young adult book reviews & more

All good things must come to an end

To my most esteemed readers:

It's been an amazing six long years, but I think the time has come.

As most of you have undoubtedly noticed, The Book Muncher has been updated very sporadically over the last few months. I've still been reading (can we talk about E. Lockhart's upcoming book We Were Liars?!), because deep down, I am a reader and will always be one. But I just haven't had the time or energy to dedicate to this blog like I used to. I haven't been attending as many book signings, and I haven't been seeking out as many new or unreleased books. As a college graduate living in New York City without a steady source of income, I unfortunately had to deal with some bigger details than what to include in a blog post.

But books will always be a big part of my life. I joined a book club. I interviewed for a ton of publishing jobs until finally I got one that was right for me. Starting today, I will be working in the Reading Clubs division of Scholastic. I couldn't be more excited. Scholastic is an amazing company, and I'm thrilled to be working there.

Getting this job has opened up a new chapter (pun intended) in my life, but with this new opportunity, some things must come to an end. Some things like this poor little blog. I've loved the experience and I appreciate each and every one of you who's ever taken the time to read one girl's bookish opinions, but the time has come to move on. This is my last blog post here. But if you'd like to stay in touch, you can find me on Twitter at @rachaeljstein, where I will hopefully be a little more present than I've been here.

Thanks again to all of you, and happy reading!

Signing off,
Rachael Stein
The Book Muncher

Congratulations to...

nickie & Arya
who each won The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Win The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher


I know my presence on this blog has been sporadic of late, but don't worry, I've still been reading a lot and am back for a little contest!

Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent—isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her—the kinds of games that can kill?

(2) lucky winners will receive The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher
courtesy of Scholastic

Other details:
  • US mailing addresses only.
  • Contest ends 1/20/14, at 9 p.m. EST.
Remember, you must complete the form to be entered, and only one form submission per person will be counted. If you have any questions about this contest, see my contest policy, or contact me and ask away.

Man Made Boy blog tour

Welcome to the Mad Made Boy blog tour! The son of Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, 16-year-old Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home after he unwittingly unleashes a sentient computer virus on the world. Together with the granddaughter(s) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Boy embarks on a journey across the country to L.A. But Boy can only hide from his demons for so long…


Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Frankenstein is one of the most enduring classics of gothic horror and considered by many to be the first science fiction novel. Most people know it was written by a woman named Mary Shelley. But not a lot of people realize she wrote it when she was only 19 years old. How could someone so young write something at once so dark and revolutionary? Or as Lord Byron puts it in the prologue to the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein:

“Can you believe that bland and lovely brow conceived of Frankenstein, a Monster created from cadavers out of rifled graves? Isn’t it astonishing?”

That scene always cracks me up. Partly because the actor playing Byron has the most ridiculous “upper class” British accent I’ve ever heard. But also because all three of them, Mary Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley, and their friend, Lord Byron, are played as these fussy, uptight, English nobles.

The reality was quite different.

We will never really know the true story of Mary Shelley’s life. That’s because when she was older, Mary burned many of the journals and letters from her youth. Nobody really knows why, although it’s likely that she was trying to avoid yet another blackmail attempt. She didn’t burn everything, thankfully. We do have a few of her journals and letters. But to fill in the many gaps, we have to rely on the journals and letters of other people who knew her or knew of her, which amounts to little more than gossip. And there was a lot of gossip.

Mary’s father was an outspoken atheist philosopher and her mother was an outspoken feminist writer. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, leaving her father to raise Mary and her half-sister Fanny. To commemorate his wife’s death, he published her personal memoirs and was surprised when people reacted negatively to the sexual content the memoirs contained. It took him a few years, but he eventually remarried and Mary gained a step-sister named Claire.

When Mary was seventeen, a twenty-one year old activist/poet named Percy Shelley started to visit the house. At first he came because Mary’s father was a hero of his. But soon he started coming because of Mary. By all accounts, Percy was a real charmer and a brilliant poet, so it’s no surprise that Mary was interested in him, too. One problem, Percy was already married with two kids. When Mary’s father found out what was going on, he forbid them from seeing each other. That didn’t stop them, of course. They met secretly at night at her mother’s grave, read poetry to each other, and made out. Because yeah.

But that wasn’t enough for them. Soon after, they decided to run away to Paris, taking Mary’s stepsister, Claire, with them. The three wandered around Europe for a while. Mary got pregnant, but the baby girl was born premature and died after only a week or so. Percy was a big fan of free love and there are suggestions that he started hooking up with Claire somewhere in there. He certainly encouraged Mary to hook up with an old college buddy of his, although there is no evidence that she ever did. Then Mary’s half-sister, Fanny, committed suicide. And shortly after that, Percy’s wife committed suicide. Percy tried to take custody of his two children. He and Mary even got married so they would look more “respectable”. But his dead wife’s parents took him to court and won full custody from him. To escape it all, Mary, Percy, and Claire decided to run away to mainland Europe again.

In Switzerland they met the infamous Lord Byron, described by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Possibly the most famous poet of his day, he was the closest thing the early 19th century had to a rock star. The Shelleys and Claire hung out at a lake house in Geneva with Byron and his “personal physician”, John Polidori, for the summer. A lot of sailing, reading, drinking, and drug use ensued. There’s no way of knowing who hooked up with whom that summer, but one thing is certain, by the end of it, Claire was pregnant with Byron’s child.

That summer spawned two other creations as well. Byron would sometimes entertain his guests by reading gothic horror stories to them while they all got high on laudanum. One night Byron proposed a contest to see who could write the best gothic horror story. Out of that contest came John Polidori’s The Vampyre, which was the first appearance of a vampire in English prose, and at the age of nineteen, Mary’s first novel, Frankenstein.

This post is already overly long, so I won’t go into everything that came after that fateful summer, but just to give you a taste (spoilers!), by the time she was twenty-five, Mary had buried three children and her husband. So I think we can safely say that Mary Shelley’s brow may have been bland, but her life certainly wasn’t.


Mad Made Boy Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Boy’s father is Frankenstein’s monster and his mother is the Bride. A hacker and tech geek, Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home. Now, the boy who’s never set foot outside embarks on a madcap road trip with the granddaughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that takes him deep into the heart of America. Along the way, Boy falls in love, comes to terms with his unusual family, and learns what it really means to be a monster—and a man.

About Jon Skovron

Jon Skovron is the author of STRUTS & FRETS and MISFIT. Visit him at jonskovron.com.

From the page to the screen: Adapting The Book Thief

For readers, there's always a simultaneous excitement and worry when we learn that one of our favorite books is being adapted for the silver screen. On the one hand, it's undeniably exciting to see the stories we love come to life visually, but on the other, the movie will never match up perfectly to the images we have in our own heads.

This worry is the main reason why many people I know are hesitant to see the movie version of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and I have to say that I completely understand. However, I am in the unique position of someone who has (1) not read the book, though I am ashamed to admit that, and (2) seen the movie, as I had the opportunity to attend an advance screening. So, I can't exactly reassure my friends that they won't be disappointed in some respect, but I can tell you all that the movie was spectacular and brought me to tears.

And I think this is a movie that will bring many others to tears, whether they've read and loved the book or not. Why? Because the people involved with this movie have been so committed to telling this story. At a recent press junket for the The Book Thief movie, Producer Karen Rosenthal mentioned that Director "Brian [Percival's] vision for this film was to make it as organic and real as possible and not allow visual effects to overpower this elegantly simple story, and allow the characters to take us through, especially Leisel." That's the kind of statement that can only come from someone who gets it—so major props to the Director and Producers! I think their vision really carried through.

Leisel, Rosa, and Hans

The ultimate test of that vision, to "allow the characters to take us through," was in the casting. I think they did a great job. The characters Hans and Rosa Hubermann, played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, felt so real to me. And it's because Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are such great actors and because they took so much care in getting into their roles. Emily Watson noted with regards to researching World War II, "We've seen all those movies. We've learned it all in school. . . . The book [The Book Thief] was really the resource for us. For me, anyway. That was where all the detail was." I love the extent to which the details from the book pervade the movie, down to the level of actors performing the smallest parts of their roles.

Leisel, our beloved book thief

And then there's our protagonist Leisel. Director Brian Percival noted that "the crucial thing is that we choose someone who's as close to Leisel as possible" because "It's difficult to ask somebody of that age to rely on technique or to just purely become a character like Emily Watson becomes a character." In this case, that was Sophie Nélisse. Unlike other children who auditioned for the role who were, as Percival observed, "either quite feisty or didn't have that vulnerability or were too vulnerable," Sophie has "both sides to her." Having seen her play Leisel, I wholeheartedly agree.

For those of you who loved the book and have trepidation about seeing the movie, I urge you to give it a chance—the film is wonderful in its own right. And for everyone already excited to see it, I don't think you will be disappointed! The Book Thief movie releases tomorrow, November 8.

Congratulations to...

who won a Harlequin TEEN prize pack

Introducing Swoon Reads

Are you a fan of romance? Then you need to know about Swoon Reads, a new website, community, and publishing imprint dedicated to all things romantic and swoony!

So what exactly is Swoon Reads? In their own words...

Fall in love with falling in love.

Swoon Reads is a teen romance imprint publishing under Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan.

Swoon Reads is dedicated to publishing books that capture the intensity of teen love. More than an imprint, Swoon Reads is a community – one whose members are included in every step of the publishing process. We open the doors for writers and readers to discover the best, most Swoon-worthy teen romance novels and make their voices heard. Together, we publish love stories you will want to read over and over again.

So if you love reading romance, writing it, or both, then Swoon Reads is the place for you!

Since I'm so excited about this new venture, I interviewed Jean Feiwel, the driving force behind it!


Swoon Reads is all about the romance. What elements, if any, do you think are necessary to make a great romance, and why?
My unoriginal definition is partly derived from the great romance writer, Jennifer Cruisie, and a RWA panel from some years ago. A great romance is a love story with an emotionally satisfying ending.

What do you think about novels where romance is not a central feature or present at all?
I am an avid reader of books of all kinds. But books without romance don't have a place on Swoon Reads.

And now for a fun question! Out of all the swoonworthy boys in the books you’ve worked on, which three do you swoon for the most?
Wolf in Marissa Meyer's Scarlet; The Darkling in Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone; and Galen in Anna Bank's Of Poseidon.


So what are you waiting for? Head over to Swoon Reads and start swooning!

Visit Swoon Reads: http://www.swoonreads.com/
Read the Swoon Reads Blog: http://www.swoonreads.com/blog
Follow Swoon Reads on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/swoonreads
Become a fan on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/SwoonReads
Follow on Pinterest! http://www.pinterest.com/swoonreads/

Harlequin TEEN contest

Not long ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a spectacular Harlequin TEEN event. On the top floor of a gorgeous hotel in SoHo, I got to mingle with the likes of Julie Kagawa and Jennifer L. Armentrout—pretty cool, right?

Julie Kagawa and her editor
check out that view!

And since Harlequin TEEN really knows how to throw a party, I was able to snag some books to share with you!


(1) lucky winner will receive some mystery Harlequin TEEN titles and swag

Other details:
  • US mailing addresses only.
  • Contest ends 10/20/13, at 9 p.m. EST.
Remember, you must complete the form to be entered, and only one form submission per person will be counted. If you have any questions about this contest, see my contest policy, or contact me and ask away.

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

I'm sure it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of thrillers, especially those involving teen spies (hence my obsession with the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter). So I was super excited to find out that Robin Benway was writing one of those books! To my delight, Also Known As was just as awesome as I thought it would be. I loved Maggie's voice and quick wit; that combined with her crash course in attending a real high school and the high stakes of living the life of a spy made for a wonderfully engaging and exciting read.

Rating: 4.5

Review copy from personal collection

Brooklyn Book Festival recap

On Sunday, September 22, I attended the Brooklyn Book Festival for the third time. As it was for the last two years, this one was pretty spectacular, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it (even though I was fighting off a cold!).

panelists Lauren Myracle, Francesca Lia Block, David Levithan, and moderator Betsy Bird

I was a little late to the first panel I'd wanted to go to, which was "Celebrate Banned Books Week!" with authors David Levithan, Francesca Lia Block, and Lauren Myracle and moderated by librarian Betsy Bird. By the time I got there, the panel was taking questions from the audience, which led to some interesting discussion about the pros and cons of having books banned (most were cons, of course!) and the repercussions of banning books on multiple parties. What was even more awesome about this panel was that it was the first ever YA panel on the Main Stage at BBF—hopefully there will be more prominent YA events to come!

Lois Lowry (l) and Katherine Applegate (r)

The next event I went to featured Lois Lowry in conversation with Katherine Applegate—two spectacular women and writers. It was very cool to hear them talk about how they each started writing, their backgrounds in terms of reading and books, their writing processes, and more. Lois even shared some fun facts about the development of The Giver as a movie. I absolutely loved that book when I first read it back in the sixth grade, so I am intrigued to see how the movie will turn out.

For the other events I attended, I headed over to the Youth Stoop, where most of the YA and children's events are hosted.

moderator John J. Krosoczka and panelists Kekla Magoon, Leila Sales, Eric Luper, John M. Cusick

At 2 p.m., I sat in on "Survey Says!", a fun game show themed panel featuring Leila Sales, Kekla Magoon, Eric Luper, and John M. Cusick and moderated by author Jarrett J. Krosoczka. It was Blouses (the ladies) versus Blazers (the guys) as the panelists tried to figure out the top answers supplied by NYC high school students for a variety of questions, such as the scariest book they've ever read or the book they hated most in high school. The Blouses won (as Leila said, she didn't come there to lose!), but the Blazers were good sports, making for a thoroughly entertaining panel.

panelists Meg Cabot, Sharon Draper, Lauren Myracle and moderator Mitali Dave

Then at 3 p.m., I attended "The Secret Lives of Girls," featuring Meg Cabot, Lauren Myracle, and Sharon Draper and moderated by publicist Mitali Dave. I've seen Meg Cabot at a handful of events before, so I knew the event was going to be hilarious—and it was! I had a blast listening to these lovely ladies muse over romance, sexy guys, and what it's like to be a teen girl.

I initially meant to stay for some of the later panels at the Youth Stoop, but as I was unfortunately trying to fight off a cold, I had to admit defeat after getting Meg Cabot's newest book signed for my sister and call it a day.

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

They called it the killing day. Twelve people dead, all in the space of a few hours. Five murderers: neighbors, relatives, friends. All of them so normal. All of them seemingly harmless. All of them now dead by their own hand . . . except one. And that one has no answers to offer the shattered town. She doesn't even know why she killed—or whether she'll do it again.

Something is waking in the sleepy town of Oleander's, Kansas—something dark and hungry that lives in the flat earth and the open sky, in the vengeful hearts of upstanding citizens. As the town begins its descent into blood and madness, five survivors of the killing day are the only ones who can stop Oleander from destroying itself. Jule, the outsider at war with the world; West, the golden boy at war with himself; Daniel, desperate for a different life; Cass, who's not sure she deserves a life at all; and Ellie, who believes in sacrifice, fate, and in evil. Ellie, who always goes too far. They have nothing in common. They have nothing left to lose. And they have no way out. Which means they have no choice but to stand and fight, to face the darkness in their town—and in themselves.

I'm usually not a fan of straight horror, but I was absolutely enthralled with The Waking Dark. Yes, there are quite a few horrific things that happen, but the world of Oleander and its sprawling, varied cast of characters are just so intense and fascinating and disturbing in a mostly good way. This is not an individual story but one of an entire town; there's a lot to keep track of, but it is completely worth it. Overall, this book was a thrill to read and so well done.

Rating: 4.5

Review copy from BEA

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. Part of this was because I'm a little tired of dystopian worlds in general (while the scarcity of clean water as a resource is certainly a valid concern for the future, the scarcity of resources in general is not a new idea at all), but even more than that, I found it difficult to connect with protagonist Lynn's voice. I felt that her character was not quite as developed as it could have been, and unfortunately, as a result, I found it difficult to get into her story. Sure, the story was an entertaining read, but it didn't have nearly as much emotional impact as it could have.

Rating: 3.25

Review copy from Amazon Vine

Long overdue event recaps

I've been to a ton of signings over the last month or so, and it's time I shared some of those pictures with all of you! So here goes...

Way back when on the first Saturday of this month, I headed over to Books of Wonder for a fun event featuring authors Sarah Beth Durst, Kristi Cook, Kit Grindstaff, Phoebe North, Jonathan Maberry, and Nancy Ohlin.

Kristi Cook, Phoebe North, Jonathan Maberry
Sarah Beth Durst, Nancy Ohlin, Kit Grindstaff

The authors all talked briefly about their books before doing a brief Q&A with the audience. I had a lovely time chatting with the wonderful Sarah Beth Durst!

Then, that evening, I went to BookCourt in Brooklyn for the launch of Kass Morgan's debut, The 100.

Kass Morgan

There was a huge turnout, which is always great to see. I really enjoyed getting to hear Kass introduce her book and read a small segment from her novel. I hung around a little while after the main event was over to chat with my former boss from my Scholastic internship.

The following Monday, I went to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square for a really great event with David Levithan, Robin Wasserman, Natalie Standiford, and Kass Morgan.

Natalie Standiford, Robin Wasserman, Kass Morgan, David Levithan

Each author read from his or her new book and chatted a bit amongst themselves before opening the floor to Q&A with the audience. With four particularly awesome authors, the event was quite packed, and I had a lovely time hanging out with bookish friends Renee and Nicole as well as authors Alison Cherry and Courtney Sheinmel.

Then, on that Wednesday, I headed over the the NYPL branch at Jefferson Market for September's Teen Author Reading Night with six wonderful authors (three of which I'd seen a couple of days before at their event at Barnes & Noble).

David Levithan, Natalie Standiford, Arin Greenwood, Melinda Taub, Robin Wasserman, Sarah Polsky

The format for Teen Author Reading Night is almost always the same, and includes a brief introduction to each author, a short reading from his or her new book, some Q&A from the moderator (usually David Levithan), and then Q&A with the audience. I love coming to these events every month because there's always an interesting mix of authors and I always get to chat with some of my favorite bookish people!

The following week, I braved the G train to go to the bookstore WORD in Greenpoint for Leila Sales' launch party for This Song Will Save Your Life.

Leila Sales

Tragically, I had to leave early, so I was only able to stay long enough to hear Leila read from the first chapter of her book. Nonetheless, the short amount of time that I spent at the event was wonderful; I especially loved getting to hang out with my bookish friends Renee, Marisa, and Nicole as well as authors Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michael Northrop.

Then there was the Brooklyn Book Festival, but I'm going to save that for an entire other post!

The last Tuesday of the month, I went back to Books of Wonder for an event I'd been eagerly awaiting for a long, long time: Ally Carter's NYC event! There were other authors there as well, including Amy Christine Parker, Elizabeth Kiem, and Kass Morgan (yep, the same one I'd see two other times this month!), but to be perfectly honest, I was mostly there for Ally.

Ally Carter, Amy Christine Parker, Elizabeth Kiem, Kass Morgan

I was so excited that I dressed up for the event with my friend Renee. We'd like to think that we're Gallagher Girls. We even made pins with the Gallagher Academy crest (and gave one to Ally!). Was it worth it? Absolutely!

Gallagher Girls!

Whew, that was a bit of a marathon! But at least I ended this post on a particularly high note (i.e. my Gallagher Girl dreams coming true!).

Congratulations to...

Tricia C.
who won False Memory & False Sight by Dan Krokos


Andrea Hare
who won Confessions of a Murder Suspect & Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, and other fun prizes

What has The Book Muncher been up to?

You may or may not have noticed that my online presence has been a little sporadic of late, particularly on my poor little blog! I'm still running around, doing all things YA, but sadly I just haven't had the time to write about most of all that yet here.

So what's been going on in my bookish life?

1. Lots and lots of book events. I have quite a few to recap (at least five!) featuring awesome authors like Robin Wasserman, David Levithan, Kass Morgan, Natalie Standiford, Sarah Beth Durst, Leila Sales, and many more. Look out for an upcoming post on those—once I organize myself and my pictures, the recap will be up ASAP!

2. Rereading the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter...again. I don't think it's much of a secret that I am a huge fan of books involving spies and crime (the more twisted and dangerous, the better!), and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series is one of my favorites. I get very emotional reading these books. I will be very emotional once I finally read United We Spy, the sixth and final book in the series, which came out yesterday. My copy hasn't yet arrived in the mail, so I'm using this time to do another speedy reread of the five books that came before.

3. Preparing for more book events. A book fanatic like me is always aware of exciting upcoming events nearby. For me, that means the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday, where I will attend (and hopefully remember to document) four or five different children's book panels, as well as an event at Books of Wonder, one of my favorite bookstores, which features in particular the lovely Ally Carter. If you reference Number 2 on this list, you can see why I am way beyond excited. I even have a costume planned out.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for being patient with me through my spotty attention at The Book Muncher; I hope to get lots more fun posts scheduled soon!