September 2007

INVISIBLE LIVES is a sweet and sort of predictable read in that chick-lit way, but the Indian and paranormal twists make  it good fun and add a unique element to the more predictable parts of the story.

Lakshmi Sen is a young Indian woman in Seattle with an odd ability to read people’s emotions. She physically sees them  (this is the supernatural part of the story but it is not addressed as supernatural–the story is not about explaining this ability),  and this gives her a great advantage where she works in her mother’s sari shop…

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First off, I’ve got to say this was a really sad book and made me quite depressed after reading it. But that’s a great compliment; it wasn’t supposed to be a happy book, and that it affected me so deeply speaks to its brilliance.

BJ is a teenaged girl with low self-esteem who finds herself a target for bullies at school. Alex is her best friend, much higher up than her, socially, and seemingly so together, so confident. When a new boy, David, enters their lives, he throws things off, and sets off a chain of events in which queen bees Victoria and Rachel manipulate BJ, humiliate Alex, and unwittingly create disastrous consequences.

This powerful, profoundly gut-wrenching and thought provoking novel is a must-read. Alma Fullerton is a brilliant writer, and her amazing characters really come to life on the page.  A frighteningly honest story about friendship, survival, and secrets, this is a story that will stay with readers.

Five Stars

TRIPPING TO SOMEWHERE is a highly original, sort of surreal and very edgy fantasy book that is one of those that sort of blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, leaving you with lots of questions (but that’s the way it should be) and perhaps in sort of a fog left over from the reading of a fantastic book!

Kristopher Reisz’s novel centers around Sam and Gilly, two teenage girls, who take off in an attempt to catch the Witches’ Carnival, a sort of supernatural band of powerful beings. They leave behind their real lives with no thought to the consequences they’ll have to face if they return, chasing the whisper of a dream that so few people have managed to catch.

A lovely, haunting novel, TRIPPING TO SOMEWHERE is a surprisingly fast read. It’s very fast-paced, and quite real and honest (considering it’s full of unreal supernatural things!). I adored the strong characters, too. This is a pretty intense book, but if you’re prepared for that, you’ll love it.

Four 1/2 Stars

The September issue of the Edge of the Forest is up!  As always, they’ve got some great reviews and articles.

Don’t forget 31 Flavorite Authors, sponsored by Readergirlz, all next month! Every night, you’ll get the chance to chat with another awesome YA author.

Don’t forget to enter your fairy-tale based poem or story in Alyssa’s contest at The Shady Glade by the 28th! You’ll have the chance to win some truly awesome prizes.

Guess what? It’s time for the Cybils again!  This is the second annual Cybils awards. Here’s a description of the awards, from the website, in case you missed them last year:

The internet’s first literary awards are back.

Like all revolutions, this one started small, with a single post on a blog devoted to children’s literature. The Newbery Awards seemed too elitist and the Quills, well, not enough so. Was there a middle ground, an annual award that would recognize both a book’s merits and popularity?

The Cybils found that middle ground. The public nominates their favorite children’s books from 2007 in seven categories: Picture Books; Non-fiction Picture Books; Middle Grade fiction; Poetry; Young Adult fiction; Non-fiction (YA/MG); and Graphic Novels. Nominations open on October 1.

When we say “the public,” we mean it. Anyone with an e-mail address may nominate one book per category. Then groups of bloggers get to work. First, a nominating committee reads ALL the titles in a given category. After nearly two arduous months, this committee winnows the nominees to five finalists. A second committee of bloggers considers the shortlist and, after much debate, chooses the best of the best for 2007.

Because The Cybils is a blogger-run, blogger-inspired awards process, we operate with the expectation of openness and transparency. If you have any question about the process—any question at all—please feel free to e-mail Anne or Kelly at any time.

This year, I’m very excited to be a panelist! I didn’t get to help out last year, but this year I’m on the nominating panel for MG Fiction, with fabulous people like Miss Erin.

Make sure you don’t forget to nominate some of your favorite titles when the nominations start in a week! Meanwhile, check out the Cybils blog and forum.

Next month, I’m going to participate in the 24 Hour Read-a-thon, hosted by The Hidden Side of a Leaf. I’m quite excited to have an excuse to spend a whole 24 hours reading! Check it out–even if you’re not a blogger or don’t want to read for 24 hours straight, they need cheerleaders, too!

I watched the premiere of Gossip Girl on television the other night (if you missed it, it’s now at the CW’s website), both because I usually try to catch as many series premieres as possible to see what’s worth continuing to watch, and because it’s based on a best-selling series of YA books.

I’ve never read the books; to be honest, they never seemed like they’d be that good to me. However, I did enjoy the television show–it’s a good guilty-pleasure show! I still don’t think I’ll be reading the books, but I will keep watching the TV show, and maybe this will open it up for more YA books to hit the small screen (wishful thinking, probably). I read some people who complained about what they changed from the books, but that wasn’t an issue to me. I liked most of the characters–Serena, very much, although I’m told she’s quite different in the books. One complaint I read was that they put the parents in the TV show, and they weren’t big parts of the books. I actually do think the show would be better without the parents’ stories, but I guess they’re trying to appeal to a wider audience.

Anyone else watch it? Have you read the books? What did you think?

Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days is a beautiful novel based on an obscure fairytale from the Brothers Grimm (though the author admits she has taken “many liberties” with the original). Dashti, a poor mucker girl from the steppes, has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she agrees to take a post as a lady’s maid after her mother dies.

She learns how to do the job, including learning her letters (which let her write this journal), and on the day she takes her post as a maid to the Lady Saren, they are sent to be shut in a tower for seven years as punishment for Saren’s refusal to marry the cruel Lord Khasar. They are bricked in with food that should last them seven years, if they can keep the rats at bay. The only things that makes one day different from another are the visits from Saren’s two suitors: the terrible Lord Khasar and the kind Khan Tegus, both of whom will play a part in the fates of the two young women…

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Violet Greenfield never aspired to a modeling career. Being famous wasn’t really part of her life plan or anything; she didn’t think she was the modeling type.

But that all changed when a modeling agent from New York City walks into the movie theater where Violet works and tells her that she’s got what it takes to be the new “it” girl. Angela hands over her card, says that Violet should come to New York to jump-start her modeling career. Plain, insecure wallflower Violet. A model, in New York. It sounds crazy, right? Who knew being freakishly tall and skinny could be an asset?
Maybe so, but she’s going anyway.

What makes this book stand out, in my mind, among so many books about life in the spotlight, is that Violet really is a normal teenager. She’s an amazing and memorable character, but a major reason I found her story so memorable is that she is an ordinary girl, from just a few hours away from my town, who suddenly finds herself in a totally opposite world of glitz and glamour as a model in NYC–a world that she quickly finds out is not as glitzy and glamourous  as it first appears.

Violet is just one of an entire cast of memorable and well-written characters in an awesome book. It’s an unputdownable, fantastic start to a new series. I can’t wait for number two!

Five Stars

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY focuses on the set of audiotapes made by a girl named Hannah Baker right before she killed herself. There are thirteen sides to the tapes recorded. And they’re going to be heard by thirteen people. Thirteen of the reasons why Hannah ended her life.

This story is not just Hannah’s; it is also Clay’s. Clay had a crush on Hannah for ages, watching her from afar (but not in a creepy way). And he’s one of the thirteen people to receive the tapes. This book takes place mostly on the night that Clay wanders around town, visiting the places mentioned in Hannah’s tapes, listening to Hannah’s voice and trying to deal with what has happened. Trying to figure out why he’s received these tapes, why one of the thirteen reasons belongs to him when all he ever did was try to connect with Hannah.

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is a powerful debut from a talented new voice in YA literature. This dual narrative brings to light the reasons for Hannah’s death, lets readers know her life, but also lets us get to know Clay, who is an important part of Hannah’s story. This is different from most books in that the end of the story is the first thing we know.  We know it will never turn out any differently. The reader knows from the start that Hannah is dead, but still we go on the agonizing journey to finding out why, along with Clay. To finding out what might have been different. This shows so well the pain of suicide for those left behind–what could we have done? Should we have seen?–and goes even further, as some of those people will actually get concrete answers to how they could have saved Hannah, and will have to live with it forever. This painfully honest story will stay in the minds of readers long after the final page. Jay Asher’s brilliant first novel is a moving, highly original story, and readers will eagerly await whatever he writes next.

Five Stars

I meant to post about this ages ago, but looking back, I didn’t get around to it until now!

This month is GLBT month at YABC.  You can enter cool contests to win books (there are some especially for teachers, so any educators out there, check it out!), and check their blog for reviews & interviews of GLBT authors. Don’t miss it!

Also,  check out this new blog (new to me, anyway), Worth The Trip, about LGBTQ books for teens.

I absolutely raced through this book–I couldn’t put it down! I hadn’t planned on reading the whole thing in one sitting, but that’s exactly what I did. The characters, the writing, the uniqueness of the story–I adored it!

Backing up, I should probably tell you what it’s about, though I could gush for much longer.

When The Wild, the fairy tale world Julie’s mother, Rapunzel, and the other fairy tale creatures escaped from centuries ago, gets free, Julie loses her mother, her grandmother, and other people she cares about to its never-ending, cruel stories. Julie’s not going to give up, though; she’s determined to save her mother from The Wild once again, to rescue her from endless days trapped in a tower, to rescue her grandmother from being a wicked witch, to rescue the people she cares about. She’s going in, and she’s not going to let the Wild find a story for her, if she can help it. Because once she’s in the ending of a story, she’ll forget who she is, and why she’s there.

INTO THE WILD is one of the most original fantasy books I’ve read in ages. These fairy tales aren’t what you think they are. Rather than changing a fairy tale like is often done in books, Sarah Beth Durst takes every fairy tale you’ve ever heard and makes it real, and dangerous. And she does so brilliantly! I can’t even find the words I’m really looking for to describe how amazing this book is. Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore or library and get a copy today!

Five Stars

When Giovanna’s twin brother, Dante, announces he’s running for student body president against her boyfriend’s friend and popular candidate, Wilson, things between Giovanna and her boyfriend, Jesse, get a little tense. Jesse’s great, the best boyfriend a girl could ask for…Until he agrees to support Wilson over Dante, who is also a good friend of his. Both Jesse and Dante say Giovanna’s too emotional, and she might agree after she impulsively breaks up with Jesse.

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Lexie, Maddy, and Hudson are three fruit-bat hybrids (as opposed to pureblood vampires) adjusting to a vegan mortal life in the New World rather than the immortal life they lead in fear of the pureblood vampires in the Old World. Though they’ve lived for centuries, aging a year every hundred, now Lexie, Maddy, and Hudson are normal (well, maybe not normal) kids, aging at a normal rate, trying to fit in with their thirteen-, eleven-, and nine-year-old human classmates.

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