57th Street Books' Angela Sherrill picks three books about Wolves

"Teens & Wolves: A Post in Two Voices"


The Program:
 At 57th Street Books, I have a Kid and Teen Critic review program, where I exchange ARCs and galleys for reviews.  ARCs are hand-selected to match the individual reader based on the participant's age, reading level, history and genre preferences. After reviews are submitted, I use them to help determine stock, displays, and promotions; to gauge interest in genres, authors and various formats; and to communicate with publishers on early feedback.  And the review program helps other shoppers make better decisions, especially when buying books as gifts, by posting the reviews in store, online, and in newsletters.

The Reviewer: Jennifer Glick has been a part of the Teen Critic program for over two years.  I have relied heavily on her opinion in my decision-making and find her reviews concise, reliable, helpful and enjoyable. She has helped me discover books I might not have read, and also helped me weed out others I probably shouldn't devote time towards.

The Idea: While my colleagues may call me a spring chicken, I am no longer a teen.  Therefore, the reviews from the teens in our program are essential to balance adult opinions with those of the intended audience.  For this post, I've paired up with Jen to get a more balanced perspective on three young adult novels about werewolves. Yes, teen werewolves.

The Note: These reviews contain spoilers.  Don't say we didn't warn you!

   

Liar
by Justine Larbalestier
Bloomsbury | 9781599903057 | 16.99 | Sept 2009

One of my favorite gals in publicity, Deb Shapiro, from Bloomsbury, got me to read this with her teaser campaign that included a chapter sampler, vague, yet enthusiastic little notes of praise, and of course, the early galley. I jumped in with two feet ready to love what she'd sent. But here's why I didn't.

Micah, the main character and narrator of the book, is a compulsive liar.  I found reading from this perspective endlessly frustrating.  As a reader, I was not able to distinguish between actual people, places, things and events and Micah's revisionist accounts. While this was a unique read, it's not something I felt I would recommend or read again. Mostly because, even though we don't really know Micah's story, the one she tells is that of urban werewolves and their bloody, romantic escapades.

While I suspected teens would be interested in the genre, I had no idea how they would take to the “liar's tale” voice.  Luckily, one of my savvy Teen Critics turned in a review to help balance my own opinion.  Here's her perspective: 

When I first picked up Liar it looked like one of the quickly and shoddily written werewolf novels that the recent Twilight obsession has unleashed, but Liar turned out to be a fantastic surprise.

I absolutely, one-hundred-percent, loved Liar.  The best part about the book is that it follows the life of Micah, a teenage pathological liar who is constantly rewriting her own story.  Thus the reader is never sure which chapters are true, and which convey aspects of a life that Micah wishes was her own.  Halfway through the novel Micah reveals that she is a werewolf, who shifts once a month unless she regularly takes her medication.

This novel is my favorite of the three wolf stories because instead of adding a wolf to an ordinary story, Ms. Larbalestier takes a great story about a liar, and then adds another great story about a werewolf. 

Wow! It''s a good thing I'm not the buyer at a reputable bookstore, huh?  Oh, right. I am. Well then, it's a good thing I have teens who review books for me, huh?

> Justine Larbaleister blogs here and tweets here.

***

Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvatar
Scholastic | 9780545123273 | $8.99 | June 2010

My sales rep and other booksellers really talked this one up early on as “the next Twilight, but with werewolves”.  So I knew it would get some attention and thought I'd give it a read after my recent lack of enthusiasm for Larbalestier's Liar. No dice. While I did enjoy this story a little more, it still fell flat and felt too much like werewolf romance. Which is good in a way, because that is exactly what it is.  Why are these girls dying to be vampires or wolves?  What's wrong with them? Why are so many people loving this story and desperate for it's sequel, Linger, due out in July 2010? For answers to these questions, I turn to my Teen Critics.

Jen hadn't read this one just after Liar, like I did.  I asked her to read this as the idea for this post formulated inside my cynical little head.  Here's what she said:

Shiver is a tale of a doomed romance, as Grace falls in love with a werewolf named Sam who has only a few more months to stay human. Although there are some mystery elements to the novel, the primary focus rests upon whether Sam and Grace are able to keep Sam human. 

The werewolf element made this story unique; instead of being simply a story about two teenagers in love they are a human girl and a wolf boy who are fighting against time and nature to stay together.

Jen thought this one was good, but not great.  While she doesn't have anything negative to say, she certainly wasn't raving about it like she did with Liar.  Therefore, I'd say we came out thinking similarly on this one. A sort of meeting in the middle.

> Maggie Stiefvatar blogs here and tweets here.

***

Claire de Lune
by Christine Johnson
Simon Pulse | 9780670011421 | $16.99 | May 2010

After reading two YA werewolf books, I certainly didn't expect to find myself reading a third this summer.  And then, one day, I got a call from a debut author trying to get her foot in the not-so proverbial door of a brick and mortar bookstore.  After a brief discussion on the possibility of hosting her for a book signing, I, with dread, agreed to read the book and then make a decision on whether we could make this work. I grabbed the galley, took it home, and started reading. 

Much to my surprise and pleasure, I truly enjoyed this one. And before I go on, here's what Jen had to say:

Claire de Lune is the most “traditional” werewolf novel out of the three, in the sense that Claire, the main character, is the werewolf, and she is trying to figure out how to be human and a wolf at the same time.  Claire’s life is further complicated when a rogue wolf begins to terrorize her community, inciting a local scientist to hunt the wolves so that he can attempt to cure them.  The novel gets interesting when Claire falls for the scientist’s son, but is unable to tell him about her true identity.

The mystery of the lone wolf makes you want to keep reading, and the hope for an impossible love keeps the reader entertained during slower scenes.  This book is well crafted and a delight to read – female teen readers who enjoy books about real girls with a splash of fantasy will love this book.

 I was happy to see Jen give nods to three things I couldn't agree with more. They are:

  1. Craftsmanship
  2. Mystery as intrigue
  3. Pleasurable reading

Our opinions diverge when Jen calls this one traditional. I can certainly see how you'd find this one more traditional when comparing this book to the two above, but I found this treatment of werewolves more feminist and enjoyable. Secondly, this one was definitely my favorite on the list, while Jen remained swept away by Liar

> Christine Johnson blogs here and tweets here.

In Summary:

Liar — Read this one if you're looking for a unique voice that will surprise and challenge you.

Shiver — Read this one if you're looking for a star-crossed romance to satisfy your soul.

Claire de Lune — Read this one if you're looking for a well-crafted, mysterious teen novel for the simple pleasure of reading a good story.

Moreover:  I can't wait until Twilight is no longer the starting off point for discussing YA novels such as these three books. It reminds me of the days when Harry Potter was the reference point for all middle-grade fantasy.  That moment seems to have passed. This, too, shall pass. 

In the meantime, I will keep encouraging teens to give all of us in the book world feedback.  I will gather their opinions, introduce them to new materials, and filter all of that through to you.  When you visit 57th Street Books, look for the kid and teen reviews and only after that should you ask me what I think about a particular book or genre.

– Angela Sherrill
57th Street Books 

[Editor's Note: As Angela alludes in her post, Claire de Lune author Christine Johnson will be appearing at 57th Street Books in July.  For more information, head on over to the Kids' Books page at the 57th Street Books site.]

Three books that I almost missed the boat on.

The great thing about being a publishers' sales rep is that as each season of frontlist selling ends, there's a quiet reflective period before the next season begins.  There's always email, and the customer service side of working with my bookstores but I do spend a lot of that time puttering around the office with chores and projects, going through the next season's sales kits, and catching up on my reading.  

I usually like to focus on extracurricular reading (I spend the whole season collecting books that I hope to have time to get into during this less frantic period) but sometimes, as samples of the books that I just spent three months selling are published and show up on my doorstep, I will spot one or two that I somehow missed.

Luckily enough, I've found three books recently that I spent the entire summer representing but somehow, until I saw the actual finished books and started to read them, I missed out on their magic.  So here we go.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763645762 | $9.99 | July 2009

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763644901 | $18.99 | Sept 2009

If you loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and are ready for a new YA SF series that is just as compelling and thrilling; if you read Ender's Game and the sequels and hoped for another book with the same kind of emotional complexity and SF detail; if you like to be surprised and delighted when the novel you're reading takes a sudden turn and becomes So. Much. More. Awesome. because of the twist, you owe it to yourself to read The Knife of Never Letting Go.  And be prepared to dive into the sequel, The Ask And The Answer, immediately upon finishing Knife."

Without giving anything away, here's a little to get you started.  Todd Hewitt is a 12 (going on 13) year old boy in a settlement on a new planet - a settlement that has seen its share of disaster and disappointment since the settlers first arrived.  Todd is the last boy in the settlement - all the other boys have become men upon their 13th birthday and no longer have time to spend with mere boys.  A war with the native species of bipeds has left all the women dead, thanks to a strange virus unleashed by their enemies.  This same virus has caused all the thoughts of the men in the village to be heard by all around them - they call it The Noise. And the settlers are also able to hear the thoughts of the animals around them, as well. 

Todd and his dog Manchee discover a secret outside their settlement that sends them fleeing for their lives, and as his knowledge of the world they live upon expands, he discovers that much has been kept secret from him by the men in his village.

To describe anything at all about what lies ahead for Todd and Manchee in both The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequel, The Ask and the Answer, would be to give away secrets that should be discovered by the reader alongside Todd.

Let me just say that I've found my new favorite books to handsell.

***

The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book   
by Joe Daly
Fantagraphics Books (Norton) | 9781606991633 | $22.99 | Aug 2009

Where has Joe Daly been hiding?  I'm pretty sure that if someone had told me about a young comics creator who was working on a series of eco-mystery comics set in Cape Town, South Africa starring a red-headed, monkey-footed comics creator with a deadpan sense of humor, wildly ethnic neighbors (who work hard to avoid being mere ethnic stereotypes), and a heavily stoned, moochy best friend, I would have jumped at the chance to read it.

Despite the over-the-top collision of elements I listed up there, what The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book really brings us is a tasty blend of cleanly detailed art straight out of Herge, hipster stoner humor and a couple of mysteries that work just as well in Cape Town as they would in the Los Angeles of Robert Towne's Chinatown or Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer stories.

Red Monkey is his second collection from Fantagraphics, the first being a 2007 book called Scrublands.

Fantagraphics is offering an exclusive 10-page excerpt from the first mystery in Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, The Leaky Cello Case.  You can download it here.

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Candlewick Press

Is it simplest to just say that Teresa Rolfe Kravtin is a kindred spirit? She's a fellow independent sales rep - Southern Territory Associates, the rep group of which she is a member, covers the South. We are both interested in the social networking aspects of publishing - you can find her here on Twitter. And most fun for me is that we frequently agree about our favorite books from the publishers that we both represent.

We seem to spend a lot of time talking about Candlewick Press's books, probably because their list is such a goldmine of discovery. One of the very first posts that I put up on my3books was about my picks from Candlewick's fall list, and what I found most interesting is that Teresa's picks and mine only overlap by one book.

The Princess' Blankets
by Carol Ann Duffy; illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Candlewick Press | 9780763645472 | $18.99 | Nov 2009

There are many interesting aspects to this lovely picture book from the Templar imprint of Candlewick Press, which is why I love talking about this book to my booksellers. A few words about Templar. Templar is a UK publisher that is most known for their highly successful ‘Ology series publishing with Candlewick in the US. Candlewick has formalized this co-publishing arrangement and this fall season has the second selection of general picture books from Templar that are either highly interactive or creatively imaginative.

The Princess’ Blankets is an over-sized, gorgeously illustrated fairy tale. Carol Ann Duffy, the new poet laureate of Britain, and described by The Guardian as “the most popular living poet in Britain” weaves a traditional fairy with contemporary elements. With paintings by first-time picture book illustrator Catherine Hyde, the illustrations are laced with reflective elements on certain spreads, uses of color and texture that fill each page with elements of the natural world that bring this tale to life. A king’s daughter is stricken with cold, so severe that the king issues an edict. Anyone who can heal the princess of her coldness will receive up to half of his kingdom. Many try and fail, and in the process a subtle warning about robbing the earth of its natural resources is in embedded in the story.

Most meaningful to me is that a musician saves the princess. Being a musician for a great portion of my life, with a Music Degree to boot, I am and will always be a flute player deep inside. Music is an innate aspect to all of my life, and to my delight and surprise it is a flute player who saves the princess in this fairy tale! When has THAT ever happened?

“The musician had a kind and good heart, and he made up his mind to go to the palace himself to see if he could help." He plays his flute and the princess begins to warm and stir. The flute player tenderly reaches out to the princess and relieves her of her terrible affliction. I LOVE this! A story I can get behind!! I must say that, oftentimes, fairy tales do not have the magical quality necessary to suspend disbelief and capture the reader’s imagination successfully. The Princess’s Blankets is a wonderful exception and I urge you to treat yourself to an exceptional reading experience.

***

Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature
by David Ellwand
Candlewick Press | 9780763620950 | $19.99 | Nov 2009

A follow-up to Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand, comes Fairie-Ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature from photographer David Ellwand. This is a fantasy style sourcebook of natural designs that takes my breath away. Big beautiful photographs of dandelions, frogs, fairie chairs, birds nests, insects and flowers, that show the intricate colors and palettes of colors that occur in nature.

It is a fantasy sourcebook for sure, because is any of the practical? Is it meant to be? Matters not one whit to me - it is an immersion in the beauty and magic of the natural world, with a dose of fairie dust to boot. The back cover of the sales blad says it all, “this is an eco-designer’s dream—the ultimate exploration of truly organic materials”.

***

Eli the Good
by Silas House
Candlewick Press | 9780763643416 | $16.99 | Sept 2009

Eli the Good is a young adult novel from Kentucky author Silas House whose previous adult novels have been published by Algonquin Books. (Follow the link to download a PDF of a letter from Silas.) A favorite among many of my booksellers, this book was my introduction to Silas House’s writing. The novel is set during the bicentennial summer of 1976, the year I happened to graduate from high school. I loved the references to the time interspersed though out the story, which he uses to set the stage of a family breaking apart and coming back together during this pivotal moment in their lives.

Ten-year-old Eli is trying to make sense of all of the members of his family, but most notably, his father, who is struggling with episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Vietnam. Did we even call it post-traumatic stress disorder then?

The writing is lyrical, real, tender and particularly enchanting. Never before have I found someone to detail the sensibilities of a child in a family that so closely reminded me of many scenes from my own childhood. I kept having flashbacks to times in my past where I tried to grapple with myself and my family in the quiet moments of life. Whether it was from the momentous summer of 1976, when of course I wasn’t ten, or the times I allowed myself to remember sitting under the huge trees of the childhood of my younger years, starring up into the branches and thinking about my family and the world we lived in and how I fit in it.

In Eli the Good, themes of nature and war, family and love, loneliness and longing, fill the pages with a quiet wonder. Treat yourself to this book. It will appeal to adults as well as to younger readers. In other words, to anybody and everybody

***

More Candlewick Press links:

» Want a downloadable PDF of the Fall 2009 Candlewick Press catalog? You got it.
» Want to be blown away by the sheer wonder of Candlewick’s backlist? The catalog elves at Candlewick put together their first epic, comprehensive backlist catalog in years.

 

my3books: Skulls!

There's not a lot of explanation necessary, I think, for today's picks. What is interesting is that none of these three books are obvious choices for a spooky Halloween table, despite their covers. Yet they're all due to publish in the 6 weeks or so before Halloween.

The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy
by Bill Hayes
Bellevue Literary Press (Consortium) | 9781934137215 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

One of my favorite new publishers to come to Consortium over the last couple years, Belleuve Literary Press is housed at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and is a venture of The Bellevue Literary Review and New York University School of Medicine. Their focus is to publish literary works that connect to the human body, health, illness and healing. Perhaps their best-known book for indie booksellers will be the novel that was published this past winter, Paul Harding's stunning little gem, Tinkers.

The Anatomist was first published in hardcover in 2007 by Ballantine Books and this marks the first paperback edition. If you ask me, this new cover is striking and preferable to the hardcover edition. I'm glad this affordable new edition is coming out - it's the fascinating story of the the two men who created the most influential medical reference book ever - Henry Gray (the author) and Henry Vandyke Carter (the illustrator).

The New Yorker said in their review of the hardcover edition:

"Hayes moves nimbly between the dour streets of Victorian London, where Gray and Carter trained at St. George’s Hospital, and the sunnier classrooms of a West Coast university filled with athletic physical therapists in training, where he enrolls in anatomy classes and discovers that "when done well, dissection is very pleasing aesthetically."

***

Hamlet: A Novel
by John Marsden
Candlewick Press | 9780763644512 | $16.99 | Aug 2009

The prolific YA author (fresh movie news on his best book: Yesterday, When The War Began) turns his eye on Shakespeare's Hamlet, and brings it to life in a new way for younger teen readers who might not be ready to handle the full complexity of the original language.

Set in a nebulous time, somewhere between Shakespeare's time and the modern era, Hamlet and his friends play soccer on Elsinore's grounds yet when the plot calls for a nice long trip to England for Hamlet and the treacherous Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they go by sea.

The POV moves restlessly among the main players - Hamlet, his best friend Horatio, his mother Gertrude, his uncle and the new king Claudius, Ophelia - and their internal voices give new readers helpful insight into the tricky plotting.

Readers who have read Hamlet before or seen it performed will appreciate the way Marsden maneuvers his characters into place for the key set pieces but keeps things fresh with inventive descriptive language, showing us a new side of Elsinore.

***

Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art:
Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum
by Rudd Priem
Douglas & McIntyre (PGW) | 9781553654711 | $39.95 | Sept 2009

Lastly, dive into an exploration of the Golden Age of Dutch Art - the 17th Century. Full color art throughout the book - over 200 images! - bring this era to life again. This book is the catalog for an exhibition that's currently at the Vancouver Art Gallery through September 13.

Banking and the first truly global trade routes generated staggering levels of new wealth that, coupled with political and religious freedom, created a vibrant atmosphere in which the arts flourished... This sumptuous book features Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Golden Age greats, along with a selection of fine Delft pottery, glassware, and silver that attests to the luxurious refinement of the era.

The art is on loan from the epic collections of The Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands while the museum continues to undergo a massive modernization.

***

If you've got any more skull-covered book suggestions for a Fall display, post them in the comments!

 

>> Belluvue Literary Press is on Facebook and their Web site can be found here.

>> Candlewick Press is here on the web. A glance at their site reminded me that I need to write something about my favorite book from their Spring 2009 list, the "Ocean's 11 for Kids" caper, The Dunderheads. Until then, check it out here. Download the Fall 2009 catalog here.

>> Douglas & McIntyre is a Canadian publisher & distributor of authors as diverse as David Suzuki, Emily Carr, and (in Canada) Ishmael Beah and Douglas Coupland. Their catalog is available to download here and you can find them represented on Twitter by Emi here and Alison here.

DISCLAIMER: This post features books from publisher(s) that I represent BUT the point of this blog is to talk about books that I think you should know about, so just take it as a given that in the back of my mind, it has been my secret plan all along to make you want to buy them.

 

my3books links: Jake-The-Girl from A Great Good Place for Books

Jake-The-Girl sends word that she's posted a response to the "my3books" concept yesterday at her blog, and included her own "my3books" take on Great YA Dystopian Science Fiction.

I'm a reader of science fiction, too, so I was happy to click through and check out her list.  I can already tell that she's my kind of bookseller - her 3 picks included two books I already own and one that I had completely missed but I must now own.

I'm posting a preview of Jake's post here, and recommend that you head on over to her blog to read the whole thing.

Her three picks, with excerpts:

Little Brother
by Cory Doctorow
Tor Books | 9780765319852 | $17.95 | April 2008

"This is a frighteningly real look at the not-so-distant future of technology, seen through the eyes of a school-skipping, video-game-playing techno-geek."

***

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic | 9780439023481 | $17.99 | Sept 2008

"Readers of this blog know that this is my favorite book of all time ... This book is full of non-stop action. It is an emotional rollercoaster. It is the best book EVER."

***

Skinned
by Robin Wasserman
Simon Pulse | 9781416974499 | $9.99 | Aug 2009

"Most dystopian science fiction is action-packed and full of technical jargon. This one isn't. It's more of a moral and ethical look at the future of medicine, and how far we will eventually go to keep our loved ones in our lives."