Sunday, April 29, 2012

1000 + pages of YA

I just picked up two books that I feel like I MUST start reading.... because Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta is 593 pages! Holy reading, Batman! (Froi is the sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, which I recently reviewed). Not to mention Partials by Dan Wells just arrived for my Nook as well. I feel as if I will be hazing myself this week in a race against due dates.  Here goes a week of dystopian and fantasy reading.

Partials (Partials, #1)  Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)

Good thing today is gorgeous here in NYC- I see some outdoor reading in my future!! What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Darkness Becomes Her (Gods & Monsters #1)Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton:  This started out great, but things got a bit cra-cra.

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is. Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.  She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.  Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed. (GR)

  • Originality: 6. The originality of the New 2 was the best part of this book. The creole and southern Gothic works well- swamps and dripping Spanish Moss make a creepy setting for the voodoo magic feel. Decaying New 2 manages to be elegant but also post- apocalyptic. BUT Ari is also an exotically pretty girl who finds out that she has supernatural powers and is the key to saving the world. That part of this story gets a 2--standard for YA paranormal.
  • Absurdity:  9. HIGH for the mixing of post-hurricane decayed America, the voodoo-magic-vampires-shapeshifter-Greek mythology. Do too many paranormal flavors spoil the plot-pot? This book teeters on that brink for me.
  • Level of Paranormal Romance: Ugh let me tell you how disappointed I was in this. I was intrigued by the setup and Ari as she discovered New 2. She arrives, meets this guy Sebastian, who lives with a bunch of misfit (and probs paranormal) kids in a decaying mansion. He is rude. and plays the drums loudly. Then some unwelcome guests stop by and he is kind of snarky as Ari lays some smack down and beats people up. Soon thereafter Ari sees him hypnotize two women with caresses and then he corners her in a freakin' MORGUE (true, he tells her he wants to help her, but morgues are NOT safe-feeling). He then introduces her to  a voodoo priest. Ari has a terrible headache vision because of said voodoo encounter........and then wakes up in his lap and makes out with Sebastian!! WHAT THE WHAT? Ari, I had higher hopes for you. This was ridiculous, I can't deal. Let's move on.
  • Level of Harry-Potter-ness: 4. I dug the creepy atmosphere of ruined New Orleans and the mystery around Ari's mom's death, but things went off the rails as we found out why Ari is being hunted. It's a blender of paranormal, and I cannot take all the aspects seriously the way they are mixed. 
Will I read the sequel A Beautiful Evil? Yes. Will I judge myself a bit? Yes. You can, too. But it is ok because I need to find out more about Violet, the creepy/adorable little kid who has a white pet alligator, fangs (seriously) and loves Mardi Gras masks. SHE IS COOL.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Waiting on Wednesday is here! Yaaaaaaay. (Although I seriously wish it was Friday).  WoW is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and every week a huge group of book bloggers share what books they just can't wait to get their hands on. This week my pick reflects my growing acceptance of contemporary YA fiction, something I NEVER would have thought I liked before we started YAF and WS. But I no longer sniff disdainfully at it! How could you not love the sound of Meant to Be by 
Meant to BeMeant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be (Good Reads).

This book sounds quirky and pretty great. Pocket Shakespeares (It seems I have a thing for books playing with Shakespeare plays)! Gasps! I like the tone already. Not to mention it reminds me of a couple Meg Ryan movies, so I am clearly envisioning a London-set, teenage You've Got Mail. YES! Share your WoW!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: "Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters In Books"

Today's Top Ten Tuesday is entitled "Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters In Books." Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish TTT is a weekly feature dedicated to book-list-mania.  I found this top ten hard to do--recent characters I read and liked, but had not necessarily upgraded to love status, crowded for attention. Sheesh (made-up) people, get in line! Not to mention I tend to love supporting characters best. I didn't realize it until I made this list! Without further ado, characters we love fall into these categories:

Ridiculousness Incarnate 
1. Peasebottom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed from the Theatre Illuminate series by Lisa Mantchev. I dare you to resist them! For example, this is such a funny play on famous first lines (as the first lines of Perchance to Dream, the second book in the series).  Ridiculous AND smart at once!
 “It is a truth universally acknowledged,” Mustardseed said, flying in lazy loops like an intoxicated bumblebee, “that a fairy in possession of a good appetite must be in want of a pie.” “Yes, indeed,” Cobweb said over the rattle of the caravan, “though I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, I found myself transformed in my bed into a gigantic pie.” “It was the best of pie, it was the worst of pie,” was Moth’s contribution."
Exuberant characters!! Exclamation point!!
2. Eldric from Chime by . McDREAMY with an excellent vocabulary and a vivid imagination. (my review!)
3. Augustus Waters from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.
“When surprised and excited and innocent Gus emerged from Grand Gesture Metaphorically Inclined Augustus, I literally could not resist.” --ME EITHER. Augustus loves life and I love him. He is my new favorite (made-up) person.
4. Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. (my review!)
 “The guy is life drunk, I think, makes Candide look like a sourpuss.”
Spunky Heroines 
5. Alanna of Trebond from the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. We talk about these books a lot. Alanna is the original gusty heroine in the reading lives of Crazy Camper and Grad Student. When my roommate ran in (last month) and said “did you ever read those books about the girl with purple eyes?” I KNEW EXACTLY what she meant. We love her still.
6. Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling's HP. Smart and Sassy. What is not to like? Points to Crazy Camper for adding to the list.
7. Puck from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. She loves being terrible! But is really awesome. (my review!)
8. Sookie Stackhouse from the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. Sassy and southern. YES. This was Crazy Camper's second excellent addition. I think it says something that 12 books in we still get a kick out of Sookie.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning (Good Reads)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, the sequel to Unearthly.  But I was not prepared for how SAD it would be, and what a nice meditation about family and love and letting go it was.  

Originality: 3. Angels and demi-angels and the underworld revolting is everywhere in YA land right now. But points for being in the mountains, I guess.
Absurdity: 8. I mean, they have WINGS and FLY.
Level of Paranormal Romance: 6. Christian, stop angel-stalking my girl Clara. Because you are angsty, angel-y, and boring.  On the other hand, Tucker. Oh Tucker, you are cute and country and adorable. As is your relationship: “Your hair smells like wind, did you know that?"  Yep, me and Tucker, smelling each other.”  I literally snorted out loud when then Tucker’s dad walked in on the wrong situation. HA. Being able to fly to your boyfriend’s bedroom makes a whole lot of trouble.
Level of Harry Potter-ness: 5. This book is not fine literature, but it does have its lyrical moments. Most of what I like about it is how sarcastic the writing is (which is Clara’s point of view). I love how self-conscious and funny Hand is about the tropes of YA lit:
“I sneaked out to his house a couple times in the middle of the night to watch over him while he slept, just in case, I don’t know, his comic book collection decided to spontaneously combust. This was dumb and admittedly creepy in an Edward Cullen kind of way.” 
“Before I moved here, I never got the whole love-triangle thing. You know, in movies or romance novels or whatnot, where there’s one chick that all the guys are drooling over, even though you can’t see anything particularly special about her. But oh, no, they both must have her. And she’s like, oh dear, however will I choose? William is so sensitive, he understands me, he swept me off my feet, oh misery, blubber, blubber, but how can I go on living without Rafe and his devil-may-care ways and his dark and only-a-little-abusive love? Upchuck.” 
And now they will go off to college, which makes me feel a bit more justified in reading these, since I am not THAT far out of college. Success!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This video teaser created in part by Ransom Riggs sums up Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children better than I ever could:


1.     Originality – 9.  This book just kept taking sharp turns, and while set in a relatively normal premise, things quickly unravel into a world of ghosts, time warps and loops and seriously bad bad guys. I was on my own and right spooked at points in this book. And the photos? I couldn’t even look at them at night. I was sleeping with the light on a few times and the next day work productivity suffered immensely.  Sorry Company.

2.     Absurdity – 5. Absurd, but in a pretty normal way if that makes sense.   I found the most absurd to be the Level of Paranormal Romance (see LoPR Section following).  I think the second most absurd thing are the main character's parents and their minor roles in the story- who would really let their child who they think is having a mental breakdown wander around an island alone?  They have obviously never seen any episode of LOST otherwise they would have stayed in groups. At all times. 

3.     Level of Paranormal Romance – 3.  A weird three.  There may be a ghost who falls in love with the main character who was once in love with his grandfather who he resembles… I just think that we could have left the teenage angst out of this one, because the rest of it WAS SO GOOD.  Let us just run amok in time and place and fight scary bad guys and call it a day.

4.     Level of Harry Potter-ness – 2.  No magic in this, and though there is a school for special children, these are not like Hogwarts kids.  Freaky is the theme here and while Harry had his freaky aspects, Miss Peregrine's kids woul destroy Hufflepuff in a Feak-Off.

This book is incredibly unique, had me on the EDGE of my seat/bed, and made me feel like a scared kid at times as I tried to figure out who were the good guys.  And since Grad Student told me the author is buddies with John Green, I can't lie, I would like them both to come over to my apartment for a drink, some olives and cheese,  and perhaps a game of Pictionary. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Do you enjoy a protagonist who is kick-ass and street smart? Yes?!? Good! We all need more spunky heroines in our (YA) lives. No more insta-love/being totally lame until you get a supernatural boyfriend. The answer to this search is to read Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. This book, the first of a five-book series, came out in 2009, but just because it isn't an ARC doesn't mean it isn't worth your time. Dru Anderson =cool. Dru has what her grandmother called “the touch”--she can tell when something paranormal and bad is coming her way (it tastes like waxy oranges in the back of her mouth, and it means RUN). This is a good talent, since she and her dad travel all over the country hunting  ghosts, suckers, wulfen, zombies, and the like.  As she says:
“I’m probably the only sixteen-year-old girl in a three hundred mile radius who knows how to distinguish between a poltergeist from an actual ghost (hint: If you can disrupt it with nitric acid, or if it throws new crap at you every time, it’s a poltergeist)... I know the six signs of a good occult store ...and the four things you never do when you’re in a bar with other people who know about the darker side of the world (don’t look weak).” 
Then her dad turns up a zombie trying to kill her, and she knows things have gotten serious. Luckily, along the way, Dru meets Graves, a homeless, hilarious, smart high-school guy who becomes an unexpected partner in the mystery of what happened to her dad, who the bad guys lurking outside are, and why every creepy vampire in the Dakotas is suddenly interested in her.

Strange Angels (Strange Angels, #1)Originality: 5. Standard "there is a paranormal alternative world out there" but I think its refreshing that the paranormals are the BAD GUYS and not sparkling vampire love interests. I like the scary side to this book, and it stands out for all the gross smells, decaying zombies, and explosions. 
Absurdity: 4. NOW I know this sounds absurd, but it is really just gritty and a bit dark. And full of swearing and ass-kicking. Truthfully, if this all happened to me, there would be lots of swearing as well. And I would hope to hand out some sweet punches. But as Crazy Camper and I often discuss, I would be the first to go in the Hunger Games, so probs not. Which is why I would need a friend like Dru, 'cause she is the real deal.
Level of Paranormal Romance: 2. Dru is busy NOT DYING and doesn't have time for this stuff. Which is an awesome change of pace. Not that there are not boys around (one who smells like apple pie, which she realizes is weird but intriguing). This series builds over time, so you will just have to keep reading.
Level of Harry Potter-ness: 2. No one drops the F bomb in HP. And people don't have to shoot their dad-turned-zombie. This is a bit crass as YA goes, and I thought it was a welcome relief. BUT beware if you are a delicate flower.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Omnivorous Readers

A recent G-chat convo about our mother, the reader.

Grad Student: mom liked it, she is pretty funny. whats that word for animals that eat anything? (besides hunny badgers) that's what mom is for reading

Crazy Camper: omnivores?

Grad Student: omnivorous

Crazy Camper: HA and its honey badger

Grad Student: HAHAHAHAHA I like HUNNY, like "sweetie pie badger"

(P.S. Hi Mom!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I am a fan of many things ...

But combine young adult fiction turned Hollywood blockbuster with ittie bittie pitties, and my gosh, you have a fan for life! Courtesy of BuzzFeed, Josh Hutcherson (aka Peeta) adopted an adora-bull little blue nose pittie! I die!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Raven-BoysHelllooooooo and good morning on this Waiting on Wednesday. Since Crazy Camper is swamped at work, I am going to pinch-hit for her today here at YAF and WS. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is all about what books we can't wait to get our hands on.

Now it is no secret that I liked The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (my review). So imagine my excitement when this fabulous author announced the FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of her next book, The Raven Boys, were available.

GASP! EXCITEMENT! GASP! You can read them here. In an obvious turn of events, I am adding this book to my must read list, as soon as September 18, 2012 rolls around.

"It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore." (Good Reads)

This looks like it will be great, no?! (If you don't think so you are probably wrong.) Share your WoW below! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Im pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, 
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame. (Good Reads)

 Pandemonium (Delirium #2) byLauren Oliver hooked me a lot faster than Delirium did. The "now" and"then" alternating chapter setup was a perfect way to learn about Lena's transition to the resistance and also let us get to know the new fairly fierce Lena. Her grief about Alex is well done but not overwhelming since it is tempered by action (and the increasingly intriguing Julian) in the present as Lena goes undercover in New York City. I found Lena a bit grating and lame in the first book, but she proves here that she has some steel inside her. She is resourceful and physically strong--a welcomed bit of character growth! When you get to the part with the umbrella you too will be like, geez Lena you are MacGyvering all over town!!!

Originality: 9. I don't much about writing and story arcs, but moving two forward and making them both engrossing seems like a big challenge that Oliver excels at, and it really makes this book unique.
Absurdity: 3. The absurdity here is low. The life in the wilds is challenging and often dire and the threats seem real.
Level of Paranormal Romance: 6. This can only be so high, since Lena is dealing with her grief over Alex for most of the book, not looking for a rebound. Nevertheless, I liked Julian, maybe more than I liked Alex. It is because he is attracted to her because she is smart and strong in her beliefs. That, as a reason to like someone, was appealing to me. Lena was a much weaker person when Alex met her. (Didn't you just keep wondering if he would still recognize this Lena?!)
Levelof Harry-Potter-ness:7. Sometimes the second book in a series feels like filler, but this excellent sequel added new compelling characters, taught us a lot about the state of Lena's world, and moved the story along with GREAT twists and revelations.

PS.This has the most outrageous cliff hanger! I loved it. I GASPED out loud.
PPS.YAF and WS does not condone spoilers- I actually found out what happens at the end of a book because someone somewhere posted it in a comments section. Sad face. DON'T be that person.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

"Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't alot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all. Nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to morequestions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future." (GoodReads)

THIS BOOK. Amazing. Did you already know that? Probably. But I have just stumbled into the YA world of Melina Marchetta. And it is glorious.

I am not sure I am as much in lust with Griggs as the rest of the YA-reading world (see here). I’m sorry! I don’t mean to let anyone down! He is hunky and all, but he couldn’t compete for my attention with the beautiful story Hannah is writing, and how it intersects with Taylor’s life. Both stories are about friend’s saving each other but also coming to terms with letting go. Cue the tears!

Jellicoe Road snuck up on me. I got on the train, headed home for Easter, and the ending hit me like a ton of bricks. Books don't usually make me cry, usually its things like Legends of the Fall and the Olympics. ButI cried. In public. For the last thirty pages. The writing is gorgeous and the story all comes together in such an intricate and heart breaking way. I didn't want the book to end, and tried to move on to start Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (I clearly travel with multiple library books-- a girl has to be prepared) but my mind was just not ready, and that’s saying something because I was dying to get to Pandemonium. Instead I had to sit and think about Taylor and Narnie and Fitz and Webb and how beautiful Jellico Road must be.
  • Originality: 10. Mostly because I know literally nothing about Australia (except that they really don’t drink Fosters there). So this was all new to me. On a more legitimate reason for the 10, these characters feel very real.
  • Absurdity: Negative 1,000. Who knew I could buy contemporary fiction this much!?
  • Level of Paranormal Romance: 6. Don’t get me wrong, Griggs is dreamy. But he did not steal the top spot on my swoon-worthy chart of YA boys (that chart may or may not exist….yet…)
  • Level of Harry Potter-ness.10. Guys, the writing here--it’s incredible. I was on the fence about Marchetta after Finnikin of the Rock, but boy, can she write contemporary fiction. I would throw elbows at MERYL STREEP to get to this book. And I love Meryl—I want to be her daughter and drink wine with her in her house from Its Complicated.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

"After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it. " (Good Reads)

I was looking forward to When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen. The early reviews were good. I Waiting on Wednesday-ed this book, waited patiently for it from the library....and when I read it, I was, well, underwhelmed.  I could not connect with any of the characters I was supposed to be rooting for.  The world that Hellisen creates is gritty and intriguing, but I just didn't find myself hooked.
  • Originality: 9. This is pretty high fantasy stuff, in my opinion. But I thought the details about accents and hair color and the scene at the local cheap cafes was well done. And there is the drug-induced magic. Drugs! in YA fiction! And liquor and good-time bar nights! Since YA fiction can be so hands-off on drinking, it was interesting to see, and it does play a role in the story, as inhibitions are loosened and secret relationships are exposed. Beer CAN move a plot forward!
  • Absurdity: 7. This absurdity is not necessarily bad, just 'fantasy level' absurd. There is a LOT of lingo to take in here. The Hobs, the high-Lammers, and the Gris (it is a swear...I think?) and the layers of magic. I am usually on board with magical elements, but I didn't always have a good grasp on what was what here.
  • Level of Paranormal Romance: 4. I couldn't get into Dash. I didn't see his appeal, or believe that Felicita would be into him (or anybody else....side-eye to replace potential spoiler). One the plus side, I didn't hate the vampire and could totally see Jannik as a love interest. So points there! The standout thing regarding relationships in this book is that there are no sexual norms. People connect. Gender does not circumscribe love or lust. This is well done and a good addition to YA in general. 
  • Level of Harry Potter-ness: 5. Even if it wasn't my thing, this book is certainly atmospheric. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can't Stop, Won't Stop...Swooning over the Awesome that is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

GUYS I am loving John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I am halfway through. And I it keeps making me laugh! I tried to call my boyfriend and explain the funny last night. SIGH. That never, ever works. But it was about Nintendo games. I thought he would relate. (PS I fear the tears are to come in this book, I love Augustus Waters too much.)

Here is a bit of the awesome to share with you. Happy almost weekend!

WAIT FOR IT:  The author with the manuscript balanced on his head.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Endlessly by Kiersten White

This Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, features Endlessly by Kiersten White. YOU should read White’s Paranormalcy series for at least 2 reasons:
  1. Evie, the main character, doesn’t swear. She bleeps. In the first book Paranormalcy we meet Evie’s best friend Lish, a mermaid living in a tank where the computer refuses to translate her dirty mouth. So Lish sounds like this: “Bleep stupid bleep bleep faeries and their bleep bleep bleep obsessions. He had better stop bleep bleep bleep the bleep bleep rules or I will bleep bleep bleep the little bleeeeeeeeeeep.” 
  2. Her weapon of choice is a taser bedazzled with pink rhinestones and nicknamed Tasey. It made me snort-laugh. More than once.
Kiersten White has a funny bone and knows how to use it. This series is highly entertaining and an easy read. It is fun fluff. Evie is hilarious and does not take herself or any situation too seriously. My biggest complaint is that I do not believe that teenagers say things like “Golly, that was my first kiss, how’d I do.” I paraphrase, but still.  I have hopes that the rather funny love interest Lend will overcome the blandness that bogged him down in book two, Endlessly. He might not be lame: it could have been because his dashing back and forth to college didn’t leave much time for any solid evidence that these two were actually emotionally connected. (I would also like to point out being a college freshman is FUN. Don't leave on the weekends, Lend!)

In Paranormalcy Evie longs for a locker and high school and all things normal; in Supernaturally she realizes that she misses the International Paranormal Containment Agency, where she worked and grew up. Despite trying for normal, Evie falls deeper into the paranormal world and faery politics because of the Puck-ish Jake. The blurb for Endlessly doesn’t reveal much yet, but I want to see how Evie’s adventures come to a close. Does this title mean she is immortal!?! Discuss.

“Try as she might, Evie can’t seem to escape her not-so-normal past. And what was supposed to be a blissfully normal school break is ruined when a massive group of paranormals shows up at her house, claiming that Evie is the only one who can protect them from a mysterious, perilous fate.  The deadly war between the faerie courts looms ever closer. The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its future rests solely in Evie’s hands. So much for normal.” (Good Reads)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Were Totally Deceiving

The Broke and the Bookish host this list-mania meme dedicated to sharing read lists. We love it! This week is Top Ten Books That WereTotally Deceiving-- Someof theses titles and covers seem to have been free-associated, and others were not what we were expecting (sometimes to good effect, other times, not so much).

The Cover Works Against the Book
1. The Fallen Series by Lauren Kate. Is Luce lost on some forested island where all she has is a suitcase of goth prom dresses!?! How does this relate to anything even remotely related to angels!?!
2. The Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand. Girl in a Dress is not my favorite genre. But these books are, happily, much better than their covers.The second book Hallowed in particular was moving story about loss and family, and you have no idea looking at the cover.
3. Jealousy from the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow. PEOPLE you need to read these books. Dru is so kick-ass it is not even funny. People get beat up, betrayed, hunted by zombies and vampires, etc. But this title, and the picture for the third book in the series. Blech. It looks like some third-rate romance novel. 

(Honorable Mentions, previously reviewed: The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Name of the Star. YAF and WS, overcoming bad covers to read good books, one step at a time.)

Expecting a Zig and Getting a Zag
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I thought this book was going to be a bit too young and preciousfor my taste, but was I wrong. It is sweet, smart, and touching. I nearly choked up at the end! Whoknew, coming from a kid's book that starts with a triple-homicide.
5. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-SmithI thought this was going to be a send-up,since the author had also written Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which looked beyond silly. But I was  scared.GULP.
6. Swamplanda! by Karen Russell. (review!) Goosie Mama,expecting YA fiction, was surprised by the tone and subject matter of this book. The cute cartoon and exclamation mark would draw me to the wrong conclusions as well.

Books I Put On Hold at the Library But Have Waited So Long For I Can't Remember What They Are About and Thus Am Off-Base in What I Expect* (*This is an ebook issue because of a lack of book blurbs).
7. Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher. I thought,for some reason, there would be more romance involved in this. 30 pages in, I actually used the search capability of my Nook for 'kiss'. Embarrassing?Yes. Then when no kisses turned up, I was all "WHAAATTT" and stopped reading. I wanted some romance--so sue me!**

What is on your TT this week?

** PS Google Image Search Incarceron. Some pretty great fan art featuring Taylor Lautner is involved.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

At the age of nine, Finnikin pledges to defend his kingdom of Lumatere alongside Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian.  But all safety is shattered during the "five days of the unspeakable," when the royal family is brutally murdered. An impostor seizes the throne, but a curse binds all who remain inside the country's walls  while the rest, who escape, are landless exiles constrained in deadly fever camps.  Fast forward ten years, and  Finnikin answers a summoning to meet Evanjalin who claims Balthazar, the rightful heir to the throne, is alive. Slightly arrogant and very secretive, Evanjalin claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor to the prince. Instead, her leadership puts them on a perilous route towards home. Can Lumatere be saved? Can the crown be restored? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and her startling visions of Lumatere will test Finnikin's faith in Evanjalin and his destiny.

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1)
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta ran hot and cold for me. Sometimes I was into it, but not consistently.  I would recommend it if you were passing it at the library, but I wouldn't run out and push old ladies down to buy it.  ( I will read the sequel, however, when it comes out).

The third section of the book is a surprisingly serious meditation on hope, broken faith, the sexual vulnerability of women, and female power.  The best part of this book is that it doesn't end with a triumphant battle, but a mediation on life and loss. I found this section moving and thought provoking. 

Originality: 6. This is a pretty basic 'kingdoms at war' plot, with the pre-rec fantasy map. BUT  I found the diplomacy between these nations boring. Snooozzze.
Absurdity:  8. Pretty high, because it is true fantasy: long-lost prince and princesses, prophecies, curses, and magic.
Level of Paranormal Romance:  I don't want to give too much away, but at the end there is a long march (emotional and physical) that Finn undertakes, and it made for a surprisingly swoon-worthy finale--so 6! I was happily surprised.
Level of Harry Potter-ness: a 5 for magical curses and 6 for writing--Marchetta is good, even if I don't totally love the world she built. It is still compelling and well done.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dedicated to Goosie Mama

I dedicate this Hey Girl books edition to GM. 'Cause she is the best! And this will make her smile!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Wilfair by Alysia Gray Painter

Fair Finley is a hotel heiress who runs the famous Hollywood hotel the Wilfair. She dresses like a 1940s film star, but has not yet come into her own as a hotel magnate, despite her parent hopes. She tends to over-apologize via fruit baskets, and can't get the nerve to steal the neighboring motel's swimming pool. That's right. Her famous hotel, where each floor is a different design, from Rococo to Story Book, lacks a pool--a terrible oversight in Los Angeles. The problem is the motel owner's happen to be a pair of handsome cousins (with loose ties, rolled up sleeves, and distracting, attractive forearms). Fair doesn't have many friends, and these two, both named Montgomery, seem ready to be friends and have adventures, but stealing a pool from potential friends is tough. Not to mention weird things are happening at the already wacky Wilfair-- ghosts are acting strange, physical places are switching places, and the tar pit between the two hotels, a tourist attraction, has been smelling of Paris and baking bread. Something is up.
To remind you: Wilfair by Alysia Gray Painter has the best. blurb. ever. "Strange things happen, adventures are had, feelings are felt, and cheese dip is eaten."

This, my book-loving blog friends, is a Quirky Book. But, as you know, I like Quirky Books (example A, example B). I was pretty much cool with the quirky plot AND quirky narrative form (which is told from Fair's perspective). There is so much packed into this little book! Her little twin brothers run the famous 500 Dip Bar, which means we are treated to lots of discussion of dip, and they seemed to be a play on the creepy twins from The Shining (let me know if you think this, too!). I enjoyed that Fair was a person trying to find herself and learning to use her quirks to her advantage. And Fair's weirdness is kinda refreshing. I knew we would be friends when she made T-Rex claws and Raaaawwweeed at someone. 
  • Originality: 9. This book is incredibly creative, but sometimes the new quirks fly by so fast its hard to catch them all.
  • Absurdity: 9. BUT this book is supposed to be absurd in a magical realism kind of way. (Its not accidentally absurd in a feather-petting/ insta-love kind of way). The surreal qualities coming in increments and make you want to know more. How can a fitted sheet be shaped like London? How can tar bubbles smell good?
  • Level of Paranormal Romance. 1. Fair does not fall in True Love with the Montgomerys within 72 hours. That is NOT how she rolls (who KNOWS how awkward she would be with some lip contact). But it is a nice change of pace to the general YA out there, and I hope hope hope for something to swoon over in the next book. The foundations are there, and expectations are high! 
  • Level of Harry-Potter-ness: 5. I think people will be divided about the very fanciful writing style of this book. Painter makes up words (sometimes I found this confusing) and uses some wacky metaphors. Once in a while I wanted a calm moment to collect my brain and enjoy the whimsy. By the end, however, I either got used to it or things calmed down. My biggest complaint about the book was at less than 200 pages I was left wanting more plot development. I feel like we had just approached the meat of the mystery when the story ended; I learned the world and the lingo, and then things wrapped up. Nooooooo, give me more!
Overall, I was charmed by these people and am bee-lining toward the sequel, Redwoodian. If you need a good laugh and lighthearted antics, get involved!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy Alysia Gray Painter. Happy reading followed. (We do not accept or receive compensation for reviews at YAF and WS.)

Review: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

So Grad Student showed me this great trick of hitting up NPR books for reviews about really great Young Adult Fiction (see sidebar links!). I was all over that website at the end of the year, especially when they were highlighting the "Best of 2011" reviews.

Swamplandia! was one of these recommendations from NPR and after reading their review, I thought, what the hey, let's read it.

Once I got a few chapters into the book, I quickly realized this wasn't Young Adult fiction and - whoops - I must have travelled outside of the YAF recommendations on NPR. Let me tell you, when you're expecting some light-hearted YAF and you get Debbie Downer - It. Is. Shocking.

The basic premise is a family living in the swamp of Florida on their gator farm after their mother (Hilola) and star of their gator swimming show passes away from ovarian cancer. The family is the weirdest of the weird (weird for the sake of being weird, almost) and the book chronicles the fall out from Hilola's death through the eyes of pre-teen Ava and her 18-year-old brother Kiwi.

The first thing I noticed was that it was totally unbelievable that a 12-year-old was narrating part of this book as there were a ton of SAT words - Kindle's Oxford dictionary was working overtime on this one. But whatever, I'll suspend belief.

This book was dark. Based on the title (yeah, I said it), the fact that I thought this was YA fiction and the review, I wasn't really expecting that. Maybe you have to be in a certain type of mood to call this a page turner, but I was just totally put-off from the beginning. There were so many (sad) side stories happening that it was hard to follow and the periphery became distracting to the overall story development.

I actually am not 100% why I continued reading it (library guilt?), but I did and I'm not saying it's a bad book, just that be prepared it is dark and stormy (you would need a Jack and Coke vs. a Whiskey Sour).

Waiting on Wednesday: Karma, by Cathy Ostlere

KarmaThis Waiting on Wednesday, a brilliant weekly meme from Breaking the Spine, is dedicated to getting out of the US of A and seeing some new sights! (not literally, cause that takes cash $$$ money, but literar-ily. Can I make that word for now? ANYWAYS...)

I have come across praise for Cathy Ostlere's Karma, A Novel in Verse for about six months now, and have decided its high time to read it. Since I fell head-over-heels for Jandy Nelson's  The Sky is Everywhere, I am not as fearful of this "novel in verse"-- told through journal entries and poems. The bit of the book I flipped through (digitally) on Amazon looked amazing. Bring on the YA poetry! And a cover I can take out in public!

"On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world." (Note, I don't think the Good Reads summary here emphasizes it enough, but there is some falling-in-love involved in this book. PHEW).

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read in A Day

The Silver Bowl (Silver Bowl, #1)Its time for another edition of The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read In A Day. Per-usual, I cannot come up with ten. But this is a top eight list, my personal specialty! Another specialty? Reading a book in a single day. So here are books I have gobbled up in a single day/night, and not minded the sleep-deprivation that followed.

1. The Girl who Chased the Moon (see review) by Sarah Addison Allen. The epitome of an easy, fun, one-day read.
2. The Sky is Everywhere  (see review) by Jandy Nelson. Because it is physically impossible to stop. You have no control when those charming Fontaine boy show up. Just make yourself some coffee and give in!
Glass Houses (The Morganville Vampires, #1)3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- does this even need to be said at this point? It is a verb in my life. Hunger Game a good book!
4. Glass Houses (the Morganville Vampire Series) by Rachel Caine. A Victorian house and wacky roommates and vampires? Fun! A bit predictable, but so what! I think if you had more than one of these lying around you could have a multiple-books-read-in-a-day situation on your hands.
5. The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley. This under-the-radar book was surprisingly charming and short enough for a single night’s read.
6. Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep. Sometimes you need a little fluff. And I found Gwen entertaining, even though I am not on the mythic-warrior bandwagon.
Matched (Matched, #1)7. Matched by Ally Condi. I didn’t love this book’s sequel, but I read this in a single sitting this summer, when it was too hot to go outside and my roommates had scattered to cooler pastures. And I just. kept. rooting. for. Xander.
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. We have not discussed how awesome this book is on YA F and Whiskey Sours. But we are aware. Juliet is fantastic and saucy and I would love to be her pen pal.

The moral of the story is sleep is overrated! Read more books!

Touch of Frost (Mythos Academy, #1)      The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Monday, April 2, 2012

In which grad student shares a lit pilgrimage!

I had the great luck this past week to visit Aldo Leopold's shack outside of Madison, Wisconsin. This place was AMAZING and I want to share his most famous book A Sand County Almanac for those looking for an easy,  beautiful piece of non-fiction. Gasp!!! A foray outside young adult fiction, but worth every missing moment of teenage angst.

The need-to-know: Leopold is an incredibly influential writer, conservationist, forester, and philosopher,-- think a early-20th century mid-western Thoreau. DO NOT RUN IN FEAR. This book is lyrical and very funny. Its about his and his family's time on a farm that is left for dead during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  AND I GOT TO VISIT. It was awesome. AND probably supremely dorky. I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry!

Imagine me! standing right there!

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm him shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the weekend in town astride a radiator"” -Aldo Leopold, "Good Oak"

Crazy Camper, eat your heart out!