Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ratha's Creature by Clare Bell

The she-cub Ratha and the other wild cats in her clan are called the Named. They are not just talking animals in an alternate prehistorical world. No, no, no. The Named are truly animals, but at the same time they are intelligent and have self-awareness. The Named have laws and customs. They have a society so advanced that they no longer hunt for their food. They herd dappleback horses and three-horns (which I assume are deer).

Ratha's Creature is the first book of the Named by Clare Bell. Readers are introduced to Ratha as a yearling and accompany her as she grows and matures. While still a yearling, Ratha discovers fire. The Red Tongue becomes her creature. But the others in her clan do not understand fire and so fear it and fear Ratha for being able to control it. Meoran, the leader of the Named, fears the most because he sees that Ratha can overthrow his rule by wielding the fire. Out of ignorance and rage, the Named cast out Ratha from the clan. Ratha is forced to fend for herself in the wilderness, hunting for her own food and protecting herself from enemies such as the primitive Un-Named cats.

I took my sweet time reading the clear and very vivid writing in Ratha's Creature. Still it seemed like some of the important scenes were a blur - like the characters were not given enough time to understand what was happening to them and the readers were not given enough time to absorb what was happening before they were all rushed to the next scene. On the flipside, Ratha's Creature is a page-turner that will not once bore readers.

Moreover, the Named and their society are very, very interesting. Ratha is absolutely fascinating. She is strong-willed, independent, clever (maybe too clever for her own good), imperfect, and very complex. She questions authority. She is sometimes rash and always adventurous. A strong female main character indeed. Equally fascinating are the many parallels between Ratha's coming of age and a human's coming of age. Ratha's growing awareness of herself and her body, of others, and of the world around her mirror a young adult's development. Ratha's discovery of fire and the subsequent disownment from the clan is an interesting take on the man vs. society theme in young adult literature.

I can't help but be curious and even anxious about the future of Ratha, the rest of the Named, and the Un-Named. I am eager to read Clan Ground, the second book of the Named.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Even More from Turkey: Pictures and Links

Here are some fun shots of my brothers while they were in Turkey for the World Taekwondo Federation's 2008 World Poomsae Championships. :D

Here JP is at a market. Check out the delicious-looking bread and the giant heads of cabbage!

Remember how the White Witch put Edmund under her spell in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? Edmund was bewitched by the Turkish Delight she served him! And Edmund even promised to bring his siblings to the White Witch because she said that he could be Prince of Narnia and live in a castle with rooms full of Turkish Delight. JP poses with the magical confections here.

Here's Brian. Brian loves candy! I'm not surprised that he sought out candy while in Turkey.

And now for some links! Click here and here to watch Brian in the individual men's competition of the World Taekwondo Federation's 2008 World Poomsae Championships. Click here and here to watch JP and his girlfriend Rani totally kick ass in the pairs competition.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poetry Friday: The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

Christmas is "over," but its spiritual message is relevant every single day of the year. So I don't think I am posting this poem too late. :D Here is "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot. I have put in boldface the part of the poem that truly stirs me.

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dear Santa

At the mall today I saw a bulletin board with letters to Santa. Two letters really cracked me up:

Dear Santa,

Samsung sliding fone, PSP, and Edward Cullen.


Dear Santa,

All I want 4 Christmas is

- death of Edward Cullen
- Bella
- RX-8

Edward Cullen Killer


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More of the Bronze Medalists

Here are more pictures and videos of my brothers JP and Brian and their teammate Tonek - the bronze medalists in the men's team competition of the 2008 World Poomsae Championships!

Check out these shots of Brian practicing:

JP and Brian (right side) with some of their other teammates and their coach:

Click here and here to watch different and even better videos of the bronze-winning performances of JP, Brian, and Tonek! (In the videos, JP is front-right. Brian is at the back.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The World Taekwondo Federation's World Poomsae Championships 2008

My younger brothers JP and Brian just got back from a week in Ankara, Turkey. They brought back with them boxes of Turkish Delight in assorted flavors (woot!), apple tea, fresh figs, dates, beautiful fabrics, and turquoise. But more importantly they brought back the bronze medal in the men's team competition of the World Taekwondo Federation's World Poomsae Championships 2008.

Click here to watch JP, Brian, and their teammate Tonek in round 1 of the competition. Click here to watch them perform a different poomsae routine in round 2. For both rounds Brian is at the back of the formation, and JP is to the viewer's right.

Congratulations JP, Brian, and Tonek! To visitors of Into the Wardrobe: I hope you enjoy the videos. :D

Update/edit: Here are a couple of pictures of the bronze medalists!


Tonek and JP

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The December Carnival of Children's Literature

Are you wondering which children's and young adult books to buy for yourself and/or as gifts this holiday season? Do you want to discover more blogs about literature for the young and young at heart? Do you want to read some of this year's very best blog posts on children's and young adult literature? Then head on over to Jen Robinson's Book Page for the December Carnival of Children's Literature!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Butterfly Award for the Coolest Blog

Kaza Kingsley, author of the very fun children's/YA fantasy series Erec Rex, has given Into the Wardrobe the Butterfly Award. Wow, Kaza thinks my blog is cool. :D Thank you, Kaza!

As a Butterfly Award winner I have the privilege of choosing up to 10 more blogs for the award. But I am only going to give it to one blog. The blog that was first and foremost in my mind when I saw that I should pass along the award. I would like to give the Butterfly Award for the Coolest Blog to jama rattigan's alphabet soup!

Jama writes picture books and her blog is about children's literature and food. It is an absolutely DELICIOUS blog. Jama, thank you so much for being so kind and friendly and generous of spirit. And thank you so much for your cool, fun, cheerful, and informative blog. It never fails to make me happy (it always gets me grinning!) and HUNGRY.

Jama, please pass the award along. Here are the rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog. (And no, I have no idea why the logo says "for the coolest blog I ever know". LOL!!!)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Thank you, Secret Santa!

On Friday I was pleasantly surprised to receive a package from Portugal. I realized it was the gift from my Secret Santa, courtesy of the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap!

I discovered that my Secret Santa is Ana, a.k.a. Nymeth, of things mean a lot. Nymeth was very thoughtful and sent me a touching Christmas card, two lovely homemade bookmarks, and this children's/YA fantasy novel:

As appalling as it sounds, I have yet to read any of Terry Pratchett's work. So Nymeth's gift is really great. :D Thank you, Nymeth!!! *big hug from across the seas*

Today I bought and sent the gift for the person I got for the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap. She should get it by Friday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will like it. The Book Bloggers Christmas Swap is a fun way to get to know new people. I will definitely join it again next year. I am so happy to "meet" you, Nymeth!

And the gift card goes to...

...Cow! (Yes, he goes by the name "Cow".) Congratulations, Cow. You are the winner of the very first Into the Wardrobe giveaway, and you get a $20 Amazon gift card - or a PHP1,000 gift card for a Philippine bookstore since you are in the Philippines. You choose. ;)

In his entry for the giveaway, Cow said that he read and enjoyed the YA fantasy novel Secret Sacrament by Sherryl Jordan. He said that he would use the gift card to buy its sequel Time of the Eagle.

If you are wondering how I chose the winner... I put the names of the participants on slips of paper, put the slips of paper in a bag from a bookstore, gave the bag a good shake, then had my mom pick out one slip of paper. Hehehe.

To everyone else who joined the giveaway, don't worry! I find giveaways addicting, so I will have more soon. :D

Happy reading, all!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Gift for My Readers

'Tis the season for giving and I would like to thank readers of Into the Wardrobe. I am giving away a $20 Amazon gift card!* (I initially wanted to give away a book, but I am so lame I couldn't decide which book to give away. This way the winner can choose which book to get!)

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is answer these questions in the comments section below:

1. What children's or young adult book would you get if you won the gift card?

2. Why do you want that book?

3. Would the book be for yourself or a gift for someone?

Your answers to all three questions will count as one entry. Only one entry per person is allowed. This giveaway is open to all readers of Into the Wardrobe, no matter where you are in the world.

The winner of the gift card will be randomly selected next Sunday evening, Dec. 14. I will post the name of the winner and his/her entry by next Monday morning, Dec. 15. This is all happening in Philippine time, of course.

Good luck! And don't be shy. I look forward to reading all the entries. Thank you so much for reading my blog. :o)

*If the winner turns out to be someone here in the Philippines, he/she may opt instead for a PHP1,000 gift card for any of the major bookstores in the Philippines.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wow, this time I get interviewed!

Fran Slayton is a children's book author whose debut middle grade novel When the Whistle Blows comes out June 2009. At her blog, Fran is posting a series of interviews with kidlit bloggers on how they determine which books to review and which authors to interview. The series is dedicated to all debut children's and young adult literature authors in 2009.

The first interview she has up is with me! Thank you so much for hosting me, Fran. It was fun being interviewed about kidlit blogging. :D

Friday, December 05, 2008

Review Policy

Hello! Thank you very much for your interest in Into the Wardrobe, an international blog about literature for the young and young at heart. :o) Into the Wardrobe is proudly a part of the kidlitosphere and the YA blogosphere/YA book blog directory.


I happily accept all kinds of children's and YA books for review. If you would like to send me a book for review, please email me so that I can give you my mailing address.

I feature every book I receive (through a review or author/illustrator interview, etc.). However, I cannot promise a positive feature for a book. I will be honest about both the strengths and weaknesses of a book. I also cannot promise a specific date for posting about a book. But every book will get featured.

I have a second children's and YA book blog, Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, where I highlight: children's and YA books set in Asia, children's and YA books with Asian characters, children's and YA books with characters of Asian descent, Asian children's and YA book authors and illustrators, and children's and YA book authors and illustrators of Asian descent.

I also review books for Color Online, a blog dedicated to promoting children's, young adult, and adult books by women of color.

Please let me know if you would like your book featured on Into the Wardrobe; Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind; or Color Online.


Yes, I accept electronic copies of books for review. Please email me before sending an electronic copy of a book. My guidelines for electronic books are the same as my guidelines for books.


I love interviewing authors and illustrators (and really anybody in the children's and YA book world)! If you would like to request an interview, please email me information about the author or illustrator and his/her books. It would be best if I received a copy/e-copy of one of his/her books, so that I can ask the best questions and even accompany the interview with a review of the book.

Blog Tours

Yes, I participate in blog tours. Email me to inquire about my interest in a tour. For a blog tour, I will need a copy/e-copy of the book being promoted.


I would be glad to host giveaways/contests for the benefit of my blog readers. Email me to inquire about my interest in a giveaway/contest.

Thank you again for thinking of Into the Wardrobe! I look forward to working with you. :o)


Monday, December 01, 2008

Book Review and Author Interview: Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney

Christine Kringle by Lynn Brittney answers the one question burning on all kids' minds during the holidays: How does Santa Claus deliver all those presents in ONE night? Each country has its own Gift Bringer/s! There's Pere Noel and Tante Arie for France, Grandfather Frost and Babushka for Russia, Santa Claus for the Philippines, Babbo Natale and La Befana for Italy, and so on and so forth. All the Gift Bringers of the world are part of one family - the Yule dynasty. And each Gift Bringer is responsible for delivering holiday gifts to the children in his or her country.

The American Gift Bringer, Kris Kringle, has a problem. He has no male heir. He has a very likeable fourteen-year-old daughter named Christine. Will the Yule clan allow Christine Kringle to be the United States' Gift Bringer when Pa Kringle retires 100 years from now?

The Yule dynasty has an even bigger problem this year though. The Town Council of Plinkbury in England has formally banned Christmas. Nick, the son of the United Kingdom's Father Christmas, has come up with a secret plan that will save Christmas in Plinkbury and convince the dynasty to allow Christine to become the United States' Gift Bringer. Christine and Nick head to Plinkbury with their friend Little K, the son of Japan's Santa Kurohsu, who is on a mission to promote his Living Lights invention - fantastic Christmas lights that need no electricity because they run on reindeer DNA. To help the three teenagers are Nick's mother Zazu - a beautiful, glamorous, and kind "tall elf," and Nick's uncle Egan - a handsome and clever "tall elf" businessman.

Christine Kringle stirs up Christmas memories and excitement for Christmases to come. It is a story full of good cheer, interesting tidbits about how Christmas is celebrated around the world, and Christmas spirit. If you are looking for a way to kick off the holiday season, I recommend reading Christine Kringle. It's a fun Christmas adventure - complete with interesting shopkeepers, mulled wine, a Christmas bazaar, Christmas nuts, and a female Scrooge!

Christine Kringle is the first book in a series and author Lynn Brittney is offering readers the chance to win USD$5000 (or the equivalent in their national currency) if they can come up with a one page synopsis of a plot for book two in the series.

Lynn says, “There are endless possibilities for future adventures for Christine Kringle and her friends and this competition gives me the unique chance to find out what characters and situations the readers would like to experience in the next book in the series.”

Entry forms for the competition can be found on the website Anyone aged over 9 and under 90 can enter. The entries must be in English and the deadline for entries is January 31, 2009. The winner will have their name on the front of the next book in the series!

It is now the month of December and I cannot think of a better way to start off the holiday season than by hosting the author of Christine Kringle at my blog. Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Lynn! :D

What was your road to publication as a writer for children and young adults?

I had spent many years writing non-fiction books for various people and four of them were for children (The Treasure Chest Series by Running Press - history books). When I felt ready to write a novel, I felt I wanted to write for Young Adults, because the selection of books available for that age group is very poor. A lot of the books are about "misery" topics - drugs, teenage pregnancies, bullying etc. I felt it was about time that someone started writing good old fashioned action adventures - so the Nathan Fox series was born. Christine Kringle was born out of my love for all things Christmassy and a need to write something light-hearted in between writing serious historical fiction for teenagers. I did the usual thing with Nathan Fox 1. I sent three chapters and a synopsis to all the literary agents in the UK. I was fortunate that William Morris saw the potential of the book and took me on.

What books and/or authors have influenced you the most as a writer for children and young adults?

As a child I loved The Mary Poppins books, The Borrowers series and Paddington the Bear. I think my sense of the gently ridiculous comes from those books and, I hope, I have put that in Christine Kringle. As a teenager, I'm afraid to say that I devoured spy books by Ian Fleming and John le Carre. Hence my desire to make the Nathan Fox books set at the very start of English espionage - the Elizabethan era. I am also, by the way, crazy about Shakespeare, and this love started when I was a teenager because I lived around the corner from the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and spent all my Saturdays there!

What inspired you to write Christine Kringle? Where did you get the idea of all the world's Christmas Gift Bringers being part of one family - the Yule dynasty?

I love the magic of Christmas but it always seemed ridiculous to me, as a child, that Santa could deliver presents to the whole world in one night. It therefore seemed entirely logical to me that each country would have its own "Santa" and they would all be part of a family dynasty. Then there was the issue of the British Government legislating the joy out of Christmas at every turn by banning carol singers (Health and Safety violations), Christmas lights (ditto), selling homemade Christmas cakes etc. I felt I wanted to protest about that through the novel. Even overseas readers seem to appreciate the stupidity of it all.

Christine Kringle explores many of the different aspects of Christmas. Is there a particular reason you chose not to explore the religious/spiritual aspects?

I think we live in an age where religious/spiritual aspects of Christmas have come under fire from non-Christians - or so it seems. I decided to concentrate on the celebration and fellowship of the festive season and to attack the commercialism of it all. This seems to be a universal feeling that we should get back to a Christmas holiday where we celebrate togetherness and family, rather than making it an orgy of shopping. There is room for both secular and religious aspects of Christmas I think. I write nativity plays for children, which are performed in schools around the world ( I express my religious feelings about Christmas in those.

What do you want readers to take away from Christine Kringle?

I want readers to feel good, to laugh, and to say "Yes. Christmas should be about celebrating with friends and family. People shouldn't make it a focus for religious or political point-scoring. It's a harmless winter celebration of the good things in the human personality."

Why did you decide to hold a competition for Christine Kringle's second adventure?

Many critics poured scorn on this and said "Oh, haven't you any ideas of your own?" The truth is that I have too many ideas and I felt that the competition would provide a unique opportunity for readers to tell me which direction to take next. I'm looking forward to getting a perspective of Christmas from other cultures. Let's face it, in the world of The Yule Dynasty there is ample scope for hundreds of stories about different Santas and their country's customs.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for your books to be award-winning, or for your books to be bestselling? Why?

If I had to choose between those two, I would have to be sensible and say bestselling. Not for the money (although that would be nice) but for the satisfaction (which every writer should aspire to) of communicating with as many people as possible. Also, I'm not sure that awards mean much nowadays. For example, many of the awards for children's books are not selected by children or teenagers but by adults - professionals in the publishing world - and I don't feel that they truly represent the tastes of children. I have been nominated for several awards and the most satisfying have been the ones orgainsed by school regions, where the children themselves have selected and voted on the books. I feel honoured to have been nominated by those children.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

With the Nathan Fox books, I would like them to become enduring classics, still read by men as they progress from teenagehood, like the Sharpe books or Hornblower books are. This is already happening with Nathan Fox in Germany, where they have become "crossover" books as they are called.

With Christine Kringle, I would also like those books to become Christmas classics, like The Polar Express, or A Christmas Carol. Books that people turn to every Christmas, in order to generate that Christmassy feeling.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a YA science-fiction thriller series (Book 1 is halfway through) and some adult novels. Of course, I already write plays for children and adults and I am starting a new company next year which specialises in plays with good parts for older actors (much needed in the amateur drama world!). My ultimate aim is to be the most versatile writer possible, hopping from one genre to another with ease.

What is your strongest or favorite holiday memory from when you were around Christine Kringle's age?

My father was a professional soldier, he was in the Coldstream Guards for twenty two years. Every year they used to have a Christmas party for the children and one of the biggest guardsmen would be Santa. We used to have a wonderful time. The parties were usually held at Wellington Barracks in London or some such venue and then my parents would take me to Oxford Street for the switching on of the Christmas lights. Very special!

What are your favorite holiday books/stories?

A Christmas Carol, as I have already mentioned, can never be beaten in my mind as a truly great classic. I also love The Nutcracker, as a book and a ballet. (I shall take my daughter to see it this year - she is 12 and training to be a dancer.) I love The Polar Express and The Snowman too. I have a huge collection of Christmas DVDs which we all watch every Christmas. And I also have a huge collection of Christmas craft books. I am a Christmas nut.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

We live in the South West of England which is farming country, so there are lots of food fairs (not good for the waistline!). There are also wonderful craft fairs in the historic houses dotted around this part of England. We live four miles from the beach at a place called Lyme Regis (where the famous book The French Lieutenant's Woman is set) and we always go for a walk with the dog on the beach before Christmas lunch. It would be wonderful if it snowed this year. However, there is a wonderful tradition locally, where lots of insane people go swimming in fancy dress in the sea at another local beach, in sub zero temperatures. My family usually goes along to support them and donate money as it is all for charity.

[This is a picture of] my greatest Christmas ever, when I brought my adopted daughter Rose back from Beijing the week before Christmas 1997. Rose is 12 now! My son Tom (pictured also) was 6 years old at the time – he is now 18! That was our most wonderful Christmas.

Thank you so much for sharing, Lynn. Happy holidays! And happy holidays to everyone reading this. :o)

What are you all reading for the holidays? How will you celebrate the holidays this year?

I have the world's best desktop background. Really, I do.

And here it is:

Best. Picture of Twilight cast. Ever.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thoughts on the Twilight Movie

I just couldn't get Twilight out of my head, and I kept listening to Muse's Supermassive Black Hole. So today I watched Twilight for the second time. Now I feel I can share my thoughts on the movie.

The plot development disappointed me. Wait, WHAT plot development? I felt that the plot was not properly developed and that a lot of the characters were not properly fleshed out. There wasn't enough exposition on the Cullens. If you hadn't read the book, you wouldn't know why you should care about the Cullens. And I love the Cullens and wish they had played a bigger role in the movie! There wasn't enough exposition on Laurent, James, and Victoria either. How could audiences know why exactly we should fear them?

I think that people who have not read the book will not appreciate or even understand the story. The development of Edward and Bella's feelings and the choices they made that led to them becoming a couple were presented in a shallow and almost lightning speed way. It almost felt like the movie was simply a montage of scenes from the book. Everything just felt so thin and disjointed and went by way too fast.

But enough about disappointment. I still enjoyed watching the movie. Heck, I liked it enough to watch it twice. Within the same week! Part of why I enjoyed watching the movie was because of the audience reactions. It was fun squealing along with other girls (and some guys too!) while watching the movie. :D We all squealed the first time Emmett and Rosalie were on screen. We all squealed the first time Jasper and Alice were on screen. And of course we all squealed the first time Edward was on screen. What surprised me was the squeals the first time Carlisle was on screen. I think those squeals were louder than the squeals for Edward! We all got giddy then whimpered and positively swooned every time there was a romantic moment between Edward and Bella. Those scenes so perfectly captured the intensity of their desire for each other that they made me (and the rest of the audience too, I bet) grin like an idiot, sigh with happiness/contentment/satisfaction, and HYPERVENTILATE. There was a lot of hyperventilating in the audience, I tell ya. And I am not ashamed to say that I hyperventilate just remembering those scenes from the movie. The onscreen chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart was GREAT. They are the perfect pair for those roles.

Which brings me to the acting. Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen was the most glorious part of the movie. He is the perfect Edward Cullen. I think Robert is an amazing actor because he played the role with COMPLETE understanding of Edward's personality, torture, motivation, intentions, and passions. That list could go on and on and on. He really GOT Edward Cullen and was able to effectively communicate that through his facial expressions, body language, tone of voice - through just about every part of the delivery of his performance. Robert Pattinson rocked that role. He is such a good actor. Um, I found Kristen Stewart unremarkable as Bella. But then again, Bella is supposed to be an unremarkable character. So I guess that worked out well. :S

Speaking of unremarkable acting, I was underwhelmed by Cam Gigandet's turn as James. Hmmm, I expected more from Cam since I think he is a good actor. I didn't feel ANYTHING towards him as the main baddie in the movie. Too bad. But I was impressed by the acting from the rest of the cast. Billy Burke as Charlie? WOW. Who would have thought Charlie would stand out in the story? Taylor Lautner as Jacob? Niiice. I really look forward to watching Robert and Taylor duke it out as Edward and Jacob in the next movies. Woot! I could already feel their conflict in the first movie. Good acting! And even though Kris Ivory (Is that really his name?) and Solomon Trimble had the most fleeting of appearances as Embry and Sam, they made an impression on me. Solomon had a grand total of ONE line and he NAILED IT. He NAILED IT, baby. I couldn't be happier with the werewolves' appearances in the movie. :o)

Ok, action. The action was pretty cool. I particularly like the baseball scene. Oh please oh please oh please let me play vampire baseball. With Muse's Supermassive Black Hole playing in the background. Pleeeaaasssseee. The action in the movie was so cool that I wish there had been a lot more. But I did promise to stop talking about disappointment...

To summarize/conclude, the Twilight movie satisfied me as a fan of the Twilight books in the sense that it was a real visual, visceral, and emotional treat for me to see the story come alive on the big screen. In that context I can say that the movie is a good adaptation of the book. But I feel bad that I cannot say the movie is a good movie. It just can't stand up to movie evaluation and criticism on its own. That is a real shame. As a Twilighter, I wanted people who haven't read the book to still be able to know, understand, and enjoy (even love) the story through the movie.

Now it is your turn. What did you think of the Twilight movie? :D

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's finally here in the Philippines!

Twilight was released in Philippine theaters Wednesday, November 26. Of course my girl friends and I had bought our tickets by Sunday. :D In fact, my very good friend Corinne flew all the way to Metro Manila from Zamboanga City just to watch Twilight with me and my best friend CY. We watched the movie Wednesday night and we were not disappointed. That's not to say that we don't have strong opinions about the movie's flaws. It's just that how could we not like a movie that got us hyperventilating? :D I'm STILL hyperventilating from the onscreen chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. And I strangely want to play a game of vampire baseball with Muse on in the background. LOL.

I am watching the movie again over the weekend. After that I will post more details about what I think of the movie.

In the meantime... What did you all think of Twilight the movie???

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Book Award News

The winner of the (American) National Book Award for Young People's Literature is What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell! I can't wait to read this book. :D Congratulations, Judy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some Book Award News

The Booktrust Teenage Prize celebrates the best contemporary writing for teenagers in the UK. The winner of the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

The Costa Book Awards recognize some of the most enjoyable books of the year and are prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK. Here is the shortlist for the 2008 Costa Children's Award:

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd

Just Henry by Michelle Magorian

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

Unfortunately, I haven't read any of these books. :o( But of course I would like to read them all! I better go to the nearest bookstore and hunt these books down...

Which books have you read? What did you think of them? :o)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Author Interview: Paula Yoo

The AMAZING Paula Yoo is the author of the young adult novel Good Enough. In this very enjoyable read, honor student and violin player Patti Yoon shares her worries, uncertainties, frustrations, fun, hopes, and dreams during her senior year in high school. (Click here for my review of Good Enough. I thought it was SO GOOD!) Paula is also the author of the children’s non-fiction picture book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (illustrated by Dom Lee).

Paula holds a B.A. in English (cum laude) from Yale University, an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. She is a TV drama screenwriter and her TV writing credits include NBC's "The West Wing," FOX’s "Tru Calling," and The CW’s "Hidden Palms." She has taught English and music and written for The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and PEOPLE magazine.

As a professional freelance violinist, Paula has been concertmaster of the Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Santa Monica and Torrance Symphony Orchestras. She has performed numerous classical chamber music recitals throughout the LA area, including concerts with the Los Angeles Chamber Players, and has performed with rock acts, including Arthur Lee of Love, Spiritualized, The Dilettantes, and Random AOK.

Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Paula. :o)

You have worked as a journalist, freelance musician, English and music teacher, and tv screenwriter. Can you tell us about your road to publication as a children's and YA writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a little kid. My first "book" was written when I was in the 2nd grade! It was called - don't laugh - "The Girl Called Raindrop." I was so proud of it that I submitted it to HarperCollins (back then, they were known as Harper & Row). I received a very nice letter from them saying that I was "talented" and should consider trying out for their writing contest for children ages 7 to 10. However, I was so upset they were rejecting "The Girl Called Raindrop" that I tore up the letter! I thought, "I'm not a CHILD writer, I'm a REAL writer!" LOL!

My first children's book was a non fiction picture book biography on Dr. Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win a gold medal at the Olympics in 1948 for diving after facing much racial discrimination. I submitted it to the Lee & Low Books "New Voices" contest because I loved their books and thought it would be a good entry for them. To my delight and surprise, they called to tell me I had won, so that is how that book got published.

My first YA novel GOOD ENOUGH was written between my TV jobs. I was unemployed and took advantage of the free time to work on a new novel. I wrote about my life as a teen violin geek. I literally wrote this novel in five weeks straight. It just poured out of me. I then revised it and sent it to my agent and he submitted it to yes, HarperCollins, and they finally decided I was a "real" writer and not a "child" writer and published it! :)

Which is the hardest for you: performing music, teaching, writing for tv shows, writing for newspapers and magazines, or writing for children and teens? Why?

The hardest thing, honestly, is everything. I tend to stress equally about all my different projects. For example, if I'm performing music, I always worry about making a mistake - playing out of tune, missing a note etc. When I'm writing, I always worry about subpar writing - is this description too cliched? Is this character not sympathetic enough? Is the plot not plausible? etc. When I was in journalism, I was always paranoid about spelling the subject's name wrong or not getting the exclusive info in time for my editor's deadline. Each of these jobs are equally hard and stressful - but you know what? In the end, the rewards far outweigh the stress!

What books and/or authors have influenced you the most as a writer for children and teens?

My favorite and most influential books growing up included: Charlotte's Web by EB White, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg, Harriet the Spy by Louis Fitzhugh and everything by Judy Blume!

What are your biggest challenges and rewards from being a writer for children and teens?

The biggest challenge is making sure I write from an authentic teen and/or child point of view. I'm still very much a kid at heart because I'm open to new experiences and love learning new things and having adventures. But the grown-up me has unfortunately gotten a little cynical and suspicious, and sometimes that spills over into my writing. So I have to be careful and make sure - is what I'm writing from an authentic teen/kid voice or from a sarcastic and cynical 30something grownup? hahaha! The reward is simple - meeting my readers. I can't tell you how moving it is to have a child or teen tell you in person or via email about how your books made them laugh and escape the harsh realities of life for a little while. Although I don't have children, they say it takes a village to raise a child, and I find it very fulfilling and rewarding to help make a child or teenager's life more enjoyable by making them laugh and have fun through reading one of my books.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for all your books to be award-winning, or for all your books to be bestselling? Why?

OMG these questions are really hard! What a fun and difficult question to answer! Can I cheat and say both? LOL! Let's see, if I choose "award winning," that means I want my books to be well-written. If I choose "best selling," that means I want my books to connect to the largest possible audience which might mean sacrificing some literary quality. Given that I will never sacrifice my desire to write to the best of my abilities, I can safely say I would want "best-selling" because I'd love for my books to reach as many kids as possible to make them laugh and not take life so seriously! I'll just have to make sure they're well-written. :)

What children's or YA book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

If I could ever write anything as beautiful as Charlotte's Web or Bridge to Terabithia, I would be so happy. I don't think I could ever be "good enough" (haha) but I will try my hardest to be the best writer I can be.

How do you feel about Good Enough being nominated for a Cybils award in the Young Adult Fiction category?

I was surprised and honored! It's amazing how influential and powerful book bloggers are - it's all about word of mouth when it comes to getting books distributed these days because the large bookstore chains do not always carry your book due to too many complex reasons to get into here. So YA and children's book authors depend heavily on word of mouth and awesome indie booksellers, teachers, librarians, and book bloggers to help get the word out on our books. I'm very grateful and thankful for the Cybils' nomination.

What do you want readers to take away from Good Enough?

I hope readers will find GOOD ENOUGH not just funny but also take the message/theme to heart - it's about learning the difference between being successful and being happy.

In Good Enough, the main character Patti Yoon shares three of her mother's recipes incorporating Spam in Korean food (Spam bi bim bap, Spam kimchi ramen, and Spam kimbap). Can you please share one more Spam-Korean food recipe with us? :o)

Oooh, your questions are really creative and great! Let's see. My book has Spam sushi/kimbap rolls, Spam ramen, and Spam bi bim bap. Okay, off the top of my head here ... I am brainstorming... if I was starving and had only SPAM to eat, I would scramble eggs and eat it with fried SPAM slices. Or maybe I'd try to create a Hawaiian pizza - what if you put fried SPAM and pineapple slices and mozzarella cheese on top of a pita bread and toasted it in the oven? OMG!!! I am totally going to try that this weekend. I honestly just made that up on the spot. :) I am a SPAM genius!

I love "The West Wing"! It is still one of my favorite tv series because it's intelligent, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. What was it like writing for the show?

Thank you so much for your kind words. It was an honor and privilege to work for Aaron Sorkin on this wonderful show. It was also very intimidating because we had such a huge writing staff of incredibly intelligent and hilarious writers. The amount of brainpower in that room was overwhelming at times. But at the same time, the amount of silliness was just as overwhelming, so I think that's what kept our show intelligent but not pretentious - Sorkin really wanted his characters to be noble but not full of themselves. He valued humor as much as intelligence, and I think that balance made the show so realistic and not intimidating to the TV viewer. It was also a lot of hard work because you did a lot of research to make sure you were accurate with the facts because you were writing about the White House!

What's in heavy rotation on your iPod these days?

Actually, I just bought an iPhone so instead of listening to my iPod, I've been playing a lot of Solitaire and Video Poker. But on my iTunes, I recently bought the new Oasis album which I love. I'm seeing them on Dec. 4th at the Staples Center in LA! And I also have been listening quite a bit to the new Journey CD which of course features the amazing Arnel Pineda!!!!! I love his Cinderella rags-to-riches story and am so proud that a Filipino is the lead singer of one my all-time favorite rock bands!

What children's or YA book are you currently reading?

I met Ingrid Law recently and loved her novel SAVVY. I also just read THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins - wow. wow. wow.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new YA novel and hope to have it ready soon to submit to my agent. Fingers crossed it will sell! That's the thing they don't tell you about publication - just because you have a book published is no guarantee your next book will be published. It's like starting all over again! Hopefully this next one will sell. Otherwise, I'll just write another one. :) I do have a new book coming out in May 2009 - it's a picture book biography on actress Anna May Wong from Lee & Low Books called SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY and it's illustrated by Lin Wang.

Do you have a message for your readers in Asia? :o)

Thank you for reading my book! I'm honored to know that this American and Asian American novel has universal appeal. My message to my readers in Asia is the same to my American readers - keep reading books because in this day and age of the Internet, twitter, facebook, cell phones and texting, we need to slow down and savor life, and what better way than to get "lost" inside the world of books? Thank you very much!

Thank YOU, Paula!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas Presents!

I've signed up for Buy Books for the Holidays 2008! This holiday season, I promise to, whenever possible, buy books to give as gifts. :D And I promise to help promote buying books as gifts for the holidays. We all know that books make very lovely and meaningful gifts. And as Amy of My Friend Amy says, this "would be a small contribution that we could make to show our appreciation to the people who bring us books, to give back to the industry that we love, and to help save books." As a book lover, how could I resist helping out everyone in the book community and sharing my passion for books?

Will you join Buy Books for the Holidays 2008? :o)

I've also signed up for the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap 2008!

How it works:
You sign up by sending an e-mail to xmasswap08 at gmail dot com. You have until the 18th of November to do so. You will then be randomly assigned as another blogger’s Secret Santa.

What you have to do next is send that person a little something - it can be a book, a journal or bookmark, a box of Christmas cookies, a mixed CD, whatever you can think of. It doesn't have to be anything pricey, of course. Second hand books are perfectly acceptable, as are homemade gifts.

A different person will be assigned as your Secret Santa, and you'll only find out who they are when you get their package in the mail.

Something to keep in mind:
Because there are book bloggers from all over the world, this is going to be an international swap. Not everyone can afford to send a package overseas though, so if that's the case with you, please don't feel that you can't sign up. Just include a note saying so in your e-mail, and you'll get a blogger who's near you.

What else should your e-mail include?
Other than your name, mailing address and willingness to send internationally, you should include your blog url and a short paragraph about what kind of gifts you like, so that your Secret Santa has an idea of what to get you. You could also include links to online wishlists, your librarything catalogue, etc. Anything that you think will make your Santa's life easier!

Important dates:
The most important date is the 18th of November. It's very important that you sign up by then, because after the 18th of November Secret Santas will be assigned, and once that has been done it would be complicated to include new participants.

As for when to mail your package, if you're sending internationally it's probably best to post it before the end of November. If you're sending within your own country there's more flexibility, but remember that the mail tends to be slow around this time of year.

In any case, you should all know who your blogger is around the 20th of November, which leaves you at the very least ten days to get and mail your gift.

One more thing:
If you could help spread the word by posting about this on your blogs, it would be very much appreciated!

Join the Christmas swap! I think it'll be a lot of fun. I am SO excited to have a book blogger Secret Santa and to be another book blogger's Secret Santa. :D Hurray for making new friends!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Clare Bell Returns with First New Ratha Book Since 1994

Want to know what I am reading these days? ;o) Check out this press release from Imaginator Press!

Kept alive by fans, critically acclaimed teen fantasy series returns after 14 year absence

Ratha’s Courage, book five in Clare Bell’s acclaimed teen fantasy series, the Named, was published in October by Imaginator Press. Ratha’s Courage is the first new book in the series since 1994. Although the books have been out of print for over a decade, loyal fans of the series kept it alive, and teen fans were instrumental in bringing the series back to life.

Ratha, the fiery female leader of a clan of sentient prehistoric cats, ruled from 1983 to 1994, when the fourth book in Bell’s Named series was published. The series, set 20 million years ago in a fictional version of Miocene epoch Northern California, earned recognition from critics and fans for its well-realized characters, thought-provoking themes, and vivid sensory depiction of a harsh prehistoric world through the eyes of a cat. The first book, Ratha’s Creature, won awards from the International Reading Association, the PEN Center, and was a Locus awards nominee. Three of the books were selected for the ALA’s Best Books for Young People List. CBS Storybreak created an animated episode from Ratha’s Creature, which aired in 1987.

Although the series eventually went out of print, it never really died. Loyal fans kept it alive on the nascent Internet, with fan discussions, fan art, and Ratha role-playing sites. Through the fans, Ratha came to the attention of Sharyn November, Senior Editor, Viking Children's Books and Editorial Director of Firebird Books, who created new reprint editions of the original four books, with stunning new cover art by Christian Alzmann. November also suggested to Bell that she write the book which became Ratha’s Courage, but due to the vagaries of the publishing industry, November was unable to publish the new book.

Young fans once again came to the rescue, bringing the book to the attention of Sheila Ruth, publisher at Imaginator Press, through her Wands and Worlds fantasy and science fiction web site. Ruth loved the series, and quickly reached an agreement, through Bell’s agent, Richard Curtis, to publish the new book. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to publish Ratha’s Courage and to help bring the series to a whole new generation of fans,” says Ruth. “I think that today’s teens are going to love Ratha.” Ratha seems to inspire that kind of devotion among everyone who reads the books; with 44 reviews on, the first book, Ratha’s Creature, has a perfect five-star rating.

Recently, children’s literature magazine Horn Book recommended the Named series for older fans of the Warriors series in their electronic newsletter. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter, is a highly popular children’s book series about clans of feral cats living in the forest. Although the target age for the Named series is a little older than that of the Warriors series, there are enough similarities that Ratha has strong appeal for older Warriors fans and for teens who have outgrown Warriors.

In Ratha's Courage, the Named attempt an alliance with the clan of “face-tail” (mammoth and mastodon) hunting cats introduced in Ratha's Challenge. The hunter clan's group mind, known as "the song," and strange, frighteningly effective unity, fascinates yet repels the independent-minded Named, creating a dangerous potential for conflict. When her own daughter, Thistle-chaser, pleads for the Named to understand and accept the hunter clan, and the Firekeepers Fessran and Bira add their voices in support, Ratha must find a way to bridge the gap.

The Named attempt to share herding skills and the gift of fire with the face-tail hunters, but things go terribly wrong. A herding demonstration becomes a disaster when it reveals the inflexible nature of “the song,” and deaths by fire unleash an uncontrollable splinter group from the hunter clan. The contrasting values of two very different cultures lead to misunderstanding, tragedy, and war. Ratha learns that reaching out to others, especially when the chasm is so wide, takes true courage.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

The book is ancient, ravaged and full of utter nonsense. But the moment it enters Daphna and Dexter's lives, bizarre things begin to happen. Why is their father, who found the book, suddenly so distant? Is the old man who took it from him some kind of hypnotist? Why is a giant, red-eyed boy menacing them? And what does their thirteenth birthday have to do with all this? Daphna and Dexter can't stand each other, but they'll have to work together to learn the truth about the Book of Nonsense - before their lives come apart completely.

The Book of Nonsense is the first volume of the Sacred Books series by David Michael Slater. It is nominated for a Cybils award in the middle grade fiction category. I wonder why it was not nominated in the fantasy/science fiction category. ;)

What kept me reading The Book of Nonsense? I wanted to find out who the terrifying old man in the shop full of books on magic and the red-eyed bully really were. I wanted to find out what was so special about the ancient book and Daphna and Dexter's thirteenth birthday. I wanted to know the answers to all of the mysteries in the story! What has me curious about the rest of the series? I am curious about the development of Daphna and Dexter's potential mystical powers and the development of their relationship as twins. I want to know how all of the clues will eventually fall into place and make sense and reveal the entire truth about the ancient book, the old man in the book shop, and the twins' dead mother. Who will enjoy The Book of Nonsense? Middle graders who want to read mystical mysteries full of surprises. They will find all of the plot's twists and turns and all of the clues to puzzle over very interesting.

Read my interview with David Michael Slater. I ask him about the possible controversy involving The Book of Nonsense!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fusion Story: Good Enough by Paula Yoo

How to Make Your Korean Parents Happy

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Attend Korean church every week, no matter what.
3. Don't talk to boys. (They will distract you from your studies.)
4. Get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, Penn, MIT, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, Smith/Mount Holyoke/Bryn Mawr/Wellesley. Then get into Harvard or Yale Law School and/or Harvard or Yale Medical School.
5. Become a Korean doctor. When all else fails, marry a Korean doctor.

In the fusion story Good Enough by Paula Yoo, Korean American Patti Yoon guides us through her struggle to be a P.K.D (Perfect Korean Daughter). Patti is in her senior year of high school and the pressure is on to ace all six of her AP classes, get at least a score of 2300 on the SATs (2400 being the perfect score), become concertmaster of the Conneticut All-State High School Orchestra for the fourth time in a row (this would mean that she is the best violinist in the state), graduate valedictorian, and get into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON (or HYP). Patti is also thinking of going to Juilliard, the best music school in the US. Her parents would never even allow her to apply though. According to Patti's parents music is waaay too risky - there is no security in a career in music. But Patti is a remarkable violinist who truly feels the music and plays with emotion. Playing the violin makes her feel safe and happy, and lately she has been feeling empty and confused about trying to get into HYP.

Then there's the guy Patti is falling hard for, Ben Wheeler, aka Cute Trumpet Guy (whose main instrument is actually the guitar!). Patti meets Ben during auditions for All-State Orchestra and he is a new transfer to her high school. They talk about music all the time, exchange mix CDs, and have really fun jam sessions together. Ben suggests Patti apply to Juilliard without telling her parents.

Good Enough is a fairly predictable story. Teenage girl is stressed out by always trying to make her parents happy - at the risk of abandoning her real interests and at the risk of her own happiness. Plus, girl meets boy and falls for boy. And with lines like Suddenly all the chaos in the lobby silences, and everyone disappears, and we are the only ones in the room. There's this weird rushing sound in my ears, as if I'm falling off a cliff. the cheesiness factor gets pretty high in Patti's "love story." But aren't we all cheesy anyway when we really, really like someone (especially when we are teenagers)? And Paula Yoo does throw us a couple of curveballs in the plot to make the story different. The narrative is in very simple, straightforward language, but things are kept interesting because Patti's story is also told through lists, recipes, SAT tips, sample SAT questions, and college essay questions.

I really enjoyed reading Good Enough. I enjoyed reading about Korean American culture. I enjoyed reading about Patti's and Ben's passion for music. I also enjoyed being introduced to new (to me) artists and songs! I found myself really caring about Patti, her family and friends, and her problems. While reading I could really feel the pressure Patti was experiencing. I literally winced or had real *facepalm* moments every time Patti made a mistake and/or embarrassed herself. Above all, I really rooted for her to excel in her studies and music AND have a social life.

Good Enough is a much more than good enough exploration of a young adult's enormous pressure from family, peers, and/or self to be the best; confusion about what one really wants in life; and confusion about the relationship between success and happiness. Can you have happiness without success and vice versa? The novel also perfectly captures the worries, sense of endless possibilities, uncertainties, and feeling of freedom from taking the SATs, taking senior year classes, applying to colleges, and choosing a college to go to. I highly recommend this book to high school seniors and to young adults who are curious about what the last year in high school is really like. Good Enough is not perfect, but it is sooo good.

Good Enough is nominated in the Young Adult Novels category of the 2008 Cybils awards.

About Paula Yoo: Paula Yoo holds a B.A. in English (cum laude) from Yale University, an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. Aside from being a children's/young adult literature writer, Paula is a TV drama screenwriter (her TV writing credits include NBC's "The West Wing," FOX’s "Tru Calling," and The CW’s "Hidden Palms"). She is also a professional freelance violinist.

Fellow fusion author David Yoo, writer of Girls for Breakfast, is her brother!

Link Love: Click here to check out the readergirlz feature on Good Enough and Paula Yoo. It includes cool stuff like a playlist, a video of Paula Yoo playing the violin, and ideas for a Good Enough-themed party!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick and Norah are really cool and really interesting. Nick is cute and smart and sensitive. He's a talented musician - a straight bassist in a queercore band who composes himself by composing songs. He writes amazing lyrics and puts together amazing playlists and thinks of each night, each moment, as a song. Norah is valedictorian of her high school and has just been accepted into Brown University. She's the daughter of a record company CEO who introduced her to every kind of music while she was growing up, so of course she's a music snob. And Norah may be a flannel-wearing Plain Jane, but she is really fierce. Nick and Norah are both straight-edged (no drinking, no smoking, no drugs - but this doesn't mean they don't cuss or don't have sex) and they are each other's musical soul mate.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan starts with Nick asking Norah in a club if she would be his girlfriend for five minutes. Nick is trying to avoid the Evil Ex Tris who he is still obsessed with and who is walking towards him with a new boy toy. Norah is trying to forget the Evil Ex Tal who messes with her mind and who she continually falls in and out and in and out of love with. She is also trying to avoid her annoying sort of friend Tris who is coming her way. She answers Nick's question by kissing him. That kiss leads to a passionate and confusing night together exploring music, exploring each other, and exploring New York City. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for Nick and Norah, Tris and Tal are a physical and emotional repeating refrain in their night.

Alas, because of all the buzz I had heard about the book (mostly because of its movie adaptation), I approached it with almost impossibly high expectations. (Stupid Tarie, you know better than that - you usually approach books more critically). So I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed it and there were parts that I found hilarious, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

So what did I like about Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist? I definitely liked Nick and Norah; their passion for music (so much so that I wanted even more of it); their funny, sexy (maybe TOO sexy for my young adult fiction reading tastes *blush*), and exciting night; and their AMAZING chemistry and connection. I also like how the book introduced me to new music and re-awakened my own passion for music.

The chapters of the book alternate between Nick's point of view and Norah's point of view. David Levithan wrote Nick's parts and Rachel Cohn wrote Norah's parts. The structure of this very short novel (less than 200 pages) is very tight and its unity and fluidity really work. What I liked the most was Norah's voice. I found Norah's voice more authentic and more revealing than Nick's. Her thoughts, her questions, her feelings, her doubts and insecurities (about herself, boys, and her relationships with boys) were SO REAL that I found myself relating to her and to them.

What did I not like about Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist? There were too many parts in Nick's voice that I found too dense or pretentious. Like Nick was trying to be deep and it didn't work for me as a reader or the situation didn't really call for it. There were a couple of parts where I felt that Norah was also trying too hard to be profound.

Still, if someone were to ask me to recommend a cool young adult novel to them, I would definitely say, "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." And I can't wait to watch the movie (which isn't out yet here in the Philippines)!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finalists for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

I am happy to share this news from the (American) National Book Foundation:

The finalists for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature are:

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum)
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion)
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Alfred A. Knopf)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Last call to nominate your favorite children's and young adult books of 2008 for the Cybils!

Here is a note from Jen Robinson, the Literacy Evangelist for the 2008 Cybils:

Cybils Nominations: How Can You Participate?

Nominations for the third annual Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils) opened Wednesday, October 1st and will stay open until Wednesday, October 15th. The goal of the Cybils team (some 100 bloggers) is to highlight books that are high in both literary quality and kid appeal. The Cybils were founded by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold.

This year, awards will be given in nine categories (Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels). Anyone can nominate books in these categories (one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English). To nominate titles, visit the Cybils blog (you have until October 15th). A separate post will be available for each category - simply nominate by commenting on those individual posts. If you are not sure which category to choose for a particular book, a questions thread will also be available.

Between October 16th and January 1st, Cybils panelists (children's and young adult bloggers) will winnow the nominations down to a 5-7 book short list for each category. A second set of panelists will then select the winning titles for the different categories. The winners will be announced on February 14th, 2009.

The Cybils lists, from long lists to short lists to the lists of winners, offer a wonderful resource to anyone looking for high-quality, kid-friendly books. The Cybils team has worked hard to balance democracy (anyone can nominate titles) with quality control (two rounds of panel judging by people who focus on children's books every day). We do this work because we consider it vital to get great books into the hands of children and young adults.

I've already nominated Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi (translated into English by Cathy Hirano) for the Fantasy & Science Fiction category, The Fold by An Na for the Young Adult Novels category, and The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin for the Middle Grade Novels category! What books have you nominated? What books are you planning to nominate? :o)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Third and Final Twilight Movie Trailer

What do you all think of it? It has me bursting with emotion and wanting to read the novel again!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review and Author Interview: Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum is about the courage of a group of teenagers in Patience, a small town in East Texas. Ashley Asher, Roxanne Blake, Dub White, Z.Z. Freeman, Junior Alvarez, T.W. Griffin, and Kevin Cooper are classmates in the summer session of English II under Beverly Asher. Each teen is facing a truly life-altering challenge that requires them to say NO to fear.

The main character of Courage in Patience is fifteen-year-old Ashley. Most of the novel is in her voice. When the narrative shifts its focus to one of the other characters, a third person point of view is taken, but I did not find these shifts jarring. For six years Ashley was sexually abused by her stepfather Charlie Baker. When she finally has the courage to tell her mother, Cheryl Baker, about the abuse, her mother does not believe her. Child Protection Services then places Ashley in the care of her father David Asher and stepmother Beverly Asher. Living with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother Ben in Patience; starting therapy with Dr. Scott Matthews; and English II class help Ashley start to heal.

At the beginning of the novel, Ashley takes us through her six years in hell. But the novel does not focus on the abuse Ashley endured. In truth, I wish the novel had focused a bit more on the abuse, because I wanted to understand deeply the terror Ashley went through. The novel's focus is on the emotional effects of abuse and the road to recovery. Courage in Patience is an eye-opening read. Ashley suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and her pain, confusion, insecurities, and anger are very REAL. After reading Courage in Patience, I feel I have a much better understanding of what victims of sexual abuse feel and think and the healing process they must go through.

Courage in Patience is a story of hope for those who have endured abuse - and not just sexual abuse. Ashley and her English II classmates have experienced different kinds of abuse, ranging from emotional abuse and physical abuse to heartbreaking parental neglect and shocking racism. To make matters even worse, religious fundamentalists try to ban the novel they are discussing (and loving!) in English class: Ironman by Chris Crutcher. These conservative extremists are also trying to have their English teacher fired for assigning Ironman to the class. The way these amazing teen characters finally stand up to abuse and social injustice is inspiring.

It has been a while since I've read a novel as serious and important as Courage in Patience. (It is also enjoyable and very readable!) I am honestly grateful for Courage in Patience. I want to read it again because Beth Fehlbaum was able to successfully weave so many big themes into one thought-provoking story. Courage in Patience is an authentic exploration of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, parental neglect, racism, censorship, and religious fundamentalism. More importantly, Courage in Patience is a necessary reminder that there is HOPE as long as we are not afraid to stand up for what is right.

I am so happy to host YA author Beth Fehlbaum at my blog! Welcome, Beth!

What kind of teen reader were you?

I always read "above" my age. I liked historical romance-- Kathleen E. Woodiwiss' books.

What inspired you to write Courage in Patience?

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In the course of treatment and through my recovery process, I have used writing as a way to work through feelings. After about a year of writing poems and short stories and sharing them with my therapist, he suggested that I write a novel. I played with it for about four months, stopping and starting. It was only when I pulled myself out of my own head and began to imagine another person's life that I was able to bring Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, to life, and create a world for her, which became Courage in Patience.

What was it like writing Courage in Patience?

I wrote most of Courage in Patience in the middle of the night and on the weekends and holidays. Strangely, I did not feel all that tired the next day at school, because my mind was working overtime at story-weaving. I drew on my experiences as a teacher to create the character of Beverly, Ashley's stepmother who is a high school English teacher. I drew on my experiences of being an abuse survivor to communicate what it is like inside the mind of a person who has been sexually abused. Some of the scenes were very difficult to write. Chapter Two, and its depiction of Ashley's rape, took a very long time to write and was very emotional for me.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

From the start of writing the book to selling it, it took about one year. Then the editing and revising process took about four more months. Kunati, Inc., my publisher, is a small independent publisher based in Orangeville, Ontario. Kunati authors are expected to work extensively on their own behalf, and the publisher, Derek Armstrong, is a marketing expert. I sort of live a double life right now-- I teach all day then come home at night and do "author stuff"-- and go on my book tour on the weekends. It's pretty surreal, actually.

Kunati books are meant to be "Provocative. Bold. Controversial." What makes your book provocative, bold, and controversial?

Courage in Patience is provocative in that it will provoke discussion and thought- which is what it is intended to do. It is bold because it does not hide from the truth; in fact, the crux of Courage in Patience is that freedom is found through truth. And it may be controversial because some of its elements will make people uncomfortable-- as they should-- but it's also important to understand that the stuff that is hard to read in Courage in Patience is the everyday existence of millions of people.

Can you tell us about your work with abused children as an English teacher? How much did that experience influence your novel?

When Kunati first bought my book, I was not yet ready to identify myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Out of consideration for me, my folks at Kunati attributed my expertise on the subject of child sexual abuse to my work with abused children. I know for a fact that I have worked with children who have endured all sorts of abuse-- all teachers have, because 1 in 4 children are sexually abused-- but I wrote the character of Beverly Asher more from my overall experience as a teacher of all children than as a teacher of abused children. All children-- all PEOPLE-- are the same in that they (we) all want to be loved and accepted for who they (we) are. That's a fundamental message in Courage in Patience.

I have an understanding of secondary English curriculum, because I taught middle school for much of my career. I majored in English and minored in Secondary Education. I based the characters in the summer school class on composites of students I have had over the years.

The back cover of your novel says that it is suitable for classroom study. How do you imagine Courage in Patience being used for classroom study?

With the themes of racism, censorship, religious dogma, abuse, forgiveness, social justice, bullying, honesty, respect, anger… there's plenty of discussion material in Courage in Patience. I have considered writing a Novel Unit to go along with the book, but I have not had time to do it yet. I think Courage in Patience would be a great novel to study in the classroom!

What do you want teens who have suffered abuse to take away from Courage in Patience? What do you want teens who have not suffered abuse to take away from the novel?

I hope that everyone who reads Courage in Patience will come away with the understanding that it is in truth that all people find freedom. It's not just an "abuse novel." There is a positive message in the group dynamic of the kids in the summer school class coming together and learning to embrace each other's differences. Nobody wants to face problems alone-- and Courage in Patience carries the message that people with problems are NOT alone.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for Courage in Patience to be award-winning, or for Courage in Patience to be bestselling? Why?

Wow, what a fantastic question. No doubt about it- I would rather Courage in Patience be award-winning-- recognized by those who know and appreciate quality literature-- than best-selling. I mean, come on-- think about it-- among many fine books, there are also books that capitalize on the pain of real people on the best-seller list. Just because a book is a best-seller does not necessarily mean that it contributes to the betterment of people's lives, long-term.

What book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

I would like my work to be on-par with Chris Crutcher's books, in terms of longevity and the awards he has received for his contributions to young adult literature. If I earn even a tenth of the recognition he has received, that would be very cool.

What advice do you have for teachers with students who have suffered abuse?

Teachers should always remember that they have the power to shape a child's life, for better or worse. We (teachers) need to communicate to our students very clearly that they matter and they have a person who cares about them as people-- not just as a warm body that takes up a seat for however long the class lasts. So, advice I would give to teachers would be to BE THERE for their students.

The Courage in Patience tour has stopped by many blogs and bookstores since July. What are some of your favorite experiences so far from the blog tour and in-person book signings?

I really like hearing from people who have read the book-- so it's very gratifying to stop by a blog and find people discussing Courage in Patience. With respect to the signings, one of my three daughters (ages 18, 20, and 22) always goes with me, and it's really cool, sharing the time with them and talking to people about my book. One thing that's neat at book signings is when men come up to my table and ask me what my book is about-- and I tell them-- and a few times, men have bought the book for their wives or girlfriends, because the wife or girlfriend has experienced abuse, and the guy hopes my book will help her.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the sequel to Courage in Patience. It's called Hope in Patience. The title comes from something a good friend once said to me: "Hope is the opposite of fear." I am already receiving letters from people who did not want Courage in Patience to end. They wanted to know more of Ashley's story. And I also need to find out how her story turns out in the end, so I'll be learning more about her life as I write it!

Thanks for hosting me, Tarie! I really appreciate it! I invite readers to stop by my website,

Thank you for stopping by Into the Wardrobe, Beth! Thank you for writing Courage in Patience. I am already looking forward to Hope in Patience! I, too, want to know how Ashley's story ends, and I want to learn more about her family and classmates/friends - her life - in Patience.