Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And Another Awesome Author Visit: Jeanne DuPrau

Yes, author visits have been a little lacking, as school has majorly interuppted by blogging/reviewing/*gasp* reading life, but fear not as I have a great author visiting us today!

Jeanne DuPrau is the amazing creator City of Ember series. Not only are the books bestsellers, but City of Ember has been made into a movie which is set to come out on October 10th. So read on for a fun filled interview. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

  1. What sparked the idea for The City of Ember ?

    I grew up in the 1950s, when many people were worried that there might be a nuclear war. Some of them were building bomb shelters in their back yards. I think this influenced my idea for Ember—a city built to protect the human race from a terrible threat. But I was also just interested in the idea of a city that had no light other than electricity. What would it be like to live in such darkness, and to know that light and food and supplies were all running out? And not to know about weather or trees or animals (except for a few rats and insects) or any other places? All this grabbed my imagination. And once I'd written The City of Ember, I hoped it would make people think about our world—about the sun and the moon, the forests and the ocean, the wind and the rain—and how precious it all is.

  1. Do you see a lot of yourself in the characters you created?

    Yes, both Doon and Lina are like me in some ways. Lina likes to draw and to use her imagination and to go fast, Doon likes to solve puzzles and he’s interested in bugs and in nature in general. All those things are true of me. Doon and Lina are much braver than I am, though.

  1. Are you beyond excited that your book is being made into a movie?

    Of course! It’s absolutely amazing. It does mean that I have to have the same conversation over and over: Person: “Your book is being made into a movie? Wow, that must be exciting!” Me: “Yes, it’s really exciting!” But I’m not complaining.

  1. Did you have any say in the casting or storyline of the movie?

    No, none at all. But I’m really glad Bill Murray is playing the mayor, and Saoirse Ronan I think will be perfect as Lina.

  1. Did you originally intend for The City of Ember to turn into a four book series?

    No, I had no plans for anything beyond the first book. When The City of Ember was a success, my editor suggested a sequel might be a good idea. I had to admit I was a bit curious about what would happen to Lina and Doon, so I wrote The People of Sparks. Then a very different idea occurred to me—at first I thought it wasn’t connected to the Ember books, but soon I realized it was. That was The Prophet of Yonwood. And finally, I wanted to bring the story back around to its beginning and tell how the threads of all the books came together. That’s what I’ve done in The Diamond of Darkhold.

  1. When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

    Far back in the mists of time. Actually I don’t think there was ever a moment when I thought, “I want to be a writer.” Writing was what I was best at. I worked hard at it, I wrote many different things, I sent them out, they got published—and voila! I was a writer.

  1. Do you have any other books in the works?

    I’ve been taking a break since The Diamond of Darkhold, but a few ideas are beginning to swirl slowly around in my mind.

  1. Are you going to continue the series?

    No, the Ember series has come to an end, although there might—just possibly—be another Ember-related item to come. It’s too early to speak about that one, though.

  1. What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

    Read a lot. Write a lot. Write all kinds of different things. Be interested in people and in the world around you. Learn the essentials of writing—grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, how to organize thoughts. Write because you have a terrific story to tell, or a vital idea to explain, or fascinating information to put forth.

  1. Do you have any other questions that you wish I had asked?
How could you not ask about my dog?! He’s a Cairn terrier, and his name is Ethan. He helps with my writing by sleeping peacefully most of the day.


Still haven't had enough of the fabulous Jeanne DuPrau? Well here are a bunch of links with information about her and her books. Also there are links to the fellow bloggers who are also participating in her tour.

Diamond of Darkhold:


The City of Ember:

The People of Sparks:

The Prophet of Yonwood:

Jeanne's Bio: http://www.jeanneduprau.com/about.shtml

01 Charger, the 160acrewoods, A Childhood of Dreams, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, And Another Book Read, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Review Maniac, Cafe of Dreams, Comox Valley Kids, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Buzz, Hyperbole, Looking Glass Reviews, Never Jam Today

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

When all of the characters at Disney World go on strike teenagers are called in as backup. When Ella hears the ad on the radio advertising the openings she jumps at the chance to get away from living with her aunt and crazy cousins. Not only is it an escape from her aunt, but hopefully this stint at Disney will distract Ella from her thoughts about her dead brother and parents who dumped her so that they could go on a mission in Africa. When Ella arrives at Disney she gets cast as none other than Cinderella, all because the shoe fit. Now she goes around getting married everyday at 3:00 to a prince charming who fits into the Disney world a little too well. While she has her prince charming she can't get over Luke.

Luke plays Dale, as in the annoying Chip and Dale chipmunks. Chip is played by none other than Luke's girlfriend Cassie. While they have a connection and Luke thinks Cassie's hot stuff, he just doesn't seem to have the same connection with her as he has with Ella. When Luke and Ella pair up for a team bonding scavenger hunt they learn more about each other and find out just how compatible they are together. While they don't exactley complete the list of scavenger hunt items, Ella and Luke manage to find more than they could ever have imagined.

I was so excited to pick this book up. I love books that have to do with Disney world, especially The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson which was great. So I was basically expecting a more romantic version of The Kingdom Keepers. For me it felt more like a classic chick lit novel. I was disappointed that I couldn't distinguish the characters from each other. Even though the book was told through alternating perspectives and that each author took charge of one of the characters I felt like Ella and Luke were the same person. I also thought that the writing was very choppy. The sentences didn't flow together and the scenes didn't seem to follow in a logical pattern. Looking past all of that though, I did enjoy the fluffiness of the story and it is definitely a light summer read.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Geek Abroad by Piper Banks

The Snowflake Gala is done and out of the way and Miranda Bloom, math genius, is headed off to England for Christmas break to visit her mother. When she arrives, she expects to spend her time sightseeing with her mother and catching up. What she doesn’t expect is that Henry, the son of her mother’s publicist, will be showing her around London as her mom still has lots of work to do. Miranda doesn’t mind too much, especially since Henry’s so adorable, but right now she’s not sure what’s going on with her and Dex and doesn’t want to risk messing that up.

When Miranda returns home she is greeted by confusion. She still doesn’t know where her and Dex stand, Hannah (her stepsister) is still being really nice to her, her best friend, Charlie, is hopelessly lovestruck, and the dreaded MATh team competitions are quickly approaching. On top of all of that, Miranda’s evil stepmother has become even more unbearable, making her life nothing short of crazy.

Will Miranda’s semester pan out the way she wants, or will all her confusion lead to a tangled up mess?

It’s rare that you find a sequel better than the first book, but I think in this case GEEK ABROAD definitely outdid its predecessor, GEEK HIGH. The characters were more developed, it felt like there was more going on in the story, and overall I thought it was a better book.

First of all, I felt I really got to know Miranda in this book. As the book progressed, she became a more secure individual and she took on a leadership role with her MATh team. I really enjoyed seeing her develop into a stronger individual and really stand up for what she believed in. I could see a lot of myself in her and felt a real bond with her. I also could not stand Peyton, Miranda’s evil stepmother. What’s funny is this is not a bad thing at all. I loved how the author created such an unlikeable character. It was infuriating to see the way that Peyton treated Miranda and I am eternally grateful that my mom treats me so well! It was also nice to see Miranda’s dad stand up for her in this book. He didn’t take any flak from Peyton and his bond with Miranda (and the reader) really developed in this book.

I also really liked how much emotion the author was able to provoke in me. When Miranda was mad, I was mad right there with her. When she got irritated with Charlie I could feel myself getting agitated, as well. I was really impressed with this because not many books get me as involved with the characters as this one did.

This book could also make a great stand-alone book. While it is a sequel, it filled in all the necessary gaps where needed. Even if you haven’t read the first book, GEEK HIGH (which you really should), you wouldn’t be left confused.

And finally the romance in the book was too cute. There were some classic elements to it, but then there were a few times when I thought something would happen and then the author threw us a curveball. Overall, this was the perfect light read, perfect for any time of year. I really hope that the author will create more Miranda-filled adventures that we can all embark on!

Friday, September 5, 2008

And Another Awesome Author Visit: Caroline Hickey

This weeks fabulous author is Caroline Hickey. Caroline is the author of CASSIE WAS HERE (MG) and ISABELLE'S BOYFRIEND (YA), which was just released. While I haven't had the pleasure of reading either of them, I really hope to in the near future.Especially ISABELLE'S BOYFRIEND which has to do with a situation I'm sure we are all to familiar with...liking a guy that's already taken!!

I also want to give a big thank you to Caroline for doing an interview with me, as I know her free time is limited with a newborn in the house!!
To learn more about Caroline you can visit her at her website or the blog her writing group, The Longstockings, run.

1. What made you go YA, instead of sticking with Middle Grade books?
It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened to be that the next big idea I had after Cassie Was Here was more appropriate for YA. I love middle grade and YA equally, and I plan to continue writing for both age groups.

2. How did Isabelle’s Boyfriend come about?
The book started with the idea of a girl walking her dog after school, on a day like any other day, when suddenly she meets THE GUY. Then I realized that the guy would be taken, and our main character would be willing to do anything to get him.

3. What was your road to publication like?
Pretty typical, I think. I worked and worked on my manuscript (which became my first book, Cassie Was Here) until I knew it was ready to send out. Then I sent queries to several agents who worked with authors I liked. I found one who was a great fit for me, and we sent out the book and sold it to Roaring Brook Press. They later bought Isabelle's Boyfriend as well.

4. Do you see a lot of yourself in your characters?
Wellllll, sorta. Friends and family tell me they hear my voice in many of my characters, which makes sense of course, and my first two books are set in Baltimore where I grew up. But I'm very careful to make my characters fictional, and to only add in the bits and pieces of myself that will round them out. I don't ever want to write a character that's just like me -- it would be too personal.

5. What’s one of the hardest parts of being a writer? The best?
The hardest part for me is days when my writing isn't going well -- when I'm stuck on a plot point, or figuring out a character -- and I feel like I'm never going to write a good word again. The best days are when I get an email from a reader who says they loved my book.

6. What’s your ideal writing environment?
I love writing in my office (the finished attic room of my house), at a coffee shop, or away on a retreat with my writing group, The Longstockings. I like editing on a train or at my kitchen table.

7. Do you write full time or do you fill your days with things other than pages and pages of words?
I have a one-month old daughter so at the moment I'm pretty busy taking care of her. I hope to be back to writing about 2 or 3 days a week when she's a few months old. But even when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about my current work in progress, or reading books for inspiration.

8. Do you mostly read adult books or young adult, or a healthy mix of both? What are the last three books you read?
I try to read a little of everything, but mostly I read middle grade and young adult. They really are my favorites, so why waste precious reading time on boring books for grown ups? The last three books I read were Princess Ben, Sweethearts, and Breaking Dawn.

9. What’s one quirky thing that you care to share?
I'm addicted to post-it pens. I can't revise without them.

10. What can we expect from you in the future?
I'm working on a new book now about a young girl who uncovers a deep, dark family secret. It's only in the first draft stage at the moment, but hopefully I'll get it together enough to send out soon.

11. Are there any questions you wish I had asked?
How about the biggest problem I had writing Isabelle's Boyfriend? I had a terrible time with the ending. I think I wrote three different endings before I finally found the right one. And then I still had to rewrite that about three more times.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Marcus is your typical 17 year old techno geek. He can hack into almost anything and has built multiple computers by himself. When him and his friends skip the final hours of school they become part of the biggest terrorist attack the States has ever seen. No, they didn't do anything, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Department of Homeland Security, or the DHS, has apprehended both Marcus and his friends and taken them to a secret prison and continues to interogate and semi-torture them for days on end. When Marcus is finally released he is released alone. Hoping for the best he returns to find his parents in a mad state because they thought he was dead and can't even bring himself to tell them of his experience with the DHS. Then when Marcus realizes that Darryl, his best friend who was injured before the DHS took him, hasn't returned and the city has turned into one big security check point he vows to get even and get everyone's freedom back. This starts a whole chain of events which Marcus becomes the leader of. From creating a spy proof internet hubb to jamming the tracking system. Will Marcus and his followers be able to bring the DHS down and return freedom to the people of San Francisco, or will he be shipped out by the DHS never to be heard from again?

This was definitely an interesting and thought provoking book. I really wanted to love it because it totally tunes in to the reader's inner geek, but it just didn't absorb me like I thought it would. It was easy to walk away from and I didn't find myself eager to sit down and read it. The potential for a great story was definitely there, but at times it was majorly confusing. Especially when Marcus went on to explain all of these technological processes that I couldn't even begin to imagine. During these parts of the book I felt myself skimming through them because I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around what was going on. Other than that though I loved the quirckiness of the characters. I felt like they were all original and I hadn't met them before in some previous book. I think my favorite part of the whole book was the author's ability to make me feel such deep dislike for the DHS. At the end I felt myself getting so worked up and angry about the way the DHS was treating people. There were many times that I felt like throwing the book down and storming off, but then everything would be okay. The ending was definitely the best part of the book and definitely redeemed it in many ways. Overall I liked this book and would recommend it for both guys and girls, but think that guys would probably get more out of it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Reynard, or Reynie as he prefers to be called, Muldoon is not your average eleven year old boy. First of all he lives in an orphanage where he is constantly teased by all the other children. Then there’s the fact that he’s a genius. He’s so smart that he needs his own tutor, Ms. Perumal, who is really more of a friend to him. It’s because of Ms. Perumal that Reynie happened to be reading the newspaper that held a one-of-a-kind advertisement. “Are You a Gifted Child Looking for Special Opportunities?” Not only does this advertisement catch Reynie’s eye, but those of many young children. All of these children enroll to take several tests consisting of many brain teasers. Out of all the children though, only four succeed, with Reynie being one of the four. The children are all immediately drawn to each other. Not just because of they’re exceptional mental abilities, but also because they are all alone. Reynie, Kate and Constance are all orphans and Sticky has run away from a miserable home life. When they all finish with their tests they are all lead to a mysterious old house where they are introduced to Mr. Benedict. Mr. Benedict is an intriguing and incredibly smart man who has a secret mission for the children that only they can complete. To fulfill their mission the children must go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. The headmaster of the school, Mr. Curtain, is up to no good and it is up to the children to figure out what he is up to and hopefully stop him. It will be no easy feat though as the children will have to wrap their minds around puzzle after puzzle and face challenges that not even their wildest dreams could have ever created. With no choice but to turn to each other, the children embark on a journey that will forever change their lives.

I have heard nothing but good things about this book. Needless to say I had high expectations for it. Overall I really enjoyed the book, except I found that at times it was a bit lacking. First I want to say that the author’s writing style was marvelous. It definitely had the magic feeling that Roald Dahl put into his books that made them so wonderful. There was that extra umph to the book that made it quite enjoyable. Returning again to my reference of Roald Dahl, I felt like the adventure these kids went on was much like the adventure Charlie from, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, went on without the candy! While the book is directed at a more middle grade audience I still found myself enjoying the adventure and solving the riddles along with the children. Now while I felt the characters had personality (especially Kate, who was by far my favorite) I found them to be a little flat. I loved how they were all smart and each contributed in their own way, but it seemed that the author didn’t go that final step to actually breathe life into the characters and make them three dimensional. I also found that in some cases the children acted more like adults which really didn’t suit the book. Moving on to dialogue…it wasn’t all that great. I felt that a lot of it was forced and it just wasn’t coherent. Again the kids tended have an adult attitude which didn’t match the situations they were in. Overall though, I enjoyed the book and think it would be a great book for reluctant readers and middle grade aged kids.


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