Sunday 31 July 2011

Gregor the Overlander - Suzanne Collins - Underland Chronicles Book 1

Gregor the Overlander
The Underland Chronicles
Book 1

Suzanne Collins
ISBN 9780439678131

I loved the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy, and enjoyed the whole series. After reading this first book in Suzanne Collins' earlier series, I like it even more. The story begins in New York City, but soon moves to the Underland. Gregor is a typical 11-year-old boy. He lives with his mother, grandmother and two younger sisters. His father has been missing for 2 Years, 7 Months and 13 days. Gregor stays home from summer camp so his sister can go; he is helping to look after his aging grandmother and his baby sister Boots. One day while doing laundry, Boots seems to disappear. Soon Gregor finds himself falling and falling. When he lands, he is in a strange Underland, full of giant bats, spiders, roaches, rats and a human colony that came below ground many years ago. There is an uneasy peace among the rats and the other Underland kingdoms, and Gregor seems to set off a war between the humans and rats. And many of the humans seem to believe he is fulfilling an ancient prophecy. The prophecy states:

"Underlanders, time hangs by a thread. The hunters are hunted, white water runs red. The gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest. The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest.

An Overland warrior, a son of the sun, May bring us back light, he may bring us back none. But gather your neighbors and follow his call, or rats will most surely devour us all.

Two over, two under, of royal descent. Two flyers, two crawlers, two spinners assent. One gnawer beside and one lost up ahead. And eight will be left when we count up the dead.

The last who will die must decide where he stands.
The fate of the eight is contained in his hands. So bid him take care, bid him look where he leaps, as life may be death and death life again reaps."

Gregory does not believe he is the predicted warrior. But if this is his best chance to get back to Overland he will do so, especially if it means saving his system and himself.

This is the first book in a quintology and it looks like it will be an incredible series. I highly recommend this first book and believe you will become as hooked as I did.

Books by Suzanne Collins:
The Underland Chronicles:
Gregor the Overlander (2003)
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (2004)
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (2005)
Gregor and the Marks of Secret (2006)
Gregor and the Code of Claw (2007)

The Hunger Games trilogy:
The Hunger Games (2008)
Catching Fire (2009)
Mockingjay (2010)

Other books:
Fire Proof: Shelby Woo #11 (1999)
When Charlie McButton Lost Power (2005)

Suzanne Collins Visual Bibliography

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Kathy Sahidle - Author Profile

Kathy Shaidle is an amazing author, writer, and blogger extraordinaire. She blogs current at Five Feet of Fury. She has been blogging for over a decade and prior to her current blog incarnation blogged at Relapsed Catholic. She has written for a number of religious newspapers and magazines, and also for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post,, the Dallas Morning News and more. She recently took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for the readers of Book Reviews and More. So without further ado here's Kathy!

1. Kathy if you had not become a professional writer what do you think you would be doing with your life?

I might have gone into library studies 25 years ago, but not today. Libraries are dying. I never planned to do anything when I grew up, because in my teens we were all assured that Ronald Reagan was going to blow up the world anyhow. I didn't start making long term plans (if you can call them that) until after the Berlin Wall fell.

2. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

If you want to see your name in print, open up the phonebook. There is nothing magical about it. Anyone can get something published. It won't change the world and 99% of the time, nobody cares except you. Learning from your mistakes is good. Learning from other people's mistakes is much better. I always knew this, but: there is no such thing as "inspiration." Just get your butt in the chair and write or you'll never write anything. Read everything, especially when you are young. I can still remember TIME magazine articles I read at age 12, but not what I read 24 hours ago. I could also read for hours at a time back then, and fall asleep after 10 minutes now. If you hate reading, you can't be a writer.

3. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

In Grade 13, a short story I wrote was a runner up in a national contest. It only occurred to me decades later that probably thousands of schoolkids had been declared runners up too. But it was the shove I needed to make a decision. Nobody in my family had finished high school, let alone college. Also see "nuclear war," above. So I flipped through a college courses catalogue and took Media Arts (Writing) at Sheridan College. Two years, only a few thousand dollars. Best decision I ever made. Unlike everyone I know who went to a real university, I have been writing professionally in one capacity or another ever since I graduated.

4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

The staff at Sheridan College were wonderful to me. After college, I took an evening poetry workshop with Christopher Dewdney, at George Brown. I brought in a poem I'd written in 30 minutes the day before, and he said it was amazing. That went to my head and never fell out. Other people who've encouraged me above and beyond: Don Coles, Lynn Crosbie, Mark Steyn, the late Libby (Liba) Scheier, June Callwood - very different people who would not get along well in the same room! I try very hard to encourage people (who deserve it) because other people encouraged me (because I deserved it.) I have known that I was a good writer from the time I started writing (which, compared to most writers, was very late in life - that is, Grade 13. I have no juvenilia.)

5. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

That's a tough one. I tend to write a lot of short form stuff and then just stick it together in a collection.

6. What was your favorite book to write and why?

The only book I think of as a real "book" is The Tyranny of Nice, co-authored with Pete Vere, about Canada's censorious human rights commissions. We wrote it in 6 weeks because our publisher wanted to beat Ezra Levant's book on the same topic to market! Pete and I repurposed a lot of our previous articles on the subject, through in new stuff and we were done. Painless and fruitful!
7. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?

None of my books were hard to write. Ghostwriting other people's books, on the other hand...

8. Have you ever considered writing fiction? If so is it a project we might see in the near future? Do you think we will ever see a novel from your pen?

I wrote a short story in high school, a few in college, and have been carrying around an idea for a short story for 25 years but only have the first paragraph and a very general outline. Fiction is a different language. At the Banff Writers Workshop (back when it was 6 weeks long) I accidentally walking into an informal meeting of the fiction writers. They were all speaking English, but I literally didn't understand what they were talking about. It scared the hell out of me.9. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I write all day long (for pay) and listen to U.S. talk radio and podcasts. Yes, I can get work done like that. The beat of real music is too distracting. Being old (47) I do tend to listen to the same 100 or so songs over and over, working or not. Anything put out between 1920 and 1990.

10. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I want to write a book called The Consolations of Ugliness, which would be a (cough!) meditation on the pros and cons of being a non-beautiful woman; the concept of the jolie laide; how ideals of female beauty have evolved. I'd also love to write a book about the "lady scientist" characters that began populated science fiction movies after World War 2. Not sure if there is really a book in that, per se. If someone gave me a big enough advance, I'd write a book about almost anything. As it is, I am so busying ghostwriting, copywriting and blogging that I don't have time to think about a big project like a book of my own. I will likely just put out another self-published book of my greatest blog posts, like I do every few years.

11. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

The Bible. Start with The Message Bible, written in the vernacular of today, then move up to the New King James. If you haven't read the Bible, you are illiterate. If you really can't cope, at least read the Four Gospels.

Solitude, by Anthony Storr Anything written by Theodore Dalrymple Anything written by Florence King The Road to Serfdom, by Hayek (There is a free version in cartoon form, online) Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson To learn what true style looks like, read anything by Mark Steyn. The Complete Stories, by Flannery O'Connor, plus her letters (The Habit of Being) and essays & speeches (Mystery and Manners). The best book I've read in years is In 50 Years, We'll All Be Chicks by Adam Carolla. No contest. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin (proves you can be artistically talented and successful AND responsible and disciplined. In fact, it helps. Great lessons in dealing with failure - and success.) Women writers should try to avoid reading too many biographies of women writers, as these women tend to commit suicide.

12. Are there plans to release your older books in eBook Format?

Not right away, but maybe at some point I will release God Rides A Yamaha in that format.

13. You spend so much time online, writing your own blog, as a writer for hire, tweeting and more. What does your typical day look like?

I get up around 6AM, make coffee and check email and my affiliate sales for the previous day (Amazon, etc.) I write some blog posts so my readers will have something to read before 9AM. Then I get on the treadmill around 8AM so I can be done before I start getting calls and emails from clients at 9AM. I read and blog throughout the day while doing client work, which is mostly ghostwriting/blogging/tweeting; consulting; copywriting. Since I write a weekly column about talk radio, I'm usually tuned in to one of the big U.S. conservative talkers at the same time. Our mail shows up really late, around 3PM. If I get a check, I go down the street and deposit it, then come home and take care of bills and accounting online. I stop for dinner around 6PM but commonly go back to work/blogging until around 8PM.

14. You are into cult and classic films. What would be your top ten recommendations for offbeat films for someone to watch?

My favorite movies aren't necessarily very good. I just have a lot of affection for them, and often this has a lot to do with the screenplay. Moonstruck is a good example. Psycho (1960) may be the perfect film. The original Universal Studios Frankenstein (1931) and the sequel Bride of Frankenstein. Gun Crazy (1950) Seconds (1966) Ace in the Hole (1951) Sweet Smell of Success (1957) The King of Comedy (1982) Rope (1948).15. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

One of the most important books I read was The Book of Lists. This novelty book was engagingly written, and actually gave me a fine basis of general knowledge that I fall back on almost daily. I read Woody Allen's collected essays obsessively, along with those of other humorists like James Thurber and even Lenny Bruce. I didn't understand all the jokes at the time, but years later, many of the jokes caught up with me. The Boy Looked at Johnny: The Obituary of Rock and Roll, by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons was a huge deal for me. It is one of the few books I keep on my desk at all times. It is falling apart. I also read a lot of books about the history of film, from the serious to the unserious (like The Golden Turkey Awards.) I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, which was probably a mistake from a mental health standpoint; however, the edition I found at the used bookstore had an introductory biographical essay about Plath that made me realize: a woman can be a writer; this is how one woman did it (just don't kill yourself.) My first article was published in Seventeen magazine when I was 20, which made me particularly proud because according to that essay, it took Plath 50 tries to break it. (Remember what I said about the importance of what you read when you are younger. I can still see paragraphs of this essay in my minds eye, laid out on the page.)

16. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I always read Ann Coulter's latest (in hardcover). I've mentioned Thomas Sowell, Dalrymple and Mark Steyn before. Other writers: David Horowitz, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson. P.J. O'Rourke in small doses. I re-read Donald Critchlow's Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade once a year. I am fascinated by the topic of fame and celebrity, and will read almost anything on that subject, most recently the many books documenting the development of tabloids, movie magazines and gossip "rags." The next book on my to-read list is I'm Dying Up Here, about the 1978 stand up comedians' strike at the Comedy Store.

17. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

I honestly don't read many religious authors any longer. I've recommended the letters of Flannery O'Connor and they offer a still relevant religious education of sorts.

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

College is a waste of time and money. Drop out. Whatever the goal "should" be, it no longer is. University is a groupthink factory. Take the money and start your own business. Follow as few laws, regulations and rules as you can safely get away with, and read books on your own time.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

A complete Shakespeare. A complete Dickens. Oxford collections of British, American and Canadian poetry. I'd love to have the complete boxed set of the BFI Film Classics.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

Write "artistically" first and "spiritually" last if at all. If your art is true, the spirituality will be too (maybe even in spite of yourself.) Don't be parochial. Avoid "Christian" publishing. The movie Knocked Up has probably prevented more abortions than all the stuck up, well intentioned, goody-goody, corny "pro-life" writing nobody actually reads. Read "The Closing of the Evangelical Mind" and don't be like the people he talks about, basically. And yes, read more Flannery O'Connor.

Thank you Kathy for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at Book Reviews And More.

Books by Kathy Shaidle:
gas station of the cross (1990)
Round Up The Usual Suspects: More poems about famous dead people (1992)
Lobotomy Magnificat (1997)
God Rides a Yamaha (1998)
A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps for Everyone Else (2004)
A Catholic Alphabet: The Faith from A to Z (2005)
Acoustic Ladyland: Kathy Shaidle Unplugged (2007)
The Tyranny of Nice (2009 with Pete Vere)

Confessions of A Failed Slut (2014)

Author Profile Kathy Shidle Interview (2011)
Author Profile (2006)

Other Posts and Links:

Kathy Shaidle's Blog
More Books That Will Change Your Life

Some Old Stuff Some New
Trends: Female Authors
Meme Booked by 3 - December
Meme - A fun Book Meme

Saturday 23 July 2011

Pearl Versus The World - Sally Murphy and Heather Potter

Pearl Versus The World
Sally Murphy (Author)

Heather Potter (Illustrator)


ISBN 9780763648213

The title of this book grabbed my attention immediately. I think all of us at times feel like we are living "versus the world". The book was a wonderful surprise. The story is wonderfully written and charmingly illustrated. This book would make a great text for a children's lit course at university, or to help prepare children for a loss or after a loss.

Pearl is part of a family of 3 - she, her mom and her grandmom. But her Grandma is forgetting who she is, and it is getting harder for her mom to look after her gram. At school Pearl feels like she is in a group of 1; she is not in the sporty boys' group, the ballet girls' group, the library kids' group, the bus kids' group or even the rough kids' group. But as the story progresses she realized things are not always as we perceive them. The story written and told from Pearl's perspective in a mix of rhyming and non-rhyming verse is very moving and touching. It is an amazing little book and I plan to recommend it often.

Books by Sally Murphy:
Verse Novels
Pearl Verses the World, illustrated by Heather Potter
Toppling, illustrated by Rhian Nest James

Picture Books
Snowy's Christmas, illustrated by David Murphy
Pemberthy Bear, illustrated by Jacqui Grantford
The Floatingest Frog, illustrated by Simon Bosch
Meet Mary MacKillop

Chapter Books
The Big Blowie, illustrated by Craig Longmuir
R is for Rolf, illustrated by Trevor Pye
Bugged, illustrated by Stephen Axelsen
Stuck, illustrated by Stephen Axelsen
Doggy Duo, illustrated by Teresa Culkin-Lawrence

Educational Titles
Two Tricky Tales
Marty's Birthday
Buzzy Fly
Be Careful
Remember Me
Over the Fence
Sonoran Desert Animals
The Extraordinary House
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Desert critters
Frogs: Awesome Amphibians
Aussie Authors
Aussie Authors 2
Writing the News
Speak Out
Speak Up
The Book Book
Assembly: Poems to perform

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Candlewick. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Thursday 21 July 2011

A Long Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan

A Long, Long Sleep
Anna Sheehan

Candlewick Press
ISBN 9780763652609

This debut novel by Anna Sheehan was an amazing read. It is a cross between Sleeping Beauty and a dystopian future. Set in a future after a second Dark Times, where more than a third of the world's population was eliminated, the story has a very unique feel. Earth and its colonies in space are now prospering again after the dark ages. And UniCorp is one of the largest and most powerful companies in the universe. Now Roselinda Fitzroy had been lost in a suspended sleep for over 60 year. Upon waking, it is revealed she is the heir to UniCorp and all of its subsidiaries. But Roselinda is just a 16 year old girl. Her life was different from most before her long sleep and now she is an outright freak, living in a world she could not have imagined and a world that has gone through a second dark age and recovered. But how old is she really and how many times has she had been put to sleep like this by her parents? Rose has wakened after a long, long sleep to a world she does not know or understand and as the days and weeks pass she seems to have more questions than answers.

This story is wonderfully written, with a unique mix of modern fairy tale, science fiction and dystopia all rolled up in one tight package. The characters are in this story are amazing, especially as we watch Rose evolve and grow as she must because this time she has been removed for sleep and going back is not really an option any longer. The author's description of how Rose works through her issues and problems, through her artwork, is inspiring and a little reminiscent of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Her mourning for what has been lost and her slow discovery of what really happened to her and why, is fascinating to watch as the ploy unveils. For a first novel I was blown away by the skill and talent shown by Sheehan and look forward to reading more books by her, and if we are really lucky maybe a continuation of Rose's story! This is one of the best books I have read in the last year.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Candlewick. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Books by Anna Sheehan:
A Long Long Sleep (2011)

Author Profile Interview with Anna Sheehan

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Cory Beatty - Publishing Profile

Cory Beatty is the Associate Marketing Director, Digital Strategy at Harper Collins Canada. He can be found online tweeting about life, books and publishing.

1. How did you go about pursuing a career in the publishing industry?

I just decided one day "What do you like? Answer: Books." I found a program at Ryerson which was close to where I was living and working and enrolled there.

2. What is your favorite part about working in publishing?

Besides getting free books? Probably working with the great people I do, people of similar tastes and ambitions: to bring great books to readers. A close second are meeting my literary heroes.

3. What is your least favorite part about working in publishing?

The negativity that the media seems bent on perpetrating, that books are dying and that no one wants to read anymore. Not true from what I see.
4. Back in 2009 you spearheaded a unique marketing camping called The Literates. It received great notice by booksellers and consumers. What unique projects do you have planned for the near future?

We're hoping to pull off something REALLY cool this Fall for one of my favourite YA authors. Top secret, but if we pull it off…you haven't seen anything like this yet!

5. What is your favorite marketing camping or tool that you have used or created and why?

Close to my heart is our HCC March Madness tournament. It's always a surprise which book wins the tournament but the best part is seeing so many tweets, comments and votes from so many passionate readers. It's pretty cool awarding one lucky voter all 64 books too.

6. You took a course in creative writing a few years back, before entering the publishing industry. Do you have any books in development that we might see published down the road?

Haha. No! Being on the "inside" now I've seen just how hard our writers to work to put out their books. Much more enjoyable to be the reader.

7. You now hold the title of Associate Marketing Director, Digital Strategy at HarperCollins. What does your average day look like in that role?

A pretty basic day goes: check stats, meeting, meeting, meeting, tweet, check stats again, meeting, tweet.

8. As with any digital media, movies, music, games … there is a market for illegal distribution, either through torrent sites, p2p networks and more. There are websites and blogs dedicated to how to strip DRM from eBooks of various formats. How do you actively work towards protecting your company's profits?

Luckily we're part of a very big corporation with an excellent technical and legal team that handles that.

9. I and others I know have been frustrated when books are available in the US but when we go to buy them are informed they are not available in Canada. Do you think the stricter eBook rights in Canada are affecting your profit margin significantly?

No. I honestly haven't heard of that happening much at all with us. If anything, we're leading the way in making as many of our backlist and frontlist titles available in all formats.

10. I know some Canadian authors who are frustrated that eBook rights are so different in Canada compared to the United States or the UK. How long do you think until eBooks become universally available?

That's really entirely up to the authors and agents. They control the rights. But I think we're getting pretty close to that now.

11. I have always had a lending library, some friends would come buy just to borrow books. But with the eBooks currently you can only lend books via Kindle and then only once, and only on certain books depending on the publisher. What changes to you envision for digital books and book lending?

Personally, I think the biggest drawback to ebooks now is recreating some of the best parts of the traditional book experience, ie: the ability to lend a beloved book to a friend, or to have your copy signed by a favourite author. They are challenges that have to be faced.

12. Do you read eBooks? If so do you use a specific reader? What percentage of books that you read are in electronic format?

I use my iPad and iPhone primarily to read manuscripts. I have bought ebooks but still prefer the feel of a book in my hand and seeing it on my shelf.

13. What were some of your favorite books and authors as a child?

As a child I loved Where the Wild Things Are, still do. As a middle grade reader I was obsessed with a book called My Brother Sam is Dead, though I have no idea who wrote it. (I should track a copy down).

14. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

By the time I got to my teens I was fully engrossed in comic books. Collecting, buying, devouring everything I could.

15. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

Lately I've been reading a lot of non-fiction, particularly business books, so it's hard to settle on a specific author. In fiction, I still get very excited (maybe too excited) when I see we have a new book coming by Conn Iggulden, Christopher Moore or Dennis Lehane.

16. If you were not working in publishing what do you think you would be doing?

In marketing somewhere else, or working in a bookstore.

17. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

I'm a big Mad Men fan. I'll watch pretty much any movie but I tend to gravitate toward Hollywood spectacle, the kind of movie that requires little to no thought.

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I KNEW you were going to ask this question!
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane Lamb by Christopher Moore David Copperfield by Charles Dickens The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon My Losing Season by Pat Conroy Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden The Show by Roland Lazenby Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb Survive! Ultimate Edition by Les Stroud

19. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in the publishing industry?

Read. Read a lot. And visit bookstores. Look at what people are buying, talk to booksellers and see what they like. Look at how things are merchandised and what type of books make bestseller lists and how they (may) differ from what makes a Staff Pick wall.

20. What life advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

"Life" advice? I don't think I'm qualified to tell anyone how to live their lives. If we're staying on topic I'd say: don't be afraid to put one book down to start another. Life is too short and there are too many great books out there.

Cory thank you again for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More, it is always interesting to get other peoples perspectives on books and publishing.

(The bottom picture is Cory with Christopher Moore, your can read his interview here.)

Sunday 17 July 2011

A Spark of Death - Bernadette Pajer

A Spark of Death
Bernadette Pajer
Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN 9781590589052

This debut novel by Bernadette Pajer, set in Seattle in 1901, was an amazing read. I kept finding myself not wanting to put it down. The cast of characters is as diverse and eclectic as you could want, from our main character Professor Bradshaw, his son Justin, his witty and wise house cleaner Mrs. Prouty to Mr. Henry Pratt, long-time
friend of the professors, and his orphaned niece Missouri Fremont. One of the main sets for the story is 1204 Gallagher in Seattle, the home of Professor Bradshaw, the center of his nice orderly universe, and also the core of what he might lose if he is found guilty of murder. So with no choice but to investigate and try to clear his name, the adventure begins.

The story centers around a murder that takes place at the University of Washington. Bradshaw finds himself the chief suspect. But he knows he is not the killer, and the killer is still at large. Soon more bodies appear and an attempt is even made on the professor's life. Seattle in 1901 was a unique city with an equal mix of cosmopolitan and frontier town. The city was bursting at the seams and development and growth evident aplenty.

The story was very well written, the characters strong and the flow of the plot well paced. I could not put the book down and eagerly await the next Bradshaw mystery.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Books by Bernadette Pajer:
Professor Bradshaw Mysteries:
A Spark of Death

Author Profile Interview with Bernadette Pajer

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Anna Sheehan - Author Profile

Anna Sheehan's debut novel A Long, Long Sleep, was absolutely amazing. It was a cross between a post dystopian future and classic soft science fiction. In many ways it reminded me of some of Frank Herbert's and Alfred Bester's novellas. I had to find out more about the author, and thanks to contacts at Candlewick Press I was able to arrange to have Anna partake in my 20 questions with an author, profile and interview series. So without further ado here's Anna.

Thanks for giving me an excuse to talk about myself - everyone's favorite topic.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I'm not sure. Crying into my pillow at night? No, I do have a technical degree in commercial goldsmithing, so I'd probably be making jewelry and selling it at Renn Faires and SCA events. But I'd still be writing, even if I couldn't make a living out of it. I'd go mad without it.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I always loved books, but I can't actually remember a time when I said to myself, "That's it. That's what I want to do." I remember that I wanted to be a writer from the age of at least sixteen, but I don't remember actually making that decision. I just started writing, sometime in sixth grade, and couldn't stop. Probably from the time I learned how to type, I was heading toward being a writer.

3. How many attempts did it take you until you got your first book picked up by Candlewick Press?

Let me check. What year is this? This is not my first book by any means - more like my twelfth. Lots of them weren't any good. I tried seriously for about five years to get an agent, which was a long and exhausting journey, but one I don't regret enduring. It's a hard road, but despite the costs and the tears I never once thought of taking another path.

4. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your success in getting your first book published?

My mother, who let me live in her garage has always been my unfailing supporter, both financially and emotionally. She always believed in this roulette which I assured her would be my career. My darling goodman Drew had great faith and enthusiasm, which helped a lot. And to this I have to add the good taxpayers of the United States and Oregon, which enabled me to have health care, so that I didn't up and die before this book was finished.

5. What were some of your favorite authors or books that helped shape your writing style?

My favorites did not necessarily shape my writing style. But the first answer to any question along these lines has to be my goddess, the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones, whose recent death has deprived the world of such greatness. Her books dragged me from the dark so many times. Other writers who have influenced at least my life if not my writing include Douglas Adams, and the great William Shakespeare.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I'm afraid that even after fifteen years of writing, I have yet to develop a pattern that always works for me. For some books, rough three page outlines have yielded bountiful fruit within a month or less. For others, long drawn out conceptual processes finally result in pitiful moth-eaten manuscripts which will probably never see the light of day. I think I'm still developing my writing process. In general, I have an idea which I ruminate on for several months. This idea can be a concept, a character or even a plotline. For A Long, Long Sleep the instigating thought was the idea that the interesting story of Sleeping Beauty wasn't how she was put to sleep, but what happened after she woke up. If, after some months the idea hasn't faded into obscurity, I sketch out an outline. Then I start writing. Strange things occur. Aliens pop up in lunchrooms for no adequately explained reason, until I get to the end of the book and realize, "Oh! That's why he was there." The process of landing an agent or an editor is sketched out much more efficiently in books on writing, so I'll skip that here. Eventually someone says, "Yes, I like this. I can't wait to sell it!" and then you let them sand out the edges until, between the two of you, you have something you can feel okay about inflicting upon the general public. Then you sit back in awe as arcane contracts arrive in the mail, and reviews with "stars" on them show up online and people you've never before heard of ask you to answer interview questions.

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? If so could you share some of the songs used when writing, A Long Long Sleep?

I can't easily write if the music I'm listening to has lyrics. I pay too much attention to the words. Most of what I listened to for A Long, Long Sleep were cello concertos from Yo Yo Ma or Ofra Harony. An indy band called The Changelings has a lot of sci-fi goodness to it that has been useful. The techno band Deep Forest and Phillip Boulding's harp I listen to a lot. But two songs stand out in my head as fitting: "Haunted" by Poe really captured Rose's state of mind. "Red Red Rose" by the Weepies somehow turned into Otto's theme song about six months ago.

8. One of the greatest strengths in your book is the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

Often an action or a statement is taken from someone I know, but the characters themselves are themselves. Rose surprised me by how nice she was - I think she is probably the nicest character I've ever written. It was a pleasure to spend time in her head. I ended up naming my milk cow after her, just because she was such a nice, sweet cow.

9. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

I remember when I got to a certain point in the novel and Xavier had to dispel some unpleasant illusions Rose had had about her life. That was hard to write, because Xavier didn't want to do it. I remember him asking me in my head if I couldn't just kill him, instead, because it would be easier on him. When I basically said no and set down to writing it, I developed an actual allergic reaction. My eyes started getting all puffy and painful and tearing up, and it gave me a headache, and I couldn't write at all until the next night. I always thought it was Xavier punishing me for putting him through so much hell. As for their whereabouts after a novel is finished, I can't say. I always know what they'd do in a specific situation. If I'm writing a sequel, they have to stay in my head longer, of course. I have vague ideas of what they've done after a book ends, but I don't feel like I "own" them. If I decided to go back and visit a character I left five years ago, for instance, I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover they'd done things I hadn't expected them to do when I'd left the book.

10. What current projects are you working on or are in the back burner in some stage of development?

Oh, I haven't finished revisiting Sleeping Beauty. As a faerie tale, that one is rife with inherent difficulties. After all, the world doesn't stop just because one person is asleep. I like exploring alternate histories, so I've experimented with some fantasy pirates. A lot of what gets published depends more on other people than one would think.

11. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?
12. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I'm going to combine these two questions, because I read "above my grade-level" as a child, and I still haven't grown up now. Diana Wynne Jones, of course - I'm particularly fond of Hexwood, Dogsbody and The Lives of Christopher Chant, but all of her books are inherently good. My favorite Shakespeare play is The Tempest, because you aren't sure exactly who the villain is. I grew up on Sherlock Holmes and C.S. Lewis. Oh, and anyone who hasn't read James Thurber's Thirteen Clocks is missing out, royally.

13. One of your books is available in electronic formats (Via NetGalley) but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

Oh, le sigh. Well, to start with, e-books aren't illegal distribution, and of course people can read the way they want to, though I personally hold deep affection for the actual bound and printed word. The discussion of author's royalties and the process of distribution when it comes to the electronic marketplace fortunately rests on wiser heads than my own. To turn to illegal copies. The ancient Irish king Dairmait ruled "to every cow her calf, to every book its copy." The story is that the Irish held copywrite so sacred they would even go to war over it. But piracy of intellectual property has been going on forever - hence the necessary ruling. The Pirates of Penzance was written because Gilbert and Sullivan's plays were being pirated so mercilessly in America they hadn't a prayer of stopping it without resorting to legal production trickery. The theft of intellectual property has been going on long before torrents and the internet, and will go on long after these technologies become passe. In the end, I'm not in control of it. I'm going to write my books, and hope people read them, and if they read them, that it makes some difference in their lives. If this results in me earning money, that means I can write more books. If someone wants me to write more, they should pay me for what I've already done so that I can afford to write more. That's all there is to it.

14. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you have do so are have someone do so for you?

I'd be more worried if I was going the independent route. I think Candlewick has teams in place for this.

15. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

This is not off topic. Story is story is story. The medium may be different, but I watch a lot of movies, even outside my chosen genres, simply because it is an easy way to absorb story, dialogue and scene structure. I'm an avid Doctor Who fan, have been since I was six years old. (No, I don't have a favorite Doctor. Name one, and I'll tell you what I like about that one.) I watch a lot of British television, actually. I love almost anything by Jim Henson, and most of George Lucas, particularly (for both of them) the movie Labyrinth. I have a model of the Enterprise on my wall. I have a great deal of respect for Tim Burton. I recently became quite addicted to the movie Megamind - probably because he was blue, like Otto, and a science geek with no social skills, keen fashion sense, and great taste in music. I like geeks.

16. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?

Oh, hang in there, it gets better! Honest! Just survive. Enjoy what you can, but mostly just make yourself get through, jump through all the hoops, until you're safe and secure and can be who you want to be. No one can stop you then. But this all comes out in my books, really.

17. Do you have plans to have a personal website, blog or twitter account by the time your book is published later this year?

I'm working on it. I address envelopes with a quill pen and I'm still writing on WordPerfect, so these things clearly go slow for me.

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

You know I never took any higher education, so I'm sure your university professor is right. How to think is a very worthy goal, and it is something most people in general don't choose to do. I rather regret not getting a degree, but I couldn't justify going into that much debt for a piece of paper that wasn't going to help me do what I wanted to do. A degree in writing doesn't mean I can write. Having written books people want to read mean I can write. I just kept writing books, and reading books on how to write books. Not everyone can do that on their own, and most people are more socially active, so I highly recommend college for those people.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Big ones. Is there a "Complete Collected Works of Charles Dickens"? I'll take that one, even if it was the size of an elephant. Same with Shakespeare and Jane Austin and Conan Doyle. Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series would hopefully fit only one book, so I could add the Dalemark Quartet, too. And could someone squeeze Ranma ½ into anthology form? Oscar Wilde? James Thurber? This leaves me only one left, huh? Douglas Adams' More Than Complete Hitchhikers Guide! And I'm still heartbroken over leaving my Poe and my Nix and my Yolen and the rest of my library. Stop torturing me like this!

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Give up. You aren't good enough, and there's far too much out there anyway, so you'd only be an drop in the ocean. I say this, because everyone will be saying this to you obliquely, and you'll be saying it to yourself. If you can't look me in the face and say, "Burn you! I'll never give up!" don't bother. For those who didn't burst into tears or stalk away, I'd follow up by saying, "Good for you! One story can change the world for one person. If you can change the world, help one person through a tough time, it doesn't matter how much hell you have to go through to do it. Do what you love. Don't let fear or discouragement even touch you."

Anna proclaims that in youth she swam in books, studies acting and Shakespeare. She won an award for her first novella at the age of 15 in high school. And from reading her first novel, it will not be long until she is winning awards again. So Thank you Anna for answering some questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More.

Books by Anna Sheehan:
A Long Long Sleep (2011)

Author Profile Interview with Anna Sheehan

Saturday 9 July 2011

Ghetto Cowboy - G. Neri and Jesse Joshua Watson

Ghetto Cowboy
G. Neri (Author)

Jesse Joshua Watson (Illustrator)

ISBN 9780763649227

This book was an excellent read. It is based on real black urban riders. It is the story of family, friends and values. In part it is about sticking up for what you believe in, and it is a coming of age story. Cole, our protagonist, is a troubled young man. His mother does not know how to handle or help him any more so she takes him to Philadelphia and drops him off with his father whom he has never met.

The story is extremely well written, with strong characters, and the plot has a great pace. The illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson are great; they give the book a feel; they help set you in the place of the story. Throughout the book is a mix of full page illustrations and partial page ones with text over the page. This book is well worth reading both for youth and with them. Both Neri and Watson have crafted a first-rate read.

(Note: I received an electronic galley of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Candlewick. The book was read on my Kobo eReader. As per my general disclaimer, free books have no impact on my review.)

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Nikole Kritikos - Publishing profile

Nikole Kritikos is a publicist with Scholastic Canada. With year of experience and always ready with a great recommendation.

1. You have an obvious love and passion for books, how was that fostered or nurtured when you were younger?

I have to thank the Toronto Public Library for that, specifically the Dawes Road Branch. I come from a large family, which meant my house was always loud and crowded, so spending hours at the library after school was heaven-I could just read and read without anyone telling me to get out of their room, or that they were "sitting there first"!

2. How did you go about pursuing a career in the publishing industry?

I dabbled in a few things which lead me here: completed some editing courses at Ryerson, landed an internship, supervised a not-for-profit children's literacy program, tried my hand at some playwriting, worked as a bookseller, and voilà-now I'm a children's book publicist.

3. What is your favorite part about working in publishing?

Well, first off, it's kind of a dream come true-get PAID to talk enthusiastically about books that I love? I was already doing that for years for free! So much wasted time… But on top of that I love working in an industry with an ever-changing product. It really can't get boring when there is always a whole new crop of titles to get excited about. I have such genuine respect and admiration for the authors and illustrators, and am in awe of their talent and creativity. I love the quirky personalities who are a part of this industry in all of its areas.

4. What is your least favorite part about working in publishing?

I think I get disheartened when I realize how much work goes into getting books into the right hands, only to step outside of this industry and realize how little time the average person is actually able to set aside to read.

5. What is the most obscure thing you have had to do while working in the publishing industry?

Hmm. I'm not totally sure about obscure, but I do remember when I was bookselling I had to work at an event put on in the author's home. She walked around the whole time with a water bottle in her hand, which I found out later was full of vodka. As I was setting up books and chatting with her guests, she brought me cleaning products and asked me to give the bathroom a "once-over". I was so embarrassed for her that I actually did. Don't ask me her name because I have completely repressed it. Although I have been plotting revenge for years now.

6. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
Great question!

A tie between: Where the Red Fern Grows/Bridge to Terabithia (to learn about love, friendship and loss) The Pigman by Paul Zindel (to learn about consequences to our actions and how NOT to treat the elderly) Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler (I actually think everything we need to learn about life is in this book) Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (to realize that no matter what you think you know about human behaviour and relationships, Alice Munro just knows more.) Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (don't do drugs) Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler (to laugh and laugh. And cry and cry.) War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges (amazing-a beautiful, philosophical deconstruction of the theatre of war, and what drives us as humans to keep at it.) Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen by Kate Taylor (just trust me-it's transformative) Endurance (about the Shackleton expedition-whenever I complain about a bad commute to work, I try to think of this book. In fact whenever I complain about anything, I try to think of this book.) In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (probably the most important book you can give a young adult)

7. What would you recommend as your top ten all time children's fiction recommendations?

Okay, I'll leave aside the very obvious: anything by Roald Dahl, Harry Potter series and anything by Judy Blume. Here are my less mainstream picks: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett I Want to Go Home by Gordon Korman Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Age 13 ¾) by Sue Townsend Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements About David by Susan Beth Pfeffer When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (I forget the author) Mom, the Wolfman and Me by Norma Klein Elijah of Buxton by Chris Paul Curtis

8. You now work in publicity and marketing at Scholastic Canada. What does your average day look like in that role?

Like anyone else in this industry, I am always thinking of about 3 seasons of books, and in general I'm trying to secure some media attention, and build more relationships with the wonderful book reviewers and parenting communities out there, along with the blessed, energetic bloggers that I work with. Along with a small but dynamic marketing team, I brainstorm new ideas for promotion-trying to tailor things to the themes of the books and the efforts of the authors, and things that suit the publications themselves.

I'm also involved in event planning-e.g. we are so excited to bring Maggie Stiefvater, who's a YA superstar, up to Ontario for some signings this summer, so I'm working on getting the word out to teens and her existing fans, to make sure they don't miss the opportunity. And on top of that I do quite a bit of writing: press releases, copy for our own catalogues, book descriptions, that sort of thing.

12. Do you read eBooks? If so do you use a specific reader? What percentage of books that you read are in electronic format?

This might sound terrible, but I haven't converted at all yet. I have used a Sony E-Reader to read manuscripts for work, but for pleasure I just have too many unread books at home to ignore. I'm sure that will change eventually, but so far, I'm still old school.

13. What were some of your favorite books and authors as a child?

Gordon Korman! And I'm not just saying that because I'm now part of his publicity team in Canada, I swear! His books were such a huge part of my childhood and I truly think his characters and brilliant sense of humour helped shape my own. I Want to Go Home is still one of the funniest books I've ever read. I loved it so much that I actually swiped it from the library (bad bad bad!). When I first met him a few years ago I got him to sign that tainted copy and he apologized for turning me into a petty thief as a child.

The second person I have to mention is Norma Klein, who wrote amazing books for adolescents in the '70s and '80s. Her characters were always these cerebral New York intellectuals, and she fearlessly touched on topics that are still taboo today in novels for young people. Basically everything your parents didn't want to talk to you about, she did. And I thank her for it. It's so sad to me that her books are mostly out of print now, because they were brilliant.

14. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
When I was a teen the YA genre didn't exist quite as robustly as it does today. But I did have 2 REALLY cool English teachers in high school who handed out lists of their top 50 favourite reads, so I had a lot of fun going through those. I got introduced to great books like: Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next by Ken Kesey, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Shoeless Joe by Kinsella. I also, of course, read a lot of Stephen King (who didn't appear on their lists).

15. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?

Kazuo Ishiguro moves me like no other writer. But I also love David Mitchell (although I haven't read his newest-bad form!). I'm SO excited for the new Jeffrey Eugenides in the fall, and I just picked up Gary Schteynhart's Super Sad True Love Story-I can't wait to get started on that!

16. If you were not working in publishing what do you think you would be doing?

Something that allows me to eat and talk about eating. Does that exist? Maybe I could co-host Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network. If that didn't work out, I think I'd try my hand at journalism.

17. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

TV: Top Chef Canada; How I Met Your Mother; and I kind of got hooked on Fringe this year. (Lame, I know.) Movies: I've been on movies from the '70s kick recently (All the President's Men, Five Easy Pieces, An Unmarried Woman, The Goodbye Girl) but I also just saw Bridesmaids and I almost swallowed my tongue from laughing. I'll find a redeeming quality in anything as long as there's snacks.

18. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

The Bible Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes A Collection of Neil Simon's Comedies The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (because you can bet I'd be playing every part on a desert island) The Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy A Dorothy Parker Reader The Insanity Defense by Woody Allen A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust (along with a French/English dictionary) The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing (not the chicklit novel-an actual GUIDE)

19. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in the publishing industry?

I firmly believe that a love of books and a desire to promote literacy will lead you somewhere, so keep your mind open. And even when you aren't working, lead by example-borrow books from the library, buy them when you can, load up your e-reader, read picture books to the kids in your life, attend literacy festivals and bring your friends, meet your local authors at events, get some cheap wine and host your own literary salon, join a book club, start a book club, do some volunteer reading at a senior's home, give books as gifts, subscribe to a magazine, take a writing class. These seem like small acts, but without them-there won't be an industry to work in.

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Be good at it-because, let's be honest, the competition is FIERCE.

Nikole: Thanks for taking part in my interview series, will have to check out some more of those suggested reads.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Her Evil Twin - Mimi McCoy

Her Evil Twin
Mimi McCoy

Poison Apple Book 6

An Imprint of

ISBN 9780545230933

This is the sixth installment in the new series, Poison Apple Books from Scholastic. This series keeps getting better and better with each book. And if it is anything little its little sister Candy Apple Books, we are in for many, many, more good reads. But back to the book at hand. Mimi McCoy who wrote the debut book in this series is back again and this time she has moved from a ghost story to a true haunting.

Anna has always wanted to be part of the 'in crowd' at school. She gets a note one day telling her to come to the old washroom after school, and that she has been chosen. So she does. To join the group she must go through an initiation, but when she does, something from her past seems to be unleashed. Soon she has a new best friend that she is spending all her time with. She drops her long-time best friend, and soon her life is spinning out of control. Can she figure out what is really going on? Can she get help, or will her life unravel completely?

This book is one of the best in the series - very compelling and an addictive read. I could not put it down and I read it in one sitting. Great book in a great series.

Poison Apple Books:
The Dead End - Mimi McCoy
This Totally Bites! - Ruth Ames
Miss Fortune - Brandi Dougherty
Now You See Me
- Jane B. Mason & Sarah Hines Stephens
Midnight Howl - Clare Hutton
Her Evil Twin - Mimi McCoy
Curiosity Killed the Cat - Sierra Harimann
At First Bite - Ruth Ames

Rotten Apple Books:
Mean Ghouls - Staci Deutsch
Zombie Dog - Clare Hutton

Sunday 3 July 2011

Win - First Day on Earth - Cecil Castellucci

Enter to win an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of:

First Day On Earth
Cecil Castellucci
ISBN 9780545060820
November 2011

This book due out in November is absolutely amazing. One of the best of the 75 I have read so far this year. And now you too can read it early. So enter to win this advanced copy from Scholastic Canada. The contest runs from now until August 1st 2011. You have one
month to enter, and still get the book 2 months before it hits stores. To enter, post a comment on this post, second ballad for following on me on twitter, third for retweeting the contest (one ballad for each day you retweet). Winner will be announced on August 1st, check back and email me your mailing address. Contest open to North America and UK. This much anticipated book by the awesome Cecil Castellucci can be yours. So enter to win and enter often.

Books by Cecil Castellucci:Boy Proof (2005)
The Queen of Cool (2006)

Beige (2007)
The P.L.A.I.N. Janes (2007)

Janes in Love (2008)
Geektastic (Editor & Contributor 2009)
Rose Sees Red (2010)
Grandma's Gloves (2010)

First Day On Earth (2011)

Odd Duck (2013)
Tin Star (2014)

Stone in the Sky (2015)
The Plain Janes 3 in 1 (2020)


Music By Cecil Castellucci
Twist Her - Nerdy Girl (1996)
Whoever - Cecil Seaskull (1998)

A Visual Bibliography for Cecil Castellucci
Author profile interview with Cecil Castellucci