Thursday, March 28, 2013

Badass Books: Just One Day

As promised, here is my review of Gayle Forman's Just One Day, the latest YA Book Club (click the image below for Tracey Neithercott's book club of epic awesomness), two days late. So as soon as this goes up, I'll begin making my rounds to see what everyone else thought! For more reviews/thoughts on this book, click here.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Why I read it: As some of you may remember, I actually don't read a lot of contemporary. This is my second contemporary this year--which is far beyond my typical reading. I think that's why I love YA Book Club, it's introducing me to books I probably wouldn't have otherwise picked up. I actually didn't know a single thing about this book before I started reading it. I'd seen the cover on Tumblr countless times, but that was it. Nothing more. So when Willem leaves (as mentioned above) I had no idea it was coming. I really liked going into it blind.

ZOMG YES: My favorite thing about this story was the side characters. Allyson sort of annoyed me throughout, but she grew, and the woman she grew into was awesome. Still, the secondary characters were the best. Each of them had this endless sort of depth--their own stories, their own novels just waiting to be written. From the ones I didn't like at first (Celine, Kali) to the ones I loved (Dee and Wren FTW!), these side characters really made the novel for me.

The other stand-out part of this book was the voice. Gayle's prose is beautiful, funny, and thoughtful. It reminded me of being 18 and 19 again, and to me that's a success.

Kthxbai: While I did enjoy this book overall, I don't know if I'll pick up Just One Year when it comes out. I probably will, but since Willem and Allyson weren't my favorite characters, I just don't know. While Willem had his own sort of depth to him, I think I want to get through a lot of the other books on my list before I'll revisit him. Still, I felt empowered by Allyson's journey, and that made the read worth it to me.

Have you read Just One Day? What did you think?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

YA Book Club: Just One Day

This is supposed to be a review of Gayle Forman's Just One Day, and in a perfect world (a world in which my job isn't sucking the life out of me), it would be. Unfortunately, I only just started the book Friday. While I could've read it yesterday morning and this morning, I didn't have the drive to stay awake after taking my husband into work and instead crawled back into bed.

But--things are going to change. Not because there is some sort of big change coming, but because they have to change if I'm going to keep being me. I'm only 20,000 into my rewrite, which is well below my average speed. I haven't been reading. The only thing I've really been doing for fun is spending time with said husband (which has been great, by the way), but it's time for a change.

My favorite part about all of this is that none of you judge me for it (even if you've written 40,000 words, read five books, and raised a family this month). I don't have to pretend I finished. I <3 my YA community.

So, I should have a review up by the end of the week, at which time I'll read all the other reviews. I'm enjoying the story too much to read any reviews in the middle of it!

Until then. :)

Check out all the other reviews here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Badass Books: Splintered

I recently finished Splintered by A.G. Howard, the first of my Debut Author Challenge reads, and I both hate and love to say that the rest of the books on my list have a lot to live up to. This book has everything--beautiful prose, stunning images, real characters, magic, fairies, romances, heartache. My word. I'm still reeling.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Why I read It: Debut Author Challenge. I was perusing the list of 2013 YA debuts, and the cover for this book really stuck out to me. Then, when I saw it dealt with Lewis Caroll and Alice Liddell, I knew I wanted to read it. I love when people answer the questions I've always had--why and where did these stories come from.

ZOMG Yes: So much of this book was absolutely perfect. It's going to be hard for me to give it a fair review without at least a few spoilers. While I'll keep the serious ones in white, if you don't want to know anything more about this book than the above summary, then I recommend you go buy it and read it. Leave my review behind.

First, I fell in love with almost every character in this story. Alyssa, Jeb (the love interest), Morpheus (the Darkling-esque other love interest), Rabid White, Grenadine, The Ivory Queen, Gossamer, even Taelor. All of these characters had faults and frustrations, driving me to yell at them and at sometimes hate them. But I also loved them. They're all so real, and that's what I always want when I both read and write. Real characters.

The world building is also phenomenal. The images are striking, haunting. The descriptions and the imaginings are so thought out and perfectly placed. This story is a mix of fantasy and horror and an epic love story all rolled into one.

Spoilery Ponderings: This full section will be in white. But before I put it there, for those of you who haven't yet read the book, I'm so terribly impressed with what Howard did with the love story(ies?) in this book--how she took us through the developments, the feelings, the heartaches, and then the way she ended it blew me out of the water. On to the white text!

Let's talk about the Jeb-Alyssa-Morpheus love triangle. As I reached the last 75 percent of the story, I didn't think there was a way to resolve it that would satisfy me. Part of me (most of me?) wanted Alyssa to stay behind in Wonderland, be the queen, and love Morpheus. Also--there are some spoilers from Shadow and Bone in here. You've been warned.

But I love Jeb too, and Howard did such a damn good job of REALLY making me love him. When I think of characters like Jeb, the first that comes to mind for me is Mal from Shadow and Bone. And while I liked Mal, I didn't love him. He was the good guy, the one who was solid--the best-friend-turned-lover. Jeb, while fitting into this category, is nothing like the others who live here. He's broken and beautiful and dark. This love triangle was never one of light vs. dark, good guy vs. tortured mystery. It was real and true and heart wrenching because both love interests had something to offer Alyssa. Each of them was a part of her. And to choose one over the other? It was to give herself up.

I thought she was going to pick Jeb and leave Morpheus behind. But after she made her wish, and the whole thing with the bandersnatch happened, I didn't know what to thing. My hopes were dashed. And then the end came. Oh glorious day.

I don't know what I think about soul mates or one person loving multiple people, or any of that, but I loved where Howard left this story. She found a way to keep Alyssa true to herself without really giving up any part of what she found on her journey into Wonderland. And that's made all the difference for me.

Kthxbai: This is only the fourth book I've read this year, but so far I have to say it's been my favorite. The way the characters moved me, the way Howard helped Alyssa find herself and then be the beautiful woman she found, has given me not only another author that I will follow and read, but another author to look up to.

Excellent work.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Recharge: Wrap-up

As I mentioned Monday, Sara Biren over at Crow River Writer has been hosting a virtual winter writing retreat this week. While I've failed to post any day except Monday, I haven't been idle. The retreat really inspired me to crack down on my WIP so, I'm going to share a snippet of my work here!

This is the current status of the beginning of my rewrite. Right now I'm calling it Stars and Stripes (a pun, of sorts). We'll see if it sticks.

The faces of the dead watched her from the sky. Their mouths agape, limbs severed, bleeding into the cold February night. Danielle stared back. She held her arms tightly around her chest, her white nightgown thin against her skin. Tears streamed down her face as death played itself out across the stars. She wanted to look away, to blot out the terror so heavy on that dark blue canvas, but it would be a dishonor to the fallen, and she couldn’t bring herself to turn her back on the carnage.

She rested her hands on the window frame and pressed her forehead against the cold glass, keeping her eyes fixed on the stars. Their song roared thick in her ears in minor tones, all melancholy and pain.

Danielle fumbled her hand along the window seat until she reached the black quartz her father had given her for her birthday almost a year ago. He had placed it in her hands, and it was as if something had unlocked inside her. At first the world became all shimmering light, but then that light had settled like dust into lines all around her. 

She wrapped her fingers around the crystal and tore her eyes from the sky. She watched the blackness swirl out of the center of the quartz until it was clear in her hand.

She took a deep breath and looked up. Clouds began to roll in from the west. Still, the star lines glimmered above her, dancing through the window to the air around her face. They made her green eyes, fresh with tears, shine in the night. Danielle embraced the closest line and let its peace fill her.

Too many had died.

“Where?” Danielle whispered into the darkness. The only response was the stars’ hollow song. They never spoke.

Did you participate in this week's retreat? Do you have any work to share? Please post a link in the comments!