Monday, April 30, 2012

The Wisdom Of The Crowd! (Plus, We Have A Winner!)

So today is the big day that I announce a winner in my Shatter Me giveaway.  But first, let me share all the great advice for young (or new!) writers I collected in the comments of that post!

Advice for young writers: Persist. Don't assume overnight success, but write and learn and keep growing, and don't let anyone dissuade you from following your dream. Not particularly original advice, but I think it's good.
--Colin D. Smith
I would tell young writers to readreadread, of course, and also to find friends, mentors, and challenges that help them keep writing and striving.
--Jillian Schmidt
My advice comes from Stephen King--write first drafts with the door closed! Start out by writing purely for yourself; it takes away any external pressure and helps creativity thrive.
--Rebecca Behrens
Hmm, I think my one piece of advice is simply this: Read, read, and read some more. Reading will take you to writing in the most natural way. At least, that's how I got to writing in the first place. :)
Definitely read!!! You can never read enough. It helps exponentially. When I read, the ideas just keep on churning.  Also, be sure to take breaks. I've noticed that if I take some time away, it really helps to align my thoughts.
Since I'm a teen who writes I would tell other teen writers that it's important to read and read some more. And then once you read A LOT, it's important to write often even if it's one word a day or a thousand. Just write.

Thanks for your great advice, everyone!  (Also:  What a great list of bloggers!  If you don't know them yet, check them out!)

And finally--congratulations to VIVIEN!!!  She's the winner of a signed copy of Shatter Me, some NaNo swag, and a gift card to Donors Choose!  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Back On My Game!

My giveaway closes at midnight tonight (Sunday 4/29)!  Have YOU entered to win a copy of Shatter Me?

So, friends, this week I read like a crazy person.  As a result: an epic four-book Sunday Sunshine!

I definitely enjoyed all the books I finished this week.  However, I have to draw attention to the last one.  I mentioned on Wednesday that April had been a good reading month for me--but you guys, then I read How To Save A Life and (as I did with The Scorpio Races) wished there was a secret sixth star button on Goodreads.  My review doesn't do it justice, but if you like YA Contemp at all, pick this one up.  I mention Speak in my review, and I think that's right--Sara Zarr reminds me of Laurie Halse Anderson in the way she creates totally fleshed out, real characters who aren't always likable but who are impossible not to love.  For me personally, that's the nicest possible thing I could say about any writing in that genre, I think.  Read it read it read it, you guys.  Pretty please?

What I Read This Week

 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the rare case where I think I should have read more about this book ahead of time! I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Judging this book by its cover totally doesn't work. I mean, it is sometimes creepy and does feature old-timey children(ish). But I was caught off-guard when it started in a time and a place that were, roughly speaking, here and now.

I did enjoy this book, despite my poor research skills! The pictures were often crazy creepy, and Riggs had pretty good explanations for most of them. It sometimes felt like something was a little shoehorned in to justify sharing an awesome picture, but only small details. Mostly, my reaction was, "Whoah, I can't believe there's a picture for that too!"

By the end of this book, I was definitely sucked in to the world and the story. I hope that book two will clarify a little bit of the timey-wimey stuff, but I'm definitely rooting for Jacob & Co. If you're looking for something different from the norm, with adventure and monsters and time travel and tiny strange child-adults...this is for you.

Eve (The Eve Trilogy, #1)Eve by Anna Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tore right through this one! Eve is a quick, exciting read. Betrayed by the school where she excelled and hunted by the King's soldiers (and let me just pause and mention how delightfully offensive it feels to have someone be the King of New America--bold move, pal), Eve has a lot to learn about the world. This is sometimes frustrating, as she often does things that are CLEARLY terrible ideas. There were times when I totally just wanted to shake her and go "Hey, friend, stop trying to get yourself and everyone else killed." But if you were locked in a school from the ages of five to eighteen, and all you knew about the world was what your teachers told you, you might not be such a quick thinker either, so her dopiness is, ultimately, plausible. I'm hoping to see some improvement in that department in Once, the next book in the trilogy. When I went to the Spring Into the Future tour, Anna Carey said that (unless I have badly misremembered) there will be more on the City of Sand in the next book, which I look forward to. The world is intriguing but there are definitely a lot of blanks and question marks...good for getting people to keep reading, I suppose!

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi has created one of the most imaginative, rich post-apocalyptic worlds I've come across. The way she segmented the world--the Pods, the Realms, the tribal lands, the compound--gave a sense of a still-changing, complex land. (I think sometimes it's too easy in a dystopian to be all, "Ok, there's the Tech-Savvy Civilization and there's the Natural But Savage outer lands, and there are no gradations in between." This book blurs the lines a lot more, which makes it feel more realistic.)

That said, I kind of wish we saw more of Aria in her world before everything changed--which is always my wish, so maybe that just means that if I ever bring a manuscript to a critique partner or agent, it will come back with big red slashes through the first chapter. But in this case we got even less than usual, so I had a hard time latching on to Aria at first. By the end I really cared about her, but I think her change would have been more dramatic if we had seen her in the Realms in "real time".

Perry--who, I'm sorry, I have to call Peregrine, because Perry just sounds so tame to me--like it should be the name of someone's valet in a tuxedo--anyway, Perry was great. I think my favorite part of Rossi's world-building had to do with the different ways that Dwellers and Outsiders passed genetic gifts on to their children, and Perry's double gift made for a fascinating piece of his character. I love the idea of rendering (even as it felt like it was treading a little bit close to the creepy imprinting of Twilight) and I loved the way the gifts moved the character interactions along. And all of Perry's family story really made me care about him.

I liked the ending, too--just enough closure to be satisfying, but with enough left open that I am eagerly awaiting the rest of the story.

How to Save a LifeHow to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly? I don't feel like I just finished reading a novel. It's like that feeling when you wake up from a dream and you're convinced it was real. This book is beautiful. It's a master class in creating characters that breathe. I haven't read a contemporary novel with a character voice this strong since Speak and in Speak there's only one voice to worry about. In How To Save A Life there are two, Mandy and Jill, and they are extraordinary. Mandy is one of those people who, I'll admit, makes me uncomfortable in real life. It's hard to put your finger on, but something is just a little off in terms of the way she understands things and the way she interacts with other people. We've all had people in our lives like that--people it's just a little harder to be nice to, sometimes, even though they're perfectly nice themselves. I felt like I recognized Mandy within ten pages. Jill took a little longer to get to know, but that's who she is. And once I did get to know her, I realized that she had suddenly hopped on to my all-time favorite characters list. I want more time with Jill. Not a sequel, necessarily, because the book doesn't feel like it needs one (although I'd be first in line if one ever happened) but just...more. (I would love to see, fifteen years in the future, a book that splits Mandy and Jill and Lola's perspectives.) I really don't feel like I can do justice to this book...but I can tell you to make a little space in your life, set aside some time to really be with this book, and read it.

View all my reviews

Waiting in the Wings

 (This one, obviously, is a anticipation of...)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book of April

YA Highway

The last Wednesday of April is relatively early in the month, and I'm speeding up...but even so, this month was a standout, with two five-star books (so far). They were both unexpected--I pre-judged them, totally unfairly, and I'm thrilled that I took the risks. Both books feature tropical settings and strong young women, but beyond that, the similarities peter out. I highly recommend both books--Wanderlove if you want to swoon, and Beauty Queens if you want to cheer on some awesomely diverse and tough heroines.
My Review
My Review
And if I had to choose?  Say, if I had to pick one to bring to a desert island?  Well, I think that has to go to Beauty Queens!  Libba Bray has the best sense of humor going, and this book made me laugh out loud so much that Mr. S put it on his TBR list.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Barking Good Books!

Don't forget to enter my giveaway: You could win a signed copy of Shatter Me (and more!)

A glance at my Goodreads widget informs me that I am 9 books behind on the reading challenge I set for myself this year (150 books, or about three books per week.)  This is no surprise to me, as I present you with yet another two-book Sunday Sunshine.  (But I am about halfway through Miss hopefully next week will tick back up to three!
A big thanks to Colin D. Smith for writing so enthusiastically about these  books that I had to pick them back up and finish the series!  If my reviews sound a little scattered, it's because I was bad this week and waited a day or two after finishing each book to review it.  As such, enjoy these loris-centric reviews.

What I Read This Week: 

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is, I have to say, definitely a second book. But I think Westerfeld did a pretty good job of extending and developing the story. I did miss the setting of the Leviathan, as our protagonists spend much of the story in Istanbul (not Constantinople!) But the action there was compelling enough that I didn't mind too much.

There was one part of this book that is going to stick with me forever and ever and ever, though. Friends, if you have not yet met the perspicacious loris, you need to put these books on your TBR list ASAP. The perspicacious loris--and Bovril, in particular--is the funniest, most lovable, jealousy-inducing creature creation in literature since Pantalaimon. I mean, even the name! Just say it: "perspicacious loris". It's a furry wee beastie with a knack for learning what it sees and hears, and mimicking everything back, but in new patterns that reveal its...well, its perspicacity. Anyway, a little part of me will always be dissatisfied with the world we live in because I cannot have a perspicacious loris imprint on me and hang out on my shoulder.

Also: continued stakes-raising, more development of the Darwinist and Clanker sides of the war, lousy diplomats, great new characters, secrets revealed, rebellion, and even an American. Huzzah!

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Scott Westerfeld,

Have you ever thought about getting into picture books? Because I want a sequel that is a picture book tracing the lives of the perspicacious lorises. Deryn and Alek are great, and I'm sure they will go on to have many more great adventures. But you've distracted me with an animal that can make fun of people and say words and I miss it.


Mrs. S

Anyway, this was a satisfying conclusion to Deryn and Alek's story. I love the world Westerfeld created, and I am finding myself thinking in Deryn's voice from time to time. I liked the inclusion of Nikola Tesla--he really shook things up nicely without feeling like a bolt from the blue (pun regrettable but acknowledged.) Westerfeld has done it again! I'm hoping that steampunk continues, pick up steam...but only if it is cleverly done as this.

View all my reviews  

In Progress: 


Waiting In The Wings: 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RTW: Prom: Shockingly, not the Most Important Night Of My Life

Don't miss my SHATTER ME giveaway--running now till April 29th!

I've been sitting out RTW lately, but today's topic is just too much fun to miss. 

YA Highway!

This Week's Topic:
It's almost prom season, and since we love to read and write about teenagers, we want to hear your prom stories!

 Junior Prom:
Source (Colin_K on Flickr)

  • I bought a dress. It was blue and pretty and I loved it. 
  • Then a friend and I decided that, since we didn't have dates and going stag sounded like no fun, we would skip out and do something awesome, like go horseback riding or get dressed up and go to the movies. 
  • I returned the dress. 
  •  Then my friend bought tickets at the last minute and went to prom with her (female) cousin from out of town. 
  • I think I went to the movies with my mom instead. 

 Senior Prom:

This is the only digital shot I could find of myself from senior year. (Source) Sorry, kiddos: we took my prom photos with FILM.  You're too young.  Ask your parents to tell you about it.

  • The date drama was ca-razy, with my close friend weighing asks from three different boys and me having no dates and no prospects as all the guys I knew had asked her instead.
  •  Meanwhile, in the play we were both working on, the stage manager abruptly moved to another district and a freshman boy stepped up in the crisis and took her place. Impressed and freed from social convention by my desperation, I asked him to go with me. Sure, I was like a foot taller than him. But he was absolutely drama-free and adorable (in the way that 14-year-old boys are to 17-year-old girls: basically, he was an infant in a tuxedo). 
  • I bought a dress. It was black this time.  It made me feel old.  (When you're 17 that's still a good thing.) 
  • A few of us decided that limos were too expensive, so we convinced our sophomore-with-a-license friend to drive us there and enlisted my older cousin to drive us back.  She, being my cool older cousin, brought a bottle of wine for me to sneak in to the after-prom party at my friend's house.  I, being the most unbelievably straight-edge nerd in the history of time a good law-abiding kid, refused to take it.  (My friends were a tad miffed.)  When I turned 21 my mother gave me the bottle--my cousin had given it to her and told her the whole story that night.  I imagine I scored major Mom points that night.
  • Prom itself:  pretty un-memorable, except that my date was so happy to be there and so un-self-conscious that he actually hit the dance floor with me while my friends' dates glowered and skulked at the table to avoid rhythmic movement of any kind. 
  • The after-prom party and subsequent camping trip were a lot more fun and memorable than prom itself.  A big group of us crashed at my friend's house--she had a sort of rec room in her family's garage, which was good for supervised-but-not-too-supervised get-togethers.  I don't think there was drinking, or if there was it was really minimal, and mostly we just stayed up being goofy and punchy till we crashed.  The next day some of us drove out to a campsite and wandered around in the rain all day, being goofy and punchy some more.  The rest of the crew camped out overnight but I had to get picked up because I had a youth group thing the next morning.  It's mostly notable for the fact that I'm pretty sure it was the most soaking, dripping wet any of us had ever been, because we we in a field, in the pouring rain, for an entire day.
In a nutshell?

Junior Prom: Duped
Senior Prom: Drenched

(Sounds like series titles, no?)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Into The Future: Debrief and Giveaway!

So I finally did get myself to a book signing at the awesome Books of Wonder--and it was a doozy.

(Left to right: Lauren Oliver, Anna Carey, Sabrina Rojas Weiss (moderator), Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi)
Basically we got to hear these four awesome ladies read from their books and answer a lot of really fun questions. Sabrina Rojas Weiss, who moderated, clearly did her homework:  questions ranged from expected-but-we-all-wanted-to-know, like what are you working on next, to perfect dystopian questions, like what would your teen self have stashed in her underground bunker against a possible apocalypse?  I loved that one so much I jotted down their answers:

  • Lauren said her parents used to let her paint poetry ("just the worst pretentious") on her bedroom walls when she was a teenager.  So she wanted paint for writing, plus a few Ani DiFranco albums and some ketchup.  She really likes ketchup.
  • Anna said she would not have been ready at all--and the thing she would have built up stores of in the bunker would have been Scott Wolf memorabilia! 
  • Tahereh said that when she was younger, she wrote an essay answering a similar question which her mother loved to tell people about--because Tahereh's answer was her mother's pillow!  (All together now: awwww!)  She also added that she would definitely need stores of Fritos* and Skittles.
  • Veronica had an easy answer: her sketchbook.  Apparently when she was a teenager she actually lost her beloved sketchbook on a plan--and even though she recovered it about a month later, it was a traumatic experience! 
                     Hearing the authors read and generally talk about their work was also a pleasure.  An audience member asked a question about their publishing journeys, and I especially liked hearing Tahereh's story because it was simply that she wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and slowly got better at it, and used the internet to find things out and meet people, and queried, and etc.  I know that's the usual way, but reading a book like Shatter Me it's easy to get overwhelmed by how gorgeous the prose is and just freak out and assume that it was written through some kind of divine intervention (or, possibly, Faustian bargain).  I really loved, too, that she talked about the fact that there are many many talented people in this world who will never succeed because they stop trying.**

So, because all these ladies are so awesome, and because Tahereh is super-extra awesome:

I am having another giveaway!  
Look!  I really met her!  But it's tricky taking photos on different side of a table...this is the best we got. 

Here's the deal:  I won a giveaway on Tahereh's blog, and my prize included a signed copy of Shatter Me.  Tahereh was cool enough to inscribe it to me and everything, and it came like three days before this event.  But I couldn't just buy everyone else's book and not hers--that seemed uncool and very sad.  So, friends, that is where you come in!  I bought a copy of Shatter Me along with all the other ladies' books, but I had Tahereh sign without inscribing it to anyone in particular.  SO:

I am giving away a signed copy of the awesome Shatter Me!  
Also included, because I was inspired by Tahereh's words about persistence and effort:
  • Stickers and pencils from the NaNoWriMo store, all covered in peppy, persistence-encouraging writerly slogans (and supporting a program which, however you feel about it as an adult writer, really gets students excited about writing!)
  • A $20 credit for, where YOU get to choose a teacher's project to support!  (And while obviously the choice of teacher is yours if you win, I would encourage you to look for teachers trying to create young writers!  You never know what future J.K. Rowlings or Tahereh Mafis might be sitting in that classroom!)
There are tons of ways to enter (see Rafflecopter widget below) including following all four authors and Books of Wonder on Twitter!  Let me be clear, they didn't ask for this promotion--but really, following them is its own reward :)  I am hoping to get lots of comments with great advice for writers just starting out, or young people thinking about starting writing--I'll compile the advice in a post, and share the winner, on Monday, April 30th!   Good luck!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Spring Break...from reading!

Now, it's not that I didn't read at all over break.  But there were blogs to catch up on and movies to see, and I did actually spend several days catching up with family and friends and even my high school theater teacher.  So today, I only have reviews of two books for you.  Sigh.  But I think I may just suck it up and carry hardbacks on the subway this week, because I remembered how good Leviathan was.

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know what they say about books and covers and not judging? Yeah. That. I know a lot of people loved this cover, but it just never grabbed me. I did, however, love Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty series, and also her response to the Soundalike Book Award Debacle this fall, so when I saw a signed copy of Beauty Queens at Books of Wonder, I decided it was worth adding to my collection. And then I sat down at the store and started reading it, and discovered that it was absolutely the funniest thing I've read in ages, and also makes a lot of really important, spot-on points about what we expect from girls and women. There are some stylistic choices that feel more like adult literary fiction than YA, which I think are great--footnotes and interjections from The Corporation--and if you're not used to that or into it, this book might take some getting used to. That kind of stuff isn't always my favorite, but Libba Bray just has the best, most twisted sense of humor and she made me love it. I can't really categorize this--there's sharp satire and social commentary, there's action-adventure, there's some steamy scenes, and there's a ton of glitter. What's not to love?

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: This is a re-read, but I wanted to review all three books in the trilogy.

I think, in our discussions of gender and strong women and female characters with agency, we forget Deryn/Dylan Sharp, and it's a darn shame. The fact is, I think, that since Deryn is trying so hard to be boy, Westerfeld leaves out some of the girl traps that plague other writers. Deryn/Dylan is first and foremost concerned with her work, then with her platonic and collegial relationships. She notices, eventually, that Alek makes her feel a different way than the other folks around her, but really doesn't have the time to worry about it what with trying to save a great hulking ship-creature from impending explosions. And she's got swagger, that apparently essentially male something-or-other. I actually really like the way Westerfeld develops Deryn and Alek's relationship, with Alek constantly wishing he could be the kind of guy Deryn is (except, of course, that Deryn is just an awesome girl.) I really hope the rest of the series keeps this up.

There are other things I like too, of course--Westerfeld is one of my favorite world-creators, and he is a master of fabricating slang and dialect. Language plays a big role in the story and I think it's finely tuned. The divide between Darwinists and Clankers is a fascinating one that plays with ideas from our world without being preachy about either side. I knew I liked the book going into this re-read, and I'm definitely pleased that the second book is close at hand this time around.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Multimedia Edition

One thing I've learned in the last almost-three years that I've been teaching is how to use breaks.  My break starts the SECOND I am out of school, so on Thursday afternoon Mr. S and I got some iced tea and walked the entire length of the Highline Park (and back!).  Friday was reserved for doing a whole lot of nothing--which is necessary for at least one day, but ideally not more than that.  Yesterday we saw Friends With Kids, which I recommend to my adult readers and anyone who loves When Harry Met Sally but wishes it could be a little more complicated and realistic.  Then we came home, cleaned the apartment, and went back out, this time to a concert by Jones Street Station.  Their opening act was a brand new musical group:  The Girls, featuring Alison Brie of Mad Men and Community.  Now, real talk:  we went because we both love Alison Brie and both of her TV shows.  But we stayed because Jones Street Station was really cool.  Their set had a lot of variety, including a killer run of bluegrass, but I also liked their other stuff.  Here's a video for one of their songs (featuring Community's Danny Pudi, through whom they met Alison Brie.)

And yes--we did meet Alison after the show, and we were big nerds, and she was very nice.  So that was fun too.

Since even on vacation, I am an old person, we were so worn out when we got home that we went to bed and saved SNL for the morning.  But we got up and watched it over breakfast, so I am contractually obligated as a YA blogger to post the following sketch:

Clearly, this sketch was written by a Hunger Games fan.  Love it.

And I've been reading, too!  Let's not forget about that...

What I Read This Week: 
Article 5 (Article 5, #1)Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to read this book as soon as I heard about it several months ago, and it did not disappoint. This is a true dystopia, set in a basically recognizable future America. As the country recovers from a devastating war fought on American soil, the government has changed radically. The freedoms of the Constitution are gone, replaced by the Moral Statutes--increasingly restrictive laws passed and strictly enforced in the name of security. I was concerned that this concept might get a little caught up in comparing itself to current political movements or situations, but the world-building was strong enough that it didn't seem too on-the-nose.

I came away particularly impressed with the pacing and stakes-raising. I realized quickly that EVERY TIME I had to stop reading (pesky train reaching my stop!) I was annoyed because I was right in the middle of something exciting. Poor Ember just could not catch a break! I think the flip side of that is that I didn't feel like I got to know her as well as I could have--I wanted to sit a little more in the moments of relative calm: before the FBR came knocking on her door, with Rebecca at the "school", in the hotel before Chase's revelation. That's not such a bad complaint to have though--after all, I hear Kristen Simmons is already hard at work on book #2! Pick this one up if you want a fast-moving dystopian road trip novel. (You didn't know you wanted that, but now you do!)

WanderloveWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By the time I reached the end of this book, I was shocked to find that it was undoubtedly a 5-star book for me. I like a good contemporary now and again, but it's usually not my favorite-favorite genre. And this one, I thought, started a bit slow. Good, sure, but slow. But then it grew and grew and grew on me.

First of all, there's Bria. I really came to love Bria as a protagonist, for the same reason that I was initially reluctant to love her--she's kind of a mess. And not in the sexy-tousled-Natalie-Portman-character way. She makes crummy-to-terrible choices, with some frequency. And again, not adorable-Bridget-Jones-hahaha terrible choices, but like actual frustrating choices with real consequences, big and small, that sometimes make her a little hard to take. (Oh, come on, Bria, just get in the water already!) But those are part of what makes her feel so real, and what makes it so satisfying to root for her. Because (I dunno, spoiler alert, I guess) the book does have a happy ending--but it never feels forced. It never feels Hollywood. Bria has to work for what she winds up with, and she has to confront some truths about her own screw-ups and her own responsibility versus that of the people around her. And none of it comes by way of like, a magical third-world person. It comes a little at a time, as Bria is pushed and pulled and tugged in different directions by the places and people she comes into contact with.

And of course Rowan--definitely one of the best love interests I've read this year. I loved the path of Rowan and Bria's small-r relationship--it unfolded so naturally and felt so true. Some of the details Kirsten Hubbard uses made me gasp, a little--a little smile, a hand on the back, the tiny pieces of Bria and Rowan getting comfortable with each other the way you do in high-intensity situations: quickly, but not all at once by any means. I think the book overall does a great job skirting cliche and it felt the most fresh and brand-new in the scenes between Rowan and Bria, even though those are the scenes where it would have been easiest to rely on well-trodden signifiers.

Even if you think you don't love contemp, or travel stories, or whatever--give this one a shot. It's better than you expect, I promise.

The Wicked and the JustThe Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received an advance e-galley for free from Netgalley**

I have to admit, I found the main POV character Cecily hard to take for...most of the book. I know I was meant to, but it was rough going there for a while. I can't recall a less likable protagonist in anything, ever. And yet...there were glimmers of something else. Just crumbs, little slivers here and there of someone I could feel for. Coats does a really nice job, I think, of comparing Cecily and Gwenhwyfar's situations without minimizing what the English did to the Welsh (except in the informational materials at the end of the book, which felt weirdly pro-England.) Cecily was raised on a manor, only to lose her home when her father's older brother returned from the Crusades and took back his lands. Gwenhwyfar was raised in a titled Welsh family, only to lose her home and her father when her father stood up to the conquering English king. It's an interesting parallel, and one that becomes more poignant as the book goes on. I definitely came around on Cecily--she felt very true to me by the end. (I mean, really, if you grew up thinking you would inherit a fine English manor and then your father moved you out to the Welsh frontier to live surrounded by a hostile native population and an impenetrably snobby group of Englishfolk, you'd be prickly too!) At first, I thought the pacing was a little slow, but now looking back at the book as a whole, I think it works really well. I often feel that the action-packed or suspenseful parts of a book come too quickly and feel un-earned; this book took the time to let us understand the characters and setting, and then really detonated everything it had set up in the last 20% of the book. I haven't read much about this time period, but I'm interested to find out more now that I've read this.

View all my reviews

Waiting In The Wings:  

In progress--why did I hold out this long?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Spring Break!

Hey all!  This post is largely aimed at my students (*waves*) but contains some cool things that the rest of you might want to know about, too.  Now that we all have a little bit of free time, here are some things you might consider doing:

1) Voting in the Children's Choice Book Awards (yes, there is a teen section, it is not just for wee ones!)  Both Clockwork Prince and Divergent are finalists, so, um, good luck with that, you guys.  I know my choice--but sadly, I am not a teen and cannot in good conscience vote choose wisely, gang.

2) A week from Sunday--so, the day before we all have to wake up early again, aka Sunday the 15th--there is a super-awesome signing at Books of Wonder featuring Lauren Oliver (Pandemonium), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me), Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky), and Anna Carey (Eve).  Admittedly, I'm 0-for-3 in actually getting to book signings I wanted to go to...but maybe this is the exception?  Anyway.  It sounds excellent.  

3) I mean, probably seeing The Hunger Games again?  That's my plan.

Also, let me know what you're reading!  I have really ambitious plans: the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, and Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, which I finally started the other day, and which is hilarious so far.

Enjoy the break!

Edited to add:  Books of Wonder is also running basically the coolest promotion I could possibly imagine--donate books to kids and get chances to win a hand-signed copy of The Hunger Games--and while part of me wants no one else to know about it, the bigger and better part of me wants everyone to know about it because it is so incredible.  Details here.  (And yes, you can enter by buying books through their website as well, so if you're out of town, still check it out!)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: No Foolin'!

Sorry, guys, I'm too tired to think of anything clever for this April Fools' Day post.  I promise these are my actual reviews, not jokes.  I'm in a bit of an internet slump right now--this trimester, my school schedule changed a bit and now instead of the periods 2-8 schedule I taught when I was directing shows 8th period, I start my day 1st period, which means that I leave my apartment at 6:30 in the morning.  I love my new schedule, but I'm not used to the new wake-up time yet, so I'm pretty wiped.

I have been reading, though!  Since I missed Road Trip Wednesday this week, I should mention that my hands-down book of the month for March was Code Name Verity, which will be out in May.  I was lucky enough to get an advance ebook copy through Netgalley, but I highly recommend pre-ordering this one.  It has maybe the best female friendship I can think of in YA, and it's a gripping wartime spy story to boot.  I posted my review here last week, but I'm still thinking about it.

And since then, I've polished off these two:

Sisters of GlassSisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**I received an advance e-galley for free from Netgalley**

This was a light, quick read. The language and imagery were really lovely and, as quickly as it went, I got a decent sense of character. It felt almost like a fairytale--the characters were sketched, really, but the lines were clean and it didn't take long to get into the flow. The happy ending happened a little too quickly and cleanly, but if you're in the mindset of "fairytale" rather than "novel", then it's just fine. Good if you want something to fill an hour or two.

A Greyhound of a GirlA Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**I received an advance e-galley for free from Netgalley**

This book follows four generations of girls/women in one Irish family, which I really enjoyed because in my family, we actually had five generations of girls/women around at the same time--my great-grandmother was (I think) 104 when my older cousin had her little girl. And my great-grandmother, like Tansey and Emer in this book, grew up on a farm in Ireland. So the personal connection was what kept me reading initially. Mary, the current-day protag, took some warming-up-to for me, but by the end of the book I liked her a lot. I liked Tansey a lot, from word one, and I wished there was more of her earlier days. This was solidly a middle grades book, which meant that it moved more quickly than I'm used to, and was written pretty simply. If you're looking for a sweet, totally PG story to share with a tween girl, this would be a good one--it's long on girlpower and short on schmaltz.

Currently Reading: 

Waiting in the Wings: 

(I know I'm a little late on this one, as all the book club posts just went up--but I'm still looking forward to it!)

(Just got this one back from an extended loan to a chain of students--couldn't very well read this one on the Kindle!)