Thursday, February 28, 2008

Enchanting Review: Audrey, Wait!

Contemporary Young Adult
ISBN# 978-1-59514-191-0
Trade Paperback - Available April 3, 2008

Rating: 5 Enchantments

What happens when your ex-boyfriend writes a song about you and it becomes one of the biggest hits of the year? As Audrey can tell you, your world turns upside down.

Seemingly in an instant, Audrey goes from a normal teenage girl to one chased by the paparazzi wherever she goes. Reporters are phoning for interviews. People on websites are discussing her and Evan’s breakup and after a night out at a concert, girls are even starting to dress like her. And even weirder, people are showing up at the Scooper Dooper where she works out to have their picture taken with the famous Audrey.

Audrey suddenly finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of attention as ‘Audrey, Wait!’ climbs the charts. While her best friend urges her to take some of the perks of her newfound celebrity, Audrey struggles to deal with the paparazzi attention, reporters who twist her words around, not to mention her budding relationship with James.

I can’t say how much I loved this book enough. Audrey’s a fabulous character, with a great voice. Supported by a great cast of characters from her best friend Victoria to James and even her ex-boyfriend Evan, all make AUDREY, WAIT! the first must read of 2008.

One of my favorite scenes is when Audrey discovers the interview she gave a reporter over the phone has been the victim of creative editing, making her sound like a giggly attention seeker.

This is Ms. Benway’s first novel.

Enchanting Reviews
February 2008

Interview with debut author DAPHNE GRAB:

How long have you been writing?

I wrote a lot in high school but then didn't write anything creative for over ten years. I had this idea that I wanted to be a writer but I could never come up with a story that I felt passionate about. Then, about five years ago, I happened upon some information on the MFA in creative writing at the New School here in NYC. On a whim I sent off for their catalogue and when I saw that they had a writing for children concentration I had one of those 'a-ha moments' where you know you've just encountered something that will change your life. Once I was in the program I started writing every day and have pretty much kept that up.

Why young adult?

I think all those years that I wanted to write but couldn't I was stuck because I was trying to think of adult stories. For whatever reason the stories I have are teen and middle grade. Somehow those years of my life are alive inside me and speak to me more clearly than any other period in my life.

ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK is your first novel, what sparked the idea?

Six years ago my dad was diagnosed with ALS and he died about six months later. Living with a sick parent was a profoundly difficult and life changing. After he was gone I had all kinds of feelings about it and a few years later, when I was at the New School, I wanted to channel those feelings into a character. Not just the hard stuff but also the parts that were beautiful and real about living with illness but still having the gift of that person in your life. And so Matisse was born.

Can you tell us how it went from idea to a published book?

I began ALIVE AND WELL IN PRAGUE, NEW YORK in my third semester at the New School. My writing teacher, Sarah Weeks, had us submit five pages of our manuscripts, plus a cover letter, to her editor at Harper, Jill Santopolo. It was a class exercise, not an official submission, so that we could get a feel for how our work might be received by an editor. Jill liked my pages so after I graduated I officially submitted to her. She liked the manuscript and ended up buying it.

Matisse is an interesting character. Can you describe her in three words?
Tough question! I'd say confident, strong and vulnerable.

Favorite thing about Matisse?

Her confidence. I was very insecure in high school and it was a lot of fun to write a character who believed so strongly in herself.

Interview by Lisa

January 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Enchanting Interview: Laurie Faria Stolarz

Interview with LAURIE FARIA STOLARZ, author of the BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series.

How did you start writing?

I've been writing since before I could even hold a pen. As a small child, I was constantly telling stories to whomever would listen to me. When I'd exhausted my family with my endless babbling, I'd go out and tell my tales to the neighborhood kids – passing the stories off as truth. I'd tell of going into the meadows at night and wrestling with a mountain lion or the time I found a boa constrictor in my mom's garden and had to grapple for my life, winding the snake from around my neck just in the nick of time. Telling stories is just something I've always done. I used to write plays and scripts for my Barbie dolls and make people watch the performances. My love of creating stories continued into school when I'd have to write a paragraph or short essay about what I did during Christmas vacation or summer break. I never thought my own life was exciting enough, so I was forever inventing stories.

People along the way, including some teachers, would tell me that I should pursue writing as a career but, at the time, it wasn't a possibility. We didn't have a lot of money growing up and majoring in something like English wasn't really an option. It was more like a luxury. I ended up going to business school, following in my older brothers' footsteps. It wasn't until after I got my B.S. in marketing that I pursued my graduate degree in creative writing. I'm thankful for my marketing degree now, however, because it really helps me with my books.

Why Young Adult?

I love young adult culture. I think it's a time in one's life that's filled with so much drama, excitement, tension, beauty, grit, and angst – sometimes all rolled into one. There's so much opportunity in there for a writer.

What sparked the idea for BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES? Did you know when you first got the idea that it would become a series?

I first started Blue is for Nightmares in an adolescent fiction writing workshop at Emerson College. I knew I wanted to write a mystery/thriller. I loved suspense novels as a young adult and I really wanted to write something that would have appealed to me at that age, adding in elements of humor, romance, and drama. I wanted my main character to be relatable for teens; I wanted her to be flawed, to have secrets, and to have lots of opportunity for growth.

When I started the novel, I had no idea I would delve into the world of magic and witchcraft. That is until I did a free-writing exercise in my workshop class. I had no idea what I wanted Stacey, my main character to do, so I had her meditating in front of a blue candle, looking for answers. Because I had made Stacey originally from Salem, MA, like me, people in my writers group made the witchcraft connection with the candle. They encouraged me to go in that direction. That one scene ended up being the inspiration for the novel and now the series.

Even though I grew up in Salem, I didn't know too much about the formal practice of the Craft, though I had heard growing up that my grandmother had experience with the sixth sense. I started doing research and asking lots of questions. I learned a lot this way. I learned of passed down home remedies, interesting family superstitions, tea readings, card readings, and specific experiences with the sixth sense, some of which find themselves in the novel.

I also researched the more formal practices of Witchcraft and Wicca, as well as other folk magical practices/home remedies that pass down within families. Having done this research and seeing the way that Witchcraft is so often negatively portrayed in the media, I wanted to show the true peaceful nature of this earth-based religion, without the hocus-pocus. I wanted to weave an education into the story, using Stacey Brown as a reflective, self-empowering young woman.

When I sold Blue is for Nightmares, I knew I wanted to write a trilogy. But, the ending of Silver is for Secrets, the third book, is somewhat of a cliffhanger, which is why I wrote the fourth book, Red is for Remembrance. Teens write to me all the time, asking if I plan to continue the series. We'll see.

What do you like best about writing a series?
I like being able to stick with characters that I grow to enjoy so much. I get to present them with new and interesting challenges, and figure out what they're going to learn and how they're going to grow with each one.

BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES is really a mix of paranormal, mystery and a touch of thriller. Did you know the story would be all three when you began writing?

I knew it would have elements of mystery, suspense, drama, and romance, but the paranormal aspect was a surprise to even me. When I first started Blue is for Nightmares, I wanted to write a book that would have appealed to me as a young adult. The paranormal aspect happened by accident (one of the best accidents that ever happened in my writing) in a free-writing exercise in grad school, but the other elements were very important to me as I began writing.

What's your favorite quality about Stacey?
I love that she's so relatable. She's not the prettiest girl in school, nor the smartest, or the most popular. She doesn't get along so great with adults. She has a lot of secrets. And she's constantly learning and striving to do the right thing.

Which character, if any, surprised you the most?
Stacey surprised me in Red is for Remembrance when she went after Tim. It was very scandalous.

What was the most memorable scene to write?
The ending of Silver is for Secrets – the transcripts between Stacey and her therapist and the letter she wrote to Jacob. People write to me on a regular basis, telling me these last two chapters make them cry every time.

What's your favorite moment in the book?
The scene in White is for Magic when Stacy is in the hotel room with her mother. They share a really nice moment when Stacey realizes how similar she and her mother really are – after years of thinking they couldn't be more different. We learn that Stacey's mother has secrets, too, and Stacey learns the reason her mother is against all-things-magic. It's very touching.

What's next for you?
I might have something brewing related to the Blue is for Nightmares series – it's still too early to tell. Otherwise, I'm currently working on a new series. Deadly Little Secret, the first book in the Touch series, is due out in the fall of 08.

Look for a great contest coming from Laurie and Enchanting YA very soon!

Interviewed by Lisa
Feb. 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Enchanting Review: Alive and Well In Prague, New York

Contemporary Young Adult
Harper Teen
ISBN: 978-0-06-125670-7
256 Pages
Hardcover - Releasing May 20, 2008

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Matisse Osgood’s life is turned upside down the moment her parents uproot her from New York City to small town Prague, New York for the sake of her father’s health. Forced to start over, Matisse struggles with adapting to the small town atmosphere and making new friends at the small high school, especially the overfriendly farm boy next door who she can’t seem to shake and her new nemesis who seems determined to make her and her newfound friends’ lives miserable.

Matisse is a wonderful character, at times funny, poignant and very real. Uprooted from her home in NYC because of her father’s illness, Matisse is forced to move to small town Prague, where nothing is familiar--except for the reaction to her father’s Parkinson’s. Doing her best to keep her father’s condition hidden from her every faucet of her new life, how will she deal when what happened in NYC threatens to repeat itself in Prague?

Watching Matisse slowly adjust to life in her new small town and reconnecting with the father she thought she’d lost make this a novel well worth reading. A great debut novel by Ms. Grab.

Enchanting Reviews
February 2008

Friday, February 8, 2008

Enchanting Review: The Interns: Fashionistas

Contemporary YA
Trade paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0061370885
Available April 2008

Rating: 4 Enchantments

What happens when four extremely different girls get thrown together as interns at one of the hottest fashion magazines around?

THE INTERNS: FASHIONISTAS offers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of being an intern at a top fashion magazine, focusing on the four new summer interns at Couture magazine: Callie Ryan, the aspiring fashion designer; Nadine VanBuren, party girl; Ava Barton, ready for her big break and Aynsley Rothwell, the New York socialite.

Aynsley doesn't want to be there in the first place, but her parents have forced her to take the gig as part of an ultimatum, the internship or, as her brother put it, a summer in 'prison', aka Italy with her parents. But did they know she'd actually have to work? And there's no way they could have imagined the other three girls she'd be interning with. Nadine's not bad, but Aynsley and Callie totally don't get along. Even worse is when Aynsley's own brother starts going out with Callie. And it seems like Ava's keeping some sort of secret.

I really enjoyed this book. All the girls have different personalities, which causes a good amount of friction between them. The ending left things pretty wide open, with only Ava's secret revealed and Callie's shot at her dream come true in jeopardy. I was glad to see there's a sequel coming out soon that hopefully will answer all the unanswered questions: like what happened to the four girls after the party?

Overall, there was a believable feel to the story. I look forward to reading the next installment in the INTERNS series by Ms. Walsh.

YA Director
Enchanting Reviews
January 2008

Enchanting Review: Blue is for Nightmares (Deluxe Spellbook Edition)

Paranormal YA
Trade paperback
ISBN 978-0-7387-0391-6
283 Pages
Print - Available now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Stacey Brown's determined to do everything in her power to protect her best friend Drea from what she sees happens to her in her nightmares; nightmares that have always seemed to have come true in the past. And if saving Drea from a crazed stalker means that the secrets about the spells she casts have to come out, then that's the sacrifice Stacey's willing to make to keep her best friend safe.

I was drawn into this story from almost the very first page. A combination paranormal, murder-mystery and even thriller, this book defined page turner. Stacey's a strong character who doesn't want to see her recent nightmares come true, so she begins to light candles and cast spells to protect her roommate and best friend Drea. But when a fellow student is found murdered, Stacey grows increasingly worried the stalker is getting closer to his intended target of Drea.

My only fault with the book is that it took me awhile to get used to is the fact it's told in first person, present tense but after a chapter or so, it really wasn't a factor.

Fans of a good paranormal mystery would enjoy this first book in Ms. Stolarz's series.

YA Director
Enchanting Reviews
January 2008