Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes-- Mystery, History, Adventure.

The Arsonist

Molly's dad is on death row, her mother supposedly committed suicide-- and she's the only one who believes that her mother could still be alive. As her father's execution date grows near, Molly gets clues that lead her to Pepper (a Kuwaiti-born teen), and she knows he's supposed to help her unravel the mystery of her family.

Pepper is a boy who doesn't really see himself.  He dreams of being President of the USA, even though he's not American born, failing out of school, and frankly not all that articulate or smart.  When a series of events happen to put Molly in his life, he starts seeing life for what it actually is-- and not what he's been trying to ignore.

The clues the pair receive take them back to 1980's East Berlin-- the Cold War era, where a girl named Ava became the face of the revolution.  The truth about Ava will unravel everything for Molly and Pepper-- if only they can figure it out.

I want to tell you right off the bat that this review will not come close to doing this book justice.  I want to tell you all how amazing and awesome this book is in a coherent way that really conveys the perfection of this book.  But I am going to fail.

This book is amazing and awesome-- wait, I already said that.  Okay, let me try again.  This book is about so much more than I thought it would be about.  I thought I was getting a story about a serial arsonist-- and it WAS about that-- but it was about a lot more.  It was about Ava Dreyman, a historical figure who became the Anne Frank of 1980's Berlin.  It was about Pepper and his smooshy dog Bertrand and his dad's sadness.  It was about Molly's complicated family and their story.  But it all wove together so beautifully and perfectly, that I couldn't believe I was reading YA.

Not to say YA isn't smart or detailed, but this felt like more than what I think of YA to be.  Again, I'm not explaining that well because I LOVE YA.  I would defend YA to the death.  But I don't necessarily equate YA with super literary books (and I think that's a good thing)-- THE ARSONIST is literary.  It should be read in classrooms.

I FELT like I was reading something real.  I FELT Ava's story as real.  I FELT like I was on Pepper and Molly's epic adventure, and the implications of it felt real.

Was I 100% happy with the way the ending came together??  No.  I was hoping for a much neater bow to put on the top of this package-- but that fact didn't diminish my love for the experience of this book.

Friendship, Adventure, History, Family.  That's what this book was.  It was a journey and a mystery, and I was glad to be along for the ride.

OVERALL: Do you want to go on a journey to unravel a historical mystery that could change EVERYTHING for 2 unlikely friends??  This book was exceptional, and definitely one of the best books I've read in 2017.  I highly recommend for fans of adventure, mystery, and historical elements in books.

Date Published: 8/22/2017
How I got this book: Books for Trade!
Publisher: Dial Books/Penguin

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 5/5

Character: Pepper Al-Yusef
Book: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

  • Nanette is searching for self-identity in ways that remind me of what Pepper is going through.  (Although, Pepper is 1000 x's more awesome than Nanette).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Welcome to the FFBC: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco-- Interview & Giveaway!!

Hunting Prince Dracula
(Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)
by Kerri Maniscalso
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

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Synopsis: In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer...or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Hi, Kerri! I'm so excited to be able to ask you a few questions about HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA and the Stalking Jack the Ripper series!!

Thank you so much! I’m excited about the questions and am so excited to be here!


Favorite book?

I have several that I reread occasionally, but growing up I loved WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shel Silverstein. 

Favorite TV show?

I LOVED the Victoria series on PBS and can’t wait for the second season. 

Favorite Movie?

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare and absolutely LOVE Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet. 

Favorite Song?

Ohh. Too hard! I listen to songs based on mood and it changes often. Right now I’m listening to “Burial” by Miike Snow.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Wonderland, Fantasia, and Velaris.

Name a recent book that you read which would recommend to our book lovers.

GIRL AT THE GRAVE by Teri Bailey Black which is perfect for fans of SJTR, or SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young, this epic Viking-inspired fantasy. Both are coming out in 2018 and need to be on everyone’s pre-order lists.

If you were trapped on a desert island what would your island be made of?

Mangoes. I could eat them all day long. Oh…are we talking about food or…is this just me? If not food, then abalone shells. Totally not functional but it would be gorgeous at sunrise and sunset! 


Can you explain the series in ten words or less? 

Sure! Victorian Era Gothic Nancy Drew meets Sherlock. 

How would you describe the main characters of Audrey Rose and Thomas? What Hogwarts Houses would you sort them in?

I LOVE this question! I usually describe HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA in HP terms: (a forensic academy full of Slytherins go Ravenclaw on each other while trying to solve murders in Dracula’s castle), so this is fabulous. 

I think they’d both be sorted into Ravenclaw, though they do have some Slytherin…so maybe Raverin.

What can you tell us about the setting of the book? I know in this one we are headed to Romania.

Most of the setting takes place at Bran Castle, which is a magnificent fortress located in the historic region of Romania known as Transylvania. I’ve definitely taken liberties with the interior of the castle and have included really fun, subterranean tunnels for the characters to explore. It’s filled with chambers that feature “fun” surprises for them. 

What inspired you to write this series?

I really wanted to read a book about a girl like me—one who loves forensic science. My grandmother was always one of my biggest supporters, so I used my love of forensics and my grandmother’s love of “whodunits” and came up with the idea of a gothic Nancy Drew-type series. Women in STEM are amazing and it felt right to feature that passion in my main character.

Do you have a favorite scene? One that you’re excited for readers to experience? (No spoilers of course).

I do! There’s a scene in HPD that I’ve been holding back on since SJTR and it has to do with Thomas Cresswell. I think readers will totally know the scene when they get to that chapter…I believe it’s 29. 

This series involves solving unsolved murders. What unsolved crime would you want to solve?

I still stand by wanting to know who Jack the Ripper really was—his case is still so captivating after all of these years, it would be nice to have closure. I also have always been intrigued by the Black Dahlia case.

When you write are you a plotter or a pantser?

A little of both, actually. I always have an idea of how I want the story to play out—a lot of times I’ll write out character sheets with details of all the players before I begin. I also like to write up a short three or four hundred word blurb for myself. (Much like the sort of jacket copy you read on books.)  

I also have this thing called the “The 3 C’s” of drafting I sort of live by:

I know a lot of writers listen to music, and some use Pinterest to visualize everything. How do you get into the frame of mind to write?

I ADORE using my Pinterest board! I’m a visual person, so anytime I can find a picture that’s similar to what’s in my head, I’m in a happy place. I also am a huge fan of taking writing breaks to listen to music that sets a certain mood or atmosphere for whichever scene I’m currently working on.

Which book was harder to write, this book or the first book in the series and why?

Definitely HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA! I was terrified of the second book curse, and writing to deadline is SO HARD. I normally like to write in a linear fashion…starting from chapter one and going on until I reach the end, editing as I go to fine tune it before sending it off to critique partners, revising, rinsing and repeating until my dark heart’s content. Deadline writing is much different. I wrote scenes out of order (based on what was feeling like the most natural scene for me that day), and fit it all together chapter by chapter. It was stressful since it wasn’t my usual process, but I actually love writing that way now!

When you were writing did you start with the setting or the plot?

Before I started drafting SJTR I’d say I started with the setting. I knew I wanted to write about a girl who studied forensics, sort of have her be a female Dr. Watson, but thought there needed to be more tension based on why that would be difficult for her. When I read about some badass female doctors during the 1840’s and beyond, I knew I wanted to set it in the 19th century. After that, there was only one case that jumped out, waving its hands to be solved by this brave heroine.

What research did you do for the book? 

I think it might be easier to ask what research I didn’t do ;) Everything. From the setting to the dresses to Victorian protocol to upper class versus lower class, folklore regarding strigoi and pricolici, research on Vlad the Impaler and his family, the list truly goes on and on.  

Thanks so much Kerri!!  This interview was amazing, and your writing advice has me ready to get to work.  Also, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS was a fave of mine growing up too!!  The poem "Sick" especially.  I still have it memorized to this day :)

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday-- Fall 2017 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a really cool original feature/weekly meme created over at The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten List that bloggers join in on answering... and today (September 19th) I'm one of them :)

Today's Topic

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2017 TBR

1.  Bad Girls With Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten
  • Been anticipating this book all year.  The cover?? Perfection.  Plus, the author is a fave.

2.  The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
  • I love the YA Mysteries and ever since reading With Malice, I've been wanting something new from Eileen Cook.

3.  13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
  • I love the "I don't remember" trope & it's described as "Mean Girls for the Instagram age", so YES!

4.  A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
  • This came out at the beginning of September, and I really need to get to it.

5.  This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
  • Mindy McGinnis is savage, and I can't wait to see how she will kill my emotions again.

6.  The Breathless by Tara Goedjen
  • The last gothic mystery I read, I LOVEDDDD.  So I'm definitely looking forward to starting this one.

7.  No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear
  • It's an In Cold Blood retelling.  So, yeah.

8.  Follow Me (The Amateurs #2) by Sara Shepard
  • I didn't love love the first book in this series, but I need a Sara Shepard book every now and again for guilty pleasure, entertainment purposes.

9.  Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  • It's John Green and I must read it.  I know a lot of people think he's overrated or whatever, but I think he's brilliant.  I might not always click with his books or characters, but I'm always wowed by his ability to make me think damn, dude is smart.

10.  The Knowing (The Forgetting #2) by Sharon Cameron
  • I just recently read The Forgetting and LOVED IT!!!  I am super excited about the sequel coming out, so I can continue on in this cool world.

What books are you planning on reading this Fall?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Welcome to the FFBC: The Clue in the Trees by Margi Preus Interview & GIVEAWAY

The Clue in the Trees

(Northwoods #2)
by Margi Preus
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
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Francie’s brother Theo has secrets—secrets Francie thinks she wants to know. But what if one of those secrets is that Theo is a murderer? To avoid considering that possibility, Francie plunges into her senior year at a small-town high school near Enchantment Lake in northern Minnesota. It’s a radical change from her private school in New York, but she hopes to keep an eye on her great aunts and maybe finally learn more about the mother she never knew. A small silver box seems to hold the answers, and she is determined to get her hands on it.

But when her long-lost brother turns up, so does a dead body, and once again Francie is drawn into a mystery. A long list of suspects, with Theo at the top, keeps her head spinning. When Francie herself becomes a suspect she starts to feel like she is walking on thin ice, but it isn’t until she is literally walking on thin ice that the pieces start to come together—and by then it may be too late.

In her previous adventure Enchantment Lake, Francie was thrown into northern Minnesota lake living: fishing, berry picking, lost kayaks and scary boat rides, poisoned hotdishes, exploding bulldozers, a forest fire . . . and murder. But if she thinks things have settled down, she’s in for a surprise. A new school with new friends (and a few enemies), a lead role in a play, an encounter with a giant muskie, archaeological twists, secret tunnels, thin ice, and a strangely sticky murder are all coming her way in The Clue in the Trees.

Hello Margi! We are super excited to talk to you about THE CLUE IN THE TREES and to have you in our FFBC tours.


Favorite Book?

Of all time? Impossible question! Maybe Moby Dick, and no, I’m not even kidding. I would need to explain how I figured out how to read it for that to make sense.

Favorite TV show?

At the moment? BBC mysteries; Scandinavian crime shows

Favorite movie?

Anything by Wes Anderson

Favorite Song?

Today? Maybe Yesterday.

Favorite Food?

I love all food, particularly if someone else has made it.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Moominland. Wherever Wind in the Willows takes place. Anyplace EB White invented.

What were your favorite books growing up?

Pippi Longstocking, Charlotte’s Web, Island of Blue Dophins, Harriet the Spy, National Geographic Indians of the Americas, A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, Fairy tales.

 Favorite Quote? 

“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” Graham Greene

What are your fandoms?

Sorry, I have only the vaguest notion what that is.

Name a recent book you read that you would recommend to our YA fans?

Mary Casanova’s Ice Out is not only a rollicking good read, but I learned some stuff from it, and put that to good use in The Clue in the Trees.  For mystery lovers who like quirky, I’d recommend the Flavia de Luce stories by Alan Bradley.


Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about the Enchanment Lake series?

Enchantment Lake is a fictional northern Minnesota lake (though it could be a Wisconsin or Michigan or Vermont or really anywhere where there are lakes and cabins.) so you’ll find scenes of fishing, swimming, berry picking, scary boat rides, lost kayaks, exploding bulldozers, poisoned hotdishes, eerie noises in the bog, bones, legendary treasure, more bones, and, of course, murder. So, basically, pretty ordinary, everyday cabin life.

It’s fall in The Clue in the Trees so there are cooler temperatures, falling leaves, nuisance bears, a school play, a halloween party, dinosaur teeth, bones, a silver box, a giant muskie, legendary treasure, secret tunnels, trap doors, more bones, thin ice, and darkness falling early . . .

In Enchantment lake, seventeen year old Francie Frye earned a reputation as the “northwoods Nancy Drew”. In The Clue in the Trees Francie has decided to stay and go to school in the small town so she can keep an eye on her aunts, and maybe dig deeper into the mystery of her own life and identity. It doesn’t take long for things to get dangerous . . . and mysteriously sticky.

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book series? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of either book in the Enchantment Lake series)

#mystery #northwoods #danger

How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?

I have definitely been inspired by the many mysteries I’ve read and enjoyed over the years, starting with, as a kid, Encyclopedia Brown, and of course Nancy Drew, but also Agatha Christie, Donna Leon, Colin Cotterill, Louise Penney, Allen Bradley, and many others.

Tell us your favorite quote from THE CLUE IN THE TREES.

That is not a bear. (That looks pretty dumb sitting there all by itself, but in context, I think it works pretty well. I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out why I think that’s a good quote.)

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?  Or which part was the most difficult to get through?

Most fun: The chase through the giant muskie. Most difficult: the scene in which ---wait a minute! I’m not going to give that away!

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for THE CLUE IN THE TREES– Which one would you pick?

The Wind in the Trees (10 hours of uninterrupted wind blowing through trees, recorded live) It’s available on Youtube, if you’re interested.

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read THE CLUE IN THE TREES (specific music, snacks…)?

A hammock slung between trees and the (actual) sound of wind in the pines.

What’s next for you?

A couple of other books in the works and then, if all goes well, we’ll find out what’s next in store for Francie, Theo, and friends!

Thank you so much for everything, Margi!

Thank you!

I am so with her on the "food someone else has made".  I think that's my favorite too.  Also, I LOVE all those mystery books that she's referenced, and now I really want to do a retro reread!!

Margi Preus is a New York Times bestselling author of several books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor book, Heart of a Samurai, the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and Shadow on the Mountain, a Notable Book for a Global Society. New in 2015 is Enchantment Lake, a northwoods mystery, and The Bamboo Sword, which Bookpage says is “historical fiction at its best.”

“Margi Preus has a remarkable ability to create fascinating, page-turning stories that transport readers to faraway times and places. Whether she’s evoking Norway during World War II or 19th century Japan, Preus combines impeccable research with strong characterization and plot—the very elements that draw readers into history and spark the curiosity to learn more.” Bookpage, Sept. 2015

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome to the FFBC: SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George

Speak Easy, Speak Love

by McKelle George
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Historical
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Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

Hi McKelle!!  We’re so excited to have your book in our FFBC Tours, and can’t wait to ask you a couple of questions about SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE!!


Favorite Book?

Can I pick more than one? Lol. Howl’s Moving Castle, The Little Prince, Song of Achilles, Prince of Persia, A Monster Calls

Favorite TV show?

Parks & Rec, Peaky Blinders, Poldark, 30 Rock, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Favorite movie?

Godfather I, Godfather II, Singing in the Rain, You’ve Got Mail, Frozen, Gangs of New York

Favorite Song?

Bring Him Home, Les Mis; Dust and Ashes, Great Comet of 1812; Wait For It, Hamilton

Favorite Food?

Can bread be a favorite food? Ha ha. I seriously know all the best most authentic artisan bakeries in my city and I buy fresh loaves and eat them with butter and cheese.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Crimson Peak; Ketterdam; Halloweentown 

What were your favorite books growing up?

My favorite was Matilda, by Roald Dahl, and the Secret Garden. I read them multiple times and pretended I was in them.

 Favorite Quote? 

“Do not come lightly to the blank page.”

What are your fandoms?

I’m a fickle fangirl. I do fangirl, but I have new ones every six months or so. But I hardcore fan over Broadway and comics (recent obsessions: Monstress, Saga, and the new Archie reboot).

Name a recent book you read that you would recommend to our YA readers.

I just finished Enchantment of Ravens and The Art of Starving in YA (and Pachinko for adult); all three were wonderful.


Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE?

SPEAK EASY SPEAK LOVE is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in a dying speakeasy on Long Island. Hijinks ensue. Basically it’s a romantic comedy set in the 1920s.

How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?

I was inspired to do a Shakespeare retelling after seeing some amazingly clever and intuitive adaptations at the RSC and the Globe in England. When I sat down to think of ways I could tackle my favorite play, Much Ado About Nothing, I thought instantly of the 1920s. The play is feminist in subtle ways and it offers two different kinds of womanhood in Hero and Beatrice, and the 1920s is a uniquely feminist decade. Women had just gotten the vote and the emergence of the flapper in the time after the Great War had all the right soil to explore those themes.

What are your some of your favorite movie retellings?

West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), The Lion King (Hamlet), The Hollow Crown series (with Tom Hiddleston)

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE.) 

#HeyNonnyNonny, maybe?
Also: #jazzconquersvirtue and #shutupben

Besides reading, writing, and blogging, I love fashion!!  Can you tell us what Beatrice’s style is like?

Of no fashion at all, as Benedick would say. Our girl is function before form. She’s in trousers for half the book, and when she gets dressed up it’s almost entirely Hero’s doing. Because she’s not quite with the times, it can border on Gibson schoolgirl: smart, tough, and indifferent to the approval of others. 

Tell us your favorite quote from SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE.

Oh gosh. Hard to pick one! But I’ve always liked this exchange:

“You’re quite strong, you know,” said Benedick, still on her shoulder, as they made their way into the house. “You shoot things and don’t fear spiders and are about as sweet as a lemon. What would a man even do with you?”
“The better question, Mr. Scott, is what would I do with a man?”
“Nothing?” He said it like an uncertain child in a classroom.

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?  Or which part was the most difficult to get through?

Any scene with Beatrice and Benedick. Mostly I’d just throw them together and let them interact and we always had a good time. 

The hardest was Hero’s birthday party, which I won’t describe because spoilers, but I had to write it multiple (like 17 times) before landing on something I was satisfied with.

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE– Which one would you pick?

I like this rendition of Crazy in Love:

But also “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read SPEAK EASY SPEAK LOVE (specific music, snacks…)?

A nice cocktail (or mocktail for YA readers!), some jazz, and anywhere you feel comfortable laughing. (:

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a magical realism retelling of The Tempest, as well as a dieslpunk reimagining of the Arthurian legend. (:

Thanks so much McKelle!!

McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.

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