December 31, 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.
December 30, 2008
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.
December 30, 2008
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.
December 30, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under book trailers
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!
December 29, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under links
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.
December 29, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under blogging
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.
December 29, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under links
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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.
December 29, 2008
Sister Wife takes place in Unity, home to The Movement, a conservative religious group that lives apart from mainstream, modern society. It follows three very different girls coming of age in Unity, with the title referring to the fact that the community practices polygamy (referred to as “celestial marriage”), where young girls are married off to older men, whose other wives are their “sister wives.”
Celeste has grown up in Unity, but she is beginning to question the ways of The Movement as the day nears when she will be assigned to a husband. She is fifteen and doesn’t feel ready to be married, especially not to a man old enough to be her father. However, she also doesn’t feel ready to fight the traditions of her community, not when it will bring shame to the family she loves so dearly.
Nanette, Celeste’s younger sister, is far more content with their way of life. She can’t wait until the Prophet assigns her to a husband. She can’t wait to be a sister wife, and a mother. She believes completely, with her whole heart, and can’t understand Celeste’s reluctance and doubts.
Taviana is not from Unity, and her life before coming to the community was very, very different from the modest, religious way of things in the Movement. She feels safe in Unity, but she’s not dedicated to the lifestyle.
Sister Wife is very much ripped from the headlines, and I don’t love that. Inspiration from the real world and the news, as Laura Wiess cites, is all well and good, but I feel like Shelley Hrdlitschka carried it too far for my taste. It also didn’t have much besides being ripped from the headlines. It was very much an issue book, and I am not a fan of the issue book. A skilled author can deal with an issue very well without actually writing an issue book. Shelley Hrdlitschka is not that author. A book can be about real people and life and what goes on and that can have issues in it, and that is a much better type of book. A book never has to be an issue book, but this was an issue book.
I liked, though, that it was relatively unbiased; it wasn’t a tirade against polygamy or an indoctrination. However, that balance felt a little forced with the alternating viewpoints. Three sides of the story were well represented, but the way it was written and structured felt almost unnecessary. I didn’t feel like we needed equal representation and first person narration from all three girls. Their voices were indistinct, and I often had to flip pages to see which girl’s point of view I was reading. Books don’t need to be democratic. I actually think a third person narration would have sufficed. I didn’t care enough about the individual characters to want all of them to tell the story.
I think that’s it, really; I was interested enough in this book, but I never really cared about any of it. I never once felt personally invested. Part of what a good book does is make the reader care, and Sister Wife never did that for me.
It didn’t feel real, despite its foundation in real life and current events. It didn’t feel like something that was actually happening. It felt like a book, and great books don’t, if that makes any sense. Great books captivate the reader and sweep them away into the story. This book does not do that. It is not well-written enough to do that. It is sometimes boring, sometimes awkward, and only sometimes very readable. I did finish this book, and I enjoyed it well enough while reading, but it’s not something that I’d recommend very highly unless you have a particular interest in the issue at hand.
December 28, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under Harry Potter
The Tales of Beedle The Bard is a book that plays a significant part in the last installment of the Harry Potter series. It’s a collection of five wizarding fairy tales. In this publication of them, J.K. Rowling has also included commentary by the late Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.
This is a short book (I read it in Books A Million when I was early to work one day–I work next door at Kmart). When I finished it, I was sad all over again about the end of the Harry Potter series, which have meant a lot to me. Anyway, this book is a must-read for all fans. I loved this glimpse into the wizarding world! The fairy tales themselves are just good stories, too, standing alone, and Albus Dumbledore’s commentary was, as expected, insightful and interesting. I doubt this one really needs a detailed review, because, hello, it’s J.K. Rowling, so I just wanted to profess my love for this book and say, it rocks. Plus, proceeds go to charity–how awesome is that?!?!
December 27, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under links
I promise new content soon, but, for the moment, here is an after-Christmas serving of links. I hope you all had a great Christmas. Or, you know, if you don’t celebrate, a great Thursday.
If you got a gift card for Christmas, here’s a great opportunity to spend it–Barnes and Noble is having a huge sale!
Karen Mahoney is giving away books every day for eight days (today being Day Three). Yay for the eight days of Christmas!
Vanessa at What Vanessa Reads posted a great interview with Susane Colasanti here.
Annie, the Superfast Reader, has a short interview with David Yoo here. Don’t miss it! His book is begging to be read from my shelf.
December 24, 2008
Because it’s Christmas Eve, I’m doing a super special edition of Waiting On Wednesday. Why so special? Because instead of one book, I’m featuring three! (And, yeah, that really does have more to do with my inability to pick one than Christmas Eve, but it’s still fun).
No More Us For You by David Hernandez
01.27.2009 from HarperTeen
For a life to come together, sometimes it first has to fall completely apart.
Isabel is a regular seventeen-year-old girl, still reeling from the pain of her boyfriend’s tragic death exactly one year ago.
Carlos is a regular seventeen-year-old guy, loves red licorice and his friends, and works at a fancy art museum for some extra cash.
The two have no connection until they both meet Vanessa, an intriguing new transfer student with a mysterious past. While Vanessa is the link that brings these two very different lives together, will she be the one that can also tear them apart?
In his stunningly beautiful second novel, David Hernandez gives his readers a poetic and profound story that tells of two completely different teenagers and how through everyday life and monumental tragedy lies endless possibility.
I haven’t read David Hernandez’s first novel, but doesn’t this sound intriguing?
Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
02.03.2009 from HarperTeen
For most kids, fifteen is the year of the optional summer job: Sure, you can get a job if you really want one, but it isn’t required or anything. Too bad Dave’s dad doesn’t agree! Instead of enjoying long days of biking, swimming, and sitting around, Dave and his two best friends are being forced by their fathers into a summer of hard labor.
The friends have something else in mind, though: Not only will they not work over the summer, but they’re determined to trick everyone into believing they really do have jobs. So what if the lifeguard doesn’t have a tan or the fast-food worker isn’t bringing home buckets of free chicken? There’s only one problem: Dave’s dad wants evidence that his son is actually bringing in money. And that means Dave, Curtis, and Victor will have to get some . . . without breaking the law and without doing any work!
Project Sweet Life is designed for the funny and lazy bone in all of us—a true comedy of errors (without any effort!) from seasoned storyteller Brent Hartinger.
I love Brent Hartinger. He’s just awesome. So I trust that this book will be awesome, even though it doesn’t sound like my usual taste.
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
03. 17.2009 from MTV Books
|All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far…and almost doesn’t make it back.
|John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won’t soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won’t be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge—and over…
This sounds like quite a departure from Jennifer Echols’ previous books, and I can’t wait to see how she handles it. Plus, it just seems interesting.
And that’s it for the Christmas Eve (or Wednesday for those who don’t celebrate Xmas) Super Special Edition of Waiting on Wednesday! Enjoy!
December 24, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under links
Since I am too lazy to come up with original content, and busy in holiday hell (Kmart, my place of employment, where I will have to go to work at 6AM tomorrow, Christmas Eve), some more links to entertain yourselves with:
Meg Cabot is hosting a contest! Make a book trailer, win great prizes! Details here (scroll down).
Guess how many books Harmony can read by the end of the year, and you could win…well, I’m not sure what you would win. But I always used to love those jellybean estimating games so this is great fun.
Also check out The Story Siren’s top books of 2008! We have one overlap (The Comeback Season), and she also listed some books that I enjoyed but weren’t in my top 15. And she gave me some ideas to add to my reading list!
And that’s it for now. Since I’m not sure if I’ll be posting before then, have a great Christmas, to those who celebrate it! And, well, great holiday of your choice or great winter or great Thursday or whatever to those who don’t.
December 22, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under links
A very short links post…
Win a signed copy of your choice of one of Elizabeth Scott’s current books at Melissa Walker’s blog (and read the rest of the entry, too, it’s about the cover of Living Dead Girl). Go here for details.
Read some interesting stuff about the hardcover v paperback debate (publishing, not buying) from Editorial Ass, via Elizabeth Scott.
Don’t miss this essay from the New York Times about weird things found inside books! This link found via Lenore–check out her related story.
December 21, 2008
Posted by jocelyn under book list
I read a lot of books in 2008. I kind of lost count, especially near the end, unfortunately, but I certainly read a lot of good books, and some less-good ones, though, as a rule, I don’t generally finish the sucky books.
Even though a lot of the books I read were solidly good, and others truly great, only some really stood out to me for some reason or another, and this is a list of those books. I decided to limit myself to my favorite fifteen books of the year, and that is the list you see below (in the rough order I read them, not in preference order). These are books I loved and books that left some sort of mark. These may not be the objective best books, and they may not be the books I’d choose if I’d written this post at some other time, but as of right now, these are my favorite fifteen (as of 21 December). What’re yours?
- The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher
- A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
- Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
- Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
- I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert
- Honeybee by Naomi Shibab Nye
- The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
- On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
- Paper Towns by John Green
- North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
- I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
- Ten Cents A Dance by Christine Fletcher
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith
December 20, 2008
Sixteen-year-old Erin Misrahe is diagnosed with schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), and has spent most of her life institutionalized. Sometimes, she blacks out, can’t remember anything, and her violent other personality (referred to in this book as her alter ego), Shevaun, takes over. Now, she’s been symptom-free for eighteen months and she’s trying to become a part of normal society, living at home and transitioning gradually to a public school.
She thinks her life is headed for normalcy–until it gets weirder than ever. She wakes up looking through someone else’s eyes, and it’s all crazy from there. She reconnects with an old friend, finds out a secret about a new one, and discovers that there’s a lot more to the world than what meets the eye. Shevaun isn’t part of Erin; she’s centuries old vampire who exists separately from Erin, but they have a connection no one understands.
Persistence of Memory is yet another unsatisfying peek into Amelia Atwater-Rhodes‘ world. Why unsatistfying? Only for the best reasons–when you’re reading, you can feel that there’s a whole world behind these stories. The characters are people in it, and their roles in the stories that make it to publication are not their lives. I feel like Amelia Atwater-Rhodes knows their whole lives. She knows a lot more about this complete other world than makes it into her books. It’s pretty awesome, especially to know that there are so many other stories just waiting to be written or published! It’s frustrating, too, though, to see glimpses of fascinating places and people, but not to know the whole story. But, as I said, frustrating in a totally awesome way.
In this book, the different parts of this world come together in a way they don’t in the other books. Witches, vampires, shape-shifters–it’s all here. We see glimpses of characters from other books, as always, and I love it. Amelia’s world-building is fascinating. Her storytelling is wonderful and imaginative. Her writing is fluid. Her characters (for the most part) are real people. It’s captivating reading.
However, as much as I love this book (and all the others by this author), I do have some issues with its accuracy, mainly Erin’s mental health diagnosis. I know these aren’t issues that people not taking AP Psychology would have, but they bothered me. Erin, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually show the signs of schizophrenia, just dissociative identity disorder, so I’m not sure why she was diagnosed with it–especially because she’s under 18. Children can’t be diagnosed with schizophrenia; according to DSM-IV, which is a diagnostic manual of mental illnesses, sufferers must be 18, and Erin was diagnosed as a small child.
My other problem with this book was Shevaun. I didn’t feel like we got to know Shevaun very well, or like her personality, from the glimpses we saw of it, made total sense. For example, it was mentioned that she didn’t kill unthinkingly, and she even felt guilt for some of her killing, but at other times, it seems like she was a cold-blooded, reckless killer. Shevaun didn’t make sense. Perhaps that’s just because of the limited viewpoint that the reader has, and I’m sure she makes sense to the author–but that didn’t translate 100% in the book. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has said that she tends to overshare in her books before her editor steps in, but there needs to be a balance between oversharing and not revealing enough.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed Persistence of Memory. It was compelling and well-written and just fun to read as well. Addicting, even. Fans should not be disappointed.
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