Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five Quick Book Reviews!

Hello, blogsphere! So, I know it's Tuesday, and I know you're expecting a teaser from me, but I finished the manuscript (wooooot!!!) on Sunday night, so I'm afraid that's it for the French Revolution, werewolfy teasers. At least for now. I might share some more bits once I'm working on edits.

For now, though, since I haven't started a new project yet, I've been reading a ridiculous amount. I read three books yesterday. It was fantastic.

Here are some quick little reviews of five of the books I've recently read.

BEAUTY QUEENS, Libba Bray - After having read much of Libba's livejournal and meeting her on Friday, I feel that I can safely say that BEAUTY QUEENS is rather like having her sit down and actually tell you a story. It is quirky, it is hilarious, it is occasionally just plain out there, it is fun, and it is also meaningful. I must admit that while Libba is one of my top-favorite authors, this isn't my favorite of her books - sometimes the ridiculousness felt like a bit much, simply because all of it was so fast-paced and hilarious and out there. But it would not have worked if it hadn't been on the same level of silliness (and the epilogue is forgiven because it reminded me of FAME in a way that was not, for once, unpleasant). I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I enjoyed much of her other work even more.

GRACELING, Kristin Cashore - I LOVED this. I've not read (or written) an epic fantasy in quite a while, and this was the perfect book to get me back into the genre that started it all for me. Tamora Pierce was one of the authors blurbing the book, and I can see why - both GRACELING and FIRE, the prequel, seem like the heirs to Tamora Pierce's "girls can save the day too" legacy. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved the way the story unfolded. It made me want to whip out my many-times-trunked epic fantasy and see if I could whip it into shape. Both excellent, excellent books!

ABANDON, Meg Cabot - I got this, as well as BEAUTY QUEENS, at the This is Teen event on Friday. I was really looking forward to it, as AVALON HIGH is my favorite Meg Cabot book, and I know she can handle retellings well. But I must admit I was disappointed. To be fair, I wasn't aware that ABANDON was the first in a trilogy, but that is clearly all it is: the first in a trilogy. 300 pages of setup. The characters and the premise were enough to keep me reading through to the end, really interested to find out what happened - but I didn't. I would have to read the next two books to do that.

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, Sherman Alexie - I've been meaning to read this for a while, and I can see why it's so acclaimed - it's excellent. Junior (or Arnold) is such a great character, who portrays a really interesting view of his world through both the text and the cartoons he draws. The voice was spot on, as well - a smart, witty, but slightly lost and lonely fourteen year old boy. Definitely something worth reading!!

GOING BOVINE, Libba Bray - I was afraid to read this book. I was TERRIFIED to read this book. I've said that Libba Bray is one of my favorite authors, and she is, but THE SWEET FAR THING made me sob hysterically, and since this book features a main character with mad cow disease I figured it'd make me cry and I didn't want to do that. Well, I'll admit, I did get a little bit teary, but the thought at the forefront of my mind was "why did it take me so long to read this?!?!" I can see why this won the Printz award. I thought it was excellent. It featured my favorite thing in YA writing - saying big, meaningful things, exactly the way a teenager would say them. No one needs a fancy vocabulary or a fancy writing style - you don't need to be confusing to have real meaning. What Cameron has got to say, and the journey he goes on through the book - both literal and figurative - is definitely important. It definitely means a great deal. Definitely read this book!

Friday, May 27, 2011

New York, New York, a Helluva Town!

Guys, This is Teen last night was SO FANTASTIC. I had such a good time! I met awesome authors and got books signed and chatted with Scholastic people about upcoming books and it was SO MUCH FUN.

The first achievement of the day was that my friend Erin and I DID NOT GET LOST. Huzzah! This is an achievement for me because, although I live a mere hour's bus ride away from the city, I've never been there without someone who knows it far, far better than I do to lead me around. But with my slowly cementing knowledge of NYC and Erin's actually functioning sense of direction, we got on the subway and made our way down to SoHo and the Scholastic Store!

Let me just say, the Scholastic Store is a very, very dangerous place to be. SO MANY BOOKS. SO MANY SHINY HARDCOVERS WANTING ME TO TAKE THEM HOME. I bought the books that I wanted (a copy of Libba Bray's new book BEAUTY QUEENS, a copy of Meg Cabot's ABANDON, and, later, a paperback of Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER for my sister) and then BACKED AWAY from the bookshelves.

And then! And then!

Apologies for the blurry photo. My camera is often uncooperative. But look! Awesome authors! Being awesome! And answering questions for us!

The Scholastic guy (whose name I have forgotten, sadly) asked each author a few questions (I think my favorite was when Maggie Stiefvater talked about werewolves stereotypically wearing a lot of leather and rivets and otherwise smelling like wet dog, and when Libba Bray named the microphone Fred) and then asked some questions from the crowd. He only took three - and I was one of them! Huzzah!

I asked how they go about doing the research for their books. It was a question I mostly wanted to ask Libba, because I love her GEMMA DOYLE books so so so much, but they all had great answers. Libba uses what she called the "six degrees to Kevin Bacon" approach - one thing leads to another which leads to another and so on. Meg Cabot said that, although she knows she's not supposed to, she uses Wikipedia, and also bloggers who are obsessed about the things she's writing about (Maggie and Libba then teased her a good deal about letting the internet do her work for her). And Maggie says that she uses a combination of those two approaches, and also likes hands-on research. She needed to research cliffs, so she went to a whole bunch of cliffs all over the place - and broke her tailbone on a cliff in the UK. Ouch! The lengths we go to, you know? ;)

And then there was the signing part! Of course, Erin and I ran to get on Libba Bray's line (and by the time we got off it there wasn't much of a line left anywhere else, hooray!). And we took pictures!

Since Libba Bray has been one of my very favorite authors for a long time now... that was brilliant. And she had buttons! I now have a purple button on my backpack that says "sparkle pony" on it. I haven't read BEAUTY QUEENS yet so I'm not entirely sure what that means, but... c'mon, sparkle pony just sounds hilarious and awesome!

Naturally, Meg Cabot had a very sparkly shirt on. :)

This one came with the question Erin and I ALWAYS get: "are you guys sisters?" Nope! Not related in any way whatsoever. She just lives down the street.

They also had giant cardboard standups of each author's book cover, with a hole cut out so you could stick your head in. Most of mine came out terrible, but I do like this one:

So, that was my adventure to This is Teen. My advice for author signings - come with questions prepared! They appreciate it greatly!

Have a good long weekend, all!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is Teen!!!

So I have made it my mission this summer to go to as many author panels, etc, as I can (meaning ones I can get to and ones that don't cost as much as a proper convention like BEA).

The first on the list is the This Is Teen event with Maggie Stiefvater, Libba Bray, and Meg Cabot. TONIGHT! AAAH SUCH EXCITEMENT.

In lieu of a proper blogpost, I'm merely putting this up with the promise that I shall talk at length about the event tomorrow.

Happy Thursday, blogsphere!

(Also, in line with the "Happy Thursday" which leads to "I never could get the hang of Thursdays," yesterday was Towel Day. I manage to miss Towel Day (read: forget about it until too late) EVERY SINGLE YEAR. I am a failed Douglas Adams fan. *hangs head in shame*)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Behind Stone Walls

Hello, all! It's Tuesday again! Thanks so much for all your lovely comments on last week's posts - they were very interesting and fun to read!

This week's teaser isn't as romantic, unfortunately, but it is the very beginning of the climax. Yep! You guessed it - they're breaking in! Avar has previously ambushed another guard and stolen his uniform, and now they're approaching the gates.




Thursday, May 19, 2011

But WHY is this a kissing book?

Hello all!

So, I was sort of blown away by your responses to my last teaser. Wow guys. You really liked it? (And I'm honestly not trying to fish for compliments here. I'm just astounded that you seem to enjoy something I am MAKING UP COMPLETELY. Let me reiterate: when it comes to the romantic scenes, I have NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.)

I will tell you honestly how I wound up writing that scene. (I swear this has a point.)

Step one: sitting on my friend Anna's floor, writing away for once as she's doing homework. Hit 45k. Also hit that scene. Instant roadblock.

Step two: after rather a while of agonizing over it, write the scene. Inform friend Anna that it is terribly difficult. She offers to lend romance novels for research.

Step three: realize I did it all wrong. Complain to roommate Katrina. She offers to read it over. Go NO NO NO NO NO.

Step four: rewrite it. Stare at it for rather a long time. Fix it again.

Step five: Roommate Katrina reads it, declares it acceptable, and I can keep going. Whew.

A lot of agony went into only about four hundred words. And why? It's only four hundred words. I'll probably tweak it again. It's not even really the most important thing going on. It's a subplot.

And yet at the same time, it IS the most important thing. It's what everybody looks for, what everybody talks about. THE HUNGER GAMES is a completely different genre, but the point still stands: what did people talk about all the time? Not whether Katniss was going to beat the Capitol, but which boy would she choose?

So what is it exactly about the romantic subplot that draws us all in like moths to very bright lights? Is it the "living vicariously through books" element? In genres like fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, and dystopian (I am waiting for spell check to recognize that "dystopian" is in fact a word), is it the necessary human, relatable connection that allows us to enter the rest of the author's world? Both? Neither? What?

Some might argue that in YA that romantic subplot is especially necessary because that's all teenagers care about, but I would beg to differ. There do exist teens who do not give a damn about romantic relationships (*raises hand*). And there are teens who care more about other things, who put their time and effort into other aspects of their lives, even if a romantic relationship is something they have.

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm as much of a sucker for a good romantic subplot or heck, even just a romantic plot sometimes, as anybody else. I was raised on Disney movies, thus I am a hopeless romantic of the worst variety. I'm asking these questions of myself as much as I am anyone else. Why do we place so much importance on these things?

I was having a conversation with said roommate Katrina - I was going into writing another romantic scene and doing some more agonizing about it, because that's what I do. I said "one of these days I'm going to write a book that hasn't got any romance in it at all so I won't have to deal with this nonsense." And she immediately said that no one would read it.

Of course, I instantly thought of two of my favorite books - INKHEART and THE THIEF LORD - that have no romance going on in them, but really, those would probably be classified more on the MG end of the spectrum than the YA end, wouldn't they?

So my question is this - would you read such a book? I doubt I ever will write such a thing, because, as I said, I am a hopeless romantic in spite of all my complaining. But I'm curious. It would probably be a tough sell, but would there be any interest at all? Why or why not?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: "Is this a kissing book?"

Why yes. Yes it is.

Thank you guys for dealing with me while I was experiencing the flailing that was the last two weeks. I have lived!! (Well, grades come out tomorrow so we'll see. :P Nah, I think everything went pretty well.)

And so, as a thank you, here is a teaser of everybody's favorite thing. This scene has been Approved by The Roommate, so I suppose it is safe to release it on the world.




Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cool Stuff on the Internet v. 2

Allow me to sneak away from my Italian presentation (ugh I hate presentations) for a few minutes and show you some cool stuff. This would be easier if the sound on my computer hadn't decided to stop working completely this morning and I could use YouTube. Such is life.

Instead, have some stuff from tumblr! Which I have discovered is wonderfully good if one needs to procrastinate.

Like this:

From fyhmhb. (Uh... warning for language... Oh tumblr, why must you be so hilarious and yet so vulgar? Tsk.)

Also this:

Gifs are so much fun. They make me want to smile and stare at them for hours. Don't you think?

Yeah... okay... no. Not a good plan.

Buongiorno! Spero che abbia un buon viaggo nel autobus. Questo e la mia citta

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cool Stuff on the Internet

So, next week is finals week, which means I am going a little bit crazy in more ways than one. Blogposts from now till the week after next, therefore, are going to be "Cool Stuff on the Internet." Aka "Look at this nifty thing I found, guys, isn't it nifty? Aren't you glad I showed it to you and therefore didn't have to put any actual thought into blogging?"

Yeah. I hope you enjoy the things, at the very least.

The first thing is this:

So many cool books are coming out this year and next and I'm very excited for all of them but I think right now at least I am most excited for the third and final installment in Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER series. Very excited. If the bit she read from a piece of notebook paper at the NYC Teen Author Festival is any indication, it is going to be AMAZING.

So, Ms. Stiefvater is having a contest, and there are lots of cool prizes for that contest, one of them being the chance to read FOREVER early. Which would make my college-student-budget self very happy on so many levels.

But! You can preorder FOREVER here: http://www.fountainbookstore.com/autograph-maggie

And make sure to watch that lovely stop-motion book trailer! It's SO COOL.

Until Tuesday, then, fellow bloggers. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Childhood Memories

See? I've got a teaser for you this week! And I'm posting it before I go to bed so I won't forget!

So, something I'm thinking about as I come to the end of this book is that Rose's family sort of drives the plot, but as it is right now, you won't actually meet them till the very end. Thus, I'm trying to slip in little snippets like this one, where Rose is thinking about them.