Friday, February 27, 2009

February 2009

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

Reviews and Excerpts
SKELETON CREEK by Patrick Carman (Mystery/Suspense)
Strange things are happening in Skeleton Creek --- and Ryan and Sarah are trying to get to the heart of it. But after an eerie accident leaves Ryan housebound and forbidden to see Sarah, their investigation takes two tracks: Ryan records everything in his journal, while Sarah uses her videocam to search things out…and then email the clips for Ryan to see. In a new, groundbreaking format, Patrick Carman’s story is broken into two parts --- Ryan's text in the book, and Sarah's videos on a special website (, with links and passwords given throughout the book. Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from SKELETON CREEK.

ENVY: A Luxe Novel, by Anna Godbersen (Historical Romance)
ENVY is the third installment in Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series set in Gilded Age New York. Once the envy of society, her characters are now harboring secret disappointments. Hope for love and personal happiness is swiftly vanishing, along with the cash they all require to continue living their lavish lives. Featuring new romance and intrigue, along with a trip to an opulent Palm Beach resort, ENVY will leave readers hungry for more of this sumptuous series. Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt of ENVY.

PROJECT SWEET LIFE by Brent Hartinger (Fiction)
A 15-year-old and his two friends explore a multitude of ways not to have to take summer jobs during their “last summer of freedom.” Throughout their search, they encounter many adventures and develop their friendship. PROJECT SWEET LIFE also touches on the treatment of the Chinese community in Tacoma, Washington, during the 1800s. Reviewed by Dan Waxman and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt of PROJECT SWEET LIFE.

SCAT by Carl Hiaasen (Mystery)
Mrs. Bunny Starch, the most feared biology teacher ever, was last seen during a field trip to Black Vine Swamp. The school’s headmaster and the police seem to have accepted the sketchy, unsigned note explaining that her absence is due to a “family emergency.” There’s no real evidence of foul play. But still, Nick and Marta don’t buy it. Something weird is definitely going on. Reviewed by Norah Piehl and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt of SCAT.

HEROES OF THE VALLEY by Jonathan Stroud (Fantasy/Action & Adventure)
Fourteen-year-old Halli Sveinsson longs for adventure. However, thanks to his ancestors, the Valley lands are now peaceful and safe, and the horrid monsters called Trows are forbidden to enter. But when Halli pulls a prank that leads to the digging up of old grudges, war returns to the Valley. Does Halli have it in him to be a hero, like the ancestor he so admires? Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

AMIRI & ODETTE: A Love Story, written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Fiction)
Walter Dean Myers, the author of more than 80 acclaimed books for young people, offers his unique take on Swan Lake in AMIRI & ODETTE, bringing Tchaikovsky's famous ballet to a gritty urban environment, with a love story every bit as powerful as the original. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE FETCH by Laura Whitcomb (Supernatural Romance)
For more than 300 years, Calder has been a Fetch --- an escort for the dead. As a Fetch, Calder is entrusted with a key to escort souls through Death’s Door. But during one earthly trip, he falls in love with a beautiful woman and changes the course of history. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

WARRIOR PRINCESS by Frewin Jones (Historical Fantasy)
Fifteen-year-old Branwen is the princess of a once peaceful village, now being attacked by the Saxon enemy. To keep her safe, Branwen’s parents decide to ship her off to another village for an arranged marriage. However, on her journey, Branwen encounters one of the Shinning Ones. From the Shinning One, Branwen learns that she must decide whether or not to follow her destiny and become a warrior. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT ME by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Fiction)
Jamie doesn't want to be seen as a stereotypical Muslim girl, so she does everything possible to hide that part of herself. But when the cutest boy in school asks her out and her friends start to wonder about Jamie's life outside the classroom, her secrets threaten to explode. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE ANATOMY OF WINGS by Karen Foxlee (Fiction)
Ten-year-old Jennifer Day lives in a small mining town full of secrets. Trying to make sense of the sudden death of her teenage sister, Beth, she looks to the adult world around her for answers. As she recounts the final months of Beth’s life, Jennifer sifts through the lies and the truth, but what she finds are mysteries, miracles and more questions. Reviewed by Alexis Burling.

BONES OF FAERIE by Janni Lee Simner (Fantasy)
The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see --- into the past, into the future --- and she has no choice but to flee her town. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

THE DEVIL'S PAINTBOX by Victoria McKernan (Historical Fiction)
It's 1865. When Jefferson J. Jackson offers to let orphans Aiden and Maddy Lynch join his wagon train, which is heading over the rugged Oregon Trail, they have no other option. They are literally starving to death on their family's barren Kansas farm. Their journey, filled with joys and sorrows, mirrors Aiden's own journey into adulthood. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS by Lucy Silag (Fiction)
What better place to live out all your fantasies of adventure, romance and more foreign fun than in the City of Love? Lucy Silag's debut novel brings a group of high schoolers to Paris for a prestigious study abroad program. But these students do far more than just practice their French. Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez.

SECRET KEEPER by Mitali Perkins (Fiction)
In 1974, 16-year-old Asha has to move in with her relatives in Calcutta, India, while her father goes to America to look for a job. Asha not only misses him dreadfully, but she must also endure strict cultural rules, disapproving relatives, dying dreams and loneliness. Her only sources of light are her sister, her journal and the guy next door who chats with her across the rooftop. But when the situation becomes even more desperate, Asha makes some decisions that will forever change all of their lives. Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman.

CYBELE’S SECRET by Juliet Marillier (Historical Fantasy)
For Paula, accompanying her merchant father on a trading voyage to Istanbul is a dream come true. They have come to this city of trade on a special mission to purchase a most rare artifact --- a gift from the ancient goddess, Cybele, to her followers. It’s the only remnant of a lost, pagan cult. But no sooner have they arrived when it becomes clear they may be playing at a dangerous game. Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle.

Author Interviews
Lisa Yee
In this interview with's Kristi Olson, Lisa Yee --- author of several middle-grade novels, including MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS, STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME and SO TOTALLY EMILY EBERS --- discusses her first book for young adults, ABSOLUTELY MAYBE, and explains why she chose to aim this latest work toward a slightly older audience. She also imagines a conversation between two of her protagonists, recalls her own attempts at teen rebellion and shares details about a few projects she's currently working on.

Sara Shepard
Sara Shepard's latest book, WICKED, is the fifth installment in the popular teen series Pretty Little Liars, which follows four best friends who each have their fair share of skeletons in the closet. In this interview with's Donna Volkennant, Shepard explains how her childhood experiences in suburban Pennsylvania inspired her to write these novels and describes the traits she has in common with each of her main characters. She also shares some of her readers' responses to the timely and somewhat controversial subjects addressed in the books, discusses the possibility of a Pretty Little Liars television show, and reveals what's in store for the four PLLs in upcoming installments of the series.

Author Talks
Patrick Carman
Children’s author Patrick Carman’s latest work, SKELETON CREEK, is the first installment of an innovative new series that tells its tale in two parts: Ryan, one of the main characters, shares his journals within the text of the book, while his friend Sarah --- an amateur filmmaker --- tells her side of the story through videos that readers can watch by visiting her website. In this interview, Carman and his editor, David Levithan, discuss what inspired this multimedia project and reveal the initial insecurities about taking on this new method of storytelling. Carman also shares some behind-the-scenes information about shooting the videos, explains why it’s so important to think outside the box as a way to encourage young readers, and talks about why he chose to end the book with a cliffhanger.

Special Features
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork (Fiction)
Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear --- part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer…to join the “real world.”

There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising co-worker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file --- a picture of a girl with half a face --- that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary novel is a love story, legal drama and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.
- Click here to read an excerpt from MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.
- Click here to read Francisco X. Stork’s bio.

SAME DIFFERENCE by Siobhan Vivian (Fiction)
Sometimes, a girl just needs a change…

The last thing 16-year-old Emily wants is to pool hop and tan her way through another summer in Cherry Grove. Now that her best friend has a boyfriend, everything feels…different in a way Emily doesn’t quite understand. So when offered a spot at a prestigious art program in Philadelphia, Emily jumps at the chance to leave her hometown for a few hours a day.

But it takes more than a change of scenery and a new group of friends to discover yourself. As Emily bounces between a suburb where everyone tries to fit in and a city where everyone wants to be unique, she struggles to find her own identity. And while the rules may change, pressures remain the same. Friendships can be hard to navigate. Boys are both deeply mysterious and utterly predictable. And the line between right and wrong is always a little blurry.

In SAME DIFFERENCE, acclaimed author Siobhan Vivian paints a realistic and detailed picture of what it’s like to be a teenager --- including the joy, thrill and heartache we all experience when we’re figuring out who we really are.
- Click here to read an excerpt from SAME DIFFERENCE.
- Click here to read Siobhan Vivian’s bio.

TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA by Shaun Tan (Fiction/Illustrated Short Stories)
An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says... These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations by Shaun Tan, author and illustrator of the New York Times bestseller THE ARRIVAL.
- Click here to read an excerpt from TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA.
- Click here to read Shaun Tan’s bio.

CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER by James Swanson (History)
“This story is true. All the characters are real and were alive during the great manhunt of April 1865. Their words are authentic and come from original sources: letters, manuscripts, trial transcripts, newspapers, government reports, pamphlets, books, and other documents. What happened in Washington, D.C., that spring, and in the swamps and rivers, forests and fields of Maryland and Virginia during the next twelve days, is far too incredible to have been made up.”

CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia.
- Click here to read an excerpt from CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER.
- Click here to watch James Swanson talk about CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER.
- Click here to read James Swanson's bio.

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS #5: WICKED by Sara Shepard (Fiction)
Hanna, Spencer, Emily and Aria have paid dearly for their sins. A stalker named "A" terrorized them for months and revealed their darkest secrets. But now that A's true identity has been revealed, the girls can finally go back to their pretty little lives. Only, once a pretty little liar, always a pretty little liar --- and these girls just can't help but be bad. After all, girls who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. And in Rosewood, someone is always watching…
- Click here to browse inside PRETTY LITTLE LIARS #5: WICKED
- Click here to read Sara Shepard’s bio.
- Click here to read an interview with Sara Shepard.

ABSOLUTELY MAYBE by Lisa Yee (Fiction)
Meet Maybelline “Maybe” Chestnut. She may be named for her mother’s favorite brand of mascara, but she has a mind --- and a hair color --- all her own.

Meet her mother, Chessy --- that is, Chessamay Chestnut Abajian Wing Marshall Wing Sinclair Alvarez and soon-to-be Himmler. The one man she didn’t marry? Maybe’s father.

Meet Ted and Hollywood, aka Maybe’s best friends. When Chessy chooses her latest scuzzball fiancé over her daughter, the trio sets out to find Maybe’s dad in California.

Where they meet Los Angeles: city of swimming pools, movie stars, and a whole lot of surprises, including an aging screen goddess, a famous photographer, three makeovers, a Rolls-Royce, and a taco truck.

Hollywood makes a film; Ted makes his fortune. But the biggest surprise may be Maybe herself, as a charm-school dropout becomes a drop-dead charmer in Lisa Yee’s terrific new novel. is offering 10 readers the chance to win a copy of ABSOLUTELY MAYBE. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, March 26th.
- Click here for all the contest details.
- Click here to read an excerpt from ABSOLUTELY MAYBE
- Click here to read Lisa Yee’s bio.
- Click here to read an interview with Lisa Yee.

Cool New Books
February’s roundup of Cool New Books includes SKELETON CREEK, a groundbreaking interactive ghost story courtesy of bestselling author Patrick Carman that plays out on both the written page and in special videos that can be viewed online at; P.S. I LOATHE YOU, the 10th installment in Lisi Harrison’s bestselling Clique series that deals with the fallout from the events that unfolded in the Clique Summer Collection; THE FETCH, a supernatural love story set in imperial Russia from A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT author Laura Whitcomb; PROJECT SWEET LIFE, Brent Hartinger’s novel about three teens who are determined to trick everyone into believing they really do have summer jobs; and DOPE SICK by Walter Dean Myers, the compelling story of a young man who would do anything to change the last 24 hours after being pursued by cops and getting dope sick from his latest high.

New in Paperback
February’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME by Rachel Cohn, a painfully realistic exploration of teen suicide and drug abuse; WHAT THEY FOUND, a return to the world of 145th Street, in which Walter Dean Myers shows how love can be found, and thrive, in the most unlikely places; A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE, Siobhan Vivian’s debut novel about a 16-year-old girl who must deal with a number of friendship issues; and THIS IS WHAT I DID: by Ann Dee Ellis, a story that allows readers to piece together the sequence of events that has changed the life of an eighth grader and changed his perspective on what it means to be a good friend and what it means to be a good person. » Click here

Click here to read the full newsletter.