Friday, January 25, 2013

Badass Books: The Fault in Our Stars

Written last night on a plane:

I just finished The Fault in Our Stars, and I’m still crying. Remember what I said about This Is Not A Test? That whole being broken in the best possible way thing? This book broke me. It broke me and broke me and broke me. The sad parts, the happy parts, the funny parts. I have cried more in the past four days than I have in a very, very long time.

I think I cried the hardest at the Red Wheel Barrow. Though, Prufroc was a close runner up.

I don’t read much contemporary YA. I’ve never read anything by John Green. I bought The Fault in Our Stars last October. And it sat on my Kindle. I tried to start it, but then I didn’t. I waited. But you know what? It was worth the wait.

You know those few things in this world that are able to slowly chisel their way into the core of who you are, what you know, and all those things you’ve always feared but never really admitted to yourself except late at night after too many drinks and recollections of your own tragedies? The Fault in Our Stars has become one of those things for me.

I could give you a general book review. I could even use the format for all of my reviews, but I’m still putting the pieces of my heart and my mind and my soul back together, and I just don’t think a few categories and their related colons could possibly do this book justice. In the words of Augustus Waters, “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

I’m looking for the words, digging for them, reaching and reaching and reaching. But they won’t come. Every time I try to find them, my eyes well up again. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not the sadness of a story dealing with cancer—not to minimize cancer. That’s not what I’m trying to do or say at all. It’s just that this isn’t a story about cancer or disease or dying in the same way that our lives aren’t stories about working or dreaming or loving. They are all of these things and more. But they are this only because we are—in the existential way.

I think that’s why this book broke me open.

I think that’s why I’m sitting here on an airplane next to a co-worker and a client with a half-empty pack of tissues and mascara-streaked cheeks.

These characters were real in the most beautiful way that anything can be real. The love and the tragedy and the joys and the poems and the snarky teenage jokes and the thoughts on death and oblivion and scars and the recitation of poetry and the beauty of friendship and the sweet, slow, marvelous yet all-at-once falling in love and yes, even the cancer, have gripped me, and I don’t think they’ll be letting go for a very, very long time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Badass Books: The Raven Boys

So I've basically been promising this review since November. Sorry it's taken so long to get up. You know how it is--NaNoWriMo, the holidays, work. I've been in Las Vegas this week at a trade show for work, so I knocked the review out on the flight over.

Summary (from Maggie Stiefvater’s website)

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

(Spoilers in white—as always)

Why I read it: Last fall, the YA Book Club selected The Raven Boys as one of their novels of choice. Somehow (probably due to simply not paying attention, or maybe because at the time I rarely clicked links in blog posts), I missed that the book club existed. But then almost all of my blogging friends started posting reviews on The Raven Boys. They raved about it (get it? raved?). So I read it.

ZOMG Yes: Seriously? This entire book. The characters all feel incredibly deep, like they have wells upon wells of backstory. And, as the story progresses, you learn that it’s not just a feeling. There are some characters’ whose backstory shocked me. Twists that I didn’t see coming. Oh man. You know—the whole Noah thing.Blew my freaking mind.

Then there’s Blue. Blue is so real and beautiful. She’s smart and practical—as practical as a psychic’s daughter can be, I guess. Which is another thing I loved about this story. The whole psychic element just felt natural. It was a part of Blue’s life. It was a part of the story. It wasn’t forced. And that makes for good story telling.

Then there’s the raven boys themselves. I loved these boys. Their relationships had all sorts of depth to them as well. Everything about these boys drew me in. From their relationships with each other to the way they pursue Gansey’s quest to how the welcome Blue in, no questions asked. I loved it.

And then there’s the love triangle, which doesn’t exist yet, but we all know it’s coming. I still don’t know which side I land on, and I think that’s a testament to how wonderful this story is. You know, unless Blue ends up going psychotic and just kills Gansey.

And of course, perhaps the biggest ZOMG yes other than the whole Noah thing that, like I said, I didn’t see coming at all (I typically pride myself on foresight), was the end. With Chainsaw. And his origin.I mean, seriously? I didn't even think to think about that. Well played, Maggie Stiefvater. Well played.

Kthxbai: If you have any interest in fantasy at all, you really need to read this book.  Even if fantasy isn’t your thing, you should still read this book because the contemporary aspects of it are phenomenal.

This may have been my favorite book of 2012. It’s that badass. Five chiweenies to Maggie Stiefvater.

Also, just a quick plug. If you haven't read in Incarnate yet--go do that. Asunder comes out on January 29!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Making the Plunge: Debut Author Challenge

Alright, I've done it. I've selected my 12 books for the Debut Author Challenge, hosted by Hobitsies. In case you haven't heard of it (which I'm pretty sure all of you, my lovely readers and friends, have), participants have to read and review 12 books by 2013 debut authors to both help those authors get exposure and help other readers find their books! You'll be happy to see that I included at least one contemporary on this list.

Sounds pretty awesome to me. Sounds like something I'd want YA readers/writers/bloggers to do when I finally have a debut. Also, these books look fabulous.

And here they are, my picks for 2013!

Altered, Jennifer Rush, Jan. 1
Splintered, A.G. Howard, Jan. 1
Review Here
Prophecy, Ellen Oh, Jan. 2
Broken, A.E. Rought, Jan. 8
Nobody But Us, Kristin Halbrook, Jan. 29
Review here.
The Madman's Daughter, Megan Shepherd,  Jan. 29
Review here.
All Our Yesterdays
Review here.

And there you have it! I know a few of you are participating. Please put a link in the comments if you are so I can compare our lists. :) Maybe we can even work out reading them around the same time!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Badass Books: Something Strange and Deadly

So, this review is a long time coming. As in, I read the book in September. I was finishing up final edits on the manuscript I'm currently querying, and I got to thinking about what I'd write while submitting. Somehow, I got this idea to write a fantasy set in the Civil War. And I thought, how in the heck do I do a historical with a young adult voice?

Enter: Something Strange and Deadly (maybe it's technically steam punk, but the historical aspects are so well done that it was a perfect choice)

Summary (from Susan Dennard's website):

The year is 1876 and Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

(Spoilers in white)

Why I read it: As explained above, I wanted to see how someone put a 19th century novel into a young adult voice, and let me say, Dennard does it expertly. We rarely see any part of this span of one hundred years from a teenager's perspective. Dennard weaves the history of this time (at least what I remember of it from school) with the voice and societal role of a teenage girl.

ZOMG Yes! The Dead. If you've read the book, then that's probably enough said right there. I love where Dennard pulls them from and how she ties them to New Orleans voodoo. It's brilliant really. When I first saw this, I thought ZOMBIE NOVEL YES PLEASE (please do read that in a yelling voice). This is unlike any zombie story I've ever read. It's really not zombies at all. It's magics! And I love magics.

The relationships Eleanor forges in this story are also so very rich. They take into account the gender roles of the time, which makes them all the more interesting. And each character in those relationships seems to have a very thought out underlying depth to them.

Also--the end! When that whole thing happens with the necromancer and the spirit, oh my oh my.

Meh First, I want to say that I'm thinking about getting rid of this portion of my review. Not every book has something that's "meh"-worthy, and I don't like that I've set it up to suggest they do. I didn't have any real meh's to this book at all. I'd like to have gotten to know Allison a little better, see some more depth. But that's not really a meh. It's more of a hmmm.

I heard a few people who just couldn't get into this story, but I say it's super bad ass! Go read it. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So this is the New Year

Like all of us, I've been thinking a lot about the past year. It's been a big one. A year of firsts. A year with little news, but lots of growth. And I think, after a lot of thinking and journaling and breathing, that I'm okay with that.

For the first time, I finished a novel I was proud of. I'd done one other novel, but it didn't get the point A TEAR BETWEEN WORLDS got to. I never revised it. Never re-wrote it. Never cried and ached and laughed over it. In 2012, I did it.

I queried.

I got rejected.

I got requests.

I got more rejections.

And I'm still querying.

It's been hard. When people didn't believe in my book, I started to lose faith in it. I started to say, maybe this isn't the one. Maybe I only wrote it for me. Maybe next year. Maybe this next one I've started on will get me where I want to be.

And you know what? Maybe all of that will end up being true, but I don't think it's what matters.

I write because it's part of who I am. I love stories. I want to tell them. I want them to be real. Hell, I want me to be real. That's what I want for 2013. To keep writing even when it gets discouraging. To keep telling stories and getting to know characters who force me to face my own fears and doubts and questions. To keep believing in myself.

My NaNo project has been on the shelf since the end of November. Last month was a whirlwind, with no time to write. But now that January is here, I've begun the research I probably should have completed before NaNo, and I'm really excited about where this book can go.

So I think for 2013, I won't have goals or resolutions. I think I'll just keep being me. I'll keep writing. I'll keep blogging. I'll keep living. And I won't lose faith in myself (at least not for more than a week at a time).

You guys are the best. I hope 2013 is a year of growing and stretching and breathing. I hope it's real for you.