Not Your Mother's Book Club Blog
When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are proving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria’s nerves — but somehow won’t escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky’s natural landscape.
What an accomplished first novel! I think Combs really makes the best of the YA genre and the first person narrative. This book explores how young people specifically can deal with: political disagreements with friends, crushing on someone you hate, honestly questioning the integrity of an authority figure, losing your #1 role model, growing out of the future you once dreamed for yourself, and so much more. It is also a rare and wonderful shout-out to my home state of Kentucky. Endorsed 100%!
Liz from Books Inc. Berkeley
A young seamstress and a royal nursemaid find themselves at the center of an epic power struggle in this stunning young-adult debut.
On the eve of Princess Sophia's wedding, the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn prepares to fete the occasion with a sumptuous display of riches: brocade and satin and jewels, feasts of sugar fruit and sweet spiced wine. Yet beneath the veneer of celebration, a shiver of darkness creeps through the palace halls. A mysterious illness plagues the royal family, threatening the lives of the throne's heirs, and a courtier's wolfish hunger for the king's favors sets a devious plot in motion. Here in the palace at Skyggehavn, things are seldom as they seem -- and when a single errant prick of a needle sets off a series of events that will alter the course of history, the fates of seamstress Ava Bingen and mute nursemaid Midi Sorte become irrevocably intertwined with that of mad Queen Isabel. As they navigate a tangled web of palace intrigue, power-lust, and deception, Ava and Midi must carve out their own survival any way they can.
Gnarly is the word that comes to mind. This book combines the most horrific aspect of fairytales, the most disgusting bits of 16th century European royal court life, and the most disturbing details of being female to create something that is - in my opinion - spectacular. I would have devoured this book as a teenager, but there is some graphic violence. And yet... I love this book and consider it my favorite work of fiction I have read this year. And the ending is happy enough...
Liz from Books Inc. Berkeley
By the time I was ten, I had already written numerous songs, a poem for Parker Stevenson ("If there were a Miss America for men, You would surely win"), two autobiographies (All About Me and My Life in Indiana: I Will Never Be Happy Again), a Christmas story, several picture books (which I illustrated myself) featuring the Doodle Bugs from Outer Space, a play about Laura Ingalls Wilder's sister entitled Blindness Strikes Mary, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories featuring me as the main character (an internationally famous rock star detective), and a partially finished novel about Vietnam. I was also an excellent speller from a very early age. In 2000, I started writing full-time, and I haven't stopped... I've written eight books, and when I'm not working on the ninth, I'm contributing to my web magazine, Germ, thinking up new books, and dabbling in TV. I am always writing.
"The Fault in Our Stars" meets "Eleanor and Park" in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the "natural wonders" of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself--a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
And don't forget, Jennifer Niven will be at Books Inc. Palo Alto on January 8th to answer the rest of your questions!
San Francisco resident Katie Coyle grew up in Fair Haven, New Jersey, and has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, the Southeast Review, Cobalt, and Critical Quarterly. This is her first novel.
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that's left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.
1. What was your inspiration for writing Vivian Apple at the End of the World?
I was really fascinated by Harold Camping’s Rapture/Apocalypse prediction in 2011, and had read an article about a family split along similar lines as Vivian’s—the parents were devout believers, and the teenage children were very much not. That tension was extremely interesting to me. I was also looking to write something about a girl taking control of her own destiny, which is pretty much the only thing I ever read. The two threads seemed to work together, and lo, Vivian Apple was born.
2. Vivian’s parents are devout believers. What kind of religious upbringing did you have?
I was raised Catholic but am not Catholic anymore.
3. Following the apocalypse (or rapture) Vivian comes home to find her parents gone and holes in the roof of her house. Would you react in the same way Vivian does? If not, how would you react?
I think I’m a lot more prone to pure panic than Vivian is. She essentially goes into a state of shock, but is all-business by the time she comes out of it. If the people I loved disappeared in a Rapture-like event, I would probably do a lot more screaming and running around in circles.
4. How much research did you end up doing for Vivian Apple?
Not a whole lot! I did some very cursory reading on cults when I first started exploring the idea of the story (and specifically the powerful religion Vivian’s parents belong to), and I read Lawrence Wright’s excellent book Going Clear, about Scientology, during revision.
5. Are there specific genres or authors you tend to avoid reading while you’re working on something new? Are there any authors or novels that have inspired your writing?
I tend to avoid the specific genre I’m writing in—I’d read (and loved) a ton of YA dystopias before starting Vivian Apple, but once I was working on it I stayed away, just for the sake of keeping my own vision clear. Vivian Apple doesn’t have any direct literary inspiration, but there are of course many writers who have helped me hone in on the kind of writer I want to be. Some of my favorites are J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, George Saunders, Kelly Link, and Aimee Bender.
6. If your book were turned into a movie, who would you like to see cast?
This is my very favorite question! I love the young actress Hailee Steinfeld, who appeared in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit a few years ago—she has a very natural intelligence and toughness that I think would serve Vivian well. Harry Styles from One Direction should play Peter, because they are both very dreamy. When I was writing the novel, I couldn’t stop picturing Amy Poehler as Vivian’s beloved teacher Wambaugh—I think she’d be great in that role, and I also like to imagine that we’d start a lifelong friendship on set.
7. If you weren’t an author, what would be your ideal career?
I would be a Hollywood casting agent. See above answer for my credentials.
8. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I plot extensively when I’m writing something novel-length, because my brain is usually very scattered and if I don’t tell myself that today I am writing this particular scene in which these particular things happen, everything tends to go off the rails. But I do like to play it a little looser with short fiction—I tend to start with a general premise and then watch it come together in a weird, haphazard way. The first method is more effective, but the second’s a little more fun.
9. Coffee or tea?
10. Favorite movie? TV show? Band?
The Philadelphia Story. Doctor Who. The Monkees. (I contain multitudes.)
Head to Books Inc. Opera Plaza on January 6th and meet Katie in person to ask her all the questions we didn't answer here!
In this tour de force, master storyteller Gregory Maguire offers a dazzling novel for fantasy lovers of all ages.
Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar's army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg -- a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena's age. When the two girls' lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and -- in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured -- Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.
With great gusto and enthusiasm, Maguire spins his literary magic on this whimsy of a fairy tale. Set in Tsarist Russia, in the poverty-stricken village of Miersk. Thirteen-year-old Elena Rudina works hard to take care of her ill mother with no food or medicine, and with one brother working abroad and the other conscripted into the army. Ultimately, Elena convinces herself to travel to St. Petersburg to ask the Tsar for help. Meanwhile, Mademoiselle Ekaterina de Robichaux (Cat for short) is traveling with her governess to be presented at the Tsar's ball (also in St. Petersburg). As fate would have it, the train is derailed in a nearby abandoned village. It is there that Cat and Elena meet. The two girls immediately notice that they have similar facial and body features. When the train takes off unexpectedly, Elena is trapped aboard and Cat is sent tumbling out the door and into the path of the folkloric figure Baba Yaga--a hilariously sarcastic child-eating, metal-toothed crone who dwells in a hut carried along on a pair of chicken legs. Baba Yaga forewarns of the disasterous consequences that would come should the natural order not be restored to it's former glory. Cat and Baba Yaga head to St. Petersburg (and Elena) to alert the Tsar. All three characters must band together to restore the world's order and magic. Maguire manages to knit together a tale that incorporates the elememental foundations of known tales such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. This book is a worthwhile adventure that people of all ages will enjoy.
Carla from Books Inc. Airport T3
Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
This book--this book!! I cannot even begin to properly describe my love for this book.
All her life Kami has had a voice in her head - she calls it her imaginary friend. It's normal for her, comforting even. Then one day, a boy moves in to town and this boy has a special voice, a familiar voice. Yes, he is the voice inside Kami's head. But how did this link become forged? Why?
The book is choc-full of sorcery, romance, hilarity, life-and-death situations - in short, it's near perfect. Brennan's dialogue is quick and easy and rings true. It's a fantastic summer read for teens who want something fun with a dash of supernatural and a pinch (ok maybe a few pinches) of romance. And make sure you're on the look out for Untold - the follow-up to Unspoken. And if you enjoyed this one, check out Brennan's other series The Demon's Lexicon. Just as fun!!
Katherine from Books Inc. Laurel Village