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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Which I Succumb to Peer Pressure

I don’t give into peer pressure easily. My mother always said, “If all of your friends jump off a bridge you, would you?” And I would assure her that, no, of course I wouldn’t and besides I didn’t have any friends who would be dumb enough to toss themselves over a bridge. 

So I was thinking about how sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing. I’ll admit, there have been times in the past when I’ve allowed my arm to be twisted and spent the rest of the day thanking my peers for their relentless pressure. And those are some of the greatest experiences in my life. Besides, my mother did not say, “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge with a cord attached or out of an airplane at 14,000 feet, would you?”

(DISCLAIMER: It usually isn’t a good thing, and most of the time our peers, even if they’re super awesome friends, have terrible, terrible ideas that we should make note of from a safe distance).

Anyhow, I read blog post after blog post about National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those who tire from typing) and got to thinking that sometimes, in select circumstances that do not involve moving vehicles or hair dye, peer pressure can be okay.

I accidentally did the whole write-a-book-in-November thing a couple years ago, which means I wrote a book in November, not realizing it was NaNo, and therefore not enjoying any of the “extras” that come with signing up.

I wasn’t going to do it. Really, I wasn’t. But then I finished this giant revision and sent my WIP out to betas and finished this ginormous deadline at the Day Job and, well, it was like the perfect opening for NaNo.

I thought about it.

Shook my head.

But then all of you, my dear writing friends, started joining and I was feeling ALL THE PRESSURE, which we know I could resist if you were, say, offering me crystal meth but writing? That’s a different story.

So I am doing it. I’ve had the idea for this story in my mind for a while, but it was pushed back into the dusty far reaches as I worked on my WIP and seriously brainstormed what we’ll call WAYWARD WIP on account of its inability to logically work out.

So if you’re doing NaNo, add me as a friend. And if you’re not, don’t you know how peer pressure is meant to work? (Just kidding. It’s not for everyone. Maggie Stiefvater has a great post about why she’s not a NaNo-er.)

Are you doing NaNo? Have you done it before?

P.S. Anyone wanna jump off a bridge with me?
P.P.S. Boo!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Raven Boys: YA Book Club Review

The good thing about reading a book by Maggie Stiefvater is that you pretty much know what you’re getting: lovely writing, gorgeous setting, and this atmosphere or mood that pervades the entire book. The bad thing is that you’ll think much, much less about your own writing. There are plenty of reasons for the latter.

For starters, the writing here is as gorgeous as in The Scorpio Races and the Shiver series. I’m always amazed at how she can describe an everyday thing in such a way that the metaphor is completely new and makes me think, Yes. Yes, that’s exactly how it is.

But probably the aspect I love most is the mood she’s created, right from the start. It’s mysterious and sometimes very somber but also gets at this feeling of being on the cusp of something great—like the feeling you get the night before graduation when all of your friends are gathered and you think this, THIS is a moment I’ll remember.

The initial premise—that Blue Sargent will kill her true love with a kiss, and that this is the year she falls in love—had me thinking the plot centered on romance. Though it’s definitely a part of the story, The Raven Boys is about much more than Blue’s kiss. Through a third-person narrative, we see inside the heads of not only Blue but a couple of the Raven Boys she begins to hang out with. There’s Gansey, who’s obsessed with the supernatural and is on a quest to find an ancient Welsh king. And there’s Adam, who’s obsessed with making his own rags-to-riches story.

That’s a major part of the novel—obsession. Each of the Raven boys, Gansey and Adam plus Ronan, whose father’s death still haunts him, and quiet Noah are all so passionate about the things in their lives that it’s hard not to want with them.

And I should mention here: It’s a large cast. Aside from reading from the point of view of Blue, Gansey, and Adam, we see the story from their Latin teacher’s side, too. And then there are the secondary characters: all of the psychics that live with Blue and her mother. Yet somehow they all have their own very distinct personality.

I loved each and every one of them, some much more than others. There was something about the Raven Boys, though, that really tugged at me and I couldn’t help looking forward to Gansey’s and Adam’s narration. The comraderie between the boys, how they see each other, how they’re so fiercely protective of one another, is incredibly well done.

You’d think that a book centering on a pack of high school boys would be filled with bathroom humor or whatever else 17-year-old boys like (which, as you can probably guess, is way, way out of my domain). But these boys are so broken. I mean, as a reader it’s hard to see them without wanting to take them home and nurture them into being whole. There’s a sort of melancholy feel to the group.

Just as there are a lot of characters, there are a lot of plot lines. They’re so intricately woven (though not all are explained fully by the end, which means I’ll be waiting for the sequel) that it didn’t bog down the story. In fact, each has its own mystery, and though the pace is slower in the way The Scorpio Races or Shiver is slower, it’s not slow in a put-down-the-book way.

And finally, I so loved the little bits of humor dispersed throughout the novel. The story isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but some of the observations and dialog did make me smile.

Take, for instance:
“Her mother had asked Blue if she would go along as usual, but it wasn’t really a question. Blue had always gone; she would go this time. It was not as if she had made plans for St. Mark’s Eve. But she had to be asked. Maura had decided sometime before Blue’s birth that it was barbaric to order children about, and so Blue had grown up surrounded by imperative question marks.

All of this makes for an entertaining, sometimes heart-wrenching, often suspenseful story that I completely loved.

What did you think about The Raven Boys? If you’ve blogged about it, add your link below. (And don’t forget to check everyone else’s reviews, too.) If you haven’t posted a review, hit up the comments with your thoughts on the book. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fun Returns

Oh my gosh, guys, do you remember that time that when Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Alison Miller, and I went all high school flashback on you and developed the Class of 2011 YASuperlatives Blogfest? Remember how so many of you joined us to celebrate the truly great YA novels released that year? Remember how I kept repeating my plea for you to READ CHIME ALREADY BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO CRY TEARS OF LITERARY JOY? *

Well get ready because we’re doing it all again this year. Only this time we’ll be calling it the Class of 2012 YA Superlatives Blogfest on account of the fact that it is no longer 2011. I knew you’d understand.
Here’s what I can tell you:
  • We’ll have a lot of the same fun categories as last year.
  • This year’s blogfest will take place at the end of December.
  • It will probably be cold at that time.
  • Unless you live in Equador.
  • You still have time to read plenty of 2012 releases.
  • This is a good place to look for 2012 books.
  • The blogfest is going to be LEGENDARY.
Here’s what I can’t tell you:
  • The exact dates of the blogfest
  • The exact categories
  • Where to sign up
  • Why time travel is not yet possible
All will be revealed in due time. (Except for the whole time travel thing. I’m still puzzling that out.) For now, have fun browsing last year’s winners (here are mine, Katy’s, Jessica’s, and Alison’s).

Who’s with us?

*Or maybe it will literally make you cry tears of literary joy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Cure for Your Book Cravings: Part II

Hey guys! A quick reminder before I dive into two more book reviews: the YA Book Club will be talking about Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys two weeks from today, October 29. If you want to join in, there’s still time to read.

Okay, moving on. Today I have two more books I think you’ll like. Let’s start by going over which book craving they’ll fill—then get down to business.

You feel like: Mystery, romance, and a fun contemporary
Try: Torched by Andrea Lynn Colt

Rose Whitfield's senior year just went up in smoke. Instead of having a blast with her best friend, her cheerleading squad, and her boyfriend Ryan, she's framed for arson. Popularity and criminal records don't mix, apparently. 
Luckily, Rose knows who's framing her: Paxton Callaway. Paxton and Rose have spent years locked in a war of practical jokes. This time he's gone too far. Rose sets out to prove her innocence, win Ryan back, and take Paxton down hard. 
Not necessarily in that order.
Full disclosure: Andrea is a friend, though I wouldn’t review her book here unless I really liked it. Which I did. (Also, if you buy books based on their authors’ personality, you should totally pick this up since she is so sweet and wonderful and all-around lovely.) But this is a review of Torched, not Andrea. I’ll admit, the biggest reason I picked up this book is because the premise hooked me completely. I mean, a cheerleader who’s suspected of arson and needs to solve the mystery? Yes. Yes, please.

Rose is a fun narrator with a sharp wit. I knew I was going to like this after the first paragraph:
Usually you feel flames before they burn you. You smell them: the post-Homecoming bonfire in the woods, the love letters in a trash can, the cookies forgotten in the oven (which is also what grounded for two weeks smells like, by the way).
The mystery is well done—I had no idea who framed Rose—and loved that Rose realy stood up for herself. But the best part of the story? The love-hate relationship between Rose and her neighbor and arch nemesis Paxton. The two spend most of their time volleying practical jokes, which is why Rose suspects Paxton is behind her recent arrest. That relationship is enjoyable to read, but what I really loved was the slow-building romance between the two. I can’t tell you which kept me flipping pages way past my bedtime: the arsonist mystery or the question of romance. I suspect a little of both.

You feel like: Sci-fi, lush setting, forbidden romance
Try: Origin by Jessica Khoury

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life. 
Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
Origin was another book that hooked me with a one-sentence summary. And on a whole, I really did like the book. But I’ll be honest: For some reason it took me a while to get into the story. (Though most reviews I’ve read have said the opposite.) Even so, the world Khoury created was so vibrant that I wanted to read to the end if for nothing else but to experience the setting longer. It’s one of those books I’ll turn back to when I’m looking for tips on world-building.

Though the romance didn’t grab me, the rest of the plot did. There’s a mystery here—how this immortal girl was created and what evil lurks in these labs—that held my interest to the last page. I like a book that will make me think, and that’s an area where Origin excels. Within this story of a na├»ve, immortal girl learning who she is and what she believes in bigger questions arise: How far is too far? What price are we willing to pay for progress? Are some lives worth more than others?

What have you been reading?