Tag Archives: YA Books YA Reads

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod
Book Reviews
August 21, 2010 posted by Christina

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod

“Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plentitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a tattooed gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.”

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a black comedy set in England in 1828 and is the 12th book written by Doug MacLeod. We meet sixteen-year-old protagonist, Thomas Timewell, on the evening of his grandfather’s funeral. Thomas’ Grandfather’s dying wish was for his body to be donated to science to help in the advancement of the medical and scientific fields. Like in many cases, those wishes were ignored and he was buried anyway. So, as you do, Thomas takes matters into his own hands and digs up the grave to take the body where it rightfully belongs, as per his Grandfather’s wishes.

As he digs, we meet Plentitude – a body snatcher. An uneasy alliance is made between the two as Plentitude shows Thomas the tricks of the body snatching trade and delivers the body to the desired destination. From there Plentitude convinces Thomas to continue fulfilling the final wishes of the recently deceased.

Body snatching is not a simple game though – there’s competition. Disgruntled former partners of Plentitude’s want the bodies (and the payment that comes with their sale) for themselves. That, plus a gypsy with a taste for throwing meat cleavers, a teacher who ritually tortures his best friend and a mother in a constant opium daze, Thomas’s life gets really bizarre, really fast. Not to mention the lovely Victoria, who he can’t keep from offending every time their paths cross.

As some of you may know, I spend most of my day studying fashion and trends, but I’m picking up on a book trend here –  more stories being set during the Georgian and Victorian eras (18th and 19th century) – and I have to say I’m really liking it. Think Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Emily Bronte, but teen friendly. Now don’t get me wrong, these authors and many others of that period were very talented and have written some of the best loved classic literature of all time. I’ve read a fair few books from the period either for study or by choice but try as I might I just don’t know what they’re saying. Since times and social customs have changed you need to read between the lines, and understand the contextual history to know why it’s so scandalous for a girl to leave the house without a hat and gloves. This, plus the language itself means the message of those books are unfortunately lost on me, it just feels like a chore to read. I don’t doubt they’re still valuable and the themes and issues they express are important and still relevant today (and should still be read and studied)….but they’re just not fun for me.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that books such as The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher and others that are coming out recently, are quite faithful to the period and allow you to enjoy a story set in the age of gentlemen in top hats and ladies in corsets without getting lost in the writing of classic literature.

There was a great plot here, quite different to things I’ve read lately – very dark and gruesome at times but also with a sense of sarcasm and humor that kept it light. I loved the surprise ending, as well as the reference to Sweeney Todd, and to the issues of women who had to pose as males to be taken seriously as authors and the extend of opium use of the time.

The characters were a delight and I loved the witty interaction between them. Particularly between Thomas and his adopted younger brother John, who at fourteen has moved out into his deceased grandfather’s mansion and considers himself an important adult, high power business man. I also liked that body snatchers (or resurrectionists) never revealed their names; each one had a unique name chosen by them.

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a great period novel that was witty and engaging, that gives a dark insight to an unusual occupation.

Publication Date: June 2010
Rating: : ★★★½☆

Teaser Quote: “You must think it strange that I’m digging up my grandfather.”
“Not at all. I’m sure many men dig up their grandfathers.”

Author Interview with Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Author Interviews
January 16, 2010 posted by Nikki

Author Interview with Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl’s debut novel, Beautiful Creatures, is our Book of the Month during January. The authors took some time our of their busy schedules to answer some questions about their story and their beloved characters. Enjoy.

*Author photo credit: Alex Hoerner

What is it like co-authoring a book? Does this process ever get complicated or confusing at any stage?

Margie: You know, since this is our debut novel, we really don’t know any other way to do it. The most complicated part is definitely juggling our schedules so we can work. The easiest part is the writing. We’ve been friends longer than writing partners, so we can finish each other’s sentences – and that’s how we write, too.

Kami: We can fight like sisters, but it’s always about the mundane – the schedule – how cold our office is – why there is no ice for the Diet Coke. We’ve never disagreed about the story. And this year has been so overwhelming for us in so many ways, I can’t imagine going through it alone.

When you write, do you get together and write, or do you writing individually and then come together and edit?

Margie: We work separately. If we are in the same room, we’re still separated by my enormous earphones. Music vs. no music – we can’t write in the same airspace!

Kami: But we edit together, hashing out huge, color-coded whiteboards that plot all the character arcs, magic developments, and story beats. Our office is in Margie’s house, and it’s like the war room.

Was focalizing the story through Ethan’s POV a conscious decision, or did it just kind of happen?

Margie: We knew Lena was our mystery, and our supernatural. We wanted a strong female character with power, and we wanted to follow Ethan as he found his way into her story.

Kami: We also knew we were doing something less typical in YA, by allowing the reader to experience insecurity, first love, and fear through the eyes of a guy. To see what guys are thinking about girls, for once.We also fell in love with Ethan, the guy we never dated in high school…

As two female authors, was it difficult to write a romance-centered story from a male point of view?

Margie: Not really. We have six brothers between us. Also, there is so much already out there that is written from a teen girl’s perspective, it might have been harder to find our own voice if we hadn’t written from Ethan’s POV.

Kami: Sometimes it’s easier to write from a perspective that is definitely not your own. And Ethan is a great guy. He’s easy to write, because we love him so much.

Did you have prior knowledge/personal interest in magic and witchcraft, or was this something you had to research for Beautiful Creatures?

Margie: Just a lifetime of reading Diana Wynne Jones and high fantasy! I can’t imagine writing a book that didn’t have some sort of magic in it. Ever since I first read Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series in third grade, I have been living in a fantasy world. And yes, I can still recite the poem from the front of that book.

Kami: We are both huge fantasy readers, so magic and magical lore has always been swimming around in our minds. I don’t consider the magic in BC witchcraft, per say. But I have always been interested in the way religions from Africa and the West Indies influenced Southern culture. I’m so superstitious that I might as well be Amma.

When it comes to naming your characters, what kind of process do you go through?

Margie: We have raided our family genealogy for generations, to begin with… But we also do lots of research on the meaning of the names.

Kami: We used French-Creole names for Lena’s family, and traditional or more obscure Southern names for the folks in Gatlin.

A little birdy told us that Beautiful Creatures has just been optioned by Warner Bros and is set to be made into a film. Can you confirm or deny this?

Margie: Was the little birdy named Variety? ☺

Kami: Yes. We are so thrilled that Warner Brothers optioned the film for a supremely talented writer/director, Richard LaGravenese, and a hugely capable producer, Erwin Stoff.

How much input/control will the two of you have (if any at all)?

Margie: When Richard and Erwin came into the picture, we knew we could trust them. Their track records speak for themselves.

Kami: And we knew Warner Brothers would be the perfect home for Beautiful Creatures. Really, we couldn’t be happier. We’ll stick to writing and leave the rest to them.

What’s in your to-be-read list at the moment?

Margie: I am just finishing a draft of a work in progress, the newest middle grade book by my old friend, Pseudonymous Bosch. He’s the Roald Dahl of my generation, I adore him.

Kami: I am completely in love with the draft of Holly Black’s WHITE CAT, which I’m reading for the second time. Her new Curse Workers series is going to be huge! And I just finished her short story collection, POISON EATERS.

What are your all time fave YA novels?

Margie: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. In case you couldn’t tell…

Kami: Well, she took my favorite. After TKM, it would be THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton & FREAK THE MIGHTY by Rodman Philbrick.

Is it true that this series is set to be a five-book series?

Margie: We are just finishing our sequel now.

Kami: It comes out this same time next year. We are really excited about it!

Can you tell us anything about the next instalment?

Margie: Mortal danger. True love. Broken hearts.

Kami: Ethan and Lena are up against unbelievable odds. And there’s sweet tea.

You can keep up with Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl at www.BeautifulCreaturestheBook.com.

Join the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES US fansite at www.CasterGirls.com.

Visit Little, Brown’s Beautiful Creatures website at

Author Interview: Lili St Crow
Author Interviews
December 10, 2009 posted by Nikki

Author Interview: Lili St Crow

As you all know, Lili St Crow’s Betrayals (the second book in her Strange Angels series) is our Book of the Month for December. We’re stoked to have Lili with us this month, and after reading this interview, we think you’ll be pretty stoked too. We want to thank her for taking the time to respond to our questions with such honesty and detail. You rock our socks off Lili! Grab a cuppa and sit back and enjoy!

Strange Angels is your first venture into young adult story telling. Was it a conscious decision to write a story for teens, or did the narrative just take that shape?

I actually never thought I would write YA. It never seemed to be an option because of the subject matter and darkness of my usual work. I was quite surprised when I was contacted about my willingness to write in the YA field, it just never occurred to me as something feasible.

I think the YA genre has grown tremendously in the last five to ten years. When I was in that age group, I don’t think certain issues of violence or sexuality would get through the gates, so to speak. There’s been a certain loosening of attitudes and an admission that teenagers do say bad words and they do have hormones, they face dangerous situations and they make choices. I skipped a great deal of YA when I was that age because it just didn’t speak to me—I started reading “adult” books because none of the YAs addressed issues I felt were relevant to my problems. I think teens today have a much greater choice in the genre.

For you, what was the biggest challenge about writing a story for teens as opposed to adults?

Well, they’re not that different. The baseline promise a writer makes is to tell the truth. This makes no difference whether your audience is 14, 40, or 70. Once you have that commitment, you can tackle questions of appropriateness in your own way.

I was very concerned that there would be tension between my editor and me when it came to certain things—rough language, violence, sex. Once I had That Talk with my editor, I was much more sanguine. Before I ever signed the contract I spoke with my editor about my concerns and it was just all out there on the table: I was not going to sugarcoat anything or BS any of my readers, no matter their age. My editor agreed completely and is very supportive.

It seems, at the moment, that in paranormal YA lit, the big thing that draws readers in (especially girls) is the presence of an impossible love triangle. Why did you decide on a love triangle, rather than a single love interest for Dru?

It was just the shape the story took. There are triangles of one sort or another in a lot of my adult work as well.

A lot of paranormal YA—and, let’s face it, a lot of adult fiction—tends to have this narrative that the dangerous, flashy, obsessive partner is desirable and something girls should aim and sigh for. I like to contrast that with the partner who isn’t obsessive or as dangerous. I think a lot of our cultural narratives about romantic love glorify behaviour that would get a restraining order out here in the real world, and contrasting that with a more realistic portrayal of what a healthy relationship looks like is very valuable.

But then again, there are huge conversations going on in our society about gender roles and relationship roles, and the triangles are a good way to explore a lot of those knotty problems. Plus there’s the fantasy factor—in real life, sometimes behaviour a fiction character engages in would be creepy. But the reader has control over how far they enter into the fantasy, and it’s empowering to have that complete control.

I have to ask, are you Team Graves or Team Christophe?

Personally, I’m very Team Graves. He’s not perfect, but his affection and attention are very much preferable to Christophe’s. I mean, Christophe is very old. He remembers certain parts of World War I, for crying out loud. It’s disturbing that he had this relationship with Dru’s mother and is now acting interested in Dru. It’s always faintly skeezy that we have these immortal beings in love with teenagers in our fiction. Part of this goes back to that cultural narrative, and the fantasy.

On the other hand, Christophe is an interesting character because djamphir don’t mature in certain ways. They’re stuck in teenage bodies and dealing with a world that treats them like children nowadays. So it’s not as skeezy as it could be, and Christophe’s growth as a character brings some of these issues into focus.

Artistically and as a writer, I don’t know where Dru is going to “end up”. Why does it have to be a choice between Graves and Christophe? Maybe she will decide to take some time off and figure out what she wants without a boy in the picture. I find it interesting that this isn’t even seen as an option when this sort of thing is discussed.

Do you have the whole Strange Angels series planned out, or are you creating as you write?
I have the big things, the broad strokes, very firmly in my head. But part of creating a work of art is making choices in the moment that might take it in a different direction. It’s a balance, a fine line to be walked between one’s idea of where the story should go and where the story wants to go. Just like life, I guess.

If Dru could click her heels and have three magic wishes, what would she ask for?

I think she would ask for those people she loves to be back with her and whole. She’s had a lot of loss. Dru is an orphan, and that’s a heavy burden to bear. Through most of the series she’s searching for someone to help her, and missing very much the love and stability that her father and grandmother provided, even if both of them were extraordinarily non-traditional.

What about if you could have three magic wishes, what would you ask for?

It’s probably a marker of my age that I don’t know. I think I’d have tremendous difficulty deciding, because any wish I made would have consequences I couldn’t even guess at. I’m not sure I would take advantage of that. I’m profoundly wary of such questions.

Do you have any particular writing habits?

Other than doing it every day, rain or shine? Not really. I’ve trained myself to write no matter what, so my habit just takes the form of doing it every day. Making the commitment to get it done, no matter how or what or why.

When you ventured into the world of YA, why did you chose to write under Lili St Crow rather than Lilith?

That was a decision taken in conjunction with the publisher, to make it very clear that I was writing in a different genre with different expectations.

Can you tell us anything about the next Strange Angels novel?

I’m working on Book 4 right now, and Book 3, Jealousy, isn’t out yet. So I’m kind of torn—which one should I talk about? I suppose it would be fairest if I spoke about Jealousy. The title kind of speaks for itself.

I’ve always seen jealousy as one of the biggest and most insidious problems in high school. There’s this complete lack of proportion and this social pressure, and popularity or even just plain fitting in and finding a peer group is often played as a zero-sum game: the more for you means the less for me. I don’t think our current system does a good job at teaching kids compromise and cooperation as an non-zero-sum game. So when people hit the adult world, there’s this all or nothing habit of interacting with people that’s very hard to break. Some people never grow out of it.

But you wanted to know about the book, right? Well, this is the book where Dru finds out more about how her mother died and who was truly responsible. The traitor to the Order is unmasked, and there is a price to be paid for Dru’s acts of kindness. Dru also learns a great deal more about what it means to be a part of the Real World, the world of all these things that go bump in the night.

Are you working on anything non-Strange Angels related at the moment that you’d like to share with us?

I’m actually incredibly busy right now, with a ton of short stories for anthologies in process and the next Jill Kismet novel (one of my adult series) pretty much wrapped up and sent to the editor to begin the revisions process. I like being busy.

Thanks so much for having me here!

Site Updates
August 31, 2009 posted by Nikki

September Bookclub Read

Hi yaReaders,

I’m happy to announce that our Bookclub Read for September, as voted by you, is Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. For those who are unfamiliar with this book, here’s a quick synopsis:

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

If you’d like to read our review of Along for the Ride, click here.

If you’d like to join our discussion of Along for the Ride, click here.