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25

Jul

Q&A with Dan Krokos about his new book False Memory

From Shelf Awareness:

Where did the idea for False Memory come from?

The idea for the teens’ ability to control fear came from [an unpublished] manuscript I worked on, which was an urban fantasy. I knew I wanted to write a YA thriller where a teen didn’t know who she was. Her name was Miranda North, and that’s all I knew. I decided to combine those two concepts.

Did you map this out as a series from the beginning?

The story started as one book, but by the time I submitted it to publishers, it had become three books. The ending of the first book was originally a little quieter and a little happier, but then I thought, I could kind of drop a bomb at the end. Everything’s wrapped up from the first book, but I wanted to suggest that the second book would be scarier and bigger than the first book.

The only reason I agreed to do a trilogy was if I could connect them in such a way that they wouldn’t feel like branches to the first story. The first book feels very much like a thriller with futuristic elements to it. I wanted Book Two to have those same elements but be a bit scarier; the culture is straight out of my nightmares. Book Two is bigger than Book One, and Book Three feels a little more personal. The series took on a bell curve shape.

Why memory? Adolescence is so volatile anyway. Sometimes you feel like a stranger to yourself. Is that part of what’s going on here?

That’s what I was going for. The ultimate question for teens is, “Who am I?” I’d like to think that all of Miranda’s experiences in the book are teen experiences, just on steroids. Miranda’s faced with that question the whole book, all she knows is what people are telling her. As a teen, you’re trying to figure it out for yourself.

Dr. Tycast acts as a kind of benevolent father to them, yet Noah overhears something that makes him distrust Tycast.

There’s so much negativity happening around them. I wanted them to have an anchor in the middle of it all—a father figure who would never do anything willingly to hurt them. At the same time, I wanted them to question whether he could be trusted.

Will Rhys, the rogue, have a bigger role in the next book?

Midway through the writing of False Memory, I thought of a rogue that was not a part of their team but separate, with a lot of layers I wanted to reveal over the series. I wanted the threat of him looming over the whole book. Rhys’s role has changed a few times. I’m writing the third book right now, so I’m interested to see how that’s going to end up.

Why did you set the story in Cleveland? Is that because you know it well?

I hadn’t traveled a lot. I could write easily about them running around Cleveland, and the characters could hide in plain sight. No one really cares what’s going on in Cleveland. Everyone minds their own business. I knew that in Books Two and Three, I’d branch out into other settings.

You write about the attractions among the four teens on this team, but it’s very much in the background. We know that Miranda and Noah were an item, and we sense some feelings between her and Peter, too. In one of her memories, Miranda asks Peter, “Why are you so good to me?”

And he says, “That’s for me to know, and you to never find out.” We’ll never see what it was like for them growing up together. As they get older, feelings start to develop. I didn’t want the love triangle or love square to come to the forefront. It’s not about Miranda trying to choose.

At one point, Miranda states that their training forbids sexual involvement.

I took kung fu when I was younger. We had a whole discussion about this. Our instructor would do this training in China where abstinence would be required for a long time. Monks, instead of expelling their sexual energy, would recycle it and use that energy in other ways. It’s why they can balance on one finger and break bricks. I knew the Roses would be as powerful as they could possibly be, and their teacher would bring that to them. I didn’t want to write about sex. It’s not a copout; it’s a real thing. That kind of martial arts practice makes them superhuman. I wanted them to have that.

Several scenes heighten the reality of the natural tension between teens and adults. And of course, the members of Miranda’s team rebel against the establishment.

There’s a lot of tension between teens and adults. Self-reliance is encouraged, and knowing how to work through problems on their own. But you better complete your mission and come back—or else. Peter tracks Noah and Olive to that hotel [after they run away]. He wanted a way to find them. Peter didn’t ask permission to do that. Is that something he felt he had to do, or does he feel he has the power to make that choice? When you give someone that much power, how do you control them?

At one point, Miranda says, “The past isn’t mine. It died… in that alley. But the future can be.” Teens often believe that one choice can define them, but the message from Miranda is that we can decide our future by the choices we make, going forward.

That was a huge line for me. I think a lot of people focus on the past, which you can’t change. You can make the best of each moment, or keep repeating the same mistakes. At the end, Miranda has to realize it’s not what she came from or who made her but what she does with what she has.

19

Jul

Seemingly nothing in this world daunts the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. In the fairy world, however, there is a small thing that has gotten under his skin on more than one occasion: Opal Koboi. In The Last Guardian, the evil pixie is wreaking havoc yet again. This time his arch rival has somehow reanimated dead fairy warriors who were buried in the grounds of Fowl Manor. Their spirits have possessed Artemis’s little brothers, making his siblings even more annoying than usual. The warriors don’t seem to realize that the battle they were fighting when they died—a battle against Artemis—is long over. Artemis has until sunrise to get the spirits to vacate his brothers and go back into the earth where they belong. Can he count on a certain LEPrecon fairy to join him in what could well be his last stand?
New York Times best-selling author and comic genius Eoin Colfer will leave Artemis Fowl fans gasping up to the very end of this thrilling finale to the blockbuster series.

Seemingly nothing in this world daunts the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. In the fairy world, however, there is a small thing that has gotten under his skin on more than one occasion: Opal Koboi. In The Last Guardian, the evil pixie is wreaking havoc yet again. This time his arch rival has somehow reanimated dead fairy warriors who were buried in the grounds of Fowl Manor. Their spirits have possessed Artemis’s little brothers, making his siblings even more annoying than usual. The warriors don’t seem to realize that the battle they were fighting when they died—a battle against Artemis—is long over. Artemis has until sunrise to get the spirits to vacate his brothers and go back into the earth where they belong. Can he count on a certain LEPrecon fairy to join him in what could well be his last stand?

New York Times best-selling author and comic genius Eoin Colfer will leave Artemis Fowl fans gasping up to the very end of this thrilling finale to the blockbuster series.

11

Jun

Middle Grade Monday: Dark Life by Kat Falls

4 stars

Dark Life is a fast-paced, thrilling adventures under the ocean. Ty was born under the ocean and doesn’t want to leave; Gemma was born in the crowded space that’s left of the US and goes to the ocean to find her lost brother. Neither expect to find each other, but in their adventures they may just change both their worlds.

This book sinks you immediately into the world. Kat Falls does a great job of world building by simply using new language. Ty speaks as someone who lives under the sea would, making similes related to fish and whales and swearing on the ocean. Even Gemma’s terminology is altered by the way the world has changed, now much smaller and more cramped as people compete for what space is left on the continent. Just these small hints of different words and terms creates a very large sense of the world around these two characters, and how different that world is from our own. We learn early on that global warming and melting of the glaciers caused massive changes in sea level: the ocean essentially devoured most of the US, taking even the east coast with it. Ty is part of a small group that colonized the ocean floor just off the coast, farming fish and underwater plants as resources to feed themselves and the people on the land above. Gemma is part of the masses on land who live crushed together like sardines in a world that is ruled by emergency government and elections only happen every 20 years. Neither of these places are perfectly ideal or completely safe, but there is something about the ocean that calls to both Ty and Gemma.

The story also starts with a bang. In the first chapter Ty is chased by sharks, discovers a scuttled submarine (with blood spattered inside of unknown origin), and meets Gemma. And the action does not stop after that. Each chapter pushes you faster and harder through the world, keeping the tension high and the mystery flowing. There’s certainly a little room for introspection—Ty worries about secrets that he’s been keeping from his family and whether his future livelihood under the ocean will ever come true; Gemma worries about her lost family, her lost brother, and what will become of her in the future—but this story is mostly compelled by action, adventure, and mystery, which is what makes it so entertaining.

Ty and Gemma were great characters to follow, real and well-written. They read a bit young for 15, but they have to be that age for the story to work, so I can forgive this. They are both courageous, but also frightened: they go out into the depths of the ocean searching for answers, and they don’t back down even when the darkness rises up to meet them.

A really excellent start to a new middle grade dystopia series. I’m excited for book 2: Rip Tide.

04

Jun

Middle Grade Monday: Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

Lisel and Po was a wonderfully sad, happy, and heart-warming story about a girl who’s lost her father, a boy who misplaces a box of magic, and a ghost and his pet who stumble into the living world and help both the girl and the boy go on an adventure. Another masterpiece from Lauren Oliver, Liesl and Po was a joy to read, and the kind of story that will live with you for years to come.

Unlike Lauren’s intensely first-person young adult books, this book is told in alternating third-person. Still achieving the same closeness as first person, the third-person floating perspective lets us see far beyond the lives of one little girl and one little boy. Lisel and Will come to life vividly on the pages of the story, their fears and dreams hauntingly real as told in Lauren’s beautiful writing style. Even the ghost Po, referred to as an “it” because it doesn’t remember if it was a boy or a girl when it was alive, is startlingly human as you follow its journeys with Liesl and Will. We also meet the kind-hearted, slightly empty-headed guard Mo, who only wants to give the little boy a hat to keep his head warm. We meet Lisel’s father, hovering on the Other Side, waiting to be re-united with his first wife and true love. And we also meet the villains of the story: Liesl’s stepmother who keeps her locked in the attic; the alchemist who employs Will, but also abuses him mercilessly; the Lady Premiere who so desperately wants the alchemists’ magic; and a thief in the night, who isn’t that important until the end.
Though there is certainly magic in this story—a good portion of the plot revolves around the search for the alchemist’s missing box of Powerful Magic—much of what is actually magical about the story is the characters themselves. As children, Liesl and Will still have dreams and magic in their hearts, stuff that has been squashed out of the adults around them (except for Mo). Their hopes are the most magical of all: Liesl’s that she will be able to take her father’s ashes to her childhood home and lay him to rest next to her mother; Will’s that he will find a friend and soulmate (in a childlike way) with Liesl, the girl from the attic window. Po, the ghost, and his little ghost cat-dog Bundle, are the only magic they need beside their dreams to keep them safe on their journey. Of course they run into gads of trouble and scrapes, but this is a child’s story after all, not an adult’s, and in the end things will end well.
The plots of each different character slowly weave together to form the heart of this story. Each character, even if they don’t have a true name, is vitally important to the final climax. This story is kind of an ode to coincidences, and the magic of ways events come together in a story, in the way they never do in real life. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “realistic.” When we sit down to read a story like Liesl and Po, “realistic” is the last thing you want. The best kind of story weaves together the realities of our world with the magic of our hearts and imaginations.

01

Jun

Rick Riordan makes his Mark

From Publisher’s Weekly.
These days, it requires a Herculean effort to keep up with Rick Riordan. The god of mythology-minded tween literature has his hands full, finishing the third installment in his five-book Heroes of Olympus series, touring for the concluding book in the Kane Chronicles, traveling to Europe to do research for an all-new series based on Norse lore – and he shows no signs of letting up.
Here we offer readers an exclusive peek at the cover of the third Heroes book, The Mark of Athena, due out on October 2. Disney-Hyperion is revealing the book’s first chapter today, May 31, at the Heroes of Olympus Web site. Then on June 5, timed with the opening of BookExpo America, the publisher will launch a new Web site, GreeksvsRomans.com, with the tagline: “Whose camp are you in?” “We anticipate a lot of kids wearing purple or orange T-shirts to signify [their affiliation],” says Suzanne Murphy, v-p and publisher of books at Disney Publishing Worldwide, and the mother of a 12-year-old boy who was a reluctant reader until he discovered The Lightning Thief.
 Enthusiasts can also look forward to Fox 2000’s release next March 15 of the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters, with Logan Lerman returning in the lead role and Thor Freudenthal replacing Christopher Columbus as director. (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, based on the first book in the series, was released in February 2010.) Though such films inevitably disappoint some fans, they also draw new readers to the novels, says Nancy Gallt, Riordan’s agent since The Lightning Thief: “They’re like 90-minute advertisements for the books.” Murphy confirms this influence, adding, “There were tremendous backlist sales when the first movie came out.”
Disney has not yet finalized details for Riordan’s fall book tour for Athena. But the author is hardly sitting still: for his tour earlier this month for The Serpent’s Shadow, the conclusion of the Egyptian mythology-based Kane Chronicles, he pre-signed as many as 1,000 books at each stop. After October’s Athena comes the fourth entry in the Heroes of Olympus series, due out in fall 2013.
Despite his hectic schedule, Riordan remains very hands-on with every aspect of his books. To come up with The Mark of Athena cover image, he collaborated with John Rocco, who won a 2012 Caldecott Honor for Blackout and who has designed all of his covers, beginning with The Lightning Thief in 2005. “It has become a very collaborative effort,” says Riordan. “We do a lot of talking and a lot of thinking about what the cover images should be.” As the Athena jacket reveals, readers can expect a battle between the Greek gods’ offspring in Camp Half-Blood and the Roman gods’ offspring in Camp Jupiter.

The author’s family – his wife, Becky, and sons Haley, 17, and Patrick, 14 – also contribute to Riordan’s literary efforts. Haley, who inspired Riordan to write the original Percy Jackson series, recently finished writing a 30-page entry for his father’s Demigod Diaries anthology. Patrick is a careful, avid reader who asked his Dad to pay him $10 for every mistake he caught before his last two books went to press. He wound up earning $400 for one and $300 for the other – a nice addition to his college savings fund. Becky, a visual artist, continues to be his first editor.

They accompany the author on research trips, too. In 2009, the Riordans traveled to the Mediterranean as part of a sweepstakes prize; the winner’s family got to meet the author in Athens. The excursion, Riordan says, “reinforced to me that as much as I know about Greek mythology, there’s always more. Talking to the Greek tour guide and climbing the steps of the Acropolis, I was hearing stories I’d never heard before.” An Alaska voyage inspired The Son of Neptune, the second Heroes of Olympus book, and a cruise to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries last summer provided fodder for Riordan’s upcoming Norse series. “It was fascinating to see the armor and the weapons from the Viking times and the cauldrons made out of gold,” he says. Though wherever he travels, Percy Jackson seems to follow. “When we went into the Stockholmmuseum,” Riodan says, “I expected to see lots of things on Norse mythology, and we went into an exhibit of Greek mythology! In Sweden!”
When he isn’t on the road, Riordan continues to write in the quiet, pecan tree-shaded guest room of his one-story San Antonio home. “Like Percy, I’m very ADHD,” he says. “I like to have a simple workplace.” A couple of John Rocco covers hang on the wall and, he says, “That’s about it. People ask if they can take a tour. I say, ‘You’re going to be disappointed!’ ”
Riordan says he works best when he doesn’t try to adhere to a consistent schedule. “Because I am kind of distracted, I don’t tend to sit at my desk 9 to 5,” he says. “It can be two hours a day, or, when I’m in the final editing stages, it can be 14 hours a day.” A week ago last Sunday, he got up at 5 a.m. and worked until 5 p.m., emailing his editor with his final changes onThe Mark of Athena the next morning.
Of course, “final” is an interesting word to use about a writer who is still finishing Heroes of Olympus, just beginning his Norse series, and writing a short Percy Jackson story for Guys Read, the web-based literacy program. He has more than a dozen ideas in a folder called “Other Novel Ideas” on his MacBook Air. “Some I’ll get to, some I won’t,” he says. “It’s a wonderful problem to have. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write in a lifetime.”
For now, Riordan, who has also published adult books in his award-winning Tres Navarre detective series, plans to stick with stories for middle-readers. “The age group that I know the best is middle grade because I taught for so long –for 15 years – and I know those kids,” he says. “I don’t think I would ever inch my way up to YA. That audience is very well served. There are a lot of wonderful writers writing for YA. I feel like I’m in the right place.”
It’s clear that Riordan loves his characters, his subject matter, and his job. “If you’d asked me seven years ago what I’d be doing today, if I heard I’d be a bestselling children’s author, I would have laughed,” he says. “I just did not see that coming. I certainly hope that I’ll be able to continue what I’m doing now because I love it so much. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the level of success I’ve had. I was just writing stories for my own sons.” But it reminds him of his old job. “I still kind of feel like I’m a teacher,” he says. “I just have several million students in my classroom.”
Here’s the cover:

And here’s where you can read the first chapter:
http://disney.go.com/disneybooks/heroes-of-olympus/the-mark-of-athena/

Here’s the cover:

And here’s where you can read the first chapter:

http://disney.go.com/disneybooks/heroes-of-olympus/the-mark-of-athena/

28

May

Middle Grade Monday: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

A wonderful, hilarious, rollicking re-imagining of all the fairy-tales you thought you knew.The Princes Charming: Frederic, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan are the best kinds of heroes, and their stories (along with their unwitting heroines: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose) will delight boys and girls.

So many fairy-tale re-tellings take the stance that Prince Charming is the same guy, and he happened to marry all the princesses. This of course leads to the conclusion that he is less than perfect, and his relationships with our favorite princesses less than true love. Many times Prince Charming ends up being the bad guy—or sometimes just the skeezy guy. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kindgom comes at this dilemma from a different angle: what if the Prince Charming from all the stories was just some name used by the bards and storytellers to refer to wholly different men? Thus enters the princes of this novel, all flawed and yet heroic in their own quirky ways. It’s perhaps the best premise for a fairy-tale re-telling I’ve seen in a long time; because when you put four wayward princes together and send them off to rescue their world, nothing could possibly go wrong, right?


The best part about the heroes of this book is that they are all so real, as opposed to their fairy-tale counterpart Prince Charming. They each have flaws and challenges that they are overcoming in their own lives, but in the end their differences make them the perfect team. And the fact that none of them have been properly recognized for their heroic deeds—Prince Charming always gets the glory—makes them even more motivated to save the day. They are the kind of heroes that you want to read about: funny, brave, terrified, and the kind of man that you would want to be best friends with (or marry).

The princesses of the story were also unique in their own ways. Cinderella is the adventurous one, flying across the kingdoms in search of excitement, and running into our princes at the worst (and funniest) of times. Snow White is an odd duck, but loyal and courageous even if she does wear an inordinate amount of bows. Rapunzel is a bit of a wild card in the story, but an important role nonetheless. Briar Rose takes an interesting turn, and offers up a bit of the villain’s role (even though she is not per se evil, just a little spoiled).

The narrative voice throughout is funny and insightful. Bouncing from one prince’s head to the next, we get to follow the princes exploits from all of their perspectives, giving you a chance to get to know them all equally. We even get to join the princesses for a while, which is a great treat.

The best part of all is the “happily ever after,” because there isn’t one. Sure things end for the best, but there is no perfect fix to the princes problems in this world: they have to fix it themselves. So instead of ending on a ride into the sunset, it ends with them plotting their next adventure, and a guide for other hero’s to come…

A truly excellent debut, and a great addition to fairy-tale re-tellings.

24

May

Use books to survive: Seattle boy says Pendragon books saved his life

A kid from Seattle nearly drowned this weekend when he went out to go swimming in the Wallace River. As he struggled to stay afloat, heading towards a water fall, he remember the Pendragon books by D.J. McHale:

After slipping into the fast-moving river during a hike Saturday afternoon above Wallace Middle Falls, Hickman heeded the advice of the book’s hero and rode feet first down a 10-foot waterfall, trying to avoid the center of the river where the current was at its strongest. But he didn’t avoid all rocks, grabbing one only feet from the towering falls, a move that likely saved the Burien boy’s life.

Craziness. Good reason to read. Also, the Pendragon books are excellent middle grade/young adult boy books. And just fun all around.

You can read the rest of the article from the Seattle Times here.

21

May

Middle Grade Monday: The Sisters Grimm

Rating: Good Read

What really made me pick up this book and read it is the fact that it’s about the Grimm’s fairy tales. I can’t resist anything to do with the Brothers Grimm or fairy tales in general, and this little mystery series was just perfect for what it is. Now I’m not calling it a literary masterpiece, but for 9 and 10 year old girls, this is got to be one of the best series out there.

Despite the fact that most of this series has to do with wild, crazy, fairy tale happenings, the two main characters (Sabrina and Daphne) are very solidly grounded in the real world; they have real dreams and fears that any young reader will be able to understand and identify with. Orphaned two years before the story starts, the sisters have been passed from one foster family to another. They rely only on each other, and Sabrina especially feels the weight of keeping them together and safe. Then one day a woman appears claiming to be their grandmother; the problem is their parents told them that their grandmother is dead. Foisted onto this strange old lady, Sabrina and Daphne soon come to learn that family can be a very complicated thing. Dealing with issues of abandonment, siblings, and family, Sabrina and Daphne navigate the rough waters of learning who you are while running from giants.

The fairy tale aspect of the story was handled very well. It almost reminds me of Fables by Bill Willingham, but very kid-friendly. Prince Charming is the less-than-honest Mayor of the fairy-tale town. The three little pigs are the police force. Snow White teaches at the school. And Sabrina and Daphne’s grandmother is the one surviving Grimm who keeps the whole town in check; and now teach her granddaughters the ways of their family.

Filled with action, adventure, heroes and villains, and a great sense of camaraderie and sisterly affection/competition from Sabrina and Daphne, this book was a joy to read from start to finish. A great start to a great series.

18

May

In Memorium: Jean Craighead George

I read Julie and the Wolves when I was twelve and simply fell in love with the story of a girl lost in the wilderness who bonds with a pack of wolves. I was both fascinated by her tenacity, and the journey into a wholly new world. I read the whole series and cherished those books. It is sad to see such a wonderful and well-loved children’s author go. Rest in peace.
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Distinguished children’s book author and noted naturalist Jean Craighead George died on May 15. She was 92.
Best known for the Newbery-winning novel Julie of the Wolves (Harper, 1972) and the Newbery Honor titleMy Side of the Mountain (Dutton, 1959), George penned more than 100 books for young people during a career that began with the publication of Vulpes the Red Fox in 1948. Her book projects were ongoing and readers will see two new titles published posthumously. Dial Books for Young Readers will release The Eagles Are Back, the final volume in a picture-book trilogy written by George and illustrated by Wendell Minor in spring 2013, and Ice Whale, a novel she collaborated on with her son Craig, will be published by Dial later next year.
George grew up in Washington, D.C., in a family of nature lovers, who took her on frequent camping trips and outdoor adventures, and instilled in her a deep respect and passion for the natural world—a sentiment that was always at the heart of her books.
Though she first began writing stories in the third grade, she pursued a calling to journalism after graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1941 with bachelor’s degrees in science and English. She returned to Washington and was part of the White House Press Corps, reporting for theWashington Post and International News Service, among other outlets, throughout the 1940s.
The author also had a talent for art and illustrated several of her books, including six early titles that she collaborated on with her husband Dr. John L. George, whom she wed in 1944. The couple had three children and divorced in 1963. With her children, she nurtured more than 173 wild animals, many of which found their way into her writing as characters in her books.
George is survived by her daughter, two sons, and six grandchildren.