Thursday, October 31, 2013
My favourite reads this year so far have been Contemporary--which if you read our blog regularly is kind of a big deal. For the past three years, Fantasy has won out on our top picks every time, and Contemp is content to be the underdog. Don't know what it is, but 2013 is all about Rainbow Rowell, Andrew Smith, Julie Murphy, Hilary T. Smith, Sara Zarr, Nova Ren Suma, Blythe Woolston and all the rest. But within Contemporary is an even doggier of underdogs--the Novel In Verse.
Imma sucker for language.
So you'd think I would have read more Novels In Verse, but I have to say, I've only read one. This from the girl who read the entirely of PARADISE LOST and lived to tell the tale, who read a 100-page poem about a river in Dartmoor (DART by Alice Oswold) and wished she'd thought of it first.
So where are all the Novels In Verse that are perfectly suited to me?
So help a girl out...any Novels In Verse recommendations?
Friday, October 25, 2013
Friendly reminder: You can win a copy of THE BITTER KINGDOM, THE BROKENHEARTED, and NOT A DROP TO DRINK just by commenting on this interview post over here.
First THE SCORPIO RACES, then THE RAVEN BOYS, and now THE DREAM THIEVES. With each book of Maggie Stiefvater's that I read, I fall more and more in love with her writing. Halfway through TDT, I felt so enraptured that I actually had to tweet about it -- and she responded!
@kristanhoffman What a world that would be, all gasoline and magic.
— Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater) October 9, 2013
Gasoline and magic, indeed. There's a lot of both in TDT. Although the book continues the search for Glendower, I would say there's a clear focus on Ronan. And Ronan is all about cars and special powers.
But he is also all about family. And friendship. And love (you'll never guess for whom!). He is a great character -- and I think that's the gasoline and magic that TDT really runs on.
Characters, and the relationships between them.
Ronan is the star, and his journey is a compelling one. He has to grapple with the mysterious and heartbreaking legacy left to him by his father. He has to work with his enemy to master powers that neither of them fully understand. And most importantly, he has to learn to accept himself, to love himself, because he is the only person who can save everyone else.
Despite his wealth, Gansey isn't the flashiest character. But there are things about him that are endearing, distinct. Like his habit of chewing on mint leaves. Or his cardboard model of Henrietta. Or his complete acceptance of all his best friends' worst traits. Even his love of that ridiculous Camaro.
And let's not forget Blue. She's so desperate to be one of the guys -- a feeling I can identify with. When you see a tight-knit group of friends like the Raven Boys, it's hard not to want to belong. And she is a vital piece of their puzzle, but they're still trying to figure out exactly where she fits. She wants to go here; Adam wants her there; and Gansey wants her still somewhere else. It's not going to be easy to click her into place, but I suspect when they finally manage it, they'll all be better off.
Speaking of Adam... Poor dear Adam. My heart breaks for this kid. He hasn't had an easy life -- and his pride won't allow him to make it any easier. His stubbornness frustrates me, and his anger worries me. In spite of how tightly he tries to control himself, Adam is a bit of a live wire. (Pun intended, for those of you who have read TDT already!) Though he makes some positive strides, I suspect he's not done sparking problems within the group.
To be honest, Noah doesn't play a huge role in this installment. However, he definitely steals the scene that he shares with Blue. The moment between them is so achingly sweet, it rips your heart in two. I don't quite see how Noah can get a happy ending, but I hope Maggie finds a way to give him one.
Last but not least, I want to mention two "side" characters from TDT.
The Gray Man seems to be a fan favorite, which I think is a testament to Maggie Stiefvater's ability to render characters in their full dimensions. He is a dangerous and violent man -- but he is also a victim -- and potentially also a hero. I like how those layers speak to the idea of identity and choice: We all have the power to determine who we want to be.
Which is a good lesson for Adam to learn...
Kavinsky, on the other hand, is a jerk. Whereas the Gray Man and Adam could be cut from the same cloth, Kavinsky is like the flip side of Ronan's coin. They have so much in common, and yet they are totally different. And though Kavinsky's cavalier and impetuous behavior may seem entertaining at first, I think it becomes pretty clear that people like him are more trouble than they're worth.
And these are just the main players. There's also a whole host of supporting cast who enrich this book even further. (Mainly Blue's family of female psychics, who are bristly, hilarious, and insightful by turns.) Again, I believe it's this complex constellation of characters, and the connections between them, that make up the true "gasoline and magic" of Maggie Stiefvater's work.
Man, I can't wait for Book 3!
Friday, October 18, 2013
Last week, we told you about the Dark Days event at our local independent bookstore, and we introduced the books that were featured: The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, and Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. This week, we’re sharing our interview with these authors, and giving you a chance to win each of these three titles!
I opened by asking what comes first for each writer: character, world, or story. Rae and Mindy both said character without hesitation. Amelia said “For me, on this book, story came first,” but went on to say character usually comes first for her as well. Then I asked them to talk a little about each element.
Character — “My main character actually came from a dream that I had. I watched a documentary called Blue Gold about a fresh water shortage. I have a pond in my backyard, and I had a dream that night that I was teaching a young girl how to handle a rifle to protect our pond. In my dream, the child was very young, eight or nine. I woke and I thought ‘Wow. That’s a ridiculous thought. You shouldn’t give rifles to children.’ But then I thought ‘If someone was eight or nine years old, and you gave them a gun and told them to kill people to protect themselves, what kind of person are they going to grow up to be?’ And that’s where I got my main character.”
World — “My world pretty much built itself, because my world is my backyard. I have a pond in my backyard. The basement is my basement. The street is my street. My world is my world but a little waffled.”
Story — “I don’t plot at all. I just sit down and write. I just fly, truly, by the seat of my pants. I’m a complete, total, 100 percent pantser, and I usually don’t really know what’s going to happen, and I just go with it. The story’s going to tell itself. Before I started writing, I would hear writers talk about characters making their own decisions, things like that, and I was like ‘You’re the writer, you’re in charge, you’re God to these people,’ but you’re not. These people are their own people.”
Character — “I kept seeing a girl with long red hair, who was very lithe and dancerly, jumping through an urban night sky. I have a friend who is very lithe and dancerly, and I think I ended up modeling some of my main character, Anthem Fleet, on her, looks-wise. And I just thought about what a privileged dancer would do if the terrible things that befell her started to befall her.”
World — “My world is New York City. I’m in the heart of Brooklyn, so not as crazy as Manhattan, but still pretty darn packed. At the time that I began writing the book, Occupy Wall Street had just started their campout. The bankers had to walk by them every day, and there were these amazing images. I went down to the encampments as much as I could. I was so into what they were doing, and I was so interested in seeing the signage. They set up a whole library down there. Just seeing someone finally talking about how much some people have and how little everyone else has… it’s this new thing where, in this country, we’re talking about class. So I ended up creating a very divided city with the rich in a small enclave and the poor everywhere else.”
Story — “I was so into the Dark knight franchise, and my story has the feel of a superhero origin story. Those comic book convention are there for a reason. They really work. I have been a pantser, but The Brokenhearted was very carefully outlined. Also, I was terrified of writing a novel, and having the outline there really kept me going. I would finish chapter five, and I would say ‘I can’t do this.’ Actually, I said that until about chapter thiry. But then I would see the outline for chapter six, and I would just start to do it. That really was the guiding force for me.”
Character — “[Alisa came from] jadedness and disgust current societal norms. I was rebelling against some things, like ‘Oh, princesses are always pretty. Well, fine. This one’s not going to be.’ I was just sick and tired of seeing some of the same things over and over again. I have a confrontational nature, so I wanted to do the opposite and see if I could make a sympathetic character out of that.”
World — “I was a social science major in college, so I studied history, economics, government, and I think that was actually a really good foundation for writing high fantasy. In addition to that, I have this insatiable curiosity about everything. I’m the type of person who goes on wikipedia to see what last night’s ratings for my favorite show were, and two hours later, I’ve somehow gone down the wikipedia spiral, and I’m reviewing Moroccan architectural history. Worldbuilding comes from a place of knowledge, knowing not just what you know, but what you don’t know and being curious about the things that you don’t know. If you don’t have a curiosity of about the world and the world you’re writing about, it’s going to be a drag. My advice is always, if you want to be a writer, indulge your curiosity shamelessly.”
Story — “I have a super basic outline in my head — like beginning, middle, end, and a couple touchstone points. Everything else, all the details, I discover as I go.”
Contest: If you would like a chance to win one of these great books, leave us a comment telling us what is most important to you in the books you read: character, world, or story. Winners will be announced on Thanksgiving Day.
Friday, October 11, 2013
On Wednesday, Rae Carson, Amelia Kahaney, and Mindy McGinnis stopped by our local independent bookstore, Joseph Beth, for the last stop on the Dark Days tour. I got to sit down and chat with them, and I had a front row seat at their panel.
Excited to have @WeHeartYA be the official event blogger for the #DarkDays tour stop at @JosephBethCincy!— Pitch Dark Books (@PitchDarkBooks) October 7, 2013
Helloooooo, Cincinnati! Don't tell Columbus, but you seem way more happening. #betrayal #pitchdarkdays— Rae Carson (@raecarson) October 9, 2013
The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy is a high fantasy trilogy in the tradition of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Lots of adventuring, magic, quests, destiny, prophesy, and all that fun stuff. But instead of being like Jon Snow or Aragorn, my protagonist is more like Ugly Betty. She is underestimated at every turn, but she surprises people as the series progresses.” - Rae Carson
The Brokenhearted is an urban superhero story set in a fictional city called Bedlam where a river runs through the middle, dividing the rich from the poor. The protagonist is named Anthem Fleet, and she’s a very privileged high-school girl who is obsessed with ballet and dating the right guy. Then everything quickly falls apart. She falls for a different boy and descends from her highfalutin, privileged existence to go to the south side where things are rougher. The boy is kidnapped and she’s dispatched into a polluted river. When she’s saved from death by a mad scientist woman, she gets a new heart, and the heart has hummingbird DNA. The story is her trying to get her boyfriend back, and trying to understand her new body, and coming to terms with the fact that she’s this freakishly powerful person now.” - Amelia Kahaney
Not a Drop to Drink is about an America thirty to forty years in the future where drinkable water is very rare. (Unfortunately, this is based on a documentary that I watched, so you might want to stock up!) The concept is that if you live in the city and you can afford water, you’ll have a fairly normal life. But most people can’t afford it, so the cities are emptying out. The people who live in the country have either a pond or a hand-dug well and have their own water resources. At the age of nine, my protagonist Lynn’s mother hands her a gun and says, 'You’re going to have to kill to defend the pond.' So she grows up this way, killing to protect their water source, so the two of them can live. Her mother is the only person she’s ever spoken to her entire life until about the age of sixteen or seventeen — she honestly not sure how old she is — and things start to change. She has to figure how to adapt to being human and less of this feral thing she’s been raised to be, and learn how live as opposed to just survive.” - Mindy McGinnis
If you follow us on Twitter, you might have caught our live-tweets from the event. But in case you missed it, here they are again, showcasing the humor and intelligence of these awesome ladies:
"I don't like to base characters on real people. That gets real tricky real quick." @MindyMcGinnis #pitchdarkdays
"I just want to get to a place where kickassedness is more multidimensional without being sexualized." @akahaney #pitchdarkdays
"I sit down and I write. That's pretty much what happens." @MindyMcGinnis when asked about her writing process #pitchdarkdays
"I have two notes on my laptop. One says 'Open the document' and the other says 'It's supposed to be fun.'" @akahaney #pitchdarkdays
Stay tuned next week for more on this event, including an interview with each of these three authors and chance to win signed copies of The Bitter Kingdom, The Brokenhearted, and Not a Drop to Drink!
Friday, October 4, 2013
Happy October, everyone! This week, we are super excited to be spotlighting another wonderful, talented teen...
High school freshman Emily is a soccer goalie, on the robotics team, and in the Latin Club. She loves all things computers and technology, and spends her free time working on projects like building her own desktop computer and organizing mini photography shoots with her friends! But despite her busy schedule, she still finds time to read a little YA...
1. What YA genre(s) are you typically drawn to, and why?
I’m typically drawn to realistic fiction novels. I can easily relate to them and I’ve always been attracted to these kinds of books. While I generally hang around realistic books, I will occasionally get my hands on some science fiction, such as THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner. More and more, I’ve found myself reading science fiction due to its vastness. Within this genre, you have a great range of books--anywhere from modern times with technological advancements to futuristic settings with space age-y gadgets. Despite these characteristics, most authors are still able to make their themes and ideas relatable.
2. What is the most recent YA book you've read, and what did you think of it?
The last young adult book I read was THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky, and in one word I can describe my feelings toward this book: Infinite. (You see, if you’ve read this book, I would hope you might chuckle at my attempted humor there). In other words, I could go on and on about this book; it is absolutely phenomenal. It’s such a unique book in and of itself. Most books of this kind try so hard to mimic the lives of teenagers that they end up over-exaggerating the details and losing sight of the big picture. But Chbosky was dead on; he focused on the big picture and wrote from there, making the story a comfortable read and an overall success in terms of properly relating to teens. The content was extremely accurate of teens' lives today regarding family, high school and (for some) medical struggles. Even if I wrote a one-thousand page essay, I wouldn’t be able to fully describe my love for this book!
3. When deciding whether or not to buy/read a book, what are the things you consider? (covers, blurbs, reviews, etc.)
When it comes to deciding whether or not to read a book, I don’t really have any clue what I’m looking for, to be honest. So I generally look through the recommended books on Amazon and read their synopses until I come across one that interests me. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty open to any type of book, but other than friend recommendations, the book's description is what I most take into consideration.
4. Do you prefer stand-alone books or books that are part of a series?
On the whole, I prefer stand-alone books better than a series of books. It’s not that I don’t enjoy books that are part of a series, it’s simply that two and three books later, the characters tend to grow old. On the contrary, I find it rather upsetting when my favorite books end, because then I’m sitting there wanting more. Then again, all good things must come to an end. I feel that in most cases when an author extends a book into a series, the story and characters get worn out rather quickly, depending on the individual situations.
5. What do you think are the biggest hurdles/struggles that teens face? Do you think the issues portrayed in YA literature are important/realistic/relevant to teens?
I feel like one of the biggest hurdles for teenagers to overcome is growing up in this world full of technology. I feel like social media and texting has added an unbearable amount of drama to our lives. While we greatly enjoy all of our electronics, it makes growing up that much harder. Without technology, bullying might just happen at school, but now it follows you home and you can’t escape it. This is portrayed in some young adult books, but not very often. Most of the time, I see books that address suicide, drug abuse, or other dramatic struggles. It’s not that these aren’t issues many teenagers face; it’s just that they're less common than an issue like social media.
6. Do you read most books in paper edition or digital format? Which do you prefer?
I have a Kindle and I read most of my books on it. However, I often miss paperback books. I love that I can get whatever book whenever I want electronically, but you’re never going to get that papery feel from an e-reader.
7. Do you ever read author blogs/websites/tweets? What do you mostly use the Internet for?
I don’t read any author blogs other than this one. I do, however, have my own anonymous blog that I use mostly to vent my thoughts and ideas without fear of being questioned by my peers. I mostly use the internet for social media, YouTube, and general web browsing.
8. If you enjoy a book, do you actively search for other books by the same author? Do you have a favorite author?
If I enjoy a book, I don’t necessarily look for other books by that author. However, if I happen to come across a book by that author, it definitely catches my eye. I don’t really have a favorite author, just favorite books.
9. Why do you like reading Young Adult books? Do you discuss books with your friends?
I enjoy reading YA books because I feel like I can connect to most of the characters and the situations they face. In some instances, the books even help me through some of my own issues. In other instances, they broaden my view of life. In almost all cases, I find myself discussing these books with my friends.
10. What is your all-time favorite book? Why do you love it?
My all-time favorite book is most definitely THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. Not only am I obsessed with the book, but prior to the finishing it, I purchased the movie and fell in love with the story all over again. Despite the different formats, I am utterly obsessed with the storyline, the characters... absolutely everything. This book has my highest of recommendations.
Thanks so much, Emily, for a fantastic interview and for sharing your thoughts on young adult literature with us!
For the record, all of us WHYA girls were wild about PERKS too. Have any of you read it yet, or seen the movie? What YA book(s) are you obsessed with right now?
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
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