Saturday, November 27, 2010

In My Mailbox! Gorgeous Dress Edition :)

Okay, only three of these covers have gorgeous dresses, but still! We YA lovers are suckers for a gorgeous period-looking dress, even though only one of these, The Vespertine, is actual historical fiction!

Wither by Lauren DeStefano - Cover lust, cover lust, cover lust! This might be my favorite cover of the year, a toss up with Crescendo and Torment. As for content, it's a dystopia that I've been super stoked to read, although some chatter on goodreads has me thinking it might not be as good as I was hoping. We'll see, I haven't been amazed by any of the romantic dystopias I've read yet. March 2011.
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell - Love this gorgeous cover!!! Victorian Baltimore drama plus cool powers and dark secrets. Sounds stellar. I might have to check this one out first. March 2011.
The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder - Unpopular girl vaulted to popularity, but it comes at a price. Good reviews, sounds like a good read about girl power dynamics in high school. April 2011.
Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - I just read the first book in the series last week, Once a Witch, and it was a-ight. Good story, time travel, cool Talents, prophecies, though I'm not super attached to the characters. I'll probably read this though, at least to review it. Much better cover than the first book. August 2011.

In other news, the kiddo is playing with marbles (racing them down his hotwheels race-car track). I'm glad at six he has yet to succumb to video-game craze--we're hoping to hold off as long as possible. This has been a great holiday weekend, at least after I got better from the stomach-flu-OF-DEATH! We put up the Christmas tree yesterday, the boys went bike-riding today, the weather's finally nice, and it feels like Christmas-time. Without thinking about Black Friday especially, we did actually leisurely pick up most of our presents yesterday (several bought off Ebay). I think I'll wrap them tonight and put them under our newly glowing tree :)

Exciting things in my mailbox this week! Most exciting of all, my early Christmas present, because who can really wait for a month to open something so exciting and handy--a Kindle!! Also the means of reading several of the e-galley's I've just received this week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A little hubris never hurt anybody...right?

I’ve taken a different approach to the term paper for my Renaissance prose class. I’ve had a general idea in mind since the beginning of the semester (wanting to investigate the passion vs. reason binary). The past two weeks I’ve done leisurely research, lots of pre-writing, written several alternating thesis’, changed ideas back and forth about how I want to focus the paper—now all that’s left is to actually write the frickin' paper!

I’m a little nervous about putting off the actual writing of the paper, but at the same time, I’m pretty confident about my ability to produce a quality product. Confidence is the name of the game for me lately—both in my fiction and academic writing. I really think I’m getting stellar at both—here’s hoping that it’s not over-confidence dipping into hubris, right?!?!

But then I figure, I was so non-confident for so many years, a little bit of kick-ass feeling can only be a good thing J

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review of TORMENT

One of the most gorgeous covers of the year, hands down. I could just stare and stare at the gorgeous image. So evocative, so full of longing. This is Book II in the Fallen trilogy by Lauren Kate, I liked this installment better than the first. This book, in cover images, tone, and release dates shares so much with the Hush, Hush series - both are about bad boy fallen angels in which the girl main characters are magically entranced by the beautiful boys, even when it endangers their life.

In Torment, suddenly the main character, Luce, realizes just how quickly she "fell in love" with Daniel, how little time they've actually spent together, and how superficial it might all be. A similar thing happened in Crescendo (Book II in the Hush, Hush series) that was recently released. As a result, I thought Torment presented much more complex characters. Luce seems like a real girl who starts asking real questions about this suddenly consuming relationships. Some reviewers have thought that Luce makes stupid decisions throughout this book, but I didn't find that at all. Her decisions in this book actually make sense. I was so bummed by the lack of time spent on Luce and Daniel's connection in Book I, that I was fine with Luce's wavering here. It made the ending of the book feel real, and fought for. I hate easy outs, and I was glad the author is willing to continue developing Luce, and that she is letting Luce finally discover herself, without Daniel around treating her like an infant. In a manner generally unlike myself (I love me the romance!), what I found most interesting about this book was Luce's personal development, not her romantic connections. Four out of five stars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In My Mailbox!

After going awhile without being able to get my hands on any good new books, I'm now swimming in great reads. Here's what's in my (metaphorical) mailbox this week, based on a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren!

-Numbers by Rachel Ward - Jem sees numbers in her head that predict the exact date people will die. I've seen this one out for awhile, and always liked the cover and been intrigued by the concept. We'll see how it is!
-Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon - This one caught me by the cover, then read the flap and it seemed interesting too. Set in a boarding school with gothic elements and hot love interest named Dante. Yum.
-The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger - what girl, at one time or other, hasn't felt like The Duff? Pretty sure for me it was the entirety of my Jr. High experience. I heard great things about the book, and then almost choked when I heard the author is 19. Wowza's.
-Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - I heard amazing things about Donnelly's first book a few years back A Northern Light, also historical fiction. Reviews of Revolution have sounded pretty positive as well.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - Review

Oh, can I sing the praises of the YA god that is Scott Westerfeld! I was looking forward to this steampunk series from him ever since I heard about the first book Leviathan coming out last year, and over the weekend, I just read book II in the trilogy, Behemoth. Westerfeld's Uglies series was so fabulous-- everybody talks about The Hunger Games as starting the dystopia craze in YA, but it was totally this series that was first written and became popular. And they had great covers, and a great underlying theme, and romance, and were so well written. Yes, I can gush and gush about this man. He seems pretty awesome as a human as well, and is married to the fabulous Justine Larbalestier (How to Ditch Your Fairy). In my head I envision them as this awesome funny creative couple.

SO! On to the Leviathan series! It's basically a revisioning of WWI, but steampunk, so the opposing armies are an army with mechanical creatures against an army using gigantic animals (some of which are filled with hydrogen and are turned into organic airships!). He's created a world so much more complex and complete than most YA storyworlds, down to the very language that his protagonists use. All of their sayings relay culture, making the alternate reality he creates feel real. There are pictures every so often, which I thought was a little dorky when I first saw it in Leviathan, but then realized was necessary because of all the crazy contraptions and creatures he describes--you seriously need pictorial representations to figure out what the crap some of these things are supposed to look like. But soooooo cool.

The books are very episodic, and there's so much going on in each episode, it was a little harder to feel hang on to larger storylines going on. But the characters and their motivations and feelings are always clear. I'm always a fan of too much complexity rather than too little. Reading this book felt SO different from the normal YA fare--Westerfeld just takes it to a completely higher level on all accounts. Reading the book was like a mini master class on how books should be written. I'm trying to hijack some of his methods for culture building to make the storyworld in my novel fuller and more realistic.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lazy Saturday Afternoon

I love lazy Saturday morning/afternoons with my beautiful little family. We've made a tradition over the past few months to have a brunch of eggs and sweet rolls, then D (the husband) and I catch up over coffee while Joseph plays around. Then today we all sat together as a family and read J the books I got for him at the library this week, then all wrestled together and had a mini pillow fight. I think there's something magical and beyond-words awesome about being part of a family like this.

D and I were talking this morning about the future. Changes they are a-coming, and D's anxious about making it in the research world of PhD-land. He's studying to take the GRE in a couple weeks, and I'm helping him write his personal statement for the PhD applications due in December. Part of what he's afraid of is that he'll get into this program and STILL be so busy he can't have a life. This is a theme I've been talking about with other friends lately too. It's so easy to get caught up in what we're "supposed to do" as adults, that we can waste years forgetting to really live. D feels like there's an expected sacrifice of all free time in PhD programs, and I keep telling him that NO, it doesn't have to be that way if we don't let it. He's been working like a zombie for at least three years now--first in his corporate job, and then this semester with research project. He's been living like this so long, it's hard to believe change is possible.

But that's the real kicker about so many things in life--change seems impossible when you've been in a rut for so long. It genuinely feels impossible. But then, something good or bad happens, and change occurs anyway. And it's shocking when it does. But all these American myths that tell us we have to constantly worry about the future and live in fear of "not making it," not having enough 401k stored up or money for the future--it's all enough to choke the life out of a person. I refuse to believe it anymore. Bad things will happen, things might not work out like we hope, but I genuinely believe that together, we'll be okay. We'll make it. And in the meantime, let's get busy living the hell out of every single day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reading My First E-Book

Oh irony, you saucy little minx. I read my first e-book tonight, and it was a dystopia about a society in which almost all of life is experienced online, people stuck watching computer screens--which was exactly what I was doing all night as I read the book on my computer :)

It was an advanced reading copy I requested from the publisher through a galley request web service-- Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, and it was really wonderful. I'll do a full review closer to when it comes out next May, but it was compelling. I read it all in one sitting, and it had well-developed relationships and a quality story. The author doesn't have a web presence, though, and I wonder if that's because in real life she is so against being "plugged in" all the time, or maybe she just hasn't gotten around to it? I just take it for granted these days that after I read a book I like I'll be able to google the author and find their blog!

I will say, if the ridiculous occurs, and I get a book deal, the first thing I'll do is buy a Kindle. Well, okay, the first thing I'll probably do is get a new tattoo to celebrate, but the second thing will be a Kindle! Reading the book on my computer wasn't as frustrating as I thought, but I've been a long hold-out for paper books. I think Kindle will be the best of both worlds, b/c you can't beat the convenience of e-books, but pushing the PgDn button on my computer was a bit annoying, as was staring at the screen for three hours straight.

Yes, I'm unapologetically part of the generation that will never be unplugged. Though now that I think about it, in my novel, I'm also examining our reliance on technology, envisioning a future where we start implanting it in our bodies more and more. But even that, to me, isn't an entirely a horrible concept. I just think humanity's relationship with technology is always going to be a mix of good and bad, something we're going to have to negotiate.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In My Mailbox!

Inspired by a meme from The Story Siren, this is my first edition of In My Mailbox! I've long beg, borrowed, bought half-price, and when all else fails, bought full price the newest young adult titles, and when I can get my hands on them, Advanced Readers Copies. Voila, here's the lovely books I have acquired and will be reviewing soon (though some reviews I won't post till closer to their release date)!

-Delirium, by Lauren Oliver (who wrote Before I Fall). This is a dystopia that I'm super stoked about. Oliver is such an excellent writer, but I'm trying to temper my excitement (trying not to over-hype it in my mind so it doesn't suffer the fate of over-expectation like Matched did). This one is an ARC, will be released in hardback early next year.
-Torment, by Lauren Kate, book II in the Fallen series. Oh this cover is so gorgeous. I have some serious cover lust, I think it's one of the best covers this year (along with the Hush series, these are the best--and both about fallen angels too. Apparently I'm a sucker for grey and black covers). I've heard some mixed reviews about this book, so I'll keep that in mind as I read. This book is already on bookshelves.
-Everything I Was, by Corinne Demas. Awesome cover, very striking. The story is about a rich girl who is forced to move from the city to the country. I'm hoping for a good fish-out-of-water story. Comes out April 2011.
-Awaken, by Katie Kacvinsky. Lovely concept cover. It's a dystopia imagining a near-future in which everything is done online and society seems to be becoming less and less physically connected. Comes out May 2011.

Seriously kid? You're killing me here!

Oh, the trials and tribulations of parenthood. My wonderful little six year old is becoming a Problem Child at school. His kindergarten teacher called me yesterday and we had a thirty minute conversation about his behavior problems. He's not mean or cruel or hits other kids or anything--he's just, well, I'd say naughty, but that word has all kinds of weird connotations these days. He's mischievous, and too smart for his own good. His Romanian grandmother, when she visited earlier this year, used to call him nasdravanul which roughly translates to "rascal". Which yeah, is appropriate, though maybe too nice sounding for his constant trouble making.

At school this week, when there was a sub, he snuck into the craft box, stole some glitter, and put it EVERYWHERE, in the classroom, and then the bathroom and toilet before the sub caught on. Yesterday, the teacher took away a contraband car he'd brought to school (after his dad had EXPLICITLY asked him the morning of to check his pockets and backpack for any toys--he'd hidden it in his shoe, of course!). So my lovely progeny watched where the teacher put it after she took it away from him--and then stole it back when she wasn't looking.

Then to top it off in the trifecta of bad behavior, he repeated something he must have heard from some older boys at extend-a-care (daycare after school ends at 2:30, till we pick him up at 6). He told another boy, and I quote: "You need to get a girlfriend, so you can have sex". I have no idea where he heard this, but the other boy's parent heard about it and came to the school to register a complaint about my kid telling it to her kid!

Seriously, I'm pulling my hair out at this point. At least I know he didn't hear that at home, and I've never heard him say sex or girlfriend before. The only tv he watches is SpongeBob and X-Men cartoons, so yeah, it must have been the older kids at extend-a-care, which his teacher thought too. But this kind of thing goes straight to the principle, and has yet to be sorted out.

He just keeps pushing and testing limits, even after he knows we don't budge or let him get away with stuff. It's like he's waiting for a weak link or chink in our armor somewhere, or at least, looking for moments when we aren't watching him like a hawk. As for the sex stuff, freaking A! The kids at his extend-a-care are only up to fourth and fifth graders. Are they thinking about sex at that point? Is that how few years I have left before I have to start worrying about my kid thinking about and figuring out sex? Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Forced to spend time with the wife, when I want to be with the mistress

Metaphorically speaking, that is. A.k.a., I have to write a paper today on Wordsworth instead of gleefully working on my fiction. The paper's not due till Thursday, but I'm pretending it's due tomorrow instead to force myself to finish it TODAY so I can get it out of my head-space and move on to happier places. And yes, I dream of the day when the mistress becomes the wife and I can give her all my attention ;)

When I finish the paper, I'm going to reward myself by blogging my first In My Mailbox edition - I've got some exciting titles coming this week to review!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Malinda Lo's ASH

I've been trying to track down a copy this book since it came out last year--the gorgeous cover first caught my eye, and when I heard it was a retelling of Cinderella (I'm a sucker for retellings of any kind--fairytales, myths, Jane Austen novels, etc!) with LGBT themes, my interest was piqued. They finally got it at my local library, and I picked it up this week. It was a lovely read. Today has been frantic with an unconscious stress that had been making my jaw tense and tired all day, but settling into Ash tonight helped everything slowly unwind. It was the perfect kind of retelling--keeping with the spirit of the tale, but taking it to new and unexpected places. Too many modern Cinderella stories are heavy-handed about reversing the problematic gender stereotypes it reproduces, but this one was beautifully written and paced. It was nuanced in all the right places with a story that unfolded naturally. And, you know, with some tricky fairies thrown in for good measure :) The setting was a little removed, set in a story-world that felt akin to a high-fantasy with villages and princes and forgotten magic and such, and it didn't quite pull me in as entirely as other books, but it was still a high quality book. I look forward to Lo's forthcoming Huntress.

A passage from the climax of the book (but I don't think it's spoiler-y, just lovely):

As the people swayed and stamped and sung their way around the bonfire, Ash knew that this was what the fairies were always hunting for: a circle of joy, hot and brilliant, the scent of love in the deepest winter. But all they could do was create a pale, crystalline imitation, perfect and cold. How it must disappoint them: that they would never be human.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

SEX?! In Young Adult Novels?! Oh my!

I was reading a YA author's blog recently, and when asked why she wrote in the YA genre, she answered frankly that one reason was that she didn't want to write sex scenes! This cracked me up because it is so spot on! My graduate studies in children's literature has made clear the long tradition of viewing children as innocents who are not to be corrupted, not to mention the notorious history of book-banning. Consequently, there's traditionally hasn't been too much sex in YA books. But this is changing, most notably among some excellent male authors willing to transgress normative YA sex-talk boundaries like Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and John Green's Looking for Alaska (mainly in their *shocking* frank discussions of masturbation, which really, is even more transgressive than talking directly about sex!). For all the girls, on the other hand, there are several writers who are talking details of the deed (albeit couched in someone ambiguous terms, at least as far as naming body parts goes) in their books:

Simone Elkeles: Both Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise are so, so good, surprisingly good. And yeah, sexy too. No problem talking about melodramatic sexy situations here! Unfortunately, the sequels to both of these books bummed me out, but the initial books are great reads.

Jennifer Echols, who's recent two books, Going Too Far and Forget You.
I've been seeing a lot of attention toward, and for good reason, they are quality chick-lit reads. These books are fluffy, but oh the most delicious and well-written kind of fluff. And unabashed with the sexy.

One of my favorites is Elizbeth Scott, who continues to take on such a variety of interesting projects, mixing up really difficult stories like Living Dead Girl and her newest one, Grace (which I really want to read), with other plain-talking very real feeling stories of teenage girl life. She's like Sarah Dessen, but with more honesty and real-to-lifeness, and she doesn't seem to feel the need to wrap up every little ending with a happy, unrealistic bow. I first read Bloom by her, which talks about a girl dealing with burgeoning sexy feelings and just last week read The Unwritten Rule, the rule being, don't want your best friend's boyfriend. But the stories are so much more complex and honest than their cover blurbs. I love every one of her books, but they are always too short!

And one by a debut author this year that was absolutely amazing, top ten reads of the year: Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere. I mean, this is amazing writing, hands down, poetic and gorgeous and with a super compelling story, and again, not afraid to talk about female sexuality.

Kindle Giveaway!

Check out Sparkling Review's blog for details about the giveaway!

I love YA review sites!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Am An Agented Author!!!

That’s right folks. The illusive dream has been made real, and I have my name signed on the contract to prove it. With Charlie Olsen of Inkwell Management!! And really, while this feels like the end of one journey, I know it’s really the beginning of another—the real stuff of being an author.

So allow me a bit of memory lane--I started writing prolifically in 2006, the first time I’d ever done so in my life.I hadn’t written so much as a short story since I was in high school, so needless to say, the learning curve was high. And slow. Much slower than I’d anticipated, and if I’d have known then that it would take me four novels to work out all my crappy first attempts and that I wouldn’t really get anywhere until the fifth, I don’t know if I would have had the mojo to keep going. But alas, as ignorance is bliss—I thought that first novel was going to be amazing, that I was already fabulous, that I’d be one of those amazing people who writes a kick-ass novel their first try. Yeah. Or not. J

But perseverance, willingness to take critiques to heart, continuing on try after try after try, through hundreds and hundreds of wasted pages, querying two failed novels, and figuring out what the hell they mean by voice, I’ve just signed with an agent for my novel GLITCH. Which is where we get to the part about this being a beginning.

This does not feel real yet, and maybe that’s just because I was really confident in this book, and I’d had so much interest from agents—so I can’t tell if it’s just because underneath I was confident it might happen this time, or if good things just take a really long time to click with me as real (I felt the same way about being a mom, to be honest—they handed me this squirming squishy mass with big eyes and tiny fists and I was like, oh, wow, well, this is, you know, cool, I guess). Talking with my rockin’ agent doesn’t make me feel very nervous either, it just seems all like—yeah, I was ready for this, I put in the work and it was time.

And digging into the new edits feels like a delightful vacation from the detestable grad school papers I’ve been trying to force myself to write—because this is where I want to spend my energy and brain power and creativity. I’ve been itching to get back to storytelling, and now I get to.