Posts tagged Little Brown
Winter White Guest Post

Hey y'all!

Today I have a great treat for y'all. Jen Calonita, author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Belles series, as well as one of my favorite books, Sleepaway Girlsis here to talk about her dance experience. In Winter White, the sequel to Belles, the girls take on cotillion. Winter White is in stores now!

It's no secret how Jen Calonita knows the inside scoop on young Hollywood. A former Senior Entertainment Editor at Teen People, Jen has interviewed everyone from Reese Witherspoon to Zac Efron. An entertainment journalist for the past ten years, Jen has written for TV Guide, Glamour and Marie Claire.When the self-professed entertainment junkie is not working, she can be found doing one of three things: scrapbooking, watching Glee, or going to the movies. Jen resides in Merrick, New York with her husband Mike, sons Tyler and Dylan, and their Chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow.Check out Jen's video interviews at the website for her publisher, Hachette Book Group: LB Teens. She talks about growing up and being a writer as well as Secrets of My Hollywood Life: Family Affairs.Still have questions? Check out her FAQ!

Winter White (Belles, #2)

Why I Wish I Had Gone to Cotillion

By Jen Calonita

In “Winter White,” my latest BELLES novel, Mira and Izzie take different approaches to dealing with cotillion, a Southern tradition that usually involves a formal ball where women are presented to society. Mira’s been planning her debut since she could practically walk while Izzie is dragged into the experience kicking and screaming.

I know many parts of the country have cotillions, but growing up on Long Island, we didn’t have anything like this tradition. The closest I ever came to wearing white before my wedding was when I needed to don the color for my communion dress (which I loved picking out, by the way). Etiquette lessons, dance classes with boys, making my debut—that sort of stuff was foreign territory to me. But the more I researched cotillion for “Winter White,” the more envious I got of girls who got to participate in this coming-of-age party.

Now I know there will be a portion of you who are reading this and saying: “Jen, I did cotillion and I hated it!” and to you, I apologize. I can’t help myself. I’m fascinated by cotillion and here’s why:

I wonder if I had had cotillion training if I would have had the confidence to find a date to my school dances rather than wait for someone to ask me (which never happened). All those dance classes girls in cotillion take. The etiquette lessons, knowing the proper way to conduct an interview, how to make eye contact—I would have killed for this type of girl power training! Instead, I approached every school dance with dread. I blame this fear all on the well intentions of my best friend in seventh grade. Back then dances were a non-date affair. You showed up and hovered near one wall while the guys stuck like glue to the other. The boy I had crushed on since the sixth grade was there and I would have given anything for him to even just say hello to me. Instead, I wasn’t sure if he even knew I was alive. Getting him to ask me to dance was a pipe dream. Or so I thought. My best friend thought she was doing me a favor by asking him to dance with me. But when he turned her down flat, and she told me what happened, I was crushed.

By the time I got to ninth grade and people started bringing dates to dances, I was petrified of facing that kind of rejection again. The first year we all went to a dance, I somehow convinced most of my friends to attend solo, so I got off kind of easy. But by sophomore year, people were pairing off. My solution? Go with a guy friend, and that worked for the most part. Of course it took a little negotiation—more like a peace treaty—my friends put out feelers to see if he would go with me as friends, then he wanted to make sure I knew we really were just friends, then his friend wanted a date too—by the end I was so exhausted I wondered if it was even worth going at all.The fun wasn’t having a date. At least not for me. Those painful slow songs were just reminders that the guy I was with was just not that into me in that way. The fun, it turned out, was just being with my friends, getting dressed up in some amazingly awkward dress (why did I always pick pink or teal?), and knowing I was part of a group. In the end, I wish I had realized I didn’t need a guy on my arm to survive a school dance. All I really needed was to learn all the things that cotillion training teaches a girl (well, in my opinion, at least)—how to be comfortable in my own skin. It took me a little while, but by college, I finally got there. When the first freshman formal came up, I didn’t even bother looking for a date. I got the cutest dress I could find (I graduated to wearing navy) and danced the night away on my own with my single friends around me. And you know what? It was probably the most fun at a dance I ever had.Thanks so much, Jen! I hope y'all enjoyed and keep an eye out for my review of Winter White on the blog this week!Grace

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Release Date:  July 17, 2012

Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers

Format: ARC

Source: BookExpo America (Publisher)

The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1)

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairytales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

This book is one that I can see myself rereading over and over again. I can see it becoming a favorite of mine. It was really well-written and thoughtful, humorous and delightful. It reminded me of Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst. Anybody willing to take a chance on this may find themselves pleasantly surprised. I know that I did, even though I had pretty high expectations for this book.There were definitely some cheesy moments, but that was part of its charm. It was predictable (especially with its format, which was like a list of tasks and items that the Baileys had to accomplish before going home) but I don't think it would be a problem to its intended audience. I feel like people are judging it a lot more harshly because it's written by a star as opposed to a normal person.It was sweet and thoughtful. Chris poured a lot into it and although some parts felt dragged out some or too confectionery as opposed to realistic, it sounds perfect for some of the kids that I know. I am a huge fairy tale fan so I really loved this retelling that took me back to another time and completely had me absorbed into the book.I watched Chris Colfer deliver his speech at the Children's Book and Author Breakfast and loved his personality. He was a gentleman, thoughtful, and clearly wasn't like other celebrities who may just write a book for publicity. He truly cared about it and it was a dream of his. His speech was hilarious, he was polite, and came off really well. Before BEA, I had just heard of his book but wasn't sure if I would end up picking it up. But his speech changed my mind and we ended up getting copies with the breakfast.The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell is the story of two twins - Connor and Alex - who lost their father the year before. While their family struggles to make ends meet, Alex and Connor are dreading their birthday which will surely just be them alone at home doing homework. When their grandma comes to visit and brings a book of stories that their dad used to read to them. When the twins discover that the book is magical (and accidentally fall through it!), they find themselves in another land.It's a land where Cinderella is pregnant, and every fairytale they've ever read is different! Alex wants to see everything before they go home, but how will they even get home? The twins hear about something called The Wishing Spell, involving obscure ingredients and travels around the kingdoms using only the help of a worn journal. When it turns out that the Evil Queen is after the same spell, it becomes more than a hunt for the ingredients - it becomes a race.Anyways, the cute fantasy feel of it was completely indulgent. It was also much more intricate than I was expecting. Perhaps it's from Chris's work on the show, but he had a really good feel with twisting relationships and revealing shocking twists with ease. I couldn't put it down; I read it completely in one sitting and found myself loving it.This is a book that I will definitely be recommending to my school's library and to some of the younger kids who ask me for book recommendations. It's one of those books that I can see myself enjoying even when I'm older. It seems very much like a fairy tale - a bit classic in a way.Read my extended review...Extended Review:Alex and Connor have such a great relationship. They have their ups and downs but they're really there for each other no matter what. They remind me of my sister Hannah and I when we were younger. They're best friends no matter what. Hannah and I's relationship has changed a little bit, but it still contains that carefree essence that comes across with Alex and Connor.Alex is a braniac. She's the girl that always raises her hand in class and deals with her classmates' stares and whispers on a daily basis. Unlike her brother Connor, she doesn't have a ton of friends and she isn't funny. She just has her brain and uses her smarts a bit like a shield. She hides from the world and constantly spouts facts or has her nose buried in a book. She's envious of Connor, who it all comes so easily to.Connor has a huge group of friends and is one of the funniest guys in class. Unfortunately, he gets easily bored, often falling asleep, and finds himself struggling with his grades. He wishes that he was as smart as Alex and wishes that it came more easily to him.Each twin wanted what the other had, but at the end of the day, they were there for each other and it was really heartwarming. Their mother worked double shifts on a daily basis and was never there however much she wanted to be. They had to sell their house after their dad died a few days before their birthday the year before, and have been struggling to get by ever since.I loved how the fairy tale characters weren't just plopped onto the page. There are some fairytale retellings that use the characters exactly how you've always seen them. Chris Colfer makes you re-examine your thoughts about classic characters. He puts them into settings that you've never seen before and really gives them personalities.Alex's reaction when she fell through the book was really priceless. I really do think that if I were stuck in a fairytale world, I'd want to go sightseeing too! She was actually excited when she found out where she was and I would be too. The excitement and energy of the twins was just contagious when they first found out that they were in a book!Chris Colfer has some things to learn with his writing because sometimes he would tell instead of show, etc,. but it was really enjoyable. Chris doesn't really give a lot of credit to the reader by explaining everything but I would definitely be satisfied if I were in the MG age group. He also had a habit of introducing other scenes with "..." after the previous scene which took me out of the story but it was okay. The writing could get better and I believe that I will read another book if Chris Colfer writes one. The picky book-reviewer side of me wanted to say that, but the normal part of me just really enjoyed the book.I was really surprised by the character development and strength of relationships that really came through at the end of the book. Connor and Alex really had a tough year with their dad and they had some differences that were slowly resolved throughout the story. There was one really emotional scene towards the end of the book that just made me want to hug the twins. The loss of their father was a huge part throughout the book but it was handled really well.I am a really huge fan of fractured fairytales and Chris Colfer does an excellent job dragging out some more obscure ones. There were some that I hadn't thought about in a while like Jack and the Beanstalk and he managed to tangle them together with ones that are used a lot to create new ones. Red Riding Hood was spoiled and Goldilocks was a fugitive.Another thing that I really enjoyed about the book was that there were some really good quotes in there. They were upfront and sweet. I may write a few on my walls. There were a lot of thoughtful passages that spelled things out a little too obviously for my taste but were great messages. It also didn't feel like lectures as opposed to messages. I really enjoyed it.Alex and Connor were really relatable in different ways. Alex was the smart one and Connor was the social and funny one. Alex wasn't as relatable to other people and that's something that I identified with. Connor was convinced he was dumb, especially compared to Alex. I also always love reading about twin relationships (although it is really hard to pull off well, Chris Colfer did a really great job!). This book made me feel younger again and more innocent than I am now. It was cutesy and cheesy in some moments but a bit profound in others.I'd say that this was meant for younger readers (towards the younger end of the MG scale) but that's not to say that you won't enjoy it if you're a teen or adult or even older middle-grade reader. You just might notice a few more flaws more prominently. It's enjoyable and has potential in the series. It's almost like Narnia crossed with Into the Wild crossed with Shrek. It was pretty funny at times. There were some references and jokes that some younger readers might not get but had me cracking up. It wasn't uproarious but it was humorous even in the worst situations, which I really enjoyed. Chris Colfer has this way of putting a spin on even the most insignificant details in the story and having it all come around in the end to make sense. The ending felt a little weak to me but I really enjoyed it and I loved learning about some of the villains!Overall, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell was a delightful and imaginative take on the fairytales that I know and love (and several that I had forgotten about until reading this!). It's definitely a feel-good book and I was surprised by the amount of backstory and intricacy that popped up. The writing was pretty good but I would definitely recommend it mostly for the younger set. It was a bit flawed but it was enjoyable enough for me to read in one setting and love it.Recommended for anybody who loves: Shrek; Into the Wild; The Chronicles of Narnia; retellings; feel-good stories; etc,.No book club questions for today!