December 2008


Fragile Eternity is, as expected,  awesome. I guessed it would be, having loved Melissa Marr‘s first two books. It’s a continuation of the same story, this time focused yet again on Ash and Seth. In this installment in the series, Seth and Aislinn are trying to figure out where they fit in the world, since the world as both of them have always known it has changed so drastically, and with each other. This is happening among lots of court intrigue and faery drama, of course, as everyone tries to either prevent or provoke a devastating war on Earth, to make a long story short (it’s a long book, but the basics of the plot can be summed up quite shortly). 

This book (as well as Melissa Marr’s others) is, in a word, addictive. It’s addictive in the same way that books like Twilight are, but better because, well, it’s also actually good. Melissa Marr’s world is seductive, shadowy, and all-encompassing; honestly, until I finished this book, I couldn’t pull my mind out of it (and even when I was done, I found my mind wandering back to Seth and Aislinn while I was ringing up thousands of ugly half price Christmas ornaments at work).  I love the characters, the suspense, and the writing isn’t exactly something to scoff at, either. Melissa Marr’s characters are her strength, though; they’re really well-created. They feel like people.

It isn’t that these specific qualities stand out, though; literary merit isn’t why I love this book (it’s not bad, that’s just…not the reason this book rocks); I can’t even put my finger on it. It’s just so addicting, and it doesn’t even feel like it’s killing my brain! I found it impossible to stop reading (except when forced), and I can’t wait for the next book (impatient much? This one isn’t even out until April!).

The one flaw? It felt like a sequel. Yes, it is a sequel, but my favorite books in series are those that don’t feel like they’re part of a series (a good example of a series-yet-not-series book is actually Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange). This is very obviously not a stand-alone. I think if the focus had been more on Seth in particular, I would have liked it better because it would have felt more like a complete story. The way it focused on an ensemble cast of characters made it feel more like a sequel. That said, however, I still loved Fragile Eternity and enjoyed every second I spent in Melissa Marr’s wonderfully created world.

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I began many challenges in 2008, but, as I suck at challenges, I did not complete most of them, though I tried. 

First up, The 2k8 Challenge! By my (probably inaccurate) count,  I was ten books away from finishing this one; I read 18 YA debuts. Check out my list here

The Read For Your Dreams Challenge, also started by me, was a success! And, okay, I had to stretch a little to include some of these, but I did read ten books about or including significant amounts of travel. My list is here. I also want to give a shout out to Cafe Shree, who finished the challenge by reading about photography!

Let us not even speak of the failure that was The Printz Award Challenge. Not one book read.

I also tried the First in a Series Challenge. By my count, this was a success! However, the rules state that the “series” must be at least a trilogy, and I’m not entirely sure all of these are slated to have at least three books. 

The Short Story Reading Challenge was a failure. I read some books, yes, but not enough to complete the challenge.

I really don’t know about The Chunkster Challenge. I suspect I completed this one, but I don’t really want to go and look up the page numbers of the books I read and figure out what I read in what quarter.

I only finished three of my eight categories in the Triple 8 Challenge

I give up. Challenges are not for me, though I like the idea of them, and I do not plan in participating in any in 2009. 

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Love Is Hell is a collection of five short supernatural love stories (around 50 pages each, so on the long side of short) by five wonderful authors. I’ve loved the work of all of these authors individually, so I was excited about this book!

The first story, Sleeping With The Spirit, by Laurie Faria Stolarz, is about a girl who falls in love with a ghost, and it’s  an enjoyable read, if not particularly compelling. 

The second, Stupid Perfect World, by Scott Westerfeld, is set in a futuristic world where students take a class called Scarcity, about the hard parts of history before all the technology they have now that keeps their world “perfect.” The class involves a project in which students suffer one of the ills of the ancient world (our world) for two weeks. When two students choose hormones and sleep (things eliminated by their technology), there are unexpected consequences as they realize that imperfections can be beautiful things. I really loved this story. I loved the spirit of it, and of course I love Scott Westerfeld’s writing. He is able to create a completely captivating world and story in only 55 pages. 

The third story is Justine Larbalestier’s. Thinner Than Water is about a girl in an odd sort of historical tourist village, only the people in the village actually live in old-timey ways, with varying degrees of belief and loyalty to their lifestyle and the odd ideas (like believing in fairies) that come with it. The heroine’s family is very strict in their ways, which include things like schooling only to age fifteen, keeping modern things out of the house, and marrying off their daughter at sixteen. She wants to go to school and be a doctor, which means running away to the city. Meeting a boy who’s not quite like the rest of the village (in more ways than one) will change her, though. I enjoyed this story. It was a little creepy and sad and different, and I really liked it. The setting is intriguing. The story and characters  begged me to keep reading! 

The fourth story is Gabrielle Zevin’s Fan Fictions. It’s about an ordinary girl who meets a boy and reads a book and meets a boy, and, well, it’s really difficult to say anything without giving away the story, but, my god, it is creepy. Eerie and kind of disturbing and shuddery. I wasn’t captivated by the main character, and I couldn’t get past the story’s creepiness. It also doesn’t tie together in a nice sense-making package at the end, and I feel like this is a story not entirely told, and I don’t like it. This was the low point of the book for me, which is sad because I’ve loved Gabrielle Zevin’s books. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, either. I can’t really speak for its quality because it was so solidly not something that I enjoyed, but not because of anything that made it bad, just because it wasn’t for me. At all.

The fifth and last story, by Melissa Marr, is called Love Struck. In it, Alana is trapped by a selchie (rather than the other way around, which is how the stories she’s heard tell it). She has to untangle fact from fiction and decipher the motives and thoughts of those around her, as well as deciding what part of what she feels is magic and enchantment and what is real. Melissa Marr is amazing. In this story, she’s able to create a character and a story that I could have read entire books about. Alana, more than any of the others in this collection, really feels like a person at the end of the 44 pages (although this may have something to do with the fact that she reminds me a lot of Ash, another of Marr’s characters in her novels). And she is an awesome person at that! The story itself is interesting, too. I would have loved to read more. Melissa Marr rocks. 

Overall, this collection is definitely worth reading. Though one wasn’t really my style (you may think it’s fantastic), I loved three of the stories and liked a fourth. Three of the stories would have been mind-blowing standouts in any other company, but when you put great writers together, it’s hard to pick a favorite! This is definitely worth reading.

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Some book trailers suck. Some are made of awesome. I watched an awful lot of terrible book trailers to come up with this list, but these four? They rock. Enjoy! 

First, this one for Kristin Cashore’s Graceling:

Second, for Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry:

This one for Libba Bray’s A Great And Terrible Beauty:

And for Michael Grant’s Gone:

That’s it for now. But I’m now hooked on book trailers. What are your favorites? Send me links!

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When I speak of generosity here, I mean charitable giving. I am all for charitable giving, and of course I am all for books. These are a few things I’ve come across recently that connect the two.

In honor of Meg Cabot’s upcoming book Forever Princess (which is totally on my wishlist, by the way), there will be a tiara auction to benefit teen programs the New York Public Library! Tiaras have been decorated by celebrities, authors, and designers like Lauren Conrad, Sarah Dessen, Julie Andrews, Vera Wang, R.L. Stine, and Meg Cabot herself (and many more), and you could have this wonderfully creative headgear for your very own. The auction is happening here, from January 1-31.

Speaking of great auctions, you may have heard of Leave a Mark auctions, in which books marked up by their authors are auctioned off to benefit First Book, which provides books to children in need. There will be about five more books, through January, before this is over (which means I’m super late posting about it, but there’s still time to check it out!). This auction is more on the budget-friendly side than the tiara auction; bids start at $5 rather than $150. 

I also wanted to metion the Inside Books Project, which provides books to prisoners in Texas. Also read Liviana’s post with some quotes from someone working at the project. 

Also from Liviania, Book Wish is asking you to donate $1 for every book you received for the holidays. Donations to to build libraries and provide textbooks in refugee camps in Chad. 

These are all worthy causes and bookish causes. Whatever your cause, I ask you to please use some of that holiday money to further a cause that is not your wardrobe makeover or a new iPod.

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When I first started to blog, it was almost by accident. I love YA books, and I love writing, and I loved sharing my opinions on books. But books are not my only interest. It could have just as easily been technology or music or linguistics or politics or television or travel or movies or the college search or history that inspired me to start a blog, as I’m passionate and opinionated when it comes to those subjects as well. 

I’m very, very lucky that it was YA books. I didn’t know anything about any blogging communities when I started, and I was extremely fortunate that I accidentally chose this one. Why?

The number of blogs about children’s and young adult books is small enough that anyone can break in and be a part of this community. Anyone can find their place, make even a small name for themselves, if they have interesting things to say. It’s not like political bloggers, who number in the thousands; I doubt I’d ever have much of a following as a political blogger. Here, I can share my opinion on a particular book and know that someone is going to read it. Even though I don’t blog because of the audience, that rocks. 

This community is not too small, though, and I discover new blogs regularly. It’s big enough to be a real community of bloggers, not just a handful of people commenting on each other’s blogs. This is the perfect size. If I’d chosen technology, there would be too many blogs. If I’d decided to blog about the college search, something that’s occupied a lot of my time, there would be no community. 

The people in this particular community are supportive of each other, and interact with each other. I comment on other blogs. Other bloggers comment on my posts. I love all the comments, the links, the Cybils, and everything else that makes this a real community. I know some great people from book blogging! 

And then there’s the books. I didn’t really imagine that I could get free books to write about on my blog. I didn’t think that could actually happen, at least not in any significant numbers, but it did, and it rocks. The ARCs are especially awesome; without book blogging, I’d never get to read new books months before they come out! It’s exciting. 

The authors in the YA community are fantastic, too. Most of them keep blogs and have websites and are really in touch with their fans. They are connected to their audience. They’ll discuss their books and do interviews and guest blogs. They are amazing. I love that I get to talk to some of my favorite authors and ask questions about them and their books! Where else would I get to do that? Nowhere.

I should have posted this at Thanksgiving, but I suppose it’s a good end-of-the-year reflection as well. I am very thankful for this community of awesome people and the opportunities this blog has presented me with. Anyone reading this? You all rock.

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This is so awesome that I couldn’t even save it for a links roundup post.

Justine Larbalestier has written a blog post debunking (in a way) the famous myth that one should only write what one knows. She urges us all to learn about things that interest us, and write about that! Books, she says, require research. And what brilliant advice that is! Check it out, much more well articulated than this summary, here

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