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!


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!


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!

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.

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!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"The Future of Us" - Book Review

The Future of Us 
by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Hi TBF Readers!

My name is Danielle Manou and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. I am working toward becoming a Literacy Specialist for students aged birth through sixth grade. I currently work as a substitute in my local school district and hope to get a permanent teaching position soon. I absolutely love to read, but the older I get, the less time I seem to have to read anything other than textbooks or articles for school! When I do find free time, I usually spend it using social media like Twitter or Facebook, rather than picking up a book to read. I even offer the excuse that using sites like Twitter and Facebook are equivalent to reading a book.

Coincidentally, as I scrolled through the book choices on the TBF website, reading through a few descriptions, my clear first choice happened to be "The Future of Us"  by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I was drawn to the book because it centered around social media, with a major twist. While the main characters, Emma and Josh, struggled with their newfound ability to look into their futures I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to read the Facebook posts and look at the pictures of the ‘future’ me. Like the characters in the book, I think I would become addicted to checking my page for status updates and photographs, constantly wondering if I had affected my future in a negative or positive way with my actions each day. Unfortunately, I also wonder if I would allow it to consume my thoughts and interfere with my life in the present, especially my relationships. The relationship between Emma and Josh was dramatically affected by what they saw in their futures. While one of them is trying to maintain their marriage with one of the 'hottest' people in their high school, the other is trying to manipulate the little details in their present life to create a perfect future life. I found myself wishing I could just tell the characters what to do, rather than continue to read about them struggling!

Although the plot of the book is not very realistic (I have yet to meet someone who can see into the future) it proved to be a quick, enjoyable read and really got me thinking outside of the box. It also left me with many questions: 
  • How obsessed would we become with being able to change the future with our actions in the present? 
  • How much can one small decision alter the course of our lives years down the road? 
  • What would I want to see on my Facebook page fifteen years from now? 
  • If you could view the Facebook of the future you, would you do it, or choose not to?
I never expected to pick up "The Future of Us" and put it down with more questions than answers. I wonder if that was the intent of Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - to force the reader to think about the book long after they have put it down.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post!

P.S. you might need to use google to look up some of the references made in this book! It was a serious blast from the past for me and reminded me of the internet and social media's measly beginnings back when I was a teenager (which wasn't even that long ago, but seems like it!).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Hey readers!

50 more days until TBF! Yay! I recently got a chance to chat to Joelle Charbonneau, author of The Testing series.

Miranda Reads: What was your inspiration for writing The Testing series?

Joelle Charbonneau: THE TESTING concept came out of my work with my voice students.  For years, I’ve worked closely with my private voice students as they navigate the testing, application and audition process required to be accepted into college.  The pressure on our high school students is greater than ever before. The need to be better and brighter than the other applicants has never been more keenly felt.  Students are hyper aware that every answer they give could impact the quality of their future. Some of my students handle the pressure better than others and it is never easy to see a student falter.  The teacher and parent in me can’t help but be worried that the benchmark of success has risen too high and that soon it will be more than our youth can handle.  The writer couldn’t help but wonder how much worse the process could become and what tests a future world might want to institute in order to select the next generation of leaders.  And thus The Testing was born.

MR: What made you decide to go from opera/theater to writing?

JC: I don't know that was a real decision. It just kind of happened. I was doing dinner theater here in Chicago when I had an idea for the first line of a book. I'd never done any writing outside of school, but I have always been a huge reader. So, on my days off I decided to see if I could write the book I had the idea for. I never dreamed that I would eventually be published or shift my story telling from the stage to the page. I just wanted to see if I could get to The End. That first book was terrible, but I was fascinated by the challenge of writing. Somehow along the way, I started performing less and writing more. I guess it goes to show you never know where life is going to take you.

MR: Pick one: living in the world of the Hunger Games or the world of Divergent?

JC: That seems like a trick question - do I get to pick where I live in those worlds? Regardless, I'm going for Hunger Games because while things are scary there, I think I might have a better chance of surviving there. I'd probably end up Factionless in Divergent and that doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun!

MR: One of your five fun facts says that you sang for President Clinton. That must have been quite the experience.

JC: I sang for him about 2 weeks after 9-11, which was both surreal and terrifying. I've sung in a lot of shows and for dozens of critics, but singing the National Anthem for a former president brings new meaning to the words stage fright. I was certain I was going to forget the words, especially when I saw him sitting ten feet away. Turns out, I remembered the words and got a chance to speak with President Clinton for a few minutes before the Secret Service whisked him away. 

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

JC: Um....I'm a professionally trained music theater and opera singer. People would expect me to sing something totally proper. So, I think I'd love to bust out some Adele and shock everyone by doing it well. (Of course, if I crash and burn that would defeat the purpose. Oh well!)

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

JC: Jay Asher! I gave Thirteen Reasons Why to my nephew for Christmas and am going to be a total rockstar in my nephew's eyes after I get to say I met him.

Thanks Joelle! See you in May!

That's all for today! Check back for more book reviews and author interviews!