Thursday, December 15, 2011

#BIR2011: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

I admit it. More often than not, description in books can make me crazy. It's really easy to go too far, at least for me... too easy for me to skip a paragraph that is purely description. The real trick is writing it in a way that I don't notice, in any one moment, that it's there. Definitely something that is hard to do. But when it's done right, it blows me away, every time.

And one of the single best people who can do this, who has such amazing talent as a writer on top of her ability for this, is Kirsten Hubbard.

I read Like Mandarin last November. It was one of those books I could not wait to get my hands on, that I was a bit shameless in trying to get. That I read basically straight through the day I got it, and then sent Kirsten this huge gushing email because I adored the book that much. The characters were so fabulously well done, absolutely multifaceted and complex, yet endearing, relatable, and fun. I loved the story, the development of it... and honestly? Despite my very well known love of all things hot boys, there is no romance in this one. And I did not notice it. At least, not until a few days later when this book was still in my head.

Everything about Like Mandarin is done so stunningly, and it's the perfect example of why I find contemporary YA so amazing. And while my gushing over this book has never stopped, and my gushing of Kirsten's talent has progressed into 2012 with Wanderlust (which is also amazing, might I add), I'm going to reign myself in here to let you guys get to know Kirsten a little better with this interview!

You write in a way that brings your setting to life, as vivid as the characters. What's the hardest part about this for you?

I have so much fun writing setting -- the balance of evocative details, including just the right amount so it doesn't bore my readers. I think the hardest part, especially when I'm writing about places like the Guatemalan rainforest, is NOT being there. In more ways than one. First, because the travel bug fills me with longing. Second, because the very best details from my settings are jotted down during my travels. There's this scene in Wanderlove where Bria stands outside in the rainforest and describes every sound she hears. I actually did that -- they're the exact sounds I heard. I was in the forests of Pico Bonito, Honduras.

Without spoilers, which scene in Like Mandarin is your favorite?

I love the sweeping, epic scenes like the trophy liberation and the cottonwood dance, but there's this tiny scene between Grace and Taffeta I think I love the most, when Taffeta (Grace's little sister, who rocks the pageant world by singing in Italian) brings Grace an old tape deck to listen to. Somebody quoted it on Goodreads, if you'd like to take a look.

Did you have someone as a teenager who was your equivalent of Mandarin, or someone who was your Grace?

There were a few girls I looked up to throughout high school, though I didn't have one specific Mandarin. As for Grace, I might have -- I wouldn't necessarily know. Though there was one girl, a seventh grader when I was an eighth grader, who looked up to me quite a bit. She emulated how I dressed and the music I liked (Smashing Pumpkins ftw) and I took her in. We didn't speak the year I left for high school; when she started high school a year later, we'd totally grown apart. No real reason, though I know now I should have reached out. Not long after that, she passed away very suddenly from a brain tumor. It shocked the school. I almost felt like I couldn't grieve, like it wasn't allowed for me, since I hadn't been the best friend.

If you could pair Grace and Mandarin with any character from any book, who would you pick for each?

You know, that's a very good question, and not one I think I can answer. This post might explain my reasons:
But I would love to know what YOU think.

If you were a demigod, what god/goddess would be your nemesis?

I'd probably take on Zeus, that arrogant misogynistic swanrapist son of a rhea.

So there you guys have it! A little glimpse at Kirsten, the setting, and the characters (I love her characters!).

And because I think this cover is awesome, I have signed Like Mandarin bookmarks for two lucky winners!

To enter, just leave a comment and a way to contact you. This contest is US only, and ends December 22.

And now head over to the BIR2011 Blog, where another one of my absolutely favorites of the year is being feature, this one with two very, very  hot boys: Vanish by Sophie Jordan!


  1. great contest and I remember you loving this book

    aprilmom00 at gmail dot com

  2. Thanks for the giveaway and info on so many great books!

    sonyacullen at

  3. Love this book!! Can't wait for more for Kirsten :)

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  4. This book sounds good. Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. I love the sound of this book! Thank you for the giveaway. :)


  6. Thanks so Much!! Love the swag!!

    gfc Michele Luker

    jmluker at winco dot net

  7. I've added this book to my TBR list, it sounds SO good! Excited to have a chance to win a signed bookmark, woo hoo!
    Thank you so much for sharing yet another awesome read!

    Gena Robertson

  8. Hi! fron infinite crissis!
    wonderful blog! very good!... :)

    get in the guns!!!

  9. felmarrah(at)yahoo(dot)com

    Sounds like an awesome book!!

  10. Oh my god! I love her answer to the gods/goddesses question! Swanrapist indeed!

    Thanks for the signed swag; I loved Like Mandarin as well!

    eliweibley AT gmail DOT com

  11. - Not entering the giveaway, just commenting since I love Kirsten Hubbard and her books -

    I absolutely LOVED those scenes ~ the liberation of the animal-head trophies and the cottonwood dancing were just so inspired. They were genius, and I was really swept away by it. I almost forgot that little scene, but when she mentioned it I instantly remembered.

    Interesting, I didn't know that Kirsten had a "Grace", kind of, when she was younger. It's kind of ambiguous ~ the inbetweens and what-ifs. I can see how, maybe even subconsciously, Kirsten's past experience has translated to the writing of the ending of LIKE MANDARIN.

    And Wanderlove! That's one of the many reasons I loved that book--Kirsten was actually there, and her descriptions of everything are just so authentic and real.

  12. I really need to read this book. I'll probably get around to Wanderlove first, though. In fact it's looking at me. "Read me, read me," it says.

    Thanks for the chance to win!


    Gabrielle Carolina

    BellaCarolina (at)

  13. Thanks for the post and giveaway!

  14. Sounds like a fabulous read. Thanks for the giveaway.

  15. Oh! I don't know how this book fell off my radar, but it did :( Thank you for bringing it back to my attention and for the chance to win a copy!


  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I would LOVE to win. I've heard a lot of wonderful things about this book!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

  18. I hadn't heard of this book before today.

    ke7yca at gmail dot com

  19. Thank you so much for this great giveaway! This book looks wonderful!
    Happy Holidays!


  20. This book sounds so good! Thanks!

    Meg S
    mysecretagentloverman at gmail dot com

  21. Interesting interview - thanks!
    tressa dot sherman at hotmail dot com

  22. Sounds great. Count me in, please.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  23. I hate to admit this but I had not heard of this book until now. Thank you for the chance to win it.


  24. I've heard nothing but good things about this book!

    twilightforever.edward at gmail dot com

  25. It's my first time hearing about this book and I'm adding it to my wishlist. It sounds really good.

    wingedpersephone at gmail dot com

  26. I loved this book so much! Thanks for the contest!

  27. I've heard lots of awesome things about this book! Thanks for the giveaway!

    booksoverboys at hotmail dot com

  28. thank you for the giveaway. i've heard great things about this book. happy holidays!

    twee66 at gmail dot com

  29. i'm excited about this giveaway! thanks for the chance to win..

    catherine0807 at hotmail dot com

  30. I've heard a lot of great things about this book!

  31. This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance!

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  32. I've heard so many great things about this book! Awesome giveaway!

    rachaelstewartallen (at) gmail (dot) com

  33. Would love to win! Thanks for the giveaway & happy holidays :D

    Kara DiDomizio

  34. thanks so much for featuring LIKE MANDARIN, Kari! :)
    (and thanks everyone else for your wonderful comments!)