Friday, September 3, 2010

General Housekeeping/Link Dump

Well, I feel terrible that I didn't actually write down at least a few notes after reading Mockingjay, because now I don't really know what to say. But here's one little nugget: I really enjoyed that Katniss finally realized how unlikeable she is. (Or am I the only person that doesn't like her? I find Katniss to be fairly stereotypical for the genre.)

THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO DOES THE LINK) But here, read this. Bookshelves of Doom does a great job of rationalizing decisions Suzanne Collins made that may not sit well with your everyday reader. I will say this and no more by way of spoilers, though: I CAN NOT believe she pulled a Rowling with that epilogue! Oh how the anger burns within me!

Anyways, Looking for Alaska is one of my all time favorite books as it had a profound impact on my life as a reader, writer, and a human being. About a month ago John Green went back to his old high school, the setting for LfA, and reflects on memory, nostalgia, and writing in this video. It's oh so wonderful.

Also, I just stumbled upon this! Nick and Norah is another one of my all time faves, and while Cohn and Levithan's second effort, Nick and Ely's No Kiss List, didn't really do much for me (and, honestly, neither did Will Grayson) I'm super excited to see what Dash & Lily have to offer.

Lastly in the YA world, the movie adaptation of Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl was mentioned in a Yahoo article this morning, and also has its own IMDB page which is looking pretty darn legit.

And while we're talking about both movie adaptations and books that changed my life, here's the trailer for It's Kind of A Funny Story. Looks like they might have done a pretty decent job. No denying they rounded up a stellar cast for it!

Oh and I might as well throw in this tidbit. One of my favorite directors, Jason Reitman, is once again teaming up with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody to make a movie about.....YA! If you google around, there's been a bit more speculation and such than is provided on imdb, but I think I've dumped enough on you for one night, don't you?

a tout a l'heure!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Ashes, The Assault, The Assassin: Another Series Finds its Close

After skipping supper and devoting nearly all my afternoon and evening to Mockingjay, I have finished it. The Hunger Games are no more.

Friends, I am no where near capable of discussing this book seriously with you. Too overcome with emotion.

Mainly I want to talk about spoilers. But that would be rude.

Maybe next week.

I'm still processing.

Sorry for being dramatic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Excellent Timing, or Why I Have Mockingjay Fever

Dear Friends,

I am gushing with excitement over this book I finished a few days ago. I can already tell you this will not be a cohesive review.

It will probably be more like fangirling.

Why did I stay away from Catching Fire for so long? I purchased a hardcover copy of The Hunger Games, for God's sake, but couldn't bring myself to pay full price for its sequel? (I only bought it last week because it was at Target for 12 bucks, SIX DOLLARS lower than price listed on dust jacket. Oh, shush, I will hear nothing of your save indie bookstores tomfoolery. I'm effing broke, okay? I'll save indie bookstores when I have a salary.)

This is how it happened: it's Sept 2009. Catching Fire is freshly released. I have time to kill at the B&N, so I sit down and start reading the first chapter (no real intentions of purchasing, mind you, only to get a headstart before hitting up the library). Angrily cast it aside after a few pages, cursing the flagrant exposition/repetition of things learned in the first book. (As I recall, I think I had only actually read The Hunger Games a month or so prior, which librarything confirms)

Anyways, long story short, I didn't read it until last week. And Mockingjay, which is all I have thought about since, comes out on TUESDAY. I hadn't even looked at the release date until after finishing CF - completely unplanned, but such perfect timing.

Anyways, as far as an actual book review goes, The Hunger Games are written for a slightly younger audience, like Harry Potter, so the writing is very simple. Not a lot of elegance. But with the most original premise YA fantasy has seen since Harry, you really can't put these books down. My only complaint is that the author chooses to disclose protag Katniss's every thought process, which makes some parts tedious if not annoying.

That said, if you haven't read these books yet, you should. Despite their flaws, they're still 20 times better written than the Twilight books, and are definitely taking the world by storm. I have a Mockingjay twibbon on my personal twitter profile pic, and check out these kick ass t-shirts from Hot Topic!!

There is really nothing else I can say.

Plot Development - 8
Character Development - 6.5
Depth - 6.5
Voice - 5
Average Rating - 6.5

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

While I Was Out, Part 2

Summer classes definitely got the best of me. I read four plays? And almost read a textbook cover to cover? Yeah, I know, that doesn't cut it. Oh well.

Just because I'm not updating, don't assume I'm not reading. I keep track of everything over at librarything, in case you're interested. It's a pretty cool place to check out.

That said, let's talk YA, shall we? First,

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Published Dec 2009 by Bloomsbury
240 pgs, $12.23 (list price on amazon)

Written in very simple prose, Dolamore gives us high fantasy that we can still relate to. At it's heart, Magic Under Glass is a doomed love story about wizarding caste systems, blackmail, international relations between fairies and humans (which I feel may have had some interesting, but not completely thought out, insights into today's War On Terror), and drawing inspiration through art.

While the general idea is fairly original, much of the plot is not. There are elements taken from classic gothic novels - specifically Jane Eyre - which could have been clever, but really comes off as uncreative. It's a cute story, and captivating at first, but not strong enough as a whole to be something I would recommend to a friend. I think I was more interested in researching the controversy behind its original book cover than in the book itself.

And because no good fantasy book can stand alone (sarcasm), the sequel, Magic Under Stone, is due in 2012.

Plot Development - 5
Character Development - 6
Depth - 5
Voice - 6.5
Average rating: 5.6

The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

Published Feb 2006 by Candlewick
176 pgs, $12.47 (list price on amazon)

As a critical and sometimes-voracious YA reader, I often wonder why books are always written from the nerd, geek, or generally "uncool" point of view, and never from the popular girls'. Then it hit me: there are PLENTY of books written by and for popular girls; those are just the kind of books I don't even give second glances at the library! (ie, Gossip Girls)

With this book, Castellucci writes about the cool girl for a more nerdy audience by taken her rich, IT-girl protag and making her so dissatisfied with life that she signs up for an internship at the zoo and makes friends with the "lame" crowd.

This book has a lot of secondary characters, and only one of them - the star of the show - seems to be completely idealized. Guess what? It's not the protag. Main character Libby flounders from being COMPLETELY UNLIKEABLE to sugary sweet. This is probably true to life, but as a reader, it was hard to root for anyone when her popular friends are beyond rude, her nerd friends are devastatingly uncool, and Libby herself can't figure anything out till the last couple chapters.

Honestly, one of the most interesting plot threads for me was her father quitting his job to pursue playwriting - a dream he put on hold when Libby was born. Being practical versus following your dreams is a bit of an overarching theme that almost anyone can relate to and is probably what made this book more than just another IT-girl book that I wouldn't be caught dead reading. (The cover art certainly makes it look like one, thank God I trust Castellucci otherwise I may never have read this.)

As a side note, I gave this to my 14 year old brother - and he liked it! Chick-lit as a label is dead.

Plot Development - 6.5
Character Development - 6.5
Depth - 7
Voice - 6
Average Rating - 6.5

Thursday, July 1, 2010

while I was out...

Ah, it's been one whole month since my last post! Fret not, I have been reading. All will be explained in due time.

Firstly, summer classes started, so in addition to the normal (maybe slightly lighter) YA load, I've been reading a lot about multicultural education, which has certainly deterred me from sitting down to write a cohesive blog post.

Secondly, the books I've read lately that I could potentially blog about have been So Epically Good I felt nothing I said could do them justice. But I'll give them a couple shout outs now, the first goes out to GOING BOVINE by LIBBA BRAY, the second is KING DORK by FRANK PORTMAN.

Bovine is zany and wacky and it's the kind of book everyone wants to be able to write. King Dork is a YA classic that I should have read years ago, in the spirit of Catcher in the Rye, but smarter and, naturally, more up-to-date.

Finally, I got my signed copy of Lust by Robin Wasserman a few days ago! Though I haven't begun reading it, it holds a special place in my heart as my first online book win, or whatever you want to call it. So, expect a review of that sometime in the future. First, I'd like to say a few words about Nancy Werlin's Impossible, and then I'll be reading Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver because it's due at the library soon. But a pretty nice line up, no?

In case I don't post before then, have a happy 4th of July fellow Americans, and have a great weekend to all!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Funny, funny, funny

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be your Class President by Josh Lieb

Published October 2009 by Razorbill
304 pgs, $10.71 (list price on amazon)

The title speaks for itself. An eighth grader with a secret lair under his house and the third richest man in the world at his service tries to win his class president election to please his painfully true to life parents. To make the whole situation funnier, no one knows he is an evil genius, not even his parents. He fakes his way through "normal" life, pretending to be dumber than dirt.

This is a very smart comedy, written in language that middle aged readers will relate to. Lieb's world is a child's fantasy world, a world that sounds like it should be portrayed as a children's cartoon rather than a novel, but it works so well in its written format. Lieb constructs is in the style of a scholarly essay, footnotes and color plates and all. I really don't have any complaints against this one. It's a fun ride.

Plot Development - 8
Character Development - 8
Depth - 6.5
Voice - 8
Average Rating - 7.6

Friday, May 28, 2010

This book made me feel.

White Cat (The Curseworkers #1) by Holly Black

Published May 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry
310 pgs, $12.05 (list price on amazon)

White Cat takes place in an alternate reality where 1/100 of all Americans are curseworkers who can perform a certain kind of magic. "Working" - as this magic is called - is illegal in the US and most parts of the world, but widely used and available through the black market. Curseworking is also relatively hereditary, creating mafia-like families. White Cat is a story of one of those families. A story of deception, childhood love gone awry, and most of all, this is a story about the art of the con.

So, I didn't actually read this book. I listened on CD. My first ever audiobook! It's a different experience, and I feel oddly disqualified to talk about the finer parts of writing (ha), but I will say that I enjoyed it IMMENSELY. I mean, the premise is something we all dream about, right? The world is highly imaginative, and yet eerily similar to our own society. I laughed out loud, audibly gasped, and cursed at characters while listening in the car. This book evoked emotion in me, (especially at the end, but I'm not giving anything away ;)) and only the best books will do that. I had high expectations when I began this, and all were met.

Sci-fi/fantasy needs a considerable amount of backstory, especially when the alternate world has complicated rules. Black masterfully gives us backstory in slow, manageable chunks, and not annoyingly so. She doesn't dump explanation on you all at once at the beginning. In fact, readers are left clueless through most of the first chapter. My one and only complaint is that some of the "mini-mysteries", if you will, are very easy to figure out. Maybe it was just because I listened to an audiobook and couldn't go at my own pace, but it was frustrating to hear the protag mentally try to work something out in minutes that I figured out in seconds.

But this is not to say Black doesn't give us any surprises in the book, because there are plenty. READ IT!!

Plot Development - 9
Character Development - 7
Depth - 6
Voice - 7
Average Rating - 7.25