Feature Book of the Week # 9 Rush for Gold by John Feinstein

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feature Book of the Week 
Rush for Gold 
John Feinstein

Bestselling sportswriter and Edgar Award winner John Feinstein is back with another sports mystery featuring Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson—this one set at the summer Olympics in London.  In this book, Susan Carol isn't a reporter—she's an Olympian, competing as a swimmer at her first Olympic games. Stevie is both proud and envious of her athletic prowess. And he's worried by the agents and sponsors and media all wanting to get up close and personal with Susan Carol.  But the more disturbing question becomes—how far might they go to ensure that America's newest Olympic darling wins gold?   

Sports novels abound, but Feinstein's books are all stars. They combine sports action, high-stakes mysteries, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of big-time sporting events.

About the Author

John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing forSports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPR's "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" and a visiting professor of journalism at Duke University.

His first book, A Season on the Brink, is the bestselling sports book of all time. His first book for younger readers, Last Shot, was a bestseller. His current book for younger readers is Vanishing Act.

A conversation with John Feinstein

Q: LAST SHOT and VANISHING ACT feature two budding young journalists. Do you hope to inspire more children to pick up the pen with this novel?

A:I think I'm a little bit like Bobby Kelleher in that I think it is important to steer kids to writing–and journalism–and not TV, which is the easy and popular way to go these days. TV is more glamorous, no doubt, but I know from personal experience that writing–and reporting–is far more fulfilling. I hope this book carries that message in some way...

Q: How old were you when you started writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A:I spent most of my boyhood planning to be either the point guard for the Knicks or play centerfield for the Mets. By the time I went to college–as a swimmer–I knew that wasn't happening. I started working at the Duke student newspaper as a freshman and was pretty much hooked on journalism by the end of my freshman year.

Q: Several real sports journalists play roles in your books. Are any of them aware that they are in your book? And how do they feel about the way you portray them?

A:All the real people in the book are aware of their, "involvement." Most are amused; some are flattered; Tony Kornheiser has promised to sue me...

Q: LAST SHOT features a serious conspiracy. Has anything comparable ever happened in the history of the Final Four?

A:Point shaving scandals have been a problem in college basketball dating to the 1950s, when the sport was wracked by them, notably at City College of New York (which never recovered) and Kentucky. There have been numerous other point shaving scandals since then: Boston College in the early 80s; Tulane in 1985 and a rumor, never proven, that heavily-favored Nevada-Las Vegas dumped its 1991 Final Four game to Duke.

Q: Your first two books were mysteries. Since then you have written all non-fiction. How did it feel to return to the “whodunit” genre?

A:It was fun writing a mystery again; challenging to try to create a believable story in an environment that actually exists. The main difference between this and my other two mysteries is that the protagonists do not use a lot of the words used by the people in my first two mysteries.

Q: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
A:As a kid I read all the "Hardy Boys," books and "Chip Hilton," and "Bronc Burnett," both series about star athletes. I also read all the Signature and Landmark books, which really got me into history. When I got older I was very into historical novels: Johnny Tremainremains an all time favorite (recently read by my son) and, for some reason, I vividly remember reading, Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Feature Book of the Week #8 Underdogs by Mike Lupica

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feature Book of the Week

by Mike Lupica

Will Tyler may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in his hand, life can't touch him--his dad isn't so defeated, his town isn't so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a well-maintained playing field, with every other family moving to find jobs, there just isn't enough money or players for a season. It's up to Will to rally the town and give everyone a reason to believe.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider's knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. 

Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News, which includes his popular "Shooting from the Lip" column, which appears every Sunday. He began his newspaper career covering the New York Knicks for the New York Post at age 23. He became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper with the New York Daily News, which he joined in 1977. For more than 30 years, Lupica has added magazines, novels, sports biographies, other non-fiction books on sports, as well as television to his professional resume. For the past fifteen years, he has been a TV anchor for ESPN's The Sports Reporters. He also hosted his own program, The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN2. 

In 1987, Lupica launched "The Sporting Life" column in Esquire magazine. He has published articles in other magazines, including Sport, World Tennis, Tennis, Golf Digest, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, ESPN: The Magazine, Men's Journal and Parade. He has received numerous honors, including the 2003 Jim Murray Award from the National Football Foundation. 

Mike Lupica co-wrote autobiographies with Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells, collaborated with noted author and screenwriter, William Goldman on Wait Till Next Year, and wrote The Summer of '98, Mad as Hell: How Sports Got Away from the Fans and How We Get It Back and Shooting From the Lip, a collection of columns. In addition, he has written a number of novels, including Dead Air, Extra Credits, Limited Partner, Jump, Full Court Press, Red Zone, Too Far and national bestsellers Wild Pitch and Bump and Run. Dead Air was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Mystery and became a CBS television move, "Money, Power, Murder" to which Lupica contributed the teleplay. 

Over the years he has been a regular on the CBS Morning News, Good Morning America and The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour. On the radio, he has made frequent appearances on Imus in the Morning since the early 1980s. His previous young adult novels, Travel Team, Heat, Miracle on 49th Street, and the summer hit for 2007, Summer Ball, have shot up the New York Times bestseller list. Lupica is also what he describes as a "serial Little League coach," a youth basketball coach, and a soccer coach for his four children, three sons and a daughter. He and his family live in Connecticut( retrieved from Amazon.com).


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


A lost colony is reborn in this heart-pounding fantasy adventure set in the near future. Enter the world of the Elementals, which James Dashner called “completely gripping and full of intrigue, revelation, mystery, and suspense.”

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an element—earth, water, wind, or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the Plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’s world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.


Genre busting!

If you pop into your local indie bookstore (or library), you’ll notice that adult books are usually arranged by genre: thriller, chick lit, humorous, historical, romance, etc. Head over to the YA section, and it’s quite likely that many (if not all) of these separate genres are shelved together. If there’s separation, it’ll most likely be between contemporary YA and fantasy.

This may not seem particularly noteworthy, but as a writer, I’ve got to tell you: it’s incredibly liberating. While an author of books for adults may be pigeonholed as a writer of thrillers, or romances, or horror, YA authors have the opportunity to branch out. I can write contemporary YA (e.g. Five Flavors of Dumb, a 2011 Battle book), fantasy (e.g. Elemental and Firebrand), and thrillers (e.g. the forthcoming Imposter), and be assured that they’ll (generally) be shelved together. Readers who enjoy one book can move easily to another without having to search several different shelves.

Now, I have to say that not every YA author is given the opportunity to write such a variety of books. We need our editors and publishers to release them, after all. Luckily for me, I have an editor, Liz Waniewski, and publisher, Dial, who will follow me into exciting new projects. With every new book I feel like I’m getting to write for the first time. It’s exhilarating and sometimes nerve-wracking, but it’s never, never stale.

Of course, none of this would work if no one read the books. And here’s where things come back to you: the reader. See, the other thing I adore about YA is that teens are generally far more willing than adults to try new genres and new authors. If you’ve read all of the books on the Battle list (and I assume you have), then you’ll have read 20 very different authors, and books representing several different genres. Maybe you loved some and didn’t like others, but you’ll have read more widely than most adults do in years. Trust me when I say that exposing yourself to a variety of styles and genres is a sure-fire way to open your mind.

So here’s a challenge: Even when the Battle is over, try to keep reading new books and new authors. Devour everything you find, and ask yourself not just what you like but also what you don’t, and why. In the meantime, thank you for making it possible for me to wake up every day wondering what I’m going to write next. YA readers are the best, and YA is by far the best genre in all of literature . . . even though it isn’t a genre at all!


Antony John was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.  Find out more about Antony at his website.

Meet Antony John this year at the Book Battle, so  make sure you bring copies of Elemental to  get it signed.

Feature Book of the Week #6 Death Catchers by Jennifer Kogler

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Until the letters of the newspaper article she was reading rearranged themselves into an article foretelling her best friend Jodi's death, Lizzy Mortimer had always thought of Crabapple as a relatively normal coastal town. But the truth is anything but normal-Lizzy is the descendant of Morgan Le Fay, the legendary Lady of the Lake, and is gifted with the ability to see and prevent unjust deaths. Now Lizzy is caught in the middle of centuries-old feud between Morgan le Fay and her sister, Vivienne le Mort, who hopes to accelerate the end of the world by finding and killing King Arthur's last descendant, humanity's destined champion. So when an obituary for Lizzie's secret crush and the likely Arthurian heir, Drake Westfall, appears before her eyes, Lizzy must race to outwit fate and save her friends before mankind is destroyed forever.


Hello there St. Louis!  First off, I’m thrilled The Death Catchers is a part of 2013-14’s Book Battle.  It also makes me wish I’d had a book battle like this one to participate in as a middle schooler.  The only book-related battles I was a part of as a kid was battling myself over which book in my teetering stack of library books to read next and battling my parents to stay up past my bedtime to read.

The Death Catchers is my fourth book.  If you’ve read either The Otherworldlies or The Siren’s Cry, then you already know that I love stories that involve mythology – I grew up reading and rereading all kinds of myths, legends and fables.  Now I write them into my books.  The Death Catchers is my modern take on the King Arthur legend.  The other main feature of the book, the literary elements that begin each chapter, was actually inspired by a school visit I did at Kraemer Middle School in Placentia, California.  A wonderful teacher there, Mr. Twamley, had creative posters of all the literary elements up in his classroom, made by his students.  The project reminded me of my own school project where I had to learn and memorize all the literary elements.  At that moment I realized it would be a great way to structure a book.  I wrote the idea down so I wouldn’t forget it.

I am currently hard at work on a new project, which is always exciting, even though I’ve been doing this for a long time.  In fact, I wrote my first story in second grade about an owl that couldn’t sleep during the day when the other owls slept.  I haven’t stopped writing since.  I am at my happiest when I’ve just written a great sentence and at my most grateful when I find out someone has read one of my books and enjoyed it. 

Happy Book Battling!


Jennifer Anne Kogler lives in California, where she was born and raised.  She graduated with a degree in English literature from Princeton University.   Her first novel, RUBY TUESDAY began as her senior thesis in college.  Her second novel, THE OTHERWORLDLIES, was a 2011 Truman Award Nominee.  Jennie’s last two books came out in 2011:  a sequel to The Otherworldlies, THE SIREN’S CRY (July 2011), and THE DEATH CATCHERS (August 2011).

Jennie has appeared in front of a wide range of audiences.  She delivered a college graduation speech with her twin brother Jeremy (which she assumes provided a convenient bathroom break for the audience before Jerry Seinfeld took the podium), and has spoken at schools across the country, as well as at the Library of Congress.

She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and has worked as an intern for the Late Show with David Letterman, a clumsy waitress, and a legal intern for the U.S. Department of Justice.   Jennie is a longtime fan of the L.A. Dodgers, which as it turns out, was a great thing to be in the 1980s and not so much since then.  She remains hopeful. Check out Jennifer's website for more info.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

BY Kristen Levine

As twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.


Where did you get the idea for The Lions of Little Rock?
My mother grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I started asking her about her childhood, and in our very first conversation about Little Rock, my mother told me about listening to the lions roar at night.  Something about that detail stuck with me.  In addition, I attended very diverse public schools growing up, so the Little Rock Nine and school integration is something I've always been interested in. 

What was the most difficult part of writing Lions?

It took me a long time to really understand the character of Marlee - which wasn't so great, since she was my main character!  Once I did, the story finally started to flow.  I also struggled with trying to figure out how to make my main characters, Marlee and Liz, as active as possible in the plot.  I didn't want them to just observe the historical events going on around them; I wanted them to actively take part in making things change.

Did your process change at all from writing your first book?

Yes!  My first book, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, started as a screenplay.  I did lots of outlining, note cards, and actually had a complete story by the time I sat down to turn in into a novel.  This time, I decided to just "start writing" because I was a writer, right?  I knew how to do this.  Ah, no.  Turns out, I am not a "seat-of-your pants" kind of a writer.  (I totally admire those of you who are!)  I guess it was a good thing to learn about myself, but it was painful to realize I needed to go back and plot things out when I was already 170+ pages into the story. 

What do you do when writer's block hits?

I give myself permission to write something really, really bad.  I have two small children, so I don't have a lot of time to write.  Usually, I force myself to write something, even if it is terrible, and after a while of terrible writing, something okay starts to come out.  But if after an hour nothing good is coming, I'll stop and try again another day.


Kristin Levine, author of The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had and The Lions of Little Rock, received her BA in German from Swarthmore College and an MFA in film from American University.  She spent a year in Vienna, Austria, working as an au pair and has taught screenwriting at American University.  Currently, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her family.  Her third novel, The Paper Cowboy, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in fall 2014.  Visit her at www.kristinlevine.com 
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