Monday, June 15, 2009

Harry Potter giveaway

The Harry Potter series has been a big part of my life for most of this decade. We started out reading the books together when my son was young, and as each new book came out we read it together, sharing the excitement, the humor, the tragedies and the surprises. I've been a lifelong reader of fantasy, and yet something about Harry Potter was, and is, special.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was first released, we got the book at midnight, as many other people did. Although we could have finished it more quickly if we each read it ourselves, we opted to read the last book together and savor it, as we had the rest of the journey. We read almost straight through over the next couple of days, avoiding even going out of the house if possible, to avoid spoilers. After it was over, I had a powerful emotional reaction that lasted for days: a response to the powerful story itself, combined with a sense of loss that the series was ended.

Now, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will finally be released in paperback on July 7, and I've been given four copies of a Harry Potter prize pack to give away here! The prize pack includes paperback copies of:

  • Book 5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Book 6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Book 7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!
To enter, write about a Harry Potter memory in the comments, between now and the end of the day July 6. It could be a great release party you attended, how you discovered the series, a special place that you read one of the books, what the series means to you, or anything else relating to Harry Potter and your life. It could just be as simple as your favorite Harry Potter book. The winner will be randomly selected on July 7. (So if you don't win, you can head on over to the bookstore and buy your own paperback copy). We can only ship the prizes to U.S. addresses only.

You can also get extra entries by blogging or tweeting about the giveaway. Please include the hashtag #wawhp in your tweets, and post a link to blog entries in the comments below.

Here's the official announcement from the publisher:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a breathtaking finish to a remarkable series. The final chapter to Harry Potter’s adventures will be released in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve.

Harry Potter games, activities, and information are available on the scholastic web site at:

Here's what you can win:

Dream Power creative writing contest for kids

This summer marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of my husband's book, The Dark Dreamweaver. In celebration, Imaginator Press is sponsoring a creative writing contest for children up to age 14. The Dark Dreamweaver features a land literally powered by dreams, and Imaginator Press invites children to submit a story on the theme "Dream Power" for a chance to win an iPod Touch, iTunes gift cards, and inclusion in a published anthology of the winners.

Click here for more information, rules, and downloadable entry form

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book Review: Silksinger

Dreamdark: Book 2
by Laini Taylor

Magpie Windwitch may have defeated the Blackbringer and convinced the Djinn King to return, but there's still plenty of work to do. Accompanied by faerie Talon Rathersting, her "brothers" the crows, and Batch the scavenger imp, 'Pie is on a quest to find the rest of the Djinn. Meanwhile, young Whisper Silksinger, the last of her clan, is traveling across the land with one of those Djinn, the Azazel, in a teapot. Pursued by devils and scorned by everyone she meets, Whisper is yet determined to get the Azazel to Nazneen and restore him to his throne. Another faerie also travels to Nazneen in disguise, determined to restore his clan's honor and become the Azazel's champion. But unknown to all of them, a darker force is also seeking the Djinn for his own purposes. If he succeeds, the world may be in peril.

Silksinger alternates between several stories and several main characters, one of whom is Magpie. I'm not a fan of books that alternate stories in this way, because for me it makes the read very disjointed; every time I get involved with one character, I find it disconcerting to have to switch perspective and adjust to a different point of view. But the story is exciting enough to keep you involved, with the action starting by page 3, and the new characters are interesting and unique.

Silksinger is a darker book than Blackbringer. That may seem unlikely, since the first book was about a hungry darkness that swallowed everything in its path, but as frightening as it was, the Blackbringer was really just immense hunger and anger, both understandable emotions. This book has cruelty, real cruelty, and that's so much more horrifying than a hungry darkness. The villain in this book is fairly cliché, but it doesn't really matter, because the real villain is the darker sides of our own nature: hatred and suspicion and cowardice and greed.

But standing against this darkness and cruelty is courage and compassion, often in the face of overwhelming odds. It's easy to accept Magpie's courage; she's such a bold and willful character and courage comes naturally to her. But some of the greatest displays of courage in this book come from some of the most unlikely characters, such as Whisper herself, who is a scamperer, a faerie who can't fly, and in many ways appears to be little more than a frightened child. Yet hidden inside this tiny, seemingly helpless faerie lies an unexpected strength and courage. And several other unlikely characters show great courage in ways I can't describe without spoiling some of the authorial surprises. This fits in with one of the themes of the book, which deals with how our preconceptions and assumptions about other people can sometimes blind us to the truth.

I was glad to see the return of Batch Hangnail, the scavenger imp. In spite of his rude, selfish, untrustworthy nature, I can't help but like him. I was a little disappointed at how some things turned out with him, but again, I can't say more without spoiling the book. I also was a little disturbed that at one point Magpie was essentially keeping him prisoner. No matter how miserable his behavior, I don't think that he deserved that, and it seemed beneath Magpie to behave in such a selfish, uncompassionate way.

The main plot of Silksinger is wrapped up by the end of the book, but some plot threads are left unresolved for future books.

As with the first book, Silksinger is greatly enhanced by the beautiful drawings created by Jim DiBartolo, Laini's husband. The illustrations bring the characters to life and add a lot to the book.

Silksinger will be published on September 17.

Read my review of Blackbringer, book 1 of Dreamdark

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Book Review: Bloodhound

Beka Cooper: Book Two
by Tamora Pierce

There's trouble in Corus: a large influx of counterfeit coins, combined with rumors of a bad rye harvest, threaten the economy and well-being of the city. As prices rise, there's rioting in the streets, and something has to be done.

Beka Cooper has been reunited with her mentors, senior Dogs Goodwin and Tunstall, after a bad run of partners. When the Dogs discover that the counterfeit coins are coming from Port Caynn, and Tunstall is laid up with an injury, Beka and Goodwin, accompanied by Beka's new scent hound, Achoo, and the pigeon Slapper, are sent to Port Caynn to investigate.

With a cover story and some fortunate connections, Beka and Goodwin infiltrate the gambling dens of Port Caynn's underworld. The situation in Port Caynn is even worse than they anticipated: a small-minded Rogue who cares more for herself than her own people, a government official who has traded integrity for safety, and a plot that could destroy the land. Meanwhile, Beka finds herself increasingly attracted to a dashing gambler, not knowing if she can trust him. Before long, Beka is on the run, in danger from all sides. Can she uncover the evidence she needs and find a way to stop the plot, when it seems as if the entire city is out to get her?

Who knew that counterfeiting could be so exciting? Bloodhound is a worthy successor to Terrier; it's a well-paced story peopled with interesting characters, from a crotchety but likable elderly silversmith, to a police Sergeant that Beka knew as a child and his companion, a man who sings as a woman in the gambling dens. Beka herself is one of the best characters I've ever encountered in fantasy. Her combination of shyness and toughness makes her quite appealing. Beka has grown and matured since the last book, as good characters should; her shyness is less pronounced, and she's grown in confidence. Yet she still retains an impulsivity that has a tendency to get her in trouble.

I had only one complaint about this book, and that was a scene that took place in a medieval-style torture chamber, in which a prisoner was being interrogated with what was essentially a form of waterboarding. This was such an obvious political statement that it yanked me right out of the story. Certainly writers should write about the things they feel passionate about, and fiction can be a powerful force for social change, but in this case I felt that it was too overtly a political statement and interrupted the flow of the story.

Overall, though, I quite enjoyed Bloodhound. Rosto shippers will be disappointed that there's not much of Rosto in this book, but Beka's romantic interest here, bank courier Dale, is quite attractive and there's quite a bit of zing between the two of them.

I think that Bloodhound stands pretty well alone, and you could read it without having read Terrier. However, reading Terrier first would make it a more enjoyable experience.

Read my review of Terrier

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MotherReader's Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge

So, what are you doing this weekend? No, I'm not inviting you over. Not that I don't want to see you, but, well, my house is kind of a mess. But if you aren't doing anything, how about spending the weekend reading? What could be better? Oh, how about prizes, too?

It's not too late to sign up for MotherReader's Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. In essence, you just commit to reading as much as possible over any 48 period from Friday to Monday morning, review the books you read, and keep track of your time and other stats. There are prizes for the winners and also some randomly drawn prizes for participants.

Read the full rules here.

See the list of prizes here.

If, like me, you can't participate this year, you can follow along on participants' blogs, on Facebook, and on Twitter with the hashtag #48hbc . Some bloggers are also blogging for a favorite cause, so anyone who can't participate might consider sponsoring a blogger.

Good luck to all the participants, and have fun!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Book Expo America, Day 3

Sunday was the last day of BEA, and, as expected, it was somewhat quiet. I actually found that to be a good thing, though; I got more accomplished on Sunday than any other day, because the lack of crowds meant that people had more time to talk.

Throughout the weekend, Firebrand Technologies, the company behind NetGalley, was hosting blogger signings at its booth. The idea was to raise the profile of the book bloggers, and provide a venue for people to meet and interact with the bloggers. Sunday at 11am, MotherReader Pam Coughlan and I shared the booth for our signing. I was worried that no one would show up to talk to us, especially on Sunday, but I needn't have worried. We were kept busy talking to people the entire hour. It seems that a lot of people, from booksellers to authors and publishers, are interested in learning how they can work with bloggers. Pam and I talked extensively about Kidlitosphere Central and the Cybils Awards, and gave out business cards and Cybils bookmarks.

At 12:00 I spent an hour volunteering in the booth for IBPA: The Independent Book Publishers Association. After that, we stopped at a couple more booths, went to get some lunch, and then headed home.

Overall, I felt that the mood at BEA was cautiously optimistic. Yes, there was a lot of concern about the economy and the future of the book business in an increasingly digital world. I think that book people, by nature, aren't the type to dwell on misfortune, and I think that we've reached the point of moving on and looking for solutions. A lot of the brightest minds in the industry are looking at where we are and where we're headed, and I heard a lot of good ideas over the weekend.

The nature of BEA itself was changed somewhat from previous years that I've attended, and certainly more changes are in store. It was smaller, as expected, and the unrestrained galley grab of recent years was gone. There were plenty of galleys to be had, but for the most part they weren't stacked in huge stacks all along the aisles as we've come to expect. Some were given out on request to eligible people, some were put out in limited quantities for limited times, and many were given out in autographing sessions, of which there seemed to me to be more. One publisher, I think it was Simon & Schuster, sent messages on Twitter every time they put out a new, limited time galley. Personally, I see these changes as a positive thing; publishers are learning to market smarter.

The programming was also smaller, but more focused. To be honest, I don't think that I've ever attended any of the programming sessions at BEA. In past years, I've looked at the long list of sessions, and not seen much that interested me. But this time I attended several and for the most part found them to be high quality, interesting and relevant.

In short, in spite of the economy, in spite of the changes, for me this was actually one of the best BEAs that I've attended. It'll be interesting to see what happens with BEA in future years, and whether they are able to save the show by continuing to find new ways to make it relevant. I do wish that it wasn't going to be held midweek, though. I like the weekend schedule. But, I'll keep an open mind and see where things go. This one ended up better than I expected, so who knows?

Goodbye, New York. Goodbye, book tribe. See you next year. Until then, have faith, stay strong, and look to the future.

Book Expo America: Day 2

We slept a little later on Saturday, thankfully, since we weren't trying to get any autographing tickets. I was still pretty exhausted from the previous day, though.

We started the day walking the floor and standing in a few autographing lines. I tried to enter every Kindle & Sony Reader drawing I could find, because I'd really like to have one of these. It was such a beautiful, sunny day that we decided to get lunch at the hotdog stand outside on 11th Ave and eat lunch sitting on a wall in the sun. It was quite enjoyable.

After lunch, I attended a panel called Teens Sound Off. It was a panel of six teens talking about their reading and book buying preferences. All the panel members were girls - I would have liked to see a couple of guys on the panel - and I had some trouble hearing them (but then, maybe that was the ear infection) but it was a very interesting panel. I "live tweeted" the panel on Twitter, and rather than try to summarize it, I'll just include my tweets here as bullet points:

  • Really hard to hear most teens on panel. I think most have said they find out about books from friends.
  • Several teens said they don't like series. Surprising.
  • All the panelists are girls; most say their guy friends don't read other than assigned. One has a guy friend reading Twilight.
  • One teen is a blogger and did a poll; found out that 99% of her blog readers were female
  • None of the panelists go to author events. Some live in small town; others say they'll only go to event for much wanted book.
  • One teen said she liked both adult & YA books, but felt uncomfortable in adult section; felt like those books weren't for her.
  • Teens say cover is really important. Colorful bright covers, animal on cover, person in a cute skirt mentioned as elements
  • One mentioned that if a cover looks similar to books she likes, it appeals to her.
  • Teen panelists prefer to read "real" books to reading online. Several mentioned too many distractions online.
  • But when asked specifically about non-book reading online, most panelists admit the spend more time reading FB and texts than books
  • One teen doesn't like when booksellers randomly recommend books, but likes when they find out what she likes & relates it
  • Several teens said they don't trust recs from strangers. They seem keenly aware of when people are trying to sell to them

After that, I attended the Book Bloggers panel, moderated by Book Club Girl. The panel was well attended, and there seems to be a lot of interest in how publishers, authors, and boksellers can work with book bloggers. Rather than trying to tell you about it, I'm going to refer you to this post and this audio recording.

As the exhibit hall was closing. I attended a reception hosted by ReadHowYouWant at the Javits Center. ReadHowYouWant uses proprietary technology to convert publisher files to XML and produce the book in accessible formats for the disabilities market. Formats they produce include large print in a variety of sizes, braille, Daisy, and e-book. ReadHowYouWant has published two of our books so far in their accessible formats.

Saturday night I attended a party celebrating the book Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci and published by Little, Brown and Company. Geektastic includes contributions from some of the leading young adult authors.

The party was held in a private room at the Lucky Strike bowling alley two blocks from the Javits Center. It was a great party and I had a lot of fun. Having the party at a bowling alley was a stroke of genius. As an introvert, I'm not a big fan of the kind of party where you're supposed to walk around and talk to people. If it's people I know, I'm fine with it, but I'm very uncomfortable walking up to people I don't know and making small talk. Having something to do - bowling and pool - provided a great way to get to know people without having to figure out what to talk about.

I ended up spending most of the evening bowling with Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, and the forthcoming Once Was Lost, Andrew Smith from Little, Brown, and Diane Roback from PW. Sara was really nice and fun, and I'm glad to have had the chance to get to know her. Diane and I hit it off right away, and she gave me lots of good bowling tips. (I'm a terrible bowler.) With her help, I even got a strike! High five to all my bowling buddies, and it was great to meet you.

In addition to Sara Zarr, I also met Scott Westerfeld, Holly Black, and David Levithan. Barry Lyga, whom I'd met the previous evening at the Kidlit Drinks night, was also there. Rachel Wasdyke from Little, Brown was a fantastic host (although a somewhat distracted bowler, LOL). If I met anyone else, I apologize for forgetting you!

Geektastic looks like a fun book, and I can't wait to read it. Here's the publisher's description:

Acclaimed authors Holly Black (Ironside) and Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof) have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on!

More BEA posts to come...

Monday, June 01, 2009

BEA: Interesting books part 2

My husband picked up an autographed ARC of a book called Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, by Kaleb Nation and published by independent publisher Sourcebooks. I'd never heard of the book, but it sounded interesting and I admire Sourcebooks, so I tucked it away to look into later. Since then, I've had several people, including teens, tell me how hot it is and how lucky I am to have an ARC.

Now I'm intrigued; apparently this book has been generating some prepublication buzz. I checked his Facebook page and it has 1275 fans. I usually have my ear pretty close to the ground when it comes to YA fantasy, so it's surprising for me to discover a book that I've never heard of that's generating this kind of buzz. I haven't read this book either, so I can't recommend it, but it's certainly one that's going on my TBR pile.

Here's the publisher's description:

In a bustling metropolis where magic is outlawed, a six-year-old child is found inside a locked bank vault. A scrap of paper reveals his name: Bran Hambric. The child remembers nothing of his life before the vault. Only magic could have done this. But why would any mage risk breaking the law to place a child in a bank vault?

Eight years later the City of Dunce has forgotten about Bran. Even his foster parents don't seem to know he exists. But there are those who have been watching, biding their time, waiting to strike, people who know where Bran came from and why he was sent away. And they will do anything to get Bran back, dead or alive…

Welcome to a world unlike any other where the adventure of a lifetime is just beginning.

BEA: Interesting books part 1

I'm always on the lookout for interesting small press and self-published books, and The Soulstealer War, by W. L. Hoffman, caught my interest. I chatted with the author at BEA for quite a while, and according to him, it's an epic fantasy with SF elements, quantum physics, and philosophy.

The first book is called The First Mother's Fire, and it has cover art by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. You can see the cover art in this wall hanging that was hanging in the booth:

Here's a wall hanging of the map from the book.

The map was drawn by the author and it's beautiful.

I haven't read the book, so I really have no idea if it's any good, but it sounds interesting and I look forward to reading it.

Book Expo America: Day 1

Book Expo America, or BEA as it's more commonly known, is the largest annual U.S. book industry trade show and gathering of the book tribe. BEA was held this past weekend, from May 29 through the 31st, and we attended the event at the Javits Center in New York City.

Our day Friday started with rising at 4am to try to get tickets to the Suzanne Collins autographing of Catching Fire, the sequel to 2008's hot YA book The Hunger Games. Tickets were free, but were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Javits center beginning at 6:30am. We arrived at Javits at 5:30 - we wanted to be there plenty early enough that we wouldn't miss out - and we weren't the first ones in line. By 6:00am, the line was quite long. Suzanne Collins was obviously the hot ticket this year; there seemed to be more people in line who wanted tickets to Suzanne Collins than for Julie Andrews. The really nice man running the autographing ticket booth joked, "Oh, didn't you hear that Suzanne Collins was cancelled?" I told him he'd better not joke like that unless he wanted a riot!

We succeeded in getting a ticket, and walked away feeling like we'd gotten the golden ticket in American Idol!

The exhibit hall wasn't scheduled to open until 9, so we went to get breakfast while we waited. We were back in time for the 9am starting bell (OK, I didn't really hear a starting bell, but there might as well have been one) and we started out walking the exhibit floor for a while. One of the first things we saw was this really cool flying saucer that you can build:

I don't know if you can tell the size from this picture, but it's about as tall as a person. It comes as a book of plans, and all the parts are things that you can easily find at places like Home Depot. It does require some drilling, but they're working on making pre-drilled parts that you can purchase. I think the top parts are supposed to light up, also, but they didn't have it quite fully assembled yet when we stopped by the booth. It's called The Flying Saucer Planbook and it's available from

I then attended a panel on Books to Film, sponsored by IBPA and presented by Rocky Lang, The panel included various literary agents and media companies. The panel was interesting, but unfortunately the main thing I got out of it is just how hard it is to sell your book to film or TV. It seemed to me that you really need someone who knows what they're doing to sell it. They said that you can't just send a book; you really need to send a package which includes the things that will catch the interest of a film or TV executive, including a book trailer. showed some of their trailers, or "Sizzle reels," as they called them, and I will say that I think they do a nice job with them, better than a lot of the ones I've seen.

While I was at the panel, Nick and David walked the exhibit floor and went to some autographing sessions.

At 2pm I attended the awards ceremony for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. Ratha's Courage was a finalist in the fantasy and science fiction category, but unfortunately, it didn't win. I was thrilled to see that Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars, by by Mabel Armstrong, won the Gold award in the Young Adult Non-fiction category. I don't have any association with this book, but my friend and distributor, Jacqueline Simonds of Beagle Bay Books, distributes it, and I had purchased a copy last year for my niece.

At 3pm we lined up to get our autographed copy of Catching Fire. My son David was the first in line, because he was determined to get a copy and got there early. After all our hard work and early rising, we were thrilled to get a copy!

I ended the day by attending the 7x20x21 panel: "Publishing’s most innovate thinkers talk about what inspires them". There were 7 presenters, each of whom had 7 minutes and 20 PowerPoint slides to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. Each slide moved forward automatically at 21 seconds, forcing the presentation to move quickly. The presenters were: Debbie Stier, Harper Studio; Pablo Defendini,; Jeff Yamaguchi, Doubleday/Knopf; Matt Supko, ABA/Indiebound; Chris Jackson, Spiegel and Grau; Richard Nash, ex-Soft Skull; Lauren Cerand, independent public relations representative (from Richard Nash's blog)

The panel was fascinating, dynamic, and thought-provoking. I was particularly taken with Pablo Defendini's message that e-books and the digital word won't kill books, but instead will allow us to return to books as an art form and a craft, as all the mass-market type books move towards digital formats.

Friday evening I had planned to attend both the BEATweetup, a gathering of book people who Twitter, and the Kidlit Drinks Night, a gathering of children's book people, but by the end of the day I was so exhausted (and suffering from an ear infection) that I just didn't have the energy to do both. I attended the Kidlit Drink night, where I talked to Betsy Bird (who blogs at School Library Journal as Fuse #8), Pam Coughlan (who blogs at MotherReader), Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at the Arthur A. Levine Books imprint of Scholastic (and Harry Potter editor), Barry Lyga, author of several books including The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (and its forthcoming sequel, Goth Girl Rising), and other people whose names I've now forgotten (I'm sorry! I really am!) It was fun, but I only stayed about an hour; between the exhaustion and the ear infection, I had to get back to the hotel and collapse. Thanks so much to Betsy Bird for organizing it.

More BEA posts coming!