Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How I Decided To Read *Bad Apple* by Laura Ruby

On monday I received a beautiful new copy of Bad Apple by Laura Ruby. I was showing it to my co-worker Erica and here was our conversation:

Me: Yeah, so I got this book today which looks great. I don't know what it's about at all.

Erica: *picks it up* A student having an affair with her teacher.

Me: ...oh...COOL!

Erica: *quizzical look*

Not that the TOPIC is cool in real life, it's just a good premise. It reminds me a little of Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. So I'm pumped to read it. And just look at the cover; green apples all around and then there's this brownish-red apple in the middle. Actually, now taking the time to have a boo at the jacket blurb, there are rumors that the main girl and her art teacher are having an affair. It seems maybe there's something more going on.

E. Lockhart and Libba Bray say some really nice things about this book on the back cover. And I love E. and Libba. I'm totally intrigued.

Interview with *Hush Hush* Author Becca Fitzpatrick!

Today I am so excited to post an interview with Becca Fitzpatrick! Especially this particular interview as I admit to asking some pretty personal questions about Patch, the sexy leading man in Hush Hush; thank you, Becca, for your patience and for a very fun interview!

Hush Hush is available October 13th.


Hush Hush is your first book. It must be SO exciting, this whole journey towards publication. This is a huge question to answer, but what does it all feel like? What’s been the most exciting thing for you? How does it feel to have fans?

Oh man, it's incredibly exciting! It's also very nervewracking! It's terrifying to think people will be reading a piece of my soul. In some ways I wish I'd been a little more cautious about what I wrote, but that's just self-doubt whispering in my ear, and I probably need to get over it and just concentrate on enjoying the feeling of having my story in print. Which is a huge accomplishment!
The most exciting thing, hands down, was the book deal. My dream was coming true! It's hard to top that feeling. As for fans, all I can say is getting emails from people who've read and love the book is the best feeling in the world.

Patch is a great character. He’s sexy and mysterious and a bit dangerous. Where did he come from? And most importantly, do you have a crush on him as most of your readers will?

Patch is based loosely on someone I knew a long time ago. At one point in my life, this person meant a lot to me. I'd like to think I've moved on, but since in a roundabout way, I'm still writing about him, that's probably not the case. Do I have a crush on Patch? Laughing. Let's just say I don't want to go down that road again...

How did you develop the fallen angel world within Hush Hush? What inspired this theme? Was there research involved?

Truth be told, I didn't set out to write about fallen angels. I knew I wanted Patch to be the ultimate bad boy...but with a twist. He hadn't always been bad. In fact, at one point, he'd been really good, and something had caused this big change. While pondering what had caused Patch's fall from grace, the metaphor of “falling” that I was carrying around in my head became something quite literal – a fallen angel. Since I already knew Patch was going to be the ultimate bad boy, this revelation seemed perfect – after all, fallen angels are the original bad boys.
Once I knew Patch was going to be a fallen angel, I relied on Judeo-Christian mythology as my foundation, adding a few twists to make it unique to my story.

When Hush Hush is printed it will have a completely different ending than the advanced reader’s edition released earlier this year. How and why did this huge change come about? What can the readers of the galley edition of Hush Hush expect?

Laughing, I'm not sure it's a huge change – it's actually only the final page that's been modified. I'm very happy with the new ending, and I think it leads into the sequel well. I originally wrote the book as a stand alone, so during the editing process, I had to make a few changes that would allow for a sequel. I think the new ending really accomplishes that. Hopefully those who've read the ARC ending will agree!

Do you love being a YA author? This question is totally leading. J Was Hush Hush always intended as a YA book? What do you like about writing for teens? How have the responses been, so far, to Hush Hush?

Hush, Hush was absolutely meant for teens! I started reading YA over six years ago, and I still remember the day I read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson and knew this was the genre I wanted to write. So many of my own memories have ties to my teen years, and in some ways, I feel like it's an unresolved time period in my life. I suppose that's one of the biggest reasons why I write about teen relationships.

As far as the response, well, it's been unbelievable. I never could have guessed so many readers would enjoy the story and fall in love with the characters...especially Patch ;)

You are at work on a sequel to Hush Hush called Crescendo. Will there be a third book to this series? Did you know that you’d like to write Hush Hush as a series, or was it a publisher’s idea?

I signed a two-book deal with my publisher, so I don't know about a third book. Maybe, if I'm very lucky! As I mentioned above, I wrote Hush, Hush to be stand alone, but during the aquisitions process, my publisher asked for two books. They felt the story wasn't over, and needed more. As you can imagine, I was more than happy to help them out!
I can say that having already read the galley edition of Hush Hush, my first response to the ending re-write was "NOOOOO!". But I have since read the published copy of the book and I LOVE the way it ends! Anyone who's read a galley copy should take a peek and see how it's been changed. It kind of comes full circle in a satisfying way. And the book's cover is gorgeous. The dust jacket is thick, matte paper and the feathers near the top are red-tinged.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Double Book Giveaway *Gone* and *Wake* !!!

Win a copy of *Gone* by Lisa McMann, the third book in the Wake series! I'm also throwing in a hardcover copy of *Wake*!

Wake is about seventeen-year-old Janie and her ability to enter the dreams of people around her. She's been sucked in so many times, has seen so many secrets that she's a little numb and resentful. And she can't tell anyone about how different she is. Then one night she's pulled into a horrible nightmare and becomes more than just a watcher, she has to do something.

Gone is published in February 2010, but you can win a copy now! Simply leave your name and your e-mail address in the comments and consider yourself entered into the draw. Good Luck!

Teaser Tuesday *Taken* by Norah McClintock

I found this one on my shelves at work. I'm thinking of reading it next. The cover captured me and the font along the spine. The cover image of the roped hands is repeated on the spine and on the back. It looks a little like Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, the story of a girl who'd been abducted by a man when she was ten and was still with him at fifteen. It was a difficult, dark story, a little too short, but a good read.

Taken is published by Orca, and I've never read anything by the author. It also just came out for an early October release...Oh *researching* Norah McClintock wrote Dooley Takes The Fall. Of course, that's where I've heard the name. I haven't read that book either but I remember a lot of buzz about it on the blogs a few months back.

As the cover and title suggest, there's an abductor on the lose and Stephanie is taken after hearing about two other girls who have gone missing. Somehow she manages to escape her captor and run into the middle of the woods. She must survive the elements and keep running from this insane person, she's also haunted by what happened to the other girls who've been captured.

It looks like a powerful read. Here's a little teaser:

I was in some kind of a cabin. It was small and grimy. The wood floor was bare and cold. So were the walls. They hadn't been painted. The only thing on them was a calendar hanging on a nail. It was from a hardware store. The edges were curled. It was ten years out of date.
Whose cabin was this? Where was it? What was I doing here?

And why couldn't I move?

Because I was tied up.

Chilling. Looks good.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review of *Pretty Little Liars*

Pretty Little Liars is the first book in a projected 8 book series. While I'm a tad annoyed that I have to go through 7 more books to see how the main mystery is resolved, the first book wrapped up very well. It gave me enough to be satisfied, and offered more questions to be answered in the second book, Flawless. I even read the first chapter of Flawless just to get a sense of the second book, which was printed as an extra at the end of my edition. It starts with a focus on a character who was mentioned in the first book who has a LOT of the answers. I almost never read bonus sequel chapters in any book. And I admit to going on the PLL website to look for more clues.

Ha, this review is going to be tricky because obviously I can't give away too much. Pretty Little Liars starts in the summer of 7th grade. You meet 5 girls who centralize around Alison, their understood leader. She pretty much dictates how everyone will act and speak. She controls them with compliments as well as through vague threats. The 4 girls follow out of an attraction to Ali's confidence and a fear of her social power. Even in 7th grade you get a sense of this girl as a powerful person, able to get anything she wants. And still, the reader has NO idea what her motives are. This kind of sums it up: "they often didn't want to do the things that Alison made them do. They all loved Ali to death, but they sometimes hated her too--for bossing them around and for the spell she'd cast on them. Sometimes in Ali's presence, they didn't feel real, exactly. They felt kind of like dolls, with Ali arranging their every move".

Then, Ali leaves one of their sleepovers and isn't seen ever again. It happens that quickly. No body is found, there's no evidence. Only the 4 girls, plus Spencer's sister and her boyfriend were the last to see her alive. Three years pass, the girls are no longer friends and have gone in very different directions. Alison isn't spoken of, and neither is The Jenna Thing. Wait a minute, what's The Jenna Thing? I got more invested in this story from the group's past than anything else in the book. Nothing is explained, hinting is few and far between. And then the girls start receiving text messages and e-mail messages, vaguely threatening to expose their secrets, from a source called "A". Each girl has a bunch of little secrets, and add more to the list throughout the book.

Is Ali alive? Has she come back? Who is Maya, the new girl who moved into Ali's old house? What happened to Jenna?

I think I will have to read the other books in the series. I actually need to know how everything resolves.

A few other thoughts about the book. It has succint, often funny writing:

"You guys happy to be back in America?" Byron asked.
Mike, who sat next to Aria in the backseat, grinned. "America rocks." He went back to maniacally punching the tiny buttons of his PSP. It made a farting noise and Mike pumped one fist in the air.

There's also this messed up game Spencer's family plays in the book called Star Power. Each incredibly ambitious and competitive family member says something that they achieved that day and the winner is the Star. It's a way to one-up your relatives in the guise of "healthy self-confidence and a sense of achievement". But it's very creepy in the book. It's funny though, when Melissa's new boyfriend's turn comes around and he's all like "Uh, I just sat in a bar with friends today" and there's a terrible silence, and disappointed glares. The whole thing is a scene that's so well done.

And, I am OBSESSED now, thank you, with finding a Vanilla Coke. That's all they drink! And everytime they mentioned VC's I was like, "That would be lovely right now". So, be warned.
Oh, and I loved the description of their school as having a cafe and a barista, instead of a lunch room, and a Reading Room instead of a library. It's so over the top, but perfect for the book. It reminded me of the world these girls live in.

The only problem, as I read through these books, is that I will not be able to review them as the plot concentrates! I'll be all like "this one person (I can't tell you their name because then book 3 would be RUINED!), does this thing (Can't Tell) and I was like Cool!". So, also be warned about that. But yeah, Pretty Little Liars is off to a really good start.


I Never Read *Sweet Valley High*

...but I just might start.

Actually immediately after reading that Diablo Cody will be writing and adapting the books for a movie, I ordered a copy of the first SVH into the store. Have you seen the new covers for the books? I kind of remember a year ago when they announced the new SVH packaging, and I even got a new SVH tote bag. I KICK myself now because I have since misplaced/lost it. It was very teeny-bopper so maybe I would feel like a creeper actually walking around with it.

Also factored into my decision to read SVH is what I found while trolling Wikipedia:

The Sweet Valley series has often been criticized for its unrealistic portrayal of teenagers (although this was somewhat rectified in the Senior Year series), and its outlandish plots, especially within the original Sweet Valley High series. Some exotic examples include:

*The twins battling a werewolf in London
*Jessica falling in love with a vampire
*The twins and friends being chased by escaped criminals in Death Valley
*Margo, a psychotic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the twins, and later, her own twin sister Nora, attempting to murder Jessica in a diabolical scheme to 'replace' her
*A former classmate of Alice Wakefield's luring them to a beauty spa with the intention of stealing Alice's face via a face transplant
*Elizabeth and a Parisian prince falling in love
*Elizabeth and an English viscount falling in love
*Lila Fowler marrying an Italian count
*The twins and many of their classmates being unrealistically "beautiful" in a model-like way and never having acne, oiliness, pubescent awkwardness, bodily odors, or greasy hair the way most real-life teenagers have
*Alice Wakefield being described as young and beautiful and often mistaken for their older sister even though her kids are in high school and college
*Multiple kidnappings, attempted murders, sexual assaults, and stalkings
*Multiple proms and school breaks during one year, and often out of order
*Sweet Valley High hosting over fifteen dances (including two proms) during one year, which is generally considered excessive for high schools
*Elizabeth receiving at least three marriage proposals before age 20
*Jessica having at least five boyfriends who died in the series

This list made me laugh so much. Laugh and order the first book. What have I been missing? I think my favourite is the 15 dances in a school year followed by the soft criticism "generally considered excessive". Also, face transplants? Too awesome.

As I mentioned in my I Never Read *V.C. Andrews* post, I really don't have a classic teen reading background to look back nostalgically on. Not that I want to read all of the Sweet Valley High books, but I'd love to remedy my lacking teen lit background.

Oh, check out The Dairi Burger blog. She has been reading all of the SVH books, and other teen drama spin-offs and blogging alongside. Her posts are hilarious.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In My Mailbox

This week I received three books and all I can say is, "Vampires, Ninjas and Monsters? Sign me up".

Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block, is out for an October 1st release, and the cover blows me away. I haven't actually read anything by her, and it seems to me that Pretty Dead may be a little bit different for her? Pretty Dead is a novella about Charlotte, a vampire alive for almost a century, who falls in love with human Jared. On the inside, under library information, the summary says: Beautiful vampire Charlotte finds herself slowly changing back into a human after the mysterious death of her best friend. I'm pretty excited about this one.
Blood Ninja by Nick Lake. I had no idea about this book until our publishing representative asked me if I'd be up to reading a book about Vampire Ninjas, and my response was this gutteral spastic noise which I guess was interpreted as Yes because here is my copy of Blood Ninja. On the cover there are trails of blood coming out from the OO's in Blood. Actually this one looks very cool, maybe more serious than I think. It's set in 16th cen. Japan. It'll be available in December.

Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. This one looks scary and possibly gory. There's some kind of bloody human tissue in a jar of preservative on the cover. Yecch, but also Awesome. It is about a monster-hunting doctor, set in 1888, it's the first of a series, published in September, and apparently evokes the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft. There are anatomy sketches throughout the book, too, a nice touch. Here's the definition of Monstrumology from the opening page: n.
1: the study of life forms generally malevolent to humans and not recognized by science as actual organisms, specifically those considered products of myth and folklore.
2: the act of hunting such creatures

With the monster hunting I'm thinking of Van Helsing from Dracula, but I also think it might have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feel. It's just the sense I get from it. We'll see.

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren!

October Titles Preview

October is a good month for books. I've already read Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, and the published cover is even more beautiful than the ARC. I've also just read and reviewed How To Say Goodbye in Robot. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, I mean C'Mon it's going to be awesome!
And new Francesca Lia Block? Looks great. I'm also looking forward to reading Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier because I loved Wildwood Dancing. And Goth Girl Rising is part of my vow to read anything penned by Barry Lyga. Oh yeah, Fat Cat by Robin Brande will be good. I've read and loved her previous book, Evolution Me and Other Freaks of Nature. Almost Perfect looks really good; a boy leading a girl's life.
Ha, actually I'm pretty excited about all these books! Ice looks beautiful. So does Lips Touch Three Times. I have generated an October 2009 release list here, if you follow the link you can find out more about these books.
Also check back for reviews as I read through October. I'll be reading through this list plus a few more (I Hope!).


Friday, September 25, 2009

Review of *How To Say Goodbye in Robot* by Natalie Standiford

When I first laid eyes on How To Say Goodbye in Robot my first response was "OOoooOOH", hushed and warbling, you know the sound. The art is so cool. First of all Hot Pink, come on, and second, there are these beautiful hand-drawn details on the inner flap and on the back. The front has a phone, but the lines come through as pink and a bit of light blue. On the back is a drawn phone jack and there are phone cords framing the blurb inside. The whole design screams Cared For In Great Detail.

And it's also true of the story in Robot. There are so many details--about people and places, facts--and each seem hand-crafted, much-thought-upon, and simply Neat. This is a character-driven book with many many little treasures inside.

Bea is new at school, just moved into town, and is a total fish-out-of-water as all of the students have been together since kindergarten. At morning assembly on her first day, Bea sits beside Ghost Boy, "We had a funeral for him seventh grade. Someone spread a rumor that Jonah was dead, and then when he showed up for school, we all pretended we couldn't see him or hear him, to try to make him think he was a ghost". Attempting to talk to Jonah is like talking to a glass wall; he's snappy and sidestepping with everyone. Then, one day he seems to take on substance and tells Bea about The Night Lights, a late night radio talkshow. That night she sits in her room and tunes in, and she hears a familiar voice on the air.

At this point in reading I excitedly thought "Pump Up The Volume??!" And it is like it in a way, but just not the way I expected. The Night Lights is a corner in the world for misfits and insomniacs, dreamers and also crazy people like Don Berman. Ghost Boy phones in regularly and when she works up the courage so does "Robot Girl". Bea's mother gives her this nickname because Bea doesn't seem to have emotions. Bea's mother, on the other hand, seems to have too many emotions and they leak out of her in bizarre ways (there is this whole Chicken drapes thing where Bea's mom cuts them up to make outfits and earrings).
Night after night Bea and Jonah listen to their radio show and Jonah begins to tell her things about his life. And he's got a pretty dramatic one. Bea tries to keep up as best she can, but things start to get very intense.

There is some great humor in Robot. The previously mentioned Dom Berman is one of the voices heard on the show. He regularly phones in disguising his voice and basically acting like the Peeves of the book. Later on, when the Night Lights get together for a dinner, Bea has this encounter with Don Berman:

Jonah was talking with a chubby middle-aged man with stringy hair, a goatee, and a smug look on his face. His hands and jowls trembled. Don Berman.
"Don, we're huge fans," I said.
"Don, we're huge fans," he shot back in a high-pitched voice meant to mock me.
What a jerk, I thought, but I didn't care, because he was Don Berman, and that's what Don Berman did.

Or when Bea first sees Tom Garber, who has actually dated every girl in school and a few from surrounding schools:

Before he sat down, my internal heat-seekers sensed what was coming my way: deep blue eyes that melted girls like Velveeta in a microwave.

and later:

A mysterious force vacuumed the air out of the lunchroom.
"Hey, girls," Tom Garber said. He flashed his teeth and mirowaved the entire table as he slo-mo'd by. The light glinting off his glasses temporarily blinded me. "Bonjour, Beatrice."

Of everything, I loved the portions of chat on the radio show. You get this sense of people in the city, unknown to each other, sharing their loneliness. Even Don Berman. When the events with Jonah's family take on the dramatic proportions of a gothic novel (also something Natalie writes into the text), I was a little put off, but realized that it was self-aware and had more to do with the inner life of Jonah. When the book ended I thought, "Yep, pretty much how it had to go". I felt it was a perfect way to close such a strange and nearer the end, haunting story.


Currently Reading *Pretty Little Liars*

So I've always hemmed and hawed over reading Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard because I am not really a fan of the bitchy girls clique-y theme. I guess that's not completely true. It just sometimes makes my stomach turn because I tried to avoid any girlhate in highschool I could. Girls can be so scary and backhanded. Which I guess is the lure for this type of book.

I read Lauren Myracle's Rhymes With Witches and Bliss and liked them well enough. Rhymes With Witches had this nobody-could-be-that-popular-without-invoking-the-dark-arts theme while Bliss was more Carrie or Prom Night (the orig.). But both books had that popular girls vs. losers thing. But mixed in with horror genre motifs.

Anyway, I've been lion-hunting Pretty Little Liars for a week now, circling it on our teen shelf, enticed but cautious, when I read this on goodreads:

Definitely my favorite of the Mean Rich Bad Girl genre -- it's like some crack-laced combination of The Clique, Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives.

And yes, Bookshelves of Doom had written this assessment. I really trust her reviews. Maybe it's the crack but I finally pounced and will take this yellow gazelle back to my lion-y pad for consumption.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Retrospective Review *Boy Toy* by Barry Lyga

I mentioned in a previous post that I will read anything that Barry Lyga pens, on principle, because of Boy Toy. I read it last year and was floored.

Bookshelves of Doom put me onto this one. I admit that the premise was enough to pique my interest, as well as BOD's fantastic review. The best thing a review can do is generate jazz to read a certain book. It has to REALLY make you need to know what this book is about.

Boy Toy is such a hard book to recommend to people. "Here, read this book about a 17 year-old boy thinking back to the time he had a sexual relationship with his adult teacher when he was 12. Oh, she's also out of prison after serving less than her sentence and still lives in his hometown...and everyone knew about the incident" *dismissing ushering motions* At times it's a hard story to handle.
When the story starts, Josh has been living in the same town, knowing that everyone sees him as "That Kid. The one from the papers"...Oh yeah, I forgot the very first page of Boy Toy. I'm flipping through the book now to reaquaint myself with it and the first page has this list: Ten Things I Learned at the Age of Twelve. Nine of these things are school-related, stuff like math and grammar, history facts, but the tenth thing is:

10. How to please a woman.

It creeped me out then and it still creeps me out now. So Josh is now 17, and he's in gym class. His Coach, a real jerk, is goading all the boys in that terrible Demean-You-To-Make-You-Men way, when he calls oout to Josh, saying Something that causes Josh to stop immediately and smash his face in with his fist. But you don't get to hear exactly what it is the Coach said. You'll read like a crazyperson to find out what caused Josh to react this way. And that pretty much sets up the story.

One of the coolest parts about this book is that Josh doesn't see himself as a victim. As he's remembering the past in pieces while debating if he'll try and contact his old teacher in the present, he actually thinks that the feelings they had for each other were real. He's trying to recapture that time, when he was twelve, to understand it. When I say it's cool, I mean that the moral questionsing, the human reactions of the victim in a circumstance like this, are deep and relentless (stealing word from Kiirstin). And incredibly surprising. The ending is what floored me the most.

Here's a bit to give you an idea of Josh's mindset at the beginning of the book, just as he's heard that his teacher is out of prison:

Here's what amuses me about the whole "predator" angle: Predation is a part of the natural world order. You don't get pissed at a lion for eating a gazelle; that's just what lions do. They prey. So by calling Eve a "sexual predator", aren't we saying that she's doing something that's part of the natural order? It isn't that we have to like it, any more than we have to like the idea of some poor eland bleeding to death on the veldt. But it's nature.

I have learned an enormous amount in the past five years.

There's also this side story involving a girl that Josh used to be friends with before he couldn't relate to girls at all. The whole book is about coming into a clear understanding of the past and where Josh might go from here.
Powerful stuff.

I'm gearing up to read Goth Girl Rising which releases in October. It is the sequel to The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl, also by Barry Lyga.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review of *Graceling* by Kristin Cashore

It took me forever to get around to reading this book. And there was no excuse for it!

Graceling starts out with this action sequence where graced Katsa has infiltrated another Kingdom's dungeon to un-kidnap an aging royal. The pace is clipped and energizing, you get an idea of how powerful Katsa is. She is graced with the ability to kill or maim instantly. And she's been used for years as her King Uncle's dog, let out when he needed to send a violent message or punish someone. Her Uncle, King Randa, rules by invoking fear and has kept Katsa loyal by playing against her self-esteem; she thinks of herself as nothing but a killer. Her grace is worth nothing more than inflicting pain and fear.

There's a long passage near the beginning of the book about how the world in Graceling is set up. The land is broken into 7 ruling Kingdoms, each with a King. Some Kings are passive and peaceful, some war-mongering. I was a little confused by the description at the start; I couldn't get my mind around the information bomb, knowing short descriptions of each King and kingdom. As it turns out through the story, only a few characters seem the most important. But I was initially worried that I was going to miss something if I couldn't retain all this information. And I worried because there was no Cast list at the start to help me with the characters.

There's also a cool map at the opening of Graceling. I haven't been able to find it online, or I would have posted a link. I love maps at the beginning of books.

About 100 pages into the book I seriously wondered what the overall story was going to be. It srated with a bang and then there was a lot of dialogue and intrigue. Farther in, I settled into Graceling as a romance, foremost. I knew that romance would be a theme within the book but had no idea that it is pretty much what makes up Graceling. The other strong element is Katsa and her search to know her Grace better, to know herself and what type of life she wants to lead, and if there is room for a significant other.

Graceling also reminded me of The Lord of the Rings because it is a travel-log, finding-growth-on-the-road story. Most of the story is Katsa and Po on the move. The land is barren sometimes, hard to cross, and always a matter of survival. There was a lot of walking in LOTR, and then sudden crash-bang action. Same here.

The relationship between Katsa and Po is pretty awesome. It has a slow development, but never seems falsely written. Ever. You'll get angry at Katsa for being a bonehead about her feelings, but it's because she's had a violent and loveless past. She just doesn't know how to take Po and his attentions. Po is a total babe, too; sweet and soulful with a bit of mischief. One of the coolest things about Graceling is that contraceptives are discussed, and there is a powerful women-taking-control-of-their-own-choices theme. Katsa fights and lives like a man and Po steps back in awe. It was a cool dynamic to their relationship.
It;s funny, I was just skimming through the book looking for quotable passages, but much of the punchy dialogue and tension between the two is built up over many pages. The relationship between them is a total build-up, so you have to know what's come before to get their conversations.

One or two qualms? I could have used a bit more plot. Just a bit. Like, more intrigue with the Council that Katsa formed to do good deeds in the land. That's a very cool idea but it seems like it was abandoned. Also, the end taking-care-of-the-bad-guy was a little too perfunctory for his character. I needed more scenes about him, his motives. I wasn't sufficiently chilled by this character who was supposed to be a pretty terrible person.

Katsa's understanding of her Grace is done really well. Actually, the whole Grace notion is written and imagined very well. Graces are the element of magical realism within a pretty familiar world, it's the only thing that makes this story "fantasy". Katsa's understanding, as she relates to Po's Grace, expands and she develops this wider sense of herself and the true use of her Grace in the world.
Fire by Kristin Cashore is a companion novel, out in October. It has an entirely new cast of characters but I believe Katsa plays a cameo part.
You may also want to read:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In My Mailbox

I'm really excited about books coming out in 2010. I'm compiling a list organized by month for cool books coming out. I'm using to map everything.

This week I received a few amazing looking books which are available in the new year. I will probably read them closer to their publication month so the review isn't too early. But here is a sneak peek at some exciting new titles:

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard. This book "combines the forbidden romance of Romeo and Juliet with the tension and turf wars of The Outsiders". Sounds cool. It gets more complex when the main girl dies and no one knew she had this secret boyfriend. Now he's looking into the nature of her death and wondering who Julia really was. The Secret Year is a first novel and available in January.

The Mark by Jen Nadol. Another debut novel, this one is about a girl named Cassie who can see when someone is marked for death. The back cover doesn't give me much about where her story leads, but it looks interesting. Maybe more of a character story than a paranormal action/adventure. This one comes out in February. It also shares the same cover art as another 2010 debut, The Girl With the Mermaid Hair. Oh, neat, only the ARC has the profile of a girl-with-blowing-hair-identical cover; the book will actually print with a girl blowing one of those white dandelions.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves. I was so excited to get this one! I'm just so fascinated by the cover art. I mean, here is a bit from the back cover: Expertly merging real issues like racial identity and mental instability with thrilling fantastical eccentricities, Bleeding Violet is not to be missed. The back doesn't give a lot more than this and I'm intrigued. Another first novel, available in January.

Also, and I had no idea, John Green *cue angel chorus* and David Levithan have combined their awesomeness to create Will Grayson, a novel about two boys with the same name and something to do with a highschool musical. I'm in. It is available in April and the cover is shiny.

A few others of note this week:

Gone by Lisa McMann. Third in the Wake series. I guess I better read the first one! Actually I have heard some awesome reviews about this series. Available in February.

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman. She's the author of Queen Bees and Wannabees, the non-fiction book about teen girls and surviving gossip and bullying at school. This one is fiction and looks like a social drama involving hazing and cliques. Available in January.

January is going to be a great month for reading, if I survive retail during Christmas!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.
Some other things that have happened here this week:

Interview with the illustrious *Shannon Hale* on *Forest Born*

Goose Girl was my introduction to Shannon Hale's writing. Then came Princess Academy, Book of a Thousand Days, and I was hooked. And now Forest Born, which I connected with in a way unlike Shannon's previous books. Rin, who you just want to hug, is Razo's younger sister. Knowing Shannon's writing, I was on the lookout for Rin's secret power from the start. Obviously, from the title, there would be a connection to trees. But Rin's power, the strength of her character, turns out to be much more complicated. Rin's development through Forest Born is so remarkable and satisfying, I felt she had a harder time coming into her own than her Bayern predecessors. Forest Born is a darker Bayern book, but I think, my favourite so far.

Forest Born, like really anything else written by Shannon, is supremely quotable; you just want to type out the entire book because of the power and insight written there. Actually, I wrote a good chunk of lines into my personal journal because they were so "right". Here's one of my favourite passages, near the beginning:

Rin learned to crawl on moss and walk on pine needles, and by the age of four she could climb a fir as easily as fall into bed. That was thanks to Razo, who never had worked up a reason to push his little sister. When Rin was not clinging to her ma, she was running after her brother. She talked some and laughed some, but mostly she watched--the faces of her brothers, the sway of the trees. She watched the world the way most people breathed air.

"That girl sees the bones inside birds," her ma would say.

"That girl can see your soul."

I had so many questions after reading Forest Born that I needed to see if Shannon would mind answering some of them! I also asked her a few things about her book cover design and her relationship to the internet as an author, out of the feedback I've received through comments on this blog. Thanks so much, Shannon!


Rin is deeply introverted. She lacks confidence and seems to have life only in relationship to the people around her. What sense of Rin’s character did you have when you started writing Forest Born? How did she come to you? What about her story needed telling?

Rin's character, like most of my characters, evolved during the process of writing. Where she began was not where she ended up. Writing is exploration for me. But I was drawn to this girl that seemed broken and afraid of herself, though I didn't know why at first. I wanted to know why, and I wanted to see her understand that and figure out how to live despite her fear. I think it's important to have many different kinds of characters in literature, so we can all find ourselves in stories, as well as grow to understand others. Rin was unique, and I wanted to give her a voice.

By the fourth Book of Bayern, you have quite a cast of characters with fully formed backgrounds in Forest Born. Was it difficult telling the full story of Rin while also giving a sense of continuity for the other characters? Especially since most of their voices are so much louder than introspective Rin’s? What was left that needed telling?

I rewrote this book A LOT. I cut at least a book's worth of material from it. Part of the cutting was all the scenes I wrote for the other characters. I know them all so well, it's fun to write their voices, but in the end, this is Rin's story, and I needed to keep focused on her.

I really really loved the darkness in Rin in the beginning, the mystery of her character. I didn’t have a full handle on her at the start of the book and it took the entire story for me to figure out what was causing the disconnection in her life. The scene where Rin is hiding in the tree with Razo and Tusken is vivid in my mind. Rin needs to be very quiet but her silence brings up every dark thing inside her. This whole scene, for me, had a meditative feel. Is that what Rin needed to do? Just sit with her feelings and let them be?

Rin's story was tricky because for the first half of the book, she ignores--buries--what is haunting her, because at the beginning she isn't capable of understanding it. Only when she's learned enough to understand what she did can she look at it again with new eyes. I think we all do this sometimes, believe one thing, then look back at it later with a new understanding. Rin is plagued with two powers--one is aggressive, and one is passive, and she needs to find a balance of both. Listening and speaking. Acting and resisting. It's an internal struggle, more than anything else I've written. Internal struggles are TOUGH to write! It took me a long time to figure out how to do it, what it meant, and why it was important.

Do you have a say in the cover art for your books? How is it to see your writing come in a package? Do you prefer any cover art in particular from the various designs your books have taken on, paperback versus hardcover, newer versus older printings?

The publisher is in control of the covers. They are kind and consult with me most of the time, but ultimately it's up to them. I'd had a hope that we could have an Alison Jay cover for the hardcover of Forest Born to match the other hardcover Bayern books. I do love the Forest Born cover, but I'm fond of the older covers as well. I wish we could have both!

How does the internet affect your relationship with your fans? How does the internet help or hinder you as an author?

Well, it takes time, for sure. Time away from writing. So I have to be careful with the limited time I have (I have two little kids). But it's also so wonderful! Since I can't travel and do as many events as I'd like (those kids, again), having a website and blog allows me to communicate with my fans still and hear from them too. I also love being a help to aspiring writers and try to keep my website and blog full of lots of writing stuff for their sake.
Also, check out the letter from Shannon to her reader on why she wrote another Bayern book (I was so excited to see that Shannon has this re-printed on her website. I LOVED reading it in the advanced reading copy. It was a special extra that was very cool).
Pretty much just go to Shannon's website for great extras, like deleted scenes and lost chapters.
Forest Born is available now!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Review *Hate List* by Jennifer Brown

Wow. Totally wow. Plus a little bit of crying.

Hate List is both a very hard read and a very easy read. Hard because of the content, the premise, and easy because of the light that travels with you as you read.

Flipping to the back of the advanced reading copy: Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

It's been 10 years since the shooting at Columbine, but the story there has stayed with people. I also happened to have read Columbine by journalist Dave Cullen like two months ago, so it was an experience to read Hate List so soon after. There are a lot of upsetting descriptions in Hate List, a lot of very sad things said and done, but the central question I kept hearing between the lines was "What do you DO after your entire world is absolutely rocked off its center so violently and thoroughly? What pieces are left and how do you pick them up?"

And I love that Jennifer Brown does not make it an easy-peasy answer and even opens up dialogue within the story to ask questions like "would you go back to the same school? What precautions could you take afterwards to make sure something like this never happens again?" But my absolute favourite aspect about Hate List was that it was a total character book. Something huge has happened and now you get to see how many very different people react to it, how they respond and go about their lives. There are the victims, those people who survived the shooting, there are the family members of those who died, people who knew the shooter, and then there's Valerie--was she a victim too or the one to blame?

Nick was her boyfriend and she was so in love with him. He made her world worth living in. And then he went and killed and hurt a LOT of people, people they both knew and not everyone they hated. And Valerie was shot in the leg trying to stop him before he turned the gun on himself. Now, some say she's a hero and some wished she'd died as well. She'll have to go back to school to know where everyone stands.

Hate List is Valerie's book mostly. You see this girl struggle not to go insane from the things she knows about the world, about people, especially about hate and violence and her conflicting emotions about many people she loves. But she lived. And now she has to figure out how living gets done after being torn apart completely.

I cried a bit at the end. But Jennifer didn't manipulate the end to make me cry. She simply wrote it and left it open to whatever reaction comes. There's a lot of ambiguity in the book. Especially around Valerie's father and their relationship; it made me cringe in parts. The end also has a lot of light and dark, a lot of questions. I am a suck so I cried because that's how it affected me. But I could see how another reader might be angry or joyous, or just thoughtful. I felt like I had understood the meaning of healing as Valerie went about her story.

This is one of my favourite parts in the book. Valerie is talking about Nick and looking back with new understanding on their relationship:

He'd been hanging around with this guy, Jeremy, for the last month and every day he seemed to pull further and further away from me. I was afraid he was going to break up with me, so I just played along like it was no big deal that we hardly ever saw each other anymore. I didn't want to push him--he'd been so volatile lately and I didn't want to start a fight. I didn't ask him what he was doing on those days he didn't show up and instead just texted him back that "the shits in Bio need 2 B dunked in formaldehyde" and that "I h8 those bitches" and that "McNeal is lucky I don't have a gun." That last one would really come back to bite me later. Really, they all would. But that last one...that last one would make me vomit every time I thought about it for a long time. And it would inspire a three-hour conversation between me and Detective Panzella. And it would make my dad forever look at me differently, like I was some sort of monster deep down and he could see it.

*shivers* This passge was so affecting when I read it. It made me not feel safe reading the book, like "anything goes". But Jennifer takes your hand as you read and guides you through a story that needed to be told.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teaser Tuesday on Wednesday *Graceling*

I forgot to do a Teaser on Tuesday. And I really wanted to do one for Graceling. I am just finishing up reading Hate List by Jennifer Brown (author interview to come!), and I'm going to pick up Graceling by Kristin Cashore next. I'm so excited about Graceling it's not even funny. So here's a bit of a teaser, although I don't know who I'm teasing--you or me! I can't wait to start reading.

From the back cover:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight--she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace--or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

Plus, Holy Crow, check out the cover! What a beaut. The cover for the semi-sequel Fire is dazzling as well. Here is your teaser:

Her thoughts rambled, but she wasn't daydreaming. Her senses were sharp. She caught the fall of every leaf in the garden, the rustle of every branch. And so she was astonished when a man stepped out of the darkness and grabbed her from behind. He wrapped his arm around her chest and held a knife to her throat. He started to speak, but in an instant she had deadened his arm, wrenched the knife from his hand, and thrown the blade to the ground. She flung him forward, over her shoulders.

He landed on his feet.

Her mind raced. He was Graced, a fighter. That much was clear. And unless he had no feeling in the hand that had raked her chest, he knew she was a woman.

I'm so ridiculous; I'm getting all excited typing up this entry!
Another very cool thing I noticed, flipping through praise mentioned at the front of the book, a BLOGGER has made it into the print for this book! Hip Librarians Book Blog has written a handful of lines about the book and Graphia/Houghton Mifflin has printed this praise alongside that of Horn Book and Newsday.

Bloggers have come a long way as reviewers and arbiters of trend. It is very cool to see publishers nod to bloggers in this way and support bloggers with galley books and giveaways.


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

Don't forget to enter your name to win a copy of Crazy Beautiful and Perfect Chemistry! Links to your right along the sidebar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze 1952-2009

I don't want to flood my blog with non-book related articles, but Patrick Swayze's death is something I felt inspired to write about.
I actually watched Dirty Dancing last night, and loved it for the millionth time. It is kind of the perfect coming-of-age movie. I don't know if it holds up for a new audience, but it totally worked for me when I was younger.
It wasn't even that Patrick Swayze was hot in the movie, he was just a great guy. Watching it again I noticed that Johnny and Baby had some heat between them but they also had this strong best friend vibe that makes me happy to see; a first boyfriend/love should be a best friend feeling too.
Although I admit to dating a boy once who had a Swayze-shaped mouth, so I guess he affected me more than I think.
There are total cheesy moments in the movie, too, obviously being a product of its time; air guitar? C'mon Swayzzz. But the sets, the music, costumes, the chemistry between Johnny and Baby, the easy way you could empathize with Baby's role in the family, make it quintessential for teen girls (and boys, if they want; my boyfriend recently watched it for the first time and as a grown-up and really liked it).

So here's a little tribute:


Related Posts with Thumbnails