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Monday, January 31, 2011

Author Interview and Blog Tour: Eilis O'Neal

Thanks so much to The Teen {Book} Scene for allowing me to be a part of this tour!

Here's a bit about Eilis, the author of The False Princess:

I’m a writer of fantasy and the Managing Editor of the literary magazine Nimrod International Journal. I started writing at the age of three (though the story was only four sentences long). My short fantasy has been published in various print and online journals, and you can find links to some of my stories here. I was born, raised in, and currently live in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

1. Hi Eilis, it's great to have you here! To get started, tell us a bit about your debut novel, The False Princess.  
The False Princess is a reversal of the classic story of a girl who grows up in obscurity, only to later find out that she's a princess in hiding. In my story, Sinda grows up thinking that she is named Nalia, and that she's the princess of Thorvaldor. After she turns 16, though, she's told that she's actually just a stand-in, a commoner chosen to take the place of the true princess for her protection. Sinda's kicked out of the palace, unsure of who she really is and what to do with herself now that she's no longer the princess. 

2. I've seen stories of normal girls who didn't know that they were princesses, but never of princesses who didn't know they were normal girls. How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always been drawn to stories about girls who thought they were commoners only to find out that they were royalty hidden away. And I read a lot, so I’ve had a long time to have those sorts of stories seep into me. One day, I was just hit with the question of what a story would be like if the opposite were true, what a tale about a princess-turned-commoner would look like. The reversal of the classic princess story seemed like it would involve so many problems and strangenesses for the girl in question that I new I had to write it. 

3. You write short stories as well as novels, how does the writing process differ?
 With a novel, I’ll often have a seed of an idea that floats around inside me for a long time. With short stories, I often have a much quicker reaction time. I’ll get an idea and start writing immediately. Also, I sometimes have to play around with the voice of a novel when I first start writing it (The False Princess started out in third person before I realized that just wasn’t going to work), but I generally know the right voice in a short story right away. 

4. Are there any books or authors that have influenced you as a writer? 
Do you have all day? Because the answer is a huge yes. I should start with Tamora Pierce’s  Song of the Lioness quartet. I read it for the first time when I was twelve, and those were the books that made me realize I wanted to write YA fantasy. I admire Robin McKinley’s way of integrating information about a fantasy world into a story without halting everything to tell you How Magic Works or The History of This Neighboring Country. I also love the thought that goes into the magic system in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series—it's very consistent and makes a lot of sense.  

5. Have you read any good YA books lately that you'd like to recommend? 
Again, a huge yes! I just recently read Erin Bow’s Plain Kate and loved it. It’s a quieter novel, not a lot of flash and bang, which is part of the reason I liked it. Bow creates a great world and really interesting magic system, along with a main character you can’t help but root for. Also, just finished Justine Larbalestier's Liar today. I can't say too much about it, because it's full of twists and turns, but it was awesome and very different.

Thank you for answering my questions Eilis!

Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A.S. King
Published: October 2010
Source: The Library
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was different from any book I've ever read. It almost felt like there wasn't really a plot, just a series of events that were sometimes related, sometimes not. Vera's life was revealed slowly through flashbacks, which was interesting. I liked the parts that were from Charlie's point of view, but a lot of times they made me sad. A lot of this book made me sad, actually. There was so much love between Vera and Charlie, and so much potential. The end is ultimately hopeful, but I really didn't want it to end.

Characters: 10/10
Writing: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Overall: 48/50 A

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos

Title: Tell Us We're Home
Author: Marina Budhos
Published: May 2010
Source: The Teen {Book} Scene Blog Tours
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want to go to the spring dance, they love spending time with their best friends after school, sharing frappÉs and complaining about the other kids. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for.

That difference grows even bigger—and more painful—when Jaya’s mother is accused of theft and Jaya’s small, fragile world collapses.

When tensions about immigrants start to erupt, fracturing this perfect, serene suburb, all three girls are tested, as outsiders—and as friends. Each of them must learn to find a place for themselves in a town that barely notices they exist.

Marina Budhos gives us a heartbreaking and eye-opening story of friendship, belonging, and finding the way home.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Tell Us We're Home. On one hand, the story sounded great. On the other, I'd seen some not so spectacular reviews. I decided to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did. It was a truly enjoyable and heartfelt book with interesting characters. I wasn't crazy about the third person, though.

Tell Us We're Home is told from the point of view of three girls: Jaya, Maria, and Lola. All immigrants, all with mothers who work for the families of the other kids in their school. Their similarities bring them together as best friends. I thought that all three girls were developed well, with their own personalities and differences. Their stories unfolded nicely, without feeling too much like a segment from their biography's. There were times when I wished for a little more backstory.

As with most third person novels, this book felt a little detached for me. I think that I would have enjoyed it more if it had been in first person. It would have been a bit less confusing as well. Sometimes the characters were a little hard to keep straight. I thought that the writing style was pretty easy to follow, and at times very beautiful.

My biggest problem with the book was the plot. There were quite a few times where I felt like the book really wasn't going anywhere. I really liked just getting to know the characters, but I think some more forward motion would have been more enjoyable.
Basically, I really liked this book. The characters were very intersting to read about and I liked the writing, I just wish that there had been a bit more of a plot.

Characters: 9/10
Writing: 8/10
Originality: 9/10
Plot: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Overall: 41/50 B-
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