Tag Archives: ya

Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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From Goodreads:
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Peter Pan and especially with Wendy, who is my namesake, so I was excited that this was a book club pick.

This was a wonderfully enchanting story of Tiger Lily, who lives among a tribe on the island of Neverland. Somewhat of an outcast to her own people, she is soon discovered by The Lost Boys and finds herself falling in love with the infamous Peter Pan.

The story is told from Tinker Bell’s perspective. She’s a silent observer who tags along on Tiger Lily’s small adventures, generally unnoticed. Tiger Lily is a girl of few words herself. She’s had a cruel childhood and is a loner, often ridiculed and mistreated by other children and adults in her tribe. Her fascination with a shipwreck survivor lead to a punishment of marriage to the tribes oaf. To get away from her fate she often visits the woods where she comes across Peter Pan. The book portrays Peter as a handsome, whimsical teenage boy who is doing his best to provide for the other boys in his charge.

This book was well written, keeping true to a what little is known about this fascinating character. It was heartbreaking to see her reluctantly give her heart away only to have it broken by circumstances out of her control. Peter, tired and beaten down from constantly being hunted by Hook, finds some comfort in Tiger Lily’s friendship and kisses. When Wendy comes along, Peter has a choice to make and although it means leaving Tiger Lily, she is never truly gone from him and he lingers with her.

I loved the ending of this book. A wonderful glimpse into the future, it had me longing for more of the story!

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City of Thieves by David Benioff

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A moving tale of two boys who are brought together by circumstance and end up bound by so much more, City of Thieves is a journey well worth taking.

From Goodreads:
As wise and funny as it is thrilling and original – the story of two young men on an impossible adventure. A writer visits his retired grandparents in Florida to document their experience during the infamous siege of Leningrad. His grandmother won’t talk about it, but his grandfather reluctantly consents. The result is the captivating odyssey of two young men trying to survive against desperate odds. Lev Beniov considers himself built for deprivation. He’s small, smart, and insecure, a Jewish virgin too young for the army, who spends his nights working as a volunteer firefighter with friends from his building. When a dead German paratrooper lands in his street, Lev is caught looting the body and dragged to jail, fearing for his life. He shares his cell with the charismatic and grandiose Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested on desertion charges. Instead of the standard bullet in the back of the head, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt to find the impossible. A search that takes them through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and the devastated surrounding countryside creates an unlikely bond between this earnest, lust-filled teenager and an endearing lothario with the gifts of a conman. Set within the monumental events of history, City of Thieves is an intimate coming-of-age tale with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

This was such a moving story. Lev and Kolya are opposites in so many ways. Lev is the serious one, the poet’s son. A good heart, a sense of right and wrong, he’s a gentle soul at heart. Kolya, the ladies man, the sweet talker, is the negotiator. He’s the boy soldier with the big talk but a soft heart. Circumstance brings them together for a quest that sends them on an adventure like no other. The two work in tandem, each playing off the other and before they realize it, they become friends capable of loving each other like brothers.

Their adventures lead them to the brink of what will be their defining moments, the moments they find out what they are truly capable of and they are transformed into men right before our eyes. It’s such a compelling story. It felt like I was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee listening to Lev tell the story in his grandfatherly voice. After reading it, I can tell you with certainty that: I have never known real cold. I have never known real hunger or fear or loneliness. I really only have a semblance of what it would be like. A book like this puts all those things into perspective.

One of the things I loved was the humor that shined through the darkness of this harrowing story. It endeared Kolya to me and leant authenticity to the story. Even in the worst of predicaments, humans are still human. We need laughter to help quell our fears.

I’ve passed this one along to my teenage sons. I’m hoping it will leave as positive an impression on them as it has left with me. This one is going on my list of all time favorites.

If you enjoy historical fiction, WWII history, life changing adventures or love the inspiration that stories of friendship can give, you will LOVE this book.

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Siege of Leningrad – Wikipedia


A Year of Reading Recap – 2012

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What would the New Year be without a look back at the old one? Here’s a recap of my year of reading 2012.

I’ve had the opportunity to read so many wonderful books this year. I surpassed my reading goal of 75 and reached an all time high of 117. 1Q84 was the longest book I read, 945 pages. I think that made the all-time high also. I gave mostly 3 and 4 stars with only 14 making the 5 star distinction, which makes me think I’m a bit too picky and hard to please. I had two books that were so terrible I couldn’t finish them and I’m still cursing about wasting my time on them.

I read more memoirs this year than ever. People are truly interesting and in some cases their stories are stranger than fiction. I cried more this year than ever too. Some of the stories were just so heartbreaking. I’m pretty sure I blubbered through more of The Art of Racing in the Rain than I’m willing to fess up to. Dogs dying in books seemed to be a common theme this year. I seriously cannot take anymore of that!

I had a zombie run and it was a great one. Zombies are the new vampires. Super cool! If I were giving an award for best cover it would go to My Life as a White Trash Zombie. As Steven Martin said in Father of the Bride, “Bitchin!” That cover earns the Bitchin award. (if there were such a thing) Patrick Ness is my favorite author of 2012. Reading his book has inspired both my children and me.

Historical fiction is still my favorite genre. Mixing fiction in with a history lesson makes learning fun even at my age.

Out of the 117 books I’ve read this year, here’s my top 10 favorites:

1. Wilderness: A Novel by Lance Weller
2. Chaos Walking: A Trilogy by Patrick Ness
3. The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus
4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
5. Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
9. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by by Michelle Moran
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My goals for 2013 are much the same. I’m upping my reading goal to 100. I think I can manage it without feeling too pressured. I’m going to do my best not to purchase books this year. I have probably 75 on my bookshelf waiting to be read and they deserve my love and attention. “Try” is the main word here.

I’m going to give a State Challenge a go and will be book blogging my way through the US. I hope you’ll join me along the way! Every book is an adventure and it’s so much more fun when you’re along!

I wish each of you a New Year filled with joy, happiness and many, many great books!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!


Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Rip-roaring 20’s style is what stands out in this lengthy novel by Libba Bray.

From Goodreads:

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Not having much luck with my first Libba Bray book, Beauty Queens, I decided to give this popular author another try with her newest novel. Set in the 20’s, Bray has obviously done her homework. She succeeds in creating a world that feels like it’s surrounding you as you read. The visual descriptions and catchy slang make the 20’s come to life.

Her main characters are strong and likable. Evie is so much fun and her youthful exuberance is infectious. All the introduced characters are truly mesmerizing.

Having said that, there are a few things that kept me from loving this book. My main gripe is that the book is too long and too slow. Many things seem to be repeated. A little editing could have gone a long way to making this book something special. To much time is spent on introduction and characters rehashing their inner feelings over and over. It’s just too much. I actually stopped reading it for a while and read a few other books before starting it up again. It felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere which leads to boredom. Cut this down 100-200 pages and it would have been much more enjoyable.

There are too many loose ends making some of the introduced characters seem out-of-place and had me wondering what their purpose is. I know this is a series but I need something to tie these characters to the story in a meaningful way. Hopefully the next installment will shed some light and fit these puzzle piece characters together.

Overall, if you have the time to devote and can overlook repetition, this book is sure to charm you with nostalgia alone.

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Quick Reads/Quick Reviews: Patrick Ness, Michael Morpurgo, Anna Quindlen

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

From Goodreads:
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Incredible!

Patrick Ness has a way of conjuring just about every emotion I have when I read his books. His Chaos Walking trilogy was an emotional roller coaster. I must say though, he has outdone himself with A Monster Calls. If this book doesn’t pull at your heartstrings I don’t know what would. It’s a story of love and loss, of dealing with an inevitable death that follows a prolonged illness and all the emotion that comes with it. It’s overcoming not just sadness, but anger, injustice and hopelessness. Yet, the story is oddly comforting.

It’s a book you just have to read for yourself. I don’t think any one persons review could do it justice.

I was fortunate enough to read a hardcover copy. The illustrations in this book are wonderful and really add to the darkness of the story.

When you read this, and I hope you do, remember to take deep breaths, keep a box of tissues handy and look forward to when the monster calls.

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An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

From Goodreads:
With Lizzie’s father fighting in World War II, her mother takes on the job of a zoo keeper to provide for her family. Lizzie, her mother, and her eight-year-old brother Karli have become especially attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene. The bombing of Dresden is imminent and soon, so the zoo director explains that as a precautionary measure all the animals must be destroyed so that they’re not running wild through the city. Lizzie’s mother persuades the director to allow Marlene, the elephant, to come stay in the family’s garden.

As predicted, Dresden is bombed, and the family, including Marlene, is forced from the city. Lizzie and her family aren’t alone. Thousands of Dresden residents are fleeing to find somewhere safe to stay. Lizzie’s mother has to find a different route out of the city to keep the elephant and the children safe from harm. Once they reach the abandoned home of their relatives, they come across Peter, a Canadian navigator who, by putting himself at risk of capture to save the family, gains their trust.

This unlikely grouping of family, elephant, and enemy turned ally come together beautifully to illustrate the importance of love, resolve, and hope.

I have had the opportunity to read quite a few books from the World War II era that have touched my heart with their message of love, hope and survival. This was a wonderful addition to that group. Following Lizzie’s family through their harrowing journey to safety made for an exciting adventure appropriate even for young readers.

If you enjoyed Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys I believe you’ll enjoy this one as well.

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Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

From Goodreads:
In this irresistible memoir, the New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize Anna Quindlen writes about looking back and ahead—and celebrating it all—as she considers marriage, girlfriends, our mothers, faith, loss, all the stuff in our closets, and more.

As she did in her beloved New York Times columns, and in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen says for us here what we may wish we could have said ourselves.

Anna Quindlen reflects back on her life and the lessons she’s learned throughout her journey. It’s extremely perceptive and often humorous. The book was easy to relate to and I often found myself saying “That’s exactly how I feel!”. She does sometimes go off on a tangent, which made some parts seem repeated. There are lots of good reflections and insight for women whose children are beginning to or have already left the nest.

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Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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More involved and complicated than the synopsis suggests, The Raven Boys combines magic, mythology and ghostly tales to weave a web of intrigue surrounding characters as complex as their plight.

From Goodreads:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

It took me a good third of this book to get to the point where I didn’t want to put it down. That first third introduces us to the complex characters who are unique and separate yet form a unit made of strong bonds and a sense of rightness. They are supposed to be here, in this place, at this time, together. Although sometimes tedious, this extensive introduction is needed so that we can understand each of them, where their coming from and what draws them together. Blue is a strong female character and her “family” is full of quirky personalities. Gansey and his friend all attend the same elite school but are each haunted by their own demons and are fighting to find more than just what lies on the ley lines.

Parts of this book gave me chills to read. Maggie Stiefvater is an impressive storyteller and her writing shines in this book. It’s haunting in parts. It delves into social status and how it can separate even the best of friends without them wanting it to. Those that have money and privilege feel like that’s all anyone sees in them and those without feel inferior. It’s a bridge that’s hard to cross. Gansey, most of all, is taking on the responsibility of trying to save everyone which isn’t always welcomed the way he hopes.

I was expecting more of a star-crossed love story but it’s more focused on brotherly love. One things for sure, these teen are driven more so than I think boys this age would be. But they’re not normal boys, their Aglionby boys, which is wholly different.

Now that the stage is set, I look forward to reading the next book in the series. There is still a lot more mystery and magic to uncover and based on the last sentence in the book, things are about to get even more interesting!

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Listen to NPR’s interview with Maggie Stiefvater.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.


Book Review: What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor

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A beautiful story of blooming teenage love, What I Didn’t Say is well written drama that shows us how love can help us endure things we never thought we would possibly have the strength to overcome.

From Goodreads:
Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat.

His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He’s been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it’s too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again.

When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he’ll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn’t limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she’ll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she’ll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn’t say before, even if he can’t actually say it.

Review:

This book was such a surprising pleasure to read. It took me back to those high school years and feeling of first love. This book is an honest look at some tough situations. Jake pays dearly for his transgression. He’s lucky though. He has a large, loving, understanding family and the support of a close-knit community. He borders on depression at times. His senior year and plans for the future now have to accommodate his impediment of being mute. He teeters between feeling lucky that he’s still alive and being overcome with frustration over not being able to voice his feelings.

He starts to see that he can overcome these obstacles when Samantha, a girl he’s had a crush on for a while, starts to help him through his ordeal in more ways than one. Love blooms, at least for Jake. Samantha on the other hand says she doesn’t believe in love. Her parents split when she was young and she never really knew her father. But Samantha has many secrets and, as those are revealed, Jake realizes he’s not really the one who needs saving.

These teens were pretty responsible. Jake was great at sports, comes from a great family and acts “grown-up” for the most part. Samantha is a straight A student with her future in mind, never taking her eyes off the prize of a full scholarship. I wouldn’t call these two your “typical” teenagers. They’re a little more adult like.

This one’s pretty “clean”. There’s some make out sessions but nothing beyond that. I think this is a conscious decision between Jake and Samantha that’s never verbalized.

I did find it disheartening that in such a close-knit community with a small population, no one ever noticed what was happening with Samantha.

This is a great story! It’s heartfelt and deals with issues that a happen more often than we like to think. Even if you don’t typically read teen books, this one would be well worth your time.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley.

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Book Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

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A non stop roller coaster of emotion, Monsters of Men is a worthy ending to a remarkable series.

From Goodreads:
“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge – the electrifying finale to the award-winning “Chaos Walking” trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war
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I have to confess, I put off reading this book because I didn’t want to think about this series ending. Throughout the series I’ve grown so attached to Todd and Viola and their goal of peace. This series has some of the most remarkable young characters who are unique, who don’t fit into a tidy, ready-made package of persona, and who make mistakes, have regrets, but ultimately learn from them. They are great role models. I love the incorporation of animals, who I have such a soft spot for.

Monsters of Men picks up where The Ask and the Answer left off. I really like how the author doesn’t spend time reiterating what happened in the last book. It starts right in the thick of it. In this book, we are treated to a third narrative. I don’t want to give a way who it is, but I’ll just say that this character’s representation allows so many questions to be answered and for the story to come full circle.

This book is action packed! Never slowing down, it’s a constant roller coaster between war and peace. It muddies the waters of who’s good and who’s evil and to what end. Through it all Todd and Viola’s commitment to each other is unwavering and stays true. Death comes for many in this installment, some of which are surprising.

The one thing that didn’t satisfy me was the ending. I wanted more. I wanted things tidied up more. I wanted a glimpse in to the future to see if what all these characters went through was worth it.

This is my favorite YA series. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in movie form and will be anxious to see if they can recreate the emotion that is captured in the book.

See my review of The Ask and the Answer.

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Book Review: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

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Second in the series by Maria V. Snyder, Magic Study didn’t measure up to the standard created by the first book.

From Goodreads:
With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better….

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training—especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies….

I missed the boat completely on this one. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Poison Study. It introduced us to Yelena, a strong female character escaping from captivity and torture in a very unique way. The uniqueness that made Poison Study such a great read did not continue through to Magic Study.

No depth, no smart storyline, no growth for the characters. In fact, I would say that Yelena was actually “dumbed down” in this one and the writing in general was as well. I ended up skimming most of it and not even bothering to finish the last bit. I’m so surprised it has such a high rating on Goodreads.

I listened to the Audible version and the narration was incredibly horrible. Slow and painful. Because of that, I may go back and give this book another chance (in print version) some other time.

I really wanted to like this series! It just didn’t work out. So disappointing!

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The National Book Festival – Experiencing the Author Pavillions

The best thing about the National Book Festival is the opportunity to see and hear authors whose books we all cherish. We weren’t able to enjoy as many authors as I had hoped but next year I’ll plan differently to maximize the number of author I get to see.

The first author we listened to was Walter Isaacson in the History/Biography tent. Mr. Isaacson has written many books about great men who have accomplished great things. His speech at the Festival centered around three great men including Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and of course, his most recent subject, Steve Jobs.

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He told us how these three very different men had some things in common including their love for beauty, simplicity and curiosity and their ability to, as Steve Jobs would put it, “think different”. He told of Franklin’s salient traits of tolerance and common ground. He spoke of Jobs’ determination to make the best product he could make. He explained how they followed their passion and were a part of something larger than themselves.

He was impassioned by his subjects. He was humorous at times, telling some of the stories of his days following around Jobs. He had a good message for the youth of today, or all of us for that matter, that following your passion, being a part of something you truly believe in, can be your greatest gift.

After each author finishes speaking there is a Q & A session where they take a few questions from individuals. The questions asked centered around Steve Jobs. Mr. Isaacson was professional with his answers.

This was a great author to start off our day!

Since my son came with me, we devoted much of our time to authors he enjoyed in his elementary years. We listened in as R. L. Stine entertained little ones at the Family Storytelling Stage. He told them a story encouraging their participation along the way. Mr. Stine has a new Goosebumps series, Goosebumps Most Wanted, coming out. You can read my review of the first book in the series here.

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Our next stop was the Teens & Children tent to see Lois Lowry. When we got there Walter Dean Myers was finishing up his speech and starting the Q & A session. I wasn’t familiar with this author but you could tell he was popular by the sheer number of people crowded into the tent. From the questions that were asked we could tell this author has inspired many youth.

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We thought the crowd was huge for Walter Dean Myers. That crowd swelled for Lois Lowry who is obviously beloved by many. Her new book, a part of The Giver series is due out soon and was actually for sale at the Festival. I found it interesting that she wrote The Giver, which has been put in the sci-fi or dystopian genre, but doesn’t consider herself a reader of that genre.

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The last author we caught for the day was Donna Britt. I was not familiar with her but could quickly see that she is a strong female voice. She told the heartbreaking story of her brother’s death and the impact it had on her. The background behind her actually fell over and almost hit her during the first part of her speech. She was very graceful and didn’t let that incident deter her from delivering her message.

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It was wonderful to see all these great authors converge in one place!


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