Zombie in Love

1982067_10102502654432283_198930371_nThis weekend I had the pleasure of selling Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell, at the Newmark Theater downtown. Why was I selling a picture book at a theater? Great question! The Oregon Children’s Theater was debuting Zombie in Love, the musical! Not only was it the world premier, to make the event even more special, Kelly DiPucchio was there signing books! She was really sweet, and the audience was SO excited to have her there. Embarrassingly, I was not prepared for the throngs of zombie lovers, and actually sold out of books. I didn’t get to see the show–we also had another event going on at the same time so it was busy busy (Sorry Kelly, I didn’t get to say thank you because I had to run! THANK YOU!), but EVERYONE leaving the theater after the first performance was SO happy, so I’m going to go ahead and tell you that it was FANTASTIC and you should try to go next weekend if you can.

The picture book is also fantastic. It’s a picture book about a zombie trying to find love! What isn’t to love about that (ha.)?! It’s funny, and creepy in all the right ways, and I would definitely suggest you stop at your local children’s bookstore and grab a copy.

 

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Midwinterblood

midwinterbloodThe moment this book won the Printz Award I put a hold on it at the library (yes, this bookseller uses the library…I have to or I’d be broke!). I finally got my copy right before I left for a business trip, and  pretty much read the entire thing in one sitting on the plane. Which I suppose means that it was a page turner, but mostly that’s because it is in short sections which just make it easy to get through. Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick, tells the story of Merle and Eric, starting in the future and moving back in time throughout centuries of love, death, and interconnected relationships, until you reach the beginning of their story, a tale from the viking days.

I’ve seen this book compared to Cloud Atlas before, so I’ll just say that when the thought came to my mind I was a bit annoyed at the lack of originality. That’s not to say you can’t take something that’s already been done and make it your own original concept, or make it awesome despite the similarities. I’ve never read Cloud Atlas, but I was not a fan of the movie, I thought it was too heavy handed with the DEEP MESSAGE. While Midwinterblood isn’t heavy handed, it is really weird. It didn’t sit right with me. In some of the stories Merle and Eric are brother and sister, and in some they’re mother/son. I realize there are different kinds of love, but I wasn’t satisfied with how this was dealt with. The concept of the book, and the connecting stories, were intriguing in theory, but the reality fell flat for me. I kept waiting for the Amazing Epiphany and ended up disappointed.

While Midwinterblood is an interesting book, I don’t understand how it won the Printz Award–an award for acclaimed young adult writing–when there wasn’t a single teenage in the entire novel. Maybe that’s a separate issue–what makes a book YA?–but it’s definitely one worth discussing.

Midwinterblood didn’t meet my expectations. The writing was strong and the stories were interesting, but as a whole I feel like it could have been more riveting, and Sedgwick could have had more fun with the concept.

Book Review: Cuckoos Calling

Once upon a time there was an author named JK Rowling. She wrote the Harry Potter books, and lived happily ever after. But what is a multi-millionaire amazing, famous author to do once that series is over, and her literary fiction receives mixed reviews? Write a genre detective novel under the psydonom Robert Galbraith, of course! And she does it surprisingly well.

I have this image of JK Rowling sitting at her computer deciding what to write next, and thinking it might be a fun project to have a go at a detective novel. Maybe she’s been watching a lot of Humphrey Bogart lately, and just wants to take a stab at it. And stab at it she does. Except the mystery surrounding this book is not a stabbing, but a suicide.

Cuckoo’s Calling takes place in present day London, three months after famous model Lula Landry has committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of her high rise condominium….er "flat", as they say in London. Our protaganist, and dear detective, Cormoran Strike, has been hired by Lula’s brother, John Bristow, to investigate the suicide. You see, he doesn’t think it was a suicide, but a murder.

Cormoran Strike is a superb detective character, weird name and all. I read this book for my book club, and one of the first things we did was google Cormoran. It turns out the name comes from a giant in Cornwall folklore. The name makes much more sense after this google discovery, because Cormoran is quite a large man. But he’s had a difficult life, and while in the British Army lost a leg. Reader beware: this book is not a gruesome book by any means, but Cormoran spends a lot of time running around chasing clues about the supposed murderer, and in the process causes himself a lot of pain with his illfitting prosthetic leg. I felt bad for him, but I also felt bad for myself because the descriptions of his leg pain grossed me out. But that is just a tiny part of a complex and delightful novel.

Strike is kind of a mess, having been recently kicked out of his fiance’s apartment, and is living and sleeping in his office. Clearly, he needs an assistant. Enter Robin, a temp from a local agency. Robin and Strike have great chemistry, and there are mostly only hints of a romantic connection, which I appreciated. Where Strike is misordered and down on his luck, Robin is thoughtful, organized, and so completely smitten with the idea of being a detective’s assistant. I really liked her character, and I wish she had been used more in the story.

I won’t give away any plot points, but I will say that JK Rowling Galbraith does an excellent job of giving the reader just enough hints to keep turning the page. I did think it got a little bogged down in the middle, as Cormoran’s main sleuthing skill is interviewing suspects surrounding the case. But because the characters were all interesting, from Lula’s drug addict boyfriend and her model BFF to her control freak Uncle, I kept reading.

I wouldn’t say that this book was amazing, but it was certainly enjoyable. I’m not sure if I would have picked it up had it not been written by Rowling, but that’s mostly because the detective books I read are less noir detective novels, and more thriller suspense (Tana French write faster!).  This is the first book in a trilogy, and I suspect (see what I did there? suspect? mystery novel…) I’ll be reading the other two.

Going Bovine, By Libba Bray

going-bovine

I  really really wanted to like this one. I had never read any Libba Bray, but I’ve heard that this is quite a departure from her Gemma Doyle series. And I really really want to read the Gemma Boyle books. But this book. This strange book. It just didn’t do it for me. But I REALLY wanted it to. It’s like a relationship that looks good on paper, but in reality there are no sparks, and all you can blame is a lack of chemistry. I wanted sparks.

Going Bovine is about Cameron Smith, a 16-year-old boy who somehow ends up with the unlucky fate of contracting mad cow disease. Cameron finds out that the disease is fatal, and that his body will slowly stop working for him. So he does what any fatally ill teenager would do. He goes on a road trip with his friend Gonzo. But it’s not just any road trip. He learns, from a hot punk-rock angel named Dulcie, that he has to find Dr. X who can cure him of the disease. Along the way Cameron and Dulcie run into a very odd cast of characters–my favorite was Balder, the viking garden gnome.

As I said, I really really wanted to like this book. It has a unique premise and amazing characters, but the plot is so wishy-washy. I felt like I was constantly waiting for the “a-ha!” moment, and never got there. My favorite part was the beginning, before the road trip.  And when my favorite part is the beginning, that means the rest of the book was “meh”. There are some tear-jerker moments in the book and Libba speaks so honestly about the state of the world today, and about the fragility of life. I didn’t dislike it, and I didn’t “not get it”, it is a deep and moving book that was well crafted and beautifully written, and very original and witty and hilarious. Which all sounds great, but there were no sparks.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never read Don Quixote, which this is loosely based on. Or maybe it’s because I’ve read a few too many truly BAD Don Quixote knock-offs. But this just wasn’t for me. It’s not Libba, it’s me. Going Bovine has gotten good press, and in case my review just doesn’t do it for you, here are a few fans of the book: KidsLit, Reading Rants, Tea Cozy, Em’s Bookshelf and a review I agree with: Abby (the) Librarian.

Incarceron, By Catherine Fisher

IncarceronI was going to hold off on reviewing this one until closer to the pub date, but I just can’t wait. I received an ARC of Incarceron at PNBA from my lovely Penguin sales rep, and had heard FABULOUS things about it during my “Children’s Pick of the List” panel at the tradeshow. Booksellers were throwing around words like “steampunk” and phrases like “well, I can’t tell you much about it….” so of course it sounded like my kind of book. I just love books I can’t talk about. Right. So let’s talk about the book, shall we?

Incarceron is set in a postapocalyptic-ish future. Kind of. You see, the powers that be decided that it would be safer if they just stopped time, so they all live in a sort-of Victorian era, but most people cheat and use technology to fake their authentic Victorian lifestyles. Claudia lives in this fake-Victorian-era, and her father is the Warden of Incarceron–a prison that was created decades ago where ALL the bad people of the world were sent to create a new utopia-type-land. Finn lives in this utopian prison. Except it’s more like hell. The chapters alternate between Claudia and Finn, (seamlessly, I might add) and as they learn more about eachother’s worlds many mysteries surface.

Sounds pretty awesome and sort of complicated, right? Well it is. Pretty awesome. It’s really not complicated once you’re entrenched in the book. And I was hooked from the first page. Catherine Fisher does an amazing job of keeping things suspenseful, and she weaves together the different story lines beautifully. Her worlds are so completely original and well shaped. I can’t wait until this one comes out so that I can start selling it. It’s already been out in the UK for awhile, so if you really want it, I’m sure you could find it. Or just wait and buy it at your local indie bookstore. (shameless plug).

EDIT: I just found out that Bookshelves of Doom has a great review of Incarceron too! I think her summary is a bit less convoluted than mine, check it out.

Book Review: Cuckoo’s Calling

Once upon a time there was an author named JK Rowling. She wrote the Harry Potter books, and lived happily ever after. But what is a multi-millionaire amazing, famous author to do once that series is over, and her literary fiction receives mixed reviews? Write a genre detective novel under the psydonom Robert Galbraith, of course! And she does it surprisingly well.

I have this image of JK Rowling sitting at her computer deciding what to write next, and thinking it might be a fun project to have a go at a detective novel. Maybe she’s been watching a lot of Humphrey Bogart lately, and just wants to take a stab at it. And stab at it she does. Except the mystery surrounding this book is not a stabbing, but a suicide.

Cuckoo’s Calling takes place in present day London, three months after famous model Lula Landry has committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of her high rise condominium….er "flat", as they say in London. Our protaganist, and dear detective, Cormoran Strike, has been hired by Lula’s brother, John Bristow, to investigate the suicide. You see, he doesn’t think it was a suicide, but a murder.

Cormoran Strike is a superb detective character, weird name and all. I read this book for my book club, and one of the first things we did was google Cormoran. It turns out the name comes from a giant in Cornwall folklore. The name makes much more sense after this google discovery, because Cormoran is quite a large man. But he’s had a difficult life, and while in the British Army lost a leg. Reader beware: this book is not a gruesome book by any means, but Cormoran spends a lot of time running around chasing clues about the supposed murderer, and in the process causes himself a lot of pain with his illfitting prosthetic leg. I felt bad for him, but I also felt bad for myself because the descriptions of his leg pain grossed me out. But that is just a tiny part of a complex and delightful novel.

Strike is kind of a mess, having been recently kicked out of his fiance’s apartment, and is living and sleeping in his office. Clearly, he needs an assistant. Enter Robin, a temp from a local agency. Robin and Strike have great chemistry, and there are mostly only hints of a romantic connection, which I appreciated. Where Strike is misordered and down on his luck, Robin is thoughtful, organized, and so completely smitten with the idea of being a detective’s assistant. I really liked her character, and I wish she had been used more in the story.

I won’t give away any plot points, but I will say that JK Rowling Galbraith does an excellent job of giving the reader just enough hints to keep turning the page. I did think it got a little bogged down in the middle, as Cormoran’s main sleuthing skill is interviewing suspects surrounding the case. But because the characters were all interesting, from Lula’s drug addict boyfriend and her model BFF to her control freak Uncle, I kept reading.

I wouldn’t say that this book was amazing, but it was certainly enjoyable. I’m not sure if I would have picked it up had it not been written by Rowling, but that’s mostly because the detective books I read are less noir detective novels, and more thriller suspense (Tana French write faster!).  This is the first book in a trilogy, and I suspect (see what I did there? suspect? mystery novel…) I’ll be reading the other two.