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!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where is your favorite place to write?

Kristan: Argh sorry I can't pick just one!

I really like writing at home, which is good because that's where I am the most. It's just comfortable, you know?

I also tend to get a lot done at airports and on planes, because other than boarding at the right time, there are almost no other demands on my energy or attention.

And then of course there's the strange appeal of writing in a totally unfamiliar and unexpected place. Like at a little café in small town Ireland, or on a subway in NYC. I get stimulated by my own isolation, my own foreign-ness in those situations. It's easy to slip into a world of my own making when I'm already someplace I don't really know.

Sarah: I get the most writing done when I'm sitting at a desk (I've moved mine around from the kitchen, the living room, dining room and my bedroom and now I don't have room for it anywhere) but my favourite place to write is when lounging on the couch. I'm so lazy!!

Stephanie: I love writing in coffee shops and dark work cubicles at the back of the library. It has to be quiet but not silent. I love writing in a place that makes me feel like a writer.

Ingrid: Usually I write at my desk in my office, but sometimes I'll bring my laptop to other rooms in my house... the living room in front of the fireplace, snuggled in bed, or the deck in the summertime. Overall I prefer to write at home rather than at a cafe or coffee shop, although I do venture out when I'm in a rut.

What about you? What is your favorite place to write?
Friday, December 5, 2014
Last time that I posted, I discussed my new position as a school librarian and how suprised-but-not-surprised I have been at the trickly amounts of books being taken out and read. Starting next week, I have a book club organised with four students. More will come, I know, because they will smell the biscuits (okay, I'm turning British) and stay for the awesome. But there are students who wouldn't dream of turning up...and, fortunately for them, I am a sneaky sneak.

For the Mysterio who reads manga each and every lunchtime--who makes a beeline for the understocked shelf--I give thee ATTACK ON TITAN.


For the Wanderers--who are bored out of their exasperated minds--I bring you AMAZEBALLS...

[Hipster says: "I like your new shelf."
Cloudy Glasses says: "Is that an American thing?"
Hipster says: "Not really, Amazeballs is everywhere."]







For the Gentleman--who borrows and returns CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS each and every week--okay, you can read it again. If you have to.


And for the Undecided reader--who shakes his head 'nope' as I guide him through the science and nature magazines, the sport books, the Thrillers, Tolkien, newspapers, Guinness records, the new fiction titles, even the display of books that have been turned into movies!--fortunately, for you, there's always The Gaiman.

["Know him?" I ask.
*shakes his head*
"Wrote an episode of Dr. Who...has some other books out...there's illustrations inside...it's funny."
"Cool."]


Yeah, he is.
Yeah, you are.
Welcome to the Library.


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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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