Here is a fun game: take all the Blake Nelson books you own (you should own several), step back and admire how distinct the voice of each book's narraHere is a fun game: take all the Blake Nelson books you own (you should own several), step back and admire how distinct the voice of each book's narrator is. I KNOW.
Man, going to Wellington with Andrea Marr was fun. It was just so effortlessly and seamlessly her--it picks up her story right after GIRL without taking a breath. I think my favourite thing about both novels is that Blake Nelson totally gets the endless series of transitions life is. You're here and then you're there and sometimes it's a big deal and it's not, or it's not when it should be, or it should be and it is. I also think there's a lot of power in the idea that yer path in life doesn't have to have a set destination, especially now when there is this weird pressure on people to know exactly what they're doing by the time they're eleven. Another nice idea here: it's okay to let go of the things you thought you wanted, even if you invest a lot of time and energy into them. There's this nice culture of guilt surrounding doing THAT these days too. BUT GUESS WHAT. There shouldn't be! Sometimes that's how it's supposed to be. So. I just loved this. Andrea's voice is so raw and realistic and I love following it.
(Also for books set in the early to mid-nineties they are TIMELESS.)
I feel like so much of what YA has turned out to be (the good parts, obviously) is because of GIRL. Its sequel was wonderful....more
This is just as real and wonderfully written as everyone says it is (dear everyone: you are the reason I picked this book up!). Kirsty Eagar knows aboThis is just as real and wonderfully written as everyone says it is (dear everyone: you are the reason I picked this book up!). Kirsty Eagar knows about healing, how ugly and hard it is and just how far into the hurt you have to go to come out the other side. The way she writes about Carly's pain and anger makes it impossible for you to not understand it. You will. And you'll feel it too. Read this book.
PS if you are like me and tearing out your hair about where to get a copy of this and many other fine Australian YA novels because they are not available in your country, here you go: http://www.fishpondworld.com/...more
I was dreading picking Sweethearts up because then I would be finished all the Sara Zarr books that have been released and have to wait for the next oI was dreading picking Sweethearts up because then I would be finished all the Sara Zarr books that have been released and have to wait for the next one which is not coming out for another 500 years (okay, 2013 but that feels like 500 years to me). Waiting hurts my impatient heart.
This was such a powerful read about the kind of hate fear and silence breeds and the devastating consequences of that kind of hate. At the same time,This was such a powerful read about the kind of hate fear and silence breeds and the devastating consequences of that kind of hate. At the same time, it's an incredibly moving and inspirational read about the nature of forgiveness and having the courage to, as Gandhi said, "be the change you wish to see in the world." The presentation of these flawed and broken--but not hopeless at all--characters and the world they live in was unflinching. Shine is fearless in its portrayal of anger as well as its portrayal of hope, which is a delicate balance but Myracle handles it with such care and tenderness that the end result is, like I said, powerful. Cat is one of my favourite female protagonists in recent memory....more
I love Valve. I love Steam. I love Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal & Portal 2 more than I can say, which is why I bought this! I have nI love Valve. I love Steam. I love Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal & Portal 2 more than I can say, which is why I bought this! I have never played Team Fortress 2 but reading the comic was okay. Obviously, I would have gotten more out of it if I played it. (Maybe I should play it?)
I really enjoyed this. It's very nicely put together! Except I did notice a couple of things in The Sacrifice. First, a typo ('guesing' instead of 'guessing'). Second, The Sacrifice is told in 4 parts and has specific character flashbacks in each one. Each part is broken up by (presumably) a picture of the character whose backstory is being featured EXCEPT. The featured character pictured on the title page of each part is not the character whose backstory is being featured IN that part, which is how it was presented online.
Storytelling/art-wise, The Sacrifice is exactly what I want out of a comic based on one of my all time favourite games. The art is gritty and harsh, lively, fun and vicious at the same time. Zoey didn't look as close to game Zoey as the other characters looked to their game selves, but that's okay. As far as the story itself--well, Left 4 Dead the game is so pitch perfect in its simplicity: kill zombies on your way to safe house, hold out until rescue arrives and listen to fun character banter along the way. The comic preserves the spirit of the game in all the best ways. It's an engaging story. It was nice to get a glimpse of character history as well as follow Bill during his last days. (I especially liked more insight to his falling out with Zoey, since The Sacrifice DLC couldn't touch on it in an in-depth way.)
BUT. I really really REALLY! hope there is a Left 4 Dead 2 comic for future volumes. I enjoy its characters more.
The Team Fortress 2 comic was entertaining and I liked the art but not being familiar with the game I don't think I can comment on it fairly or in a way that makes sense!
The star of this volume is Lab Rat, the comic based on Portal 2. Hands down. God, it's beautiful. I want to buy multiple copies of this book just so I can rip out the pages and frame them. Lab Rat is about Doug Rattman, a schizophrenic employee at Aperture Science who manages to escape GLaDOS's rage. If you've played Portal, he's the dude responsible for the (stunning) hidden and not-hidden graffiti throughout both games. The comic shows us just exactly what his role was in Chell's testing and what happened between the events of Portal and Portal 2.
Can I just say I LOVE PORTAL! It is one of if not THE best game ever. Portal 2 is my favourite and the ending gives me chills every single time, no matter how many times I've played it. The worldbuilding and the characters make me want to think bigger for for my own writing. This year, video games have turned out to be such a huge source of writing inspiration for me (AND THEY ARE ART, ROGER EBERT, THANK YOU) and that makes me so happy. So happy! Anyways, Lab Rat is just as fantastic as the game it's about (which is no small feat as Portal 2 is perfect, PERFECT!). It's so beautifully rendered it brings tears to my eyes. The story and writing are really touching and surprisingly emotional and if you listen to The National's Exile Vilify while you read it, you will probably be complete. Ugh, I love it so much I can't even.
Everything in this volume is good but Lab Rat is the clear winner in my eyes. Flawless, fierce etc.
IN CONCLUSION, if you enjoy these particular Valve games, this graphic novel is probably worth your time. It's a nice way to enhance your gameplay experience if you are into that sort of thing! Which I am!
As usual, I'll say more closer to the release! I got to read an early incarnation of The Rivals a while back and it was exciting. What it has become sAs usual, I'll say more closer to the release! I got to read an early incarnation of The Rivals a while back and it was exciting. What it has become since that early read is even more exciting. It takes a bold, daring writer to establish all the ground rules in Book One (which was The Mockingbirds, which I also loved) and then proceed to DECONSTRUCT EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE OF THEM in the second book. Daisy Whitney is a bold, daring writing. This book is an unraveling of everything you thought you knew about the group, the rules, and the places you might have assumed the original characters were coming from. The way The Mockingbirds and The Rivals complement and yet oppose each other is fascinating from a craft standpoint and brilliant from a storytelling one. You can read The Rivals as a standalone but I would definitely suggest reading them together for the full benefit of the experience.
Another thing I absolutely loved, something that gave additional power to the narrative, was the way Alex dealt with the aftermath of her date rape. I never for a second expected a thoughtful writer like Whitney to brush that aside, but I just wanted to say here the way it was explored and the way it motivated Alex and how she struggled and came to terms with her identity in the wake of something so horrible was handled with such grace. That alone would make the book a must read for me (I'd love to see this in classrooms everywhere). That, plus the themes of vigilante justice, what is right and what is wrong when the victims aren't as clear cut, the shades of grey and double dealing makes me think there's something here for everyone here to chew on and discuss. And this is a book you discuss. And admire. I will be doing both. Loved it. Add it to my best of 2011 book list. I hope it gets lots of attention when it comes out early next year.
It is this inevitable fact of my life that Sara Zarr's profoundly touching and beautifully written novels make me cry little a baby. You will know myIt is this inevitable fact of my life that Sara Zarr's profoundly touching and beautifully written novels make me cry little a baby. You will know my copies of her books by the tear stains all over them. How to Save a Life was no exception. I loved it so much, that is truly all I can say. Also: (cry) ...more
I am not a person who looks too hard for series reads these days with a few exceptions and I often inwardly lament the lost art of the stand alone novI am not a person who looks too hard for series reads these days with a few exceptions and I often inwardly lament the lost art of the stand alone novel. If I do think "I want to read a series!" I like them to be either A) done so I don't have to wait for the next installments or B) CLOSE to done so I have more than one book IN the series to read. Blood Bound, part of the Unbound series, just came out so right there, it breaks all of my rules. It is not done! It has only just begun! Do you know what this means? There are going to be some hard times of waiting ahead for Courtney. But I have decided to make my peace with this because if the sequel delivers what the opener did, any amount of waiting is going to be worth it. Okay, I am kind of lying. It's going to be worth it but I don't want to wait for it at all asdfkljsfads.
The Unbound series takes place in a universe where there are the Skilled and Non-Skilled. A Skilled person can, among other things, be a blood tracker (someone who can track a person by blood so don't get blood anywhere ever), a name tracker (someone who tracks by names--so don't hand out your full legal name to just anyone), a traveller (make sure all the lights are on or a traveller can get in your house via shadow) or a binder. All of these skills scare me but I think binders scare me the most. They can contractually bind you to anyone and then you are compelled to serve that person no matter what. So if the person you are bound to asks you to do something that you don't want to do? You have to do it anyway. If you so much as try to resist, your body will systematically and painfully shut down. Now imagine the person you are bound to is one of the most evil people ever. Yeah. That would suck, huh?
Non-Skilled people can be a Skilled person's target but it's harder out there for the Skilled. The government does not officially recognize the Skilled and two powerful rival crime syndicates in Liv Warren's city use this to their advantage. Ruben Cavazos and Jake Tower use blood and name trackers, travellers, jammers, seers etc to keep their respective empires running and if you work for either of them you don't JUST get to work for them--you will be bound to them.
Liv Warren is a particularly skilled freelance blood tracker with a complicated past and her services are very in demand by Cavazos. The two of them have a unique and disturbing arrangement that has cost Liv everything she holds dear, including the man she loves, Cam Caballero. For the last six years Liv's been alone, hardened and angry until one night Cam reenters her life accompanied by another ghost from the past and they make a request of Liv that is going to change everything.
I'll stop there before I give more away!
This book is GRITTY. I got 23 pages in and I was as uncomfortable as hell because the set-up was just so disturbing--but in a way that was utterly necessary and made the book brutally great. If I had to describe this book in a nutshell, it would be brutally great. The whole concept of being bound just gives me nightmares. It's a form of abuse, obviously. People can be bound into the sex trade, their marriage (which might seem romantic at the time BUT DON'T DO IT), to their jobs, to their friends. Even the stuff that seems relatively innocent can have a huge price. It's a sad, tragic, devastating thing and it is a sad, tragic, devastating thing to witness it first hand through Liv's (and also Cam's, though less frequently) narrative. What it's cost her and who she has become because of it is just suffocating and also makes her incredibly empathetic. I can't hold an iota of Liv's anger against her for everything she's gone through and boy, is she angry. As we know, I love angry female protagonists--more, please!
It's an unsettling and merciless world Vincent has created here. Skilled people are so sought after, are such huge targets, they are forcibly recruited by Tower and Cavazos and that is just about as awful as you can imagine it would be (in case you were wondering why anyone would "agree" to be bound). And the measures Skilled people have to go to to protect themselves from their bosses and their bosses' enemies? Overwhelming.
Also think about this: if you are bound to a job for either Tower or Cavazos, that can limit the things you can reveal to anyone else (or else you will die a horribly painful death from the inside out) even if the entire WORLD is at stake. Also? Forget morals and ethics because being bound trumps them, too. And if someone you love reveals information that you are bound to share--even if that information could jeopardize the person you love--you have to reveal it (see: horribly painful death). Liv and Cam find themselves in some very compromising situations more than once over the course of Blood Bound and it's killer. I wish I could tell you some of the loopholes Vincent thought up so they could communicate the bare minimum with each other because they were so clever. But they were also never easy. The characters really have to work for every break they get. Something I quickly learned is that Vincent seems to refuse to take the easy route with her characters. That is one of my favourite things an author can do.
The interpersonal relationships in this book are deliciously complicated thanks to the world it's set in and I really, really appreciated that. Living a bound existence is just painful. It is emotionally and physically painful. These people have been damaged from what they're compelled to do and are in the process of being damaged and they have NO say in it and it is so heartbreaking. The way Liv negotiates her damage and tries to minimize it is, well, again: heartbreaking. She is constantly navigating situations where she is used/degraded/disrespected and redefining her own personal lines so she can hold onto SOME self worth. And the ferocity with which she and Cam protect the little good in their lives, or the lives of people that are innocent and untouched by this corrupt universe is just--seriously. That they get up each day kinda makes them my fictional heroes.
(I should note that despite the grim picture I paint of this world, Vincent uses humour as the perfect tension relief. Liv's quips were sharp and left me grinning. And the joy she did take in things when she could was also great. There was balance.)
The romance was also earned in this book. (view spoiler)[These two characters have to work so hard to have it and not because they don't know how to love each other, but because they have to figure out how to do it while bound to other people. Liv and Cam's dual narrative really brings this aspect home. (hide spoiler)] This emotional complexity fuels the world Vincent has created and drives the characters in it and it does both fantastically. I have nothing but respect for that.
Also, the plot was highstakes to the nth degree. GREAT twists and GREAT action. I couldn't turn pages fast enough but now I'm sorry that I did because you know. Cue impatiently waiting for Shadow Bound.
Finally, it's not the end of the year, but I'm going to call it: Blood Bound will definitely be on my Best of 2011 List. Which means you should read it. And then we can suffer the wait for the next installment together!
Melissa Walker's Lovestruck Summer is a feel-good favourite book of mine and I was curious to see how small town, good girl, Preacher's daughter LaceyMelissa Walker's Lovestruck Summer is a feel-good favourite book of mine and I was curious to see how small town, good girl, Preacher's daughter Lacey Ann Byer would compare to Quinn, who I adored. Not necessarily fair of me but I was just curious. I loved and believed in Quinn's snarky cynicism and I knew Lacey was going to be pretty much the opposite of that, obviously, so I wondered if I would love her character and believe in her too. Did I? Short answer: yes!
Small Town Sinners is very coming of age. It's about a girl who begins questioning her beliefs after getting one of the biggest roles (Abortion Girl) in her Evangelical church's Hell House--Lacey gets the role because the original Abortion Girl, Tessa, has gotten pregnant. At first she's happy (but of course devastated about Tessa) but as Hell House gets underway she is exposed to a lot of double standards (ie Tessa being talked about while the baby's father seems to walk around with an unscathed reputation) that give her pause. They make her see her father and her community in a whole new light. Add to that mix a new boy in town named Ty who gently challenges her belief system and before long, Lacey realizes the world and her faith is not so black and white as she thought it was and how scary that can be at first.
Melissa Walker writes with a sincerity that invades every single page. The most admirable thing about Small Town Sinners is that she got the execution completely RIGHT. This is the type of book where a lesser writer could make a lot of offensive missteps, but Melissa listens to and understands her characters--every single one of them--and has managed to write a beautiful and heartful story that touches on faith and politics WITHOUT agenda. I made a lot of snap judgments about certain characters and in the end and I have never been more delighted to be proved wrong about them, honestly. My absolute favourite thing about the book was that it wasn't about learning to open your mind to a certain way of thinking (again, it wasn't a book with that kind of agenda) it was a book about learning to open your mind. Reading about Lacey becoming comfortable with the very idea of just asking questions was a really touching thing to witness. There are no cliches here either--everyone is allowed to be human. Even the characters that really made me angry. It was just good, good, good.
As always, Melissa delivers the voice and romance. Lacey was believable and likeable. So was Ty. And their relationship was never predictable but always thought provoking. It was just so refreshing to see two people work hard to understand each other and how that understanding paved way to forgiveness and acceptance in their other relationships. At its core, this is basically a book about learning how to listen to each other and that makes me feel absolutely everyone should read it. Wonderful book....more
If I can say a book was disturbing and gorgeously written chances are it was a great book.
I don't have a whole lot of interest in Charles Manson, to bIf I can say a book was disturbing and gorgeously written chances are it was a great book.
I don't have a whole lot of interest in Charles Manson, to be honest. I mean, I KNEW about him obviously but the last time I can remember making a conscious decision to read about him was when a late night Wikipedia-ing spree (you know how you look up one thing and then you find you've looked up about 80 things that had nothing to do with the original thing you were looking up?) ended up at his page. I haven't gone out of my way to pick up Helter Skelter or anything (although I might, now).
I DO have a whole lot interest in stories about lost characters who fall into extremely dark situations, though! And Mel is, if anything, a lost girl looking to find her way. She meets Henry (who is based on Charles Manson) and joins his Family. Everything that happens after that is pretty hard to read because it's so damn unsettling...
But really amazing too, wow. Micol Ostow knows how to get inside the mind of a broken spirit. Mel's narrative made my heart ache and the imagery and the wordplay was completely captivating and mesmerizing. I mean, I would get super immersed in the visuals Ostow was sharing with me and stop and just have to read back and study how she made that happen with words. There needs to be more YA out there like this. Style without gimmick that makes you question and explore the ways you can communicate stories with people. This made me do so much of that. Props.
I think it can be risky to start a book with a character who is already so shattered but it was the perfect thing to do here. We meet Mel in the middle of such a spiral that even her escape from an unhappy homelife isn't a relief to the reader because we know the worst is yet to come. Her journey is not about reclaiming the girl she was before but finding the possibility of being someone complete on her own terms. I mean it is generally hard to figure out how to be complete for the every day person with the usual odds to overcome but do you know how hard that is when you've had a horrible past and also joined a murderous cult? I was like how is Micol Ostow going to wrap this up? It's got to be impossible! But it wasn't. It was beautiful. The way she did it, well. I cried. It was perfect.
Family is disturbing. Family is gorgeously written. Family is a great book.
PS Cults, man. I have decided I need to read more YAs with cults in them. (Open to recs!)...more
The Vespertine has been on my shelves for the longest time, waiting for the perfect time for me to crack it open (revisions why are you always so up iThe Vespertine has been on my shelves for the longest time, waiting for the perfect time for me to crack it open (revisions why are you always so up in my reading time?). I LOVED Saundra Mitchell's debut, Shadowed Summer. It was one of the most atmospheric and tender, sweet and creepy ghost stories I've read. It had this complete understanding of the strange coziness one expects from Tales of Hauntings without underplaying the genuinely terrifying aspects of being haunted. I couldn't wait to see how she'd bring 1889 Baltimore alive because I knew that she would--and she did. Okay, I have never lived in 1889 Balitmore but I could picture this. I could see it, hear it, smell it etc. Seriously, the woman nails setting. She also nails character, romance and plot so... you know. Bonus!
The book follows Amelia van den Broek. She's in Baltimore, living with her cousin (who becomes her closest friend) Zora, hoping to land a husband, which was everything in those days. The guy that catches her eye, Nathaniel, is pretty much exactly the opposite of a suitable husband. He's an artist hired by families to be a 14th so the number of people at a party isn't unlucky 13. Amelia and Nathaniel have a pretty electrifying connection. Also did I mention that Amelia can see glimpses of the future in the sunset? Also did I mention that when the book starts she is ruined and her levels of sanity are questionable and you have to read on to find out why? And also did I mention that I am terrible at summarizing books that I love? I am terrible at it. I need to let GoodReads summaries speak for themselves and just talk about why I like what I like. I'll do that now!
OKAY so. I have a hard time with historical romance/fiction etc and I don't know why because I like the setting and I like the romance but reading it is hard for me. I will watch the heck out of a movie based on a Jane Austen book but when I try to read Jane Austen it is such a slow process. pleasedon'tjudgeme. I can DO it. I ENJOY it. But I've only managed to finish Sense & Sensibility despite starting ALL OF HER BOOKS because for some reason the tone and style just feels thick like honey to me. I read the words slowly. They move slowly through my brain. I process them slowly. I visualize what is being presented to me slowly. Sometimes it feels like an endurance contest and I take full responsibility for it. It's not the books, it's my BRAIN. So all my trust in Mitchell's storytelling abilities aside, I was a little scared going into The Vespertine. Which means I am glad to tell you it was a needless fear because I devoured The Vespertine SO quickly. And I enjoyed it so much. Here are some reasons why:
The language. It's period appropriate but it's accessible so I never stumbled over it, which is a big deal for this brain (see I had to tell you all that stuff about my brain to give this portion of my thoughts maximum impact). Also it's beautiful without being showy. It speaks for itself. Mitchell has a great command of it. She's not afraid to let it tell her story and be understood and for that I am clapping powerfully in front of my laptop right now, just thought you should know.
Atmosphere. The woman has it covered. That's all I have to say.
The realism. Maybe a funny thing to say about a book that is about a girl who can see the future? And is in love with a boy who harnesses magic in his own unique way? But Saundra Mitchell tempers it beautifully with her knowledge of the period. The way Amelia internalizes her abilities, the way society reacts to it, the lines she knows she can't cross--the whole presentation is just perfect. And it complements the opening so well (you know Amelia's ruined but she'll tell you more about that later... is she supernatural or insane?). Mitchell has to play in the confines of a time that courts the supernatural but also has an incredible fear of it. Everyone's reactions and interest in it were spot on. I love how outwardly, it was all parlour tricks and games but as soon as Amelia was sharing her visions with those interested, everyone was holding their breath. Just the charge in the air.
Speaking of charges--THE ROMANCE! I love how the (literal) magic between Nathaniel and Amelia drew them together. They had definite chemistry and I was like... okay, I may have flipped ahead pages just to see how long before the next Nathaniel appearance. No shame! The best part was to me, I think that Amelia and Nathaniel each hoped the other would offer a better understanding of what was happening to them. I feel in the end they realized they are two pieces of a larger picture here and I can't wait to see how they fit into it in later books but for now the two of them fit, together, with each other. Love that.
Ruination and insanity! This book made me so anxious. It was so suspenseful! I do not know how women survived the stress of being WOMEN back then. So many ways you could lose everything. Just boggles my mind. The anxiety infused in the text, the risks Amelia was taking, knowing where she ended up at the beginning and having to follow her to the Terrible Event was just aaah kept me turning pages so good but also made the biggest knot in my stomach. And it wasn't just Nathaniel not being Proper Husband Material, but the risk of her even HAVING visions. It's easy to tell a girl interested in your visions she's going to live a long life and end up happily married but when the exact opposite is the prophecy you're dealing with? What do you do? That alone could put you on the outs. The girl was just walking a minefield and Mitchell never took the easy way out with that. Respect.
Also: take the jacket off this book and appreciate what Harcourt did there....more
I love Lisa Schroeder's style. It's gentle and heartfelt, never cloying, and works its way right into your bones. I felt this when I read Chasing BrooI love Lisa Schroeder's style. It's gentle and heartfelt, never cloying, and works its way right into your bones. I felt this when I read Chasing Brooklyn and I felt it again reading The Day Before and when I closed both books, I was very satisfied. In The Day Before, we follow Amber, who has orchestrated an entire day for herself. She's on the brink of some big changes and she needs a temporary escape. Some time to herself without limits. So she sneaks out of her house, hires a limo to take herself to the beach and lets everything go. There, she meets Cade, who is on a similar quest. There's an undeniable chemistry between them and both decide to spend the day together without asking questions about why they're there. But as they grow closer, Cade's secret threatens to overwhelm him and Amber has to find a way to open him up. The turmoil in his life just might help her find a new way of looking at hers...
So this was another great book from Lisa Schroeder, JUST SO YOU KNOW. The best part about Lisa's style is it's not gentle at the expense of confrontation--it's still willing to shine light into dark places and it does so in an accessible, thoughtful way. Chasing Brooklyn explored death, depression and moving on. The Day Before is about loss of control, choice and perspective. I loved the approach here because as I read I REALLY wanted Amber's external situation to change as badly as she did but as the book went on I realized that's not what it's about. It's about something more important than 11th hour fairy godmother granted wishes. It's about this: sometimes life will throw a curveball at you and you just gotta stand there and let yourself get hit in the face with it--which SUCKS! But it's also inevitable. At times you will find yourself powerless to change a situation you are in. That's a scary thing to consider. But the best thing about The Day Before is it shows you that while you might not have power over a certain situation you have power over how you choose to handle it. That's so important, and I really liked the mutual coming-to-terms both Amber and Cade came to with their respective issues and how their issues complemented one another but never felt too coincidental.
As for the romance? Aw yeah. It was very tender and sweet and realistic. Sometimes the perfect person comes along at the not-so-perfect-perfect moment and opens up your world a little more and that was captured beautifully in this text. The Day Before is a novel in verse. I appreciate these the more I read them, to be honest. Not only are they great for reluctant readers (and every reader), as a writer, I find them awesome examples of the possibility of WORDS. Lisa is at the top of her game, in my opinion. Pick it up! Meanwhile, I'm so glad for this book because I know just the readers I can recommend it to....more