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YAC Reviews: Parallel

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

yac reviews

parallelParallel by Lauren Miller

Review by Vyoma

I loved this book because of its eminent vocabulary, cosmic benefaction, and plot. The end really was a cliffhanger and the book was very enjoyable to read. Abby Barnes had a plan – she would go to college, major in journalism and have a job before she turned twenty-two. However, one single choice – deciding to take a drama class in her senior year of high school changed everything. Because of a cosmic collision, she is living in a parallel world. There is another Abby Barnes in another world, however that Abby Barnes took an astronomy class in her senior year. With the help of her friend Caitlin, Abby attempts to set things right without losing sight of who she is, the boy who most probably is her soul mate, and a sensible destiny. This book made me realize the importance of proper decision making, as even the tiniest choice that we make may have big consequences.

Rainbow Rowell Interview & Giveaway

by Carrie - 9 Comment(s)

fangirl

2013 was Rainbow Rowell's year, with not one but two YA novels getting some major buzz. Eleanor & Park reminded John Green what it was like to fall in love with a book, and made quite a few of the year-end "best of 2013" lists. For my money, her second book, Fangirl, was even better - but I guess you'll have to read them both and decide for yourself. Read on for our interview with my new favourite author, Rainbow Rowell, and leave your name & contact info in the comments for a chance to win your very own copy of Fangirl!

Q: I wanted to start by just telling you how very much I loved Fangirl – as soon as I was done I wanted to start reading it again! It’s been a long time since I felt as connected to a character as I did to Cather. How much of Cath did you pull from your own experience?

A: Thank you so much!

There’s a lot of me in Cath. I was also terrified to leave home for college. I had decided not to, actually – then a friend from high school said she’d be my roommate. Cath’s social anxiety, her fear of change, her desire to escape into fiction – those are all mine.

And of all my characters, Cath is closest to who I am as a writer. We both love to write dialogue. We both worry that we won’t have anything new to say. And we both crave collaboration.

Q: You’ve said on your blog and in interviews that you always create a playlist when you start writing a book – what’s the connection between your music and your writing?

A: The playlists help me stay emotionally consistent when I write. Sometimes I use a specific song to help keep me inside a scene, even if it takes a few days or weeks to write it. The song becomes an emotional anchor for me.

Also, I build the playlists as I write – and I usually make one for each main character – so I’m always thinking about the emotional arc of story as I go along.

You can see all of my Eleanor & Park playlists on my blog! I’ll be posting Fangirl playlists soon.

Q: There’s this great line in Fangirl: “Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity” (p.396) – is that what it’s like for you? Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

A: Thank you. That is what it’s like for me. Exactly. Pretty much everything Cath says about writing is how I feel, too.

I have to really focus when I write. For four to six hours at a time, for four to six days in a row. I don’t like to have any other commitments on those days, if I can help it. My goal is to submerge myself in the story and stay there as long I can without coming up for air.

rainbow rowell

I’ve written all of my books so far in coffee shops, but I’m trying to write at home now that my kids are in school all day.

Q: Your first book, Attachments, was published as an adult book, and Eleanor & Park and Fangirl are both YA; was it a conscious decision for you to write YA, or is that just where those stories seemed to belong?

A: It wasn’t a conscious decision. When I started Eleanor & Park, I didn’t even realize I was writing a YA novel; it was just, “This is the story I want to tell.” I was a bit more savvy when I wrote Fangirl. By that time, I’d sold Eleanor & Park as YA, and I was working with a YA editor.

I love writing books about teenagers – and I love that teenagers are finding my books. (I really love the YA community.) But I don’t shift my approach to the story based on who might read it. It’s always: Get inside the characters’ heads, try to make it feel real.

Q: It seems to me that the reaction to Eleanor & Park has been all about extremes – John Green loved it (seriously, how much did you freak out when you heard that JOHN GREEN loved your book?!), and then there were the parents who hated it enough to get you banned from a planned author reading (and they’re still trying to get it banned from the area libraries, AND punish the librarians who recommended it – and you – in the first place). What do you think it is that makes people react so strongly to this story?

A: That’s a good question – and I’m not sure I can answer it. I mean, I was feeling extreme things when I was writing Eleanor & Park. The story definitely came out of me in an extreme way. (I felt gripped by it.) But it was still a huge surprise when people responded so passionately to the book. I never would have predicted that.

As for what happened to the book in Minnesota, I hate to give too much weight to that controversy. The negative response there came from one child’s parent. That parent was able to rally support and eventually influence the school and county boards -- but it was such an unusual and unprecedented response to the book.

Q: You have a new book, Landline, coming out this spring – can you tell us a bit about it?

A: Yes! I’m very excited about Landline. It’s another adult book (not YA) and it comes out in July 2014 from St. Martin's Press. Here’s the pitch:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if they never got married at all?

You can see the cover for Landline here.

Q: Apart from your own work, what books or authors would you recommend to a YA reader?

A: I really love Cynthia Voigt. I read Homecoming in college, then inhaled everything she'd written about the Tillerman family. (There's a Dicey Tillerman reference in Eleanor & Park.)

I also love The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Magicians by Lev Grossman . . . . Those books are hard to categorize, but I think you could call them YA.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is my favorite YA love story. Where She Went by Gayle Forman was impossible for me to put down. And Will Grayson Will Grayson (David Levithan/John Green) has my favorite YA character – Tiny Cooper.

eleanor & park dicey's songgraveyard bookthe magiciansanna and the french kisswhere she wentwill grayson

This contest is now closed - congratulations to our winner, Rina!

Victorian Girl Spies!

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

a spy in the houseI'm thrilled to announce that award-winning Canadian YA author Y.S. Lee is visiting CPL next week, and two lucky fans at each reading will win signed copies of her latest book, Traitor in the Tunnel!

Ms. Lee writes really excellent historical mystery/adventure and has so far published three books in The Agency series, with another one on the way. It's hard to find proper historical fiction in YA lit - not steampunk, not paranormal, no time travel - I love all of those things but sometimes you just want to immerse yourself in days gone by, the way they actually were.

Travel with me back to Victorian London and meet Mary Quinn - she's twelve years old and about to be executed for thievery, until a last minute rescue finds her instead ending up at Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. Finding herself alive is extraordinary enough, but to be given an honest chance at a good education and a real, worthwhile life is even more amazing. At age seventeen, Mary discovers that her school is also a cover for an all-female investigative agency, and that is the beginning of a life that is quite simply astonishing, full of adventure, peril, and the chance to make a real difference in the world.

I have loved The Agency series since the first book came out; the historical detail is spot-on, and the characters are engaging and many-faceted. I admit that a Victorian girl spy agency is probably not exactly the way things were, but it's within the realm of possibilty, and Y.S. Lee will have you convinced that it's the way it should have been.

Y.S. Lee will be at two library locations on Thursday, November 28th:

Crowfoot Library, 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m

Village Square Library, 2 - 3 p.m.

Register now or just drop by; if you would like her to sign a book, please bring your own.

This program is generously sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.

body at the towertraitor in the tunnel

Kelley Armstrong is visiting CPL!

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kelley armstrong

Next Wednesday, November 6th is your chance to meet bestselling Canadian author Kelley Armstrong! She will be visiting Shawnessy Library at 12 pm, and will be on the main floor of the Central Library at 7pm for a reading and book signing.

Even as a child, Kelley loved to write about creepy things - in her own words, "If asked for a story about girls and dolls, mine would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to my teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make me produce “normal” stories failed. Today, I continue to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in my basement writing dungeon."

Kelley is the author of the Darkest Powers series for teens, the Otherworld series for adults, and quite a few other titles, all of them featuring characters you'll wish you knew - but might be glad are at a safe distance.

spellcasters the rising omens loki's wolves werewolves

All Hallow's Read Giveaway

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

all hallow

It's time for one of my favourite new traditions - All Hallow's Read!

This marvelous event started when author extraordinaire Neil Gaiman decided that there just aren't enough traditions that involve giving people books. To rectify this oversight, he invented his own, reasoning that Halloween would be an excellent time to give someone you love a terrifying tale. That's all there is to it - just pick a book, whether spooky, creepy, or downright frightening, and give it to a friend or family member for Halloween.

Great idea, right?

To help you get in the spirit, we have six sets of scary stories to give away - one to keep for yourself, and one to give to a friend. Just tell us your name, phone number, and closest library branch in the comments (we won't publish your personal info), or send an email to teenservices@calgarypubliclibrary.com. We'll pick the winners on October 25th (so you can have the books in hand for Halloween).

Meanwhile, make this mini-book of Edgar Allen Poe's haunting poem The Raven to hand out to trick-or-treaters (you decide if it's a trick or a treat), read one of our recommendations, or tell us what frightening book you would give a loved one in the comments below.

anna dressed in bloodgraveyard bookreplacementmonstrumologistmiss peregrine's home

Gene Luen Yang: Interview & Giveaway, Part Two

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

boxers & saintsThis is the second part of our interview with Gene Luen Yang - be sure to read Part One.

We're giving away two sets of Boxers & Saints! Just leave your name & contact info in the comments by October 14th to be entered in the draw (we won't publish personal information), or email teenservices@calgarypubliclibrary.com.

Gene Luen Yang is a Chinese-American graphic novelist whose books deal with themes of identity, belonging, and cultural expectations, and often use humour to deal with dark subjects and themes. He has won the Printz award and multiple Eisner awards, and if that's not reason enough to read his work, you also have my personal recommendation - it's great! Pick up American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile, Prime Baby, Level Up, or Animal Crackers, then read this interview and his newest work, a two-part story called Boxers & Saints.

Q: You have drawn your own work and also worked with other great artists like Derek Kirk Kim and Thien Pham – what kind of process do you go through when writing a graphic novel on your own, and how does that change with a collaborative effort?

A: When you write and draw your own book, you’re in full control. Every line of dialog and every line of drawing comes from you. There’s something very satisfying about that.

When you work with someone else, you lose some of that control, but hopefully you’re trading that control for something more. My drawing style is pretty limited. I’m not that great of an illustrator. There are certain stories in my head that I simply wouldn’t be able to draw adequately. By working with another cartoonist, those stories get expressed more successfully.

Both Derek and Thien have brilliant, unique storytelling voices. They both do write and draw comics on their own. I learned a ton by working with them.

All that said, even the books that I do “on my own” are collaborations. Lark Pien colored both American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints. Her colors are an important part of the storytelling. I also got editorial input on both projects. I worked with designers at First Second, Danica Novgorodoff and Colleen AF Venable, to put the books together.

Q: As a librarian I sometimes have to defend graphic novels, usually to parents who think they aren’t “real” books; do you ever encounter that attitude, and how do you answer that criticism?

A: Yes, I’ve encountered that. My own parents thought like that when I was a kid. That attitude seems less and less prevalent these days. Parents seem to worry more about YouTube and the X-Box now.

I can understand where they’re coming from. I love prose too. I don’t want the prose novel to go away.

Words and pictures are often seen as competing forces, but it doesn’t have to be like that. One doesn’t have to lose for the other to win. Paul Levitz, former head guy at DC Comics, once told me about a study that found American comic book readers read six more prose novels per year than the average American. Comic book readers are readers, period. When you love one kind of book, you tend to love all kinds of books. Comics can support prose, and vice versa.

Q: Your books often deal with themes of identity, belonging, and cultural expectations, whether it’s fitting in as a minority (American Born Chinese), dealing with loneliness (Prime Baby), or balancing the lives we want with the lives our parents want for us (Level Up). Of course these issues are all very relevant to a YA audience – did you set out to write for teens, or did the stories you write just naturally fall there?

A: I started in the world of independent comics, which is very different from the book market. It’s changing now, but when I first started, people in comics didn’t think about age demographics all that much. I just tried to make comics that I would want to read.

After signing on with First Second Books, my comics were placed in the Young Adult category. I think I belong here. It feels right. I taught high school for a number of years. This seems to be the audience I most easily connect with.

Q: Apart from your own work, what books or authors would you recommend to a YA reader?

A: I mentioned Derek Kirk Kim already. He and Les McClaine are doing this great series called Tune. It’s sci-fi meets rom-com meets prison drama. It’s hysterically funny, but it’s also an insightful examination of the loneliness of the creative life.

For slightly younger readers, I’d recommend Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl series. Gorgeous cartooning.

I recently read The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. I really enjoyed it. I especially connected with it because I’m a cartoonist. I mean, chalk drawings that come to life, that can actually fight like Pokemon! What’s not to love?

tunesame differencezita the spacegirlrithmatistavatar

Gene Luen Yang: Interview & Giveaway, Part One

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

We're giving away two sets of Boxers & Saints! Just leave your name & contact info in the comments by October 14th to be entered in the draw (we won't publish personal information), or email teenservices@calgarypubliclibrary.com.

boxers

Gene Luen Yang is a Chinese-American graphic novelist whose books deal with themes of identity, belonging, and cultural expectations, and often use humour to deal with dark subjects and themes. He has won the Printz award and multiple Eisner awards, and if that's not reason enough to read his work, you also have my personal recommendation - it's great! Pick up American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile, Prime Baby, Level Up, or Animal Crackers, then read this interview and his newest work, a two-part story called Boxers & Saints.

Q: We’re so excited about your latest project, Boxers & Saints – could you tell us a little about what inspired it?

A: I first became interested in the Boxer Rebellion in 2000, when Pope John Paul II canonized 120 Chinese saints. I grew up in a Chinese American Catholic community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Naturally, my home church was incredibly excited by the announcement. When I looked into the lives of these new saints, I discovered that many of them had been martyred during the Boxer Rebellion.

The more I looked into the Boxer Rebellion, the more fascinated I became. The war externalizes a conflict that I think many Asian Christians and Christians of Asian descent feel – a conflict between Eastern culture and Western religion.

Q: Boxers & Saints tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion from two opposing viewpoints; why did you choose to publish it as a two-volume set, instead of in one combined volume?saints

A: One of the reasons I was attracted to the Boxer Rebellion in the first place was that I felt so ambivalent about it. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? I couldn’t decide, so I wrote and drew two books from two opposing viewpoints.

Separating the two stories into two physically distinct books forced me to think through each as a complete narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. I hope that each volume can stand on its own. I also hope readers who choose to read both will get something out of the dialog between the two.

Q: As a Catholic yourself, was it difficult to write from the point of view of someone trying to drive out the “foreign devils”, and the "secondary devils" who were Chinese Christians?

A: The “foreign devils” were the European missionaries, merchants, and soldiers. Chinese Christians were considered the “secondary devils”, folks who had succumbed to the foreign devils’ lies.

As I’ve said, my primary reaction to the Boxer Rebellion is ambivalence. I can see myself on either side of the conflict. I sympathize with both the Boxers and their Chinese Christian opponents. I think they had similar motivations. Both sides wanted to keep their identities intact. The Boxers were angry at the way the foreign powers tore down traditional Chinese culture. The Christians died because they wanted to remain true to the identities they’d built for themselves, identities that drew from both Eastern and Western influences.

Q: You have talked on your blog about the similarities between Chinese opera for the boxers and our own modern day pop culture (I adored your Chinese Opera Avengers – in fact, your Thor is my desktop background right now!), and how those inspirations – whether gods or superheroes – can be a source of strength. Can you tell us a bit more about this idea?

A: The Boxers were poor, starving Chinese teenagers, mostly boys, who were deeply embarrassed by the European incursions onto Chinese soil. To deal with this sense of powerlessness in their lives, they did what today’s teenagers do: They looked to the pop culture that surrounded them for empowerment.

Back then, there were these traveling acting troupes that went from village to village performing snippets of classical Chinese opera. Opera was the Boxers’ pop culture. It was their television, their movies, their comic books. Like American superheroes, the gods of the opera wore colorful costumes, had magic powers, and fought otherworldly battles.

Like modern day cosplayers, these teenagers wanted to become their heroes. They came up with this mystical ritual that they believed would call the gods down from the heavens. The gods would grant them superpowers. Then armed with these superpowers, the Boxers ran through the countryside fighting European soldiers, missionaries, and Chinese Christians.

Stories help us make sense of our lives. They let one generation to communicate with the next. They give us examples to either follow or shun.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview early next week!

american born chineseeternal smileprime babylevel upanimal crackers

YAC Reviews: The Laura Line

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

yac reviews

the laura lineThe Laura Line by Crystal Allen

Review by Vyoma

This was a very relatable and notable book. The adventures of Laura Dyson and her struggle for acceptance by her classmates show cases her strong personality. I loved reading this book because of its sporadic humor, its sense of belonging, and its imagery. By the end of the book, Laura Dyson felt like a friend rather than a character in a book. The innumerable details about Laura’s surroundings and the process of making significant decisions show that an individual should never be ashamed of his/her family’s background. Embarrassed to show anyone the “slave shack”, Laura attempts to cancel her class’s field trip. After finally entering the shack, she finds so many wonderful things about it and her ancestors. One silly mistake ruins a priceless item – a legendary little chair. On the verge of breaking strong friendship and her already poor relationship with her classmates, Laura is absolutely stuck. Through patience, cajoling, and being laconic, Laura finally makes important decisions.

Last chance to Win Brandon Sanderson's new book!

by Carrie - 0 Comment(s)

still afloatThe RithmatistStill Afloat

Youth Read is still going strong, and we have a winner for our t-shirt design challenge! All proceeds from Nyssa's excellent design (see left) will go to the library's flood relief efforts. You can buy the shirt here, but it is only available until August 5th so don't dawdle!

Win a signed copy of The Rithmatist!

If you missed last week's interview with bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 for a chance to win a signed copy of his terrific new YA book, The Rithmatist. We'll be drawing the names of our two lucky winners on Friday, August 9th.

Win a signed copy of Brandon Sanderson's new book!

by Carrie - 4 Comment(s)

The RithmatistPart One of this interview was posted last week.

Brandon Sanderson is an award-winning author renowned for the intricate and immersive worlds he creates, and for his highly detailed systems of magic. Recently, he has brought those talents to YA with the publication of his first teen novel, The Rithmatist.

Brandon kindly answered our questions AND sent us two signed copies of his book to give away! Leave your name and contact info in the comments to enter the draw (we won’t publish your details). The answers below were transcribed from audio recorded for this interview.

Q: There were some very intriguing loose ends in this book, especially surrounding Joel; I feel as though there is much more to learn about his father and about Rithmatics in general. When can we expect to see the next Rithmatist novel?

A: I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much. I am working on a sequel. I’ve actually started the outline for it, but it’s hard to promise when it will come out. Ideally I like to release books one year apart, which is what I’m shooting for, but I have to write the book first.

I’m going to take us to a new location for the second book and there’s going to be lots of fun involved. Joel and Melody are going to train as a team where they’ll have to learn to work together, and it won’t be easy on either one of them.

Q: OK, as a (non-evil) librarian I have to ask this – what’s with all the nasty librarians in your books? In Rithmatist we have Ms. Torrent, who is your stereotypical disapproving shushing type, and in the Alcatraz books, they’re downright evil! Did these characters come from encounters with real-life awful librarians? I hope not!

A: I actually have quite an affection for librarians. I created the one in The Rithmatist simply because I needed to make that particular scene more interesting. I look for ways to create and enhance conflict as I write, and that scene needed to be harder for the characters.

The librarians in Alcatraz, of course, were all tongue-in-cheek. I wrote those books because I realized that if there really were a secret society that controlled the world, it would be because they controlled all the information. The idea of librarians secretly controlling the world just made me laugh. But there are plenty of good librarians in the Alcatraz books—okay, we’ve only seen one!—but there are more coming.

Q:. Apart from your own work, what books or authors would you recommend to a YA reader?

A: I’ve already mentioned a bunch of my favourites, but I could go on! I’m quite fond of Westerfeld’s work. I think it’s quite marvellous. I’ve read Terry Pratchett’s teen books. If you’ve only read his adult work, you’re really missing out. He is quite good. I’ve also enjoyed James Dashner’s and Eva Ibbotson’s books. I also recommend anything by Diana Wynne Jones.

I got into a lot of the YA classics in the late 90s, well after everyone else had been into them. Things like The Giver by Lois Lowry and Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen has long been one of my favourite writers. There’s just a lot of exciting things happening in YA, and I feel inspired by a lot of the works by those authors I’ve mentioned.

Remember to leave your name and contact info in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of The Rithmatist!

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