Thursday, August 18, 2011

FYA Book Club!

Exciting news for us those of us who are adult readers of YA fiction!  Forever Young Adult, a blog whose recaps of Sweet Valley High and V.C. Andrews books crack me up, has started a book club—an international book club!  And not some online chat or anything like that; they've coordinated actual live groups of like-minded people all over the US and  a few other places, who will meet at approximately the same time to discuss the same book.

The first meeting was a week or so ago (last Wednesday for those of us in Brooklyn), and the book was Beauty Queens by Libba Bray—which I had fortunately already read (twice cause I got so excited about it) so I didn't have to do any extra work.  FYA recapped the first meeting here, and closed it out with a nice quote from my own group's lovely leader, Molly.
And she's totally right.  It was so much fun!  I didn't know what to expect or who would be there, but the ladies were awesome and funny and enthusiastic and full of cool book ideas, and I can't wait for next month's meeting.

The September book is going to be Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, a book I read several months ago and quite enjoyed, and am excited to read again in preparation.  So. I encourage everyone who's interested to go!  The plan is to do it around the second week of each month.  Click here for schedules and to sign up if there's not already one planned for your area.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly!

Well, it's been awhile since I've written anything.  But I just read something that is worth writing about—Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

I remember getting Jennifer Donnelly's first book, A Northern Light, as a Christmas present from my parents.  I had listed it on my amazon wishlist because it was a Printz honoree and therefore a necessary read, but I was not enthusiastic.  It looked so serious and so historical.  When I finally got around to reading it I saw how wrong I was to be reluctant, but somehow I didn't learn my lesson.  I approached this one exactly the same way.  It's thick.  And it's about the French Revolution instead of zombies.  So obviously my feet were dragging.

But one chapter in and I was hooked, even though at first I wanted to hate the snobby Brooklyn Heights characters, in spite of their genuine troubles.  Back when I was new in Brooklyn, the first time I ever wandered around that  neighborhood, I was horrified to see a stretch limo pull up to a brownstone, let out a small school-uniformed boy and then pull away, leaving him alone on the curb.  To think he got driven home from school like that every day—just ugh.

But it's not his fault, and it's not these kids' faults either.  The book is beautifully written and immediately engrossing and made me buy a bunch of classical music on itunes after the first few chapters.  Then the scene changes to Paris, and rich twenty-first-century kids become entwined with accidental participants in the eighteenth-century Revolution.  Catacombs and guillotines and mostly the mystery of what really happened to young Louis-Charles, the imprisoned child king Louis XVII.  Also: archives!  There are a whole bunch of scenes doing research in serious archives, which I imagine is only something you do as a high school student if you go to fancy BK private schools.  I'm not thrilled that the archivist was a cranky old rule-follower—practically a shusher—but still it is always good to teach young people proper research etiquette, and there just aren't enough YA novels doing that.  Bottom line: read it!  Even if you don't particularly like historical fiction.


p.s. Covers often make me cranky, and this one is no exception.  I get that the cover exists to sell the book.  Ok.  But the modern girl on the cover is pretty and wavy-haired and delicate and whatever, and in the book she is heavily pierced, among other things, and much is made of all her clanking metal and bad attitude and such.  She just looks nothing at all like this cover chick.  The paperback is even worse.  What—punk/emo/alterna teens don't sell books??  Given the vast numbers of extremely popular vampire-y looking books out there with their dark moody covers, I don't believe that for a second.  In fact, I bet this one could find a wider, very appreciative audience if the cover were more honest about the book's real contents.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Patrick Ness wins the Carnegie!

Patrick Ness won this year's Carnegie Medal for Monsters of Men!  Am I wrong to think it's the best book of the stupidly-named "Chaos Walking" trilogy?  I read them far enough apart that I might not be remembering right.  Mainly, I just remember the jaw-dropping ending to the first one that left me staring at the book I had just finished in disbelief.  And Manchee, of course, but I can't even talk about that without bursting into tears...  In any event, the previous two books, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer were also shortlisted for the prize in 2009 and 2010, making it the first time that all the books in a series were nominated.

And speaking of Patrick Ness, I just read his latest A Monster Calls
which isn't out yet in the US, but can be purchased from amazon UK if you're not lucky enough to get an advance reader copy.  An entirely different sort of book for Ness, and one that started as fellow Carnegie-medalist Siobhan Dowd's idea for a story she didn't have time to write before she died.  I was expecting just a regular book to show up in the mail, but it is really, really beautiful.  Slightly oversized, thick pages, lavish illustrations.  Don't get an e-book of this one!  (I accidentally made that mistake with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, not realizing it was so full of photographs. After I read it I had to go to the bookstore and sit in the aisle with the real thing, flipping through all the pictures to see them properly.)  So, it's a story a story of a boy so lonely and bullied and so self-loathing that, as his mother is being unsuccessfully treated for cancer, he conjures up a monster.  But not the monster he was expecting.  Seriously lovely and heartbreaking and redemptive.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Walden Award!

You guys, I'm ashamed.  For four years now, there has been an entire YA award out there, given by an organization I used to pay money to belong to, and I had never even heard of it until today.

It turns out that ALAN, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, has something called the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award, and the 2011 winner has just been announced:

 The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Francisco X. Stork (yay!)

And here are the other finalists:

After Ever After, Jordan Sonnenblick
 I Will Save You, Matt de la Peña
Sorta Like a Rock Star, Matthew QuickWolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me, Kristen Chandler

So the criteria for the award is not just good literature, but a book "demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit."  I'm not sure how I feel about that positive approach to life business, but I bet the Wall Street Journal would be happy...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Robopocalypse!

So I just read Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.  Which is not YA, but whatever.  At first I was excited to have a whole new genre to catch up on:  robot uprisings and whatnot.  I can't believe I've been missing out on these my whole life!  It's even better than zombie apocalypsi because the robot thing is probably actually going to happen someday, and debating survival techniques would therefore not be a total waste of time.  Sadly, reading this book didn't leave me informed enough to develop a strategy.  I will have to do more research.  (FYI, my zombie plan: immediate suicide if there's an outbreak.)

So Robopocalypse kind of annoyed me because I was really gearing up for a rollicking sci-fi adventure, and it was pretty awesome for a little while and then I realized it was more than half over and was still just trudging along, one. scene. after. another.  It's done in World War Z-style "oral history" bits. See, this one awesome hero found the robots' archive of war footage, so we get the story told in bits and pieces in a series of different voices, almost all gratingly "dude-ish." So mostly it's brief scenes of rad robot carnage that seem written with a movie script in mind, followed by a paragraph or two provided by our hero narrator attempting to tie the event into the big picture of the war.  Just... lazy writing.  Just go ahead and write a screenplay from the start!  There's no actual need for it be a "novel" first.  Then again, the very last scene?  That cringe-inducingly unnecessary one after it's all over?  Does not bode well for the movie version...


Anyhoo.  I just saw this. Self-driving cars.  And all I can say is noooooo!!  It's just a matter of time before they start running us over.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My kindle is costing me so much money. Also, the internet has changed how I read.  More specifically, google reader has changed how I read.  I follow a bunch of YA blogs and author blogs, and a lot of other sites too—science, politics, feminist, sewing, whatever, and they won't stop mentioning books.  And then, because it's so easy, I decide that I have to read whatever they're talking about right this minute and because it takes approximately 2 seconds to have it downloaded to my kindle, I buy it.

Here's what I got in the last week:

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (thanks to Forever Young Adult.  Their review also helped me come to terms with my adoration of Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, which even though I couldn't stop talking about it, and turned immediately back to page one when I got to the end to read it again, I still felt kinda embarrassed to have loved so much.)


The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser (due to my coworker talking about it, not actually the internet.)

Robopocalypse (Cause of the entire internet in general.)

Plus Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (also a coworker's fault..), Feed by Mira Grant,
The Time Traders by Andre Norton (thanks to weirdo misogynists who say that all books written by women suck and those who disagree.)  And so on!

But then I realized that the library still exists, and it'll take me a minute to read what I've just bought, so I have some time before I need more.  So I loaded up my holds list and now, eventually, I can read for free again.  Fuzzy Nation! Zombies vs. Unicorns! A David Levithan I haven't read yet!  A couple others!


Also, I read Sweet Valley Confidential this week, and it is terrible.  Truly.  Not that that's a shocker, but I mean really.  I can't even.  It took a slightly heroic effort to even finish it.

Onward!

Friday, May 27, 2011

misc. stuff

Ok, this has nothing to do with anything.  But I can't stop thinking about something that happened a few weeks ago, something very inconsequential.  And that was that one afternoon I was walking across 3rd street to the thrift store when I saw a book lying on the ground just outside of someone's gate.  And I almost picked it up because it looked like one of the gazillions of books that people leave on their sidewalks for people to take. 

But!  The book was What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.  In hardcover.  And it wasn't even officially out in stores yet.  Some kid must have dropped it out of their backpack or something, right?  There's no way someone was giving it away.  Maybe? Or maybe it was some librarian-type who gets loads of free books and was done with it..  It really was in a free-book location.  Argh!  Why didn't I grab it and run??!  ..I know I have to just let it go. 

Meanwhile, I've been reading loads of fun things. I'm halfway through Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, which magically downloaded to my kindle a few days ago since I'd pre-ordered it.  Thank goodness I got the ebook version, too, cause I would have a real problem being seen with this cover on the subway.  It's not what it looks like, though, in a very good way. 

And I'm halfway through Neal Shusterman's Everfound, which so far I'm enjoying quite a lot though I can't stand that someone decided to name the series the "Skinjacker Trilogy." It just gives it such a dark feel printed all big on the cover like that.  Why not just the Everlost Trilogy?  Much better match to the tone of the books. 

And!!!!!!  I just picked up my copy of Sweet Valley Confidential from the library.  I was only number 38 on the hold list when it came out, but it seems like I've been waiting forever.  Definitely will be reading that one in the privacy of my own home, though.

Plus I chopped off all my hair and before that visited my nieces and nephews and then did other stuff and generally have had a completely terrific week off work.