Crewel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Crewel by Gennifer AlbinArras is rigidly monitored by the Guild to ensure prosperity and peace. The weave of the world is carefully manipulated by Spinsters working for the Guild to control everything from rations to the weather itself. Life as a Spinster holds untold promise with wealth, beauty, celebrity, and rarest of all power.

Adelice Lewys wants none of it.

Adelice knows the moment her hands slip on the testing loom is one she can never take back. Her years of training to be clumsy and artless, to fail when the time came to be tested, have been a waste.

Now the Guild will come for her.

It also means Adelice can never go home again.

As Adelice learns more about the Guild’s agenda and her own role in their plans, the more desperate she becomes to escape. But when everything is pre-determined and manipulated by Spinsters, Adelice wonders if she can ever truly be free in Crewel (2012) by Gennifer Albin.

Crewel is Albin’s first novel. It is also the first book in her Crewel World trilogy.

Crewel is an interesting dystopian with nods to the sleek, fashionable atmosphere of Madmen as well as the bleak world of A Handmaid’s Tale which potentially sounds like an uneasy combination but manages to work well albeit without much explanation or world building to support either element.

Albin begins to introduce a complex world uniquely and unexpectedly centered around weaving but much like the sartorial decisions in the story there is little explanation as to why Arras works the way it does. (The how is similarly murky with painfully few references to actual weaving terms throughout.)

Adelice was also a very frustrating heroine. Trapped in a society that devalues and denigrates women, Adelice is often irritatingly one-dimensional as she spouts much of the society’s dogma even while she is trying to fight against that very same society.*

Crewel has all the markings of a blockbuster dystopian read with thrills, twists, and a smart-mouthed heroine ready with choice remarks for love interests and villains alike. Albin’s writing is also often beautiful and strongly evokes Adelice’s world and her vision of the weave itself. Unfortunately all of these decorative elements do little to mask the book’s ultimate lack of substance.

*I can’t get into details because it’s spoiler-iffic but let’s just say one character spends a lot of time jealous of another character’s deceased spouse and leave it at that.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Eve by Anna Carey, The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Warped by Maurissa Guibord, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Author Interview: Vincent X. Kirsch on Forsythia and Me

A couple of months ago something cool happened at the bookstore where I work. The store has a shelf set up where staff can put their favorite titles. After reading (and loving) Forsythia & Me by Vincent X. Kirsch, I knew it had to be my next pick. I set the book up and didn’t think much more about it.

Imagine my surprise when that simple choice led to meeting the author in person. Here’s what happened: While Forsythia & Me was my staff pick, Vincent X. Kirsch actually came into the bookstore and saw the display. He then found me in the store (I’m so glad I was working that day!) to say hello and thank me. After I got over being a bit awestruck, I remembered to ask Mr. Kirsch if he would have time to answer some questions here on the blog. Happily, he did and I have those answers to share today!

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Vincent X. Kirsch (VXK): I started creating picture books when I was a little boy. Even though, I was a very precocious little artist, I loved stories and complicated plots. I would write them down. I would think of my characters and their adventures while walking to school, shoveling the driveway, doing math homework or mowing the lawn. Stories were as important to me as pictures. Often my school reports were highly illustrated, which did not thrill the nuns at Sacred Heart School very much.

My older sister was a very good reader, writer and English student. She told me over and over that she was “the writer in the family” and I could be “the artist”. So I had to keep my book projects and dreams to myself.

One summer, I took a picture book class with Uri Shulevitz while still in high school. That short course introduced me to the amount of work that goes into creating stories and picture books that are worth reading.

I did not forget my passion for picture books when I got to college but I was inclined to study something more practical like advertising and editorial design. I spent most of my early career in New York City doing things like Broadway and other theatrical posters, Cable Network TV graphics, book jacket covers, editorial illustrations for newspapers and magazines. But I always managed to daydream books. I never forgot my characters.

I became a very good reader in my twenties [from having to read novel manuscripts to create cover designs] so I dove into all of those books that I had ignored as a child. Dickens held a particular fascination.

Then in the early 1990s the characters began arriving in my notebooks. Often I would doodle a whimsical character, then a name would get attached to the likeness, then not long after a narrative waltzed on the scene.

I had notebooks dedicated to their stories and complicated adventures. I applied the skills that I had learned years ago to writing a book with introduction, action, denoument and resolution. I created lovely little book dummies.

Some characters had very complicated adventures. These were put in a separate notebook for the day when someone would trust me to write a longer book format.

Then I started a very long period of “drop-offs” where I would leave my portfolio with editors and art directors at major publishing houses. This was a very long, bewildering and frustrating time. When I went to pick the books up, I was always greeted by the art director or editor, who wanted to meet me and tell me how much they loved my work and wanted me to drop off again and again. Over and over. Editor after editor. Year after year. Literary agent after literary agent.

I never gave up. I continued to gather characters, stories and create book dummies.

Then suddenly my luck changed when I was considering giving up the idea of ever getting to do a book. My final color illustration in The New York Times Book Review for a book about two Italian brothers had just appeared in print. Weeks later, the phone did not ring but an email appeared from Jill Davis at BloomsburyUSA Children’s Books asking if I was interested in doing picture books.

When I arrived for a meeting for a few weeks later, I came armed with characters, plot outlines, dummy books and a sketchbook. Jill was overwhelmed. She carefully reviewed the work. Dazzled, she did not know where to begin.

While leafing through one of my sketchbooks she happened on a very teeny tiny doodle of a neat little French girl and a zany variation of her nearby. Under the sketches, were scribbled the names “Natalie” and “Naughtily”.

Jill asked if they had a story. I told a little fib and said that they did. Jill loved the two girls and I was to go home, type up their story and bring it in the next week.

That is what I did and weeks later I had a contract [paying next to nothing] to create my first book.

MP: You have written picture books about some dynamic sibling duos (Natalie and Naughtily in a book by the same name and Rudy and Ridley in Two Little Boys From Toolittle Toys). How did you come up with the idea for Forsythia & Me—a picture book about an equally dynamic pair of friends? Who came first: Forsythia or Chester?

VXK: Well, my beloved editor (and muse) Jill Davis, moved from BloomsburyUSA to Farrar Straus Giroux. I was on holiday at Cape Cod when she wrote to tell me the good news. Since our first collaboration was so much fun, she wanted me to work on something with her at her new publisher. That morning, I had jotted down in my notebook: “Forsythia/amazing little girl who loves to garden”. So I replied to Jill that we ought to get to work on my book idea called “Forsythia & Me/about an amazing little girl who loves to garden”. Jill answered right away: “Oh yes!”

Later that week I sent a sketch of Forsythia [in a straw sun bonnet with sunflower, yellow hair, large gardening gloves and a perfectly immaculate dress] which sealed the deal. A contract followed and the work on the book began at once.

Chester was originally her little brother who did little more that gush and worship his big sister. But with a few twists of the story, he became both narrator and amazing himself.

MP: What was your favorite part of Forsythia & Me to illustrate or write? Which part was the hardest?

VXK: Favorite part of the project: Making the endless lists of all of the things that Forsythia could do. It was such fun.

Favorite to illustrate: The pages that she amazed Chester. It was fun to work in a very gray palate with dashes of color. There are some many details, patterns and pastiches.

Hardest to illustrate: Pages of yellow with dashes of blue.

MP: Natalie and Naughtily and Two Little Boys From Toolittle Toys both have some hidden things to find on each page (including a list of Natalie’s favorite things and toys from the Toolittle catalog). Is there anything similar in Forsythia & Me?

VXK:

  1. The little blue bird of happiness, that appears on almost every spread.
  2. The titles on the trophies were fun to create!
  3. Notice that the zoo animals at Forsythia’s tea party all appear as stuffed animals on her bed.
  4. See if you can find Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins in the drawings? I was reading The Lord Of The Rings at the time I was working on the book.
  5. I choreographed a pirate dance.
  6. Forsythia was based upon my childhood BFF named Lisa Bell. Can you find her name?

MP: You write and illustrate all of your books. Can you tell us about what your creative process for a picture book looks like? Do you start with the text or the artwork?

VXK: My procedure has been pretty consistent:

  1. I start with a character and character sketches.
  2. I give the character a name.
  3. I begin to daydream and doodle the character in various activities or situations.
  4. I jot the character in to my notebooks.
  5. An editor sees the sketch, falls in love with it and wants to create a book.
  6. I get a contract [thanks to my agent Edward Necarsulmer’s efforts].
  7. I sign the contract and celebrate for a week or so!
  8. The work begins. On my laptop computer, I write a story that will fit onto forty pages.
  9. I draw a tiny storyboard to show how the book will fit to reassure everyone that I know what I am doing.
  10. The editor and I tweak and twist the story that I came up with. I do not recognize it any longer. It is actually fun, like a roller coaster ride without knowing how you will get off but at some point the ride must end.
  11. Changes and more changes. I create actual size dummy books. Over and over since I need to see an actual book if I have to create an actual book. For each title, the process has been a pure delight!
  12. Finally we arrive at the final text. I tweak a bit more.
  13. Next, we arrive at the final dummy book. There are more celebrations. I love to review the metamorphosis of the story by seeing where it started and where it ended up, what remained and what favorite bits got tossed.
  14. I refine the drawings with my handy-dandy light box and various reference materials until I am ready to go to final art.
  15. At this moment let me pause to create a visual image that I assume is daunting for every illustrator: A pile of forty blank white pages, crop marks drawn, pages numbered, piled up very neatly… waiting to be illustrated! In a matter of weeks, these pages will be covered with forty illustrations. It is an incredible feat of wizardry!
  16. I take a very deep breath. I start with the easiest page and draw the image.
  17. Then the other pages, one at a time. Drawings first, then the waves of colors, then the fine tuning, then the double checking for continuity.
  18. When the art is done. I neatly cover each illustration with tracing paper and make notes to the designer.
  19. Then, the next nerve-wracking event of bringing the art to the publisher. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Will they be pleased? Will they be disappointed?
  20. They love it! I fly out of the offices in a dazed state of shock, feet not touching the ground. Then wander around in blur for a few days or if I am lucky: a vacation by the sea to stare at waves for a week or so!

MP: You pack a lot into your illustrations with colorful characters as well as intricately detailed backgrounds for them to inhabit on each page. How do you decide where to start with each illustration? What medium do you prefer to work with?

VXK: Details. Yes. I love details. I love to add little things to keep the process of final art from becoming overwhelming. For example, on a book I just finished title FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP about a little dragon and a little dinosaur. Well, I started to doodle little insect-like dinosaurs and dragons in the scenery. They sort of took over. Wherever I looked I saw an odd creature. They became more ornate and started observing the main characters.

Or in THE CHANDELIERS, I added a little mouse character to watch the show from every angle, backstage and front. That mouse is a stand in for the reader as he sees just what the reader does.

Where I start with each illustration: I start with the main characters, of course, but at all times think about how the characters express an emotion through action or expression. I fill the page and know to leave space for the text.

Favorite Medium: My latest and favorite technique is harkening back to the original style of my original 3D characters: It is a very bold black outline that is filled in with loose vivid color layers. Darker and richer to the point of resembling stained glass with it’s bold lines and saturated colors.

MP: On your site you mention that you worked at Bergdorf Goodman for a time designing their windows (which are, by the way, ones I look forward to seeing every holiday season), and later their interiors. How did your work there inform your work as an illustrator and author?

VXK: My work at Bergdorf Goodman truly transformed me in almost every way:

  • I changed from thinking two-dimensionally to thinking in three-dimensions.
  • I learned to build a team and work with others to create exciting results.
  • I fell in love with scenic design again [which was one of my minors in college].
  • I discovered toy theaters as an art form.
  • I immersed myself in the art world, visiting galleries, hiring artists and discovering techniques.
  • I learned where to find practically everything in New York City and where to pay the least for it.
  • I learned to work quickly and finish what I started.
  • I filled my office with hundred, perhaps thousands, of tiny 3D characters that I created from doodles, thus starting the torrent of characters to come.
  • The job was like something out of a Hollywood film: grandiose, exciting and a great deal of long hours and hard work.

MP: Do you have any favorite children’s books/picture books that inspired you to become a children’s author?

VXK: My most vivid memory was of seeing a book called LITTLE TOOT about a tug boat in the harbor of New York. I grew up in a very little town in upstate New York. I had no idea that there was such a place. The buildings in the background looked like an enchanted castle.

I was completely smitten with Disney films. I was obsessed [and still am] with PINOCCHIO and PETER PAN.

I am delighted by books about worlds that I could fall into like WINNIE-THE-POOH, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE MOOMINBOOKS, THE SECRET GARDEN, and on and on. So much so, that my greatest professional dream is to create a book that will do that for readers to come. This is where, I never bothered to believe my older sister that she was the only writer in the family. I cannot with so many stories inside of me!

MP: You have several forthcoming titles. Can you tell us anything about your next project?

VXK:

  • My tribute to show business was just released in August. It is called THE CHANDELIERS from Farrar Straus Giroux. It shows a theatrical performance by a very talented family of giraffes, complete with Playbill notes and a stage door exit.
  • I just handed in final art for FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP with Disney Hyperion. That book was inspired by the dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I conceived of the book as a dance routine that ranges from awkward first steps to fearsome falls to taking flight. At this time, I am working on the second book in that series.
  • I illustrated the book NOAH WEBSTER & HIS WORDS written by the ingeniously inventive Jeri Chase Ferris published by Houghton Mifflin. It is due in bookstores this October.
  • My first chapter book series is under negotiation at this very moment. All that I can say is that revolves around something that every child in the world loves and cannot get enough of!
  • I have just launched a new multi-media studio called WIND-UP TOP HAT STUDIOS that will create toy theaters, television programs, motion pictures, toys, ibooks and apps.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

VXK: Creating books is a tremendous amount of work. Everything takes so much time. But, if you truly want to create books than there is no greater art form.

I think the moment when I got my first actual copy of NATALIE & NAUGHTILY was perhaps one of the most magical moments in my life.

A manila envelope arrived in the mail, one day when I least expected it! Inside was my sample copy. I took it out of the envelope. I had to sit down. I was trembling. I think I stopped breathing. My heart was racing so. I turned the pages. I read the text. I could not believe my eyes. It was the first time that I had actually seen it as a book after the long process of writing and illustrating and waiting.

There it was, a book: a dream come true. Well worth the wait. Well worth the work! I could not wait to start another. It is addictive.

I wish everyone who dreams of creating a book, gets to pull one out of a manila envelope some happy day, take a seat and tremble!

For more information about Vincent and his books you can also visit his website. (Be sure to check out the individual book pages for fun details on the process behind each book as well as some hidden details to look for in each title.)

If you want to know more about Forsythia & Me be sure to check out my  review.

Forsythia & Me: A Picture Book (Chick Lit Wednesday!) Review

Forsythia does things that amaze Chester. She has prize-winning purple roses that she can make bloom in winter. She performs in the circus and at the ballet. She has even tamed the animals at the zoo so that they never arrive late for tea. One day when Forsythia wakes up with a cold, Chester discovers he can be amazing too in Forsythia & Me (2011) by Vincent X. Kirsch.

Forsythia  & Me is one of my favorite stories to read aloud at story time. With a great example of positive roles for boys and girls, humor, and fun text and drawings this one is a definite winner.

Kirsch’s illustrations combine delicately detailed line drawings with looser touches of water color paint. The combination creates bold page spreads with characters that stand out in bright, cheerful colors.

Kirsch’s story has the feel of a tall tale as Chester details Forsythia’s many exploits. At least until Forsythia gets sick. Then Chester (and readers) comes full circle, realizing that any number of things can be amazing when it comes to cheering up a friend.

Forsythia & Me brings together a charming story and intricate illustrations to create a delightful book about two equally amazing friends.

Possible Pairings: Boy + Boy by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway, Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems

You can also read my exclusive interview with Vincent X. Kirsch starting October 18, 2012!

Time is running out to nominate your favorites for the Cybils!

You only have until October 15 to nominate one book from each award category. And there are still lots of great books that I know I would love to see nominated.

Below, in no particular order, is a list of all of the books I’d love to see nominated for the 2012 Cybils. All you have to do is register for the Cybils database, pick one from each category and submit it! The Cybils blog also has some links to lists that need more nominations as well as ideas for what to nominate.

Remember, for a book to be eligible it has to have been released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012

(Full disclosure: I should also remind everyone that I will be serving as a Round 2 Judge in the Teen Science Fiction and Fantasy category meaning that once the Round 1 panel announces the shortlist I’ll work with my fellow judges to select the winner.)

Picture Books

The Chandeliers by Vincent X. Kirsch

Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska

Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee

The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger

Dog Gone by Leeza Hernandez

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino

Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein (My nomination!)

The Obstinate Pen by Frank Dormer

Tallulah’s Solo by Marilyn Singer and Alexandra Boiger

YA Fiction

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (Not sure if this one qualifies as SFF or Fiction)

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley(My nomination!)

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

Slide by Jill Hathaway

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy Nominated!

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey

Creepy Carrots: A (Spooky) Picture Book Review

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them on the way to school. He eats them going to Little League. He eats them going home.

Jasper especially loves the free carrots he can grab from Crackenhopper Field any time he wants.

At least he does until those creepy carrots start to follow him around. No one else sees what Jasper sees. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong in Creepy Carrots (2012) by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown.

Reynolds’ concise writing keeps up the tension as Jasper gets more and more creeped out by those carrots. Readers will be kept on their toes until the (maybe) surprising ending. Brown’s illustrations, done in black and white with shots of orange for the carrots, add an eerie quality to this already spooky story.

A light touch from both author and illustrator guarantee that this story will be fun for readers of all ages without being too scary. A perfect choice to read around Halloween–or anytime you’re in the mood for a little scare and a lot of humor.

Possible Pairings: The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi, The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Burn for Burn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan VivianLillia is pretty, rich, and used to getting everything she wants including having boys wrapped around her little finger. Until things go too far over the summer. After that Lillia isn’t sure of anything–especially how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to her little sister. Ever.

Kat is tired of being an outsider subjected to insults and cruel jokes. She knows her former best friend is to blame. She might even know how to make her pay.

Mary left Jar Island four years ago because of a boy. She’s back now. She’s ready to show him just how different she is. And just how much he has to make up for.

These three very different girls are all after the same thing in Burn for Burn (2012) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.

Find it on Bookshop.

Burn for Burn is the first book in a series as well as the first book Han and Vivian have written together.

Revenge stories like this one always run the risk of being one-sided. There is also always the potential that the protagonist will come across as unsympathetic or just plain mean.

Han and Vivian avoid these common pitfalls in Burn for Burn. The authors have created a convincingly idyllic island town with secrets and, for Lillia, Kat, and Mary, many wrongs just begging to be righted.

With chapters alternating between each girl’s narration, the story examines each heroine’s motivations making readers more than willing to follow this trio on their missions of revenge.

The objects of the girls’ wrath are also generally well-developed with both good and bad moments during the narrative. Alex is particularly dimensional. I would have liked to see more of Rennie and Reeve’s good sides, such as they are, but that might come up in the sequel.

While Burn for Burn focuses on all three girls and their plans for revenge the pacing shifts so that most of the story focuses on Lillia and, to a lesser degree, Kat. Mary is important as a device to move the plot forward but doesn’t get as much chance to feature as a character in her own right.* Things progress in a logical fashion until the last quarter of the novel when Han and Vivian start to rush, perhaps in an effort to amp up tension before the shocking finish.

By the end of Burn for Burn, Han and Vivian have managed to turn a lot of preconceived notions about the characters and the story itself upside down. With a cliffhanger ending and a lot of unanswered questions Burn for Burn is sure to leave readers clamoring for the sequel.

*I have a lot of theories about Mary and the ending of Burn for Burn. If you’ve read it, I bet you do too. Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin, The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst, Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Exclusive Bonus Content: I really like the idea of the cover with the three girls and the muted colors that suggest a potentially sweet story. I think the depiction of Mary (center) is especially accurate to her character and spot on from her clothing to her jewelry.

Kat (left) looked a bit too refined and clean-cut compared to the Kat we meet in the novel. And, of course, I was thrilled with Lillia (right) being such a well-rounded, central character who is Korean (and on a cover).

But again that comes with a caveat: The jacket art wraps around from the front cover across the spine and to the back of the jacket so we can see all of Kat and Mary. Lillia is on the edge of the cover and, theoretically, her image could have wrapped around under the flap copy (since the image is so muted anyway) but instead it’s abruptly cut off with a white box for the summary text. It’s probably coincidence that the person of color was the one cut off, but it still made me think.

Also, since I’m already dissecting everything else about the cover, I thought it was odd that Mary was in the center. Her arrival sets a lot of things in motion but as I said she is more plot device than character at this point. In terms of page time Lillia is the obvious choice for the center of the cover (with Kat a close second). Yet, both of them are on the periphery of the cover.

I don’t know how long it will be up but if, like me, you were deeply affected by the missing part of the cover Jenny Han’s website currently features the entire image from the Burn for Burn cover.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

The Diviners: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Diviners by Libba BrayEvie O’Neill is thrilled when she is forced to leave her small hometown in disgrace. Sure, her parents are disappointed and her friends don’t know what to make of her strange party tricks. But that doesn’t matter because Evie is headed to New York City where she is pos-i-toot-ly going to have the best time.

But before Evie can start exploring all of the shops (and speakeasies!) that the city has to offer a flapper looking for a good time, she has to deal with her bachelor uncle. As curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (“The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies” to locals) Uncle Will has his own ideas about how Evie should conduct herself while in his care. Between Will’s taciturn assistant, Jericho, and his work at the museum, living with her Uncle is not what Evie expected.

New friends, dashing pickpockets, and giggle water aren’t enough to distract Evie from the strange things happening throughout New York. Grisly murders with ties to the occult leave the police stumped. When Will is asked to serve as a consultant, Evie thinks she might have a way to help catch the killer–if he doesn’t find her first.

Strange times are coming. A time where the natural order of things is threatened by very unnatural forces and people with special talents, like Evie, might be able to help. Evie is ready to help investigate a killer. But what if murder is just the beginning in The Diviners (2012) by Libba Bray?

The Diviners is the first book in Bray’s new four-book series set in 1926 New York.

With a keen eye for detail and authenticity, Bray brings Evie’s roaring world to vivid life. With spooky villains and a spunky heroine, this book is filled with everything fans of the flapper era will love. Bray makes her writing seem effortless as she easily evokes both the mood and landscape of the 1920s with her own unique touches.

The Diviners is a sprawling thriller sure to give you chills. At 578 pages (hardcover) there is no way to get around the fact that this is a long book filled with Bray’s signature rich writing. This isn’t a quick read but it is one that pays off in the end. Filled with multiple perspectives and a large cast of characters, The Diviners weaves together several story lines and unlikely companions as the plot moves forward revealing tantalizing details about each character as well as future installments in the series.

Being the first book in a series some questions remain unanswered with new ones raised for later in the series. That said, the story here easily stands on its own once you’re ready to commit to such a hefty tome. Haunting and thrilling The Diviners is sure to please.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, The Stand (mini-series)

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Exclusive Bonus Content: Be sure to check out the spiffy Diviners website to see info about many of the book’s characters, the series, as well as the super creepy trailer.

Books I want to see nominated for the Cybils (and how you can help!)

**NOW UPDATED with already nominated books crossed out**

It’s that time again. October first marks the start of the Cybils nomination period. You have until October 15 to nominate one book from each award category.

With so many books there are more titles worthy of nominations than slots I have to give. So, here’s a super simple way that you can help:

Below, in no particular order, is a list of all of the books I’d love to see nominated for the 2012 Cybils. All you have to do is register for the Cybils database, pick one from each category and submit it! The Cybils blog also has some links to lists that need more nominations as well as ideas for what to nominate.

Remember, for a book to be eligible it has to have been released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012

(Full disclosure: I should also remind everyone that I will be serving as a Round 2 Judge in the Teen Science Fiction and Fantasy category meaning that once the Round 1 panel announces the shortlist I’ll work with my fellow judges to select the winner.)

Teen Science Fiction and Fantasy These are all nominated!

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst (My nomination!)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

Team Human By Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Fathomless by Jackson Peirce

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Every Day by David Levithan

YA Fiction

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (Not sure if this one qualifies as SFF or Fiction)

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley(My nomination!)

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

Slide by Jill Hathaway

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy Nominated!

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey

Picture Books

The Chandeliers by Vincent X. Kirsch

Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway

Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska

Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee

The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell

Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger

Dog Gone by Leeza Hernandez

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino

Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein (My nomination!)

The Obstinate Pen by Frank Dormer

Tallulah’s Solo by Marilyn Singer and Alexandra Boiger