Shootin’ The Breeze with Daphne Grab

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

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.


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

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!

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!