Shootin’ The Breeze with Daphne Grab

Contests, Interviews

Matisse is a 100% certifiable city girl. New York City isn’t only her home, it’s her stomping ground.  But when her father’s illness takes a turn for the worse, her family’s needs force her to move from her comfortable digs to middle of nowhere Prague, New York. Hey, at least she’s still in New York, right? Wrong! For Matisse this isn’t New York, or at least her New York.

Matisse is betting on hating Prague, and everything it has to offer – the people included. But what she isn’t betting on is that Prague New York will not only change her, it will become home.


To say I devoured this book when I first read it would be the understatement of the year. I couldn’t put it down. The smart writing, and the honest, lovable characters drew me in immediately.  Daphne Grab dazzled me from the very first word of Alive and Well […] to the very last.  Recently, I reached out to her asking if she would graciously take time out of her, what I’m sure is extremely busy schedule, and answer some questions. Graciously, she did. And here’s what she had to say:

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me a little about yourself? And about how/why you became a writer?

Daphne Grab (DG): Sure!  I live in New York City with my husband, our two kids and our cat, all of whom are great inspiration to me.   I always knew I wanted to write but I could never think of a story that I actually cared about enough to sit down and commit to.  Seemingly unrelated, I also had the unusual (or so I thought) quirk of reading teen books long after I’d left my teen years.  I was always hiding the covers when I read on the subway since I felt like a thirty-something year old woman should be reading adult books.  Then one day I got a catalog from the New School about their MFA program and I saw that they had a concentration in creative writing for children.  Bells went off as two things came together and I knew that that was what I wanted to do.  One of the greatest things about being part of the teen writing community is that I now feel proud to read teen and MG books, and I hold the covers high when I read them on the subway!

BB: For you what is your writing process like, and what is the most difficult part of writing creatively?

DG: I work best when writing is a habit.  During the school year I work when my kids are at school, the same time every day.  That gets me into a groove and I think my muse is more likely to show up.  During summer vacation, I write when I can but spend most of my time with the kids.  In the end I think time out in the world, living and having fun, makes your writing richer, so this is a good thing.   The most difficult thing is keeping faith in my story.  I always hit these points where I start to doubt everything and feel like this book is the worst book ever.  This kind of thinking is never helpful!

BB: What was the inspiration behind Alive and Well In Prague, New York?

DG: When the story idea first came to me I was at the New School in the second year of my MFA program. I’d just finished a mediocre manuscript and was trying to come up with some new ideas.  One of my teachers was talking about writing from a life experience and I suddenly thought that I’d like to write about the experience I went through of having a parent with a degenerative illness that is ultimately fatal.  Fun idea, right?  But really, I wanted to have a character who deals with that, which is such a huge and life changing thing, but to be coping with it along with the rest of her life: friends, guys, evil cheerleaders, etc.

BB: You are a part of the Longstockings, and first is that a reference to Pippi Longstocking? If so, how did that come up? And how does being involved with other writers part of the Longstockings help your writing, and your creativity?

DG: The Longstockings are my critique group and my writing support system.  We met at the New School and have been buddies and blogging partners ever since.   They are some of the first people I bounce story ideas off of and my first readers who help set me straight as I navigate my first draft.  It’s an amazing thing to be part of a group of writers who help each other every step of the way, and I feel really invested in every one else’s books because I have seen them go from scenes to drafts to an actual book.  And yes, we are named in honor of Pippi because different as we all are, each of us was read Pippi when we were little girls.

BB: Are  you working on anything new at the moment? What’s it about? When can fans expect it to hit shelves? Will it be anything at all like Alive and Well […]?

DG:  I actually have a book I wrote under a pen name, Lila Castle, that just came out last month.  It’s very different from Alive and Well: a light beach read that was fun but very different to write.  Now I’m back working on a book that will be in my own name that I hope to sell in the next 6 months or so, after I finish polishing it.  That will be a middle grade and it’s been a lot of fun to work on!

BB: Matisse isn’t a name you hear very often – how did you come up with it for your main character, and how did you know that it would fit her character’s personality? Is there a specific reason why you chose it?

DG: My writing friends make fun of the names I come up with because rarely do I pick “normal” names like Elizabeth or Jennifer.  I think it’s because my own name is kind of unusual and as a kid I was often very aware of that.  For Matisse, I first imagined her as the daughter of artists and then I thought it would be fun if she were named after an artist.  I guess I could have called her Georgia or Frida but for some reason Matisse just jumped out at me.

BB: Matisse is a very honest, and relatable character, as are all the characters featured in your book. What was the most difficult aspect of creating Matisse specifically? How much of yourself do you see in her?

DG: Her voice came to me right away, which doesn’t always happen but which made it easier to write.  I think I imagined her as really different from me as a teen— confident and outspoken, where as I was a bit shy and very concerned about what other people thought of me.  I wanted her to be different so that I’d be sure to keep the story hers and not slip into making it mine.  It was fun to write someone so sassy and self-assured!

B: Can you offer any advice to writers – writers who specifically want to write for a young adult audience?

DG: I’d say one critical piece is to write the story you have to write, that feels most meaningful to you and that you can’t seem to shake out of your head.  Be true to your characters, whether they are teens or adults, and that authenticity will shine through.  Do what you can to get critique and take it seriously.  You don’t have to listen to every bit of advice but there will always be things that resonate and those are the ones to go in and adjust.  If you don’t have a writing group, SCBWI can be a great resource for connecting with other teen writers.

Extra, Extra!

Luckily, I (the BookBandit) has a signed copy of Daphne Grab’s Alive and Well in Prague, New York.  And if you’re lucky (which I’m sure you are) you could own this said signed copy! Isn’t that exciting!

All you have to do to enter the Daphne Grab Alive and Well signed book giveaway is post a comment on THIS post.  Comment about anything … how your day is going,  what you’re currently reading, fashion trends you hate, anything. Most creative, funny, and/or random comment will win Daphne Grab’s *signed* book Alive and Well in Prague, New York.

Contest will close on Wednesday, August 25th @ midnight! Good luck! And COMMENT!!!!

Book of the Week: Imogene’s Last Stand

Book of the Week, Children's

Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming  

Published: Schwartz & Wade 2009

The reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

It’s smart.

Imogene is smart, strong, and courageous.

It shows children to stand up for what you believe it.

It’s historical fiction.

It teaches children about important moments in American History.

Shows children that they are valuable parts of our community.

It’s fun.

The artwork is simple yet imaginative and well done.

Even though it’s full of historical facts and figures, it’s well written and understandable.  It’s not weighed down by those facts and figures.

 Imogene is always spouting off quotes originally spouted off by famous people in our history.

It shows that if we work together we can work toward a greater good.


Random, Thrifty

Truth be told, I love used bookstores. I love them so much that when I’m going someplace new I search the interwebs hoping that a used is somewhere close by. 

Used bookstores are magical places. They’re filled with charm, like Meg Ryan’s bookstore in “You’ve Got Mail.” 

I also love the fact that you never know what you’re going to find and uncover. It’s like one giant game of hide and seek. 

Because I love them so much, I decided to turn my love into a new blog feature. Every time I visit a new bookstore I will dutifully report back – my thoughts, info on the bookstore, my findings, etc.. 

I went to Wildwood for a few days and as luck would have it, guess what I found?! A used bookstore! 

The Store: Hooked on Books 

Store Website: 

Location: 3405 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood NJ 08260 

Hours: Because Wildwood really comes to life in the Spring/Summer the store is closed from October to April, which for the area makes a lot of sense since it’s Wildwood’s off-season.  

May Hours are Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

June Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

July Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  

September Hours are Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Finds: I kind of went on a V.C. Andrews kick. Luckily I scored the whole Shooting Stars series which included titles: Cinnamon, Ice, Rose, Honey, and Falling Stars.  

I also, scored V.C. Andrews stand alone novel My Sweet Audrina 


Total Spent on 6 books: $20.00 

Thoughts: I thought this store had a lot to offer, however I did feel it was chaotic. There were books all over the place – even surrounding the cash register. The fact that there were marked sections didn’t seem to help make it less chaotic. It had a lot of your typical sections – Children’s, Teens, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Horror. But what I found interesting was that it had a general fiction section and another general fiction section featuring books only written by female authors. 

Another aspect I liked is that the salesperson didn’t question me if I needed help, nor did he follow me around. I’ve had experiences like that in the past, and not surprisingly have walked out empty-handed because being haunted and followed isn’t fun. 

I’m a big YA reader (if you couldn’t already tell) and was disappointed that it didn’t have a great YA section. In was only two bookshelves full. Don’t get me wrong it is a lot, but a lot of the book on the shelves were Gossip Girl books or Clique books. 

Prices: The prices are all reasonable. Most seem to be between 3 and 5 dollars for paperbacks and between 9 and 12 dollars for hardcovers. It seemed some paperbacks were cheaper because they were a bit more worn than others. Hooked on Books also sells discounted new books but, personally, I felt that the discount wasn’t as great as it boasted. I felt that I could buy online for a cheaper price. 

As an aside I just want to share with the world of what makes V.C. Andrews paperbacks so awesome. It’s this: 


Inside the front cover there are these awesome and creepy pictures! 



Brutal by Michael B. Harmon

Poe Holly, punk rock extraordinaire and “the outcome of a sperm donor program called Poor Choices and Bad Mistakes” is straddling a fine line of two separate lives. One life is full of fun, friends, her punk rock band, and Los Angeles. The other life, her new life, lands her is small town California, friendless and begrudgingly.

Poe’s surgeon mother conveniently decided to take up medicine in South America. And because Poe is only sixteen and can’t take care of herself (even though she’s been doing just that for quite some time) she’s shipped to live with her father – a man she doesn’t know. A man who doesn’t know her, and doesn’t know what to expect.

Armed with a punk rock attitude, Poe sets out to conquer the first day of her high school life. She’s angry and defensive, yes, but more than anything she suspects she be judged and misunderstood because of what she looks like, because of the close she wears, and because she’s an all around individual. But high school proves to be more than just judging and misunderstanding in Poe’s eyes. It’s a place that creates and fosters social injustice and pits students against students. Infuriated, Poe stands up for what she believes in – whether it be challenging the gym uniform policy or taking on the school bully to protect new-found friend Velveeta (yes, he loves cheese that much).

With guts, courage, and new a new raging mohawk Poe finds that saving the world of social injustices isn’t as easy as speaking your mind.

Brutal written by Michael B. Harmon is honest look at all the social injustices people face in high school and beyond – the strong vs. the weak, the geniuses vs. the average, the jocks vs. the uncoordinated. Exceptionally well written, Brutal is a story, mostly about said injustices, facing them and standing up against them, but at the core of the book it’s an emotional rollercoaster full of family dysfunction and growing relationships.  

The smartness and wit found within Brutal’s pages is apparent. Each character brings new insight to Poe’s life and to the overall story. It’s especially apparent in Velveeta. When he isn’t sharing too much information with the world, he’s imparting his worldly wisdom of what makes an outcast an outcast. As he tells Poe, it isn’t always the people around us that make us the outcast, but it very well may be us who make ourselves the outcast.

Book of the Week: Mermaids on Parade

Book of the Week, Children's

Mermaids on Parade by Melanie Hope Greenberg

Published: Putnam Juvenile 2008

The reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Simply – I love both mermaids and Coney Island and figured I would love a book about the two.

The Mermaid Parade is an event that (I feel) everyone should experience at least once. This book gives readers who cannot visit Coney Island a chance to experience the parade and the traditions.

It gives a great description of what the mermaid parade is and why it takes place every year. I like this aspect of the book because it feels like a story that is passed down from generation to generation.

The pages are crowded with illustrations and bright colors – just as one would expect Coney Island and its Mermaid Parade to be depicted.  I also think the crowdedness of the illustrations is a good example  of what the streets of Surf and Stillwell are really like.

It gives a detailed map of Coney Island highlighting all the best attractions: the Wonder Wheel, the Cyclone, the Sideshow, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, etc..

Discusses traditions not known to frequenters of the Mermaid Parade – like tossing fruit into the ocean, and the reasons behind those traditions.



I don’t know about you, but after reading The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl Barry Lyga quickly became one of my new fave authors. I can’t imaging his writing being anything less than great. 

With that said, I decided to extend the Hero Type giveaway. Instead of the contest ending tonight at midnight, it will now end on Thursday (July 22nd) at midnight. Winner will be announced and contacted Friday (July 23rd) morning.

To enter simply reply to this OR the original posting telling 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. Winner will be randomly chosen, and will win a signed copy of Hero Type by Barry Lyga.

Enjoy & Good Luck!

Don’t Judge Me!

Booklists, Random

Reading is full of judgement, perceptions, and critiques. But the one aspect of a book that comes under fire is the book cover. Not going to lie I totally judge a book by its cover. As humans, I think, it is in our nature to judge. We judge what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what isn’t, what books are suitable for our tastes and which aren’t.

This post isn’t about our judgements, or the fact that as a reader I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It is about, however, my favorite book covers. 

Top Five Young Adult Book Covers (of read books):

5.  The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy

4. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

3. Madapple by Christina Meldrum

2. Demon Princess by Michelle Rowen

1. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Top Five Young Adult Book Covers (of to – read books):

5. Ash by Melinda Lo

4. Heist Society by Ally Carter

3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

2. Passing Strange by Daniel Waters

1. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

Top Five Children’s Book Covers (of read books):

5. A Taste of Red by Lewis Harris

4. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

2.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (U.K. edition)

Top Five Children’s Book Covers (of to – read books):

5. Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell

4. Attica by Garry Kilworth

3. The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer

2. Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe

1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

So yes, I proudly state here: I judge books by their cover!

Buddha Boy


Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja

What makes a freak a freak? Is it the clothes he wears? His shaved head? His beliefs? Or the way he smiles even when people make fun and harass him?

Justin isn’t a freak, but he isn’t popular either. You know, popular as in the gods and goddess who run the school. He’s floating somewhere in the middle with his two best friends Megan and Jakob until he meets Buddha Boy, a.k.a. Jinsen. Jinsen is different from anyone Justin has ever met. He begs for money during lunch period, he smiles when someone purposely pours soda on him, and he walks home without a coat even when the ground is slicked with ice.

Judging from appearances, that’s all Justin knows about his new classmate, well that and he doesn’t want to befriend him because of the stigma that is already attached to him. But when an Economics assignment brings reluctant Justin and Jinsen together, both boys learn  for the experience, and both gain a friend.

Justin learns Jinsen isn’t a freak but he’s an incredibly talented artist who has learned a lot from his Buddhist beliefs. From Justin, Jinsen learns what it’s like to have a friend, and to have that friend stand up for you at the toughest times. This unlikely duo of friends didn’t set out to change the school, or the thoughts of their fellow classmates, but in the end that’ exactly what they did!

Kathe Koja has written an exceptional story that promotes individualism and tolerance – two things that aren’t always present in the halls of high school. Well written and well realized, Koja’s characters embody the emotions of what it is like to accept a new person into your life, and what that acceptance feels like on the receiving end. She also captures the raw emotions of anger, despair, and rage.

A key component to Koja’s Buddha Boy is it intricately weaves Buddhist beliefs into the  text – like hungry ghosts, the ideas of discipline, the four truths, so on and so forth.  Not only will readers get a better understanding of who Jinsen was in the past and present, what led him to these beliefs and how those beliefs are inadvertently affecting new friend Justin. Because of this, readers get a taste of something they’ve yet to experience, and a chance to learn and grow along side Justin and Jinsen.

Book of the Week: We’re Going on a Book Hunt by Pat Miller

Book of the Week, Children's

We’re Going on a Book Hunt by Pat Miller

Published: Upstart Books 2008

The reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I loved the fact that this book is all about selecting the “perfect” book.

I picked up this book because I know from personal experience that finding the perfect book is a challenge and a hunt.

It teaches children how to, not only find the book they want, but how to use the library.

 It makes library etiquette more understandable.

I liked how it played on the Goldilocks’ motif of ” too hard, too soft, just right”.

Since I’m a lover of (mostly) all animals, I liked how all the characters (librarians included) were all cute animals.

I liked  how the book shows children that the library is an important place, and that they can gain a lot from it.



Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson   

One decision can change your life. No one knows this better than Tyler. Because of one decision to vandalize his high school he’s been looked at in a whole new way. At home, to his father he’s still the screw up who needs a hair cut, but at school his peers no longer loot at him as the nerd they can either ignore or beat up. No now, they look as him as if he’s dangerous, in an “I’ve been arrested” sort of way. Attention like this isn’t always flattering or wanted, except when said attention is coming from the school’s hottest girl – Bethany Milbury.She’s not only beautiful and popular, but she’s also the sister of his biggest enemy Chip. Tyler has no chance with the girl of his dreams, the girl he fantasizes about all too often, but after a summer of hard labor he’s put on a few muscles and caught her eye.   

But Bethany and Tyler  are on opposite sides  of the social spectrum, and her brother Chip (Tyler’s biggest enemy) will do everything to stop what he sees happening. But Chip’s dislike for Tyler does not stop his sister with sitting at Tyler’s lunch table, touching him 2.4 times in one day, or flirting with her. So when she asks him to one of the school’s biggest sporting events on/around Halloween Tyler doesn’t hesitate to accept the invitation – even if it means showing up at a party where he isn’t wanted nor welcomed.   

Because Bethany’s Bethany, and Tyler’s Tyler he goes against his probation regulations and against his better judgement. Tyler shows up though and finds a very drunk Bethany, and he knows nothing good is going to come from this night – and his instincts were proven true when the following day pictures of a naked Bethany show up on the internet. What happened to Bethany? Was she raped? And more importantly, is Tyler going to be held responsible due to his new, dangerous reputation?   

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson is a gut-wrenching ride of emotions. Never knowing what is going to happen next, Anderson relies, not only on her novel, but the twisted ways in which people think, and believe so easily.  Seamlessly written, Anderson has not only written a great young adult novel, but an honest, believable one. 
Anderson has written a novel about the bleak reality that teens face during their four-year run in high school. Realities being cruel, unjust, and often time unbearable – realities that we adults forget the minute the graduation cap is tossed in the air.  This book provokes those old emotions out of their hiding places and sheds new light onto them.  But no matter how bleak or twisted the plot gets, there is a lightness surrounding it.
But what really makes this book great is the fact that Anderson has perfected the art of telling a story from the male perspective. Some may think that female author’s cannot capture the feelings of the male character, but in this case Anderson excels. The perspective is strong, honest, and one of a kind. Twisted is a relatable read to Anderson fans and avid readers alike.