Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book of the Week - Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

This amazing debut novel makes the reader feel what seventeen-year-old Matt feels. His beloved older brother has died in Iraq. His abusive father bullies him and is forcing him to follow his militaristic dreams not letting Matt be who he wants to be. Matt has major anger issues that drive him to attack another student. The small package of T.J.'s personal effects disappeared shortly after the funeral so when T.J.'s footlockers arrive at the house, Matt wants to go through them before his dad can spirit them away as he did with the photos everything else that confirm the one time existence of T.J. What he finds starts him on an unforgettable journey. I loved this because I never knew exactly where it was going, it surprised me at every turn. I loved that Kokie was able to make me empathize with a character I could of easily dismissed had I met him in real life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book of the Week - The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Very different from Brightly Woven this is set in a brutal dystopian future when a disease decimates the population of pubescent kids. The few who survive have psi (paranormal) powers. Ruby discovers her horrible power when she realized that when she went into their room on the morning of her 10th birthday and bestowed kisses on her parent, she erased her entire presence in their memories. Taken away to one of the camps to house the children who did not die of the disease, her life is grim until she is taken away and finds other kids who have escaped. Lots of action and adventure in the second half of the book turns it into a real page turner that makes the reader anxious to read the next book in the series

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book of the Week: Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

This unusual mythic reality tale features five sisters living on the border with Mexico, whose father left almost a year ago. One day, when swimming in the river, they find a man's body. Eventually, after seeing the pictures of his family in his wallet, they decide they must take him back to his home in Mexico. With the paranormal help of Llorona and some magical earrings, they take a hero's journey through Mexico filled with strange encounters.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book of the Week - The Diviners by Libba Bray

How does Libba Bray get better with every book she writes? This is the first in a series and with the huge canvas and the big cast of characters she has chosen, it will take a while to tell the story. The roaring twenties really come to life, even to the smells. As I read it, my grandmother's flapper high school portrait kept popping up in my mind. The palpable sense of evil keeps the reader on the edge of her seat as the suspense keeps growing. Not to be missed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

YALSA's Young Adult Literature Symposium

 I'll be presenting on dystopian fiction in St. Louis on November 2, 2012. Hope to see some of you there!

Book of the Week - Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Susan Fichtelberg booktalked this at Dragon*Con earlier this month which is why I moved it way up on the TBR stack. Harman's world building is wonderful and the mixed race eponymous heroine is beautifully developed along with her relationships. 

The world Seraphina lives has been at peace for decades due to a treaty reached between Queen Lavonda of the Goreddi royal family and Ardmagar Comonot who is the leader of the dragons. In this world, the dragons can assume a human shape and interact with humans. They are devoid of emotions but great scholars and mathematicians. Their music is precise and perfect but without the emotion that would make it great. Seraphina, is half dragon and half human, a combination that is supposed to be impossible. The only outward manifestations of her dragon side are scales on her left arm and on her back. Raised by her single then remarried father to be all human, she becomes the protege of her draconic uncle and ends up living in the royal palace and working as assistant the the court composer. She has a garden she tends her mind that is peopled by strange creatures. When the heir to the crown is murdered and found headless, near the 40th anniversary of the accord between dragons and humans, the immediate suspicion is that he was killed by a dragon who bit his head off. Seraphina teams up with the Captain of the Guard, the bastard prince called Kiggs to solve the murder and try to stop war from breaking out.

This fresh fantasy stands out in popular crowed genre. In a year when many books seem bloated and in need of judicious cutting, this 465 page tome is just right. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book of the Week: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Outstanding novel. There are just so many things I love about this book. Elisa, now queen, chafes under all the protections that are placed around her but there are enemies all around, but also people who are steadfast and loyal. Somebody is gong to get hurt. It is only a few months since she was widowed but her advisors are telling her she must quickly make a political marriage. Even though it seemed Invierne had been beaten they aren't done yet. Elisa and retinue make a journey ostensibly to view the holdings of a southern Conde who is one of her suitors but in truth is on the path set before her in an obscure apocryphal document and echoed in the stones of a secret passage in her palace. I hated some of the things that happened in this book, but so did Elisa. It says something to me that the feelings of the protagonist are so well portrayed I feel them, too. I really like the Hispanic names of people and places, the importance of religion and God in the lives of the characters, the magical godstones, the portrayal of a gay character, and the strength Elisa shows despite her insecurities.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book of the Week: Transcendence by C. J. Omololu

A cello prodigy starts having deja vu moments when visiting London where she meet an attractive boy. Returning to California, she has the ability to remember previous lives and that she is not alone as someone else who has been reincarnated wants revenge. It has great pacing and engaging characters. I really liked the diversity in this novel. There seems to be a trend in YA towards featuring mixed race characters. Bistro Book Club teens have loved the cover and wanted to read it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book of the Week: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Alina and Mal were orphans together growing up in ducal orphanage. As teenagers they went into the army together and together they set out in an armada heading across the Unsea. Attacked by volcra in the pitch dark of the Fold (called the Unsea on maps) Alina summons a force she did not know she possessed, saving Mal. Back in the Russian inspired country, Alina is found to be a Grisha, a class of people with special abilities and sent to a palace for training. Her talent is unique and may hold the key to end the war that has beleaguered their country for a century and eliminate the Fold. The twisty twining plot goes to unexpected places in this beautifully crafted world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book of the Week - Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

I am a sucker for novels of the weird west and I like steampunk. Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill have written some terrific books so I was excited to see they had done a teen novel with those elements. Best of all, it did not disappoint. The year is 1867 and Jett Gallatin (an alias), late of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, is a dressed in black shootist, wondering the Texas plains in search of her missing twin. She escapes a zombie attack in a town where she stopped to make inquiries and escaping to the wide open spaces meets two other travelers who have just met up. One is Gibbons, a Yankee scientist who is searching the west for flying machines in her steam powered Auto-Tachypode and the other White Fox, a young Army scout who had been raised by Indians. Together they uncover a diabolical plot that could lead to a zombie apocalypse. Authentic western feel, great pacing, delightful characters made this read extremely enjoyable even though I am not fond of zombie books. Readers who like smart characters, steam punk, kick ass heroines and zombies will also enjoy Cherie Priest's Boneshaker

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book of the Week - A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

In a far distant future an enormous empire controls countless worlds inhabited by the descendants of Earth. It is ruled by an emperor and overseen by ten million Princes. A Princes has “vast power and seemingly limitless authority” but may never know his or her parents. Imperial Prince Khemri spent the first ten years of his life in a vat of Bitek gloop where he was bioengineered and educated via downloads. The next six years he was educated by priests and finally on the sixteenth anniversary of being selected as a Prince Candidate he was assigned an assassin priest and discovered the possibility of dying was much higher than that of safely linking with the Imperial Mind. From that point on his life is filled with danger. 
This fast paced coming of age adventure pits Khemri against other Princes, powerful families, academy politics, and alien dangers, throwing him into situations that require a rare combination of skill, intelligence, heart, courage, and intuition to survive as he discovers what being a Prince really means and who he really is. 
This is outstanding space opera. Not to be missed. The world building is superb with the combination of bitek (biological technology), psitek (psionic technology), mektek (mechanical technology), and multiple deaths with rebirths. The space battles are cinematically real.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book of the Week - As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson

In a world filled with mystery series, the Walt Longmire series stands out with its tough but appealing Wyoming sheriff, settings that are real enough to smell and taste, and gentle humor even in the face of horrific crimes. In the eighth book of the series (don't worry if you haven't discovered this series yet, you don't have to have read the previous books to love this one), while Walt and his buddy Henry Standing Bear are visiting the Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, working out the details for Walt's daughter's imminent wedding when they see a woman plummet to her death from a remote cliff. Walt's dog, Dog, finds a blanket wrapped baby who survived his mother's fatal fall. The abrasive new tribal police chief, Lolo Long, an Iraqi war veteran, begrudgingly learns from Walt as the murder investigation proceeds with a realistic view of Rez life. Lolo is tough but she needs some polishing to succeed in law enforcement. Her depiction as a wounded warrior who feels unworthy to mother her child, and has taken on a job she feels totally unprepared for, is masterful and complex. I hope she becomes an ongoing part of the series. Longmire's interactions with Dog and the recalcitrant truck, Rezdawg add bits of humor. As a Westerner, a love how Johnson captures the spirit and reality of the rural West and its people.

Some of the books I think about when looking for other reads to satisfy Longmire fans include the novels of Thomas King especially the (tongue in cheek humorous) mysteries he pens as Hartley GoodWeather and Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book of the Week -- Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross


This entrancing contemporary take on fairy tales reminds me of Bill Willingham’s graphic novel Fables series with the grittiness of the original tales preserved and with vividly evoked images that bring the Disney versions to mind. When orphaned Mira, who had been raised by her two godmothers, runs away from home seeking the graves of her parents who died in a fire at her christening, she meets brothers Felix and Blue who live in a casino resort in the city. Blue is antagonistic from the get go but Felix, who is the 20 something manager of the casino and too old for her, provides her with a room and a pass key as long as she promises to never go to room 3031. She meets an assortment of local teens who are all modern archetypes of fairy tale characters and discovers that something momentous is approaching along with her sixteenth birthday. Palpable suspense, endearing characters, and sly wit combine in a delightful confection that may get readers interested in reading other takes on fairy tales both familiar and more obscure. “Donkeyskin” is mentioned and readers may want to explore Robin McKinley’s Deerskin and discover some of her other fairy tale inspired novels

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book of the Week - The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Moving at a stately pace, this thriller involves ciphers and codes from the 16th century, an infernal device for contacting God, secret societies, murder, betrayal, blood sacrifice, alchemy, and romance that takes the reader from an upscale prep school across the world to Prague . Even though I was not enamored of of The DaVinci Code I would recommend it as a read alike. There is something in this that speaks to nightmares and fears and perhaps mythology of the subconscious. As a kid, I had a box of my mother's books from the 1940s. There was a book in there, title, author, characters, forgotten but that had a scene featuring robed figures in an underground crypt preparing to take blood from an unwilling victim. This image has always stayed with me and it was echoed in this book.

Nora, who won a scholarship to an exclusive prep school after her older brother died driving drunk, is so proficient in Latin she is hired to help translate some passages for a project her best friend Chris, a college freshman and his roommate Max are working on for a professor. Her other best friend Adriane is Chris's girl friend. While translating letters from a 16th century young woman involved with science, religion, and alchemy who went to Prague, she runs across some coded passages. When the professor is found after apparently suffering a stroke, they discover all the original documents are missing. Then Chris is murdered, Adriane catatonic, and Max goes missing, suspected of the attack. Soon Nora and Adriane (who has recovered) are on their way to Paris for their senior class trip where they take off to search for Max in Prague.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book of the Week — Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Ismae hopes that the arranged marriage her father, a turnip farmer in medieval Brittany has contracted for her, will be more pleasant than the abuse she has endured so far in her life. Instead she has gone from the frying pan into the fire. When her loutish new husband sees that she bears the red stain indicating she is actually the child of the ancient god of death, he beats her and locks her in the cellar so he can fetch the authorities who will see her burned or drowned. Rescued, she is taken to the convent of St. Mortain where she is schooled in the art of the assassin. Her first assignment, at the court of the young Duchess of Brittany, throws her into an uneasy partnership with Gavriel Duval, the duchess’s bastard brother. A touch of the paranormal, political machinations, an interesting evocation of the time and place, a satisfying romance, a flawed kick-ass heroine, and a convent that trains assassins combine for a terrific read.

So You Don't Have Time to Read

I always make time to read but sometimes life can get in the way. To maintain my sanity I end up reading with my ears. Audio books have been steadily gaining popularity so the availability of great reads to listen to has grown exponentially. If you are looking for a good listen check out the winners and finalists of the Audie Awards. I’ve read several of them and listened to quite a few. Don’t miss The Watch that Ends the Night by Alan Wolf,winner for Distinguished Achievement in Production, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, winner for Fantasy, Feast Day of Fools, by James Lee Burke, winner for mystery, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray for Narration by the Author, and and and. Just look at the list and LISTEN! So many good books. All the finalists I “read” were also great.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book of the Week - Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Definitely one of the best books of the year. I can't imagine it not being a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and other SFF awards. While it is the middle book of a trilogy I can promise you that it stands on its own as I did not read Finnikin of the Rock, a situation that must be remedied as I wait impatiently for the next book.

Froi, fiercely loyal and fiercely independent accepts the task of going to the neighboring kingdom that had perpetrated horrific acts upon the people of his adopted country Lumatere during their recent war. In Charyn he is to take the place of one of the last "last-born" so he can gain access to the palace and assassinate the king before Quintana, the mad last-born princess, comes of age. Charyn was cursed nineteen years earlier with sterility and later a prophecy written in Quintana's blood decreed that "the last will make the first" understood as the last children born before the curse took effect will have to conceive in order to break the curse. This has led to Quintana being fruitlessly mated each year since her thirteenth birthday, the day called by the Charynites, the day of weeping.

This sweeping epic combines politics -- national, sexual, and interpersonal, with amazing complex characters.

Don't miss it.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 25, 2012

No Copyright on Titles

The Bistro Book Club teens have been turning in reviews on books eligible for BFYA and on other recent books so we've been getting a lot of hits over at Suddenly, this week, teen reviews of a terrific debut novel from last year have been generating a lot of traffic. The book is Morris Honor and BFYA Top Ten book Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I wonder if people are looking for reviews of this heart wrenching book about the strength of a teen girl facing the genocide perpetrated on the Lithuanians and others by Stalin or if they were really looking for a recent bestseller with a similar title that is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Got the email today informing me I have Guest status for Dragon*Con. Very exciting. It is so much fun to spend Labor Day weekend immersed in Science Fiction and Fantasy in Atlanta. I haven’t faxed back my letter of agreement yet so my name isn’t on the list but the list of confirmed guests is at It is an awesome convention with great tracks for readers and writers along with the celebrity stuff (which I avoid). Last year had some quality time with some of my favorite authors.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Novels Set in the South During the Civil Rights Movement

Sometimes I'll pick up a notion and not know why. Often I find that those notions are completely wrong. When The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine showed up on my door step, I thought oh no, another boring Civil Rights novel. Haven't we seen enough of them already?

As I read Marlee's story I become immediately submersed in her life. I'm not a numbers person but I love when someone else's passion lets me see the beauty in what they love. As someone who does not look like the stereotypes of my own ethnicity, I could really relate to Liz. After I finished this book that ended up all too short because I didn't want to leave the good people of the world Kristin Levine illuminated so beautifully I realized I don't dislike Civil Rights novels. I loved Spite Fences by Trudy Krisher, My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow, The Help, and many, many more. Where the heck did I ever get that notion. I do know that every time I have hesitantly picked up one of these books even though it wasn't one of my preferred genres, I have been surprised and delighted.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thrilled to see the Nebula Winners

Two of my favorite authors took home awards. The amazing Jo Walton for her novel Among Others that I must rush out and buy immediately and Delia Sherman (been a big fan of her short stories) for her Andre Norton award winning The Freedom Maze.

There were eight nominees for the Norton and I had read six of them. They were amazing! Don't know how I missed The Freedom Maze but from the caliber of the books it beat out, it will be a great read. The six I read are:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Chime by Franny Billingsly

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baby Shark - An Old Favorite for Free

Baby Shark by Robert Fate was one of my favorite books of 2006 so I was glad to hear from the author that it was being offered for FREE on Kindle ( a few days. I went back to my old review at

Please let me know if you read it and what you think.
Crime/ Noir/ Mystery/ Historical/ 1950s
Baby Shark
Fate, Robert 

Capital Crime Press0977627691 2006
Kristin Van Dijk was only seventeen on the west Texas October night in 1952 when an outlaw biker gang overran Henry’s pool room killing her father and Henry’s son, beating and gang raping her, and burning the place to the ground. Henry, a Chinese immigrant, and Kristin survive. When they are healed from the beatings they wonder why the police don’t seem to be concerned with chasing down the murderers. The insurance company has paid the claim as an accidental fire. Henry and Kristin start training to survive, knowing that they won’t be safe as long as the four bikers are on the loose and that there is a mystery behind why they targeted Kristin’s father, a pool shark. Kristin takes up her father’s trade and acquires the nickname Baby Shark. This first novel is Texas noir at its best. Readers will be eagerly awaiting Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


After using a web site since 1996, I'm trying for something a little easier to update. Part of it is because when I upgraded my OS Dreamweaver was no longer compatible. I've tried other software builders, and Tumblr and haven't found exactly what I wanted so I'm trying again. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Terrific time at Colorado Teen Literature Conference. It has grown immensely since the last time I went which was several years ago. The organizers did a wonderful job and the sessions and authors were wonderful. Here is a link to the PowerPoint Angie Manfredi and I used for our session on the importance of debut novels. The First Time: Why Debut Novels Count and How to Find the Best

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm back from PLA, the Public Library Association conference that is held every two years. It is always a great conference with useful programs that inform, excite, and invigorate me. I was fortunate enough to present with Susan Fictleberg, author of Encountering Enchantment and Bonnie Kunzel, my co-author on Fluent in Fantasy, 2nd ed. and Strictly Science Fiction. We have so much fun presenting together, I'm hoping we are invited to speak at other conferences.
In less than two weeks (March 31) I'll be presenting at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference

Today is not only the first day of Spring but the book birthday of Chronal Engine: A Prehistoric Time-Travel Adventure by Greg Leitich Smith. It is this week's featured book of the week but because I read it in January it shows up 4th in the Books of the Week widget in the right hand column.
Still no luck on a new web editor. I tried out a couple but didn't like them so I'm back to just doing plain old html again. I'll have to figure out how long I am paid up for with my web host and maybe consider just switching to Tumblr, Blogger, SquareSpace, or something like that. What do you recommend? email me with advice: dherald (at) mac (dot) com
Happy Reading

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trying out a new web editor. We'll see how it goes. Really miss my Dreamweaver
Been reading a lot of Western themed books lately. The diversity in the genre is amazing for such a small genre. Because I like to see genre as doorways into books rather than barriers I tend to interpret genres as very inclusive rather than exclusive. In the last month I've been finding what works for me as westerns in:
YA romance The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell Oklahoma Territory, Sooners, Water witching
Biographical western (small press) The Woman Who Loved Jesse James by Cindi Myers
Traditional western (self published) PiƱon Mesa by Eugene Vories
YA historical Ghost Moon by John Wilson Billy the Kid & the Lincoln County War
YA fantasy - Weird West The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Still haven't migrated the site and so still dealing with my extremely rusty html skills. If you have any suggestions for favorite website builders let me know.
I'm back from Dallas and the 2012 ALA Midwinter conference where I spent five days (and nights) talking books with others who live and breathe books.
Serving on the Best Fiction For Young Adults committee was an amazing, if exhausting, experience. I’ve served on wonderful committees in the past and it was where I found many of my dearest friends. The BFYA committee this year was actually a little intimidating. The fourteen other members were diligent, smart, and razor sharp in their discussion of the books. None of the nominated books were duds. I would be happy recommending any title on the nomination list. We honed the final list down from a list of 211 excellent books, already the cream of the crop, in a year filled with hundreds of good books.
Some of the books my teen readers loved and some of the books I loved didn’t make the final list but every book that made the list was voted for by at least 9 members of the 14 committee who had read it (along with around a book a day for a whole year) and judged it to be one of the best books of the year. Twenty-one of the books had unanimous yes votes. I find that an amazing number considering the variety of tastes, ages, types of libraries, and differences in experience of the people serving on the committee. Truly, no two people ever read the same book, so when this many people can agree you can bet that the book is worthwhile.
BTW, as far as I’m concerned, the nominated books that didn’t make the final list, were winners, being good enough a committee member nominated or seconded a field nomination for it out of a crowded field of YA fiction.
See the 2012 BFYA list at the ALA/YALSA web site.