Friday, July 27, 2012

Super Special Edition: Interview with (Gold Medalist) John Corey Whaley (and his tattoo)

It is Friday! It is summer, if you live in the Northern hemisphere!  Olympic funtimes (officially) start today!  You're clearly not doing work while at work, googling pictures of Olympians, thinking about how you're going to spend your weekend on the couch, watching them sweat while you are eating junk food.   Or you are not at work, like me, wondering whyohwhy it is mandatory for the Olympic mascot to be creepiest looking thing ever.  Good thing I care about BOTH the abdominals of the United States swim team, AND your literary ponderings.  I think this calls for a super special edition post, don't you?
Drum roll puh-lease...

Interview with (Gold medalist) author John Corey Whaley!

After I grievously bungled my bird identification in a review of his Printz and Morris award winning book, Where Things Come Back, and expressed deep Art History major/Sunday School dropout confusion over the religious symbolism befuddling me, the gracious and bedimpled Mr. Whaley, former English teacher, offered to answer my hard-hitting questions (which, let's be honest, are anything but).  Luckily, our author and friend is a class act and gamely rose to the challenge.  (Another) Gold medal for John Corey Whaley!  His answers are below in bold. 

1)  You have mentioned that an NPR story inspired the Lazarus woodpecker part of your novel.  I Freudian slipped it up and dubbed it a mockingbird in my review, but ornithologically speaking, why a woodpecker as opposed to some other kind of bird (or another type of critter entirely)?

I wish I had a more complex answer for this one, but I mostly used a woodpecker because that was the type of bird that actually was allegedly seen in Arkansas in 2005.  I almost just went with calling it by its actual name "The Ivory-billed woodpecker," but thought that creating my own, slightly bigger version of it would benefit the story.

2) The Book of Enoch is not quite so...common.  It's a bit tricky to find a copy without, say, a college library or the Internet.  How did you come across it?

I actually hadn't ever heard of it until I was discussing with a friend of mine how I wanted to try and incorporate some sort of religious cult or something into the novel.  She had recently seen a documentary or read an article about the Book of Enoch and thus the idea was born.  So, she gathered up some links and sent them to me while I was on a camping trip in Arkansas and trying to finish the book...I remember parking in a motel's parking lot and using my laptop on the dashboard to steal their wifi so I could check my email and get the links for research.  Haha.

3)  Okay...bear with me through my literary and religious symbolism verbal meltdown round deux.  Your novel is like a duck swimming, with all the little symbolic tidbits churning away under the surface.  I know I picked up on a few potential ones, which seem somewhat linked, in Gabriel, Lily, and Lazarus, but I'm still wicked confused about whether or not human Gabriel is the Lazarus bird, or whether I'm going into the deep end without floaties while thinking that maybe Ada is partially a Magdalene.  Could you elaborate a little on why you chose to use certain symbols or allusions, and straighten a sister out without giving up all your secrets?

HAHA!  First off, I really like that analogy and will quite openly be stealing it from you.  So, thanks for that.  Second, it was always my intent for Gabriel's disappearance and the Lazarus bird's reappearance to serve as parallels to one another--as a way to not only show Cullen's reactions to both unique, crazy situations, but also to serve as an overall message with a (hopefully) deeper meaning behind it: that sometimes we're looking for something that is quite the opposite of what the rest of the world is looking for.  As far as them being the same being, not so much. And I actually never once imagined Ada as Magdalene, but I can totally see how that would be popping into your brain.  I've learned SO much about this book through talks and interviews, etc.  It's been crazy.  I only wish I were as clever as some people think I may be. 

4)  You are a former English teacher.  How would you go about teaching this book, and what, if any, advice do you have for any kids who might have to write an essay about it?

Oh geez.  These are hard-hitting questions!  Umm...first, I would NEVER dare teach my own book.  I have ego issues...but none that dangerous.  But, were I someone else teaching it, I'd approach it the same way I always approach a novel--discussing the importance of the setting, the characterization, and the overall theme.  I would definitely tie in some cross-curricular activities involving extinct species and missing children and I would, most certainly, throw a Lazarus Burger party at some point.  You know, just to liven things up.  An essay?  I have no advice save for this: Always ask yourself who is telling this story and why the reader gets to know certain things and not know others.  I think there could be some good discussions there.  (Ed. Good discussion AND good snacking.  Who else wants to sign up for his English class for Lazarus Burgers?)

5) The story of Benton Sage is so heartbreaking (I just wanted to give him a hug), but I was particularly drawn to his emotion and confusion on his mission trip.  Is this kind of trip an experience you are familiar with?

Not really, but I was raised in the Bible Belt and in a very conservative, small town in the South where religion plays a major, daily role in most people's lives.  I've always heard of people going on "Missions" and I guess I was fascinated by the idea of traveling half way around the world to convert impoverished people to Christianity.  I'm not critiquing this at all, but I always feel strange when I hear people say that these people all over the world have no chance of getting to Heaven unless Christians find and teach them about Jesus.  I wanted to explore a character who had this similar mindset and who loses his faith because of it. 

6)  Lucas Cader: one of the most loyal best besties I've read.  Is he based on someone you know or is he just the perfect best friend for Cullen?

  Thanks.  Lucas is actually a complete work of fiction.  I wanted to give Cullen a comic relief at first, then I realized I'd written a character who was pretty much the best guy friend I always wanted and never had as a teen. 

Where things get a new paperback dress.
7) Let's talk about your awesome book covers.  The paperback has such a fantastic throwback vibe!  Do you realize how lucky you are (times two)?  They could have both wound up with like... a sad, photoshopped, pouty teenage boy in the rain on the cover.  I realize you probably didn't have much say in them, but were you at all involved in the process?

I am SO LUCKY!!!  I have heard so many horror stories about covers and was just recently told that loving both of my covers is a rare occurrence.  I will say that my editor and designer at Atheneum definitely took my interests and idea to heart when pursuing cover ideas.  We discussed indie rock band posters for the hardcover and they knew I wanted the bird in a sort of iconic pose on the front and voila!  And, with the paperback, the designer knew I was a huge fan of Jonathan Safran Foer's covers and I feel like that partly took him in the right direction. 

8) Tattoos! According to School Library Journal (a source I don't normally associate with tattoo news), you have a woodpecker tattoo, which is based on the book cover.  When did you get it, and can we see a picture?

It's true!  I got it last July in Virginia when I was visiting some close friends.  I will attach a photo! 
John Corey Whaley's woodpecker tattoo
9) Best snack to eat while writing: describe.

I like cereal because I can set the bowl very easily between myself and the laptop.  I also like almonds and granola bars.

10) Last, totally serious question, by popular demand*. You've spent a lot of time at librarian events in the past year.  I attended my first ALA National conference last year in New Orleans, which was tremendously fun, but also 1001% overwhelming at times.  Which made me wonder: is having serious dimples while being a dude at a librarian event a blessing or a curse?
     You know...with great dimples comes great responsibility.  Therefore, I see them as nothing but a blessing.  I'd have never made it in this world without them, I think. Haha. 

Big snaps and thank you's to the only man who knows if the Lazarus is extinct or not!  In short, John Corey Whaley is a delight, and I was thrilled to be able to ask him some questions.   I'm looking forward to reading more of his books in the future!
*Seriously.  I ask for questions, and that's all I got.  Dimple questions**.  Should have seen it coming. 
**(Which is probably why we are friends, ladies who submitted these questions.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

That One Time I High Fived Melina Marchetta

Books of Wonder event with Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Gayle Forman (and an overzealous host).
GUYS.  Last week I was on vacation.  It was lovely, la la la, and more on that at the bottom, but I took a vacation from my vacation to go and high five Melina Marchetta, noted long-time authorcrush, in New York.  You know, as you do.  Luckily, I did not find myself suddenly struck mute, as happened when I met Anne M. Martin in approximately 1992, though I'm pretty sure I narrowly avoided blacking out, because I can remember telling myself not to quiver with excitement, and discussing bridesmaid dresses and the importance of occasionally Googling oneself (that never sounds right).  She was as gracious and lovely as I'd hoped (they all were), and I was so thrilled to meet her.

Author crush Melina Marchetta
in front of framed cover of
childhood favorite King Bidgood?
You done blown my mind.
I attended the book signing and conversation between Gayle Forman, Kristin Cashore, and Melina Marchetta at Books of Wonder.  It was pretty great, other than there being six chairs for fifty people.  I've seen a lot of author talks and the like, and this was definitely one of the best, probably because they were all so at ease with each other that conversation endearingly flowed.  It was a really lovely event, and the ladies all graciously signed things and were generally charming!  This is what I learned:

  • Kristin has lots of pictures of babies on her phone that she can show you.
  • Melina's idea for Froi came to her on a New York subway car. 
  • Gayle reads her sexual tension scenes so well she made Ms. XB, who took a course on romance novels in college, make this "I feel like I just walked in on something private" face: 
1001% certain I was rocking this face at this juncture too.
In other vacation news, serendipitously, the Lics (formerly the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe), the ice cream store in the town I was visiting, had a special issue ice cream flavor in honor of their neighbors: THE LIBRARY.  YES.  YES.  I was beyond excited to try Gooey Dewey, a chocolate ice cream with giant chunks of brownie and marshmallow swirls.  It did not taste like old books, or slightly misogynistic old men who nonetheless revolutionized the library world; instead it tasted delicious.  As all libraries do.  OBVI. 

A librarian, eating library themed ice cream,
outside a library, on Library Lane.
That's how it's done, son.

Gooey Dewey at Lics in Old Lyme, CT.
(With Toasted Coconut as a hat.)

To make you thoroughly jealous, I will end with this picture of a sunset:


Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore: The Knead to Know

By Kristin Cashore
Dial Books: New York, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-837-3473-9
Eight years have passed since evil King Leck of Monsea was assassinated, and his young daughter, Bitterblue, ascended the throne.   Now the Queen of Monsea at only eighteen, Bitterblue has the whole kingdom of Monsea to rule.  Though old friends are by her side, she is isolated by her position, restless, and buried under stacks of seemingly useless paperwork, and she sneaks out in disguise as a commoner one night.  She finds herself in a pub where true stories are told and befriends Teddy, a printer, and Saf, a Leinid-raised Graced Monsean.  Soon she is sneaking out most nights, both with the desire to seek out the truths of her kingdom, and to explore her growing feelings for the irascible Saf.  As she begins to uncover the difficult truths about the 35 years of Monsean life under King Leck, she begins to suspect her advisors are hiding things from her.  When Saf is framed for a crime for which only Bitterblue can provide an alibi, her anonymity ends, along with any feelings of safety when an assassination attempt is foiled.  Bitterblue struggles to regain the trust of her new friends, the only people who both know and will not cover up the truth.   A novel about healing, forgiveness, trust, and confidence, this is a fitting addition to Cashore’s previous two works.  Favorite old characters and a slow burning romance will please fans.  As a sequel of two very popular titles, it is a strongly recommended purchase for libraries serving patrons grades 7 and up. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tidbits: Ketchup on the week

I was away for a week, frolicking on the shore, reading boatloads, eating indecent amounts of ice cream (so much so that we're seeing other people for a while), and having close encounters with nature (had a dance off with a fisher cat, found a dead bird INSIDE THE HOUSE, and something touched me while I was swimming, leading me to think of this...before I realized I was in two feet of water).   Turns out I missed a LOT of things on the Internets, so let's have some ketchup, shall we?
  • The DoJ is moving ahead with the anti-trust settlement against the big three publishing houses.  They included this ruling, leading me to believe that none of them actually have e-Readers:
    It called arguments that Amazon will eventually monopolize the e-book market “highly speculative at best” and noted that with Apple, Microsoft, Google and Sony all in the e-book market “there is no shortage of competitive assets” being brought to bear on the e-book industry.”
    Yes, DoJ, there are competitive assets.  But what are the sales like in comparison? For serious...has anyone actually ever purchased a book off of the Googles?  I want to know who that one person is.  I didn't even KNOW that Microsoft was in the game... #librarianfail.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lucky Fools, by Coert Voorhees: Senior Moments

Lucky Fools
by Coert Voorhees
Hyperion, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4231-2398-9
(NetGalley Review Copy)
High school senior David Ellison has everything going for him: a brilliant and beautiful girlfriend, Ellen, fairly decent grades at his elite Bay-area prep-school, and, as usual, the lead in the upcoming school play.  While his classmates are all freaking out because Stanford, along with other elite universities, has changed admission policies and will now only be offering one coveted spot per school, David has his eye on another prize: pursuing his dream to study acting at Julliard.  Tensions around school begin to flare, especially when one by one, seniors thought to be contenders for the Stanford spot begin to have incriminating secrets shared on the college admissions board, all anonymously signed by “The Artist.”  David begins to find himself lying to Ellen, both about writing his college essay, and about spending time with the gorgeous new senior, and his co-star in the show, Vanessa.  To make matters worse, David’s father has hired a private college counselor, because he doesn’t think acting is a viable career.  David is finding himself distracted and is getting stage fright for the first time…just in time for his impending audition for Julliard.   The plot in this story meanders, leaving more gaps than satisfying answers, and the ending is abruptly convenient.  It is probably best for older high school students due to the plot and some partying, though some readers may have trouble identifying with the upper-middle class “worries” David has; purchase if there is room in the budget.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Exciting News! Upcoming interview with John Corey Whaley

Friends, countrymen, Russians who find this blog and are confused, and avid readers (hello, Popstar).

Remember last week when I wrote a review of John Corey Whaley's Where Things Come Back?   Well, all three of you have an exciting opportunity, because John Corey Whaley, author and friend has taken pity on me, and will be answering some questions for this blog to straighten me (and you) out.  This is your chance, peoples!  I've got some things I'd like to know about his book, but I'm sure you do too.  Email me your burning questions for him by Friday at  I can't promise that I will ask them all, but at least let me know what you're thinking!  He also pointed out that I made the best possible slip of the bird, when I substituted a mockingbird for the mysterious woodpecker vexing the town.  I mean, it is mocking them while being a (maybe extinct) bird, right? Self-high five!

I'm spending this week attempting to find the biggest seashell on the seashore, and will (fingers crossed) get to finally high-five Melina Marchetta, but my reviewing frenzy, like Shark Week, will return to your screen next week.  And now I have made myself afraid to swim. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tidbits: The best fake reality show we'll never get to see

Behold the best new concept reality show that will never make it past YouTube.  Pranks, awesome snacks, badass ladies... I can't even pick who amuses me more, twitchy angsty teen Bella Swan, or twisty angsty Swede Lisbeth Salander. 

You're right, Hermione.  Things never do end well for men who turn into animals. Watch out, (were)dudes!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley: Except my Sunday School Bible Reference memories

Where Things Come Back
by John Corey Whaley
Atheneum: New York, 2011
ISBN 978-1-4424-133-7

In Lily, Arkansas, population 3,947, nothing much ever happens on a regular basis; people never seem to leave town permanently.  That is, until the population drops to 3946 when 17-year-old Cullen Witter’s 15-year-old brother Gabriel disappears, without a trace, leaving Cullen, his family, his best friend Lucas, and the town reeling.  The news of Gabriel’s disappearance, however, is soon overshadowed by the rumor that the Lazarus mockingbird woodpecker, believed extinct, has been spotted.  But Cullen, his family, and friends haven’t forgotten Gabriel; they are left with more questions than answers, and each struggling to cope in their own way.   For Cullen, this means girls, including his long-time crush, and a recently divorced young woman who has returned to town, and actively hating the Lazarus.  Two stories are seamlessly and satisfyingly woven together in this short, yet rich debut novel, filled with Biblical references, the frustration of growing up in a small town, and the well-crafted, realistic, anguish of inexplicable loss.  This multiple award-winning book is recommended for older teens, grades 10 and up.  
(Biblical confusion after the jump)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare - Come the Eff On, Clary

That is not the jaw of a teenager.
Just sayin'...
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books: New York, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4169-5507-8
When Clary interrupts what she thinks is a nightclub fight, she finds herself instead in a closet, with one demon and three tattoo-covered, gorgeous teenagers trying to kill it.  Clary has discovered the world of the Shadowhunters, human warriors fighting to rid the earth of demons, and they have discovered that she is not just a regular non-magical mundane human; she can see them and the demon.  In the course of the next day, Clary’s world is turned upside down and she is swept into the company of the cute and flirtatious Shadowhunter, Jace, when her mother is abducted, and she is attacked by a demon.  Clary begins to discover that she, and her mother, are not the ordinary people she thought; Clary has been a part of the Shadowhunter world for longer than she can remember.  Though the writing and plot of this book, the first in the Mortal Instruments series, is often overwrought, it is fast-paced, engaging, and fun to read.  It is recommended for grades 6-9.  Libraries will be advised to keep a copy of this popular title on hand; there is potential for this to be adapted into a movie.
In the interest of not being a huge jerk, I’m including this disclaimer: this book drove me a bit insane.  There are a number of reasons, which I will get into in a minute (the vast majority caused me to work a “come the [EFF] on, Bridget,” face, so I think you too will delight in a Monday eye roll).  However, I will say this about this series.  I totally get why kids (mostly girls, but definitely some boys) of a certain age (middle/lower high school grades) go bananas for these books and why they are on the New York Time Bestseller list, like permanently.  Frankly, it’s probably the reason I go gaga for Diana Gabaldon, or am eagerly awaiting the sequel to A Discovery of Witches.  The story is action packed, the twists are twisty, the OH-SNAPS are snappy, the boys are all hawt, the girls are all gorgeous, crazy supernatural things occur, and it takes place in a high-stakes cool parallel world, one that you kind of want to visit.  It’s a roller-coaster movie ride, and it’s a really fun book (series).  If you are an adult like me, you are excited for this book to be adapted as a movie (rights have been optioned, actors cast), because you see there is a lot of potential for an awesome movie-drinking game.  And honestly, while it is $0.99 on an e-Reader of your choice, why not?  It's a light read for summer. 
For me though…the book wasn’t quite enough.  It’s possible that I judged it more harshly than I would have otherwise, coming off of a book that also has fantasy, romance, excitement, and supernatural weird angels – Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  But where DSB soars, City of Bones is still learning to crawl.   This is not a well written, edited, nor entirely original book.  Again, it is fun, imaginative, and dramatic.  But hot snap, it is ALL over the place.  I probably won’t read the other ones, but I do want to know what happens, other than the likeliness that good is restored to power, Clary discovers that she’s just super and somehow is the key to all this awesome goodness restoration.  (SPOILER) Mostly, I’m just interested in finding out how this whole Luke and Leia grossness between Clary and Jace undoes itself, because, COME THE EFF ON, BRIDGET, obviously it will.  Can someone just tell me?  Seriously. 
Anyways, on with my not-so-kind thoughts about this book.  I’d give a spoiler alert, but I kind of get the feeling if you haven’t already read it, you’re probably too old to want to do this to yourself, or too young to be reading reviews on the Internet; you have been duly warned!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor: A blue ribbon for this blue-haired book

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Little Brown and Company: New York, 2011.
ISBN: 978-0-316-13402-6

     Karou knows she is no simple art school student.  With blue hair, fluency in more than a dozen human and non-human languages, and an unusual adoptive family whose business dealings include sending her abroad through portals to collect teeth, she knows her life is unique.  What she little does know far outweighs that which she doesn’t know – like how she is the only human in her family, who her family is, and more importantly, who she is – and this soon comes to matter when doors into her family’s workshop around the world are sealed with a handprint burned onto the door.  Karou finds herself cut-off from the only individuals who know who she is, unsure if they are even safe, being pursued by what appears to be a vengeful and violent angel.   Good and evil are thrown into contrast as Karou finds herself caught in the middle of a centuries old war in this gorgeously descriptive novel.   This fantasy novel is recommended for all high-school and public libraries, and for grades 10 and up. 

I’m not sure this review does Daughter of Smoke and Bone justice.  Does it really make you want to read it?  Probably not.  I’m sorry.  I wrote this with a migraine, mostly so the lady on the cover would stop staring me down from my desk, judging me for not writing reviews of things I read more quickly.  Her laser-eyed judgment hurts my brain! This National Book award finalist has been on my to-read list since I insisted we needed it at work in nigh-on-March or something.  I’m not going to lie, the cover made me think it would be incredibly girly, and made me question the whole national book award finalist thing.  I was wrong, friends. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner: Build bridges, not walls!

The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
Delacorte Press: New York, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-73794-4

A boy comes to in a rising elevator.  He is disoriented, scared, and clueless as to where, or who, he is.  He has no memory from life before, even of how old he is, only that his name is Thomas.  When he disembarks, he finds himself on what appears to be a small working farm, populated only with other teenage boys.  This, as he comes to find out, is the Glade.  The Gladers have lived here for two years and also have no memories prior to their own arrivals.  They have, however, discovered that the Glade is located in the middle of a giant, treacherous maze, whose walls shift daily, enclosing them inside nightly, protecting them from the monsters that lurk beyond. But things are changing; the first ever girl arrives a day after Thomas, in a coma, but clutching a note that simply says “She’s the last one.  Ever.”  Thomas, begins feel like he remembers things about the maze, and the mysterious girl, though he can’t fully recall what.  He’ll have to, because the Gladers are facing a whole new set of challenges: they’ve been cut off from all supplies, and the walls have stopped shifting to protect them at night.  Will they find a way out of the maze, and discover who they are and why they are even inside it before it is too late? Because of some violence and death, this book is recommended to middle school boys, and will have appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.

Book talk hook: (Yeah, I'm back on the sauce.  For now.) Briefly summarize the disorientation experienced by Thomas, asking the group to close their eyes and imagine that feeling.  Then continue with a brief summary, emphasis on the danger, excitement of trying to find a way out, and the shock at having a girl show up, bearing that super showstopper of a confusing message.  Hook, line, stinkers!

Review continued:
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