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Movies & TV Blog

- Covering the best and worst of the small screen and the silver screen
We have a special out-in-the-field guestpost this week from @readandriot, who has a review of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater for you. Terri tells me that The Scorpio Races may be the best book she's read all year. Here she is to tell you why!

SYNOPSIS:
During the month of October, the capiall uisce are restless.  They live in the water, but come up on shore and on land during this cold month.  They are dangerous, for the capaill uisce are bloodthirsty and the sea still sings to them.

The town of Thisby is home to The Scorpio Races, because this is the only place capaill uisce exist.  Every year, on November 1st, men race on the capiall uisce that they have captured. Every year, someone dies.

One must not trust the capiall uisce.  They would sooner kill you and return to the sea from whence they came, then care about winning some foolish race.

Sean Kendrick is the one to beat in the Scorpio Races.  His name is known by all.  Sean rides Corr, a red capiall uisce that his father rode before he died.  Legally, Corr is the property of Sean’s employer, Mr. Malvern, but it’s obvious that Corr truly belongs to Sean.  During this scorpio season, Sean takes the biggest risk, because winning the Races isn’t enough anymore.  He wants Corr.

Kate Connolly, known as Puck Connolly, never cared about The Scorpio Races, but now she has a reason to.  Her older brother Gabe, is planning to leave Thisby, and to stall him, Puck tells him that she is going to be riding in the Races.

What starts as a simple solution, creates discord and havoc among the people of Thisby. The Scorpio Races is not a woman’s game.

This is a Scorpio Race Sean nor Puck can afford to lose.

REVIEW:

Anything I say about this book will come up short.  Simply put, emotion seeped through the pages, and took hold.  This book had the power to make you fall in love with the story.

There was more to the story than just a boy, a girl, and some water horses.  It was more than just a horse race.  There was so much more.

History is painted and carved into the story’s background.  There was a very clear picture of the town and everything Thisby was all about.

Once you got a taste, you couldn't help but want to delve deeper into the story.

The Scorpio Races was very musically written. The writing flowed and held its own rhythm.

The plot was threaded so intricately; there were many story lines woven together.
The chapters alternated between Sean’s and Puck’s point of view, and each chapter ended in such a way that made you wish it would continue.  You were sucked in and needed to know what happened next.

This book was completely different from Maggie Stiefvater’s 'The Wolves of Mercy Falls' series, and even though her style could still be recognized, there was a completely different tone to this story.

The Scorpio Races was a piece of art.  It was beautiful and memorable.

It was impossible not to love these characters.  You begged the story-line to keep certain characters safe, while having a death wish for others.

Sean Kendrick was made for Thisby (or Thisby was made for him, it really could be either).  His blood belonged to the sea and the sand.  There was one thing that Sean loved more than Thisby, and most everyone thought that thing was the Scorpio Races, but it wasn't.  Sean Kendrick loved his capiall uisce.  He loved Corr.
Corr was just as strong a character as Sean, and together, they were perfection.

Puck Connolly was grown from Thisby soil, and she loved it deeply.  She was very spirited and full of sarcastic humour.  She was also extremely brave, and someone not to be tampered with.

Puck's brothers were essential to the story, and they impacted who their sister was.  Everything Puck did, she did for or because of Gabe and Finn.  It wasn't until the end that Puck realized what she was capable of doing for herself.

Her parents were killed by the capiall uisce, so it shook her brothers when she entered the Races.  Only Puck had her best friend beside her:  her horse, Dove.  It was one regular horse against a group of capiall uisce.  Dove shouldn't have stood a chance.

George Holly was a potential buyer who visited the Malvern stables, but he took a liking to Sean and became someone who could be confided in.  Mr. Holly didn't miss a thing.  He added some sugar and sweetness and surprises.  His presence in the plot was very welcome.

The betting, and animosity, and courage that made up the The Scorpio Races was just as important as the actual Race itself.

The Race was fast, bloody, and unbelievable.  It was both a wretched and wonderful thing.

This race wasn’t about competition but rather about dominance, death, and dignity.  For Sean and Puck it wasn’t about the winning title but about the cash prize that came with it.  Even then, the money was only important, because without it, it kept them from what they loved most.

The Scorpio Races was made of many love stories.  It was a love story between Sean and Corr.  It showed love between Puck and her brothers.  It was the loving friendship between Puck and Dove.  It was a story between men, greed, and glory.  It was a love story between every character and the island of Thisby.  It was a story that not everyone survived.

Sean and Puck’s relationship wasn’t rushed or pushed or forced.  They were weary of each other, and were unlikely allies, so trust built up throughout the pages.  It was very natural for them to be together.  Their friendship and budding romance was seamless.

Both the ending and the beginning of this book were so powerful that they couldn't be forgotten.  Even so, everything in between wasn’t overshadowed.
The ending was heartbreaking and so lovely.

If given the chance, The Scorpio Races will capture your heart.

I know that The Scorpio Races is a book that I will read again (and again) because I already miss it.

Let the magic of The Scorpio Races draw you in...

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054522490X
9780545224901

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About Terri:

I've been working in Indigo for just over three years now, and I'm also a student.  About 90% of my spare time is spent with my eyes glued to a book.  This year I started reviewing books on my blog, Read & Riot.  I love that I have yet another place to talk about books.  Harry Potter is still my favourite series, but I read The Princess Diaries (by Meg Cabot) first. I'm very excited to contribute to the Indigo Teen Blog.

Published in Teen

You know a good series when you read it, because it stays with you. It occupies a place in your memory—and it’s so solid that you feel like you know its streets. Maybe better than those who live there, because you know its secrets. You also know its residents; you may not like all of them, but you’ve forgotten life before knowing them. 

Each time you read a book in a series like this, you go home and you share what’s changed in the time that’s passed since you were last there.

Let’s just say a lot has happened in Gatlin, which is strange considering we were told when we first arrived there—with Beautiful Creatures—that there are no surprises in this small South Carolina town. Funny, because there are always surprises whenever I visit Ethan Lawson Wate and Lena Duchannes.

The Caster Chronicles is the teen series that I wait all year for. There are many good books, but this is the series that continues to stand out and deliver a lush world full of characters who I can’t wait to see again. Each book manages to both delight and reduce me to a weepy mess. While I don’t always like what happens, I never leave Gatlin feeling disappointed.

I received a copy of Beautiful Chaos a week early from HBG Canada, and I swore that I was going to take a few days and really savor it. Then I started reading and I didn’t stop until I ran out of book at 2:00 AM. It’s not that I accidentally read this book in a single setting that you should take heed of, it’s that after I finished I had to stop myself from going back and reading it again.

At the end of Beautiful Darkness, Lena claimed herself—choosing to be both Light and Dark Caster. But her choice has had serious consequences: The Order of Things is broken. Both the Caster world and our Mortal world are suffering—and the price of fixing them is going to cost our friends dearly.

Beautiful Darkness was the book where Ethan and Lena were separated. Because of that, Ethan built—or at least realized he had—a strong support group beyond just his Caster girlfriend. In Beautiful Chaos, Ethan and Lena’s relationship is more stable… and it’s Ethan’s support group who is threatened.

Involving his support group in the tension keeps me from feeling like I’m only reading about relationship drama. It’s also more realistic to me that as a character’s entire world changes and expands, those effects would also impact the people in his life. That’s a big part of why I love this series; it’s never been just about a boy and a girl.

Of course, as it is a teen novel there is a little bit of teen romance drama in Beautiful Chaos. Fortunately, it doesn’t overshadow the plot. There’s this amazing scene where Liv says to Lena everything I was thinking in Beautiful Darkness. It’s cheer-worthy! Also, I enjoyed how this book changed my mind about John Breed. I didn’t like him in Beautiful Darkness, but by the end of Beautiful Chaos I can say that he’s all right.

Another thing I appreciate about these books is that there are adults like Macon and Marion, who are cool and help the young adult characters. These adults don’t necessarily solve the problems for Ethan and Lena, but they remind us that we have people in our lives who care about us. (There are also adults who aren’t supportive, but that’s representative of life.)

As the penultimate book, Beautiful Chaos does feel a little bit like bridge between what happened in Beautiful Darkness and what will come in the final novel. I think the biggest factor in what gives me this impression is the book’s cliffhanger ending that you probably don’t want to reach at two in the morning. Let’s just say it’s hard to get to sleep when all you can think is how desperately you want to know what happens next.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 13 October 2011 00:09

October New Teen Releases

Heavy hitters out this month, and many of them coming out all at once. Here's a look at what's new, hot and/or interesting on the shelves this October.

Eve by Anna Carey—In 2032, a long girl travels the wilds of The New America looking for a place to belong.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson—well-known contemporary author Johnson brings her trademark humor to a boarding school story with a touch of the creepy paranormal. Has Jack the Ripper returned to London? And is Rory the only one who can see him?

Devoted by Hilary Duff—the sequel to Elixir.

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick—third in the Hush, Hush series.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan—second in The Heroes of Olympus series and the triumphant return of our favourite demigod, Percy Jackson. (I reviewed this on Indigo Kids Blog.)

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver—Oliver's foray into middle grade/9-12 fiction. A girl, a ghost, and a magical mix-up. The song in the trailer is beautiful.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy—Set in 1952, it features a girl from Los Angeles traveling to London. Potions. Amateur British spies. Actual Russian spies. Illustrations!

The Death Cure by James Dashner—the last book of The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas knows WICKED can't be trusted, but he has one last chance to fix the world.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack—written by a former member of the NYC Ballet company, this novel reveals the pressures and wonders of being a member of a high profile dance company. Like Black Swan...without the trippy mental breakdown (I hope.)

Variant by Robison Wells—You think your school is a prison? Try going to Maxfield Academy.

Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison—a modern retelling of Tristan and Isolde.

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl—the third book in the Caster Chronicles returns us to Gatlin, but the Order of Things is broken... and fixing it will cost Ethan & Lena dearly. (Oct 18)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater—vicious sea horses race along the beach, in this lyrical new novel from the author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. (Oct 18)

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel—the year is 2195. The place is New Victoria...and there are zombies. What's a proper young lady to do when she finds herself falling for an undead solider? No matter how civilized he may be, he's still not alive. (Oct 18)

Seizure: A Virals Novel by Kathy Reichs—second in the Virals series. Tory & her friends search for lost pirate treasure. (Oct 18)

Destined PC Cast—The latest House of Night book. (Oct 25)

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce—3rd novel in the Beka Cooper series. (Oct 25)

Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri—a book of 4 novellas, all of them written entirely on an iPhone. Fortunately, the stories sound even more interesting than their quirky means of creation. (Oct 25)

The Vampire Diaries: The Hunters: Phantom by L. J. Smith—What this book is about happens to be a massive spoiler for The Return. So... I'll just leave it as "the new Vampire Diaries book." (Oct 25)

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa—the end of The Iron Fey series. AKA Ash's book. (Oct 25)
Published in Teen
Friday, 07 October 2011 20:46

The Son of Neptune event at Indigo Yorkdale

Thursday night, I went to a party at Indigo Yorkdale with 1000 of my demigod friends. It was the only Canadian stop on Rick Riordan's Olympian Week tour to celebrate the release of The Son of Neptune, book 2 in The Heroes of Olympus series.

My review for the Indigo Kids Blog of the book explains why I love these books, and I was expecting a lot of people to show up... but I wasn't expecting 1,000. Maybe you think that going to a "kids" book event means there will only be kids there. You'd be wrong. These books are for all ages, as I saw readers from six-years-old to adult. Many of them were reading The Son of Neptune while they waited.

Most of them waited for over 2 hours. But the time and dedication isn't what gets to me. It's the fact that this was a family event. Families celebrating reading and stories together.

Rick Riordan took the stage at stage to cheers. He apologized to us about the joke in The Sea of Monsters where Annabeth calls the [look this word up] "Canadians." To make up for it, Rick made one of the new demigods in The Son of Neptune a Canadian.

stage

"You're represented in The Prophecy of Seven, Canada," he said--and again the crowd cheered.

The cheer was only matched when the second half of the line, waiting patiently on the first floor, were told that everyone was going to get their books signed.

signing02

@IndigoGreenRoom--Centurion Awesome himself--and @melissamateus ran a first class event. There was a modern day Apollo (DJ) playing music while people lined up early.

dj

 

A place to have customized ID tags made.

IDtags

 

A photobooth to document all the campers in their orange and purple.

photoBooth

Prior to the signing, I was charged an epic quest to get 3 books signed on behalf of @lostingreatbook for winners of a silent auction at her school benefitting the Terry Fox Foundation. And so no one says "pics or it didn't happen!" here is photo evidence that both I and @readandriot completed said quest. (Our beads, please!)

terriMe

Want to see more photos from the event? Check out the event album on facebook! All photos were taken at Indigo Yorkdale by Ares Cabin.

Published in Teen

It has been an incredible week for Canadian children’s authors. This past Tuesday, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre held its annual gala event, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards, at the Carlu in Toronto. This is one of my favourite literary events of the year.  Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold. So, I sent my trusty friend and all around teen book guru, Natalie Garside, in my stead. She has provided me some delightful commentary of the night’s festivities. Also I would like to send out  a special “thank you” to Holly Kent, Marketing Manager of the CCBC, for providing us with these photos.

Erin Bow

Five awards were handed out that celebrated the best in children’s literature. One of Chandra’s favourite books from this past year, Erin Bow’s Plain Kate, won the TD Canadian Literature Award of $25,000. According to Garside, Bow’s “acceptance speech was so humble and lovely,” when she discussed how it took her six years to write her first novel and how strange it was to see it out there in the world.

Laurel Croza’s (writer) and Matt James's (illustrator) I Know Here won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for the best illustrated picture book in Canada. The jury, comprised of children’s literature experts across the country, said that Croza’s “authentic personal voice captivates from the first line, in this leave-taking from a beloved childhood home.”

Susan Hughes’s Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction for her book about how modern science can help us understand some of humanity’s most beguiling mysteries.

New Brunswick author, Valerie Sherrard, won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People for her World War II era novel, The Glory Wind. One jury member said that this novel “did everything for me that a good novel should do – it made me smile, it made me angry, it brought me to tears.”

Last, but surely not least - one of my favourite authors that I’ve never read but keep meaning to – the awesome and amazing Y.S. Lee won the John Spray Mystery Award for her Victorian mystery, The Agency: A Spy in the House. “YS Lee brought her adorable four-month-old baby up with her to accept her award,” Garside tells me.”And everyone melted into goo and collectively ‘awwwd.’”

Other highlights of the evening included the announcement of the TD Grade One Book Giveaway, which gives a copy of a book to each Canadian child starting the first grade. This year the book is Jo Ellen Bogart and Barbara Reid’s Gifts. “Jo Ellen Bogart & Barbara Reid didn't know they would get an animated intro of their book on the screen and watched it with real delight,” Garside says.

The other big announcement was a new award sponsored by Harper Collins Canada, The Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. According to the CCBC press release:

 

The Monica Hughes Award will honour excellence in the children’s science fiction and fantasy genre and comes with a $5,000 cash prize which will be awarded annually beginning in October 2012. To be eligible, the book must be an original work in English, aimed at readers ages eight to 16. The award is sponsored by HarperCollins Canada in memory of the late Monica Hughes, the author of over forty books, many of them works of Science Fiction and Fantasy for young readers.

 

Apparently, one of our personal teen read favourites, Lesley Livingston, was sitting behind Natalie and few other colleagues and “whooped liked crazy” when the award was announced.

 

Oh, what fun! I cannot wait to go next year.

 

Celebrate the best of Canadian children’s lit by checking out our online shop for a full list of winners and nominees.

Published in Indigo Kids
Friday, 07 October 2011 01:23

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

There is something about Percy Jackson. I don’t know what it is exactly, and I don’t mean in a book boyfriend kind of way—I don’t want to date Percy. But I do love him. A lot. More than Nobody Owens. More than Harry Potter.

I wanted to try and write you an unbiased review of The Son of Neptune. I did. But here’s the fact of the matter—you aren’t going to start reading the second series of an author at the second book. If you’re reading a review for The Son of Neptune, it’s because you want to know if you should keep reading The Heroes of Olympus series or if you should start reading Percy Jackson & The Olympians.

The answer is YES.

Now, that’s taken care of, onwards to The Son of Neptune. Short review: It’s brilliant; I laughed so hard; I was really upset that I couldn’t just sit and read it until it was finished, and it’s on my list of the best books I’ve read in 2011.

See, because I love Percy so much, this book had me a little worried. What was it going to be like to read third person Percy sharing the narration with two new characters? Would I be rushing through their chapters to get back to Percy?

No. I enjoyed Hazel and Frank’s chapters, too. Frank’s more than Hazels, admittedly, because I’m not super keen on flashbacks. It was cool to see Percy from other people’s eyes and how that matched up to how he felt about himself. Plus, even in third person he still sounds like Percy—just an older and slightly wiser Percy. Those previous five books took their toil, and my favourite demigod has learned a touch of humility. Not enough to keep him out of trouble, mind, but enough to keep him interesting. (And to give me hope that if he survives, he’ll make a decent grown-up one day.)

The magic of these books is that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how old the characters are when you’re reading them. All of that vanishes. They stand as examples of why fun books are essential—they give us permission to enjoy being silly and to get swept up in the idea of things and people who are bigger and better than everyday life.
And while we’re giggling over the horrors of tie-dyed man satchels that read “Hug the World” or poisonous Bargain Mart samples, we’re more open to have the discussions about war and duty and sacrifice that run through this series. All that “silly” humor and epic battles compliment these discussions and allow them to happen in an age-appropriate way. There is some heavy stuff in this book; there is bleakness and doubt beneath Percy’s fierce bravado and crooked grin. But never is it too bleak, and that’s what keeps me on the edge of my seat and unable to turn the pages fast enough. That little bit of doubt, that just maybe Percy will fail, is what keeps him half-human.

Maybe I’m making it sound like this book is all about Percy, and it’s not. It’s about Hazel and Frank, too. Who provide relatable characters to younger readers, a sweet romance, and the different perspectives that keep the book balanced.

There are some similar troupes here to The Lost Hero—a group of people keeping secrets who learn to trust each other—but I feel like the characters are distinct and developed enough to make up for it. Also, you have to expect a little bit of similarity as The Son of Neptune is meant to mirror The Lost Hero. Jason was a Roman introduction to Greek traditions, and Percy is a Greek introduction to Roman traditions. (We reviewed The Lost Hero on Indigo Teen Blog last year.)

I love this book because it features a West Coast quest and a Canadian demigod as a major character. I love these books, because they are our world but better. And if you read this all the way to the end, thank you. Now go read The Son of Neptune!

Published in Indigo Kids

Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone impressed me with its elegant prose, quirky characters, and interesting take on angels and magic. Easily one of the most enthralling novels I've read this year, you can read the my review of it here. When we were approached by HBG Canada about doing a possible interview with Laini, we jumped at the chance to find out more about this amazing book.

Welcome, Laini!

Indigo Teen Blog: Why Prague? What is it about that city that fits this story so well?
Laini Taylor:
Prague is magical, and not in a Disney way (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It has a haunting and haunted quality to it—it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, but in a way that—to me—hints at dark history and lurking creatures. I love it!
      I first went in 1996, taking a night train across Germany to arrive at dawn, and I was just floored by the sights, the castle, the clock, the Charles Bridge—and by the unexpected discovery of marionettes everywhere! I didn’t know that puppetry was such a thriving art form in the Czech Republic, and that just sealed my fate. I love marionettes, if anything could make a city rise even higher in my estimation, it would either mangoes or puppets!
       In 2005, I went back with my husband to hunt vampires. That is, we were researching a graphic novel we wanted to do (I was writing, he would illustrate; our first, The Drowned, had just come out.) So we spent a lovely week and a half lurking around drawing and plotting, deciding on locations, shooting photo reference, and getting to know the city. We ended up not doing that book, which freed it up as a setting when this one came around!
      The reason it works for this book is that it creates a kind of dark fairy tale setting while still being real and contemporary. Also, it has a long history of art and music which is a nice fit.
      I myself crave travel and the exotic, and I always have, so of course I want to live vicariously through my characters—also, writing a place into a book gives me an excellent excuse to go there, as I did with Morocco shortly after finishing this book.
      In future, I imagine I will choose my settings based on where I want to travel next!

ITB: One of the things I admire about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that Karou and Zuzana are art students. How important are visuals to you when you tell a story?
LT
: I went to art school myself, and it interests me as a setting—so much creative energy, and absurdity too. It wasn’t an early element of the story, but when I was dreaming up Karou and really fleshing her out, this felt like a discovery. It was a way to bring life and texture to the opening. The first few chapters depend on an art school situation—the nude model—and also, Karou’s sketchbooks were a great way to introduce the mysterious fantasy element into the story. I have a dream of making her sketchbooks real some day. If I can convince my extremely talented husband, Jim Di Bartolo, to draw them!
        Visuals are important to me. I want my stories to have a richness and atmosphere to them; I love interesting and offbeat sensory details—like the marionettes in Prague. I know that one of my early writing foibles when I was starting out was an excess of description, because I loved it. But I’ve toned that down now. I try to keep descriptive passages short and rare, so as not to slow down the narrative. Then they have more impact when they come along as a breathing place. I hope!

ITB: Brimstone’s collecting of teeth is incredibly creepy. Is there a reason you chose it to be teeth instead of, for example, finger bones?
LT:
The teeth idea arose from a freewrite I did quite a few years ago. (So many of my ideas come out of freewriting!) I was writing from a prompt, and ended up with a series of vignettes to do with procuring wishes. One told of a creepy underground shop (it was in Caracas), where people bought wishes — and the currency was teeth. It was a random choice. Teeth are cool and creepy and seem to me like they might have some strong mojo. You know, animals kill with those things! And they’re very interesting visually. From there, when this idea found its way into Daughter and became an integral element, it fit in other ways too, which I won’t go into for fear of spoiling!
         For me, the sweet spot in writing process is kind of a dance between the conscious and unconscious minds, and I love it when something pops up from goodness-knows-where—like this idea of teeth as currency—and then ends up becoming a major element in a way I could never have predicted. It’s like being given a gift by my muse.

ITB: The Chimaera seem so much fun to create. Do you have a name for all of their tribes? What kind of Chimaera would you be?
LT:
I don’t have the world entirely fleshed out as far as having all the tribes imagined and named. I haven’t mapped it geographically either. I would enjoy doing those things! In fact, that is the sort of thing I used to spend a lot of time doing when I was younger—world-building, world-dreaming—and I would call it “writing,” never mind that I generally didn’t make as far as the actual writing, i.e. the storytelling part! My husband and I met a guy once at a party who identified himself as a fantasy writer, and we talked for quite a while before it came to light that he’d spent ten years on world-building for a fantasy series and hadn’t begun to write yet! I understand very well how that could happen.
       So, I don’t let myself get diverted into full-immersion world-building any more than I let myself spend hours googling things of dubious research necessity! Both exert their own siren song, and it is astonishing the way time passes while doing them. So though I do work on my worlds, I do not have a full encyclopedia yet the way some authors do. I imagine by the end of the series I will.
      As for what chimaera I would be, I’d have to go with Kirin. To be able to fly! The horns would be wickedly cool too, and the hooves, and still to be semi-human.


ITB: Can you give us any indication of how many books there will be in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Is there a release date for the second one?
LT:
It is planned as a trilogy, and the next book should come out a year following the first.

ITB: If your hair could grow from your head in any color, which one would you want it to be?
LT:
Well, I’ve had bright pink hair for four years—the chemical way, alas, not Karou’s way—and I would love to do away with the maintenance! I do like the idea of Karou’s peacock blue, too, but the pink just feels like “me” now after so long.

ITB: If you could meet any other currently publishing author, who would it be?
LT:
I can’t help it: I think it would be JK Rowling. For one thing, she is one of those elusive creatures one is unlikely to ever encounter in real life, like at a conference the way I meet many other authors. But the main reason is that it was Harry Potter that reminded me, at a critical time, of the kind of books I love. I am indebted to her, and also: she seems really cool. :)

You're pretty cool, too, Laini. Thanks for answering our questions—and thanks to HBG Canada for arranging the interview.

Published in Teen
Saturday, 01 October 2011 15:20

This Dark AR Endeavour

A mysterious bookshelf has appeared in Chapters and Indigo stores across Canada. The shelf appears antiquated, as if it belongs in an estate library from centuries ago; a marker atop the shelf bears the words This Dark Endeavour. Is it a warning or an invitation?

Of course, you know that This Dark Endeavour is the title of the first volume of Kenneth Oppel's new trilogy about a young Victor Frankenstien, which we've been excited about since reviewing it early. This bookshelf is part of Harper Collins Canada's new AR campaign for the novel.

AR stands for augmented reality, and it encompasses everything from the Lost and Heroes games that ran along with the TV shows to how books like Cathy's Book and Skeleton Creek interact with readers. While the The Dark Endeavour AR campaign isn't as in-depth, it is the first of its kind in North America. It's the first time a book has tried to recreate through technology the reader experience of vanishing into another world—and that's very exciting.

Find the shelf. Download the app. Use your phone to locate the correct book, and unlock the hidden secrets of the Dark Library.

The downside is that you will need an Android phone into order to participate in-store with the actual display. If you don't have an Android phone, still go have a look at the bookshelf in your local Chapters or Indigo—as it is a very cool piece of art—and then pick up one of the This Dark Endeavour bookmarks that has the instructions for unlocking the secrets of young Victor Frankenstien through this page on Kenneth Oppel's website. You need the bookmark and a working webcam.

I got to go to Eaton Centre on Thursday, September 29th, when Harper Collins Canada launched this endeavour. Mr. Oppel was there to discuss his book, and he did some stock signing. I finally got my copy signed.

Book events, like well-run author signings, have an element of augmented reality to them—they create a moment where a story is more than just words. With how interactive our lives are now, I think we expect these kinds of experiences. We want them—or at least, I want them. I really hope that this is the first of many AR involvements with young adult fiction. As long they are done well and are easy access, they can only help create a stronger bond between readers and the books they're reading.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 29 September 2011 00:54

Smart Chicks and Paranormal Diversions

Last year, I went to the Smart Chicks Kick It tour stop in Pasadena, California. In fact, that's where Indigo Teen Blog did our very first interview. (Although Erin Bow was our first formal interview.)

Some of you went to Smart Chicks Kick It in Brampton last year—and it was quite the party from what I've been told. Earlier this month, the anthology that arose from the original tour released. Enthralled Paranormal Diversions is a collection edited by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr. All the contributing authors are part of Smart Chicks Kick It, and all of the stories are about journeys—most of them roadtrips.

Some of the gems for me in this collection are: a verse entry by Jeri Smith-Ready called Bridge that's from Logan's POV; a post-Darkest Mercy story by Melissa Marr; a road trip with Sabine and Emma from Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent; the first solo stories by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and story about vampires and bands by Sarah Rees Brennan. Claudia Grey, Carrie Ryan, Jackson Pearce, Kelley Armstrong, Kimberly Derting, Ally Condie, Jessica Verday, Mary E Pearson, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and Rachel Caine also contribute to the anthology.

And it would be a really cool thing to take to Chapters Metrotown on Saturday for the first Canadian stop of the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour 2.0. That's right, Vancouver—it's your turn to show Kelley and Melissa how much Canadians love teen books! You can get Kelley, Melissa, Margaret Stohl and Jennifer Lynn Barnes to sign Enthralled—and meet Beth Revis & Sara Zarr, too.

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour. Saturday. October 1st. 2 pm. Chapters Metrotown.

Go early. Make friends. Have fun and send your tweets & pics to @indigogreenroom!

If you can't make it to Vancouver—you can go to Ottawa on October 3 at 7 pm. The Nepean Centrepointe branch of the Ottawa public library in the Chamber room. Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Melissa de la Cruz, Charles de Lint, and Margaret Stohl will be there.

Published in Teen
Thursday, 22 September 2011 23:23

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

When Leviathan released, I admit having had mixed feelings. It was a Scott Westerfeld title, which meant it was going to be good and smart, but I wasn't sure about something so complex and ambitious as a retelling of WWI. Visually, I love the steampunk aesthetic—give me brass gears and goggles and the expert tailoring of the Victorian era any day—but I find it can be cumbersome to read. (Mostly because I'm not a fan of a lot of books written during the Victorian era.) However, I enjoyed Leviathan and it promised an interesting look at a period of history that we don't necessarily think about as often as we should.

And Behemoth was fun, despite its sombre moments. Yet it left me wondering how the trilogy would wrap up. Would it follow the actual historical events? Divert wildly? Were many other characters going to die? And what would happen when everyone learned Mr. Sharp was a girl? As Goliath drew to a close, I felt Mr. Westerfeld did a smashing job accomplishing what he set out to do with that first book.

This trilogy is one the teen section's strongest examples of intricate world-building—from its meticulously crafted language to its fully-realized mechanical and organic creations to the glorious illustrations that grace the interior pages. But the risk of being so detailed is that the reader may get lost in it. Fortunately, we have Prince Alek and Devryn Sharp—two very likable characters who I found it easy to become invested in—to make the war they fight and the complex world they inhabit human and accessible. One of the details I love in Goliath is how elaborately Alek describes his gourmet meals; it makes so obvious that he hasn't had decent food in a long time.

Goliath sees the secret that Devyrn has been keeping from almost everyone onboard the Levithan—she's a girl dressed up as a boy—revealed to Alek, along with her feelings for him. While this creates significant tension, I did feel any long-term reprecussions of her secret were resolved or dismissed a little easily. Ultimately, however, the reveal is handled well and the tension it creates balances the romance. As it changes Alek and Devyrn's relationship, there is a tad more romance, but it doesn't slow the story.

As Goliath is all about an end to the war, and the costs of peace, I respect that Mr. Westerfeld doesn't shy away from asking that question. All the while, he continues to present the strength that forms when the Darwinists and Clankers work together. My favourite character remains Bovril ("Mr. Sharp!") and we see some old friends return in Goliath, as well as meeting a few new ones. Nikola Tesla is a snappy dresser and slighty mad.

That kind of hopeful madness runs all through this trilogy. It never glamourizes war or violence, but maintains a wonderful sense of adventure threaded through all three books. Even when dealing with serious, sombre subject matter, it refrains from becoming Mockingjay. You won't read Goliath and feel horrible about the world. (Clarification: Mockingjay wasn't horrible, but the feeling it left me with was.) Well done, Mr. Westerfeld, well done.

Published in Teen
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