Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Kids with cancer conquer the world.  The end.  Oh, and there's a support group.  And if that were the half-of it, it would still be an amazing story.

Verdict: I've gone back and forth on this review for a while.  To post or not to post, that has been the question.  You've all read a million five-star reviews for this book, but I think mine might be a tad different, so I am going to post it anyway.

I struggle to understand how someone who has not gone through the ups and downs and challenges of cancer on a personal level can not only understand them but convey them so accurately. And by personal, I don't mean a friend or family member.  I mean one's self.

'm a thyroid cancer survivor.  I dated a dude with cancer for a long while (years) while I was a teen.  He didn't win his fight.  I feel like I've got a good grip on what teens going through terminal illness experience emotionally, having been one and all, but John Green's got this uncanny ability to not only construct these characters and their motivations accurately, he's got the conflicts to back them up.  Plausible ones.  Believable ones.  Conflicts that made me cry because I've been through such similar circumstances, but left me uplifted because the results inspired such great hope.

John's writing is superb, as always, and I can't recommend THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to you enough.  This is a fulfilling read, a lovely read, and a read that you will come away feeling stronger for having shared this experience with these characters.  I'm grateful John Green wrote this story and shared it with the world.  It needed to be told.  You need to hear it if you haven't already.  There's a reason it's been on the NYT bestseller's list for so long.  It's amazing.  Buy it now.  And keep the tissues close.  You'll need them.

Check out the first chapter read by John Green himself:


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  It's the future and we've totally ruined the planet.  Disease-resistant Toxo is running rampant and Freya is forcibly evacuated from her home to a safe place.  The past.  She is implanted with new memories, and can't remember anything from the future.  Until she does... and that presents problems for her and the boy that helps her out.  Together, they navigate Ontario to escape those who would erase their memories permanently.

Verdict:  Part-dystopian, a little paranormal, and part-historical, this stand-alone dystopian was an interesting read.  I liked the fact that it isn't the first in a series and that I didn't have a cliff hanger ending waiting for me and prickling at my brain for a year.  I also liked that it was a new story.  I don't feel like I've heard it before.  I don't feel like I could google a conspiracy blog and find this story in a post, like I do with some time-travel themed dystopians. I can't complain about the structure or the word choice.  And I can't point out any gaping holes in the world that Martin built.

But.  Yes, that annoying "but."  And maybe this is just because dystopian isn't really my cup of tea.  But, I didn't find the story or the characters to be particularly memorable.  It was put-downable.  It isn't going to make my top- anything list for the year.  But I can't put my finger on why I feel that way.

Critique short, I just feel like I needed to be more engaged in the story and connect better with its characters for it to warrant a rave.  YOU may feel differently about it than I do.  YOU may really enjoy it, especially since there's not much wrong with it in the technical department.  So, if the premise seems to pull you, pick it up, give it a try.  If not, you'll likely feel the same way I do, meh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon [Online Events]

For the last couple of years I've been helping out over at Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes crazy that happens with these large-scale online events.  I can't pretend like I'm not happy to pass the torch to the wonderful ladies over at The Estella Society.  I am.  It's a lot of hard work and I'm excited to see ladies who actually remember Dewey take on this 'thon in her memory.

The 24-hour Read-A-Thon is the first online book event I ever participated in... waaaay back in 2009.  I thought, Hey, why not... reading for 24-hours has got to be fun and a piece of cake, right?  I got the fun part right.  I still remember trying to keep my eyes open during John Green's Looking For Alaska during the last hour of the 'thon, Britney Spears Toxic on repeat, dancing at the foot of my bed book-in-hand, determined to make it all of the way.  And then of course I fell asleep with ten minutes to go.

I remember cohosting the last twelve hours of one 'thon because two of my cohosts dropped out last minute and I didn't have anyone but me to take their place.  I remember scheduling the last three posts and praying that I didn't fall asleep before I could do the recap, but falling asleep nonetheless.

Sleep and I are friends, you see.  And maybe they are for you too.  But let me tell you.  It's fun.  It's like an online party with door prizes and people to cheer you on, to keep your spirits high.  It's amazing.  And if you're a hard core reader?  It's the perfect place for you.  So, sign-up and mark your calendar for October 13th, and show up at the right time.  Set your alarm.  Get your snacks ready and read.  Read all day long and have so much fun doing it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction edited by Carrie Ryan

Foretold is a collection of short stories from fourteen different authors focusing on, like the subtitle says, prophecy and prediction.  Each author has his or her own take on the word, and incarnations ranging from the cult to the occult.  There is fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal in these pages.  Seriously, it's quite the collection.

The Stories and Their Authors:
  • Gentlemen Send Phantoms by Laini Taylor
  • Burned Bright by Diana Peterfreund
  • The Angriest Man by Lisa McMann
  • Out of the Blue by Meg Cabot
  • One True Love by Malinda Lo
  • This Is a Mortal Wound by Michael Grant
  • Misery by Heather Brewer
  • The Mind Is a Powerful Thing by Matt de la Peña
  • The Chosen One by Saundra Mitchell
  • Improbably Futures by Kami Garcia
  • Death for the Deathless by Margaret Stohl
  • Fate by Simone Elkeles
  • The Killing Garden by Carrie Ryan
  • Homecoming by Richelle Mead
Star-studded?  Yes.  For sure.  The ones I bolded were the ones that touched me the most, and therefore, the ones I'll talk to you about, to give you a hint of what the stories are about.  I promise, no spoilers.  

"Burned Bright" is about Bright, daughter of the prophet.  "Tonight, the lodge will be shaken off its foundation by the power of our prayers.  Tonight, it will glow with our devotion and burn with the strength of our love."  Those are the first two lines of the story, giving you an inkling as to what Bright's mindset is.  Sam is another member of the group who are waiting to be swept up and away into heaven because Bright's father has predicted it.  And Burned Bright is the story of what happens when things don't turn out exactly as people predict they will.  This story had the most impact on me, more than the others combined.  I'd recommend the collection just so you could get your hands on this one.

"Misery" is about Alek, who has lived in Misery for three years.  He can't remember before, just that it had a lot of colors.  Misery is black and white and gray.  "Misery was a strange name for a town, and Alek wasn't at all certain that it was fitting."  That is the first line of this interesting, powerful story.  Another line to give you a hint about the story is "It was never a good morning in Misery.  Just morning.  Then afternoon.  Then evening.  Nothing was good.  Or bad, really."  It's twisty and thought-provoking and definitely worth your time.  

Some of the stories, like Malinda Lo's "One True Love" were predictable and pedestrian.  I did not enjoy Malinda's piece not because it was about lesbians, but because it was by Malinda Lo and I knew just from the by-line it was going to be about lesbians.  It is as if some of these authors have pigeon-holed themselves into the same old thing time and time again.  I want to be surprised by an author, not be able to tell you the ending after the first page because of who wrote it.  I felt the same about Matt de la Peña's story, "The Mind Is A Powerful Thing", though not nearly as strongly.  While I realize that authors have a specialty and a place in literature where they feel most comfortable, the thing that will make them great authors is pushing and breaking the boundaries they set on themselves.  And that is when I, the reader, am swept off of my feet and taken breathless by their work.  Not when they settle into the rut they've found comfortable.

The rest of the stories were mostly above-par for shorts in the Young Adult medium.  You would no doubt have a different take on them than I would, and you would definitely have different favorites than I.  Lisa McMann packs an entire story into eight pages, not surprising, but definitely a feat.  

The short on these shorts?  Worth a read.  The cover makes them look way spookier than they are.  This is not a Halloween-specific collection.  In fact, I don't get a Halloween vibe from it at all.  

Have you read these?  Do you want to?  Tell us your take in the comments below.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beautiful Creatures Movie Trailer [Movies]

Congrats to Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl on such a fantastic portrayal of Lena and Ethan in the Beautiful Creatures movie trailer!  We selected BC as one of our top books of 2009 and are thrilled to see it on the big screen.  Mark your calendars for Wednesday the 13th of February, 2013.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fierce Reads at Changing Hands [Event Recap] [Giveaway]

So.  What is a fierce read?  When asked to cover this event, I was like, Oh, Fiewel & Friends... Fie.. Fierce.. Macmillan imprint.  Done.  And then I realized I was spelling Feiwel wrong.  And that theory went out the window.  I'm admitting right now that sitting there reading the jacket copies, I wasn't overwhelmed with the fierce.

And then I show up at Changing Hands tonight and watch as these authors walk in together with their publicist, Kate.  It's amazing how perceptions based on jacket photos and blurbs can change as soon as someone walks into the room.  Lish McBride walked in with bright red hair and a smirk... a fierce smirk though.  She was closely followed by Ann Aguirre (and I quickly learned that you pronouce Ann's last name in Spanish, no gwire sounds in sight), not scared to stand up for the correct pronunciation of her name or the fact that romance writing is not porn.  Elizabeth Fama was fierce in different ways, she's interested in the people around her (and asked me to sign HER notebook) and she rocked tennies with a floral dress.  And then Marissa Meyer comes through the door in this bright and happy, girly dress.  It was like, one of these things doesn't belong.  Don't get me wrong, even Christian Siriano would have called her dress fierce.

There wasn't very much room in the back room at Changing Hands where we were doing the meet and greet.  There were supposed to be 25 students from Tempe Union High School attending this session.  And man, I think about twelve showed.  To the other dozen who signed up, but didn't come: YOU. MISSED. OUT.  But since I'm sure other readers want to know what happened, and these things will help explain the aforementioned fierce, here goes:

  • Most of the authors (with the exception of Ann who has her writing process down to an exact, precise science) do at least 8-10 different rough drafts before their work is ready to be submitted.  That doesn't count copyedits and any revisions their editors ask them to make.
  • They use beta readers for feedback.
  • Your writing style is up to you. So is your setting and whether or not it's real or fake.  But if it's real, make sure you're really good at internet research or it's some place you've been before, because if you've never been to Prague (which, btw, high schoolers, is in the Czech Republic... that's Eastern Europe), your Prague-dwelling readers (because let's be optomistic, you're going to sell those Czech rights first) will call you out on it in a heartbeat.
  • It's great to have people in your life that know what's going on with your draft that you can bounce ideas off of and get good direction.  You know, like in Elizabeth Fama's case, her teenaged children who dared her to write her paranormal book.
  • You have some control over the title of your book.  (EF sent a list of 127 titles to her publisher when they didn't like the one she originally had, and they picked one off that list)  But, cover art?  Nope.  Not so much.  They might take your feedback, but ultimately, it's the pub's decision.
  • And if you're looking for the list of book recommendations that they handed out in the back room, no luck.  Sorry.  I couldn't write fast enough.  
And that was just the practical stuff.  Not the funny stuff like how:
  • Lish McBride actually had some random dude show up at one of her parties growing up that said his name was Mint Chocolate.  She later used him in a short story.
  • When asked "Do you like Twilight?" all four authors stayed silent.  It was an awkward silence.  Until Ann said that we respect what Stephenie accomplished.  Translation?  Nope.  Not so much.  But hey, Twilight was like seven years ago, yo.
  • If you want to be a writer, Ann suggests you find a wealthy spouse who will indulge your writing aspirations.
  • Lish McBride doesn't eat meat.  So she came up with a vegetarian character who has to kill things, just not things he'll eat.  
  • Elizabeth Fama troubleshot her entire book with her teenaged kids while jogging.  (um, dual talented? I suspect so.  I can't do anything while jogging, let alone think)

All that stuff up there?  That was just from the meet and greet.  Yeah, the one that the public wasn't invited to, but half of the teenagers that were invited ditched out on.  So here are my favorite moments from the author event for the public (many of which I live tweeted with hashtag #FierceReads):
  • "You can write about zombies and get a degree." --Lish McBride wrote her first book to,graduate college.
  • "I wrote this book on a dare from my kids." --Elizabeth Fama. And they don't undeestand that it won't make them rich.
  • "Mom! When are you going to write something we can read?" --Ann Aguirre's kids. Why she entered the YA market. (Ann previously wrote for the adult market)
  • "Man I love this crowd!" -Marissa Meyer in response to thd MANY hands who knew who Sailor Moon was in the crowd. #ArizonaRockedTheSailorMoonCasbah
  • "It's a little inappropriate for me to love [Fade] as much as I do. In my mind he's 18." --Ann Aguirre in response to a question about who their favorite characters were to write.  And the others' were: Iko for Marissa Meyer, the elderly Scottish pastor for Elizabeth Fama, and Ashley & James for Lish McBride.
  • "I have crushes on all of my men." --Marissa Meyer who was referring to her male characters, thankyouverymuch.
  • Q: Your necromancer isn't evil? Lish McBride: Neither was Odysseus or The Ghost Whisperer.  And plus, people have shown her instances of necromancy in the Bible.
  • "You can't write a fluffy bunmy dystopian" --Ann Aguirre "Or can you?" --Lish McBride who once bounced the idea of weregiraffes off of a group of readers and was rebuffed for such an absurd idea.
  • "If it has a zombie in it I will watch it.  I've actually considered watching Zombie Strippers." --Ann Aguirre
  • The Italian and Spanish covers of Cinder are different, but most of the international versions kept the red shoe.
  • "I've been impressed by the cover gods so far." --Marissa Meyer in response to whether or not she liked her covers.
  • "I really like my French cover although I have no idea what's going on in it." --Lish McBride
  • "Just because a guy likes you and you have no interest in him - is that a triangle? No. It's more of a diagonal."  And later, "It's a love diagonal." in answer to a question about the love triangle in her books.  
  • "You cannot make eye contact with someone while eating a banana."  --Someone on the panel.  There was too much laughter and I was trying to tweet, so I didn't catch who said it.
So after hearing the authors describe their processes, their characters, their stories, and seeing the passion that sparks in every one of their eyes when they do, I walked away feeling fierce myself.  It's like their fierceness rubbed off on me a little bit.  And like there was some serious girl power (sorry dudes in the audience, really, it's girl power, Spice-style even) not only demonstrated, but shared.  Fierce?  Indeed.  My first impressions of these women and their books from the jackets?  Foiled.  That's what Fierce Reads is all about.
Didn't get to go to Changing Hands?  Fall Fierce Reads not coming to a stop near you?  Leave a comment to be entered to win the six book set signed by the authors: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride, Enclave; Outpost by Ann Aguirre, Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Plus, some sweet swag to boot.  Since you're leaving a comment, why not tell us Yea or Nay to Fifty Shades of Sailor Moon?  
L-R: Lish McBride, Marissa Meyer, Ann Aguirre, Elizabeth Fama (Teen section, Changing Hands)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Upcoming Bookish Events [Local]

Suzanne Lazear, Saturday, September 15th, Changing Hands Bookstore, 6pm. Presents her debut steampunk teen novel, Innocent Darkness.

Fierce Reads, Tuesday, September 18th, Changing Hands Bookstore, 7pm.  I'm going to be live tweeting this event featuring Macmillan authors Lish McBride, Marissa Meyer, Ann Aguirre, and Elizabeth Fama.  If you're not in Arizona, follow my tweets that night with the tag #fiercereads to see what these authors have to say.  Join the Facebook event.


Young At ♥, Thursday, September 20th, Bookman's Mesa, 7pm.  We're discussing Lisa McMann's Cryer's Cross.  We're still a relatively small group, so we'd love to see you there!  We meet at the cafe.  Join the Facebook event!
The Hobbit Trivia Night, Friday, September 21st, Bookman's Mesa, 7pm.  The not-so-elusive Lightning Octopus will be hosting Hobbit Trivia.  It's like a no-brainer, sure-to-be-entertaining event, guys.

Erin Jade Lange, Saturday, September 22nd, Changing Hands Bookstore, 5pm. Local Phoenix author debuting her teen novel Butter.

Dewey's Read-A-Thon, October 13th, 24hourreadathon.com, All Day Long.  Sign-up and gather details at 24hourreadathon.com.