Sunday, January 31, 2010

In My Mailbox this Week!

I'm pretty excited about this week in books.

In particular Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto, as I don't know anything about it. I haven't read anything by Eric Luper, but this looks like fun. Seth gets dumped at Applebee's and on the same day sees his father there, with a woman who's not his mother. He starts an anonymous podcast called The Love Manifesto that asks the question, "what is love and why are we stupid enough to go back for more?"

The Naughty List looks good, too. I don't know if I love the cover but the premise works for me. The school's cheerleaders, The Smitten Kittens, are perfect and popular. They are also spies-for-hire, catching cheating boyfriends and exacting justice. It sounds a little like Pretty Little Liars and maybe a bit like Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Both great books, so we'll see. The book has it's own blog where the Naughty List is kept and surveillance is recorded, it's pretty cute.

Booklist and USA Today both compare Merlin's Harp to The Mists of Avalon and Publisher's Weekly calls it a worthy successor to T.H. White, which is wow. It reminds me of Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve, which was a re-telling of Arthur's exploits through a young girl's eyes. A girl who was a pawn of Merlin and who disguised herself as a boy.

And I think I've already blogged about my interest in We Hear the Dead, because of my fascination with the Fox sisters. I can't wait to read a fictional historical.

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


What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, January 29, 2010

*Little Brother* Book Clubbing with A Book A Week!

Mostly because I didn't know how to start this review, I went trolling around to see if I could pinpoint exactly what type of SciFi sub-genre Little Brother falls into. It's not exactly apocalyptic or dystopian, but it does fall into the category of "Mundane SF", which "focuses on stories set on or near the Earth, with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written" (wikipedia article, which has more info and links).

Little Brother feels like it's set exactly five minutes from now. Marcus lives in San Francisco and expertly hacks his school's "safety" mechanisms. Like the gait recognition technology--"these idiot cameras that were supposed to be able to tell one person's walk from another"--and "free" student laptops which log, record and analyze every keystroke made. Marcus lives in an alternate Big Brother reality which feels like a few small steps from our own. I don't want to get too pulled away by looking up stuff, but gait recognition technology is already being developed with the intent to use it for a society's apparent safety. And the linked story is two years old.

That's what I really liked about Little Brother--it made me very interested to know how technology may be used against society in the name of communal safety. Cory also presses the point that citizens are the strongest promoters of this safety, justifying the governing body's surveillance as a way to not feel afraid. Or, at least to Marcus, citizens over 25 are most afraid of their safety.

On an afternoon that Marcus and his group ditch school to play this awesome-sounding game called Harajuku Fun Madness, there is a major terrorist attack and he and his three friends are arrested by Homeland Security on suspicion of being terrorists. With no grounds, of course, except for being young, not in school, and in the middle of the attack. But getting back quickly to Harajuku Fun Madness, how amazing does this game sound:
It's an ARG, an Alternate Reality Game, and the story goes that a gang of Japanese fashionteens discovered a miraculous healing gem at the temple in Harajuku, which is basically where cool Japanese teenagers invented every major subculture for the past ten years...They slip the players coded messages that we have to decode and use to track down clues that lead to more coded messages and more clues...Imagine the best afternoon you've ever spent prowling the streets of a city, checking out all the weird people, funny handbills, street maniacs, and funky shops. Now add a scavenger hunt to that, one that requires you to research crazy old films and songs and teen culture from around the world and across time and space. And it's a competition, with the winning team of four taking a grand prize of ten days in Tokyo, chilling on Harajuku bridge, geeking out in Akihabara, and taking home all the Astro Boy merchandise you can eat.

It's when Marcus is checking out a set of GPS coordinates as that day's clue when the attack happens and he and his friends are violently arrested after waving down a military jeep, thinking that the police might help their wounded friend. The few days that Marcus is in some secret jail, after taking a short boat ride, is a turning point in the tone for the story. His imprisonment and humiliation--the absolute power that his captors have over him--fuels Marcus to somehow get back at them for taking his rights. Homeland Security also still have Darryl, or so Marcus believes, and he's commited to freeing his friend.
If I found the surveillance technology neat so far, what is cooler is the description of how Marcus gets around them. Cory has an amazing way of describing technology in super user-friendly ways. He actually made me want to learn how to write code:
If you've never programmed a computer, you should. There's nothing like it in the whole world. When you program a computer, it does exactly what you tell it to do. It's like designing a machine--any machine, like a car, like a faucet, like a gas hinge for a door--using math and instructions. It's awesome in the truest sense: it can fill you with awe.

There is also this very long explanation of how you can rig an Xbox to create a truly secure online connection. The idea comes from a book called Hacking the Xbox, "a wonderful book that tells the story of how bunnie [Andrew "bunnie" Huang], then a student at MIT, reverse-engineered the Xbox's antitampering mechanisms and opened the way for all the subsequent cool hacks for the platform." Actually Cory has a full bibliography of sources for someone who wants to know more about the tech referenced in Little Brother. And even as a person who has little background knowledge, I totally want to know more about security systems, how to use them, and how to hack them. It was the funnest part about this book--I want to read everything Cory read before he wrote it.

Followed by an early morning chat with Kiirstin from A Book A Week, on Little Brother:

Mandy: I liked your review, it was spot-on.

kiirstin: Thank you! I liked yours as well. You seemed to focus more on the technological aspects than I did. I didn't realize, for example, that gait recognition tech was something people were already working on.

Mandy: I was inspired to do some further reading, which is what I hope people would do after reading the book. My further reading was Google related, but I love that Cory included some fantastic resources at the end of his book for anyone interested.

kiirstin: Absolutely. And the essays by others at the end, I thought that was a neat touch.

Mandy: Gait-recognition technology sounds so silly after reading LB. It makes no sense. I love that LB made me question something that might otherwise seem like an okay technology to develop.

kiirstin: I thought he was very tech neutral, in some ways. Not necessarily saying "this is a bad technology" but "it is stupid to use technology in this way." Also, it made me decide I'd better password protect my cell phone.

Mandy: Many times throughout the book I was like "hunh?" about the techno-talk, but I'm used to that in SciFi. What is so cool about LB, and "mundane SciFi" in general, is that the techno-talk is not techno-babble; terms made up and used for plot purposes in some SciFi.

All of his explanations made perfect sense and were well researched. He also explained things very vividly.

kiirstin: Which all leads to that creepy "um, yeah, this could actually happen. yikes" feeling, because the technology behind the story was so established.

Mandy: Completely. You could see it all happening. LB did make me more paranoid in general--which was a big theme in the book. It also made me want to hack my Xbox with my zero hacker knowledge, but exuberant interest.

kiirstin: I think making you a bit paranoid's exactly what it was supposed to do. Even the times where I felt it might be a bit over the top, part of me was whispering that it wasn't really that over the top.

And then there was that thing on the border with the SciFi author who got the crap kicked out of him by border guards, like, a week after I finished the book.

Mandy: I didn't know about that. Who was the author?

kiirstin: Dr. Peter Watts. The first article I read about it was at Making Light. The comments on that post are really wonderful to read, too. Cory Doctorow was the first one to really break the news about that one. Dr. Watts is a friend of his.

Mandy: Cory is the coolest.

I love that his book was impeccably researched. He really knows his stuff. It's great to see someone who has a real message and gets it across, even in fiction.

Not to denigrate fiction, of course, as I love reading it. A heavy dose of non-fiction is great, though, and a bit of a breath of fresh surveilled air compared to many contemporary YA books.

kiirstin: There's a lot of fluff out there, which of course is wonderful to read too, but LB definitely had meat to it.

He just felt so familiar with the subject material. Although... if I can admit... that was one of the small things that kind of bugged me every once in a while.

Mandy: At times it was too much for me, as well.

kiirstin: It was just sometimes that there was such a clear agenda. While I agree wholeheartedly with the agenda, it was still quite noticeable.

Mandy: I agree. It was a little heavy-handed. I did like how he brings up the question, a few times in the book, how can you tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys? Both know how to hack but the good guys are the ones who use it for a "good" purpose. However, who's the judge of that?

He touches on this a few times. I would have liked him to bring this to the fore a little more in the book.

kiirstin: Oh yes! Definitely. I liked what he did with that but I did want a bit more. The thing with Marcus' father was interesting -- I think any parent reading that would understand Marcus' father's perspective perfectly.

He was like the walking question "How much freedom and privacy would you give up to protect your family." And I *know* for many people it would be "all of it" except that without a bigger picture it's hard to recognize that by giving up those things, you're also harming your family.

Mandy: And the question of security was huge in the book. But when does the need for a sense of security become a means to possibly "evil" ends? Can we ever attain the type of security we're so set on keeping?

kiirstin: For example, how far are we willing to go just to catch wankers who decide that putting explosives in their underwear is the ideal way to inspire terror?

At the risk of overloading, there's another great Making Light thread talking about that issue. The point that is made somewhere in there is that there will *always* be outliers that we will never be able to predict.

Mandy: The lengths that we'd HAVE to go, according to LB, would only be "good" for the whole, not the individual and then you get on the slippery slope of means to the end for the greater good, which sometimes bulldozes the individual. And Homeland Security in the book demands that predictability be the norm. Which is crazy to suggest. And desperate to maintain.

kiirstin: Yes, exactly! Actually, something that stuck with me about that even though I didn't write it down was an offhand comment made about a kid who was HIV positive and his parents didn't know. And because of DHS' movement-watching scheme, they flagged his (her?) movements and blew his cover. Which would quite possibly have ruined his life.

Actually, this is something we've started having to deal with in libraries. In the States, their have been a couple of cases where the DHS has wanted libraries to release patron records to see what someone who is suspicious has been checking out of the library.

Mandy: I've heard of the library records cases. Crazy.

I also love the theme of Don't Trust Anyone Over 25. Because in the book anyone over 25 doesn't trust them. It's a theme that's interesting; the latter generation doesn't trust the newer generation because they are the next world-makers. What if they aren't right for the job?

"What if we haven't taught them the right way of being in the world and now it will come back to haunt us?" = blanket mistrust.

kiirstin: That whole blanket mistrust is SO PREVALENT though. Even some parents don't trust the kids they've raised to make good decisions. And true, teenagers sometimes make stupid decisions. But adults also often make stupid decisions, and they're the ones with the power.

I really liked that push-back.

Thanks, K!

Pop over to Kiirstin's blog for HER side of the story!


Did I Miss Out?

David Levithan wrote a little essay on Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, who died this week:

Probably the most popular thing I’ve ever read during school visits is a piece from one of my novels called “My girlfriend is in love with Holden Caulfield.” No matter where I am in America, no matter if I’m talking to freshmen or seniors, guys or girls, every time I say the title, at least half the class knows exactly what I’m talking about. I often say that “The Catcher in the Rye” is the second most misread book in history – when you’re young, you don’t really see Holden’s pain, only his bravado. Then, when you get older, you see the sorrow and confusion underneath. And the book gets even stronger for it. (The Wall Street Journal Online)

I haven't read Catcher in the Rye yet, or anything by David Levithan for that matter. Although both have been on my radar. You can read the above piece about the girlfriend loving Holden Caulfield from his novel The Realm of Possibility, here. Actually I think I'll pick this book up -- "The Realm of Possibility is told by twenty different teens who go to the same high school – straight and queer, goth and gospel, hopeful and heartbroken"

My highschool was too busy reading Lord of the Flies every year to add Catcher to the reading list. Don't get me wrong, I love LOTF, but I feel like I missed out on a part of my formative teen years not reading Catcher. :)


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Online Coolness

Here are a few great things happening that I want to tell you about:

Win one of TEN signed copies of Tangled by Carolyn Mackler at You can also have a sneak peak at the book, or take the quiz to see what character you are most like (I won't even ATTEMPT the quiz because I loved Jena so much--I'm sure I'm her). You can also read my own review of Tangled here, as I recently enjoyed it. Along with Vegan Virgin Valentine, a Mackler backlist title.

And for a limited time you can read the FULL TEXT of Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange. Darklight is the sequel and it just came out in January. I read and enjoyed Wondrous Strange before I started blogging, and so never got around to writing a full review. I'll include one when I read and review Darklight in the near future.

And Inkpop has become official after a soft launch in 2009. Inkpop is HarperTeen's "interactive writing platform and community for teenagers". You can post stories and give feedback on what you read there. There's also a forum. An editorial board of people from Harper Collins are onboard to give helpful comments and feedback. It sounds great for hopeful writers out there.

YAnnabe blog has a hugely growing list of unsung heroes of YA from 2009, after all the awards have been announced. I LOVE the idea of lists like this because there are so many books which absolutely should be read. Essentially all of her picks, minus the two I've read already, have gone on my to-be-read list. But other bloggers have hopped on the train and are collecting their OWN lists. The whole thing is very cool.


Monday, January 25, 2010

*Dirty Little Secrets* for my To-Be-Read Pile

Dirty Little Secrets has a unique premise:

Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others. For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother's hoarding a secret. She's had to -- nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she's always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she's normal. (From

And then Lucy's mother dies under a pile of National Geographics and she knows her family's hoarding story will be public knowledge, and Lucy has to make a split decision.

I also think this is neat, from the author's bio: "C.J. Omololu didn't grow up in a hoarded home, but she has seen what the disorder can do to a family through her research with the Children of Hoarders organization." I didn't know that hoarding was a compulsion and that it can really affect a person's childhood.

A few other authors have read Dirty Little Secrets like Jaclyn Dolamore (author of Magic Under Glass), who says: "I read it in one afternoon, but I thought about it all week." And Jen Nadol (author of The Mark) says, "This book was fantastic. I was actually in the middle of reading something else, picked it up to have a quick look at the first page or so and couldn't put it down. I finished it less than a day later and am still thinking about it."

*sigh* yet another one for my huge to-be-read pile. This one looks so good.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review of *Possessed* by Kate Cann

I want to mention the cover. I like it, it drew me in, but now that I've read the book my response is "hunh?"

My initial assumption of Possessed by Kate Cann = it looks like it might be a scary book. From the title I would guess that there is a ghost involved, maybe also an exorcism or scary ghost possession. I'm getting a strong "Paranormal Activity" (the film) vibe.

And it's really not this kind of book. Possessed didn't "scare" me. Not at all. But that's okay because it was a good book as it is. However, I would definitely classify it as a mystery. It was ghost-story lite. I could have used some more chills.

BUT, it also surprised me with nuances that I really enjoyed while reading. Themes and a general tone that I was not expecting. Rayne lives in a cramped apartment in London with her needy mother and younger brother Jelly. Her mother sleeps all day, she's her brother's primary caretaker and her boyfriend, Damian is coiled energy--kind of dangerous but also psychically draining. Rayne feels a low-level anxiety all the time, especially peevish with the constant noise of the city and the demands of the people in her life:
But what did she want? Whenever she thought about that, all she could come up with was: space. Silence.

So she applies for a number of jobs online, intending to apply to the one farthest away. Just to get away for awhile, she tells herself. It's how she discovers Morton's Keep, a grand old mansion miles away in the quaint town, Marcle Lees:

Marcle Lees--it sounded like a backwater village. The sort with one church, one school, one village hall. It sounded...empty. The kind of place to let your head out of its clamp, where you could breathe deeply with no one and nothing to make you choke up...

Morton's Keep is a great setting for the book. I do love a good haunted house. Rayne decides to stay in the "Sty" just outside the mansion, which gives her the willies and freaks her out so badly that she thinks of leaving. Actually I loved that Rayne was easily spooked; every noise at night was a murderer or a ghost and if dawn hadn't come, she would have run away from there in the night. It's nice to see a bit of scaredy-cat in a main character.

Rayne has this connection with nature, with being away from the city, that comes up in her first week in the country and which really adds something to the story. In my opinion it is the main story, apart from the dark presence at Morton's Keep and the weird history of the townspeople.

The scenes where Rayne realizes the power of nature in the book were the strongest, for me. One in particular is when she and St. John, who has suspect motives for wanting to get closer to Morton's Keep, are in the woods and a stag suddenly bursts through the foliage. His antlers are covered in moss and pieces of tree and St. John tells her stags strengthen their neck muscles by thrashing around in preparation for mating season. Usually cocky and irreverent, St. John starts backing away from the animal, while Rayne finds it alluring:

"Yeah, well, we should probably get out of here," said St. John. His voice had lifted in pitch; it was starting to sound nervous. "If he doesn't go after that other stag, he might come after us."

"No, he won't," said Rayne. "Oh, he's beautiful." She was feeling incredibly stirred. She thought the stag was noble, powerful, free. Its great spreading antlers could kill, or protect.

After, Rayne makes a move on St. John, stirred by the connection she has with the stag, and he rejects her, taking her home early. Her awareness of the primal energy in the woods is like a balm for her overanxious, shut-down personality. There were also some strong passages which surprised me:

She walked on, and the silence was so heady it was like wine, making her heavy, languid. There was no one to watch her, no one to judge her. She felt like her shape had gone, like her skin wasn't holding her in anymore, she was just flowing through into the woods. She sat down on a fallen tree trunk. The wood was all around her, silent but for tiny rustling noises, glowing in patches where the sun got through. She was flowing into it, she was part of it, all her edges were blurred.

Rayne also has a connection with Ethan, a member of the local Fire Festival group. Through the book this group has an ambiguous reputation. And they remain wary of Morton's Keep and its history. St. John and Ethan are enemies, Raybe doesn't know why, and she's torn between them, although mostly infatuated with St. John and his group of followers, who seem so cool.
I was also suprised by the romance in the story. I thought it would be about a girl leaving her possessive boyfriend at home to get some air and she finds herself in a similar situation in Maracle Lees. Which makes sense for her character, especially in the scene where she hides in a tree trunk which is my favourite scene in the whole book, very powerful. I thought it was cool that Possessed has to do with ancient rituals which have lost their significance, but haven't lost their power. There is a strong folklore magic in the book which was well written.

I also like Kate's reason for writing Possessed, from her website:

To me, the most frightening arena is inside the mind. I wanted to explore that, and the fear of the not-known, in this book. I wanted to look at what would happen when a town-girl is transplanted to a remote place where nights are pitch black and nature dominates. Rayne is deeply drawn to the woods, but she hears strange stories about them, and the mysterious fire people. She must fight to find out the truth, and be brave in facing up to who she really is ....

The sequel to Possessed is called Fire & Rayne, at least in the UK. Possessing Rayne is the UK title to Possessed, so the sequel might have a different North American title.

Possessed is coming out at the beginning of February.


In My Mailbox this Week!

I love the cover to Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. I haven't heard a lot of buzz about it, yet. Oh, I see Bookshelves of Doom gives it a five star rating on! I love her reviews. Incarceron looks a bit like City of Ember and maybe a little Hunger Games? Hm, this sounds really good, from Catherine's website:

Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells, but also metal forests, dilapidated cities, and vast wilderness.

Stupid Cupid is about Felicity Walker, who finds a job with the matchmaking company Cupid's Hollow and becomes a cupid, making romanitc connections between students at her school. It looks really funny.

In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth is the story of two girls, one who dies and donates her heart and another who needs a heart transplant. You hear the two stories of both girls who have shared one heart. And this is from the Author's Note at the back of the book:

I began this book shortly after my mother died of congestive heart failure and my nephew Jason was killed in a motorcycle accident. It started out as therapy--it kept me writing through my grief. Jason was an organ donor. I liked the idea that part of him still lived on in the world, not only in our memories, but in some unique way in those lives he touched as an organ donor.


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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some Neat Stuff at *Sourcebooks Fire*

Hey I just found out that you can read the first chapter of Sourcebooks Fire's new Teen imprint! I'll post the direct links here.

It's a great way to really see if you'll get into a book.

Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire

Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

But there are others on the Sourcebooks Fire website, so go check them out!

I'm pretty excited about the Adele Griffin title. And they have a book called We Hear the Dead, which is about the Spiritualist Fox sisters. I've read some non-fiction about their story and would love to read a fictional take.


Book Trailer for *Numbers* by Rachel Ward!

I'm so excited by this title! I have a copy at home which is burning a hole through my bookshelf!
And they've released a new book trailer for Numbers. It's simple but I like the music. It gives the impression that Numbers is a bit spooky. Which makes sense for the premise: girl sees the dates of people's deaths above their heads, then realizes that everyone around her suddenly has the same date because there will be a terrorist attack. The cover looks kind of SciFi, too.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a review of *Possessed* by Kate Cann, as I am madly reading through it and STILL don't know what's going on! In a good way. :)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

*Red Spikes* for some afternoon...

We just received a paperback copy of Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan at the store. I reeeaallly love that they've kept the original hardcover art as it is gorgeous. Evocative, awesome, daring.

I have a few books of short stories and essays and interviews piling up at home and I think I'll do a weekly post about the "shorts" I've read. You know, you read a great short story, interview, essay in the teen vein and you want to talk about it!

I have a copy of Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters coming in too, because I seem to think that I haven't read all of the stories inside.

I think that short story collections are often overlooked and shouldn't be. There is something very satisfying in finishing a complete story in one sitting. Graphic Novels are great for this too.

Any short story collections, essay collections, or interview collections I should know about?


Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh!...Wow! Michael Printz Award Winner!

...hunh. Going Bovine by Libba Bray is the 2010 Michael Printz Award winner?!

I am ONLY surprised because I picked it up a few months back, read 80 pages and just wasn't into it. I am a huge fan of her Gemma Doyle series. And it wasn't that she had written something entirely different, as I enjoy all types of fiction. Maybe it was just the wrong time for me to pick it up. I will totally be giving it another go, though. Which I had intended to do anyway. The Printz award will speed this up for me, though.

And Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey is a 2010 Honor Book. I have to also admit that I am halfway through this one and thought I might not go back to it. For no reason in particular. Again, it could be that I'm just not that into it right now. I'll finish Monstrumologist off, though.

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp is also an Honor Book. I haven't read this one. I love the title, though! ...*checks* OH! We have it at the store! Yoink...Hunh, creepy cover.

And I don't know anything about the other two Honor Books, Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman and Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes.

Surprises? I would have loved to see Hate List by Jennifer Brown win something. I just really liked it.

What do you think of the list? (Complete Info Here)


Saturday, January 16, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week!

And I didn't know that Holly Black is coming out with a new teen series called The Curse Workers. The first one in the series is called White Cat. It's about a family of Curse Workers--people who can change your emotions, your memories and your luck. And because their power is illegal, they are all criminals. Except Cassel. His only stain is that he killed his best friend three years ago. Now he's being haunted by nightmares and white cats.
White Cat is out in May, via Margaret K. McElderry.

I also didn't know about She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott. Kieran writes the Private and Privilege series under the pen name Kate Brian. Her newest is about a rich family who looses all their money and respect. Ally then moves away from her entitled community, Orchard Hill, to get away from the scrutiny. But now they are moving back. Ally thinks she's outgrown her old lifestyle and wonders if she can really go back to it as easily. When she meets Jake Graydon, it will be hard for them to stay together. Not if everyone around them has a say in it.
Also available in May via Simon and Schuster.

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready is about a girl who can see ghosts. Since "the shift", Aura has been able to see and speak with ghosts. When he boyfriend Logan dies, he becomes a constant in her life. But she's also getting close to her best friend Zachary. Both guys hold Aura's attention and both have a piece of the puzzle, a way to help her understand the secret of the shift.
Shade is out in May via Simon Pulse.
And Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson is one that I`m really looking forward to. It is about a girl who finds out she is a werewolf and is also in love with the son of the man leading the werewolf hunt. I hope it brings something new to the paranormal romance genre.
Also out in May via Simon Pulse.

I also received Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook, which I devured this week. Check out the review and Book Giveaway on the right sidebar!


Friday, January 15, 2010

*How I Live Now* by Meg Rosoff -- A Re-reading Retrospective!

"It would be much easier to tell this story if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against the World at an Extreme Time in History but let’s face it that would be a load of crap"

How I Live Now, like other really great books, is a world of its own.

It’s also Meg’s first book, which renders me agog. Her sister’s death from cancer was the impetus to write, and at the time HILN was slated for publication she herself was diagnosed with the disease. I have read a few interviews with Meg and I have this sense of her as a lady who rightfully sees doubt and fear as huge impediments to life. The world that Daisy finds herself living in is one where you live day by day, and at times hour by hour. Meg has a wise and wide perspective and it makes HILN a deeply resonant book.

"I like writing for and about teens because it's a very extreme time of life, and that makes for intense transformations, intense possibilities for growth. I think many people find their teens a difficult and disturbing time, but also a time of great excitement and intensity. As a writer, you can't ask for a better set-up than that."
( referencing source on

Daisy is 15 and on top of the intense transformational period of being a teen, she finds herself in the explosive transformative time of war. The book opens with her arrival in England, self-exiled from her dad’s home in New York, leaving behind a new step-mom and step-sister. She intends on staying with cousins she’s never met and the sister of her deceased mother. What she finds is a sprawling home in the countryside and a wonderfully unruly gang of kids who smoke and drive and make her feel more like herself then she ever remembers feeling.

Reading this book again I anticipated my favourite scenes being replayed. One of my excitements is the first time Daisy sees the house, which “is practically indescribable if the only sort of houses you’ve lived in before are apartments in New York City.” There is this garden—actually wildness and growing things are a huge part of the imagery during the first part of the story—that appears again at the end of the book and had me captivated a second time:

Climbing up the front of the house is a huge vine with a stem so thick it must have been growing there for hundreds of years but there aren’t any flowers on it yet, I guess because it’s too early. Behind the house and up some stone steps is a square garden surrounded by high brick walls and in there are tons of flowers blooming already all in shades of white. In one corner there’s a stone angel about the size of a child, very worn, with folded wings and Piper told me it was a child who lived in the house hundreds of years ago and is buried in the garden.

From an interview with Meg we did last May, I asked her about the child in the garden because I loved the imagery and what it suggested. She said that, “The angel in the garden was originally thrown in as a casual detail, but I found I liked what it suggested and added another reference to it at the end. Take your pick -- the death of innocence, the reminder that in the midst of life we are in death (to coin a phrase), mortality juxtaposed with rebirth (the bulbs and the roses in the garden) and also a little reminder to Daisy that she is not the centre of the universe -- that people have lived and died before she was even born.”

When the garden pops back up at the end of the story I was so excited and it gave me goosebumps. With a second reading the way that flora and fauna weave through the story is so vivid and perfect. Also one of my favourite scenes is the picnic that the cousins have just before their lives change. In the first part of the book these kids live outside time in a visceral and romantic connection to nature. It was very vivid for me:

We got to a place by a river and parked the jeep and got out and Isaac carried all the fishing stuff, and Edmond brought lunch and a blanket to lie on and although the day wasn’t very warm, I made a nest for myself by trampling down a little patch in the tall grass and put the blanket down and lay very still and as the sun rose up in the sky I warmed up even more and all I could hear was the sound of Edmond talking in a steady low stream of conversation to the fish, and Piper singing her odd song, and the occasional splash of the river or a bird rising into the air near us and singing its heart out.

I was thinking about almost nothing except that bird and then Edmond was next to my ear whispering Skylark, and I just nodded, knowing it was futile to ask how he knew the answers to questions you hadn’t even got around to asking yet.

There’s this magical realism in the book that I really enjoyed. It was more like Magic Realism Light, I suppose. Piper, Edmond and his twin Isaac share this unspoken connection with each other and with animals. Almost like they can read each other’s minds. Interestingly, Osbert, their older brother who goes all Hitler Youth, doesn’t connect with them in this way, or even close. Daisy finds a strong connection with Edmond, even when they are far apart. There is this amazing scene where Piper refuses to go back into their house near the end because of the ghosts, and even Daisy can still hear echoes of their old life and of the people who were in the house. Daisy is wandering around and is describing the unreal feel of home after wartime.
And while Daisy and Edmond are separated, Daisy *knows* that he is still alive. She sometimes gets a sense of what he's seeing and feeling. Although this connection is not ultimate, as seen when Edmond's mind and heart are lost to what he's experienced, which Daisy believes, must have been far worse than what she and Piper had witnessed. Meg writes about this connection very beautifully and believably.

When I read HILN for the first time this year I thought it was set in WWII. The back cover mentions a war and I just assumed, probably because it's such a hot topic for fiction. Then I did a double-take when Daisy talks about cell phone reception. It's funny, even when Edmond picks her up at the airport he seems to be a creature out of another time period. He smokes, he's assured, and way older than he seems. I kept forgetting his actual age, which I believe is like 12-13 (?), younger than Daisy for sure. Enough to make her very aware that, had they not been living virtually parent-less in a beautiful countryside house which seems to stand outside of time, there would be nothing "Okay" about their romance. Although they weren't very "romantic" with each other. There was a sweetness and a sense of first discovery--what it would feel like to find out you have a twin, and he/she's beautiful, and you know it's wrong but *everything* in the world is absolutely wrong right at this moment, so hey.
I keep seeing HILN labelled Dystopian and on Dystopian book lists and such. And I get it because the war that erupts, or rather infiltrates slowly and feeds on confusion and fear, isn't any war in particular. HILN feels like the setting could be five minutes from now. Meg mentions that the war in the book is a pastiche of modern conflicts, including WWII, but not limited to it. HILN isn't historical fiction but a story that talks about our future. The way that war will be fought--the breakdown in technology and our dependence on it. So in this way I can see it as Dystopian. The pervading fear and helplessness that sets in once all electrical communication ends is very quick. People turn on each other and no one knows what's going on.
I really enjoyed re-reading How I Live Now. I knew what was going to happen so I was able to soften my focus and catch the subtleties. There is so much in this book that I haven't covered, which is one of the downfalls of writing a spoiler-free review! There's so much to take away.
HILN really sticks with you.
What did you think of it? I'm excited to see your comments!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Happened to the Horror Genre in YA?

I was once a huge Stephen King fan. Pet Sematary was the SCARIEST book ever--seriously I thought I was going to die of fear. It also could have been my setting at the time--lonely farmhouse up north, rounding 1 a.m., some crazy pipe banging in the background. Very scary. I also loved Misery and It, and even The Talisman, which was a little weirder, was pretty good. I'm a bit more of a baby now (as I've learned by a recent viewing of Paranormal Activity--my body had trace memories of anxiety and panic for two weeks after). But I still love to read horror. But where is it in YA?

Seriously. The Urban Vampire Paranormal Action Romance genre, although dark and spooky, doesn't exactly give me goosebumps. The last thing I read that gave me chills was The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and really only for those amazing monsters and nail-biting tension in a few scenes. But I would still call The Maze Runner SciFi. I'm reading The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey right now and it's pretty freaky. There's a lot of gore and I hope to see more gothic horror tension, but it's good so far. It's been a breath of fresh gore-flecked air for me!
Another scary-seeming title I have my eye on is Possessed by Kate Cann. It looks promising horror-wise. I was just speaking about horror in YA with my lovely friend Katie from Read What You Know (drop everything and check out her blog--she puts a LOT of work into it!), and she mentioned that a Lois Duncan book called Locked In Time STILL freaks her out. Which is so awesome that a book can be so viscerally affecting years later.

So come back to YA, Horror genre. Do you have any Scary reading suggestions for me?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review *Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood* by Eileen Cook

I read Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood at a frantic pace. I loved it and I see that Eileen Cook has other books. I feel a backlist marathon coming on.

First, I was absolutely drawn in by the cover. It's the single most coolest Teen cover I have seen in awhile. It stuck in my mind when I was perusing YA 2010 lists and as soon as I got my hands on a copy it rushed to the top of my gotta read 'em list. I found out on Eileen's website that the doll was custom made because legally you can't used knifed Barbies to market your wares. Who knew? Here's a cool response from Eileen on how the cover came together:

When they asked me what I had in mind for Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood I thought of a scene in the book where the main character tosses a Barbie doll dressed in a cheerleader outfit into a wood chipper. The brilliant designer, Cara, pointed out that Mattel doesn’t take kindly to people chucking their trademarked doll into a wood chipper on the cover of books. Now, personally I think Mattel owes me as I’ve bought more than my fair share of Barbies over the years. I was never a baby doll kind of person, however I had a herd of Barbies. I created elaborate lives for them and even did sort of a Project Runway kind of thing where I made clothes out of scraps of fabric. Still it was a no-go on any Barbie destruction.

Cara found a place to order a custom made doll. We could do whatever we wanted. GENIUS! The doll arrived with lace panties on. Sort of makes you wonder who the typical buyer is for this product. They wasted no time in setting up a photo shoot for the doll. Cara selected cover colors and font for the title. The finished product can be seen to the left. I love it! It captures what I wanted, the revenge aspects, that the story is funny, the artificial “fake” aspect of some friendships.

Now I just hope the average person in the bookstore likes it as much as I do! (Eileen's website)

*Waves hand frantically and shamelessly in class like Brenda* I Do!

And I was not disappointed with the story. Helen Worthington and Lauren Wood are *Best Friends*. They are just about to enter highschool, a time when, Lauren believes, you can have a do-over, a clean slate. Helen is a bit of a puppy dog and lets Lauren run the show. In the book Helen is described as the diplomat and Lauren is the drama queen. Helen always thought that Lauren was just more sensitive than most people and needed to be handled with kid gloves, but she realizes later, after "the incident", that Lauren manipulates every situation to get what she wants.

Before they start highschool neither girl is particualrly popular, and Lauren seems the most worried about this. So it comes as no surprise to the reader when she sets Helen up for a very public humiliation, something that she can't live down, which also pushes Lauren to the top of the food chain. Thankfully Helen's family move away and she never has to see Lauren again. Except for Helen's obsessive Facebook stalking of her ex-best friend that lasts 3 years and her vow for revenge. When Helen decides to move back and finish off the last year of highschool in her old town, she is unrecognisable. All of her attention is focused on cracking the popularity code and getting revenge on Lauren Wood.

It took me until Helen changed her name to Claire Dantes, but I think I actually yelled out, "Ohmigod it's The Count of Monte Cristo!!" which is one of my favourite books. Edmond Dantes is the consummate avenger, imprisoned unfairly for years because of his best friend. So I was very impressed with this reference. And Getting Revenge... was a bit Pygmalion, too. When "Claire" gets to school she's stuck with Brenda, official school buddy for new kids. She's the opposite of a Lauren Wood and Claire feels like she could balance out her revenge karmically by taking Brenda under her wing. As long as the popular girls don't notice, which would blow Claire's undercover act. So Brenda is made over and even plays a role in Lauren's downfall:

"Look, popularity is a science. It's not as shallow as it looks."
"Really?" Brenda crossed her arms.
"Popularity is a mathematical formula based on desirability criteria. High schools are a classic anthropological case study, and getting people to respond in the way you want is psychology. All science. It's just not the type of science you're used to."

Claire/Helen is basically a good person. She just wonders whether people who are horrible ever get theirs. What if karma accidentally overlooks giving out dues to the deserving. Claire wants to make sure that Lauren pays for what she's done. And as she gets closer to Lauren's inner circle she sees that she's not the only one who feels that L could be knocked down a peg or two.
I really liked how not outrageous Claire's schemes are. Orchestrating L's break-up with her boyfriend seems like cake, until she realizes that maybe L isn't that broken up about it. As Claire moves her pieces into place I actually cheered for her. Maybe I am not as evolved as Brenda is, but Claire is seeing to it that Lauren is put in exactly the same situation she put Helen into. And I got behind her motivations. Getting revenge on Lauren Wood takes over Claire's life and she realizes that even the best laid plans never turn out the way you thought they would.

The writing is tight and I loved all the characters. Except for Christopher who I thought was a little righteous. But Lauren's cronies are really well written and hilarious:

Bailey saw me first and waved like she was a plush Disney creature at the doorway to the Magic Kingdom and I was a guest from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. If they could bottle what Bailey had it would be better than Prozac. You usually didn't find people this happy unless there was serious medication support.

I found Claire a very strong character. Even if her plans are pretty crazy. She's so focused on Lauren but she doesn't see how that energy has actually been channeled into cracking the popularity code. She becomes very insightful into the nature of pack mentality, although she's using it for less than good ends. Just like Edmond Dantes, Claire doesn't know who she would be without her revenge gig and just can't pull back. She becomes a courageous, sexy, popular girl which would probably be the revenge she needs in itself, but Claire just can't help herself. She needs to see Lauren crushed:

I'd checked off established popularity on my to-do list. Now it was time to move to stage two: active destruction.

Eileen is also a fellow Canadian. View her blog here.


And since I liked it so much I'd love to give away a copy for you to enjoy! I have a finished hardcover copy of Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood here to give away! Simply fill out the form below and tell someone about this giveaway via your blog, facebook, twitter, word of mouth!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

*Vegan Virgin Valentine* by Carolyn Mackler

After reading Tangled by Carolyn, I know that she is a GOOD writer. She's very good at it, in fact. And I was in the mood for more of her crafting. And I found a hardcover of Vegan Virgin Valentine at a used bookstore. AND its pink and sparkly. So I felt ready for another of her books.

Mara is in her final year at highschool. She's an intense overachiever. She's already been accepted to Yale, she'll start College in second year, and she's a nose ahead of her lecherous ex-boyfriend for Valedictorian. For every move in Mara's life she and her parents have meticulously planned the details. The worst part is that Mara has no idea that she's "repressed".

Or that's what V calls it. V, Vivienne Vail Valentine, is Mara's niece, although they're the same age. V is the daughter of Mara's flaky sister, Aimee, who arranges her life around guys, travelling from one lifestyle to the next:

My parents had me when they were in their forties. Now they're in their early sixties, which makes them ten or fifteen years older than most people's parents. Not that they show their age, aside from the fact that they geerally go to bed around sunset. We NEVER talk about sex, so I don't know the specifics of my eleventh-hour conception. But I'm convinced that my parents brought me into this world to compensate for my older sister, Aimee, who was eighteen and skidding down a road to nowhere.

Mara and V don't get along at all, even though V and Aimee stay with her family in between their travelling around. V is an "in-your-face" girl, who shows up to her first day at Mara's school in a tight tank top that says "I just cain't say no!" and makes out with her ex-boyfriend Travis. When Aimee moves to Costa Rica to persue her dream of learning how to make Central American cuisine, it looks like V is there to stay permanently.

While the story starts out with V acting out and really not fitting in at school or at home, the book is really about Mara and her breaking away. Seriously, she's almost 18 and she and her parents have one of those family cell phone plans so her dad can phone her all the time, and she thinks there's no problem with that! When V begins to call her on these types of things, at first Mara is angry and offended, but then she sees that V may be on to something.

Some of my favourite scenes are Mara's college drama class, taken with academic goals in mind, of course. Her teacher, Dr. Hendrick, keeps harassing Mara about her lack of dance rhythm in class. He's kind of self-important and keeps making the group do wacky improv scenarios, which are hilarious:

Twenty minutes into class, Dr. Hendrick instructed us to divide into groups of four and create a nature scene--one person as earth, one as wind, one as water, and one as fire. I was so paralyzed by the extreme cheesiness of the exercise that I didn't look around for three other people. And then, before I knew it, the class was all quadrupled up.

Dr. Hendrick sashayed behind me, rested his sweaty paws on my shoulders, and steered me toward the nearest group of four. "I hope you don't mind adopting Ms. Valentine," he said to them.
"But all the elements are taken," a college girl whined. I think her name is Rhonda. Her tags are always sticking out of her T-shirts. I've had a bad feeling about her from the first day.

Mara also works at a coffee shop called Common Grounds, as a way to round-out her college resume. She doesn't want to look like a closeted nerd with no real world experience. She secretly pines for her boss, 22 year old James, who lives his life with a different definition of success. Mara is so inexperienced with guys, and wary because Travis was pushy with her, and it makes her so funny when she's around James:

"Guys can be such jerks sometimes," James said.
"Not all of them. Not you."
"Do you know that I would never push you to do anything you didn't want to do?"
"I know."

I have to admit I was relieved to hear that because, as we were discussing exes, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that James is twenty-two. And I have a feeling that by the time people are in their twenties, they're not exactly walking in slow numerical order around the bases.

My one qualm about the story is the neat ending for Mara and Claudia. Sometimes friendships are strained too far and can't snap back. This is especially true, I found, in highschool. It would have been okay with me to show this type of very natural loose end in the book. I found that in Tangled, a loose end was left with Skye's character--you don't get to know exactly how she's doing by the last page--and I like this type of ambiguity. Although I guess Mara and Travis will never really see eye-to-eye; their whole competition for valedictorian, fueled by all of the emotions built up between them, makes for some hilarious moments in the book!

Also, I like what Carolyn has to say about the origin of her book from the back cover:

Mara Valentine first came to me in a short story. I loved how she was so rigid, but at the same time hungering to break out. And V goes back about ten years, when I met these two girls in South Dakota who were aunt and niece. They've always stuck with me. Imagine how wild it would be to have an aunt and niece the same age! What if they were total opposites? I knew that V was exactly what Mara needed to shake up the status quo.

Aw, and not to load you down with too much bolding but this is too sweet:

In the middle of writing Vegan Virgin Valentine, I married my husband. Jonas and my falling-in-love story is not dissimilar to Mara’s saga with James, the owner of Common Grounds. When I first met Jonas, I labeled him “friend material.” He didn’t fit into the category of guys I usually dated – for one, I was taller than him. And for two, it just seemed so easy to get along with him. Aren’t relationships supposed to involved lots of angst and tear-filled tissues? But I, like Mara, ultimately learned that love does not fit neatly into a category. And sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to find something wonderful. Oh! And another similarity I have with Mara – I’m a devout vegetarian. But a title like Vegetarian Virgin Valentine didn’t have quite the same ring to it! (From Carolyn Mackler's website)

It's very cool when an author has a "Behind the Book" section on their website.

Two for two, Carolyn!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Bundle...Checking Out a Few Titles

Just a few miscellaneous odds and ends in reading today.

I am coveting a copy of Nothing by Janne Teller, which is out in February. Check out the premise:

"Pierre Anthon left school the day he found out that it was not worth doing anything as nothing mattered anyhow. The rest of us stayed behind. And even though the teachers carefully cleared up after Pierre Anthon in the class room as well as in our heads, a bit of Pierre Anthon remained within us. Perhaps this is why things later happened the way they did ..."

Thus begins the story of Pierre Anthon, a thirteen year old boy, who l
eaves school to sit in a plum tree and train for becoming part of nothing. "Everything begins just in order to end. The moment you were born you began to die, and that goes for everything else as well." Pierre Anthon shouts and continues: "The whole thing is just one immense play which is about pretending and about being best at exactly that."

Scared at the prospects that Pierre Anthon throws at them together with the ripening plums, his seventh grade class mates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life. This involves a closed saw mill, green sandals, a yellow bicycle, a pair of boxing gloves, the Danish flag, the hamster Oscarlille, a Jesus statue
stolen from the church, little Ingrid’s crutches, six blue ponytails, a prayer rug, the coffin with Elise’s little brother, the head of the dog Cindarella, fame and a meaning found and lost. (From Janne's website)

It is translated from French and won a bunch of awards in Europe. Simon and Schuster are publishing it in English.


And I saw a great set of reviews from Bookshelves of Doom that make me want to read the Scarlett books by Maureen Johnson. Here's a bit of what she says about Suite Scarlett:

Suite Scarlett is fun times a bazillion. While Scarlett has her doubts about the fun factor of living in a hotel, reading about people living in a hotel very definitely rates high on the scale. (And reading a book by Maureen Johnson about people living in a hotel -- well, that rates even higher!) It made me laugh out loud, I loved Spencer and his talent for slapstick, the characters are hugely likable, it wasn't predictable, and again, it's fun, fun, fun.

So I've ordered a copy and now I sit twiddling my fingers.

But not for too long because my beloved co-worker Dave, who scours remainder websites for teen books for me, has brought in copies of Tempo Change by Barbara Hall. Often he won't tell me what he's seen or ordered and then when things arrive I get to discover them for the first time. Then I dance around him lauding his amazing taste and general coolness. And he nods smugly. It's a routine we've settled into. So Tempo Change (from the pub):

Blanche Kelly's dad is a famous indie rock icon, but not many people at the private school she attends on scholarship know this. Her father left when she was in the first grade, and she can’t quite forgive her mom for not understanding that an artist like her dad needs the time and space to connect to his muse.

When Blanche creates an all-girl rock band, their sound captures a wide audience and the band is invited to compete at the Coachella Music Festival. Blanche feels this could be the perfect time for a reunion with her father. Won’t he be proud to hear her band? Won’t he be happy to get to know his only daughter?

It sounds a little like Beige by Cecil Castellucci! Also, wait for it, I was like "Barbara Hall...Barbara Hall...why so familiar?", then I read her bio and she is the creator of Joan of Arcadia! Hoo Boy! (nothing I actually say in the RealWorld). I LOVE Joan. Maybe mostly for Amber Tamblyn, but also for the quirkiness and general awesomeness of story. Super-psyched.


And a little update on my Read The Vampire Diaries Or Not entry.

I really want to thank everyone who left their opinion of the books, the t.v. series, Damon's unearthly brows, and Vamp books in general. All readers should have a group like you for feedback!

I'm gonna give the first book a shot. I'm hearing that there is a big difference between the show and the books, and as I've just become obsessed with the show, I should check it out. I'm on the like 5th episode and I'm in love with Caroline and Damon's relationship. It's hilarious and so wrong. I also like Psychic friend. I find Stefan and Elena a bit of a yawnfest as they were all Drama-rama right away, *12 hours into their knowing of each other* "This feels really right but I can't foresee us being together forever because of things like my brother being a druggie and possibly you having some family issues. Let's just forget about it, although I PINE!!!"

Also, here is a snippet from me talking to another co-worker who patiently hears about EVERYTHING I'm watching on t.v.:

me: "Oh hey, I started watching The Vampire Diaries. Have you seen it?"

co: "Huh, well, overall it's kind of a crap show with average are you addicted yet?!"

And I am. I am thinking of it all day at work. Those brows....


Saturday, January 9, 2010

In My Mailbox This Week!

I got Very LeFreak this week!

I haven't read anything by Rachel Cohn yet so I'm pretty excited about this one. I do like the cover but the girl reminds me of Victoria from the Twilight movie.

Very LeFreak is a technology addict. Like truly obsessed with all forms of tech. Until it makes her do something crazy and she has to learn that she can live without her laptop.

I don't want to look much further into the premise because I want to find out what happens while I read. It's interesting to know that Rachel took some time off from all things tech to see what it would feel like.

Very LeFreak was just released.


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

Friday, January 8, 2010

*Book Stalking*...The Vampire Diaries

So sometimes I stalk books that I *just* don't know about. Usually I can take a look at a book and go on a hunch that it might be good. Whatever just floats my boat at the time. But, on occassion I just have no idea if I should pick something up or not. In this case the book in question is The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, Or rather, the first two books in the series, The Awakening and The Struggle.

In my mind this book, which is a super new edition, could go either way? Maybe it's great and worthy of a reprint for a new generation, or maybe it's not so good.

So I'm stalking it. Google-stalking. Also asking your opinions: Have you read these books? Should I read these books?

I kind of love google-stalking a book. I look around for hype about a title that makes me curious but lukewarm. I need more information to psyche me up and give it a read. I hate going in lukewarm.

Here is my starting point: I just started watching the first season of the t.v. series. And it's OKAY. I'm like 2-3 episodes in. I find it very dramatic and look forward to a mellowing of the action to make way for characterization and the other subtleties that make a story good. Which the show is lacking right now. I get it--it's new and drawing the viewer in at this point. But Holy Cow can I not stand Damon's eyebrows. I also call him Baby Rob Lowe. That said, he'll prbably be my favourite character. And his "girlfriend" there, Caroline (?). The blonde cheerleader. I like her too. She's so perky and backstabbing.

Funny enough, an article at The First Novels Club piqued my interest to watch the show. Seriously it is the funniest ever. Frankie has a play-by-play how-to for if you ever find yourself caught in an episode of The Vampire Diaries. Here's some of its brilliance:

4) If you're not a vampire, not a main character and not indoors...Are you an extra who is outside at night time?

If you answered yes...dude, you are so totally dead. I can't help you. Your only hope of prolonging your life is to get involved in a love scene, preferably in a tent or a car. If your love scene is hot, your death will wait about 30 seconds to come for you, though it will be gruesome. Expect to die in a cliche horror movie/urban legend type of way. If your love scene is not so good, or you're not even kissing anyone--your death will be coming for about 10 seconds.

Exception to the rule: If you are an extra outside at night in the opening credits, but you're a crabby old man--Congratulations you have beat the system! Also you have no further significance in this episode. You can go home now.

One of the great aspects of The First Novels Club is their long, so awesome articles! The attention to detail makes me weep. Weep! But this survival guide made me laugh so hard. And then begin to watch the t.v. show. And now contemplate reading the books.

Ho boy...TFNC has a recap and play-by-play of each Vamp Diaries episode in the first season. Thank you Ladies! I know I'm way behind on this, but I can still get excited!

Anyway, back to the books. Shall I read them or no?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Review *Nothing Like You* by Lauren Strasnick

Wow, a hidden gem.

I knew absolutely nothing about Nothing Like You when I grabbed it off the shelf at work. Except the cover looked attractive and it happened to be slotted in my favourite place in the store. It was meant to be that I would pick it up and read it in a day!

Nothing Like You starts with a very compelling premise. Holly is starting her senior year. During the summer she had a fling with Paul Bennett, only the most popular guy in school. She's lost her virginity to him in the back of his car and assumes that it was a one time thing for both of them. Until Paul starts coming around again at the start of school. And Holly, like everyone else, knows that perfect Saskia is his long-term girlfriend.

You'd think this might be too straightforward as a story. I mean, secrets ALWAYS get found out in fiction! So you know going in what the natrual progression of events might be, but the actual experience of reading NLY was different. Usually, when you're reading a book you're NOT enjoying, you hover above the action thinking cynically, "I know where THIS is going." And then you nod smugly when it does go there. But while I was reading NLY, although I had a very strong sense of where things might end up, getting through it all seemed fresh and compelling. I was actually surprised when events unfolded even as I knew they might be around the corner. So kuddos to Lauren on craft.

Like for an example, I knew that Paul was probably going to end up being a jerk. Here he is accepting a strange girl's virginity in his car, cheating on his girlfriend, and coming back for more. But I was tricked by his character at the start; for a second--actually for quite a few pages--I thought Paul might be okay. Maybe he really did like Holly and is a good guy caught in a bad situation. But no. No no. Lauren was just able to write a character who could be a jerk and at the same time, even though you're seeing everything happening in slow motion, make you love him in the way Holly does. And it's funny, Holly isn't really being naive in the story. She's numb and has many and various bottled-up feelings about the death of her mother, but Paul makes her forget those things and feel something good--even for a little while. Her major problem begins when Saskia seeks out a friendship. And she turns out to be a way sweeter person than Holly imagined.

One of my favourite things in Nothing Like You is the relationship between Holly and her drama teacher Mr. Ballanoff. I was looking around for my favourite exchanges between them but they last for a whole chapter before you get the whole meaning of their connection. Ballanoff used to kind of date her mom and knows her family and he pushes her when it comes to class. But he's also very insightful and compassionate. He's probably my favourite character.

I also liked Nils, Holly's best friend. They are tomboy buddies, friends since they were ten or so. Nils has a problem with dating girls back to back and dumping them unglamorously. In this scene, he and Holly are drunk and talking about his relationships:

"Okay, so wait, so you go, 'I'm just not ready to be in a committed relationship,' and she was like, what? She said what, exactly??" I was cracking up. Hysterical. Not that Nils and Nora's breakup was even remotely funny. "And then she was, like, sad, Holly. She was sad! Stop laughing! It sucked. I don't like hurting people. Especially not her, she's sweet." He stuffed a handful of chocolate into his mouth. I swallowed and continued. "No, but seriously, you're right. It is sad. It's really sad." I tried twisting my lips into a frown. "What're you doing to your face right now?" "I'm frowning." Nils reached out and touched my mouth. "You're not frowning, Hols, you're, like, smiling but the sides of your lips are turned down."

Lauren is really good at writing dialogue and giving the sense of a real relationship between people through what they say. Plus there was all this unexpected humour in a lot of the book's scenes.

Another strength, just getting back to the character of Paul Bennett, is how well he was written. Seriously, if his character was too transparent the story would have fallen through. Lauren really knew this character, his MO, and even had me a little bit tricked, just as he had with Holly. And still, Paul came across not so much conscious of his actions, but really just acting out his true nature. He gave me chills.

So yeah, I really look forward to what Lauren will have to offer in her next book.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shelf Grazing...Grazing the Shelf Randomly

*Nothing Like You* by Lauren Strasnick

I found this on my teen shelves at work. The premise really appeals to me and I'll explain why in a sec:

When Holly loses her virginity to Paul, a guy she barely knows, she assumes their encounter is a one-night stand. After all, Paul is too popular to even be speaking to Holly...and he happens to have a long-term girlfriend, Saskia. But ever since Holly's mom died six months ago, Holly has been numb to the world, and she's getting desperate to feel something, anything--so when Paul keeps pursuing her, Holly relents. Paul's kisses are a welcome diversion...and it's nice to feel like the kind of girl that a guy like Paul would choose.

But things aren't so simple with Saskia around. Paul's real girlfriend is willowy and perfect... and nothing like Holly. To make matters worse, she and Holly are becoming friends. Suddenly the consequences of Holly's choices are all too real, and Holly stands to lose more than she ever realized she had.

As a premise, this one is very unique in teen fiction. A cheating girl is really not the subject of a book, let alone a main character. I'm very intrigued by this book....

WhoA! So I'm hopping around online to learn more about Lauren Strasnick and she has a blog...and her most recent post is about Stevie Nicks! Um, hello!, inspiration for this blog! Lauren you are the coolest. She also has this neat picture biography of herself on her website. Nothing Like You is her first book, and it's a Simon Pulse title. How did I not know about it? Honestly, I think I am going to put down Blood Ninja (which is so awesome even 40 pages in!) and begin this one pronto.



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