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    Entries in Book Reviews (10)

    Friday
    Jul012011

    Don't miss YA titles

    I'm very excited about two YA books that will hit the shelves soon.

    July 26 watch for James Howe's newest book Addie on the Inside. While Addie is listed as Young Adult, I see this as a book that will really appeal to girls in grades 6-8. This is a novel about knowing yourself and loving yourself just as you are; it's about refusing to accept the labels that others assign to you. And I don't know any group of girls who suffer identify crises like girls in intermediate school. Addie tells her story in verse using a variety of forms. I handed this book to an eight grader at my school, a cheerleader, and asked what she thought. She confirmed that Addie speaks the truth. This is a must-have book for school libraries and a great purchase if you have a pre-teen or younger teenage daughter. And it's a fitting companion to Howe's The Misfits and Totally Joe.

     October 11 is the release date for Andrew Smith's fourth novel, Stick. I don't know what to say about this novel, except . . . wow. This is one of those raw books that stays with you long after you finish that last page and close the cover. I believe all four of Smith's books explore the bond between brothers and best friends. You won't be able to put this one down. And if you haven't read any of Smith's earlier works, you are missing out. Visit his website, GhostMedicine.com, for blurbs on The Marbury Lens, In the Path of Falling Objects, and Ghost Medicine, as well as his newest novel.

    Monday
    Jul122010

    YA author Lee Bantle on growing up gay, falling in love, and the catharsis of writing DAVID INSIDE OUT

    Not all books stick with me. Even if I really like a book, six months later I may not remember much about it. The books that do stay with me, the ones that I remember months and even years down the road, tend to fall into one of two categories--the alternate realities that I lose myself in (Gone with the Wind, The Stand, Harry Potter, Twilight), and those books with a character or a scene that just gets under my skin (in a good way), like the whiny character Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye or the hysterical Joe Bunch in Totally Joe, or the rather shocking scene outside the nightclub in Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List or the hilariously provocative personal ad in Someday This Pain will be Useful to You.

    Lee Bantle's David Inside Out is one of those second kinds of books. At 184 pages in hardback, it's not an epic story. But it is a story that gets under your skin. Raw, honest, totally believable, and at times so funny that ten months later I still chuckle over one of the passages. Lee probably doesn't remember this, but I even emailed him about the church scene after I read the book, and he emailed me back to say he almost left that out. I'm glad he didn't. And okay, I'm going to share that passage with you, a passage in which the main character is living his frustrations.




    Mom made me go to church on Sunday and we got there late. We had to sit in the front pew, right under a nearly naked plaster statue of Jesus on the cross. When the Lord's Prayer came, I looked up, inspecting the folds of the loincloth, trying to imagine what was underneath. This is what I had sunk to. Checking out Jesus.



    Lee's novel is based loosely on his experiences growing up gay, which makes this passage even funnier because I remember doing exactly the same thing as a young girl! I guess some experiences are universal. His novels are also about romance and the search for identify. As character David says, "How can you be yourself if you don't know who that is?"

    So I was thrilled when I got a chance to interview Lee. Here you go!

    I know that David Inside Out is based loosely on your own experiences. How cathartic an experience was writing this novel for you?

    Writing the book was cathartic, no question.  When I came of age in Minnesota in the 70's, homosexuality was a sin.  And also just plain weird.  Thinking that my natural feelings were immoral, that I was wrong to think the things I did and feel the way I did. Religion teaches a harsh lesson. That kind of mind-set gets in the way of a healthy ego. I am on a lifelong quest to gain acceptance of gay and lesbian people.  This book is one step in that direction.  But, I am still raw from my childhood, from the current political battles.  I don't think anything will change that.

    Recently, I spoke at a conference on the legal protections for LGBT people in employment.  Twenty-nine states still allow an employer to fire someone because he or she is LGBT.  There is no federal law which protects gays and lesbians in employment.  I grew very emotional during my talk.  It still hurts.  And when I think that I can't marry the love of my life in NYC if I want to, it makes me nuts.  This issue is still very alive for me.

    What advice would you give gay teens who are the most vulnerable in this struggle for equal rights?

    Follow your heart and don't let anyone tell you that you can't.  Come out.  Get involved.  Don't suffer alone or stay on the outside looking in.  Get involved in the LGBT community around you.  Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school.  (For help with that check out glsen.org/jumpstart. )  Read all the wonderful gay-themed books out there.  And write up your own stories because being creative is one of the ways to be happy in life.

    Since you brought it up, can you tell us about the man in your life?

    Well, I recently met a wonderful man.  After all these years, I found him.  His name is Mitchell Vines and he is a classical pianist.  I know it's corny, but listening to his music brings tears to my eyes.  The first song he ever played for me was The Man I Love.  He told me he will be by my side no matter what comes.  And he's really sexy.  How could I not be in love?

    Lee (right) with the man in his life, Mitchell Vines

    How do you get from an idea to a finished work?

    With a full-time job, I write on weekends. Mostly at night.  I'm not a morning person.  But on occasion I have been up writing when the sum comes up.  Ghastly. My biggest fear is having no idea what shape the book will take.  I don't outline.  I don't plan ahead.  I drive with my headlights off and hope there are not too many collisions.

    It took 12 years (off and on) to write David Inside Out.  At one point I consigned it to the third drawer of a metal filing cabinet.  I could hear the characters calling to me:  "Lee, Lee, don't give up on us."  But I thought the book was fatally flawed and there was no point in going on.  An experienced writer read the MS and helped me resurrect the book and get it into publishable form.

    The structure is the most difficult part for me.  Getting everything to build to a denouement. When I edit, I read a hard copy, scribble notes in the margins, flag all the pages that need work, and then ask myself who am I kidding with this crap.  Not always.  My first drafts are pretty dreadful.  But I dive back in at the computer using the marked up MS as a guide and make it better.  Many drafts and much hair-pulling are needed to create something good.

    My novels are character driven.  I hope to create distinctive characters who you can fall in love with.  Then you can identify with their problems and walk through their lives with them.  I fall in love with my characters.  You have to in order to write a convincing novel.

    What are you working on now?

    My latest book is called The Memoirs of Odell P. Livingston, Grade 6. Odell has a black dad and a white mom. Obama has just been elected.  It is the story of Odell's quest for identity, social belonging, and romance.  My novels always have romance.  I think readers like this.  And, of course, I like this. My editor hasn't even read the MS yet.  Publishing takes forever.  So, I don't know what the status is.  Any release date is at least a year or two away.

    You have written two middle grade novels and one YA. Are you more comfortable writing middle grade?

    Well, I'm also working on a YA called Riverfire.  It's about a whitewater rafting trip filled with danger and romance.  And true to my favorite theme, the protagonist, Joie, is searching for her identity as a Korean girl adopted by a single mother in Minnesota.  I like writing for both age groups.  Teens are harder because their emotions are more complex and their dialogue is trickier.  But you get much more feedback from your readers after the book comes out, which is gratifying.

    What's on your bedside table right now?

    I just finished The Book Thief about a young German girl whose family hides a Jew in their basement in Nazi Germany.   Amazing.  I am about to order The Help on my electronic reader.  It is written by a white author and portrays three black nannies in the South during the 1960's.  I think it will help me with my Odell book since I am a white man writing about issues of racial identity.  Crossing the line in this way can cause a lot of controversy -- and has with The Help.  But I don't shy away from controversy.

    Who are you favorite authors?

    This is a question worthy of a term paper.  I loved Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind because she broke new ground in an evocative, beautifully realized novel.  Rita Mae Brown captivated me with her sassy Rubyfruit Jungle.  James Baldwin is brilliant and emotional. I  read everything by Christopher Isherwood when I was in college because of his insight into my issue.  I'm also a fan of some of the great English literary lions -- George Elliot, E.M. Forster, Charles Dickens -- because of the depth and the complexity of their novels.

    One final question. Libba Bray (Going Bovine) sings with the first ever YA-author rock band, Tiger Beat, which includes Daniel Ehrenhaft, Barney Miller, and Natalie Standiford. Assuming they're looking to expand the band, what talents could you offer?

    I am a black hole as far as music talent goes. But my BF Mitchell is a talented keyboardist, so maybe we could bring him in as a ringer. Or else I could play the castanets.

    [tweetmeme source="JanetTrumble" only_single=false]Lee is also the author of the 1995 middle grade novel Diving for the Moon. You can read more about Lee or contact him on his website: http://www.leebantle.com. While you're there, check out his tips on writing and links of interest to both writers and the LGBT community.

    Friday
    Jun112010

    NerdsHeartYA Contest

    I just discovered this neat little YA review blog. They're running a fun contest where you can win signed YA books by underpromoted authors along with signed bookmarks (by the awesome and beautiful NICK BURD!) and other stuff . . . and all you have to do is promote their blog. I encourage you to check it out!

    It’s time to kick off some pre-judgement fun here at the NerdsHeartYA blog by telling you about the wonderful prizes generously donated by our participating authors. These authors are not swimming in promotional merchandise, so I want to heartily thank everyone who has donated an item for making our contest extra fun. We have two bursting prize packs to give away this year (contest open Internationally). Let’s get right into what you can win: Fir … Read More


    via

    Sunday
    Jun062010

    1000 Awesome Things makes me happy

    I stumbled across this AWESOME blog a few days ago and I had to share it with you peeps. It's called 1000 Awesome Things. And it's so full of awesomeness that it was made into a book published by AEB/Putnam, April 2010. This cool list reminds me of that exchange between Ferris and Cameron in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


    Ferris Bueller: Cameron, what have you seen today?
    Cameron: Nothing good.
    Ferris Bueller: Nothing - wha - what do you mean nothing good? We've seen everything good. We've seen the whole city! We went to a museum, we saw priceless works of art! We ate pancreas!




    [tweetmeme source="JanetTrumble" only_single=false]Sometimes we just need to be reminded of all the awesomeness around us. I'm talking to you, P!

    Monday
    May312010

    A Low Brow Review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! I love Stephen Chbosky's first novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999). I read it on the heels of The Catcher in the Rye (You can read my Non-Review of Catcher here). Perfect. Because not only does it remind me very much of Catcher, and not only does a USA Today reviewer compare it to Catcher, but the main character, Charlie, reads and discusses Catcher himself. And To Kill a Mockingbird, and Fountainhead, and The Great Gatsby, and a bunch of other books.

    Tim Curry as Dr. Frankenfurter

    But the parts I liked THE BEST were the Friday nights they dressed up in lingerie and acted out the parts in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, Charlie in a gold swimsuit and a feather boa? Hysterical. I'm kind of low brow like that.

    Speaking of which, I kinda hate to mention how much I love The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, I've seen it about a million times, the first time when I was a freshman at Texas A&M University in 19--um, that's not important. Anyway, I saw the movie at The Alabama Theater in Houston at midnight once when that dude that plays the creepy butler showed up in tight, gold lame pants. Or was it leopard skin? Anyway, it was a moment. I even own both the DVD and the soundtrack. The reason I hate to mention this is that on page 104 of Wallflower, Charlie's friend Bob says how parents don't want to let go of their youth and how it kills them when they can't relate to something. Hey, Bob, I resemble that remark!

    Come to think of it, comparing The Perks of Being a Wallflower to The Catcher in the Rye would also make the Wallflower characters really mad. According to Craig (still page 104), comparing these two novels discredits them, diminishes the personal voices in each. Hmph. That's deep. Still, Wallflower does remind me of Catcher, and making connections gives readers like me a hook to hang the story on, so to speak, so, um, my apologies to the author and cast of Wallflower, but seriously, you remind me A LOT of The Catcher in the Rye. And that's not EXACTLY a comparison.

    Did I mention that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is #3 on ALA's 2009 Top Ten Hit List? Ha! The reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit, anti-family, offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, drugs, suicide. Anti-family? That part really kills me. Charlie's family is awesome, even Aunt Helen, despite her skeletons which pretty much constitute the underpinnings of the entire story. Anyway, thanks repressed people for bringing this novel to my attention. I have an 8th grader who is going to love this book!

    [tweetmeme source="JanetTrumble" only_single=false]I wonder why they cut off the bottoms of the letters on Stephen Chbosky's name on the cover? I'm sure that means something. His photo in the back is kinda cute too. I wonder how he'd look in a corset. Um, kidding :)