When Grace’s mother pulls her out of class Grace knows something is wrong. What she never would have guessed is that it’s Grace’s smart, talented, generally better sister Emily who is in trouble.
After working at Rassmussem as a game programmer for college credit, Emily has inexplicably decided to go into the game she was building. According to the note she left behind, Emily doesn’t plan to come out. Ever.
With time running out before the immersive reality game equipment does permanent damage to Emily, Rassmussem is running out of options to get Emily out of a game she clearly doesn’t want to leave. They hope Grace might be able to help.
But inside the game is nothing Grace expected. Her sister has taken refuge inside a game designed for little girls complete with frilly dresses and unicorns. Worse Emily wants nothing to do with Grace and she definitely doesn’t want to leave.
Grace always considered herself the average sister compared to Emily. But with her sister in real danger, this average girl will have to think her way out of this problem before it’s too late in Deadly Pink (2012) by Vivian Vande Velde.
Deadly Pink is Vande Velde’s third novel featuring Rassmussem games with the first and second being Heir Apparent and User Unfriendly respectively.
Fourteen-year-old Grace is an authentic narrator with equal parts sarcasm and (especially later in the novel) ingenuity. While the game itself is not the most interesting, or well-developed, setting Vande Velde does an excellent job presenting Grace’s complicated relationship with her older sister.
Unlike Heir Apparent the focus of this book is more on the characters than the game play. With most of the non-playing characters playing minor roles in the plot, most of the story deals with Grace trying to convince Emily to leave the game.
While both sisters are well-rounded characters, the lack of setting and secondary characters for the majority of the novel is a major weakness. The game is never explained to Grace or the reader giving the effect of Grace running blindly through the game with little understanding of where she is supposed to go or how she is going to save Emily. Grace’s constant plodding through the game while never asking advice from anyone makes for a plodding plot that drags.
The story picks up in the last third of Deadly Pink as Grace comes into her own. Finally embracing her strengths andalso using the limitations of the game’s play to her own advantage, Grace proves at last that she is a heroine worth reading about. If the entire book had been like this small part, it would have been a definite winner.
Unfortunately the story falters once again with a rushed ending to explain Emily’s motivations to go into the game as well as a hurried explanation of what happens after the game is over.
If there are more Rassmussem stories to be told, one can only hope they will return to the style of Vande Velde’s earlier novels.
Possible Pairings: Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci, Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, Alter Ego by Robbie Cooper, Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly, Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin
Alice Rice knows everything about her family’s trip to Florida this year will be different. She is going to be ten–double digits–and that is a very important change. Maybe she’ll even find a rare Junonia seashell during their trip. After all, when you turn ten, anything is possible.
But as old friends fail to arrive and new visitors run the risk of ruining everything, Alice starts to wonder if her tenth birthday will be memorable for all of the wrong reasons in Junonia (2011) by Kevin Henkes.
With end papers and chapter caps illustrated by Henkes, the book brings Alice’s trip and her story to life. With his meditative, deliberate writing Henkes has created a story that perfectly captures the excitement and, yes, sometimes the sadness that comes with being a young child.
Junonia is a subtle, understated book. Focusing more on vignettes of Alice’s trip than on a singular plot, the book might not appeal to children looking for action or page-turning excitement. Readers who do stick with the story will be rewarded with a charmingly contemplative and at times effervescent book.
Possible Pairings: Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper
June 5 through June 7 The Book Bandit and I essentially lived at the Javits Center for this year’s Book Expo America.
The three-day-trek started bright and early on Tuesday with registration and the all important bag check. Having learned that books are heavy and in large supply, I knew a rolling suitcase would be crucial this year and I have to say all three days I left with a full bag thanks to all of the fantastic books available to attendees.
The morning’s big event was a signing with Gabrielle Zevin in the autographing area though before that I was fortunate to get copies of several books that are high on my to read list including Libba Bray’s The Diviners. (At 600 plus pages I figure I’ll finish it by the pub date if I start reading soon.) After exploring the floor, it was time to meet Gabrielle Zevin who was amazing and took time to talk to every person in line. I was already crazy excited to read Because It Is My Blood but also being able to talk to Gabrielle (who remembered me and my blog) was an extra bonus for sure.
The rest of the day was spent on more lines. But for people who got tired there was a chance to grab a quick cup of coffee.
Other Tuesday highlights: Getting a copy of The Raven Boys and Shannon Hale’s sequel to Princess Academy. I forget which line we were on together but I also met Tirzah from The Compulsive Reader which was delightful.
Wednesday once again started bright and early with more exploring the floor and lining up for authors in the autographing area. The highlight here was without a doubt meeting Susane Colasanti again after interviewing her here on the blog not only because she remembered (for some reason I never think authors will remember me) but also because I got the chance to be one of those chatty people who hold up a signing line. It’s terrible when you’re the one being delayed but it’s kind of rad to be the one getting to chat with a favorite author.
But that was at the end of the day. Before that, there was a lot of other excitement. (And a lot of other lines. Like an insane amount of lines. Bea 2012 could have been renamed Waiting in Line 2012.)
One of the most interesting, and often dismaying, things about this year’s BEA was how many debut authors had huge lines for their signings. It was fantastic to see even when it meant being kicked off a line that ran out of books or ran too long. I love the amount of excitement I always see for books at BEA.
After unsuccessfully navigating Sarah J. Maas’ line, we went to wait to meet Tim Gunn. I’ve never seen Project Runway but Nicole (and her dad!) are big fans so it was a must. Seeing Tim Gunn was fun but it was also nice to talk to some of the other people on the line and tag team exploring the floor while we creeped ever closer to Tim. I have a picture but I’m not going to share it. Because it’s awful. Unlike The Book Bandit, I did not make it work in my picture.
I also have to give a shout out to the people at the Macmillan booth who were kind enough to give me a copy of Crewel even though I didn’t get a ticket for the giveaway. I’m really excited to read it. (In fact, I’m so excited about so many books that I’m having a hard time deciding what to read next. There are so many good books!)
After Tim Gunn’s line the line at Penguin to see Marie Lu was surprisingly mellow. Again, there were some great people to talk to on the line and thanks to the magic of Twitter I even discovered that Marie Lu and I have a friend in common. Go figure! Waiting on the ticketed line for Prodigy (which is just as gorgeously designed as Legend!) I had to laugh at how easy it was to get a copy of Legend last year. Who could have guessed? This year’s signing was even ticketed.
In case you hadn’t guessed, Wednesday’s theme was running from line to line.
The next big one–possibly also the defining moment of BEA–was Diana Peterfreund’s signing in the autographing area. Diana Peterfreund was only scheduled to sign for a half hour and her line was massive. As the line grew and grew other attendees asked who we were all waiting for. It was interesting to hear all the different pronunciations for “Peterfreund” as well as all the blank stares when anyone explained the book she was signing was For Darkness Shows the Stars. I’ve been hearing about this book for so long that I actually thought it was already long published instead of out on June 12.
Moving forward in the line, Nicole and I had a chance to talk with two delightful bloggers, Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia (best blog name ever) and Amy of Tripping Over Books (prettiest business card!–also we are blog theme twins right now–win!). A riot almost started when the line was moved but then we learned it was because Diana was staying longer than her half hour slot to meet everyone.
With the line being huge and slow-moving, we offered to hold Amy’s place while she went to try and meet Gennifer Albin and get a signed copy of Crewel. So of course, the line started moving after that. Things got a big stressful as books were counted to determine who could stay on the line and I’m sad to say some people were turned away but at the same time super happy to say everyone in my group did get a copy. (Unsurprisingly after that epic line I suspect almost everyone got their copy personalized. I know you’ll have to pry mine out of my cold, dead hands.) Aside from bonding with everyone on the line, I was super impressed by how gracious and generally nice Diana Peterfreund was through the whole signing. I also have to give props to all of the BEA volunteers who did an amazing job making sure everything ran smoothly. They’re really the rock stars of BEA.
After Diana Peterfreund’s line, Nicole and I knew not to fool around for Susane Colasanti so we got on line WAY early and tag teamed to explore the floor and catch other signings including Raina Telgemeir and Patrick McDonnell. I also was ecstatic to finally be in the same place at the same time with Kate Ellison to get a signed copy of The Butterfly Clues.
I’ve already mentioned how awesome it was to see Susane Colasanti (it’s kind of always awesome to see her) and end the day on a high note.
To make things even better Nicole and I managed to be at the Scholastic booth in time to get copies of The Raven Boys and The Dark Unwinding. Even better, the author Sharon Cameron was there at the same time and did an impromptu signing for us. (The book’s editor, Lisa Ann Sandell, was also there which gave me a fun chance to make a fool of myself in front of her. Good times.)
Leaving BEA on Wednesday was also filled with interesting moments. My favorite, possibly because Nicole and I had such different reactions, was when I discovered pigeons wandering the Javits Center food court. While not perhaps hygienic, I thought it was enchanting and enjoyed the whimsy of the whole thing. Nicole . . . did not.
It also took an incredibly long time to get home on Wednesday thanks to leaving during rush hour. While wandering the streets looking for a cab with a suitcase bursting with books was not ideal I did get to snap some nice pictures of the skyline.
Which brings us to Thursday and another early start. There were two really big reasons I knew I had to be at BEA on Thursday. The first was because Alexandra Bracken was signing. I adored Beautifully Woven and love following her on Twitter. I’ve been following news on her forthcoming book The Darkest Minds since before it had that title. After exploring the floor we made our way to Alex Bracken’s line to secure our spots.
After that the rest of the day became an exercise in line hopping as we met Eliot Schrefer, Jeff Hirsch, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, and Jackson Pearce (who has a lovely signature).
Kristin Cashore was also signing during this slot and Nicole and I decided it was worth a shot though after the last few days (see: Diana Peterfreund and Sarah Maas’ lines) our expectations were low. Amazingly, Kristin Cashore must have some kind of signing magic because not only did the line move, it moved quickly and we both managed to meet her.
After her line we even had an impromptu meeting (complete with hugs) with Victoria Schwab.
Then we come to the second reason I knew I had to go to BEA on Thursday: Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff would all be together signing their new short story collection The Curiosities. The line was, say it with me, very long. But once again there were some other wonderful bloggers to share the waiting with. Rebecca from Booksellers Without Borders, Lisa from Lisa Loves Literature, and Jenna from Coffee, Books, and Me (who came all the way from the Philippines).
All three authors were delightful and had the three-person signing thing down pat. I haven’t had a chance to do more than glance at my copy but from what I’ve seen so far it was definitely worth the wait in line.
Having had last year to “practice” Nicole and I were way more prepared (and trained perhaps?!) for this year’s Book Expo and I am thrilled with all of the great book finds I have to review and share with you guys later. It’s going to be awesome!
And that, dear readers, is what BEA 2012 looked like for me.
Pickpocket Mollie Flynn and prostitute Annabelle Lee are as much a part of the Bowery as any of the immigrants or local gangs that call the area home. Unapologetic and unafraid, Mollie has no qualms doing what she must to survive amidst the poverty that threatens to overtake her every day.
It’s 1883 and things are changing in New York City. With the Brooklyn Bridge nearing completion and Annabelle Lee newly released from prison, Mollie dreams of crossing the bridge and finding a new life there outside the filth and tenements of the Bowery.
But getting to Brooklyn will take more than a few choice marks and johns can offer. With unexpected difficulties and unwanted meddling from a new neighborhood reformer named Emmeline Dupree, Mollie and Annabelle are forced to decide once and for all who they are and, harder still, who they want to be in Bowery Girl (2006) by Kim Taylor.
Bowery Girl is a wonderfully evocative look into life among the immigrant poor in 1883. Taylor brings this era of New York to life on the page with her careful descriptions of everything from Mollie and Annabelle’s tenement rooms to the bath house where they bathe that eventually becomes a reform-era settlement house.
Bowery Girl is an informative story about New York City before the five boroughs consolidated with interesting details about the Brooklyn Bridge and daily life.
Unfortunately, the plot in Bowery Girl does not stand up to the finely detailed scene Taylor sets. There is simply not enough action to move the plot forward even at the slim 240 pages.
Readers hoping for action and excitement will be mollified by Mollie’s raucous and violent Bowery lifestyle and the near-constant swearing throughout. Where Bowery Girl will really shine is for readers hoping to find insight into this period in New York City’s turbulent history.
Possible Pairings: Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner and LeUyen Pham, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, New York: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince, How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
“I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old Earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time.
“This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.”
Chosen as a baby to be molded into a Prince of the Empire, Khemri has always had a wealth of luxuries at his fingertips. Raised in his own temple with an assortment of priests, servants, and even mind-programmed companions, Khemri’s early life as a initiate Prince is everything he would expect or want.
Unfortunately on the day Khemri becomes a proper Prince he also realizes everything he previously knew about Princes and the Empire is completely wrong.
As a Prince, Khemri is smarter, faster and stronger than regular humans. Truly he is superior in every way. The only problem? So are the thousands of other Princes scattered throughout the Empire. Worse: All of those Princes are competing for a chance to become the next Emperor and most of them have no qualms about killing the competition during duels or through assassinations.
The more time Khemri spends as a Prince of the Empire the more he understands that the Empire can be a cruel, unsatisfying place. Being a Prince is all Khemri knows and all he has ever wanted. Until he dares to imagine having something more, even if Khemri isn’t sure he will ever have the chance to choose a different life in A Confusion of Princes (2012) by Garth Nix.
A Confusion of Princes is a standalone Space Opera. It is also Nix’s first book for older readers since his widely acclaimed Abhorsen trilogy.
Part of what marks Nix as an incredibly talented author is his richly detailed settings and well-realized characters. A Confusion of Princes is no exception with Khemri’s story playing out not just on an entirely new world but in an entirely new galaxy. The worlds Nix created here are so compelling that A Confusion of Princes even inspired its own online game: Imperial Galaxy.
The downside to creating such a rich setting is that it often makes for very dense writing. This book starts off with full throttled action and very little time for background. With so many facets to being a Prince, readers have almost as much to absorb as Khemri himself throughout the novel.*
Filled with minute details about the galaxy and Khemri’s life as a Prince, A Confusion of Princes sometimes skips over opportunities to develop the plot in favor of developing the world as Khemri alternates between running around and standing still with very little introspection or enlightenment until the last third of the novel.
Though Nix has undoubtedly created a fine addition to the science fiction genre, A Confusion of Princes does not stand up well compared to Nix’s other fantasy novels which combined expert world building with a depth that is lacking in the characters here.
*Other aspects of life in the Empire are painfully unexplained. A keystone of the Empire seems to be the use of mind-programmed servants and slaves but Nix never delves into the mechanics of this or the ethical implications. Though much of the story focuses on Khemri’s shift in thinking more as a human and less as a Prince, this plot thread remains unexplored or explained.
Possible Pairings: The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst, Rule by Ellen Goodlett, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Farscape (television series), Highlander (television series)
In an ideal world Sloane Price would have been dead long before the world ended. Lily would not have taken her sleeping pills with her when she left Sloane behind. Then Sloane could have spun out into oblivion long before the dead started walking.
But nothing about this world is ideal. Not anymore.
Instead of being able to fade away, Sloane is caught up with six other students who have sought refuge inside the local high school. Locked inside with shelter and supplies, Sloane can’t leave without putting others at risk. She can’t die when everyone around her is working so hard to live.
The world is over. There is nothing left. Still, with everything crumbling around her, Sloane might finally learn that some things are worth holding onto in This is Not a Test (2012) by Courtney Summers.
This is Not a Test is Summers’ fourth novel. It is also her first foray into what I’m going to call “less realistic” fiction as compared to her other works. I hesitate to call this fantasy, dystopian or science fiction. Despite the ravening zombie hoards it just doesn’t fit into those genres with a story so firmly grounded on Sloane’s personal journey and so little explanation for her bleak new world. At the same time, again because of the zombies, it is equally impossible to fit this book into realistic or contemporary fiction.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with This is Not a Test as a zombie story at all. While the opening sequence is eerie and engaging, the actual zombie aspect of the book was thin on plot and explanation serving as a bleak backdrop and little else. Like many zombie stories, this novel stops short of examining what survival after the end of the world really looks like.
While some sequences were very cinematic and shockingly atmospheric, very little happens inThis is Not a Test. Summers chooses instead to focus on characters, some of whom are interesting and some of whom are simply not.* It was also frustrating to watch so many of the characters fall into the typical zombie story tropes–seen in countless other films and books–when there was so much potential to take the story in a totally new direction.**
Upon finishing This is Not a Test I was left wondering what I had really gone through with these characters.*** As a reader I seemed to be in the same place I was at the beginning by the time I finished. This is Not a Test is an interesting riff on some familiar post-apocalyptic themes. Sadly, it does not add anything new to the conversation.
*Sloane spends most of the novel dreaming about finally killing herself. Having a heroine who doesn’t want to be present in her own story is a hard sell as far as sympathetic characters go.
**SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER: I’m still not sure if it was an intentional nod to the movie trope but I was underwhelmed when Sloane and her love interest wound up being the characters to make it to the end of the novel.SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
***SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER: After the end of the novel, when Sloane seems to finally be understanding that life might be worth living while staring at a zombie through a car window, readers see a picture of a broken pane of glass covered with what I assume is blood. So we follow these characters through hell. Sloane is finally starting to care. Then they get eaten? Why take more than three hundred pages to get to that point? SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
Possible Pairings: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, More Than This by Patrick Ness, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Jill Hathaway‘s debut novel Slide came out earlier this year. This mystery with a hint of the supernatural and a dash of romance with some snark to taste blew me away.
Ms. Hathaway is here today to talk about her debut novel and answer some of my questions.
Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Jill Hathaway (JH): I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t really become serious about it until a few years ago during NaNoWriMo. I decided to take the leap and query agents. I didn’t land an agent with my first (terrible) book, but I had interest from several agents with Slide. That’s when I knew I was onto something good! :)
MP: What was the inspiration for Slide?
JH: I wanted my protagonist to find herself standing over a dead body with no idea of how she ended up there. From there, I came up with the mechanism for sliding, which is the process through which Vee gets into other people’s heads and sees the world through their eyes.
JH: I did some research online, but the thing is… Vee isn’t really narcoleptic. That’s just her excuse for what’s happening to her. As I understand it, narcoleptics actually fall asleep for very brief periods of time, and it’s not really like what happens to Vee.
MP: In addition to being a writer, you are a teacher. Did your own teaching experiences influence your vision for the high school inSlide or for the classroom scenes during the novel?
Since I’m in the world of high school every day, I’m sure my experiences filtered into the book somewhat. I had a former student comment on the thermostat that wasn’t working because I’ve had the same problem in my classroom. :D
MP: Since Slideis essentially a mystery there is a necessary suspense throughout the story as clues are uncovered. As a writer, how did you go about pacing this aspect of the story and deciding what to reveal when?
JH: When I wrote the rough draft, I just threw in a bunch of stuff I thought would be cool. But during the revision process, I really had to sort out which clues to put where and which red herrings to put in. I’m trying to be smarter about writing my next book and plan all the clues before I even start writing. ;)
MP: Rollins is Vee’s best friend. He also makes his own zine. According to your website bio you too made your own zines. Are Rollins’ zines similar to your own?
JH: Ha, I think they are about as cynical as my zines were. Like Rollins, I was very idealistic and indignant of any perceived hypocrisy around me. I also included interviews with bands and awful poetry.
MP: Vee’s father often cooks for Vee and Mattie to offer comfort. All of the food described in the book sounded delicious. How did you decide which dishes would be significant to the Bell family?
JH: Ha, I think I wrote about whatever I was hungry for at the time. So my longing for the foods probably came through in the writing.
MP: To feel closer to her mother Vee listens to her mother’s music from the 1990s. Nirvana, the Gin Blossoms, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins are some of the bands you mention in the story. How did you decide what songs to include in the novel?
JH: A lot of bloggers and reviewers have commented that I obviously used music that I enjoyed when I was a teen, and that is very true. I was into “alternative” rock, and the songs I mention in the book are the songs I rocked out to when I was sixteen. In that way, I kind of pictured myself as Vee’s mom. I wonder if someday my daughter will read the book and listen to the same songs and think of me the way Vee does (but hopefully I won’t be dead at that point :P).
MP: Do you have a playlist for Slide? If so, do any of the songs mentioned in the book feature on the playlist?
JH: Yes, there’s a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam on the Slide playlist. “Glycerine” by Bush is another song I listened to when I was writing the scenes with Vee and Zane, but I don’t think I mentioned it anywhere in the book. (Hint: I listened to “Everlong” by Green Day a lot while writing the sequel, IMPOSTOR!)
MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
JH: IMPOSTOR, the sequel to SLIDE, will come out in spring 2013. In the book, Vee starts blacking out and realizing she’s been doing strange, dangerous things while she was unconscious. She eventually realizes that someone’s been sliding into her and wonders if the other slider is using her to do their dirty work.
MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
JH: Never ever ever ever ever give up.
Thanks again to Jill Hathaway for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.