May 2008


Today’s guest blogger is the incredibly awesome Maryrose Wood! She is the author of Why I Let My Hair Grow Out, How I Found the Perfect Dress, Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall In Love, and My Life: The Musical.  And today’s winner, of an audiobook of Liz Gallagher’s The Opposite of Invisible, is book~adorer. Please email me with your mailing address to claim your prize! And now, without further ado, today’s fantastic guest blog.

What makes a “perfect dress” perfect?

Who hasn’t dreamed of finding the “perfect” dress? A dress that makes you feel like the most confident, irresistible creature on the face of the earth. A dress that is pretty, but not too frilly or little-girly. Sexy, yet sophisticated. Stunning, yet affordable.

Does such an item exist? I wish I knew! Personally I’ve always found it a struggle to choose clothes for special occasions. Sometimes I get my act together, go shopping in advance and have an outfit ready and waiting for me in the closet.

Then, on the day of the big event, I put it on and it mysteriously looks all wrong. Or I realize I don’t have the right shoes to go with it — or the right bra! This is not a good discovery to make when you have to be someplace in an hour.

One time I bought a chic little black number specifically to wear to a memorial service. When I put it on, I realized it showed WAY too much cleavage for the occasion. Why hadn’t that been evident in the dressing room at Loehmann’s? I’m not sure, but at the last minute I had to scramble to find something else. (Fortunately, the cleavage dress was just the thing for a film premiere a month later!)

One solution would be to always bring someone you trust when you go shopping. Someone with the twenty-twenty vision to tell you, “I’m seeing way too much ta-ta!” before you head to the cashier! One of my favorite scenes in HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS is the one where Morgan and her former best friend, now somewhat-on-the-outs pal Sarah go dress shopping together. Sarah thinks they’re searching for dresses for the junior prom, while Morgan’s searching for a clue that will help her undo the enchantment that’s threatening to turn her true love Colin into a permanently exhausted wreck. As fate (or the faeries) would have it, her search takes her straight to the mall.

Before Morgan finds the “perfect dress,” she rediscovers what it means to have a real “BFF”-style best friend like Sarah. A friend who roots for you harder than you root for yourself. One who knows all your excuses and isn’t afraid to call you on them. Best of all, she knows how to make you laugh until it hurts, even when you’re dealing with major problems, like figuring out how to take a nasty spell off the guy you love!

When Morgan does find a magically “perfect” dress, it’s everything a girl could wish for. “It’s the nicest dress in the store,” the bewildered clerk tells her, “but it didn’t fit anyone until you walked in.” It’s even on sale!

But looking like a goddess in a knock-out dress doesn’t solve any of Morgan’s problems. In fact, the “perfect” dress she buys isn’t even the dress she ends up wearing to her junior prom. An unforeseen disaster means she has to come up with a new outfit at the last minute (gosh, who does that remind you of?). But she ends up having a pretty “perfect” evening anyway, albeit in a totally unexpected way.

What would your “perfect dress” look like? How would it make you feel? Would it be one that made you look a different size or shape than you think you really are? Older, maybe? More fashion-forward? More elegant — or more edgy?

Whatever quality you imagine a “perfect” dress could reveal about you, don’t forget: it’s already in your power to bring all those wonderful, complex and contradictory aspects of yourself forward so the world can see them and celebrate the many facets of who you really are. That’s true no matter what you’re wearing.

But when you do find a knock-out dress, learn from my mistakes! Make sure you have the right shoes (and bra!) to go with it, okay?

Thanks to Jocelyn for inviting me to guest blog! Don’t forget, one random commenter gets a signed copy of HOW I FOUND THE PERFECT DRESS. So tell me what’s in your closets, people! Tell me your best shopping-with-your-BFF stories! Your worst fashion disaster stories! What was your most perfect outfit ever, and why?

xoxo
m

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I’m really, really behind on my blog reading, so I’m sure I’ve missed some great stuff, but I have found some stuff recently that I thought might be of interest to you guys.

First of all, here’s an interesting post about spoilers (specifically about the Twilight series and the lack of ARCs for the third and fourth books).

This is absolutely disgusting: a picture book to explain to kids why mommy needs plastic surgery to be beautiful.

And while Jordyn’s definition of fluff is different from mine if she’s including The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, what she has to say is still something I agree with, and it’s interesting and thought-provoking even if you disagree.

And here’s a review that made me really want to read this book, though I’d not heard of it before. As this is the purpose of a review, kudos to Story Siren on great reviewing skills.

Check out this awesome contest where you can win an autographed copy of Gaby Triana’s latest novel, a cute tote bag, and a Starubucks gift card!

Find your pen name! Link via various other blogs. I couldn’t really pick one because I have lots of favorite authors and lots of favorite characters, but the first one that I came up with was Rachel Abby Stargirl. Which is stupid and if I were to choose a pen name in reality that would not be it.

Justine Larbalestier’s post on YA books is awesome.

And that’s it for the moment.

Twelve Long Months could have had a better title. And a better cover. But the book itself was great! It’s about Molly, who has a huge crush on her lab partner, Mark Dahl. He’s not interested, though, in that way. This is understandably upsetting to Molly, but she’s still thrilled to find out that they’re both moving to the New York City area after graduation, Molly to attend Columbia, and Mark just to move, though he’s staying with relatives and painting houses to make that dream a reality.

Molly is ecstatic when Mark suggests they hang out in NYC, as they will be each other’s only links to home in Minnesota. She is, however, really far from ecstatic when she discovers what has been Mark’s long-hidden secret which he has successfully kept from everyone back home. There’s a big reason that Mark never fell for her, and it’s nothing against her personally. Mark, shockingly, is gay. Which I don’t think is a big spoiler because anyone who reads the flap copy will know. Molly’s more than a little clueless, though, and is devastated when she finds out. It doesn’t change her feelings, though, as much as she’d like them to change, and she still promises to be a friend to Mark. That relationship is more than a little complicated, though, by Molly’s inability to fall out of love with him.

I really enjoyed Brian Malloy’s first young adult novel. Molly is a realistic, relatable protagonist, struggling to adjust to a new city that’s a big change after her life in Minnesota, and life as a college student, all while mending a broken heart and trying to be a friend to the boy she thought she was destined to be with. Molly’s just trying to figure out her life and her independence. I was entertained by the whole cast of characters, though they didn’t have much depth. I wasn’t really bothered by it while reading, though, as caught up as I was by Molly’s story. Still, the secondary characters could definitely have used some work. Brian Malloy’s writing was not noticeable, which meant it flowed nicely, not painful to read or anything, but wasn’t remarkable. This review is making it sound like I thought this book was mediocre, which I guess maybe on a purely objective level it was, but it really drew me in, and I loved it. I loved the subject, I loved Molly, I loved that it was set in New York City. I’ve got to recommend this book, even though I’m not sure why!

I’d not read one of Brian James’s novels before Thief, somehow. I remember seeing them and thinking they looked interesting, but I’ve never read his other books. And after reading this one, I will have to quickly change that!

Thief is about Elizabeth, known mostly as Kid, a foster child living in New York City with a woman called Sandra, who makes her foster children earn their keep–by stealing. Elizabeth has been trained by her older foster sister, Alexi, as a pickpocket, and that’s how she spends her days. She doesn’t mind too much, because what better option is there? And this way, she’s with Alexi, and the girls have come to care a lot for each other. This way, she’s not alone. So even when she doesn’t like the way she has to live, she doesn’t question it, either.

That begins to change, however, when Sandra takes in a third foster child, this time a boy, named Dune. Dune is new to the system, and doesn’t understand the way Elizabeth’s life works. He wants to go back to a normal life, not be a pickpocket. Elizabeth takes him under her wing, training him so that Sandra will be happy and let him stay, and helping him out. She starts to care for him–but Alexi doesn’t like that. Alexi, though in her own way she does love her, is manipulative and controlling of Elizabeth. She tries to make sure that Dune and Elizabeth don’t get too close, because Elizabeth is hers, in her mind. It becomes clear to Elizabeth that she will have to make some tough choices to find her way out of a difficult situation, but can she do it, and will she do it right?

That might not be the best summary, but this is a really fantastic book. Brian James is a brilliant writer. I loved the premise of this book, and the almost-at-the-edge-of-reality writing style, if that makes any sense. It’s not really surreal like, say, Francesca Lia Block, by any means, but it’s not quite as immediate and, well, normal, as a lot of other books. It’s a lot more interesting than that. Thief is an amazing story, gritty and real and honest and, in its own way, beautiful. Thief is a bold, smart, engaging, and fascinating novel that I can’t recommend highly enough.

As promised, this week is extra-special because we have a second guest blogger, Elizabeth Scott! Elizabeth is the author of three fantastic books, Bloom, Perfect You, and Stealing Heaven (there she is on the left with Perfect You). One lucky commenter on today’s post will win a signed copy of Stealing Heaven! This contest closes a week from today. Don’t forget to enter our other current contest, for an audiobook of The Opposite of Invisible, and stay tuned for more contests, including an extra-awesome contest sometime next week. And now, on to our guest blogger:

I’m writing this on May 2nd, and I have to tell you, I’m a little nervous. It’s my first ever “guest blog” and I feel as I should have something profound to say about writing. But you know, I don’t. I still have so much to learn about how to write–not just the mechanics of it, though I’m quite certain I’ll never know enough about grammar, but about the heart and soul of stories themselves.

And that, I think, is the beauty of writing. It’s always surprising you. You start a story, you think you know where it’s going–maybe you’ve even taken notes–and all of a sudden, BOOM! Your characters aren’t telling your story anymore–they’re telling *their* story, and that moment…it’s one of the most amazing feelings. I mean, how often do you get to peak into someone else’s life, to see what their heart truly desires?

It’s also terrifying, because a lot of writing is about learning to let go, to not force what you want and to just wait and see what happens. And it can be hard, and whenever you think you’re done, it almost always turns out that you’ve just gotten started.

That’s what keeps me writing, though. I love the rush of an idea, I love the moment when I sit down and start to type. I love it when the people I’m writing about do what they want, and let me come along for the ride.

This week’s guest blogger is Liz Gallagher! Thanks to Liz for doing this. I also have another special treat for you all this week–I’ll have another guest blog on Friday! So stay tuned for a double feature this week. Anyway, Liz has written a fantastic post which I have for you below, and one lucky random commenter will win an audio book of Liz’s fantastic book The Opposite of Invisible. Please be as awesome as last week’s commenters and weigh in on the very interesting questions Liz raises in her blog post! Last week’s winner of a signed copy of Song of the Sparrow is Megan. Megan, please email me your mailing address at teenbookreview@gmail.com And now, on to Liz’s blog post:

When I think about my work as a young adult author–a genre that I fell in love with as an adult–I keep coming back to the same food for thought. I call it food for thought because it’s not a thesis, an assertion, a lesson, or anything else that I’m sure about; it’s a question. Here it is: What makes a young adult book different from an adult book about a teenager? And are YA books only for teens?

To me, a novel is a novel. I think. There are books being pubbed as YA that I definitely think every human should read – MT Anderson’s Octavian Nothing, for example, or Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Those books are on the literary end of the YA spectrum, though, which raises another question. What are the categories of YA? And do some have more crossover appeal than others?

I used to think that we might find some kind of rule in this: lots of books about teens that are published as adult books have a tone of looking back at teenhood (such as Curtis Sittenfeld’s runaway hit of a few summers past, Prep, in which the narrator is a wise old twenty-three, if I remember correctly), while most books about teens that are published as YA have an immediate, in-the-moment tone. That idea sounded like a decent rule of thumb ’til I found lots of rule-breakers; a notable exception is Marc Acito’s How I Paid for College, an adult book told in the now of  eighties teendom.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this food, but–to stick with the metaphor–I’m still hungry. I’ve nibbled extensively on the idea that where we classify and subsequently sell a book about a teen is largely a marketing decision (and, tied into that, obviously depends on who’s publishing it). The crux: Teens will find books in the adult section, but most adults won’t shop in the YA section. Therefore, a book with crossover appeal will find a larger audience (of both teens and adults) in the adult section.

But something interesting is going on right this moment! A trend! A new item on the menu, if you will. Last week’s Entertainment Weekly (May 16) included an interesting article, “Teen Nation” by Jennifer Armstrong. It’s starts like this: “Anyone who’s a teenager — or one of the many adults whose pop culture tastes lean in that direction — might want to blow off that summer job.” Teen entertainment out there that’s super-popular, and not just among teen audiences.

The article breaks it down into TV (Gossip Girl, THEWB.COM showing old faves, the forthcoming Juno-esque The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the re-envisioned Beverly Hills, 90210), Movies (American Teen, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sequel, the forthcoming film adaptation of Nick and Norah’s Infinite  Playlist,and –hello?! — Juno) and Music. I’d argue that music is the last to bleed over (Do any adults out there actually listen to Miley Cyrus, Jesse McCartney, or the Jonas Brothers in the absence of young people? The article thinks so . . . I think they’d do better to point out how many of us watch American Idol.) In any case, the article points out that we’re in a new teen-entertainment boom and that it might not dry up any time soon, as past booms have been forced to say bye-bye-bye.

It’s odd to me that an article with mention of Gossip Girl, Nick and Norah (which they call “the Micahel Cera comedy,” with no mention of it’s basis in the Levithan & Cohn book), and Sisterhood doesn’t begin to examine how books play into this trend. Guess we’ll have to do that ourselves!

Here’s the most interesting quote in the article, from Leslie Morgenstien, who helped develop Gossip Girl from “the popular book series” (the only mention of books I remember in the whole article) into the tv show: “Thing have shifted. Children are better informed, more sophisticated. There used to be a trickle-down effect: Properties would start for adults and then trickle down to teens. I think now it’s reversed.”

That’s almost the equivalent of adults shopping in the YA section, isn’t it? Will this phenomenon spill over to the book world? And will it say in the pop culture — “properties”– arena? Or bleed over into less effusive books, too?

Let’s talk! Adults, how do you feel about the questions? Do your adult friends seem more open to teen entertainment than they once were? Or are only those of us who are already YA-minded watching Gossip Girl? Do you know anyone who’s read the books because of the tv show? And teens, what do you think? Will you stop shopping the YA section once you’re “grown up”? Where do you hear about books? Why do you read  YA? Who do you think it’s for?

Despite being way behind on my reviewing, I absolutely had to write about this one. I finished The Host late last night (in fact, I stayed up late just to finish it), and since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Wanderer, Melanie, and the other characters.

In The Host, earth has been invaded by a species of aliens who cannot live on their own, and must take over host bodies to live. They’ve already colonized other worlds, but earth has some of the best hosts–humans. Humans feel emotions and experience things like no other species that Wanderer, who has lived on more worlds than any other “soul” she knows, has been.

On earth, Wanderer is given the body of Melanie Stryder, a young woman who was part of the fading human resistance. This is expected to be a difficult body to inhabit, but Wanderer is shocked at Melanie’s strength. Most hosts just fade away, erased from their own minds, as the alien soul who is attached to their brains takes over. Melanie refuses to go away, though, over a period of long months over which it is believed that any other host would be subdued.

Why? Well, Melanie’s strong, of course, to have survived human for so long, but much of it is love, longing, and a promise she can’t break. Jared, the man she loves, and Jamie, her younger brother, were Melanie’s only company for a long time, and she loves them both too dearly to let an alien take possession of her without a fight. Melanie promised that she would come back to them, and so she will. She fills Wanderer’s thoughts with her love, especially for Jared, until Wanderer, too, is consumed with the desire to return to these people she has never met. It changes Wanderer, but will that change be her destruction or her salvation? And what of Melanie, who refuses to stop existing? And of Jared–the man they both now love.

I’m a fan of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series, so, while my enjoyment of those books doesn’t quite reach the obsessive levels I’ve seen in some readers, I had some high expectations for this book. When I first started reading, I thought, this is good, this is interesting, but I wasn’t blown away. By the time the first 100 pages had passed (this is a really long book, over 600 pages), I was completely drawn into the story, completely involved and invested in the outcome, unable to put the book down even for things like, well, sleep. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but this book captured me and had me reading late into the night.

The Host is a wonderfully original, imaginative, and well-written novel that is different from Stephenie Meyer’s previous novels, and shows what a range this talented author has. While aimed towards adults, teenagers will love this book as well. I know I did. I cared so much about all of the characters, and what would happen to them all. Melanie and Wanderer inhabit the same body, a body with room for one mind, so there really is seemingly no hope for things to turn out well for both of them, but I couldn’t help but wish for it. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to win, if it came down to that! Conflicting emotions are felt by the reader of this book just as strongly as by the many wonderfully-drawn and believable characters.

By the time I finished, I’d laughed and cried and held my breath and felt a full range of emotions–appropriate, as the range of human emotions is one of the things Wanderer struggles to deal with as she comes to earth. This book actually reminded me a bit of the Animorphs series, but far more grown-up, in content and just in attitude–the world of The Host is light years away from black-and-white, and the Animorphs series, being aimed towards children, is relatively simple. Nothing here is black-and-white, just as nothing in the real world is as clear as we might hope sometimes.

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