Friday, January 31, 2014

Paolo Baciqalupi... coming to TBF 2014!!! Paolo is the author of the Ship Breaker series. We're all looking forward to meeting you in May, Paolo!

Stay warm TBF readers! Cross your fingers for some nice warm weather.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Lysiak and I’m currently a graduate student in the Literacy Education program at Nazareth. I am an English teacher who works with high school students in Spencerport and I love YA novels; I am constantly on the lookout for new books that teens would enjoy. That’s why the Teen Book Festival is my paradise! There’s tons of great, quality literature written by fascinating people. 

One of those fascinating people is award-winning author A.S. King. I decided to read A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz (a 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book) after meeting her in person at the TBF Read-a-Thon this year. She spoke to a small group of fans and read a few select passages from her book; I was instantly captivated. Ms. King is clever, witty, and honest and that is exactly how she writes in all of her novels.
With her writing, King has the ability to draw you in and get you lost in the story. She opens her novel with the line: “Before I died, I hid my secrets in the Master Oak.” What?! Immediately an avalanche of questions cascaded into my mind: Who’s dead? What kind of secrets need to be hidden like this? What’s the significance of the Master Oak? Who’s telling the story? A lot is set up for the reader just in that opening line and I was instantly hooked.

The story focuses on the troubled life of Vera Dietz who lives alone with her oftentimes sanctimonious and somber father. Vera has just lost her best friend in the whole world, a boy named Charlie, who grew up down the street from the Dietz house. But Vera is haunted by bitter memories of Charlie because of the cruel things he did before he died a mysterious and dark death, blamed for a horrible crime that happened on the day he died.  Only Vera knows the truth and has the ability to clear Charlie’s name. But will she, after all he’s done to hurt her? This leads to Vera feeling extremely conflicted and guilty, asking the question: “Is it okay to hate a dead kid? Even if I loved him once? Even if he was my best friend? Is it okay to hate him for being dead?” Charlie was full of secrets during his short lifetime; some innocent and others dark, but he always confided in Vera whom he knew he could always trust. Even after Charlie changed and their friendship was damaged beyond repair, Vera still kept those secrets for Charlie. Which is why his death is so difficult for Vera; she is constantly walking the line between hating Charlie and loving him.

While this novel grapples with some dark themes, it’s very well-written and even hilarious at times. If you enjoy books written by John Green, then you’ll enjoy King’s similar writing style. I can guarantee you’ll become invested in these characters; they’re complex and three-dimensional, which is what makes them so fascinating. There is no black and white when it comes to good people and bad people, only shades of gray. But those shades of gray, caught in between morality and darkness, are what make these characters so realistic and easy to relate to. It’s not often that a novel manages to be both tragically heartbreaking and hilariously witty, but A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz manages to do just that.

For more information on A.S. King, you can visit her website at

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Marie Rutkoski

Hello readers!

I have another author interview to share with you! Meet Marie Rutkoski, author of The Shadow Society and The Winner's Curse.

Miranda Reads: You have a new book coming out in March, The Winner's Curse. What is it about?

Marie Rutkoski: This is kind of cheating, but I'm going to give you the back-of-the-book summary, because I think it's the best way to describe it:
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

MR: What inspired you to write it?

MR2: The phrase "the winner's curse," which is an actual economic term that describes how the person who wins the auction also in a sense loses, because she's bid more than what other people have decided the item is worth. I thought it was a fascinating idea, and it made me aware of how something like this happens all the time in life: we get what we want, but pay a steep price to get it. I tried to imagine a story that would match the title "The Winner's Curse," a story where the main character would pay a steep emotional price. I thought, "What if the item up for auction weren't a thing, but a person? What would winning cost you then?"

MR: For readers who need to know when the next book comes out (I am one of them), when will the sequel to The Winner's Curse be released? (Please don't say we have to wait until 2016. It's hard enough to wait until March!)

MR2: Don't worry! The sequel will be out in March 2015. It's already written and I'm editing it. We even have a book cover! (it's gorgeous). All that to say that it will be out in time, a year after the publication of The Winner's Curse.

MR: One of your five fun facts says that you started to play the violin six months ago. How is that going? I give you props for learning to play the violin. I tried to play the viola and my music career lasted 3 months...

MR2: Mmm...there is improvement. It's nice to work at something where I see improvement, and although I'm still not very good, I know that my left hand is more relaxed on the strings and my bow grip is a lot better. But I'm still on Suzuki book 1, and just last night I was playing with a five-year-old who played "Perpetual Motion" a whole lot better than I did (I'm working on the Bach minuets these days). It's humbling.

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

MR2:   Confession: I have only the foggiest idea of what this show is (I don't have a TV. I mean, I watch movies and TV series that I download or get on DVD, etc., but I'm a few years behind everyone else). I looked it up online, and I'm still not sure what talents are allowed....can I do rock climbing? Though I'm not amazing at that. I'm competent.
Or I could bake a soufflé.
MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
MR2: Ooh, tricky question! I'm excited that a lot of authors I know and love will be there, and of those I love and don't know personally.....I feel so nervous answering this question! It's a little bit like broadcasting a "Warning: I Will Fangirl You" message. Ok. I have long admired Laurie Halse Anderson and AS King, and I have also just recently read and thoroughly enjoyed These Broken Stars, so I'm looking forward to meeting Meagan Spooner, too. I have questions for her!
Hahaha, every reader can definitely relate to you Marie; there's a fangirl and fanguy inside all of us! Thanks for chatting with me. See you in May!
That's it for today. Be sure to check back here for more author interviews and book reviews.

Video from TBF 2013

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Guest Blogger Book Review: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha) by Leigh Bardugo

 The following book review for Shadow and Bone was published on the Wood Library Teen Scene blog by Kelley Blue, a librarian at Wood Library in Canandaigua and member of the TBF Committee:

Why is writing a review of a book you love so much harder than writing about one you... loved not so much?
I indulged myself by reading Shadow and Bone and its sequel, Siege and Storm, back-to-back. What a luxury it was! Things started a bit slow for me... I even doubted for a few chapters whether I would dig this series. But then! Oh my! I was swept off my feet. How? Why? Because Alina Starkov's life goes from 0 to 120 in a matter of pages, and the pace, the magic and the sensuality don't really slow from there.
The best type of heroine, Alina starts from nothing and must quickly come to grips with a tremendous power she never knew she had. This is an archetype I never really get tired of, especially when it's done as well as Bardugo does it. When we first meet Alina, she's a orphaned teen apprenticing cartography in the First Army of Ravka (peep a map at the front of both books for a geography lesson; #yeahbookmaps). An important thing you need to know about Ravka is that it has literally been torn in two by a swath of physical darkness known as the Shadow Fold (it's just "the Fold" for short, ya'll). The Fold is full of some really nasty creatures that will eat you, and the Fold may be growing. It's, like, a huge problem and plays a central role in the politics of the book. But now, back to our heroine:
By her own accounts (and she may be a tiny bit hard on herself), Alina's not much more than average in all departments, until one day a life-and-death situation while crossing the Fold forces her dormant powers to the surface, and she is thrust into the world of the Grisha.
The Grisha are people born with special abilities like summoning and controlling wind or squeezing the life out of a person's heart. In neighboring countries, they're hunted down and burned as witches, but in Ravka they are enlisted into the powerful Second Army, led by a dead-sexy character known as the Darkling.
When Alina's power is discovered, she is "taken under the wing" of the Darkling more or less by force, whisked off to the royal capital in the hopes that her powers can be harnessed and used to fight the Fold. Alina is also separated from her one and only friend/childhood companion, Mal, who she has serious unexplored romantic feelings for. Remember when I said the book swept me off my feet? This is about where it happened.
While the adventure moves along quickly, we also get some wonderful character development and growth, especially moving into book 2. I read a lot of YA, and I read a lot of YA series, but this series is at the top of my list right now, alongside Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. I will eagerly await the third book in both of these series, and gush about the first two books to anyone who will listen until then.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Andrew Smith

Hello readers!

A couple of things to share with you. Unfortunately due to conflicting schedules, Kami Garcia will not be able to join us this year. However, Margaret Stohl is still coming.

Next I have an interview to share with you! Meet Andrew Smith, author of Winger.

Miranda Reads: There's a rumor going around that you have a novel coming out in September called 100 Sideways Miles. Is this rumor true? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Andrew Smith: Yes, I actually have TWO novels coming out in 2014: Grasshopper Jungle (February 11, from Dutton/Penguin), and--to confirm the rumor--100 Sideways Miles, coming September 2 from Simon & Schuster. And I can do no better than to use the wonderful jacket description crafted by my editor, David Gale:
Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes, inches instead of hours. It's how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he's a real boy and not just a character in his father's bestselling cult-classic book.  Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he's ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned--and learn how to write their own destiny. 
Andrew Smith writes another funny, offbeat, sidewinder-to-the-heart novel.

MR: You said that you were a troublemaker. What type of troublemaker were you? Did you steal a freshmen's lunch money, pull a lot of pranks, annoyed almost every teacher in the building etc.?
AS: Well, I definitely wasn't the kind of troublemaker who was mean in any way to people. I think most of the trouble I caused came from questioning and challenging the rationale behind certain practices at school. I caused a major headache, in fact, when I got the ACLU to look into the administration's censoring of our high school newspaper (which I co-edited). I got suspended, too. In the end, I think they were more than happy to see me graduate and get out of town.

MR: Do you have any advice for teens who are trying to make it out of middle school and high school alive?

AS: Oh, I have no doubt teens will make it out alive, I'm just concerned they may be brain-dead from all the stripping away of the fundamental value that education has traditionally provided: choice, creative exploration, and the development of the individual as a unique being, as opposed to becoming a clone of the 40 other kids sharing his or her classroom. Kids, always remember: at your "Core," you are not "Common."

MR: One of your five fun facts says that when you were a teenager, you made a list of things you wanted to accomplish but they were mostly "stupid" stuff (like climbing Mt. Everest). Do you remember the other goals you wanted to accomplish that was on your list?
AS: Making out with the girl who sat next to me in Math class. Her name was Cindy. It never happened.

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

AS: They actually have shows like that? Sounds like it's probably on television, right? Did you know I never watch television? I suppose in this day and age, that's a talent in itself. I have never even touched a DVR machine. I don't even know what they look like, but I have heard people talk (an awful lot) about using them to record and watch entire seasons of shows. That honestly makes me shudder.

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

AS: Well, gosh. I looked at the list, and I think I've already met just about every one of them. It's funny, though, because I am such a highly forgettable person that sometimes I'll run into certain notable authors again and again and they never remember me. I have decided to start stealing their purses and wallets, because they'll never know who did it anyway. That said, I am probably most looking forward to meeting one of my very best friends, A.S. King, there so we can catch up on all the golf we've missed playing in the last few months.

Thanks for chatting with us, Andrew! See you in May!

That's it for now. Check the blog again for more interviews and book reviews!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Interview with TBF author: Gina Damico

Hello TBF readers!

Yes, I have a new TBF author interview for you! I'm excited to present to you the author of the Croak Trilogy, Gina Damico.

Miranda Reads: Lexington, the heroine from the Croak trilogy is very sarcastic and snarky. Were you a lot like Lexington when you were a teenager?

Gina Damico: I was, and still am. My mom always said it would get me in trouble one day, but surprise! It got me published instead!

MR: You have a new book coming out later in 2014 called Hellhole. Can you tell us a little about it?

GD: Hellhole is the story of Max, a seventeen-year-old boy who likes to dig for dinosaur fossils. One day, he inadvertently opens up a portal to hell and out pops a devil, who immediately takes up residence in Max's basement, eats all of his snacks, and refuses to leave. Max, whose mother is sick, strikes a deal in order to help cure his mom, but finds himself committing more and more depraved acts in order to satisfy his devil's whims, and now he has to somehow figure out how to get rid of the guy without incurring the wrath of hell.
MR: From what it looks like, you sympathize with death deities like the grim ripper. Does it annoy you when death deities are portrayed as the "bad guy"?
GD: It doesn't annoy me - it all depends on your perspective. Death can be a very scary thing, and so it makes sense for its personification to be an evil-type figure. But in order for me to write a humorous book about grim reapers (and I can't write a book without humor--trust me, I've tried, it leads to catastrophe), I decided to make them more sympathetic, likable, ordinary people who are just doing their jobs. So I don't think stereotypically "bad guys" always have to be bad. Except clowns. Clowns are always evil.

MR: One of your five fun facts says that when your little sister was a baby, you tried to kill her by making her choke on a Lego. Do you remember what motivated you to do that? Did your sister get even with you?

GD: What motivated me was the fact that my mother had left the room and I FINALLY SAW MY CHANCE TO GET RID OF HER. Or maybe I was just bored. Either way, she has continued to get even with me to this day by delightedly telling people what a monster I am every chance she gets.

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

GD: I'd do something hilariously pathetic, like a single cartwheel, then wait for the crickets to chirp. Or maybe I'd sing the entire score of Annie, switching between all the parts, using terrible wigs and an uncomfortable amount of jazz hands.

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

GD: All of them! I can't wait to share some of my delicious Lego appetizers.

Thank you so much Gina! We're so excited to meet you in May!

That's it for today. Make sure to check the blog for more author interviews and book reviews!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Interview with TBF author: Alethea Kontis

Happy New Year TBF readers!

Elizabeth and I apologize for staying silent for so long. I know you guys have been waiting anxiously to hear some news so I won't delay anymore! So without further ado, meet Alethea Kontis, author of the Woodcutter Sisters series.

Miranda Reads: How many books will there be in the Woodcutter Sister series?

Alethea Kontis: There will be seven books in the Woodcutter Sisters series, one about each sister. (Yes, even the dead one.) That's not to say there might not be more books set in the universe of Arilland if they end up being popular enough (read=BUY LOTS), but we'll probably just call it something else.

MR: If you could chose your top 3 favorite fairytales, what would they be?

1.) "The Goose Girl"
2.) "Snow White and Rose Red"
Hmmm...if someone's going to pull out my teeth, though, I'll say "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". (But please don't pull out my teeth.)
MR: Since your books are retellings of different fairytales, do you watch the ABC TV show Once Upon a Time or the CW TV show Beauty and the Beast?
AK: The CW! *That's* what channel that show is on! I need to see that one, obviously. I do watch both incarnations of OUAT--for me, it's like watching a bad soap opera. I hate how much Disney is shoehorned into these plots...I do accept that it's ABC and they do it because they can. But there are some real moments of brilliance in the writing, and that's why I keep watching. Also, Hook is REALLY HOT. So is Jafar. And one day, if I'm very very lucky, maybe the Mad Hatter will come back. *sigh*
MR: One of your five fun facts says that your grandfather was a Greek pirate during WWII. That fascinates me. Do you mind sharing a little bit of what he did during WWII?
AK: My paternal grandfather (Soterios, or Sam) was a small boy when his family escaped from Smyrna during the Great Fire of 1922 (when all the Greeks and Armenians were killed or chased out of Turkey). From there a Japanese Red Cross ship took my family to Greece and dropped them off on one of the islands. The refugees were never really treated like "true Greeks", so when he was old enough, Sam joined the Greek Merchant Marines, undoubtedly to fit in. He was around 23, and on board a ship, when the Nazis occupied Greece...thus leaving him and his crew out to sea as "men without a country." They took what they needed to survive from other ships at sea, and eventually came ashore safely in the US. Sam had other family in Pennsylvania, so he jumped ship and lived in America as an illegal alien for a while until he joined the US Navy as an engineer. 
And that was only a tidbit of what was an amazingly fascinating life! Sam died very young -- 48 -- from heart complications, and my Nana never remarried. He is the one person I wish more than anything that I'd been able to meet. But I love the stories my father and grandmother tell me.
MR: Let's pretend you're on the reality TV competition, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?
AK: Oh, wow. Um...gee. Singing, I guess...but only if I had a really good coach help me out first. I would sing the old  hits Memere (my French Grandmother) used to sing, like Rosemary Clooney and Louis Armstrong. I don't think I have the voice to do Christine in Phantom anymore.
MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
AK: Oh my gosh...such a hard question! At the risk of choosing favorites, I'm going to say Ann Brashares. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was one of the first audiobooks I listened to and really, really enjoyed. It was just a magical experience. I later had the honor to become a judge for the Audie Awards and I still am...going on my sixth year now.
Thank you so much Alethea! We're all looking forward to meeting you in May!
And thank you, TBF readers for being patient with your TBF bloggers!