readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Diva Delight: Promise the Night

I have a fresh work to recommend with one feisty protag, and it's an ADVENTURE! When was the last time you picked up an historical work of fiction and were taken away to Africa? Michaela MacColl's latest work Promise the Night delivers.

Based on the true life of Beryl Markham, readers are taken on a journey alongside this British girl being taught by Nandi warriors in the early 1900s. Eventually, Beryl is the first pilot to fly solo from England to North America. The tales that Michaela MacColl weave together convince you of the spunk needed for such a feat. Beryl faces down a warthog, leopard, lion, and ultimately an abusive governess. She survives a year of training to be a proper young lady in order to return and find her place among the British in Africa, alongside the Nandi.

With convincing characters and an awesome sweeping setting, you'll fly right alongside Beryl. And cheer!

Promise the Night
by Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books, 2012

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rgz Host: Stephanie Reviews Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Our Seattle Host, Stephanie Guerra, teaches children’s literature, young adult fiction and a seminar in writing instruction at Seattle University. She also heads a volunteer creative writing program at King County Jail, and researches and speaks about literacy instruction for at-risk and incarcerated young adults. Stephanie lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and children. Her debut young adult novel, TORN, will be published by Marshall Cavendish in spring.

Stay tuned for Stephanie's reports of Seattle book events! Today, she shares a book review of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber:

"Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is not a 'girl' book—it’s definitely aimed a male audience, with the requisite high-adrenaline nonstop action and suave, funny protagonist. I’m reviewing it because I’m always interested in breaking down the barriers between 'girl' and 'guy' books. Sometimes that means finding titles that appeal to both sexes, and sometimes it means finding books that give us a glimpse into the collective psyche of the other side. This book does both—sort of.

"Sixteen-year-old Perry is an aspiring musician and a classic East Coast kid: urbane, witty, and intelligent. During his senior year of high school, his family hosts a Lithuanian exchange student, Gobija Zaksauskas. Contrary to Perry’s hopes, she’s far from a sultry Euro-model with a fetching pout; she’s nondescript, frumpy, and forgettable. When she asks that Perry take her to prom on the night of his band’s first-ever NYC gig, he refuses. But his father lays down the law, and Perry finds himself at his school with a bespectacled girl dressed in traditional peasant garb (think floor-length hand-stitched burlap) on the night when he should be shredding in NYC.

"At prom, a jerk makes a cruel comment about Gobi’s outfit, Perry defends her… and she finishes the job by delivering a world-class azz-whupping? Shortly afterward, she loses the burlap sack and magically transforms into a foxy babe with a rocking body (sadly hidden for so long under her bulky sweaters). Now it comes out that she’s no potato-fed peasant; she’s a 24-year-old secret agent, here to deliver justice to some nasty mob types.

"Oh, the surprises that those bulky-sweater-wearing girls can harbor. What follows is a tear-through-NYC adrenaline ride in which Gobi knocks off several of her targets, fights others, gets blood all over everything, and dances very sexily with Perry, who has been aiding, abetting, and resisting her by turns. I won’t spoil the ending for you, if you haven’t already guessed it.

"Joe Schreiber is a smart, funny guy and I found myself lingering over some of his hilarious, well-crafted, strangely poetic sentences. On a sentence level, the book is masterfully done. On a plot level… well, let’s say Schreiber knows how to dish up what guys like. But I think he’s selling them—and us—short.

"I was a lot more interested in Gobi when she showed up to prom in her peasant garb, which takes major cajones of a different kind than those required to kill people. I wanted to know that girl. Sadly, I lost her as she shrank into a one-dimensional stereotype. I don’t think any author or filmmaker is throwing women a bone by making female characters bad-ass a la Charlie’s Angels. Even toting guns and doing roundhouse kicks, they’re still just sexy things for men to look at. Real women rarely beat up and kill men while dressed like porn stars.

"I did appreciate that Schreiber made his protagonist kind and courteous; he didn’t make fun of Gobi when she was 'ugly,' and he defended her from others doing so. That’s worth something. But the device of librarian-takes-off-glasses-and-shapeless-dress is such a tired male fantasy that it undoes some of the good accomplished by a decent male protagonist.

"I’ll end my rant before it gets tiresome, if it isn’t already so. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a fast, fun ride and worth reading because of the excellent humor and strong word-smithing. But I’m holding out hope that Schreiber will turn his considerable talents to creating real female characters with depth, emotion, and intelligence. I would push the envelope a little further and request that they not always be 'hot,' but I think that would probably be going too far."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cover Stories: Interview with Regina Roff

Regina Roff designs book covers for Bloomsbury/Walker, and she was the one who created the final version of Lauren Baratz-Logstead's Little Women and Me (read that Cover Story from Lauren's POV).

Now Regina's here to share her side of that cover's story, and share a few other covers she's been working on (like that gorgeous one at left):

"When I came onto Little Women and Me, it was already started by another designer. It was one of the first books I worked on at Bloomsbury/Walker, so it was a really exciting project for me. The art director explained the story to me loosely and showed me a few of the original cover comps (like the one posted below, right). The team liked that direction but they also wanted to see some other options.

"So, I sat down and read the story, to get a feel for the tone, mood, etc of the novel. I was instantly transported into the world that Lauren Baratz-Logsted created! I wanted to capture the feeling of being from the outside looking in on this classic story of LITTLE WOMEN. At first, most of my cover comps were similar to what had already been tried: they featured images of girls reading, etc. Then I thought it'd be interesting to see the main character sort of 'spying' on the characters in LITTLE WOMEN. I had a few options where a girl pulled back a curtain on a scene of LITTLE WOMEN, but they didn't have the impact I was hoping for. After looking and looking for more 'spying' images, I ended up finding the image on the final cover, the girl popping through a piece of paper. That's where everything started coming together, with the original LITTLE WOMEN artwork and the modern girl coming through the page...."

Read the rest of this Cover Story, and see more of Regina's great designs, at melissacwalker.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Susan Lee: Artist, Filmmaker, All-Around Awesome

Susan Lee is a busy, creative person wears a lot of hats. (That's probably why we get along.) As a playwright, a filmmaker, a screenwriter, a teacher, and a painter, Susan has made her mark in many different fields. I know she's made her mark on me as a director and as a friend.

I recently interviewed her at length about her new graphic novel and webseries - both based on Mastermind by Michael Patrick Sullivan - as well as other projects she has lined up.

I thought readergirlz would like what she had to say about strong characters:

"What motivates me is when a piece speaks to me. As a director, it's always the language first. If something isn't well-written, I won't do it. [...] So I always want something that's smart and intelligent. Something that has characters who are complicated and rich. Characters you want to spend not just two hours with but want to take them home and make them dinner and dig even deeper into them. It has to make me want to explore why the characters are the way they are."

- and why she finds being a teacher so delightful:

"What I love about working with kids is how open and vulnerable they are. They're not afraid to tell you what they think. And when they grab on to something, they hold on for dear life. My favorite part is when they have a breakthrough and they achieve something they never thought they could. And to have them step back from their drawing or their painting and have them gasp in wonder at what they've created, there is not enough money in the world to compete with that. They astound me with their ability to create and with their openness and access to their emotions. They make very single day at work a pleasure and so very worthwhile."

Read our full-length interview at Bildungsroman! Share the link and help get the word about Susan's works so she can get an awesome publishing deal for the Mastermind graphic novel!

Important links...

Life On Its Side Productions: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Mastermind: Website | Webseries on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter

Susan's Blog: Diary of a Mid-Life Crisis

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cover Stories: Off Leash by Renee Pace

Renee Pace's Off Leash was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, and she had control of the cover design, so she's here to talk about it:

"I knew I wanted a skinny teenage boy and a boxer dog for my cover. That was it. I also wanted it to have a nitty gritty feel. Those were my three outlines to my cover artist.

"When I saw the cover I was floored. She nailed it. I loved that the dog was looking back at the boy but the boy’s looking out at the reader.

"I didn’t want anything changed. It was like Angela Waters had read my mind and took the picture from my head to make my cover.

"We used stock photos only and I gather from my cover artists that securing teen photos is really hard..."

Read the rest of Renee's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

rgz Newsflash: Printz 2012

Congratulations to the winners. And thanks to the hard working committee!
Printz Award Winner, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Honor Books
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman and published by Little, Brown and Company
The Returning by Christine Hinwood
The Returning, written by Christine Hinwood and published by Dial Books
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey and published by Alfred A. Knopf
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and published by Scholastic Press
What are your thoughts, rgz? Anyone missing in your opinion?
LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Diva Delight: Vintage Veronica

Veronica is a girl using her fashion sense as an employee in the local vintage thrift store. She's a girl with amazing confidence in choosing her clothing, but having been hurt in the past as an overweight child and now teen, she's doesn't have the same confidence in finding or choosing friends. Tempted to be drawn in by the "it" girls, Veronica may lose the first true friendship and romance she's ever had.

Author Erica S. Perl creates vivid characters who will pull you directly into their lives turning inside the Clothing Bonanza store The thrift shop is a character in itself. You will definitely wish you could shop there!

I raced through Vintage Veronica worrying about the protagonist's choices every step. Her strengths are admirable, her hesitations understandable, and her failures palpable. Veronica and her friends feel like your own friends by the last page. Find it, rgz. And don your own fifties skirt for the day!

Vintage Veronica
by Erica S. Perl
Knopf, 2010

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blogger Loses Everything in Fire

Just read this post and wanted to pass it along in hopes that others would help:
Fellow Blogger loses everything...
January 21, 2012, Posted by Donna at 11:05 am

One of our fellow bloggers and dear friend Yara lost everything yesterday in a devastating house fire. She and her family are all safe, but they have lost everything.

If you want to help Yara and her family we suggest you do so through the Twilight Moms site. If you want to support Yara, please follow this link.

We totally trust that Lisa and the Twilight Moms will make sure every penny reaches Yara and her family. And every penny will help them rebuild the pieces of their world.

Sending positive thoughts your way, Yara!
~EFG Staff

To help and/or donate, please click here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

rgz Newsflash: Help Needed for School Libraries

We recently got word from Beth Yoke, the executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):
We need your help! Carl Harvey, President of the American Association of School Librarians, has initiated a White House petition on school libraries, which specifically petitions the Obama administration to “ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” About 17,000 signatures are still needed in order for this petition at http://wh.gov/Wgd to be reviewed by White House staff. Please sign the petition and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to sign it by Feb. 4, 2012, and help us spread the word about it (if you send a Tweet, please use #saveschoollibraries). We really appreciate your support!  To learn more about how you can support school libraries, visithttp://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslissues/toolkits/parentoutreach.  Thanks for all that you do to open up the world of reading to young people.
Easy enough right? And how important are those school libraries? Mine was a haven in the midst of all things school. First, it was air conditioned! Very important in Miami. Second, it was quiet. Third, I knew exactly how to behave among the stacks of books waiting to be opened. Everything is clear and orderly in the world of school libraries. You find what you need. Help all young people to access the haven!
LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Watch for It: Sisters of Glass

I'm a great fan of poet novelist Stephanie Hemphill. I've always recommended her work to rgz. So watch for this upcoming release titled Sisters of Glass. On the isle of Murano, two sisters, with different lives chosen for them by their father, negotiate to find their true calling and passion.

Maria, sworn to marry nobility, tries to turn from her love of glass and the newest glass blower in her family's business. Her older sister seeks to help Maria by sacrificing her own desires. The selflessness of two young women and their honest yearnings are beautifully woven in this upcoming verse novel. Watch for it!

One note: our own co-founder Dia Calhoun is the lettering artist for the cover. Seriously. :~)

Sisters of Glass
by Stephanie Hemphill
Knopf Books, March 27, 2012

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Friday, January 13, 2012

Diva Delight: Don't Breathe a Word

We had so much fun partying it up with Holly as Don't Breathe a Word was released in style at Mockingbird Books in Seattle. So many friendly, familiar faces came together to congratulate Holly, who looked gorgeous in her third trimester! 

If you haven't yet, grab a copy and read Joy's story. You'll race alongside of her as she runs through the streets of Seattle, trying to survive. Homelessness is portrayed with pointed honesty. You will be moved by Joy's desperate plight. Holly is a master at weaving the past and present through the work, creating beautiful tension and poignant reveals. Here's to a wonderful work which will touch and empower readers. 

Brava, Holly!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cover Stories: Life's a Witch by Brittany Geragotelis

Brittany Geragotelis' novel is a YA retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, and it has been read like a bazillion times since being posted on wattpad.com. She's publishing the book herself (read a little about that) and she had a huge hand in the cover design, which is what she's on the blog to talk about.

Here's Brittany:

"I always knew that I didn't want the full face of my main character to be shown on the cover. As a reader and book reviewer, I understand how important a book cover is. The covers I'm most drawn to are ones which display a partial identity (Gossip GirlI'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, etc). I think this is because it looks trendy and modern, while not giving away the whole look of your main character. I think this is important for the reader, because then they can really create the final look of the character in their own imaginations.

"I really wanted the character to have a very strong pose on the cover, too, so when I was looking for images, that was especially important to me. I always pictured my main character's hands on her hips, looking very super-hero-esque and strong; a pose that would convey to the reader that she's very powerful.

"Lastly, I wanted to find a picture that showed the character in an outfit that my main character would wear--and that had to include red pumps. In Life's a Witch, Hadley is obsessed with fashion and thinks that a great pair of heels is the answer to any situation. Her favorite color is red--which is very important to the storyline--so I knew I had to have that element in there, as well..."

Read the rest of Brittany's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cover Stories: Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Lauren Baratz-Logsted has been here before, sharing Cover Stories for The Twin's Daughter, The Sisters 8, The Education of Bet and Crazy Beautiful. Her latest novel is Little Women and Me, about a girl who gets trapped in Louisa May Alcott's classic novel and considers changing everything (Beth lives! Laurie ends up with Jo!). How fun does that sound?

Here's Lauren to discuss the cover:

"Sometimes, I have ideas for what my book covers should be and I get my wish. Sometimes I don't. But this time, I had absolutely no idea! How do you visually express the idea of someone getting sucked into a classic book or living inside it???

"Bloomsbury is very good about respectfully asking for input, but this time I truly had no ideas.

"The cover changed a lot! Originally, it was just a picture of a girl with a book open in front of her, like she's reading it. Across the front of the book, it had Little Women and Me in script. It was a pretty-enough cover but in no way did it express the plot of the book..."

Read the rest of Lauren's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cover Stories: Untraceable by S.R. Johannes

S.R. Johannes's Untraceable is out now -- it's a young adult wilderness thriller with a missing father, a kick-butt heroine, and, of course, two hot boys. S.R. and cover photographer Vania talked to me about how the cover came to be:

Shelli: I always had a cover in mind from when I first starting writing the book. Something about a girl hiding in the woods. But Vania made it come to life.

Vania: We wanted something that obscured the girl but yet it drew you in.

Shelli: We wanted to use a real life model. I think stock photos are great but to me – we wanted that feeling of being in the woods. Of Grace hiding, and I think Vania got that. There is nothing like an original artwork.

Vania: There’s something to be said for having something on your cover that is just yours. Plus this way we can control more of what the model looked like, where we shot, and what the shot looked like...

Read the rest of Shelli's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rgz Salon: Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif, Reviewed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Rgz SALON member Lyn Miller-Lachmann has been the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review; the author of the award-winning multicultural bibliography Our Family, Our Friends, Our World; the editor of Once Upon a Cuento, a collection of short stories by Latino authors; and most recently, the author of Gringolandia, a young adult novel about a refugee family living with the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. The book has had multiple print runs and is available for order. (Don't forget to read the fascinating Cover Story for Gringolandia.)

We're honored to have Lyn here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Today, she reviews Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif (Flux):

"Now that she’s turning 16, Almira Abdul has pledged to observe the Muslim holy period of Ramadan—not a crumb of food or drop of water to pass through her lips from sunup to sundown for an entire month. She still remembers her humiliation the year before, when her very conservative grandfather noticed the cookie crumbs on her lips and berated her repeatedly in front of her entire family. This year, a number of other factors add to Almira’s stress level—her grandfather’s bullying of his daughter-in-law—her mother, to whom she is close—over how Almira is being raised, driving lessons from her grandfather, her attraction to a boy who her best friend also likes, and the arrival of another, far more beautiful Muslim girl who proves that looks and personality often do not go together. Over the course of the month, Almira discovers that her display of willpower is helping her lose unwanted pounds, but even that victory leads to unexpected complications for both romance and friendship.

"The author, of Kurdish and Muslim heritage, offers a portrayal that is both realistic and humorous. The experience of being caught between family rules and pressures on the one hand and the drama of peers on the other is one to which readers of all cultural backgrounds can relate. Sharif portrays a family that has become more assimilated with each generation and the difficulties of keeping everyone together and happy in such a situation. For the most part, the author gives Almira an authentic teenage voice, and she appears throughout the book as an enormously likable character who will keep readers cheering for her no matter what predicament she faces—or creates." -Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy Book Birthday, Janet Lee Carey!

This is the week for diva releases! We give a great cheer for rgz co-founder Janet Lee Carey's Dragonswood! With two starred reviews, you are in for a treat. Janet is a master high fantasy author. I can't wait to read this work and attend the masquerade release party! I hope to have photos to share with you. In the meantime, find Dragonswood and fall into the world of dragons and fey. Congrats, dear Janet!

by Janet Lee Carey
Dial, 2012

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Book Birthday, Holly Cupala!

So happy to celebrate the release of Don't Breathe a Word with our beloved Holly Cupala! Watch this excellent video before you head over to the party. She's so comfortable in front of the camera, right?

We love you, Holly!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Three Cheers for Little Willow!

Three cheers for Little Willow (Allie Costa) in her great role in the webisode series Unintentionally Awesome! Check out all 3 episodes and tell her how awesome she is!

The plot is right up our alley at rgz. New girl at school tries to fit in. Little Willow manages to be besties with the Mean Girl and still be likeable. Seriously. :~)

Unintentionally Awesome

Congrats, Allie! We heart you!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year Revolution: Give Something Away

Just found this video thanks to John Green sharing it on Twitter. It brought Operation Teen Book Drop to mind, so I thought I'd share it.

Rosianna was inspired by the New Year Revolution to give something away. She selected four novels by John Green, wrapped them up with a pretty bow and topped them off with a personal note encouraging someone to pick up the books and read them.

Kudos to you, Rosianna! I hope the person who finds the books enjoys them - and I hope this post prompts you to come say hi at the readergirlz blog!

If you can't see the video above, click here.

Follow John Green on Twitter: @realjohngreen
Follow Rosianna on Twitter: @papertimelady
Watch Rosianna on YouTube: missxrojas

Gentle readers, what are your New Year's Resolutions? Are you going to make this a New Year Revolution a la the Channel 4 project? Like the Superchick song says, "I'm a one girl revolution." :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year - and New Books!

Happy New Year, readergirlz!

Do you have your eye on any books coming out in 2012? Share the titles in the comments section at the end of this post.

Here are some forthcoming books I can't wait to read...and a few I had the good fortune to read early!

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala (January release - available NOW!)
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (coming in February)
Uglies: Shay's Story written by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson, illustrations by Steven Cummings (February)
Bone: Quest for the Spark #2 by Tom Sniegoski and Jeff Smith (February)
The Secret Journeys of Jack London, Book Two: The Sea Wolves by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (February)
Joe Golem and the Copper Girl by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola (February) and Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola (March)
Out of Sight, Out of Time - Gallagher Girls #5 by Ally Carter (March)

That gets us through winter and early spring. There are plenty more where that came from, but I'll stop there so you can tell me what will soon be on YOUR bookshelves!

Also of note: This is our 2,000th post here at the readergirlz blog!