Saturday, February 27, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week!


I haven't read anything by Cyn (Sin?) Balog, and Sleepless looks really good. I LOVE the cover, the flower--beautiful. It's about a Sandman who falls in love with a girl, one of his human charges. Although he's not allowed to mess with their dreams, Eron feels drawn to lonely Julia, who's boyfriend recently died in a car accident. It's out in July.

And Saving Maddie looks good, too. A preacher's son falls for the town bad girl--can he save her?



AND, I was just speaking about Dark Life last week, and now I can dig right in. Dystopia under the water, what can I say?

Poisoned Honey is a fictional story about Mary Magdalene. I think before she meets The Man. Her story is about her connection to the spirit world and the magic and power she finds there. Actually I'm fascinated by this one.

I just love the title to Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots.

Mandy

What books did you get this week?

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Clubbing *Lament* by Maggie Stiefvater with Kiirstin!


I might be in the minority when I say that I enjoyed Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater more than I did Lament. Lament is the first book in duology (yeah, I went there. Or go with Two-logy if you like), I believe, as there are two books in the series and I don't see mention of a third. But that doesn't mean Maggie isn't writing it right now. I'd keep up via her website rather than through me.

Lament opens with a really great prologue. I wish I could just type it all out here for you, but I think that might step on some copyright toes. It really engaged me, it was very powerful. There is a boy in a well and you have no idea what he's doing there and why he's so scared. Then you find out that he's being Hunted by a very powerful lady. It's quite a strange way to open because I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. But reading it again after finishing the book, makes it that more powerful.

Then we're introduced to Deirdre Monaghan. She's a gifted Harp player. And I don't understand what a crazy person her mother is, but Dee pukes every time she's about to play in public. And her mother came across as this pushy child-model-mom type. Even more so, Dee's aunt. Actually her mom really bugged me in the book; she refused to let Dee kind of break out of herself. She gave Dee no credit about the guys she hung around with. As if she would only have the personality bestowed on her by them, and her mother needs to weed out the baddies for her daughter's sake. Dee IS quiet, and sometimes I thought of her as a blank slate, personality-wise. But she starts to come into her own after meeting bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold Luke Dillon (And I totally imagined him as a young Dylan from Bev Hills. It has to be the name: Luke Perry/Dylan Whateverhislastnamewas).

I liked Luke more than I liked Dee. I won't reveal his background in the story but he has a mystery to him that is unique in teen fiction. There are faeries in Dee's world, but Luke isn't exactly like them or one of them. He has his own secrets and most of the excitement in the book for me, was finding out the dirt on him. There's a part in the middle of the book where you're wondering why this amazing guy would out of the blue be infatuated with Dee. He just walks up to her, introduces himself and then says some pretty intimate things to her about her "potential" as a person. After he finishes holding back her hair while she throws up, that is. Anyway there's this scene in the middle fo the book where you suddenly see that Luke's motives may not be all that great and I really started paying attention.

I think the world in Lament is the strongest part of the book, for sure. There are faeries but they fall more into the category of magic realism. Their evidence in Dee's world was very subtle at first. I like this passage in particular:

"Didn't you ever wonder at the coincidence, that you and the Faerie Queen should be in such proximity? That a host of faeries should suddenly be on your doorstep?"
I felt foolish. "I--uh--guess I just thought there were a lot of faeries."
"They're here because of you. Faeries aren't like humans; Their realm and Their bodies don't really have fixed locations, like humans."
I seized the chance to look like I wasn't clueless. "You mean how some of Them use the energy of a storm, or a person, to appear."
Thomas nodded his approval; it made his curls bounce. I fought the urge to reach out and sproing one of them. "Exactly. Faeries are drawn to a certain sort of energy, and They move like satellites around that energy. The realm of Faerie centers around one person, the monarch--usually a human--who radiates that energy."

Dee's new psychic abilities come as a side effect of this phenomenon and I thought this was worked very well into the story. I really like this explanation for faeries in the world of Lament. It's quite unique.

I also want to mention how cool it is when the world of a novel extends beyond the story. Maggie Stiefvater has actually written and recorded music as a companion to the book. Hop over via the link to hear it. The Kiss, in particular is gorgeous. It really evokes the tone of the book; It is haunting and playful at the same time.

***


Kiirstin from A Book A Week read Lament alongside me and we had a great discussion about the book:

Mandy: Have you read any other teen books about fairies? Do you like fairies in fiction? I've only read Wicked Lovely. I can't say I'm a fairy person.


kiirstin: I'm... hmm. That's a really good question. I have, actually. O. R. Melling's books -- The Hunter's Moon being my favourite -- actually stack up quite favourably against Lament. Plus there's CanCon.

Mandy: Oh yeah. I haven't read any Melling. It's good stuff?

kiirstin: Quite. Some better than others, but largely really good. Um, the Spiderwick books too, on a junior fic level, are pretty awesome about fairies. I haven't read Wicked Lovely though. Is it comparable?

Mandy: Yeah, I think I've only read the first Spiderwick book. But it WAS good. Apparently based loosely on a true story. Or at least, Holly knew a family who claimed to see Fairies. Wicked Lovely is pretty comparable.

kiirstin: I did not know there was a kernel of truth in the Spiderwick Chronicles. I love that. I've read other fairy/Sidhe stuff too. Some of Mercedes Lackey's urban fantasies. Oh, and Charles de Lint has to count. Apparently I have read a fair bit!

Mandy: Way more than me! :) You are the fairy expert between us.

kiirstin: What was it about the fairy aspects that turned you off, do you think?

Mandy: Well Fairies in fiction don't turn me off. I just don't look out for fairies. Although I do have that assumption that fairies are going to have sparkles on them.

kiirstin: I think there is a difference between "fairy" and "faerie"

Mandy: Oh, tell me about the difference in spelling.

kiirstin: Okay. Let's see. I think the difference is maybe in my head, but I have perceived that "fairy" is usually used to mean sprites in tutus with wings and wands. And faerie, or fae, tends to be a little more on the human-sized immortal side -- what I would actually tend to call "elves" -- I am really not up on the actual mythology. Although the Wikipedia article uses the "fairy" spelling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidhe

Mandy: Maybe it's like Vampyre? :)

kiirstin: Ha! Yes, almost certainly.

Mandy: I thought Dee's mom was kind of a jerk. And cardboard-y. She really wanted to stunt her daughter into the perfect model of daughter-dom. Kind of freaky.

kiirstin: Yes, actually, I disliked her a lot. I thought there could have been a lot more development around Dee's family situation. I think I could have found her mother an interesting character, but there wasn't enough there.

Mandy: Totally. Even with her aunt and her aunt's fate.

kiirstin: Oh my god. That whole thing, yes. I have to admit, her aunt was pretty fascinating, but how much did I want to punch her. I did like that she went from just being an overbearing, sour, terrible relative to much more sinister.

Mandy: And I like how Dee's grandmother like, knew that her aunt had something wrong with her.

Mandy: One of the scariest scenes in Lament was when Dee is in bed and kind of wakes up to realize that there's a very present dark shape in the corner of her room. So scary! I thought this scene was well done.

kiirstin: Ugh, yes! I agree. And the sort of thing that keeps people up at night. Just saying. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the scenery and descriptions. Even something as simple as the reception tent, I could identify that space. It grounded the story very well.

kiirstin: Can we talk about the beginning a bit? What worked well, what didn't?

Mandy: Yeah of course! Like the prologue, which was stellar?

kiirstin: One of the best opening scenes of a book I've read, I think.

Mandy: Absolutely. Chilling and kind of perfect.

kiirstin: It opened itself up to so many questions. Who is the boy? What are the nails for? What's the deal with the bird?

Mandy: The ambiguity was perfect. I wanted to dive into the book right away. And I love that, after having read the book, I went back to re-read the prologue and it was even cooler. All of the images made sense in a whole new way.

kiirstin: I couldn't help myself -- I had to keep reading.

kiirstin: I should try that, actually. I do think, too, it prepared me a little for feeling somewhat baffled for the first little bit of the book. Which I was.

Mandy: I love reading the beginning of books right after finishing them. I can't explain why it's such a neat experience.

kiirstin: That's pretty cool. I am absolutely going to start trying that. Was it a conscious thing that she did, do you think?

Mandy: I don't know. There's a lot of images at the beginning that are beautifully written without giving anything away. I think this was masterfully done. What was the strongest aspect of the beginning for you? After the prologue?

kiirstin: That's a hard question, because I actually got a bit frustrated with the beginning post-prologue. I think the description of place was very solid. And I did like Dee pretty much off the bat. What about you?

Mandy: I didn't love Dee. And I was like "Why is this guy being so perfect with her? So sensitive and interested in her?"

kiirstin: "And why is she okay with that?"... was my big question.

Mandy: Yeah. Luke kept telling her about herself. I mean, when is this a turn-on?

kiirstin: That's such a good point. It's actually just stalker creepy. And yet, you liked Luke, no?

Mandy: Well, he was okay. He was no Patch from Hush Hush in terms of bad boys with a heart of gold. I would liked to have seen a bit of his worse side, considering his background. There's a great scene halfway into the book where the reader starts to immediatey wonder what Luke really wants with Dee. And I felt that that could have been worked in a little better.

kiirstin: Yeah. I was never really convinced that Dee was ever in any danger from Luke, even though I think I was supposed to be.

Mandy: Yes, that's it exactly. He was too nice. And how could he be?

kiirstin: It's this whole problem of having "teenage" characters who are incredibly old, and yet don't seem to carry the weight of their history at all.

Mandy: Exactly.

kiirstin: He acts quite mature, but undamaged. One would expect someone with his life experience to be permanently scarred by it. If he really was a nice, decent guy, I would think that his experiences would have made him crazy.

Mandy: Like Spike, season 7.

kiirstin: Yes! Yes. Ah, Spike.

Mandy: Incapable of a relationship, really. Or at least really messed up about them. Not the perfect guy that any girl would swoon over.

kiirstin: Yeah. A pretty scary creature, all-in-all. Who probably needs at least 500 years of talk therapy to work his way through his problems.

Mandy: "talk therapy" -- too funny

kiirstin: I did enjoy Lament -- I'm glad I read it. I really think Maggie Stiefvater's writing has a lot of potential, and I'm looking forward to trying Shiver. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I think I had pretty high expectations. Overall, though, the world-building and setting seems to be something we both appreciated.

Mandy: I also liked the "explanation" for how faeries use their powers, based on consuming and manipulating energy. Very smart and unique.

kiirstin: And the way it wasn't Faerie that granted Dee her powers, but rather that her powers made her a target. Like Faerie was a side-effect.

Mandy: Very cool.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Katie and Mandy Book Clubbing! *Locked in Time* by Lois Duncan

I hadn't read any Lois Duncan before, and Katie from Read What You Know, rightfully, thought this was scandalous! Obviously I wasn't completely unaware of Lois Duncan. Her little bio says she's written 40 books for teens and YAs. And the cover says she wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer, which I didn't know. I'm familiar with the movies but really hadn't thought it was taken from a book. I put it on order once I found out, and once I was like 50 pages into Locked in Time.

I was looking for something scary. Lately I have been bemoaning the lack of scary books in Teen fiction. Like really scary, not paranormal romance adventure tension. And Katie mentioned that Locked in Time scared her when she read it originally, and I liked the sound of the title. So we agreed on a Re-read/First Read challenge.

Nore has been away at boarding school after the death of her mother, when her dad summons her to join him and his new wife in Louisiana. Nore is eager to live with her dad again but wary of his new wife, Lisette. Although to her credit, Nore is also open to the idea of liking Lisette, even though she's not her mother. Lisette would have driven me crazy, even before the crazy sets in. She's a traditonal lady of the house, kind of strict and big on etiquette. She's always on about manners and social rules. And Nore's dad is completely wrapped around her finger.

Lisette has two kids, Josie, who's like 13 and Gabe who is Nore's age, around. Gabe and Nore kind of hit it off right away and there's a bit of romantic tension between them. Which is weird, obviouslym because they're step brother and sister. This is one line I didn't forget:

"Get over here, Nore!" he commanded with mock ferocity. "Tonight we're going to forget all the 'stepbrother' stuff. If you've got a hometown boyfriend, I don't want to know about him."

Ew. Although the heat between them doesn't last too long, once Nore realizes that Lisette's family has some very dark secrets. Secrets which involve Nore and her dad. At first Nore thinks Lisette may be a black widow, finding wealthy men to marry and then murder. But then she sees that it's so much more.

I was excited about the setting of Locked in Time. I wasn't really expecting it, based on the cover. I kind of thought it would take place in an old lady's house, with knick-knacks. Shadow Grove, the family mansion in Louisiana, sounds beautiful when Nore pulls up. And Lois really knows how to make you feel like you're fully experiencing the setting. She has an eye for detail and sensations.

As a little extra to the story, I thought it was neat that Nore has a special ability:

"This is different," said Lisette, "because Nore is Chuck's daughter. She is part of the package that Gabe will soon have to deal with. But there may be even more of a problem than that, Jo. Maybe it's something to worry about, or maybe it isn't: there's no way yet to be certain what effect this may have on things. The fact is, though, that with Nore Robbins, for the first time since all this started, we are involved with someone who has an uncanny awareness of time."

Nore can tell exactly what time it is at any time, and this ability plays into the plot in various subtle ways.

Locked in Time was a spooky read. I am always creeped out by the enemies-among-you-but-you-can't-say-anything theme. And I was so vexed by Nore's dad. I get that he might have been under the spell of a beautiful woman, but he really had no connection to his daughter and just expected that she would change her whole life to fit his needs. It would be funny to "interview" him after the final crisis. He'd be all, "Oh...man, Nore you were right. Huh. I should have listened..."

***

Katie read Locked in Time when she was younger and agreed to a re-read. And I had a few questions for her:

What do you remember the most about reading Locked in Time when you originally read it? How did the experience stack up during a re-read?

Spoiler alert! I remember Nore lying down in the cemetery, counting the minutes until it was safe to move. She chooses to think about her life in terms of years, recalling memories for each year to help the time pass. (Which I totally started doing after reading this book.) You've already read how I had somehow convinced myself that she was in a grave instead of hiding between graves. I always felt the tension in the story particularly at that point and was really worried about Nore. I still felt the tension, but I knew the ending this time around -- so I wasn't as worried.

I kind of loved how Nore, once she realized what might be going on, really pushed back hard. I didn't find her a victim in the book. What was your experience?

I think she totally kicked butt. I was seriously impressed that she had the guts to bring it up to her father, and that she didn't back down even when he was convinced she was lying. And I also loved how she got into the mystery of the whole secret -- doing research and sneaking around to find hidden diaries. She's just such a great driven personality.

What do you think about Nore's dad? How he behaved in general. Do you think he was under some kind of magic spell?

I don't think her dad was under any kind of spell. He was mostly, in my opinion, lonely. He missed Nore's mother and suddenly there was a beautiful woman who was interested in him. Who wouldn't pass that up? I am a little bit peeved that he didn't listen to his daughter about her suspicions, but I think he really just wanted a happy ending. Poor guy.

***


And we both want you to win one of two copies of the new edition of Locked in Time! Enter once to win here, and then hop over to Katie's blog.

Contest ends on March 10th! Get your entry in! And then hop over to Katie's blog to enter for a second chance!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Zombies Vs. Unicorns?


I am an un-ironic Unicorn fan. And, like my new love for horses, it developed in my adult years. I didn't really grow up loving the Unis (YOU-nees, not youniss, for obvious reasons). So deciding between Zombies and Unicorns is easy for me. Plus, riding a Unicorn out of danger is faster than a zombie piggy-back.

So I will need to get my hands on this book:

Zombies vs. Unicorns, just announced by Simon & Schuster, will be a collection of essays detailing the pros and cons of both the shambling undead and the horned horses. The idea for the book came from a series of blog posts between authors Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Ironside) and Justine Larbalestier (Liar, How to Ditch Your Fairy) that started in 2007 and grew from there. A number of big names from the young-adult circuit, including The Princess Diaries writer Meg Cabot, have contributed individual pieces on one of the two creatures, all of which are tied together by a running deliberative commentary from Black and Larbalestier as they argue for Team Unicorn and Team Zombie respectively. (From EW)

Ha! And over on the official website, Unicorns are in the lead! People who love Unis over Zombs include: Meg Cabot, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Diana Peterfreund.
(First seen on Holly Black's Blog)
Mandy

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review *White Cat: The Curse Workers #1* by Holly Black


White Cat is the first in a new series called The Curse Workers, and my first time reading Holly Black. Who very much surprised me, I have to say. I think that Holly and Francesca Lia Block could be buddies; I just see a definite similar sensibility in their writing styles.

White Cat opens with Cassel Sharpe having sleepwalked out of his dormroom and onto the roof. It's actually a pretty great scene. Cassel's sharp wit and vulnerability come across in the writing immediately, and I love that he calls out for help even though he knows it makes him less manly:

"Help," I say softly, and feel crazy nervous laughter bubble up my throat. I bite the inside of my cheek to tamp it down.
I can't ask for help. I can't call anyone. If I do, then my carefully maintained pretense that I'm just a regular guy is going to fade forever. Sleepwalking is kid's stuff, weird and embarassing.

Except, once he's helped down from the roof, he's kicked out of school. It's no secret that his whole family are Curse Workers, his grandfather having been a death worker for the powerful Zacharov family. Cassel has never shown signs that he's inherited his family's worker gene, but the school thinks that maybe he's been cursed himself, on account of the shady dealings his family is associated with. Because although it is not illegal to have the ability to work, actually using your abilities to victimize others in any way is definitely illegal. Cassel's mother is in jail for this reason.

One of the coolest things about the world in White Cat is the notion and complexity of curse working. Bits of its history and rules are offered throughout the book, but there's no full-on explanation for its existence, or how some people have access to these abilities. People go around wearing gloves to protect themselves from skin contact, or if they're a worker, to show that they mean no threat to others. Traditionally a curse is transferred via the hands, and can only be countered by charms--bits of stone that have been created by workers to offer protection to the wearer:

Charms to throw off curse work, charms like the ones Audrey has hanging around her neck, are as old as curses themselves. Workers make them by cursing stone--the only material that absorbs a whole curse, including the blowback. Then that stone is primed and will swallow up a curse of the same type. So if a luck worker curses a piece of jade and wears it against her skin, and then someone tries to curse her with bad luck, the jade breaks and she's not affected. You have to get another charm each time you're worked, and you have to have one for each type of magic, but you're safe.

There's so much background info about curses and charms and how everything functions, the type of society that would grow around a world with this magic in it. Holly works * har har * this into the story flawlessly and even attempts to explain the ability to work in a scientific frame.

Getting back to Cassel's entry into the story, he tells the reader, in a Noirish way that permeates the tone of the story:

Don't be too sympathetic. Here's the essential truth about me: I killed a girl when I was fourteen. Her name was Lila, she was my best friend, and I loved her. I killed her anyway. There's a lot of the murder that seems like a blur, but my brothers found me standing over her body with blood on my hands and a weird smile tugging at my mouth. What I remember most is the feeling I had looking down at Lila--the giddy glee of having gotten away with something.

Lila was a dream worker and Cassel just expects that his nightmares and sleepwalking are just a part of his guilt. Until he starts digging through his family's secrets and finds out there's way more going on to Lila's death than he remembers.

One thing that surprised me about the story was that there was no main love interest theme. It's kind of about Cassel's resourcefulness and wit, regardless of not being a worker with special abilities. He's a bookie at his school and a smartass, and his comebacks are hilarious. But he's not exactly cocky. I wasn't annoyed by his personality. I was interested to see how he'd scheme his way out of the tight situations his family puts him in. He's the baby of the family and has to be the strongest because of it. His family members are nuts. Except for his grandpa, who is probably my favourite character. Here's a great exchange between them:

"I need to talk to you," I say, taking out a mug and pouring milk into it first, then adding the coffee. The milk billows up from the bottom, along with flecks of dust I should have probably checked for. "I had a weird dream."
"Let me guess. You got tied up by lady ninjas. With big hooters."
"Uh, no." I take a sip of the coffee and wince. Grandad made it ridiculously strong.
My grandfather shoves a strip of bacon in his mouth with a grin. "Guess it would have been kind of weird if we'd had the same dream."

Holly is a very strong writer when it comes to characters and dialogue. One of my favourite scenes is when Cassel goes to see Crooked Annie, a sharp, wizened fortuneteller who's real business is selling powerful charms. The dialogue is perfect, the back and forth between them. The scene is so vivid and really gives a lot of unspoken information about Cassel and his growing concern that his family is conning him.
The ending was not what I expected and was left a little up-in-the-air. There are two more books slated for the series and I can't imagine where the story will go from here. White Cat is a great choice for the dudes, too.

Mandy

Friday, February 19, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week!

I had a supercool Vlog all ready to post here, just talking about the books I got this week, but I don't know how to upload it in blogger (well actually, my problem is that the video is a huge .avi file and I don't know how to compress it. Or whatever I need to do to get it small enough to upload quickly onto blogger. Hey if anyone has any ideas it would help me out very very much...). It's too bad because it was a lot of fun to make and I've been struggling with it for a day now, googling info to help. To no avail. Anyways...*grumble grumble*


I know DJ MacHale from his Pendragon series, so I'm eager to read the first book in his newest trilogy, Morpheus Road: Book #1 The Light. On DJ's website he recently asked "Have you ever had a supernatural experience?", and mentions that one of the scenes in this book re-creates his own experience with the supernatural. He doesn't give any spoilers, so I'm wondering what it could mean. It's out in April.
And Everlasting by Angie Frazier has a subtle cover for a story that involves historical drama, a bit of magic, and a treacherous ship crossing. The back blurb says, "An ancient magic, summoned..." It's out in June.
And I haven't read any Susane Colasanti so I'm looking forward to Something Like Fate. I love the cover on this one, it speaks volumes *har har*. Out in May.



I really love the cover for Wolves, Boys, & Other Things that Might Kill Me. It is a quirky take on the urban paranormal theme, so I hope the story follows suit. Although looking at the premise, the story is about wolves, not werewolves. Out in May.
And Jatta--what a beautiful cover. This one is about werewolves and a fierce werewolf huntress, spurred by the mauling of her sister.
The Left Hand of God is getting a lot of attention. It's the first in a trilogy which looks a little like alternative history set during the Crusades. It's out in June.

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. She does really fun vlogs for her books on Sunday, that I always look forward to watching. I wish I could get mine to work this week.
Mandy

*You Are All My Librarians* ...Meg Cabot


Inspired by a post on YA Vampire Books concerning a book meme questionnaire, I am reminded that I have read NO Meg Cabot.

What is essential Meg Cabot reading?

What's your least favourite?

If you haven't read her books, are you interested in any title in particular that you've seen around?

Can I skip her altogether?


Mandy

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vampires Vs. Dystopian Oppression...Who Will Win?!


This week Publishers Weekly posted an article about Dystopian fiction becoming more popular than Vamp fiction. Which I can see, because of the popularity of books like The Hunger Games and Maze Runner. After Twilight made such a huge impact, publishers took notice and much has been published since claiming to be the next big paranormal romance. So it makes sense that after a big book like The Hunger Games, more books that could be characterized as Dystopian would find publishing favour.

It's like a Darwinian publishing phenomenon.

The Publishers Weekly article is a great resource for fattening your to-read list, so be warned. I found out about books like S.A. Bodeen's The Gardener, Dark Life by Kat Falls (which has an amazing cover. It's also about living underwater, so, awesome), and Nomansland by Lesley Hauge, where teen girls protect their island from the threat of men. There are a lot of other titles on this list that are published in 2010; the sheer number surprised me.

And I love Dystopian teen fiction, so I'm looking forward to reading many of them. Oooh, PW has a comprehensive list of Dystopian titles coming out in 2010, here.








Mandy

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reviewing *Flawless: Pretty Little Liars #2* by Sara Shepard


When I finished the first book in the series, I wasn't exactly sure if I was going to go all the way, read through all 7 books, just to find out who "A" really is. Now I'm hooked, and possibly doomed. The Pretty Little Liars books fills my need for a quick read that has a lot of intrigue but also the right amount of fluff. Well, not that the PLL books are fluffy, exactly. I find them smart at times, especially when insights are made about the popularity phenomenon in general. The way Alison had these girls basically doing anything for her is quite powerfully shown in the series, via flashbacks and such. Also even in the notes left by "A". In Flawless in particular you start to see Emily, Aria, Hanna and Spencer having to act out things that A compels them to do. Mostly out of fear of their secrets being found out.

And I think I mentioned in my review for the first book--I love that their secrets are normal. They aren't too over-the-top. Hanna has a past with Bulimia and her father continually rejects her in favour of his new family. Spencer keeps making out with her perfect older sister's boyfriends. Emily likes kissing girls. And Aria's father is having an affair that would rip her family apart. As secrets go, they are tame. Unless you're the one with the secret, and you go to school at Rosewood Day where anything even slightly out of the norm is mercilessly preyed upon. And these girls should know; they used to be Alison's henchmen, doling out bullying without question. The four girls let their fears control them, and Alison and A both feed on their fears, egging them on to act in certain ways that are ultimately destructive. Actually it's kind of painful at times, like "Noooooo!!! *slow motion waving hands*"

In Flawless, A is suspected of being a certain person who has had a run-in with the group in the past. More secrets come out, like Spencer knows more than she says she does. And her silence costs the group, and a really good secondary character. You find out more about the woman Aria's dad is having an affair with, and Hanna's volatile nature is pushed to the limit. Everyone is cracking and under the pressure they keep blowing their cool and making really stupid mistakes. The anxiety is high and it shows in their judgment.

I'm finding it a little hard to accept that A could be so omnipresent in the book. She can leave notes now within seconds of an incident happening. Physically notes, not just texts, on cars that people are sitting in, along lockers, etc. But the final note at the end reads:

If you were as smart as me, you'd probably have figured out who I am by now. OMG, not being a genius must be so annoying. And I can't help you with that one--I've got my hands full with four pretty little liars at the moment. But since you've been so patient, I'll give you one hint: Spencer may have a 4.0, but I've got As to my name, too. Kisses! --A

AH! FIVE more books. Man. I am really and truly tempted to grab Killer off the shelf at work and flip through to find out who A is. Oh no, Killer is number 6. Heartless is the last one. And it came out in January...And we have it in stock....Gah! There's been foreshadowing that any of the four girls could be A, or could also be Alison's killer. Emily's nickname is Killer, for a reason that wasn't obvious in the story. She was obsessed with Alison, and kissed her once. Emily thinks she was just in love with Alison, but then became very intimate with Maya, the new girl who moved into Ali's old house (could SHE be the killer?). There are so many red herrings in the story it isn't even funny. I truly truly hope that the end reveal will satisfy. Because I'm gonna really try and pretend that I don't see Heartless just sitting there on the shelf vulnerable to an impatient perusing.

One of my favourite parts in Flawless is when Hanna uncharacteristically finds herself at a Virginity Club meeting:

"We're so happy to have you, Hanna." Candace beamed. "You'd be a very positive role model for us."

"Thanks." Hanna felt a little thrill. Even if it was V Club, she wasn't often embraced like this. Not by her third-grade tennis coach, not by her friends, not by her teachers, certainly not by her parents. Perhaps V Club was her calling. She pictured herself as the spokeswoman of V Club. Maybe it was like being Miss America, except instead of a crown, she'd get a fabulous V Club ring. Or maybe a V Club bag. A cherry-monogrammed Louis Vuitton clutch with a hand-painted V.

I love how it goes from feeling this pathos for Hanna because she is kind of an unloved girl, or feels completely unloved, which is really very sad, to shaking your head, because seriously, a V Club bag?
Pretty Little Liars is like a messed up Gossip Girl, where Chuck Bass knows all your secrets and is calling all the shots. Fun!

Mandy

Don't read Flawless unless you've read the first book.

Shooting to the Top of My Reading List Is...


"Oh, a box of ARCs from Scholastic, this is going to be a great day!...hmm, cool cover with the vines and the OHMYGOD IT IS THE NEW CECIL CASTELLUCCI...This is not even funny... *Co-worker looks on, unflinching (we've worked together for a long time)* I'm not even laughing about this...."

Or

Ehn! Ehn!

So, I'm a huge Cecil fangirl. Now that that's out of the bag, I know what I'm reading tonight! Although I've been pretty engaged in Holly Black's newest, White Cat: The Curse Workers #1. But Cecil is one of my faves (Beige is my fave of faves). Do you ever read two books of fiction at the same time? I try not to because it's weird for me. I'm not above it, though! Often I'll have a fiction and a few non-fiction title going at the same time.

Don't you love the cover? It makes the story seem vaguely fairy-tale-esque. Actually I have no idea what the plot is about and I think I'll keep it that way. Until I read the book, of course.

Mandy

(Cover of Rose Sees Red courtesy of Cecil's blog)

Monday, February 15, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week!




This weekend has gotten away from me. I'm a little late with my Mailbox post. Although I've been reading more than blogging, which should happen more often for me! This weekend I've finished up Lament by Maggie Stiefvater for a book blogging post with Kiirstin from A Book A Week (more to come). And I'm finishing up Flawless by Sara Shepard because I just felt like reading the second Pretty Little Liars book, even though I have a huge list of things I should otherwise be reading. The second book is pretty good.

This week I received the new Guy Gavriel Kay book, Under Heaven. I'm really very excited about it. I hope *fingers crossed* that we have an author reading with Guy hosted by our store sometime in the Spring. The ARC is so heavy. The book is like 600 pages. Under Heaven is set in the Tang Dynasty of eighth-century China, and it looks like a stand-alone outside of his previous books' worlds.

And I also got The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, which I didn't know anything about. The author's name sounds familiar....oh, her other book is Enthusiasm. I think I've seen a review or two. I really like the cover for Grimm Legacy. Elizabeth is lonely at her new school until she stumbles upon a secret room in the basement of the school where objects from the Grimm Tales are kept. When they start to go missing, Elizabeth and her friends search for the thief, before they're accused of the crime themselves. It looks fun.

I wanted to get to the library this weekend too, which never happened. My library is a five minute walk away, which makes the whole thing sadder. My absolute favourite way to pick up new books is by randoming choosing them from the shelves at the library. Maybe I'll get some time this week.

What books did you get this week?

Mandy

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

*Blog Linky Love* on Friday!


Just like everyone else who has their own blog plus their own lives and jobs, kids, etc. I find it hard to leave comments on all the blog posts that I read through the week. So I want to start a thing on Fridays where I basically pile-up my shout-outs to great blog posts I've read through the week. To share them with you and showcase the blogs I love.

Before I get into that for this week, I really have to tell you about the Sweet Valley High Re-Boot that's going on!

I had not read any SVH books growing up, I just missed them, until Katie from Read What You Know and I read the first book in the series together and shared an awesomely funny review and chat about the story, a few months back. So I'm kind of a fangirl now about SVH, with that one book read under my belt, and I'm kind of loving the idea of a re-boot. Here are the deets:

According to St. Martin’s, Sweet Valley High’s Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield – the identical twins with blonde hair, eyes the color of the Pacific Ocean and “perfect size six” figures – will return to bookstores, possibly as soon as early next year, in Sweet Valley Confidential, a book chronicling their lives as twenty-somethings.

Rumors have swirled for years that SVH creator Francine Pascal was working on a book focusing on the twins and their friends several years out of high school. Late last month, the SVH world went into a frenzy when an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s confirmed the existence of the novel, giving Shannon’s Sweet Valley Blog a tentative publishing date of February 2011. While there is no word yet on what characters will appear in the book, there is a plethora to choose from. I think it’s safe to say that Lila Fowler, Jessica’s rich frenemy and my personal favorite, will make an appearance, as will Porsche-driving Bruce Patman and
Elizabeth’s moody on-again off-again boyfriend Todd Wilkins. Continuity has never been one of Sweet Valley’s strong points, so I won’t really mind if the book pretends Sweet Valley Senior Year and Sweet Valley University never happened, focuses on just SVH characters, and retains the same fabulous campy quality as the original series.

My question is whether Francine Pascal will personally be writing them or will she have a ghost writer for the re-boot? You know, I'm calling it a re-boot but it's not. It's a continuation of the SVH "mythos" if you will--and why wouldn't you? :)
Anyway, Pascal didn't write all of her novels, will she write the new books? I am glad to hear that a fabulous campy quality will continue in the new series. Although a small part of me wonders if SVH Confidential will turn out to be like the last 3 seasons of
Beverly Hills 90210: kind of used up.

If anything, I love this news because it introduced me to Shannon's Sweet Valley High Blog! Did you know about this? This lady has read every SVH book out there and reviewed them on her blog, including those special editions. She's gone through all of the books, now, but you can read through her back logs. What a feat. I'd love to see a "Julie and Julia" -type movie done for
Shannon's life as she reads and blogs about SVH books, cut to scenes from Francine's life writing about the Wakefield Twins, tentatively titled "Francine and Shannon". :) Listen to THAT, Diablo Cody (aside: Have you seen United States of Tara? Created by Cody, it is really great. I'm just getting into it).

*****

Fabulous things I've found online this week:

Create a Word Cloud for your blog, here! It's really fun and you can pick through different styles. Incidentally when I popped in the name of my blog, the hugest words on my cloud were Damon and Eyebrows. Frankie and Donna I blame you completely! :)
Word Cloud link first mentioned on Pete Hautman's blog.

This week also, Simply Books wrote a review for Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. I have a copy of the book at home and now really look forward to reading it.

YA Vampire Books, a blog I totally love, had a post this week on a little TV series called Kindred: The Embraced. It's about a pack of vampires living in the city, based on the world-view of the role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade...and it's created by Aaron Spelling. Are you kidding me? That guy was everywhere! (I will also not confirm or deny that I have any intimate knowledge of this role-playing game...it was cool at the time). I kinda watched the first episode and it was alright. Click through the link to see where you can watch it all on Youtube.

Shannon Hale held a contest to make your own Rapunzel's Revenge book trailer and she's posted the videos for you to vote on. They are a lot of fun so check them out. Rapunzel's Revenge is a cool little graphic novel that came out last year with fantastic illustrations.

vvb32 Reads is gearing up for a Valentine's Day book weekend, which I'll be reading along with. I love the blog header: the focus is on zombies, vampires, steampunk, Japanese and Jane Austen in YA books and the art reflects all of these things. Awesome.

Tales of Whimsy has a great review of Animal Farm, complete with a gallery of alternate cover art over the years.
"But at times the porky hypocrisy had me ready to scream at the other animals"--Juju. Love it!

And that's it for this week. What great blog posts have you found this week? Leave 'em in the comments for me to check out.

Mandy

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Pine!


Pete Hautman just posted a cover pic of his newest book, Blank Confession, which he says will be available in November and I pine for it!

He says:

I’ve just shipped my latest novel off to my publisher. The original title was “Shayne,” a nod to Jack Schaefer’s classic western novel, Shane. But because almost no one born after 1970 remembers that book, my wise editor suggested an alternate title: Blank Confession. Look for it next November.

I can't really find any information about the premise of his new book, which is both refreshing and frustrating. Although I have found a post where Pete has created a Word Cloud for the book, to offer an insight:



Rawls, huh? I can't wait to hear more about this one.

Create your own Word Cloud for stuff here. Can you imagine a Word Cloud for Twilight?
Sparkle. Supra-sexual tension. Mundane chores.

I shouldn't point fingers because my blog's Word Cloud would be: Totally. Awesome. Just okay. Beverly Hills 90210.
Mandy


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yesterday was a good day!


Yesterday a lady came into our store and asked if we could choose about $1000 of books for teens for a library she's starting. And she wants us to choose the books. For teens 12-17... $1000 worth...Me...choosing books for a starter library...

It was the best ever.

I'm looking at the list of things I pulled off the shelves, now, and I'm getting all dewey-eyed. I walked around with a shelving cart and weighed the pros and cons of each book. I approached it thinking that this might be the first library someone walks around--what can I hook them with to make them lifelong readers.

My lady wanted to have copies of Twilight and Harry Potter, which I included happily. More so the HP books. She also wanted Eric Walters, which is what all Canadian libraries make sure to have. You wouldn't think that $1000 might go pretty far, but I had problems choosing between titles. What was necessary?

We didn't have a copy of How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, but I did include What I Was. I put a few titles in by Neal Shusterman because I love him and I think he's great for guy-reads. Everlost, Unwind, and Downsiders made it into the boxes. Also, The Schwa Was Here, which I haven't read but will very soon.

I included a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, because I LOVED this book when I was younger. I added a copy of Beige by Cecil Castellucci because it's my favourite. I totally couldn't forget to include all three of books of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, and also a copy of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

I've only read The Hobbit and the first Lord of the Rings book, which I thought was okay, but I put the whole series in because I know so many people who felt these books to be so important when they were young. I stuck in a copy of Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay to introduce people to a fine Canadian fantasy writer. Same for the copy of The Broken Thread by Linda Smith I included. Beautiful fantasy writing. Oh, and also Graceling by Kristin Cashore...and The Wand in the Word, an anthology of interviews with fantasy writers which I loved reading.

Anything we had by Shannon Hale was included. Nameably Goose Girl, Princess Academy and Book of a Thousand Days, which are my top three.

Thief by Megan Turner, Redwall by Brian Jacques, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, and Pirate's Passage by William Gilkerson were included.

Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller is awesome fun, and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is beautiful.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, a ton by Kenneth Oppel, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Princess Bride by William Goldman (I Know!), The Vampire Diaries books 1 and 2 ( I know, I know), Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (I am surprisingly into this series!), The Boyfriend List by e. lockhart.

Poetry by Susan Musgrave. She's so visceral and such a witchy woman; a luscious writer.

A bunch of Scott Westerfeld. All titles by John Green. King Dork by Frank Portman.

And Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle. Have you read this book yet? It's so good. Same for Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. OH, and Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz, of course.

The first three Narnia books.

And many more, actually. I had a blast choosing them. I only picked papaerback, to go easy on the budget, if you're wondering why I didn't pick some great newer fiction. Like The Maze Runner by James Dashner or Half World by Hiromi Goto. Next time.

What would the essentials be in your starter library?

Mandy

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review *The Secret Year* by Jennifer Hubbard


Julia was killed on Labor Day on her way home from a party. I didn't get to see her that night. I used to meet her on Friday nights, but I was never invited to the parties that she was invited to. We'd meet on the banks of the river, clutch at each other in the backseat of her car, steam up her windows and write messages and jokes to each other in the fog on the glass, and argue about whether to turn on the A/C. Sometimes we swam in the river late at night when the water was black and no one could see us. We did all that for a year, and nobody else knew.

The Secret Year opens a few hours after Julia dies in a car accident. Colt hears about it through his best friend, Syd, who heard it from Kirby, a girl who straddles the social divide between Black Mountain Road kids and people from The Flats. Colt has to act uninvolved as he wrings details from Syd: He and Julia were the only two people who knew about their affair. Now it is just him. When Michael, Julia's brother, hands Colt a journal of letters she's kept for him, it's the only connection he has to the girl he lost.

The story follows Colt for about a year after Julia's death, as he reads her letters/journal and tries to piece together the year they spent together in secret. Julia has a boyfriend, and she lives up on Black Mountain Road with the rich elite. Colt is from The Flats. He gets to the theme of their story right away, telling us:

That was the biggest difference between Julia and me: Black Mountain versus the flats. Not that we were Romeo and Juliet or anything. Nobody was trying to keep us apart. My family wouldn't have cared if I'd gone out with her. Julia's family probably would've hated me, but they wouldn't have locked her in her room. It was what her friends would've thought that bothered her, I think.

A cool image in the book is the river where Colt and Julia go on Friday nights to be together. They meet at night and the river looks black. After her death Colt goes there to be alone. I was looking around Jennifer's blog and I found an entry mentioning her fascination with "the river cure" mentioned by Anais Nin in one of her journals:

Described a[s a] folk cure for madness that involved placing a person next to a flowing river. The person was supposed to throw a stone into the river to unlock any blocked feelings, so that the feelings could flow again. I was not aware of this before I wrote my book, but it certainly reminded me of Colt. (Yes, there’s even a scene where he throws stones in the water.) Whether he succeeds in healing his “madness” and unlocking all the secrets that bound him to Julia, I leave you to discover. (Class of 2k10)

Another important character goes to the river when she wants to think or be alone, too. Although I don't remember the part where Colt throws a stone into the water. I DO remember the first time he kisses Julia. She's waded in wearing a slip and she teases him to come in with her. And he does. It surprises her. I liked in the book how the river was like a test of character; it attracts a certain type of person who can identify this river-attraction in others. It was well-done.

The Secret Year isn't exactly a romance novel, either. Which is the sense I initially got from the cover. Colt's interest in Julia after her death, I felt, was very natural. Kirby kind of throws it in his face a bit, like he's drawing it out too much by holding on to her journal. But I disagree. Their relationship wasn't perfect or really normal, but it was passionate and real at the time. Colt takes the year after her death to really process what she was to him and subsequently what he represented to her. Jennifer has this great blog post talking about how romance in a novel can bring out vulnerabilities in the characters, and I think this makes total sense for the "romance" in the book. Julia has flaws and only retrospect showed Colt that she wasn't exactly who she seemed. I wouldn't call their connection romantic, or really any other relationship Colt has with girls afterwards, as much as it's about two people finding out more about themselves through the eyes of another.

It's funny. This review is kind of short. I enjoyed reading the book but it was more like something to experience than to pick apart. It's very character-driven, which I like, and I enjoyed the central mystery of finding out who exactly Julia Vernon is and what her last night was like.

Mandy

Recently:

Review of Book One of The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
Review of Book Two of The Vampire Diaries (I've been on a kick)
A funny take on judging books by their cover
A review of Possessed by Kate Cann (to show that I can write an okay review :) )

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review *The Vampire Diaries 2: The Struggle* by L.J. Smith


Just the other day I was reviewing the first book in the series, The Awakening, and the ending of each book is such that you have to just keep reading into the next one. The final scenes are cliffhangers and the first sentence of the next book is the last sentence of the one that you just finished. It was a smart idea for Harper Collins to print two books in one, with a few teaser chapters of the third book even, in one volume. I would have been so mad finishing each book on such a cliffhanger. It makes you just keep reading, too. But you know what else kept me reading? Damon.

Here's a sampling of my reading notebook that I keep to remember parts I like for my reviews:

261: Hot

258: Hot, with eyebrows

I was most excited about The Struggle because I felt Damon was only introduced in the first book. In the second one, the tension is on now between Damon and Elena, and Damon and Stefan. While I still found him elusive, you get way more of him in Book Two.

Here's a little taste of the above pages I wanted to remember to quote:

"I'm talking about Power, Elena." Suddenly, [Damon] stepped close to her, his eyes fixed on hers, his voice soft and urgent. "You've tried everything else, and nothing has satisfied you. You're the girl who has everything, but there's always been something just out of your reach, something you need desperately and can't have. That's what I'm offering you. Power. Eternal life. And feelings you've never felt before."

She did understand then, and bile rose in her throat. She choked on horror and repudiation. "No."

"Why not?" he whispered. "Why not try it, Elena? Be honest. Isn't there a part of you that wants to?" His dark eyes were full of heat and intensity that held her transfixed, unable to look away. "I can waken things inside you that have been sleeping all your life. You're strong enough to live in the dark, to glory in it. You can become a queen of the shadows. Why not take that Power, Elena? Let me help you take it."

Hot. And I love that on PAGE TWO Damon's eyebrows already have center stage:

[Elena] clenched her fists. "Where's Stefan?"
A line appeared between Damon's dark eyebrows. "Stefan who?"

The Struggle seemed to lack the focus and build of the first book. All kinds of things were happening--Hallowe'en dances and stolen journals, dead History teachers. Bonnie gets a little more central action as the psychic trance lady, alerting Elena and Stefan to surrounding dangers. She also gets an off-screen kiss from Stefan--Hello, L.J., please write this hot scene into the story! And I'm still not so sure about Meredith who seems to have no personality at all. I can understand why she wasn't written into the TV show. There's nothing really to work with.

A new addition to the plot was the introduction of the new history teacher, Alaric Saltzman. On his first day of class he gets everyone to turn their desks into a circle and he asks them to spill about their traumas regarding the death of their old teacher, Mr. Tanner. Then just as class is wrapping up he's all: "How about if you all come around to my place this evening, and we can talk informally? Maybe just get to know each other, maybe talk about what happened...I'll provide the refreshments." Okaaaayy. Alaric is being so obvious. He even suggests to the class that coming to his party counts as participation marks in his class. So weird. By the end of the book you don't have a sense of his motive, but I'm sure he's just getting going in The Struggle.

Actually, one of the most awesome scenes in the book happens at his party. Damon hasn't been introduced to the characters outside of Elena's sightings of him. His grand social entrance is when Elena reaches for a breadstick and chews one end of it. Suddenly, a form lunges toward her saying "Mind if I have a bite?", and Damon bites off the end of the breadstick, "in that moment, their lips were only inches apart." It was really funny. Presumably all the girls were like "oh, what a suave College guy". Can you imagine anyone doing this at a party. Especially if you didn't know they were right beside you?

I was also hoping for a little more from Caroline's character. She hooks up with Tyler from book one *barf*, and exacts a pretty petty revenge on Elena for being the coolest girl around. What Caroline isn't realizing is that Elena is naturally pulling away from her old life at school because of the secrets she has to keep. She's not the "it" girl anymore. And you're second in command; just give it a little time and there will be room at the top for you. Caroline could be a strong nemesis for Elena, but I just haven't seen it yet. She's too easily overwhelmed by her jealousy to properly execute her plans. She's Damon to Elena's Stefan and I'd love to see her as a more formidable foe.

Another theme that really keeps me reading this series is the play of darkness and light and the push-and-pull it creates, looking for balance. Damon hates Stefan because he has light in him, because he cultivates goodness. Stefan hates Damon because he is only darkness and refuses to imagine any other way. Elena is a bit of both. She's described as an Ice Queen with a raging fire inside her. She's capable of loving her friends and family, sacrificing herself for others, but she's super-spoiled and entitled. It makes her think she can do whatever she wants, regardless of the people around her. Matt accuses her of only thinking of herself. And she tries to deny her passion for Damon. At the end of book two you get a real view into her true character and the potential she has for being bad.

The ending of The Struggle really surprised me. I can absolutely say that I have NO idea how the series will continue. Many things happened that are irreversible, and huge. Things that other teen vampire romances never quite broached. So I'm looking forward to The Fury, book 3. Oh, L.J., you have me hooked!

Mandy

Neat factoid: The Fury was originally the last volume of The Vampire Diaries, which was intended as a trilogy. Pressure from fans at the time caused L.J. to write a fourth book, Dark Reunion. And a new VD trilogy is in the works, The Vampire Diaries: The Return. The first title, Nightfall, came out last February and the next two books will be out this March and July.

In My Mailbox this Week!


I had a killer week in books. What rises to the top? NEW NEAL SHUSTERMAN!!! Gah! I am a huge fangirl for his books. I was just about to start reading Downsiders, because I haven't yet. Bruiser is out in July via Harper Teen. It looks awesome and I might have to break my own rule of not reading something and reviewing it until closer to its release date. I might not be able to help myself.
I'm also pretty psyched about The Body Finder. It's about a girl who can find the dead bodies of people who have been murdered. It's also the author's debut novel. Beautiful cover. Out in March via Harper Teen.

And I'm intrigued by Alive Kuipers new book, The Worst Thing She Ever Did. Up top you'll see that at one point the book was tentatively named Lost For Words. I don't know what the final published title will be. The difference could be a UK vs. North American release thing. Alice also wrote Life on the Refrigerator Door, which was very successful and won a bunch of awards and accolades.
Mistwood looks good. I love misty castles in the background. It is a debut novel for the author. Out in May via Greenwillow.
Guardian of the Dead also looks crush-worthy. It is set in a boarding school in New Zealand (I'm thinking Kiwis and Flight of the Conchords), where something ancient and deadly is lurking in the surrounding forest. Strange cover, with the mask. It's out in April via Little Brown and Company.
Oh, I also received Reality Check by Jen Calonita, which doesn't have confirmed cover art yet. My ARC just has author and reviewer blurbs. It's about 4 teens on a reality show which is like The Hills meets iCarly. I love iCarly, but the drama suggested on the back cover makes me think it'll have more weight to it as a story. Looks good. Out in June via Poppy, an imprint of Little Brown and Company.
And 13 Treasures reminds me that I want to have a Junior/Middle Grade reader post every week. I want to expand this blog to accomodate all the cool books I'm seeing. Like Tunnels and 100 Cupboards, which are for younger readers. But adults can like them too! *plaintive*


What awesome books did you pick up this week?


Mandy

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

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review *The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening* by L.J. Smith


I'm a fan of the t.v. show. BUT, really only because of Damon and Caroline. I love their characters and can't wait to see what happens to them (and including any of the cast members of Firefly always excites me, however badly her character was written). So, within the first 5 pages of The Awakening my first blurted thought-to-mouth was "Where's Damon?!"

And he's in there, you just have to wait for it. Which I can do. I WAS disappointed with Caroline's character, though (in the book). She could have been a real Cordelia, but she wasn't amped up enough in the book. Which is one of my complaints in general: Vampire Diaries, the book, does not have punchy, memorable characters.

Although I was surprised by Elena's character. I really liked how desperate she was to win over Stefan. She claims a few times in the book that she will persue him TO THE POINT OF DEATH! This girl is passionate about her interest and doesn't balk to spread rumors that Stefan is a "Narc" (which made me burst out laughing--I'm sure everyone remembers someone who was called the Narc in school, it's classic and should be used more in teen fiction). Or to deliver flowers for herself from her fake boyfriend, Jean-Claude. Desperate and conniving, and great to see in a main character. I find Elena in VD the TV show (VDTV) kind of cardboardy. Definately not the Cordelia-type Queen of Cool that she is at the beginning of the book. I liked how hard she tried at the highschool level to bag, although she didn't know it, a man who is hundreds of years old.

"I've decided what to do my oral report on," [Elena] said, watching with narrow eyes as Bonnie finger-combed grass out of her curls.

"What?" said Meredith.

Elena tilted her chin up to gaze at the red and purple sky above the hill. She took a thoughtful breath and let the suspense build for a moment. Then she said coolly, "The Italian Renaissance."

Bonnie and Meredith stared at her, then looked at each other and burst into whoops of laughter again.

"Aha," said Meredith when thet recovered. "So the tiger returneth."

Elena gave her a feral grin. Her shaken confidence had returned to her. And though she didn't understand it herself, she knew one thing: she wasn't going to let Stefan Salvatore get away alive.

It's refreshing to see her engage him so openly and work to get his attention so obviously. I wish that L.J. would have played up the rivalry between Caroline and Elena over Stefan a little more instead of having Caroline just kind of fade away from the picture once S and E got going. But for the most part, I wasn't annoyed by Stefan as brooding and unattainable, because VD was written before Twilight and Buffy, for that matter: you can't be bothered, while reading, to be all "yeah, it's been done already".

Actually I'm really fascinated by where Vampires in highschool began, in fiction. VD is originally published in 1991. I didn't read it at the time it came out, but I don't remember anything else out there about vamps in highschool. Or really relating vampires to the teen experience. Interview with a Vampire was a great book at the time, but it wasn't necessarily about the teen years. And VD doesn't remind me of Interview with a Vampire at all, really. What are the original vampires in highschool/teen experience books?

Getting back to Damon, I am really actually looking forward to reading the second book in the series, The Struggle. Because now we're really going to get into the push and pull between Elena and her two guys. The Awakening is about Elena and Stefan; meeting each other, falling in love, she learning his secret, them sharing an intimacy that surprised me in the story (*** Hop to the bottom for a spoilery explanation, only if you've read the book or don't mind knowing). At the end of the first book I was hankering to jump right into the second book because I knew it was Damon's time to shine. Kind of cliffhangery on L.J.'s part, but not horrible seeing as the new editions have published two books in one. Otherwise, cliffhangers are unnecessary. They suggest that you don't trust the reader to keep reading the series based on its own merit, you have to trick them into needing to know what happens next because they've committed so much time already to the book and can't duck out now. The break between the books is more like a chapter break than a whole separate book with separate title thing.

I also appreciated how slow the build-up was to the story. There wasn't a lot of detail or particular attention to character development, but it also wasn't crashbang in your face with deaths and kidnappings to Georgia and running off into the nights. In this respect it was pretty tame, I liked the pacing of it. Any action was plotted well within the story, paced properly with the other social dramas happening.

Overall I hope Damon is as cool in the book as he is in the TV show. Although there hasn't been a lot of humor in the book, so we'll see. It has my interest and I was surprised by how much I liked the story.

I also love this artist rendition of Damon from L.J.'s website. Check it out for others, including Matt, Elena, and a surprising one of Stefan.

***Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers ***

In the book Stefan and Elena have only shared kisses and one night they drink each other's blood. This type of sensuality is always suggested in books with vampires who date girls, but not as obviously carried out. I found the book did a good job of making this trade have impact, like it really meant something as an act. Like you could see them doing it regularly, just for the connection it brings them. Kind of taboo to suggest to teens.
Mandy
Fun Vampire Diary Stuff!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

*Jumps up and down excitedly, not unlike the pee dance, just jollier* Yvonne Prinz is Here!


I really loved The Vinyl Princess--pop over to my review to see how. So I am beside myself that Yvonne (we're on a first name basis, now) was generous enough to respond to my fangirl questions!
*****

(Mandy) I think it's obvious within the story itself, but founding/owning/working in a record store really must have informed the details of Allie's home away from home. I'm thinking of how well you were able to create a very exacting experience of the community created by a record store in a cool part of town. I sense that there is a bit of your own heart in the setting of Bob & Bob's?


(Yvonne) Oh, yes, very much. I was amazed at the number of people who lived on the street when we opened Amoeba in 1990. We were quick to become a part of the Telegraph Avenue community with all its quirks and eccentricities. The book is completely informed by my real life experiences working at Amoeba for five years. I heard a lot of sad stories, welcomed babies into the world, babysat puppies and made loans to desperate people. The street culture on Telegraph is sad and wonderful at the same time.


VP has been likened to High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. And you mention that you started out to write a High Fidelity for girls in your Q & A with Billboard. What is the history you have with the book? What about it appeals to you?


I really loved High Fidelity. It reminded me of my first record store job when I was seventeen. I know Nick worked in a record store too and you really have to have lived it to write about it. People who work in the stores are often struggling musicians as well which is an interesting ego type to have to deal with. Amoeba has always had rotating staff leaving on tour, which is just how it is. Nick got that in High Fidelity too, the musician/record store clerk type; Moody, fragile, sleep-deprived, egotistical.


I'm also very interested in how you developed Allie's voice, which is so distinctive and just so DEAD ON. And even Kit; too often it is so easy to write best friend characters as tonal extentions of the main character. But in VP you've created such strong, female voices which are very different from one another. What is your secret? Certainly some unholy power was called upon.


Oh, yes, I have a shaman who drops by and lights things and shakes rattles and we sacrifice a chicken or two.

No, really, Allie is more me and Kit is the “Me” I wish I had the confidence to be: Guy Magnet, great dresser, adorable.

I think that voice is a hard thing to describe but you know when you’ve nailed it. A good way to tell is if you can read back some sad dialogue that your character said and it makes you cry. Then, by gum, you’ve got it.


Is Allie's name short for Alberta? Is this a shout-out to where you were born and raised? Is this mentioned in VP? Maybe I missed it.


Yes, there’s a funny bit at the beginning about how she got her name and yes, it is short for Alberta:


“I was born here in Berkeley sixteen years ago. My mom named me Allie, short for Alberta. When my mom found out that she was pregnant with me, she did the math and discovered that I’d been conceived on their trip to the Canadian Rockies, a place called Lake Louise in the province of Alberta. She said that the skies were so blue, the mountains so majestic and the glacier-fed lakes so pristinely turquoise there that she had to name me after that place. My mom and dad had long dreamed of taking a “rugged” vacation together (and by rugged I mean a mountain view from the window of the luxury chateau and optional trail rides through previously mentioned mountains). Later, when I showed up earlier than expected, my mom re-did the math and realized that I’d actually been conceived in a rather down-in-the-heels Montreal hotel room on the same trip. But it was too late, I was Allie by then (she named me in utero) and Monty would have been a terrible name for a girl.”


What is the coolest part about writing for teens? What is the best part of the journey so far?


I had no idea how the VP would be perceived but the response has been great. I guess the best part about the book is that I get these beautiful letters from girls telling me that the VP makes them feel like they belong somewhere. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I’ve saved them all (not the girls, the letters). It’s nice to reach out with a book and know that someone is reading it and getting it.


I'm pretty excited about rumors that you are working on a book called "All You Get is Me", which will be out in 2011. Is it too soon to talk about what it's about?


No, in fact, I just finished the edits so it’s very fresh in my mind. “All You Get Is Me” is about a girl named Roar (short for Aurora) whose father, a human rights lawyer, up and buys a farm shortly after Aurora’s mother disappears from their home in San Francisco. Roar, a city girl through and through, wants nothing to do with farm life until a series of events pulls her into her new life and she opens her heart to the Migrant Farm workers and the hardworking people who live in the community. It’s a sort of a modern Day “To Kill A Mockingbird” with racism and social justice at it’s center. Oh, and a boy from LA figures strongly too.


(Ah me. I feel like a dope for overlooking the ENTIRE paragraph where my answer about Allie's name could have been answered for me. I swear I completely missed it)

Thanks SO much, Yvonne!

Mandy

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