Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

“You are hosting a dinner party for three writers?  Who’s on the invite list?”

When Kristin Cashore, author of young adult novels, was asked this question in the New York Times book review interview By the Book,  she answered:

“Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle, and Hildegard von Bingen…hopefully one of them can cook and wouldn’t mind coming early to take care of that.”

When reluctantly participating in a get-to-know-you exercise and asked for one author, my response – Steve Martin – was met with disdain (they were all academics.)  Having dinner with the prolific wild and crazy guy who’s written novels (Shop Girl), plays (Picasso at the Lapin Agile), can talk about art (has a private collection), and can play a mean banjo – not to mention his sense of humor – has the potential for good dinner conversation.  Calvin Trillin could add a little spice, and if I were to add one more, of course, Julia Child (to cook).

Do you have authors you would like to meet?  maybe share a meal?

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National Book Award Mistake – Chime or Shine?

Probably the most excitement generated by the announcement of the National Book Award this year was their mistake in their listing of young adult literature finalists.  Lauren Myracle’s book  – Shine – about a gay teenager who is the victim of a hate crime made the list.  Oops – the committee revealed later that the finalist was supposed to be Fran Billingsley’s tale of a teenage witch in Chime.

How do you mistake a Shine for a Chime?  typo?  It seems the committee creates the list verbally to maintain secrecy until the official announcement.  Maybe they need an exercise in elocution – or spelling – C, as in Charlie; M, as in Mary…

Ironically, Shine is enjoying great sales from the inadvertent recognition – no publicity is bad.   And, the National Book Award committee is compensating with a $5000 donation to a foundation for gay youth.   But, they did remove Shine from their list.

The winner will be announced in November; the other four books nominated in this category:

  •  My Name Is Not Easy
  •  Inside Out and Back Again
  •  Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
  • Okay for Now

The Prince of Mist – first book from the author of The Shadow of the Wind

Before he created the haunting tale of The Shadow of the Wind – one of my favorite books; I’m still looking for the Cemetery of Lost Books – Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote young adult literature. In his author’s note, Zafon reveals that The Prince of Mist was his first published book.

Using familiar themes: good vs evil, be careful what you wish for, be faithful to your friends, and whatever you do, don’t make a deal with the devil – Zafón compels the story into fantasy, with a convincing dose of realism. In The Prince of Mist, Max and his sister, Alicia, meet a new friend, Roland, when they move to a beach front house to escape the war that threatens the city. The house holds old secrets and hidden threats; together the friends face off against an evil character in a wild adventure with clocks running backwards and old sunken ships with skeletons. The underwater scenes will have you holding your breath.

A fellow Zafón  fan told me about the book – a quick easy read before she settled into another of Zafón’s longer new publications – The Angel’s Game.  Zafón is an author who always delivers magic with exciting adventure.


Who doesn’t like a snow day – no school, no work – cozy around the fire or out building a snowman?  But a Northeast blizzard is not fun, and can be lethal.  In his young adult fiction, Trapped, Michael Northrup explores how people react and survive when a blizzard traps seven high school students in their school – with no prospects of being rescued.

Do you remember that survival game – if you could only pick five people from the boat to accompany you on the life raft, who you would you pick?  Who would give you the best chance to make it?  In this story, the party consist of Les, street-wise and the high school degenerate,  Elijah, the loner who likes the library, two girls, one basketball player (who is the narrator), a mechanically inclined shop class enthusiast, and a nerd.  Who would have the best chance to survive?  Who would have the skills to help the others?

“When the snow buried the first floor, we moved to the second.  When the heat and water went out, we built a little fire and melted snow.”

Days go by; they eat canned peaches and peanut butter from the cafeteria.  Their thoughts rally around food, girl-boy connections, and rivalries – this is high school.   The high point is the radio station program they can play; the low point when they realize that noone knows they are there.  Then, part of the roof collapses, and someone must go out for help.  The ending is dramatic and abrupt, and not everyone survives.

Trapped is a suspenseful easy read; all that snow might cool you down on a hot summer day.

I Read a Book on my iPhone – The Midnight Palace

I was desperate – my stack of books dwindled to none, no way to get to the library or a bookstore, back issues of The New Yorker consumed.  Then I remembered a book I had downloaded before a flight, just in case the two books I had with me were read before landing.  It was like having a stash of Girl Scout cookies hidden and forgotten in the freezer.  Saved!

Although I have resisted getting a Kindle, the phone was not so bad – backlit small font, with only two paragraphs per page.  I learned how to make it brighter, but not bigger.

The book may have had a lot to do with my perseverance.  If you’re a fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, you know how gripping and wild his tales are; if you miss a turn, you are lost, but if you stay with the action, he takes you to another world of villains and magic.

In The Midnight Palace, a young adult thriller, Zafon starts with twin babies saved from the ruthless killer of their parents, and then separated – the girl to live with their grandmother, the boy to live in an orphanage in Calcutta – never to meet until they are sixteen years old.  At the crucial time, they are thrown together to fight a mysterious killer, who seems to have inhuman powers (think Voldemort).  Their team of friends from the orphanage who have formed the Chowbar Society to be each other’s support – no matter what – find themselves embroiled in a thrilling mystery as they battle evil, and try to discover the power behind the turmoil.  Trains veer off tracks, fires combust without cause, eerie sounds, lurking shadows, strange apparitions …in the Harry Potter tradition…until Zafon brings it all to a satisfying ending.

The story is a page turner and my fingers flew over the screen.  After a while, I looked forward to sliding my finger to turn the page, as much as reading the words.  But I’ve returned to the comfort of my real books, and will save my foray in the futuristic electronic storyteller for my next emergency.

Rating – for the iPhone: ✓✓              for the book – ✓✓✓✓

Rating System:

  • ✓✓✓✓✓ – Don’t miss it!  Hope you like it as much as I did.

  • ✓✓✓✓ – You should read it (my opinion anyway)
  • ✓✓✓ – Worth a try – at least to the first 50 pages

  • ✓✓ –  You might need some chocolate to get you through

  • – Watch TV instead