Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 2009

The following reviews, interviews and features are running on for the month of December.

The titles below were discussed in the newsletter opener, which can be read here:

THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
TANGLED by Carolyn Mackler
ANOTHER FAUST by Daniel and Dina Nayeri
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg
HEARTLESS by Sara Shepard
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford

Reviews and Excerpts
RAVEN SUMMER by David Almond (Fiction)
David Almond has a reputation for crafting oddly beautiful, thought-provoking books that remain with readers long after the final pages have been turned. His newest work holds this same power. Full of images both alluring and deeply disturbing, RAVEN SUMMER is the kind of atmospheric novel that will haunt readers' thoughts. Reviewed by Norah Piehl and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from RAVEN SUMMER.

DEADLY LITTLE LIES: A Touch Novel, by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Paranormal Romance)
In DEADLY LITTLE SECRET, Camelia Hammond fought first for her sanity and then for her life as an obsessive stalker hunted her down and attacked. Now, in DEADLY LITTLE LIES, it’s starting all over again --- and just when her ex-boyfriend, Ben, returns to the scene. To make life even more confusing, Camelia seems to be developing a psychometric power of her own. But are her powers strong enough to warn her of the impending dangers in time? Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

SHADOWLAND: The Immortals, Book 3 by Alyson Noël (Paranormal Romance)
Sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom’s life has changed forever in ways she never could’ve imagined. Thanks to her century’s-old soul mate, Damen, Ever is now immortal. But even being immortal has a few challenges, like when the evil Roman tricks Ever into giving Damen a medicine that results in Ever’s DNA being toxic to Damen. How can two soul mates endure living forever when they are forbidden to touch? Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

LILY DALE: DISCOVERING by Wendy Corsi Staub (Paranormal Suspense)
After finally learning who was behind her mother’s death, Calla still doesn’t understand why it happened. Someone out there seems to share the powerful psychic abilities that allow Calla to see not only into the past, but to the Other Side. Will Calla’s journey lead to the closure she's been searching for, or will it force her to accept yet another loss and forever wonder what might have been? Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.
-Click here to read Wendy Corsi Staub's blog post, “Wendy Corsi Staub On Writing For Teens, Then and Now.”

MALICE written by Chris Wooding and illustrated by Dan Chernett (Thriller/Graphic Novel)
The comic book world of Malice is accompanied by a mysterious legend: gather the right things and say the right phrase, and Tall Jake will whisk you away into its deadly pages. Friends Seth and Kady had no idea this legend was real --- until they find themselves trapped inside! Reviewed by Benjamin Boche.

MILLION-DOLLAR THROW by Mike Lupica (Fiction)
Nate Brodie wins the chance to throw a pass through a target at a New England Patriots game for one million dollars. Nate, who’s the biggest Tom Brady fan, should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad is now unemployed and his family is losing their home. It’s no secret that the money would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure --- and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

HAZEL by Julie Hearn (Historical Fiction)
In 1913 London, 13-year-old Hazel's future is all mapped out for her --- until her life takes a sudden detour and she is banished to a Caribbean island with an unexpected companion. In her exotic new home, she uncovers family secrets and mysteries with the power to rock her world. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

THE DEMON KING: A Seven Realms Novel, by Cinda Williams Chima (Fantasy)
Crafted by the author of The Heir series, THE DEMON KING introduces the Seven Realms, a land scarred by untamed magic. In this first installment of an exciting new trilogy, the lives of an ex-streetlord and a princess-heir converge with a thrilling outcome and the promise of an epic conflict for the future of the series. Reviewed by Melanie Smith.

EXPOSURE by Mal Peet (Fiction)
In EXPOSURE, his third novel to feature sports journalist Paul Faustino, award-winning author Mal Peet injects a little Shakespearian tragedy into a soccer drama about loyalty, betrayal and the wide-reaching effects of celebrity culture. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

BAD APPLE by Laura Ruby (Fiction)
High school junior Tola Riley has green hair, a nose ring, an attitude problem, and a fondness for fairy tales, which are a great escape from real life. Everyone thinks she's crazy --- except Mr. Mymer, her art teacher. He gets her paintings and lets her hang out in the art room during lonely lunch periods. But then rumors start flying and Tola is suddenly the center of a scandal. Reviewed by Amy Alessio.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Fantasy)
This lively and impressive fantasy immerses readers in the historic southern town of Gatlin, where small minds rule and originality slowly suffocates. The arrival of gothic beauty Lena Duchannes piques the interest of Ethan Wate while simultaneously enraging the entire non-magical community. As Gatlin's belles and beaus prepare for their witch hunt, Ethan and Lena discover each other and learn some startling truths behind Lena's powers and her unique and disturbing family heritage. Reviewed by Melanie Smith.

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL by Michelle D. Kwasney (Fiction)
As the lives of three girls from three different decades converge, they discover that they are connected in ways they never could’ve imagined. Each of them finds strength that brings her closer to healing a painful past, and faith that there is a happier future. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

Graphic Novel Reviews
THE STORM IN THE BARN written and illustrated by Matt Phelan
Eleven-year-old Jack Clark’s life is as bleak as the dust fields that used to be his family's farm. But when a mysterious figure appears in an abandoned barn, Jack finds an adventure he may not be prepared for. Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith.

FINAL CRISIS: Legion of 3 Worlds, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by George Pérez and Scott Koblish
Superman, Superboy, Green Lantern, and the combined might of three Legions of Super-Heroes all combine to take on the Time Trapper and his minions in the Legion of Super-Villains. But it’s the fixing of two decades of continuity that this book really takes on. Reviewed by John Hogan.

WAR MACHINE: IRON HEART written by Greg Pak and illustrated by Leonardo Manco
What would happen if Iron Man had the moral compass of the Punisher? The result would be James Rhodes, a literal one-man army who believes that the best course of action is to take the fight to the enemy. In this tale, Rhodey, aka War Machine, has to do everything he can to set right what he sees as wrong. But as the fighting intensifies, he must ask himself how far he’s willing to go before completely losing himself. Reviewed by Stephen Giordano.

Manga Reviews
KYO KARA MAOH, Volumes 1-4 written by Tomo Takabayashi and illustrated by Temari Matsumoto
Yuri Shibuya can’t catch a break. Then one day he discovers he’s the king of demons! This average teenager turns out to be a monarch with supernatural powers. Reviewed by Danica Davidson.

GOGO MONSTER written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto
Yuki Tachibana is an outcast at Asahi Elementary School who only talks to the other children to warn them about the “others,” beings kept in check only by the power of Super Star, the boss of the other side. When Makoto, a new boy, befriends Yuki, he finds himself wondering how much of Yuki’s tales are true and if the “others” really exist. Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith.

Author Interviews
Natalie Standiford
In this interview with’s Terry Miller Shannon, Natalie Standiford --- author of The Dating Game series, as well as the newly released HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT --- explains what prompted her to write a story about the complicated friendship between two isolated teens and discusses how her own upbringing in Baltimore inspired its setting. She also describes her reaction to seeing a copy of the finished book for the first time, names a few of her writing influences --- which range from children's author Beverly Cleary to filmmaker Wes Anderson --- and shares details about her next book, CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS, due out next fall.

Reading Group Guides
The first two novels in the Hunger Games trilogy have been met with critical and commercial success, both charting at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list while also landing on annual "best of" lists. Now, for the first time, discussion guides are ready for these futuristic novels where gladiator-esque showdowns pit friends and rivals alike against one another.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
(Science Fiction/Fantasy)
In this gripping young adult novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present, the nation of Panem consists of a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying Districts, in the ruins of the area once known as North America. Sixteen-year-old Katniss and her friend Gale forage for food in the woods surrounding their impoverished District, in this stratified society where the Capital controls all resources. The main support for both their families, Katniss and Gale are apprehensive of the approaching annual Reaping, when two “tributes” between the ages of 12 and 18 will be chosen by lottery from each of the 12 districts to compete in The Hunger Games, a survival contest on live TV in which teenagers fight to the death and there can be only one victor.

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins (Science Fiction/Fantasy)
In the sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES, the President announces plans for the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary Games. Every 25 years the Capitol devises a new twist for the reaping, and this year they announce that the tributes will be chosen from among the victors of previous Games, ensuring friends and foes will once again face each other with grim consequences likely. All the while, a rebellion brews to end the tyranny.

Win an iPod Touch --- and Download the New CATHY’S BOOK iPhone and iPod Touch Application
To celebrate the release of the new CATHY'S BOOK iPhone and iPod Touch application, is giving readers the chance to win an iPod Touch. To enter, fill out this form by Wednesday, January 13th at 11:59PM EST.

If you already have an iPhone or iTouch, you must check out this application. For only $0.99, you get to experience CATHY'S BOOK in a totally new way. There are all sorts of interactive features, secret excerpts and other surprises. With this new app, is hooked on CATHY'S BOOK all over again!

CATHY'S BOOK: If Found Call (650) 266-8233, Part One
CATHY’S BOOK, the first interactive teen novel, is back and completely re-imagined for the iPhone and iPod Touch!

Things aren't so peachy in Cathy Vickers's life since she and her boyfriend Victor broke up. Her father dies unexpectedly, she's failing in school, and all this drama is pushing her best friend Emma to the limit. But when Cathy decides to investigate Victor's reasons for ending their relationship, things suddenly go from bad to very, very, bad as her findings produce more questions than answers. Is Victor really what he seems? Will Cathy's curiosity put everyone she knows in danger?

Through Cathy's unique and irresistible voice we enter a strange and fascinating world where things often aren't as they appear. Part romance, part thriller, part mystery, you'll experience the story by calling phone numbers, searching websites, examining evidence, discovering secrets, and exploring locations hidden in the pages of Cathy's private sketchbook.
- Click here to read all the contest details.
- Click here to learn more about the application.

Win a Copy of THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard
ROMEO AND JULIET meets THE OUTSIDERS in this story of a clandestine romance that turns tragic. Colt and Julia share a taboo love that is cut short, leaving one behind trying desperately to forget everything about this forbidden relationship. is giving away 15 copies of THE SECRET YEAR, Jennifer R. Hubbard’s debut novel. For your chance to be one of the lucky winners, fill out this form and answer the following question by Wednesday, February 10th at 11:59PM EST.

What is the name of Colt's first real girlfriend?

You can find the answer by reading the excerpt here.

THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard (Fiction)
Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one --- not even Julia’s boyfriend --- knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Series Books
The Cathy's Book Trilogy
The Cathy Vickers Trilogy is an interactive journey in which teens follow the adventures of Cathy, a young artist trying to find her way as deep-rooted secrets begin to unravel and her life grows increasingly complicated. Through it all, Cathy’s unique and irresistible voice --- and lots of proof in the form of letters, photographs, datebook entries, phone numbers and websites --- leads readers into a strange and fascinating world where things often aren’t how they appear. Discover why teens all over the globe love Cathy and her friends, and help them figure out how and why their lives are connected. Call Cathy at (650) 266-8233 now and get started.

Feature and Contest
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS #7: HEARTLESS by Sara Shepard (Fiction)
In picturesque Rosewood, Pennsylvania, neighbors gossip over picket fences, and gleaming SUVs sit in every crushed-granite driveway. But recently, friendly smiles have been replaced with suspicious glares and accusatory whispers. Hanna, Aria, Spencer and Emily insist they’re telling the truth, but all of Rosewood thinks they’re simply out for attention --- and nobody likes a girl who cries wolf. So when the big bad killer comes after the girls, will anyone believe them…or will they be the next to disappear?

To celebrate the release of HEARTLESS, the newest addition to Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series, is giving away 10 copies of the book. For your chance to be one of the lucky winners, fill out this form and answer the following question by Wednesday, February 10th at 11:59PM EST.

Who was the "original A"?

You can find the answer by reading the excerpt here.

- Click here to read all the contest details.
- Click here to read Sara Shepard’s bio.

THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg (Fiction)
Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating, so she vows: No more. She’s had one too many bad dates, and has been hurt by one too many bad boys. Penny thinks she might be crazy for swearing off boys --- but soon a few other girls are inspired, and a movement is born. Girls are soon thronging to The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the Sgt. Pepper’s band) and Penny finds herself near legendary for her non-dating ways --- which is too bad, since the leader of The Lonely Hearts Club has found a certain boy she can’t help but like…

To celebrate Penny's Lonely Hearts Club movement, is giving away 15 copies of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, Elizabeth Eulberg’s debut novel. For your chance to be one of the lucky winners, fill out this form and answer the following question by Wednesday, February 10th at 11:59PM.

Who is always at the top of Tracy's date list?

You can find the answer by reading the excerpt here.

- Click here to read all the contest details.
- Click here to read Elizabeth Eulberg’s bio.

Special Features
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford (Fiction)
Icelandic hairdressers are the happiest people in the world. Bea is not an Icelandic hairdresser. Neither is Jonah. But together, they might find something approaching happiness.

New to town, Bea is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. You know the type: very cheery, very friendly, very average. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost boy, a quiet observer who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. He’s not a big fan of people in general…but he’s willing to make an exception for her. Maybe.

Bea and Jonah are not going to have a friendship like other people have a friendship, where it’s all based on gossip and parties and what everybody else thinks. Instead, their friendship comes from truth-bound conversations, shared secrets, daring stunts, and late-night calls to the same old-timer radio show. They help each other and hurt each other, push away and hold close. It’s not romance, exactly --- but it’s definitely love. And it means more to them than either one can ever really know…

For anyone who’s ever entered the wonderful, treacherous, consuming, meaningful world of a true friendship, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT will strike a deep and lasting chord.
- Click here to read an excerpt from HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT.
- Click here to read Natalie Standiford’s bio. Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of the Year
Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2009. Though it was difficult to narrow down, each reviewer chose up to 10 books that he or she enjoyed the most this year. Take a look and see if any of their selections match yours --- and which titles you may want to consider reading in the future. Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.

Author Interviews of 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, we invite you to take a look at the author interviews that were featured throughout the year on This is a great way to catch up on the discussions you may have missed --- and to re-read what some of your favorite authors had to say about their books.

Books into Movies
We don’t have any big blockbusters or warm and fuzzy holiday films to share with you this month, but December’s Books into Movies feature is still ending 2009 with a bang, as we spotlight a highly anticipated and star-studded adaptation of one of our favorite crossovers. The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson (who brought us The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), tells the heartbreaking story of a young girl who can’t seem to find peace in the afterlife until she --- as well as her family and friends --- can come to terms with her tragic death.

Sometimes deciding what to get is as hard as deciding what to give. So we've created a special What to Give, What to Get Guide --- a list of books just for teens that will give you tons of gift-giving ideas (and maybe a few to put on YOUR list). Happy Holidays!

Grab Bag of Books Giveaway
Every month in our Grab Bag of Books contest, five readers are awarded a signature tote bag filled with some of the hottest books --- and may even include a sneak peek at titles that haven’t been released yet!

This contest period’s winners will each receive a copy of ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen, ANOTHER FAUST by Daniel and Dina Nayeri, FIRE by Kristin Cashore and IMPOSSIBLE by Nancy Werlin. All you have to do to enter is fill out the this form by Tuesday, January 19th.

Cool New Books
November and December’s roundup of Cool New Books includes RAVEN SUMMER, a captivating novel from Printz Award winner David Almond, in which the discovery of an abandoned baby ultimately leads to a boy’s fateful encounter with two foster care children; DEADLY LITTLE LIES, the second installment in Laurie Faria Stolarz’s thrilling and chilling paranormal Touch series; DAWN, Kevin Brooks’s provocative dissection of family, friendship and faith; CLAIM TO FAME, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s novel about a young TV star with a strange power whose kidnapping forces her to confront everything she’s hiding from; and TANGLED by Carolyn Mackler, a story of the secrets we keep, the risks we take, and the things we do for love.

New In Paperback
November and December’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes FOREVER PRINCESS, the 10th and final installment in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series, which finds Mia in her last year of high school and with plenty of nerve-racking decisions still to make; HOW THEY MET, AND OTHER STORIES, David Levithan’s collection of stories about love that crosses the borders and boundaries of the human heart; DEADLY LITTLE SECRET, a story of paranormal romance from Laurie Faria Stolarz that revolves around a fairly ordinary 16-year-old protagonist whose life is turned upside down when a mysterious new guy starts junior year at her high school; and DREAM GIRL, Lauren Mechling’s novel about a girl whose world becomes a whole lot clearer --- and dangerous --- after receiving a strange black-and-white onyx cameo on a gold chain from her grandmother.

Click here to read the full newsletter.