Thursday, January 22, 2015

Since I haven't had much time to watch movies lately, I am frighteningly out of the loop. But one night over the holidays my sister brought out THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, insisting I would love it.

She was right. I ended up watching it again the very next day, in fact. The film was endearing and heartwarming, much like Mitty himself. Even though there are not many young adults in the film, it felt very much like a coming-of-age story. Except that instead of a confused, self-conscious teen, the protagonist was a quiet, unassuming middle-aged man who spent his free time caring for his aging mother, pining for a pretty co-worker, and daydreaming of adventure.

When Mitty finally embarked on some real adventures of his own, I felt like a supportive parent shouting, "You go, Walter!" Yes, the adventures were far-fetched (i.e., jumping from a helicopter into shark-infested waters off the coast of Greenland), but somehow it all came off as charming and delightful instead of annoying.

MITTY, starring Ben Stiller (who also directed the film), was understated and carefully executed. The cinematography was cleverly artistic and the scenery breathtaking. I still get goosebumps thinking about Mitty skateboarding down that deserted highway in Iceland. With a great soundtrack and supporting cast that includes Shirley MacLain, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott and Sean Penn, the movie is quiet and profound, humorous and quirky and surprisingly sweet, all at once...


The film was based on a four-page short story written by James Thurber in 1939, so I immediately tracked down the original story and gobbled it up. Of course, Stiller took a lot of creative license creating his version of a modern-day Mitty adventure. All I can say is, it totally worked.

Have you seen this movie yet or read the short story? What did you think?
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What are you reading right now?

Kristan: What am I NOT reading right now? Hah!

After years of monogamy, I've somehow found myself constantly three-timing. That is, reading a print book, reading an ebook, and reading an audiobook at the same time. Right now:

Print: MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES by Jasmine Warga (because she's my good friend, and because it's the YA Diversity Book Club pick for February)

Electronic: SIDDHARTHA by Hermann Hesse (for a book club)

Audio: THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES by Carrie Ryan (because I read and enjoyed the first two in the series a while ago)

Stephanie: I am reading (well, listening to) Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, and I'm so excited! It's taken me forever to get around to starting it. I can't wait to see how it ends.

Ingrid: You caught me in between books... I just finished reading DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater and am about to begin the audio version of CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. Yay, books!

Kristan: Oh I love CODE NAME VERITY. To this day, it's the one sure thing that can make me cry. I just have to think about a certain scene, a certain line... *wipes away tears* But it's a slow burner, just FYI.

So where is your bookmark living right now?
Thursday, January 15, 2015
It's impossible to read all of the things.

We all know this (to our slight devastation) and perhaps as a result, we choose books that have made the award lists or had starred reviews or are climbing the best seller charts...we don't want to miss something truly great or entertaining. The readers that I admire (and this is most young people that I work with every day) are the ones who choose by cover or by reading the jacket copy. I love discovering their interests as they browse and decide after reading the first few pages.

It's the merit of the words that draw them in.

Similarly (and perhaps for the majority of us), we choose reading materials because of word of mouth. I'm not talking about the juggernaut that is a "blog tour" where everyone is saying basically the same thing over a host of sites. I'm talking about being so moved by a book that you HAVE to tell someone. This is where all of us Book Bloggers started. We had THINGS to say in response to story. It wasn't prescribed for us. We didn't have obligations or commitments. We read our own picks and then talked about it with each other.

I have nothing against marketing from book publishers. They've got a job to do and are just as successful as anyone else at creating buzz for a book (I mean, who knows what's going to be big?!)But I have this crazy, inherent belief that if a book is doing it's story job then someone is going to want to discuss it. Maybe not everyone. Maybe not all at once. There's loads of us still catching up on titles from five years ago.

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO READ ALL OF THE THINGS.

But if you are going to be discerning with that beast of a tbr pile, you can not go wrong with these...

CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn

"Love doesn't always look nice."

I know, I know, what took me so long? It won the Morris last year (I've read nearly all of the nominees and winners since YALSA began shorlisting for this award) and was released in 2013, but I've only just managed to catch up with this one. If you have read JELLICOE ROAD and got past the first 100 pages...If you have read CHIME or WE WERE LIARS and decided to believe the narrator even if you didn't think you should...Then you are prepared for this book.
My advice: Go with the flow. Appreciate the flow, but realise you have no idea where the flow is going. And, by all means, guess along the way, but commit to those guesses like you would a George R. R. Martin character--knowing that they won't make it to the end. This book has carved out a space in my brain, has proceeded to crawl in...and I'm inclined to let it stay.

ROOFTOPPERS by Katherine Rundell

"Never ignore an impossible."

It's been a while since I read a Middle Grade book. And I'll admit this one is a cheat for a site declaring We Heart YA. Well call me Cheater McCheaterson because this book needs to be on your radar, bumping up your pile, in your hands and, might I suggest next to your pillow (a spot previously occupied by GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS and other beloved books I have trouble leaving on the shelf). I've read this book twice already in the space of a week and I'm taking a slower pace this time so that I can enjoy every crumb. It is, in a word, exquisite. It has charm, wit, adventure, perspective, wildness in an urban setting...and never have I wished to eat sausages roasted over a fire, by rooftop and weathervane, paired with homemade tomato soup, until this book. Magic.

So tell me: have you read these? Are you willing to gush with me? If not, what is stopping you?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What are your reading and writing goals for this year?

Ingrid:

Reading — Just finding time to read more books would be enough for me.

Writing — Finish (latest) rewrite of my current WIP. Query. While querying, work on the next project. Also, I'd like to write a few short stories this year.

Sarah:

I don't know! Not a goal-oriented person, but I would like to finish my current project and draft some new words in a new surrounding. In the meantime, I'm going to read to my heart's content.

Kristan:

Reading goal — 3 books per month. I aimed for 40 last year and fell a few short, so I thought 36 might be a good compromise, in terms of recognizing my constraints but also pushing myself a bit.

Writing goal — PUT IN THE WORK. That's it. I know I can't control the outcomes of my writing, I can only put in the effort, enjoy the effort, and value the effort as its own success. So that's what I'm going to try to do.

(And yeah, more short stories, like Ingrid said, haha.)

Stephanie:

My reading goals are to finish at least two audio books a month, because audio books are what's feasible with my crazy schedule. And to read one physical book per month.

My write goal, for now, is to sit down and write at least one day a week. Hopefully that number will get bigger as the year goes on.

Ingrid:

And one more reading goal for me is to revisit some of the classics that I read loooong ago or never read in the first place. I'm starting with Stephen Hawking's A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.

What are your goals this year?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's that time again! New year, new goals, new books. Here is a rundown of the YA books that the We Heart YA girl's are looking forward to reading in brand-spanking-new 2015.

Sarah:

THRONE OF GLASS #4 by Sarah J. Maas
I read the first three of these books in a week when HEIR OF FIRE was released thinking that I'd binge on a trilogy and lo and behold it ends on a cliffhanger!! So I research online and, of course, there's a fourth book. What?! Grrr! (but, really, I am SO excited to find out what happens to all of these weirdly named characters that I've grown fond of. I have read every scrap of the prequel stories while I wait...and wait...)

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera
I've followed Adam on twitter for ages, it seems, and I can't wait for his debut. It could possibly be everything.

THE WITCH HUNTER by Virginia Boecker
Been keeping an eye on this debut as well. I love witches.

SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIEN AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
Heard so much good buzz from respected sources. Gimme.

MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia
This cover needs a frame.

Kristan:

MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES by Jasmine Warga
Contemporary YA with heart and humor? Diversity? Written by a dear friend? Check check check!

Book 4 in the Raven Cycle series
Two words: Maggie. Stiefvater. Enough said.
MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold
That cover. Also, I've traveled by Greyhound, and I know there is a compelling story in that alone. Add in the snippets of Arnold's lovely prose that I've read, and a mother-daughter connection, and I'm sold.

CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Written by a fellow halfie, this book sounds like a really compelling story about faith and family. I like the sports connection too.

Sarah (again):

One more I forgot that is really important: THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma.

Ingrid:

Perusing the list of 2015 debut releases has been really fun. Some books that look good to me include...

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND by Kathryn Holmes

MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia

PLEASE DON'T TELL by Laura Tims

THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY by Stephanie Oakes

THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT by Jenn Marie Thorne


Sarah (again again):


Just one more. I need SHADOW SCALE by Rachel Hartman. Right. The heck. Now.

Stephanie:

I haven't even finished the first book, but I'm already so excited about the sequel!

I love stories about libraries, especially ones that involve mystery and magic. And several goodreads reviewers have compared it to Doctor Who. Yay!

And I'm kind of behind on books I meant to read in 2014. :/ I'm looking forward to catching up with books like RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo and THE DREAM THEIVES by Maggie Stiefvater.

What book are you looking forward to this year?



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Every year, I ask the We Heart YA girls to send me their TWO or THREE favorite reads of the year. Every year, they ignore me and send as many as they want. Since I'm a rule-follower, I'll go first...

Kristan's picks:

We Were Liars Pointe Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) 

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart - This book haunts me. There's just something in its vibe. A contemporary story that feels out of time, with the fairytale-esque repetitions of Cadence's thoughts about her family. And of course there's the devastating twist... (We're still lying about the ending, right?) This book is very love-it-or-hate-it, and I fall firmly on the love-it side.

POINTE by Brandy Colbert - Ballet in the snow, shared cigarettes, secret rendezvous, Chicago, and a ripped-from-the-headlines idea infused with all the heart and soul an author can offer. Even though not a lot happens, relative to other YA blockbusters on the shelves, I thought POINTE was a really ambitious story. I guess it kind of haunts me too.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor - In a word: EPIC. (Also: AMAZEBALLS.) Everything about this finale worked for me. The writing. The characters (both old and new). The plot twists. The interplay between fantasy and reality worlds. The fervent dreams and belief in hope, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. (I cried. A lot.)

Sarah's picks:

The Weight of Water Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1) Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3) Seraphina (Seraphina, #1) 

THE WEIGHT OF WATER by Sarah Crossan
I love every
                 single
                         syllable
Of this novel-in-verse.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor - I am devastated that this story is over. But everything about this final novel in the trilogy was satisfying (see Kristan's comments). It is, quite simply, masterful.

HALF BAD by Sally Green - tied with RUIN & RISING by Leigh Bardugo - I always need a bit of smart fantasy and adventure taking up space in my imagination and HALF BAD is, so far, up to the task. But Alina Starkov! How I will miss your world.

I'm also adding SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman, which is unlike any fantasy I have read lately. It is richly complex and just utterly brilliant. I'm struggling to put my thoughts into words with this book, which is indicative, if you know me, of a great read.

Ingrid's picks:

The Book Thief Stolen: A Letter to My Captor We Were Liars 

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak - Powerful is the best word to describe this book. It will be one of my favorites for life, not just for 2014. The gorgeous prose, the tragic plot, the perseverance of the characters, and the heroic acts of kindness that emerge from an impossible, war-torn world... pure brilliance.

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher - This story and its vivid setting is still haunting me, six months later. Enough said. (For more details on STOLEN, you can read my blog post.)

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart - I finished listening to the audio version of WE WERE LIARS earlier today, and I’m Absolutely. Completely. Wrecked. I feel like I've been punched in the gut and am still doubled over. This one is now up there on my list of all-time YA faves, right next to JELLICOE ROAD.

Yours?

That's our list for 2014! Tell us, what were your favorite reads of this year?

Friday, December 19, 2014
It's that time of year again...when We Heart YA decides what fictional presents we'd give to some of our favourite fictional characters.

Kristan:

I would like to give Cadence (from WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart) the book TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a compilation of personal essays – advice columns, technically – that are all about self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness. It’s one of my all-time favorite reads, and I half-jokingly call it my Bible. Even though there isn’t an essay that directly relates to Cadence’s problems – which are pretty unique – I still think she could find a lot of comfort in reading Strayed’s words and embracing Strayed’s philosophy of “radical empathy.”

Stephanie:

I would give Augustus Waters from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS a transfusion of Cylon blood to cure his cancer.

Sarah:

I'd put on a Christmas dinner and introduce SERAPHINA to FIRE, Elisa, Karou and the CHIME child. Then she'd see sooner that we're all monsters capable of destruction. And better the monster you know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the best book or book-related thing you've ever received for Christmas?


Sarah: One year I received a really sweet copy of LITTLE WOMEN from some cool girl named Stephanie Mooney. But my favourite ever present was a leather-bound journal with blank pages for scribbles and story sketches. I used to be quite Romantic in choosing what things were worthy of inclusion. If I had a quill pen, I probably would have used it as well and only by candle or moonlight. You get the picture of 'tween me.' She's still around somewhere!

Kristan: Oh man, I actually got a quill fountain pen as a gift once. It's so cool! (But to be honest, it basically stays in its box in a drawer, because really it's kind of a hassle to use...)

I've gotten SO many books and bookish things over the years, there's no way I could pick just one as the "best." So I'll just say that this year I won a copy of MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, the anthology of YA holiday stories edited by Stephanie Perkins, and it's pretty great so far. Big thanks to Teen Lit Rocks for that giveaway!

Stephanie: When I was eight or nine years old, I was obsessed with Frances Hodgson Burnett's A LITTLE PRINCESS. I remember one of those years, I received a locket for Christmas that looked an awful lot like Sara's in the movie, and I used to pretend it was the same one. It wasn't intended to be a book-related gift, but I always thought of it as my princess locket.

What is your favorite book related gift?
Friday, December 12, 2014

Due to the holidays, YA Diversity Book Club is taking a month off from our selected reading – but fear not, we’re still shining a light on great diverse titles! This month we’re each sharing our favorite diverse reads from 2014. Here are mine:

American Born Chinese Originally published in 2006, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang has earned tons of awards and honors, but I didn’t bump it to the top of my TBR pile until late last year when I met Gene and got a signed copy from him at Books by the Banks. Then I zipped through this clever graphic novel, with its 3 “separate” stories that weave together so beautifully. As an ABC myself (sort of… half ABC, anyway) I definitely found a lot to relate to.

Caminar I think CAMINAR by Skila Brown is technically Middle Grade, but the lyricism of this novel in verse, and its nuanced portrayal of a boy during a time of war, could appeal to mature readers of any age. Through the story of Carlos, I learned about the history and culture of Guatemala. The time and place might be foreign to me, but Carlos’s fear, his love of family, and his hope are universal.

Pointe POINTE by Brandy Colbert isn’t just one of my favorite diverse reads of 2014; it’s one of my favorite books of the year, period. I’ve already blogged a bit about how perfectly the cover captures the tone of the story. I’ll add that Theo is an excellent protagonist, not because she’s virtuous and heroic, but because she’s sharp and flawed and vulnerable and real. The fact that she’s black isn’t irrelevant – how could it be, in a time when our country is still struggling to value young black lives appropriately? – but it’s not the point of the story either. It’s just part of Theo’s identity, as much as being a ballerina or living in Chicago.

The Walled City Last but not least, THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin is one excellent answer to author Matt de la Peña’s question, "Where's the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?" In this case, the heroes are not black or Hispanic, but Chinese. In fact, the whole cast is. And yet that changes nothing, in terms of storytelling. The action is gripping, the characters interesting and well-developed, the themes thought-provoking. This is one of those books that I think serves as both mirror and window at the same time. I hope to see more like it in the years to come.

What great diverse books did you read in 2014?

Here are the picks from Teen Lit Rocks and the Reading Date.

YA Diversity Book Club will be back in Jan 2015, reading THE WAY WE BARED OUR SOULS by Willa Strayhorn. Feel free to join us!


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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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