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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review and Interview: Blue Moon (Dead City #2) by James Ponti


Today I'm reviewing the second book in one of my most favorite middle-grade series AND the author is stopping by for a fun interview...



Blue Moon
(Dead City #2)
Author: James Ponti
Pub Date: 10/1/13
Pub: Simon & Schuster
Format: finished copy
Source: from pub for review
Molly is ready for more nonstop, undead action in this follow-up to Dead City, which Kirkus Reviews described as “a fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright.”When Molly Bigelow discovered that zombies shared New York with humans, she didn’t think life could get more shocking. Then she learned that her mother was once one of the greatest zombie killers ever—and she discovered that her dead mother is not technically dead at all (although she isn’t alive, either).Molly’s efforts to keep these secrets and to help her Omega team track down the identity of the original thirteen zombies will take her from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Her loyalties to friends and family will be put to the test. And her life will be changed in ways she never could have imagined.
Last year, James Ponti blew me away with his middle-grade zombie adventure Dead City, which was one of my absolute favorite books of 2012…well, Ponti has returned to his zombie filled world with the explosive and exciting sequel Blue Moon, which has already found a place on my fave books of this year so far list. In Dead City, young, snarky Molly Bigelow discovered that her dead mother was once part of an elite team of zombie killers, called Omega, who hunted down the dangerous and deadly zombies that roam on and below the streets of NYC. Molly joined her own Omega team and together they fought zombies, infiltrated zombie parties below NYC, and faced the mayor of Dead City. In Blue Moon, Molly and her Omega team must prove their worth and do so by tracking down the thirteen original zombies who are planning something big and deadly for New Years Eve. Molly must also wrestle with knowing the truth that her dead mother is actually quite undead.

I LOVE James Ponti's storytelling in the Dead City series! Ponti’s writing has that magical spark that sets spectacular books apart from great books, and he has the rare talent of being able to capture that pitch-perfect middle-grade voice. In Blue Moon the thrills are big, the chills are addicting, the mystery is exciting, and the humor is sharp. Like Dead City, Blue Moon is the perfect, entertaining mix of action, whimsically macabre elements, and character driven story. The world of zombies, Omegas, and intrigue in Blue Moon is so fresh and fun. Ponti continues to develop this complexly layered and smart world in this sequel in ways that continue to surprise and enthrall. I love how Ponti isn’t afraid to explore all things geeky, gory, and ghastly, and does so in such devilishly delightful and cleverly charming ways that younger readers will just get.

One of the things I loved most about book one, were the characters, and in Blue Moon these fantastic, witty, endearing, relatable characters continue to amaze and amuse me. Ponti’s characters are realistically and well-developed with a great deal of depth, intelligence, humor, and heart. Molly’s Omega teammates, Natalie, Alex, and Grayson are all fab, but I still love Molly the most. Wry, snarky, observant, brave, compassionate Molly. This awesome girl kicks serious butt and makes me laugh out loud. And Ponti offers readers equally captivating and fascinating undead villains.

Wonderfully fast-paced, the story in Blue Moon takes readers on a breathless ride from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to the morgue to secret underground lairs to the tippy top of iconic NYC buildings to an unforgettable New Years Eve celebration. The mystery of the 13 original zombies is full of twists and OMG moments that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and the tips of their toes. And Ponti delivers another gasp-worthy ending that has me SO excited for book three!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: As far as sequels go, Blue Moon rocks! All the fun, excitement, mystery, and fresh zombie elements of book one are seamlessly carried over in book two and explored and developed in even newer and more awesome ways. I adore James Ponti’s writing, I adore this book, and I super adore this series and I can’t recommend it enough, especially for middle-grade readers…and especially right now, so close to Halloween.

MY RATING

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purchase: amazon / b&n / indiebound
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Q1. What three words best describe Blue Moon?
Oh My God!

Q2. Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this series a try?
I was an extremely reluctant reader well into my twenties and I had zero interest in zombies until I wound up writing a book series about them, so this is a readership I know well. My pitch to them is:
The greatest pleasures in life are unexpected and it will only take you five pages to know if this might be one.

Q3. Grab a copy of Blue Moon and answer the following:
Favorite chapter?
I think my favorite is Chapter 2 – The Big Bang. It’s the first chapter told from Milton Blackwell’s point of view and the first sign the reader gets that this book is going to be a bit different from the first. I’ve been dying to go back to 1896 and tell the story of the explosion that started it all ever since I was halfway through the first book. So this one was extremely fun to write.

Favorite page?
If you asked me 10 different times, I’d probably give you 10 different answers depending on my mood. This time I’ll say it’s page 101, which is the opening of Chapter 9. (Surprising when you consider that as the first page of a chapter it only has about 40% as much writing as the normal pages.) It’s when Molly says that despite being sisters, she and Beth have nothing in common. I really like writing about the family and the dynamic that exists between Molly, Beth and their father. I also like how the chapter turned out and think this page gives it a good kickstart.

Favorite line on your favorite page?
“I love my sister Beth. I really do. My problem is that I just can’t stand her.”
(I think it sums up many sibling relationships.) 

Q4. I still absolutely love the very awesome Molly Bigelow…can you tell us a little bit about how she’s grown and changed since book one?
I feel kind of guilty for putting Molly through so much in Book 1. She had tremendous highs like making real friends for the first time and deep lows when other people had to face the consequences of her mistakes. She also began to discover that she has a destiny that’s maybe greater than the one she imagined.
With all that in mind, I think that Molly is a little tired and wary as we start Blue Moon. But she can’t afford the luxury of being overwhelmed. There’s too much as stake. That means she has to work together with other people more than her instincts dictate. She also has learned that her actions have consequences and that she has to think through the ripple effect of her decisions. She’s definitely more mature, but she still has a long way to go.

Q5. Channeling that very awesome Molly Bigelow, answer the following This or That’s: 
Party or Library
Considering that it seems like every time I crash a party it turns into a life or death situation, I think I’ll go library, although I’m not sure if I’d pick New York Public or MIST School?

Kill ‘em with kindness or Distract ‘em with humor
The problem with being the youngest and the smallest is that when everyone else is doing important things you’re usually tasked with the role of stalling or distracting. Besides, I’m not too good at hiding how I feel about people so the kill ‘em with kindness bit usually falls short. 

Kick butt first or Ask questions first
The Omegas are spread across the Kick Butt-Ask Questions spectrum. Grayson is at the question extreme, while Alex is totally kick first. I think that Natalie is closer to Alex while I’m over by Grayson. But in truth I’ve been moving more and more the other way.

Print Books or Ebooks
Give me print any day. After all, the best codes we’ve discovered as Omegas have been hidden in the margins or the texts of other materials. I need a book that I can hold and study. I’ve even been known to chop a guy’s hand off to get one. 

Text or Call
Totally text. First of all, I’m still not the best when it comes to social situations and texting gives me a chance to read, edit, double check and obsess over every word before I press send. Also, when your friends are often in life or death situations where they’re hiding out in cramped spaces trying not to be discovered, it’s a little rude to expect them to answer the phone and talk. Level 3’s are dumb, but they’re not that dumb.

Q6. The NYC setting is such an integral part of the story and is almost like another character, and in Blue Moon your characters visit several iconic NYC buildings, landmarks, and events…why did you choose NYC has your setting? What’s your favorite New York place or event in Blue Moon? Are there any NYC places/events/things that you wanted to include in books one and two but couldn’t? 
New York is essential to the story. I needed a setting with strict geographic boundaries that also had countless different cultures, environments and unique locations above and below ground. I also needed one where a girl who doesn’t yet drive can still get around with ease. But most importantly, I wanted a setting so rich in tangible history that it balances out the tremendous leap of faith I’m asking from readers, which is to accept the existence of the undead.
Virtually all of the places in Blue Moon are real and described with as little creative license as possible. For example, the mysterious floor and elevator at the Flatiron Building, the even more mysterious room and secret track at Grand Central and the trap door in floor of the subway station that leads to an abandoned ghost station are all genuine. The Nazis really did expend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to use the room at Grand Central to cripple American rail travel during the war.  Just like the elevator to the top of the George Washington Bridge is as I described it. (I know because I got to ride it once when I was working for the History Channel.) 
As to the future, there are many landmarks I’m looking forward to using. But, I’m holding off on my favorite until the time is right. I absolutely love the Chrysler Building. I think it’s amazing and I was thrilled when illustrator Nigel Quarless put it in a prominent place on the cover of Book 1. I think there’s a fair chance that when this series wraps up, the Chrysler building will play a prominent role in the finale.

Q7. In Blue Moon, Molly and her friends discover that some surprising people are undead…what famous dead person would you love to see pop up in Dead City and maybe even become its mayor?
Okay, so here’s the deal. I don’t want to give anything away, but there already is someone famous who’s undead and has been in the books. We just don’t know that person’s original identity. Well, I know it, but nobody else does. Not even my editor. I have a very specific visual in my head of this person playing a prominent role in the finale and I haven’t told anyone because I don’t want them to try to talk me out of it. At this point it seems like it comes from out of the blue. But if I do what I want to do correctly, it will seem like the only way it could be. 

Q8. Using the characters in Blue Moon, fill in the blanks:
-The character most likely to run for President and win is ___
Natalie. You’ve seen what she does to Level 2s and 3s. Imagine how she’d deal with Congress. 

-The character most likely to end up on an episode of Cops is ___.
Liberty. But it will be a totally bogus bust. That’s just the kind of luck he has.

-The character most likely to start a food fight is ___
Dad. (I think you may have just given me an idea for an upcoming chapter.)

-The character you’d love to be BFF’s with is ___
Alex understands the dynamics of what it means to truly be a friend better than anyone else in the story. That’s what I was trying to get across when he makes the rock band analogy for the group.

-The character with the best lines is ___
Hopefully it’s Molly. She’s the one telling the story and in my mind her voice is the single most important element. 

-The character who is most like you is ___
Grayson when I was growing up and Dad at the age I am now.

Q9. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by the Omegas (past and present), what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it? 
First of all, it would only be sold in the Alpha Bakery, which played a prominent role in Book 1. Due to the Omegas’ undercover nature, I think the cupcake would have to look very different than it tastes. So perhaps it has the appearance of a plain yellow cupcake with a surprising chocolate pudding inside.
It would be called the Muy Agemo Cupcake, which sounds like it has some sort of Latin flavor to it but is really Omega Yum spelled backwards. (You know how much those Omegas love their word games)

BONUS
I thought I’d give you the inside scoop on some of the name origins in the Dead City universe.

Molly Bigelow
I picked Molly’s name just based on the sound of it but film director Kathryn Bigelow inspired her last name. She’s really smart and talented and she makes great action movies. I thought she was a perfect role model for Molly. I also liked the contradictions of “big” and “low” being in Molly’s name because at different times she is each. 

Alex and Grayson
Alex and Grayson were named after my two sons and Blue Moon is dedicated to them.

Marek Blackwell
In the middle of writing Dead City I was on a business trip to Washington and I visited an old college friend and her family. I really hit it off with her husband whose name is Marek. In the middle of telling them the story, I said, “Your name sounds like an evil zombie. Can I use it?” He was thrilled and I think he dressed up like a zombie last Halloween as a result. 

Rosemary Collins
My agent is Rosemary Stimola and a dear friend of both of ours is Suzanne Collins. In fact, Suzanne was the one who encouraged me to write a book and Rosemary is the one who helped make it a reality. Since Molly wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the two of them, I thought it best to name her mother Rosemary Collins. 

Thanks SO MUCH, James, for stopping by! I love the bonus info about your characters' names. Readers- you MUST read this series!!!




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