"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What I'm Reading: BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys

Danny Woodfill, owner of one of our local indie bookstores, The Book Spot, contacted me to let me know that Ruta Sepetys was coming to speak at a local high school and did I want to come meet her and see her talk.

Um, yes.

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel, March 22, 2011)



Let me go into this saying that...

1) I knew absolutely nothing about Ruta Sepetys.
2) I knew absolutely nothing about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY aside from the fact that it had been on the bestseller list for a long time and had a name very similar to an erotica book :)

But I actually adore watching other authors speak, so I headed to Round Rock High School to check it out.

Now, here are my thoughts...

First, Ruta herself is amazing. I mean, she went from talking about the xBox to talking about Lithuanians under Stalin and left everyone in the audience wondering how that had just happened. Her speech was moving and filled with emotion and incredible. Impressing high school students is not an easy thing to do, and yet she did it masterfully.
In short, if you can ever go hear Ruta speak, do it immediately.

Second, Ruta was such a nice person. I mean genuinely nice. Like I have a major girl-crush on her kind of nice. She talked about how honored she was to meet me (seriously) and how she couldn't wait to read my book.
In short, if you ever get a chance to meet Ruta, do it.

(L to R) Jessica Lee Anderson, Ruta, and Me

Third, let's talk about the book. I talk about every book I finish here on the blog, and if I've finished a book, then I generally have nice things to say about it. But BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY goes on my absolutely must read list. Middle school kids, high school kids, or adults. This book should not be missed. It was so real and yet so well done for a younger crowd. I am awed.

In short, if you buy one book this year, make it SOLSTICE (sorry for the shameless self-promotion!). If you buy two books this year, make them SOLSTICE and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.

Have I convinced you?



Source of book: Purchased

*****



About the book:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Friday, February 22, 2013

THE EMERALD TABLET in Hungarian!

In happy news as I head into the weekend, I'm so excited that my trilogy, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS, will be published in Hungary!



Hungarian rights to P.J. Hoover’s Forgotten Worlds middle-grade trilogy, THE EMERALD TABLET, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, and THE NECROPOLIS, sold to Fonix by Lex Copyright Office, on behalf of Taryn Fagerness Agency and Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Woot! How do you say "Nogicals Rule" in Hungarian?




Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WHAT I'M READING: A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by ADAM GIDWITZ

It was actually my son who suggested we buy this. All the kids at school had been reading it. And who am I to argue with a bunch of sixth graders?

A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz, illus. by Hugh D'Andrade (Dutton, October 8, 2010)



My thoughts:

A TALE DARK AND GRIMM  is kind of a fairy tale retelling and, then again, it's kind of not. Regardless of what it is, the book was a delight to read. It's so different than anything else on the market, and totally caters to those kids in middle school that are so hard to please. And it has great both boy and girl appeal. That said, it's a little gory, so maybe keep it at fourth grade and up. I loved it and would totally recommend it!

Source of book: Purchased by me


About the book:

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.




Thursday, February 14, 2013

Debunking Literary Love

Happy Valentines Day! Today I'm talking about Literary Love. Specifically. I want to debunk it, just a little :) Because we've all read those stories where a guy and a girl meet. And sure, maybe there is some tension going on. Maybe they don't agree on everything right away. But then, by the end of the novel, everything has worked out.


Imagine you're one of these characters in a book. Just to make it easy, let's say you're the girl. You've met the perfect guy. All sorts of crazy plot things have happened, and now it's the end of the story, and you guys are a couple. And the best part? You're not just any couple. You're the perfect couple. No one will ever keep you apart. You are like Prince Charming and Snow White. Life is good. And it will be always. 

Together. Forever.



Step back away from yourself and your perfect relationship for just a second. What are the odds that this guy is the one? Like he's the one you're destined to be with until you are old and gray?

You think the odds are pretty good? Okay, fine. I dunno. Maybe. Maybe you are "that couple." The one that sticks together through it all. High school sweethearts. Whatever. I wish you the best of luck.

But maybe, just maybe, you are not "that couple." Maybe you'll be together for a month. Or a year. And then you'll break up. He will be so yesterday. Bye bye, perfect guy.

 Here's the other thing. You know how your guy has been kind of perfect through the story. Sure, maybe there is one slip up. One little thing he does to show his anger, his dark side, the demons he has inside. It shows us he's imperfect. This is good.

Let's take a closer look at this. See, an author wrote your story. That author designed both you and your perfect match. She (or he) came up with the words that came out of your mouths, planned out the things you did. And she (or he) made sure that, for the most part, those things were likeable. And relate-able. And she (or he, whatever) made sure your guy didn't do too many things that might make him appear to be a jerk. Because if she (he) did, then readers wold complain.

For the record, in no way am I saying that guys (or girls) are jerks. I'm saying that people are human. And as such, they have up days and down days and sometimes they say or do things they regret...for no real reason except that they're having a bad day. But as an author, trying to capture this type of situation for a character becomes difficult. And is thus sometimes avoided.

Still, we don't want any Mary Jane's, and that's why often times you'll see these totally planned, individual scenes to show our characters' imperfections. Something to bring them into the realm of "human." But still they do not cross the line. They are sort of like demigods compared to us. We flaw all the time. Their flaws are numbered like the natural satellites surrounding Earth.

 
There is only one moon going around Earth

It's true that desperate situations make people grow closer, and books are often filled with just these kind of desperate situations. These situations bind characters in ways no one else can understand. Yet, after I finish a book, I can't help but playing the "then what" game. So write your romantic stories. Seal the ending with a kiss. But then what?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm Coming to Grand Prairie!

As part of the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels! And seriously, how darling is this poster the librarians created for us! I know it's still a month away, but if you happen to be in the area, please mark the date! I'd love to see you there!


Monday, February 11, 2013

COVER REVEAL: ICE DOGS by Terry Lynn Johnson

I am so happy to be part of the cover reveal for a brand new novel by Terry Lynn Johnson. Here it is.
Please help me congratulate Terry on such a wonderful cover!

ICE DOGS by Terry Lynn Johnson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 14, 2014)





About the book:

Sometimes I wish I could trade places with the dogs. They only have to worry about running and eating. They love fiercely and don’t worry about things they can’t control. And when someone dies, they can sit on top of their house, throw their head back and howl.

Lost.

That’s how 14-year-old dogsledder Victoria Secord as felt ever since her father dies. A champion musher, Victoria is independent, self-reliant, and thanks to her father, an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush. When an injured “city boy” and a freak snow storm both catch Victoria and her dog team by surprise, however, a routine trip becomes a life or death trek through the frozen wilderness. As temperatures drop and food stores run out, Victoria must find a way to save them all in this high stakes, high adventure middle grade novel of endurance, hope and finding your way back home.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

Featuring KAY HONEYMAN and THE FIRE HORSE GIRL!

Hi! Today I am thrilled to feature debut author Kay Honeyman!


THE FIRE HORSE GIRL (Arthur A. Levine Books, January 1, 2013)




About the book:

A fiery and romantic adventure, perfect for fans of Grace Lin, Kristen Cashore, or Lisa See!

Jade Moon is a Fire Horse -- the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.

Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise's smooth manners couldn't be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn't want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the "Ellis Island of the West," she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.



*****

Thank you so much for being here today, Kay!




*****

PJHoover: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and who or what inspires you?

KayH: I am an eighth-grade English teacher at Highland Park Middle School and an author. My debut novel The Fire Horse Girl came out this January. I have two children, a five-year-old boy and a twenty-two month old girl. Both of them are adopted from China and their culture and immigration experience inspired me to write The Fire Horse Girl.

I am also inspired by the readers and writers in my room. They energize me and make me want to read more so that I can share great books with them and write characters and stories that hopefully resonate with them.


PJHoover: What were your goals when you first started working with kids and books, and how has that vision changed now that some time has gone by?

KayH: I have always loved reading, and but I wasn’t always smart about how I shared that that love of reading with kids. Early in my career I thought that I was the expert on quality books. As the expert, I expected kids to follow my lead. At some point it dawned on me that I love reading because I found stories that I loved, not stories my teachers loved or my parents loved or even my friends loved. Now I know my job is not to make them read the books I love but to help them find their own stories to fall in love with.



PJHoover: You’ve run into an old classmate from high school and you tell them THE FIRE HORSE GIRL just came out. They ask what it’s about. What do you say?

KayH: It is about Jade Moon, a girl born under the sign of the Fire Horse — the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls. She leaves China and travels through Angel Island (the so-called Ellis Island of the West) and onto the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1923. Jade Moon is trying to find freedom, but instead she finds disappointment, danger and deception. Eventually that helps her find her own strength and herself.

I also might make-up some cool-sounding award (“And it just won a Stackholm”) in case they weren’t impressed enough yet.


PJHoover: I love hearing happy publication stories. Can you tell us the path to publication for THE FIRE HORSE GIRL?

KayH: I wrote a draft of The Fire Horse Girl while I was waiting to adopt our first child from China. I wanted to understand the emotions of leaving a home and coming to America. By the time we were matched with a beautiful three-year-old boy, I was beginning to submit to agents. Rosemary Stimola (a far better agent than I deserve, but I try not to mention that to her too often for fear she’ll find out it’s true) wrote back and said that the book had promise but it was unfinished. I realized she was right, so I got back to work. The first draft ended as Jade Moon left Angel Island, but her story and struggled would not end there. I finished the story, continuing it into her time in San Francisco.

When it came time to finding a publisher, all I ever wanted was someone who would bring this book to its full potential. I don’t always get what I wish for, but I’m glad I did this time. Cheryl Klein (again, way out of my league), executive editor at Arthur A. Levine, picked it up. Cheryl is a meticulous editor with a strong sense of story and character. Readers can thank her for helping me take everything bad out and made everything good shine. Seriously…they should send flowers.


Kay and her son Jack at a signing


PJHoover: What has been the biggest surprise since you've entered the world of books for kids and teens?

KayH: I was surprised by how much kids dive into the world of stories for escape. It is such a healthy way to take a break from their hectic lives. I often focus on the aesthetics of reading – a beautiful line or phrase. But I don’t think I can overestimate how much my kids value slipping out of their life and into a fictional one for an hour or two.


PJHoover: How do you see reading changing for teens in the next couple years? What challenges do you see? And what can we do to help?

KayH: I am optimistic about reading for teens. As long as great authors keep producing great books, teens will read them.

I am very concerned about an increasing willingness to cut school library budgets or even (and this one keeps me up at night) close them completely to save money. Libraries are the very heart and soul of a school. It would be like removing a building’s foundation because there is sometimes an upkeep cost and ignoring that fact that you will lose the structural integrity of the rest of the building. Schools need libraries and those libraries need books and staff.

I’m not sure what to do about it. I should probably go ask my school librarians. They have a gift for finding solutions.




PJHoover: Finish this sentence, and tell us why. Writing is a lot like…

KayH: …a rugby game. You feel bruised and battered and like you might have a minor concussion, but you also feel like you are on top of the world, and you’ll be back for more at the next game.


PJHoover: What is next? WIPs? Future publications? Please tell all!

KayH: I am working on my second book. It is set in West Texas so it’s full of politics, power plays, and Friday Night Football.



PJHoover: What has been your favorite experience as an author thus far?

KayH: One of my students was reading my book in class one Friday. She chose it on her own, and I know how carefully my students choose their books, so that was an honor already. I was nervously watching her face like I have watched students reading their book in my class for years. You can always tell who has a book they love and who is slogging through a story. Her face would ripple with emotion as she held the book close. That was the best feeling.


PJHoover: Please share your favorite inspirational thought!

KayH: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” (Marianne Williamson). So true!


PJHoover: Would you consider yourself a Sweetheart or a Scoundrel?

KayH: Like most Texas women I am a sweetheart who will charm a scoundrel when she needs to.

*****

Bio:

Kay Honeyman grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended Baylor University, graduating with a Bachelors and Masters in English Language and Literature. Her first novel, The Fire Horse Girl, comes out in January 2013. It is being published by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. She currently teaches middle school and lives in Dallas, Texas.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What I'm Reading: CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS by Miriam Forster

Guys, I have been wanted to read this book ever since I first met Miriam! And it's so funny because a while back I had a chance to read the first ten or twenty pages, and it stuck with me until now. I was elated when Miriam announced her book deal news!

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS by Miriam Forster (February 5, 2013, HarperTeen)



Here are Five Things I have to Say About CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS:

1) I have to start off by saying that Miriam is a friend. That totally has nothing to do with my opinion of the book! I would have wanted to read this regardless. It is lovely, just lovely!

2) Can we just talk about the cover for a second? This is epic! And so unique! It draws the reader completely in, and I think teens, both fans of epic fantasy and not will agree.

3) Talking cats! Well, kind of. I mean, they talk in Nisha's mind telepathically. And the thing about these cats is that they're real characters in the story. We care about them and we love how protective they are of Nisha!

4) The world created by Forster is deep and rich and real. It's not all happy sunshine and roses. There are true hardships and realities in this world. Realities we don't want to see happen to our main character. And knowing these are dangers and possibilities makes it all the more fully developed.

5) CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is right up the alley of those interested in rich fantasy worlds. It should completely appeal to readers who loved GRAVE MERCY, SHADOW AND BONE, and GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. Highly recommended for (mostly) girls, 6th grade and up!


Source of book: From publisher by request




*****

About the book:

The girl with no past, and no future, may be the only one who can save their lives.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city's handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls' deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but also her life.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Updated SOLSTICE Book Trailer!

So I finally got around to updating the book trailer for SOLSTICE! Woot!


Enjoy! And thanks for watching :)