Calling All Barry Lyga Fans out There – Or Fans of Signed Books!

Hello BookBandit Followers (are you out there? I hope so!):

Lucky me has a signed copy of Barry Lyga’s Hero Type. And a lucky someone out there can own this signed copy. That’s right, The BookBandit is proud to have its first book giveaway!

So what do you have to do to enter? Simply reply to THIS post and tell the BookBandit what super power you would want if you were a super hero, tell why you want that power, and what good can your super power bring to the masses. Be creative!  Winner will randomly be chosen (unless there’s only one reply)

Contest is open until July 18th, 2010 (midnight).  And winner will be chosen and notified Monday, July 19th, 2010. 

Enjoy & Good Luck!

An Abundance of Katherine’s

An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green

Colin, an annogramming  whiz kid, has had it all. He was a child prodigy who excelled at practically everything, and he has successfully dated only girls named Katherine. No Kathy’s, Kat’s, or Katie’s included – strictly Katherine’s (and yes, it must be spelled that exact way). But shortly after his high school graduation and after Katherine the nineteenth dumped him all that he had is suddenly gone.

But luckily for Colin his (only) best friend Hassan has the perfect solution to all of Colin’s troubles – a road trip. Easily convinced Colin and Hassan set out onto the open road hoping to find less Katherine’s and more roadside attractions (like the world’s largest cross) – great just what Colin needs, or is it. 

Being the child prodigy that he is, rather was, Colin has an affinity for most subjects, especially history. So while driving through backwoods (Gutshot) Tennessee Colin immediately notices a billboard advertising the Arch Duke Ferdinand’s grave. Not being able to resist, the two are suddenly headed in the direction of Gutshot, and little do they know, but toward the direction of their future. Through misguided adventures (wild pig hunting, figuring out the love theorem) and unlikely relationships (Hollis and Lindsey Wells) Colin may have finally found his eureka moment, but was it all that he thought it would be? 

An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green  is exceptionally well realized and well written. This book isn’t only full of funny witticisms, but it is full of odd facts and thoughts that will send readers to Wikipedia quicker than any school report can.  For example, can an algebraic equation really sum up the course of a romantic relationship, or predict the outcome? And where exactly is the Arch Duke Ferdinand buried?

Each character featured in this book is well-developed. And where one lacks, the other’s make up for it. For example Colin is a very funny guy, but not in the typically funny way. However, best friend Hassan is laugh out loud funny. Even the Katherine’s (who weren’t a major part of the storyline) are greatly crafted and developed in a way to fit into, not only the storyline, but Colin’s life.

John Green has created a new genre (dude lit as opposed to chick lit), or is slowly perfecting one that already exists.   An Abundance of Katherine’s can easily appeal to anyone. It won’t matter to girls the main character is a boy, and it won’t matter to boys if the main focus is romance.  It’s just that great!

One quick, final note – check this video out!

My Abandonment

My Abandonment by Peter Rock
 
Try to picture your life when you were thirteen? Can you picture it any other way? Imagine suddenly being uprooted from the home you’ve come to know, to understand, and to love and separated from, not only your home – but your only parent.

 If you’re thirteen year old Caroline that you don’t have to imagine that; she’s lived that.

For many years Caroline has been living in a dug out cavern in one of Oregon’s state parks – happily learning, growing, and understanding. Until one day a jogger notices her and calls the police. Her and her father’s life is suddenly uprooted when local authorities force them from their home, question them for days, and send them to a horse farm for some sort of rehabilitation. Will Caroline and her father survive these uncharted territory surrounded by people rather than plants? 

Written from Caroline’s point of view My Abandonment by Peter Rock is a haunting story that will leave readers unsure and pensive – in a good way.  He has crafted solid characters that add depth to a storyline that one would think could fall short. Caroline is smart, self-sufficient, and sensitive but not in any thanks to her mentally ill Father whose war days have permanently scarred him.  

Rock has woven reality with fiction. He’s blurred the lines between what is real and was isn’t making readers often question what he or she would do if found in Caroline’s footsteps. His writing is smart, edgy, and evocative. However the pace of the book often falters with changing moods and situations Caroline and Father find themselves in. Bobbing up and down throughout, My Abandonment is a good read, but not a pace steady one. 
 

 

Shootin’ The Breeze with Meagan Brothers

After reading Debbie Harry Sings in French not only was I inspired, but I was compelled to seek out author Meagan Brothers and ask her some  burning questions. Graciously, she was willing. All of my burning questions were answered, and for your reading pleasure here’s the first part of my interview with author, Meagan Brothers:

Book Bandit(BB): Can you tell me a little about yourself, and about your writing career?

Meagan Brothers (MB): I’m a native Carolinian – grew up mostly in Spartanburg, South Carolina and Ellenboro, North Carolina. I have a degree in screenwriting from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which is kind of a dust-gatherer of a degree, considering that most of my output has been in poetry and prose. A great experience, nonetheless! 

BB: When writing “Debbie Harry Sings in French” what was your writing process like? Has it changed since the book has been written and published? If so, how? 
MB: It’s hard to say how my writing process has changed. I’m still striving to be more disciplined. I have a bad tendency to go two weeks without even looking at what I’m working on, then sit down at my desk for three days at a stretch, barely moving from my spot. I don’t recommend that method – it leads to an extremely stiff back. What’s changed the most is my worldview, as anyone’s would over the course of a decade. When I started the book, I was still in college. Now, at 32, I find it harder sometimes to justify what I do; look at any newspaper – the oil spill, the situation in the Middle East, the situation in Korea, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. And I’m sitting here writing these frivolous books about pop music and so-forth. I use fewer index cards than I used to. And the thought that my grandma is going to be reading this is making me curb my pottymouth a lot more. 

BB: There are a lot of memorable/iconic bands and/or musicians – past and present. Why did you specifically choose Blondie and/or Debbie Harry to be Johnny’s inspiration and, in a lot of way, his support system? 

MB: The inspiration from the book was actually an assignment I was given in a short fiction writing class. We were supposed to write an expository story – a story that would have a lot of practical information woven, as seamlessly as possible, into the narrative. While I was trying to come up with some useful information to impart, I read an argument on a music-fan message board stating, rather emphatically, that one simply could not be a fan of both Blondie and Patti Smith. Which I thought was pretty funny, considering that two of the bands I was listening to most at that time were Blondie and Patti Smith. And enjoying them equally, though I realize they’re two completely different vibes. I came up with this story about these two kids, one a Blondie fan, one a Patti Smith fan, each making their case to each other. I like the fact that Debbie Harry and Patti Smith were both getting their respective starts in the same city, at the same time, with many of the same influences, but their sounds and their presentations are so radically different. I thought it would be interesting to have this girl, Maria, be in thrall to the sort of androgynous, devil-may-care, brooding poet vibe of the Patti Smith records, while Johnny, who has just gone through this sort of period of introspection and personal inventory, would be very attracted to someone like Debbie Harry, who, at first blush, might seem petite and vulnerable, but has this powerful voice and image and a certain streetwise toughness to her.

BB: When you were writing this, did any other bands/musicians come to mind that you felt could have worked with the book also? If so, who?

MB: It never did occur to me to use any other musicians. I guess I  could have  gone back a generation and done Beatles-versus-Stones. Or mods and rockers…wait, that’s “Quadrophenia”…

BB: Music is very important to both Johnny and Maria – as the writer, why is that so important to their lives and to the storyline?

MB: Well, music is important to me, as a person and as a writer. I’ve played various instruments, off and on, throughout my life, and I’ve been a somewhat obsessive music fan since I was very young. For the kids in this book, music is important for the same reasons why it’s important to so many of us as kids – we feel alienated, we feel alone, but we find connection with kindred spirits through music. This disembodied voice reaches out to you over the airwaves, and it’s ghostly, but comforting at the same time. I think that, for both of these characters, they soothe their loneliness with music. Which is what a lot of us do, especially when we’re teenagers and trying to find ourselves, our identities. When you’re young and vulnerable and your body is exploding with all these new hormones, you want to know that you’re not a complete freak, that you belong somewhere. You hear a song, you feel it in your bones, and next thing you know, you’re putting on a leather jacket, or a pair of Doc Martens, or you’re dressing like Madonna, or what have you. It’s the gang mentality, but you can dance to it.

BB: If you had to make up a playlist that represented the relationship between Johnny and Maria, what songs would be on the playlist?

MB: Ah, good question! Back in my day, we used to call em “mixtapes,” but now, I make iPod playlists for all my writing projects. It seems like a frivolous thing to do, on one hand – I mean, did Norman Mailer need a playlist? I think not. But at the same time, it can be very useful, especially when you’re not a full-time writer. It helps to get you back in the mood of the thing you’re writing. I’ve just finished the prequel to Debbie Harry Sings in French, and I ended up with a 90-song playlist for Maria. And I can tell you that her favorite Nirvana song is “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.”

But back to Johnny and Maria – the chapter titles are sort of their playlist, but there were a few songs I had in mind for them that didn’t really fit that conceit. I’d say “Shayla” and “Union City Blue,” two really lovely Blondie songs, fit that romantic vibe. And “Detroit 442,” which is, supposedly, inspired by Iggy Pop. It’s not a love song per se, but I kind of hear it every time I picture them riding around town on Maria’s little moped. One of my favorite Blondie songs is their cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” – I played that song a lot when I was writing this book. And, oddly enough, the Slade song “How Does it Feel,” from the soundtrack to Slade in Flame.I know it’s kind of out of left field, but I can hear Debbie Harry doing a mind-blowing cover of that song.

There would be a few non-Blondie songs on there, too, for Maria’s sake – some cuts from Horses, “These Days,” by Nico. Maybe some more “Johnny” songs. “Little Johnny Jewel” by Television. “Johnny Thunder” by the Kinks. I also remember playing “No Expectations” by the Stones a lot in those early scenes in Florida. As well as the Cure, obviously. Okay, I’d better stop before I end up giving you another ninety!

BB: If you were to classify “Debbie Harry Sings in French” into a specific genre, what genre would you say your book falls into? Why?

MB: Probably Queer Bratty Pop Romance? I never really thought of it as a Young Adult book, but that’s what it turned out to be. At least, that’s how it was marketed. I guess, at 22, writing about 17-year-olds, that didn’t seem like a genre. It was just life. Now I have to be more conscious of it. I have to watch myself, read the dialogue and decide if I’m making the character too savvy for 16 or 17, or too airheaded. And, the older I get, the more I find myself cutting the curse words, even though, when I was in my late teens, my friends and I were all watching Tarantino movies while our parents were at work and trying to see how many f-bombs we could work into casual conversations about algebra homework.

BB: Your book is full of thought-provoking, real characters like Johnny and Maria. Do you see any of yourself within your characters? Are your characters based upon people you know?

MB: The characters aren’t really based on myself, or on anyone specific, though there are bits and pieces of real incidents and people I know in some of them. But nothing’s specific. Sometimes things come up subliminally, like Lucas being this Jamaican guy who ended up in the South – I didn’t realize until after I’d written him that I based his lineage on a neighbor of mine in Georgia. So it’s not really direct. I’m not a memoirist – I’m way to boring in real life for that – but, for the record, I did play Sally Ride in a fifth grade school play.

BB: The biggest change readers see is Johnny’s transformation – especially at the point when he puts on the Debbie Harry-esque dress. Why was that moment so important to Johnny?

MB: I think it’s kind of a big thing, especially in the South, for young guys to flaunt their masculinity. In my hometown, it was all about how big your pickup truck tires were, and how many mudholes you could drive that sucker through. Hunting was an obvious rite of passage. But here’s a very female thing, putting on this dress. Guys down there don’t kid around about that kind of stuff. Except, oddly enough – I just remembered this – at my high school, they used to have this Homecoming ritual where the basketball team dressed up like cheerleaders. They would put on a big display at Assembly and everything, and the students loved it. I remember thinking at the time, this is kind of weird. In real life, these were all the super-hetero, truck-driving good ol’ boys, who would typically be so threatened by anything vaguely homosexual. You could probably do a whole psychological study on this time-honored tradition of macho young men dressing as women and parodying the cheer routines. Is it patent mockery of the queer, the female, and thus an assertion of their maleness? Or the secret, pent-up yearning to express their inner feminine vulnerability?

For Johnny, it’s a big choice – a choice to outwardly express an inner desire that may be frowned upon by his peers, his society. He already feels outside his immediate surroundings, so this is a huge step, to align himself with this inner world that he’s sort of creating as he goes. In rehab, he decided to say no to a lot of things – drugs and alcohol, obviously, but also, he decided to say no to oblivion, to fear, to running from his true feelings. Just to say: I’m going to wear my Chuck Taylors while you guys are wearing your respectable shoes and your macho boots; I’m going to listen to punk records from the 70s instead of the Dave Matthews Band, or whatever. I’m not going to just nod and smile, I’m going to actually have an opinion and make my own choices. Sometimes that’s a huge thing. I don’t think Johnny or Maria are those type of people. Lord knows I’m not. But being a naysayer doesn’t get you invited to a lot of cool beer parties. For Johnny, that moment of putting on the dress is, in some ways, the biggest “no” in the book. And yet, it’s also a big, big “yes.”

BB: Why was it important to have your main character be a transvestite? Do you think people will judge the book solely on that fact?

MB: I didn’t set out to write a transvestite manifesto per se. I just imagined this character and really wanted to explore this time of his life, when he’s being pulled in two seemingly opposite directions. Where he’s doing this sort of gay, queer thing of crossdressing, but he also finds himself strongly attracted to a girl. I know that some people have missed the point of the book entirely – some readers have been angry at me, saying that I’m anti-gay and so-forth because Johnny ends up with a girl. But my point, which hopefully comes across, is that, for some people, the road to finding and defining sexual identity can be a complicated and surprising one. It’s all about patience on the journey. I hope that we’re all allowed those uncertain moments, especially as teenagers. And, really, when it comes right down to how the book is judged, shouldn’t it really be based on my rapier wit and stunning prose? (I’m kidding, of course.)

BB: Johnny’s father isn’t a present character in the book, but his presence definitely looms over. Why was it important to the book as a whole, to the plot, that Johnny discover his father’s glam rock past?

MB: I think anyone who is missing a parent hopes that they grow up to be who the parent would want them to be. And Johnny’s so estranged from his mother – I thought it would be nice to end the book with Johnny discovering that he and his father were on the same wavelength. I wasn’t sure if young readers would understand how important androgyny was to Glam rock in Britain in the early 70s, and how radical it was, with homosexuality only recently decriminalized there. But, hopefully, it comes across emotionally so that you don’t have to know the full history. Closer to home, for Johnny, the discovery of his dad as Glam kid goes back to that idea of saying no. Johnny’s dad made the decision to put away his entire personality for the benefit of his family, or so he thought. But, as I see it, maybe that wasn’t to their benefit at all. And what if he hadn’t? What if he had decided not to put away all those things he loved – maybe he would’ve had an entirely different life, and he would’ve been more present in his son’s. Maybe he’d even be alive, who knows? At any rate, I thought it was nice, if slightly unrealistic, to give Johnny that parental wink of approval, even though it has to come from the Great Beyond.

 

Debbie Harry Sings in French

Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
 
“I know a girl from a lonely street, cold as ice cream but still as sweet, dry your eyes Sunday girl, Hey, I saw your guy with a different girl, looks like he’s in another world, run and hide Sunday girl […]” Lyrics from “Sunday Girl” by Blondie
 
To say Johnny has had a tough life is an understatement. Immediately following his 13th birthday his father dies, and mother mentally checks out leaving Johnny responsible for everything. But it proves to be too much, and like his mother, Johnny too wants to check out. Taking on a new goth lifestyle is more than just a wardrobe change – it’s a lifestyle change.

And for a very young Johnny a big part of that change is drowning himself in alcohol. But now he’s sixteen – he’s a full-fledged alcoholic and suddenly finds himself in hospital due to an accidental overdose. The biggest change Johnny faces is how to survive life rehab. But with the help of Debbie Harry and new girlfriend Maria, Johnny’s channels his inner Debbie but where does his new-found beauty and courage lead him?

Getting off to a slower start that most YA novels, Debbie Harry Sings in French is Meagan Brothers’ first novel – and it’s a roller coaster of ups and downs that the reader’s experience right alongside Johnny. The book is well written and offers readers an array of in-depth characters. Each character featured within the pages lend a better understanding as to who Johnny is while telling their own unique stories. 

It’s rare to stumble upon a book like this. Debbie Harry Sings in French isn’t just Johnny’s story of grown and transformation. It’s a story that any person can relate to. And at its core it’s a book centered around the human condition and relationships – between friends, family, lovers, and even music.

My Crystal Ball Says I’ll Be Doing A Lot of Reading This Summer

Taking a summer course has both its ups and downs. For me, I love getting the chance to be introduced to and to read book I previously did not know of.  On the flip side the biggest down is not being able to read whatever I choose, when I choose to read it. Because summer courses are extremely condensed, squeezing fifteen weeks of work into a mere seven, your life as a reader is pretty much dictated from the beginning.  And for some those seven weeks are the longest weeks of their lives.

I’m currently taking a seven week course, and I have to say this: I’m lucky. Yes, I have the dictated reading list. However it’s a list that leaves options and breathing room.  I am also lucky in the fact that even though the books I have to read are dictated I am picking up books I necessarily would not have picked up on my own terms. Because of this I get the chance to become a more well-rounded reader and reviewer, I get the chance to make educated opinions on specific genres/topics, and I get the chance to learn an extraordinary amount of tools that I was yet to be familiar with.  All of which will better me as a future librarian.

But still – I long for the day where I can simply  pick up any ol’ book and read it when I want and at the pace I want for leisure sake – not because I have to. 

But this summer (summer, for me, officially starts on June 25th) I’m doing things a bit differently. There are many books waiting for me to read them – books I’ve put off for other reading obligations, books that I forgot I even wanted to read, books that I’ve had for so long they deserve to be read, or books I should have read – not for myself, but for my career – that I have yet to get around to. This is the summer where I, as a reader, fulfill those reading requirements. I’ve made my own summer reading list with the hope that I will stick closely to it like I’ve stuck so closely to any reading list I’ve had for any of my graduate course.

My own personal reading list for Summer 2010 –

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

At least the first three of the Harry Potter Series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena

Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews

At least one Stephen King novel – either The Shining or Salem’s Lot

Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

At least two more books in the Pretty Little Liars Series – Flawless and Perfect by Sara Shepard

At least one book featuring music in some way, shape, or form – maybe Vinyl Princess

And lastly, two “classic” children’s literature books (that I’m still not sure of yet).

I know – it’s a really long list – but every day that passes I find another book that is added to my ‘to read’ list. And in order to fit all those books in I need a place to start. So hopefully, with determination, and good reading vibes I will accomplish all of this list – or at least a good portion of it. With that, all I have to say is thank goodness for audiobooks.

What is everyone else planning to read this summer? What are you most excited to read?