ROAD BLUES (winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel), DEAD MAN’S SONG, and BAD MOON RISING; the Joe Ledger series of action thrillers from St. Martin’s Griffin: PATIENT ZERO (winner of the Black Glove Award for Best Zombie Novel of the Year, and in development for TV), THE DRAGON FACTORY, THE KING OF PLAGUES; THE WOLFMAN; the Benny Imura series of Young Adult dystopian zombie thrillers from Simon & Schuster:  ROT & RUIN and DUST & DECAY; and the forthcoming standalone zombie thriller DEAD OF NIGHT.  His nonfiction works include: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA (winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction; co-authored by David F. Kramer), ZOMBIE CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead (Winner of the Hinzman and Black Quill Awards and nominated for a Stoker Award), THEY BITE! (with David F. Kramer), and WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (with Janice Gable Bashman).  His work for Marvel includes BLACK PANTHER: POWER, KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, DOOMWAR and MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN.  Jonathan has been a popular writing teacher and career counselor for writers for the last two decades.  He teaches a highly regard series of classes and workshops including Write Your Novel in Nine Months, Revise & Sell, Experimental Writing for Teens, and others.  Many of his students have gone on to publish in short and novel-length fiction, magazine feature writing, nonfiction books, TV, film, and comics.  In 2004 Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame largely because of his extensive writings in that field.  Visit his website at www.jonathanmaberry.com or find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Library Thing, Shefari and Plaxo.

And now for the interview...

Why did you decide to write about zombies in Rot and Ruin?

            I’ve always loved zombie stories, ever since I was ten and saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for the first time.  And I’ve loved post-apocalyptic stories ever since I first read I AM LEGEND, which author Richard Matheson gave me a copy of when I was fourteen.
            Last year I was approached by editor Christopher Golden to write a novella for a zombie anthology, THE NEW DEAD.  Golden wanted each writer on the project to do something different.  All of my novels up to that point had been about adults in crisis, so I decided to explore the experience of a teenager dealing with something vastly beyond his control.  During the writing of the novella I fell in love with the characters and the world of the Rot & Ruin (which is what everything is called that’s beyond the fenceline of the small town in which the characters live).
            Then, after the story was delivered, my agent asked if that story could be expanded into a novel.  I said that it would be easy to do because there was so much more about that world that I wanted to tell.  She sold the rights to two novels to Simon & Schuster and I dug in to write ROT & RUIN.
            This week I turned in the final draft of the second book, DUST & DECAY; and there’s a possibility of more books.  There are a whole lot of stories about this world that I want to tell.

What is experimental writing and why did you choose to teach it to teens?

            By the time most writers hit their twenties they know –or they think they know—what kind of writing they want to do.  They often become fixated on being a poet, a short story writer, a novelist.  And more than they, they confined themselves to specific sub-genre.  They don’t just want to write a novel, they want to specifically write a paranormal romance, or a literary novel, or a military science fiction, or whatever.  The problem is that they lock themselves into one vision of what their writing could be, and that isn’t necessarily the kind of writing they can do best.  But they never try anything else.
In my teen class, I expose the students to as many different kinds of writing as possible and encourage them to try it.  We’ll do some sessions on epic poetry, then move to narrative nonfiction, then onto crime fiction, then onto something else. The students get to work on short stories, novels, articles, poetry, spoken word, then onto something else. 
We also cover the aspects of style.  Descriptive and figurative language, scene building, pace, voice, point of view…just about everything.
The students do two or three writing exercises per session and everyone reads their writing aloud.  Everyone participates in a discussion. 
The upshot is that the students try everything, so that when they decide to write something for submission, they’ve tried their hand at so many genres, they’ll know which one is really right for them.  Or, more often, they learn that they can write anything.
Recently one of my students got picked up by a major New York agent for a novel she wrote in class.

Why should we read Rot and Ruin, or any of your other books?

MABERRY:  Like all good horror stories, ROT & RUIN isn’t about the monsters.  It’s about how people confront a shared catastrophe.  Ever since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD zombies have been ‘stand ins’ for things we’re afraid of.  In the Living Dead movies zombies have symbolized racism, rampant consumerism, sexism, loss of identity.  In more modern zombie stories –including my forthcoming novel, DEAD OF NIGHT (St. Martins Griffin, Summer 2011) zombies symbolize our fear of a global disaster, such as a pandemic.
            When I wrote ROT & RUIN, I wasn’t writing about people fighting zombies.  I was writing about how a teenager tries to understand the world in which he lives.  During our teen years, our worldview changes from what we know in our neighborhood to what we know about the whole world.  We see our place in the scheme of things and that is often at odds with how we THOUGHT the world was. 
            Benny Imura, the fifteen year old hero of the tale, learns a lot about the value of human life, the nature of his own assumptions, and the level of his own courage.
            ROT & RUIN is fun, fast-paced, filled with wild characters, and has tons of action.  It also has characters you will like and who you can believe in.

What do you think is most unique about your writing?

             Everything I do has a sense of humor.  Even my most intense thrillers and my scariest horror have humor.  That’s a reflection of my personality.  Humor is so powerful.  It uplifts you.  It peels back the darkness.  I had a lot of darkness in my life, some pretty rough patches.  Humor was one of the things that helped me maintain my optimism no matter how bad things got. 
            Nowadays I infuse my writing with it because it’s such a part of real life.
            Plus, these days I’m a very happy guy living a great life.  So, I laugh a lot, and so do my characters.

Read the first 13 pages of Rot & Ruin now!

JONATHON MABERRY was interviewed on NOVEMBER 6, 2010 by READING ROCKS.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Interview with Jenny Davidson

Jenny Davidson, author of The Explosionist and the upcoming novel Invisible things joins us today for an interview.

About the book...
Invisible Things will be available on November 23rd!
Sixteen-year-old Sophie knows there is more to the story of her parents' death. And she's on a mission to find the truth. To aid her in solving the decades-old mystery, Sophie has enlisted her best friend, Mikael, whose friendship has turned into something more. It's soon clear that Sophie's future is very much wrapped up in the details of her family's past, and the key lies with information only one man can provide: her parents' former employer, the elusive billionaire Alfred Nobel.
As the threat of war looms in Europe, dangers to Sophie and her loved ones grow. While her determination to solve the mystery doesn't waver, forces beyond her control conspire to keep her from her purpose. Then, news of her great-aunt Tabitha's death sets off a chain of events that leaves Sophie questioning everything.
The more Sophie learns, the more she realizes that nothing—and no one—in her life is what it seems. And coming to terms with the dark secrets she uncovers means imagining a truth that she never dreamed possible. Full of gorgeous settings, thrilling adventure, and romance, invisible things is a novel that dares to ask, what if? 

And now for the interview...

Where is your favorite place in the world?

I have lots of different answers to this.  The library - the water - New York City - wherever my boyfriend is.  I do feel, though, that I am most myself in the stacks of a huge library with a list of interesting things I'm looking for.
Why did you choose to set your novel, THE EXPLOSIONIST, in an alternate version of 1930s Edinburgh? What does "alternate version" mean exactly?
In this world, Napoleon beat Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in the early nineteenth century (in our world, it was the other way around), and the entire configuration of the world looks quite different politically.  Of course, it is also true in this alternate world that some people can build radios to talk to dead people, and spiritualism is a real scientific phenomenon rather than a crypto-science...

How has teaching impacted your writing?
I would find it difficult, I think, to be a full-time writer.  I love solitude but it can be very demoralizing working so very much on your own.  I enjoy the lively and stimulating students I have at Columbia, and I find that a spell of teaching alternates very well with a spell of writing: each one makes me eager to experience the other, and very much able to appreciate its advantages!

Did you have someone who mentored you in your writing or was it independent?

I've had lots of people over the years who've helped me in one way or another - my first editor at HarperTeen, Ruth Katcher, taught me a great deal about writing.  But in the end you have to learn this stuff on your own by way of a lot of drafting and revising and re-drafting and revising yet again, long past the point where you are totally sick of your manuscript!
You've written a few historical nonfiction books. Why did you choose to write YA?
On the whole, I would say that I've written two different kinds of books so far: books of literary criticism/nonfiction that are connected to my work as an English professor teaching eighteenth-century literature and novels.  My first novel was not a YA book; I didn't write The Explosionist as YA originally, but those were the editors who were most excited about it, so that's where we went.  To me there's not that clear a division between the two kinds of books: a lot of the "adult" novels that I like most have teenage protagonists, and I wrote these books in that sort of spirit.  (I'm thinking of Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows in particular, but there are countless others: Dickens' David Copperfield would be another good example.)
Do you prefer nonfiction or YA?
I am a die-hard novel reader!  But from a writerly standpoint, I definitely find novels harder to write than nonfiction - I love doing historical research and finding out interesting things and incorporating it into description, but I find that really engaging story-telling is something that comes a little less easily to me.  I am full of envy for a writer like Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett who is truly an absolutely natural storyteller - other favorites of mine in the YA realm include Eva Ibbotson, Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?
I like the steady pull forward to produce a first draft - I usually have a system whereby I sit down every morning (not every day of my life, just the times when I'm actually working on a project!) and have to stay there till I produce that day's quota, which is usually about 1500 words.  I write with pen and paper for the first draft, as I find it makes things go more steadily forward if I can't linger over a paragraph and tinker with it.  But I do enjoy polishing prose and turning a rough and unwieldy first draft into something more polished.

JENNY DAVIDSON was interviewed on MAY 3, 2010 by READING ROCKS.

Class of 2K11!

Keep up with Debut YA/MG Authors in 2011 (and their books!) at the new site that launches today

dedicated entirely to these great authors:

Julia Karr
Bettina Restrepo
Amy Holder
Carole Estby Dagg
Angie Smibert
K. Ryer Breese
Gae H. Polisner
Christina Mandelski
Sheila O’Connor
Alissa Grosso
Tara Hudson
Geoff Herbach
Carrie Harris
Amy Fellner Dominy
Caroline Starr Rose
Tess Hilmo
Megan Bostic
Trinity Faegen
Kiki Hamilton

See also:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Haunted by Jessica Verday

Grade: High A


After months spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with--the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead--Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, her just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for ll.

But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Csapian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow and the famous legend that binds their fates--a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess...


Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 59/70

Obtained: Free finished copy provided by author.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Some, but not much.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to drugs I believe, some adult drinking and drunkenness.
Sexual Content: Some short conversations, no real scenes
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some violence and some death; some references to abusive relationships.


I didn't really know what to expect from this book. Its prequel, The Hollow, was good enough to make me want to read this installment. I remember it as being exciting, fast-paced, and involved. The Haunted certainly lived up to these standards, and there isn't much to criticize.

Note: Read The Hollow before starting. The Hollow had an incredibly complex plot that I am sorry to say has mostly fled my memory in the year since I've read it, and The Haunted, of course, builds off of that. While it didn't necessarily detract from the overall experience, I was slightly distracted and confused at some points. This may also be a product of the relative slow-ness of this installment; The Haunted had fewer plot-twists, fewer action scenes, and a lot more emotional and intellectual stuff. I didn't mind this; in face, I kind of preferred it. But it made these 500 pages seem a lot longer than the last.

As far as characterization goes, I think that Verday has created a very teenagery character in Ben, and I was delighted to get to know him better in this book. Abbey continued to be a pretty strong heroine, though with less of her grief that was present in the last book, I think her emotions weren't quite as interesting. My only real problem lies with Caspian. While he as a character is wonderfully crafted and I loved all the exposition on him in this volume, his relationship with Abbey seemed...different, somehow. Less authentic. As they fell more and more in love and struggled against the ever-frustrating problem of being unable to touch each other, I felt less sympathy or happiness at their togetherness. From Abbey's perspective, he became more of that typical paranormal-romance kind of guy (i.e. the tortured-and-screwed-up-with-no-real-purpose-except-to-worship-his-lover kind).

Other than that, the book was great, a wonderful balance of the average, the mysterious, and the fantastical that complemented its prequel very nicely. If you enjoyed The Hollow, The Haunted is definitely worth a shot.


Jessica Verday
The Hollow review

Note: Also, you should visit Abbey's Hollow (part of Jessica Verday's site) and check out the perfume samples available for purchase that go hand-in-hand with the story. How awesome!