C. Lee McKenzie Guest Post

Jan 20, 2011
Today I have C. Lee Mckenzie who is the author of The Princess of Las Pulgas. You can see my review of The Princess of Las Pulgas here. If you haven't heard of her book here is the summary:
From Goodreads.com:
After her father's slow death from cancer, Carlie thought things couldn't get worse. But now, she is forced to confront the fact that her family in dire financial straits. To stay afloat, her mom has had to sell their cherished oceanfront home and move Carlie and her younger brother Keith to the other side of the tracks to dreaded Las Pulgas, or "the fleas" in Spanish.
They must now attend a tough urban high school instead of their former elite school, and on Carlie's first day of school, she runs afoul of edgy K.T., the Latina tattoo girl who's always ready for a fight, even on crutches. Carlie fends off the attention of Latino and African American teen boys, and one, a handsome seventeen-year-old named Juan, nicknames her Princess when he detects her aloof attitude towards her new classmates. What they don't know is that Carlie isn't really aloof; she's just in mourning for her father and almost everything else that mattered to her.
Mr. Smith, the revered English teacher who engages all his students, suggests she'll like her new classmates if she just gives them a chance; he cajoles her into taking over the role of Desdemona in the junior class production of Othello, opposite Juan, after K.T. gets sidelined. Keith, who becomes angrier and more sullen by the day, spray paints insults all over the gym as he acts out his anger over the family's situation and reduced circumstances. Even their cat Quicken goes missing, sending Carlie and Keith on a search into the orchard next to their seedy garden apartment complex. They're met by a cowboy toting a rifle who ejects them at gunpoint from his property.
But when Carlie finds him amiably having coffee with their mom the next day -- when he's returned her cat -- she begins to realize that nothing is what it seems in Las Pulgas...
I am so bad at answering questions about my favorite books. The ones that always come to mind first are Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These were the books that pulled me into reading when I was six, and so they hold a special place in my heart.
Of course, I grew up and there were a lot of other books that captured my imagination--Catcher in the Rye, Rumblefish when I was a teen and in college.
I also read and loved anything Steinbeck wrote. His realism was compelling and I liked his writing style. It had a strength to it that I admired. East of Eden, Tobacco Road, The Pearl, Of Mice and Men--all of these are still in my head and I remember lines like, “And Kino ran for a high place.” Wow! A man who responded like any animal when cornered.  Or, “George gonna come back,” Lennie reassured himself in a frightened voice.” Strange how some lines that were set down decades ago stick in a reader’s head.

I read William Styron with great affection. He’s brilliant and so talented. Sophie’s Choice, of course, is probably the most widely known, but I just reread Lie Down in Darkness and loved it all over again for the way he uses omniscient point of view. That’s a goal of mine--to one day write a story from that point of view and do a Styron-level job of it.
I also can’t get Snow Falling on Cedar by David Guterson out of my head. He moves from present to back story with such grace that I miss the step back in time. That’s writing.

Frank Norris. Jane Austen when I’m in the mood for romance and period. My favorite essayist is E.B. White. He always sets the world into it’s proper perspective for me. When I read his essays I’m reminded that he had a very zen way of thinking about life.
I can go on and on here, but maybe this will be enough to show you what I like to read and a bit about why.  


  1. She is much more well read than I am. I have a hard time getting through those classic books. I admire those that actually get something out of them.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. I absolutely love reading classics. It really lets you see the differences in culture and time. Love it.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  3. Please enter me in contest. I would like to read this book. It sounds very good. Tore923@aol.com

  4. This sounds like a book that should be in every high school (and middle school) library. Several cliches come to mind when I read the synopsis but the primary theme is that no matter how bad things are they could always be worse! I think quite the positive message comes from this book!

  5. Im reading John Steinbeck in school right now! Of Mice and Men is really good so far. Im really looking forward to reading The Princess of Las Pulgas, it seems really interesting.

    jessica b

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