Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

24 days until TBF! Who's counting down, besides me? :-)

Seventh grader Cole is suspended from school for skipping and hanging with his friends on the street. Cole's mother is fed up with his behavior and drives him from their home in Detroit to his father in Philadelphia. Cole never met his father; his mama won't talk about him. When Cole is dumped on his daddy's doorstep, he is shocked--his dad helps care for horses in a stable located in North Philly. Cole doesn't know what to make of his father or the horses, but is forced to help out if he wants to stay.

I really enjoyed this book. The plot is fast-paced and the characters are interesting. I like G. Neri's style and learned a bit about the subculture of urban cowboys, which is a real thing!

G. Neri describes himself like "a mash-up DJ of a writer: I sample real life and re-mix it into story." Check out his website here to learn more about G.Neri and what inspires him to write.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Amber Lough

Hello readers!

TBF is less than a month away! YAY! Also I have some exciting news to share with you. This year the fundraising challenge was to reach $9999 and if met, Stephanie and the rest of the TBF committee will have to dress up from a steampunk novel. Well I'm happy to announce that we have met the challenge! So on the day of the festival, be prepared to see Stephanie and the TBF committee decked out in steampunk. It's going to be wonderful!

I had the pleasure of chatting with Amber Lough, author of the Jinni Wars series. Take a look!

Miranda Reads: Your first young adult novel is called The Fire Wish and the first book in the Jinni Wars series. What is it about? What can we expect from it?

Amber Lough: The Fire Wish hard to pin down, but it is essentially about two girls who have grown up in very different places and who end up having to trade places with each other. It’s a bit of the Prince and the Pauper, the Little Mermaid, and my own life experiences of often being the foreigner in the room, with a heavy dose of 1001 Nights elements.


MR: I know the Fire Wish hasn't been released yet but for readers (*raising hand*) who need to know how long before they can get their hands on the sequel, do you have a publication date for the second book in the Jinni Wars?

AL: I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but it should be out July 2015. It’s in the final stages of content editing with my editor right now.


MR: If you were a jinni, what 3 YA authors would you happily serve?

AL: That is a really hard question to answer! In my book, jinni don’t really “serve” humans, but they do have to give a wish if touched by a human. That said, I've love to serve Susan Cooper, Madeleine L'Engle, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (He wrote "The Adolescent," so I'm counting him as a YA author.)


MR: One of your five fun facts says that you read a story about a girl who gets raped. Did you write this story? If you did, will it see the light of day?

AL: I did write the story, but I don’t have a copy of it anywhere anymore. I remember the gist of it—it was all very vague and dramatic. Let’s just say I’m glad it’s been lost.
 
 
MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?
 
AL: I would sing something classical, like Purcell's "Nymphs and Shepherds." After a LOT of practice, of course.
 
 
MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting in the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
 
AL: Paolo Bacigalupi, hands down. (To be fair, I know some of the authors already, and am not counting them because I've already met them.)
 
 
Thanks for chatting with me, Amber! See you soon!
 
That's it for today. Make sure you check back here for more author interviews and book reviews!
Miranda

Monday, April 14, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Ann Brashares

33 DAYS UNTIL TBF!!!!!!!!

Let's not delay a very exciting interview. Please welcome, Ann Brashares, author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Miranda Reads: You have a new book coming out, The Here and Now. What is it about?

Ann Brashares: It's about a girl named Prenna James and a boy named Ethan Jarves. She's an immigrant from the year 2098 and he's a pretty regular 18 year old who discovers her strange secret.


MR: Is The Here and Now part of a series or is it a stand-alone?

AB: I wrote it to stand alone, but I got attached to the characters, so I leave open the possibility of writing more.


MR: What is it like to write a sci-fi/contemporary novel since the previous books you wrote were contemporary?

AB: I love playing with time, but it is tricky. Once you start bringing people back, the future splinters and you've got all these possible worlds to contend with. 


MR: One of your five fun facts says that you when you were growing up you had a ton of pets. What was it like having so many pets? Did you adopt most of them? Was there a pet you were attached to the most?

AB: I tended to love the sweet and fuzzy pets: cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. We had many of those and they all seemed to have babies. I loved our dog Maggie especially. My three brothers were the ones who got the slimy, scaly, multi-legged, poisonous, and weird pets: pirañas, snakes, lizards, tarantulas, etc. We also had a bird named Word.


MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?

AB: I have very little talent, to be honest. I used to be pretty good at mirror writing--where you start from the middle of the page and write the same words forward with one hand and backward with the other--but I'm pretty rusty. I would not make it on that show.


MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

AB: I am looking forward to meeting so many of them! I can't believe how many amazing authors will be there. I fear I will be tongue tied. Two at the top of the list are at the top of my list: Laurie Halse Anderson and Jay Asher.


Thanks for chatting with me, Ann! See you in May!

That's it for tonight, readers. Make sure check back here on the blog for more author interviews and book reviews!

Miranda

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle

The end of the world has come. And Austin and his best friend Robby accidently caused it. They didn’t mean to let the town bullies sneak into their boss’s creepy office and release a plague. Or to find a secret bunker underneath Austin’s girlfriend, Shann’s, house. And that kiss on the roof of the antique mall wasn’t supposed to happen either. Not to mention the Unstoppable Corn… But here the three friends are, in the middle of godforsaken Iowa, with hungry, horny, six-foot-tall praying mantises over-running the town. There’s no way they can stop it, so they might as well cope (and survive) the best they can.

This was an awesomely weird story, and I loved every single moment of it. I only read it a few weeks ago, but I already want to read it again. Even though it features monsters right out of a B-rated horror flick, I can’t use any other word but “literature” to describe what I found within Grasshopper Jungle. This book is so freaking complex. Austin is the narrator, but we hear about Austin’s grandfather and his talking nightingale, and how the bugs are multiplying too. He’s kind of a semi-omniscient narrator, which goes along with him being a budding historian. At times, due to this style of narration, I’m reminded of Vonnegut’s writing – something I first heard from author A.S. King (who will also be at the Festival this year!) when she came to talk at the TBF Read-a-Thon back in October. I also really love how Austin tries figure out his sexuality and to understand himself during the novel – not exactly a coming of age novel, but still… It holds the important message of discovery in any circumstances. Above all, Andrew Smith’s writing is gorgeous and refreshing, even when what he’s writing is vulgar, odd, or straight-up weird – it’s all described and explained in a signature, detailed manner, which adds to half of the fun while reading it. I LOVED Grasshopper Jungle, and I’d strongly recommend it to readers who like sci-fi, literature, and dystopias. (And even if it seems strange, just stick it out – it’s worth it!) I cannot wait to meet Andrew Smith at TBF this year!

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review: Proxy by Alex London

Syd is a proxy. Ever since he was orphaned as a child, he’s been financially tied to Knox. Every time Knox does something wrong, it’s Syd who gets punished. But at least this way Syd can get an education and try to work his way out of debt. That is until Knox does something too big to forgive – he steals a car and kills a girl in the crash he causes, narrowly escaping death himself. But that means that Syd is essentially sentenced to sure death for a crime he had no part of. So he decides to escape. But how is he supposed to find a way out of a city that tracks his every move? And where will he go? And most of all, why is it that everyone seems so intent on finding him?


Oh Lord, where do I start? First off, I usually do not enjoy dystopian novels at all, but with Proxy, I found myself frantically turning the pages, unable to put it down because I needed to know what happened. And when I got to the end, I NEEDED A SEQUEL, ASAP!! (So if you haven’t guessed, I loved it.) Proxy is great for so many reasons. The world-building is impeccable, and it actually relates very well to the world today – especially for those of us just about to go off to college, what with all the debt and loans that come along with it. And the characters are perfect – obviously not as people, since they are all flawed in some way, but they resemble real people so much, both in their actions and thoughts. (So that means no love triangles – thank God!) And on top of that, they are diverse. Not all the characters are white and straight (as so many dystopias tend to be), and that’s so refreshing to find. So I’m pretty much just fangirling so hard right now. I strongly recommend Proxy to you, especially if you might be growing tired of dystopias – or if you love them! I’ve already read Proxy twice, and I just finished its sequel Guardian (which comes out May 29th) and is even better (yes it’s possible!) than the first. I cannot wait to meet Alex London at TBF 2014!!!

Happy reading!
Elizabeth


Also, check out our interview with Alex London! A non-spoiler-y review of Guardian will also be coming soon!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Alex London

Hello TBF fandom!

40 DAYS UNTIL TBF!!! Are you guys excited?! Well if you're not excited yet how about looking at this author interview? I'm happy to introduce Alex London, author of the Proxy series.

Miranda Reads: Elizabeth, the TBF co-blogger asks--Please tell me there's another book in the Proxy series. IT WAS SO PERFECT AND I WANT MORE!

Alex London: There is! Not only does the paperback of Proxy include a brand new short story prequel to Proxy, where we see Syd & Knox at 15 years old, but the sequel to Proxy, Guardian, comes out on May 29th (and will be available early, I think, for attendees at the TBF). In Guardian, we see old friends, meet new ones, and discover and even more perilous world for poor Syd than he could ever have imagined. The stakes are higher, the action faster, and there is maybe even a little romance for our hero...I'm excited (and terrified...sequels are hard!) to share this one with readers!


MR: What inspired you to create the Proxy world?

AL: The world of Proxy is drawn very much from our own world. A lot of things that concerned me about our society--income inequality, the dehumanization of the 'the other', the way technology connects us and isolates us at the same time, rampant commercialism and advertising, the commodification of everything (everything is for sale!), runaway student debt, environment destruction, mass surveillance...all these things that clutter my head space fed into the fictional world of Proxy. While the story is (I hope!) a ripping good yarn, there is some pretty strong political content. But ultimately, I wanted to explore how, in the face of all this ideological clutter, two young people from different ends of such a turbulent society, might see the humanity in each other. In the end, the world of Proxy is brutal and unforgiving, but that doesn't mean the characters can't find love, friendship, and kindness in it. In fact, it is even more vital that they do. I'd say the same is true in our world. To quote WH' Auden's poem written on the eve of WWII, September 1, 1939, "We must love one another or die."


MR: Are you the type of reader who cries over the deaths of beloved fictional characters?

AL: Oh yes I am. Ironically, given what I've done to so many of my own characters. There were writing days on Proxy I wept at my keyboard. But death, like taxes and puberty, comes for everyone eventually.


MR: One of your five fun facts says that you quit your job as an assistant to a Hollywood agent in order to get a Masters in Library Science. When you were an assistant to a Hollywood agent, did you see a glimpse or met any celebrities? If so, who?

AL: I met many, but never any that made too much of an impression. They're all just people after all, doing what they can to make their chosen art, bumbling through like the rest of us. As a book nerd, the celebrities I freak out over are other writers and I've met far more of them as a YA author than I did during my brief time at the lower rungs of the movie business. It continually blows my mind that I count folks like Libba Bray, Matt de la Peña, Gayle Forman, Andrew Smith, and David Levithan among my colleague and among my friends. It's a wonderful and welcoming community, but there are moments we'll all be goofing off at some conference or another and I'll have to pinch myself because I remember the words these people have written and how those words have etched themselves into my heart. Of course, spend enough time in a car with someone, and their mystique does wear off a bit...


MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?

AL: I would do a magic trick. My father is an accomplished amateur magician and I've grown up around magic my whole life. I learned a trick here and there, but mostly used them for nefarious purposes. In high school, I ran a 3 card monte game, until he made me stop. Then I did a few entertaining card tricks. I don't know many--writing really is the only thing I'm truly good at--but I'd do my best to astound. Professionally, my is a gynecologist, which translates much less well to the Talent Show stage.


MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

AL: I can't wait to see friends like Andrew Smith, who lives across the country from me, Jonathan Auxier, who I know trough the middle grade fiction world, and AS King, who I rarely ever get to see and who is one of the kindest people on the planet. I'm a total fanboy for Paolo Bacigalupi and it blows my mind that I not only get to meet him, but that I get to be on a panel with him. Laurie Halse Anderson is an author I have admired for ages, so I'm also pretty excited to get to hang out with her. I hope I don't squeal in her ear too loudly, although I'm sure she's used to it.

Thanks for chatting with me, Alex! See you in May!

That's it for now! Check back here for more author interviews and book reviews.
Miranda

Monday, March 31, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Alexandra Coutts

Hello readers!

47 days until TBF!! Have you guys been checking out the awesome book reviews from our Nazareth students? If you haven't you should definitely check them out! Over the weekend I had the pleasure of chatting to Alexandra Coutts, author of Tumble & Fall.

Miranda Reads:  Will there be a sequel to Tumble & Fall?

Alexandra Coutts: Nope! That was really important to me from the beginning, that it be a standalone book. Not to get too spoilery, but I feel like the characters did about as much growing as they had time for in this lifetime!


MR: Are you currently working on a new book?

AC: I am. It is tentatively titled “The Young Widows Club” and is about a 17-year-old runaway who marries her older boyfriend, and then he dies. (This all happens before the book starts, so again, no spoilers here!)


MR: What were your top 3 favorite books growing up?

AC: In order of the age I was when I read them: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. 


MR: One of your five fun facts says that you adopted a dog from Costa Rica. What's the dog's name? What kind of dog is he/she? What made you decide to adopt a dog from Costa Rica?

AC: I was traveling with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) Eliot around Costa Rica and there were just so many adorable little puppy strays. We fell in love with one -- she already had her name, Venga, which means “come here” in Spanish (ironic since she is always running away!) She is a medium sized, black and tan mutt, a very popular mixed breed in that part of the world. I always say that the hardest part about bringing a dog back from Costa Rica was finding a doggy travel bag for the airplane!


MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?

AC: Probably some kind of freaky-looking yoga pose. I am (borderline-disgustingly) flexible.


MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

AC: I know it’s a cop out to say all of them, but really: all of them! What an amazing line-up. I guess if you made me choose one I’d say Cecil Castelluci.  Beige was one of the first YA books I ever read (as an adult) and I’m really looking forward to reading her new one.


Thanks Alexandra! See you in May!

That's it for tonight, readers! Be sure to check the blog again for more author interviews and book reviews!
Miranda