The Liebster Award

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Thanks for the nomination from Life of a Bookworm

Here are my answers to your questions:

How long does it take you to finish a great book? When I read a great book, I become obsessed, which means I read every spare second I can. But, I can never rush something I’m really enjoying. Sometimes I even like to read certain pages over and over again. So, that all being said, the answer to that question is…as long as I need!

What do you think makes a wonderful book? Number one, the characters. Number two, the prose writing.

What is your favourite book series and why? At the moment, it’s Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series. But, at different times throughout my reading, it’s been Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy, or, of course, Harry Potter!

How did you come to love reading? For my birthday one year (probably around age 9 or 10) my sisters bought me The Great Gilly Hopkins and Charlotte’s Web – two favorites from my childhood. I’ve been hooked since then.

What inspired you to create your book blog? I have pretty strong opinions about what I read, and I thought I could share my passions with others!

What is your least favourite book and why? I could never choose! Everything has something to share!

Favourite childhood book? The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Which fictional character would be your best friend? Peeta Mellark.

Where do you love to read? The subway. It’s great for tuning out all the background noise.

Do you read one book at a time or several? One.

Do you like to keep your books clean or are they destroyed by the time you’ve finished reading it? Clean!

 

I do believe the rules are, I nominate 11 people and ask them 11 questions. In lieu of my being new to the whole blogging thing, I’m actually going to cheat and only nominate the people who liked my most recent blogpost:

Alexandrapub

Amanda

Eye-Dancers

Fangirl

And here are my questions:

Why do you read YA?

Do you like to write?

What makes you decide to read a specific book?

Do you have a favorite book of all time?

Do you prefer series or single novels?

When you like an author, do you tend to read all of his/her work?

Are you in a book club, or would you like to be?

Do you/did you study English or writing in school, or is it strictly a hobby?

When you read a book, do you take into account the publisher of the book?

If you could go to one character’s fictional world, whose would it be?

If you could be one character for a day, who would it be and why?

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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In my junior year of college, I took a class on fairy tales that managed to open to me this whole new world of fantasy stories and adaptations. Since then, I’ve been hooked on every fairy tale spin-off I could find, from the paperback compilation My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me to the Bartok opera Bluebeard’s Castle

And the first installment of Marissa Meyer‘s delightful YA series The Lunar Chronicles is certainly no exception.

My best friend (whom you should follow here), who jumped on the Cinder bandwagon much earlier than I (the book was published in January of 2013), swears that she told me about her obsession with the series ages ago. On her account, she explained the plot – a Cinderella adaptation with a half human, half robot – to our other best friend and me, and the two of us laughed and dismissed the concept. I promise, I have no recollection of this occurrence.

In any event, this post World War IV (godda love the post-apocalyptic/dystopian government element) is equipped with humans, android handymen, and cyborgs, or crosses between humans and androids. Cinder is a teenage cyborg whose stepmother forced her to make the family money by laboring as New Beijing’s most capable mechanic. (Get it? Because she’s still dirty all the time, like Cinderella was, but this time it’s mechanic’s grease and dust doing the job instead of the mansion’s dust bunnies.) Because her services are so incomparable, she finds a worthy client in the handsome, young, kind, smiling prince who – let’s face it – is the very-perfect interest.

There’s also a power-hungry queen (whose story will be told in a prequel series coming in 2015), a corrupted kingdom, a missing heir to the throne, and the loss of Cinder’s…well, you get the idea.

I had few qualms, the most notable being the novel’s major twist. No matter how much I read, I can never predict these twists, with the notable exception of Fight Club, which no one saw coming, and I strangely predicted in the first five pages; but other books’ plots? I didn’t even have a clue as to what the first horcrux could be. (And don’t even get me started on the mysterious R.A.B.; I was more lost than Harry, and I didn’t have the stress of the whole pending-wizard-going-to-kill-you thing.) But, when it came to Cinder‘s twist, I called it. It didn’t ruin, not even spoil, the novel for me; but I saw it.

Amazon promises this novel is for grade level 7 and up. I don’t know if I’d go that far; it’s not too complex, but it’s a for-sure page turner, albeit wonderfully guilty pleasure. It’s certainly rated G; maybe that’s the basis of Amazon’s rankings? Nonetheless, Meyer does an excellent job on maintaining excitement throughout an already well-known tale. We know there’s a prince. We know there’s a ball. We know there’s a shoe. But she also adds her own exciting elements that create their own intrigue, and even unexpectedness; the fairy godmother-magic pumpkin adaptations were done exceptionally well.

I certainly cannot wait to start the second installment…which evidently introduces new fairy tale heroines???

Little, Brown Children’s Book Editors Talk to Dogwood

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Little, Brown Children’s Book Editors Talk to Dogwood

Almost a year ago now, when I was Managing Editor at Dogwood, I interviewed two Children’s/YA book editors at Little, Brown. Check it out!

Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose

by Maria Mazzaro, Dogwood Managing Editor 

“There’s a fine line between cannibalizing your own sales and putting out two things that are very similar and realizing that readers will read it all.” Leslie Shumate, Editorial Assistant at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, shared this insight with me after I asked her about the Twilight phenomenon.

It’s a precarious situation, she and Connie Hsu, Editor at Little, Brown, explained. After Little, Brown enjoyed the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, the house wholeheartedly rejected any submissions that had a werewolf or a vampire, or even an Edward-Jacob love triangle dynamic.

“I think we learned something twofold,” Hsu admitted, acknowledging that the reading community—teen and adults alike—soon found itself in the midst of a vampire craze.  “It was a learning moment where we learned that teens, when they’re done with that one series, are hungry for more.”

So would…

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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I’ve gone ahead and subtitled the first installment in the All Souls Trilogy “The Adult Twilight.”

And who doesn’t want an adult Twilight? It was the greatest streamline enjoyment for YAs (and greatest guilty pleasure for non-YAs) of its time, what with its vampire – forbidden love – love triangle trifecta. And an adult version of that would just, you know, take our leads out of high school and make them slightly less post-pubescent and grammatically incorrect.

A Discovery of Witches may not have a love triangle (at least not in this first installment), but it does have a beautiful vampire and his non-vampire love interest. Diana (the non-vamp) is not a human, but a witch who had forgone her powers in her youth because of her parents’ mysterious death. Little does she know, there is a reason she can’t easily summon up her witching powers—and her beautiful vampire can help her find out why.

Let me say, to begin, that this is worth the read. It’s characters are lovable yet fallible — this is a quibble I have with an array of young adult novels. Characters can still seem perfect to their love interests if they have flaws! Sure, Matthew is a vampire. He is insanely handsome, uncannily intelligent, perfectly graceful and suave — but he also is roughly over-protective, secretive, and controlling. Despite this, Diana loves him. (And so do I.)

It’s also got originality — yes, it’s the adult Twilight, but it’s also got a mind of its own. And so does Diana’s house (have a mind of its own, I mean).  It makes up rooms when it wants, locks doors when people want to be alone, shelters old ghosts and ancestors, throws houseguests across the room when it’s mad, and hides knitting from the knitter. It’s like the changing staircases at Hogwarts, only better.

In the quibbles, department, this novel is long and it feels long. I’m all for 600-pagers (who didn’t love Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?), but there were times where this one could have used some edits. Sometimes, it’s a novel. Sometimes, it’s a college history lecture. (Author Deborah Harkness is currently a professor of history at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She’s brilliant, and it shows. But I graduated college. I figure most of the readers have too.) Continuing with minute particulars, Diana might be narcoleptic – she’s always falling asleep. And it’s convenient that Matthew happens to have been on a nickname basis with every famous historical figure throughout history, from Shakespeare to Washington. I’m sure he was also best friends with John Lennon, though he doesn’t seem to mention that in the first book. Later in the series, perhaps?

But, all in all, this novel is definitely going places. There are basically three major plots fueling the story: Diana’s trying to summon her witching powers, a mysterious manuscript that everyone wants, and the creatures who are trying to break up the witch-vampire romance. I’ll admit, I’m going to wait before going straight into the second book – I need to break for a book that’s just a little less smart – but read it I shall. 

GoT (A Song of Ice and Fire) Update

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This is my best friend. She’s a reader/writer/Oxford comma-lover too.

I’m reblogging because I am having the SAME EXACT problem with a book I’m currently reading: A Discovery of Witches. #BestFriendTelepathy

I won’t give up either. I promise…

AlexandraPub

Well this is the first post about it. So it isn’t an update. 

I started reading A Game of Thrones and I love it. (LOVE) But…

Here’s the real issue. There is a lot going on and some chapters are slower than others. Leave me with Daenerys Targaryen for a little while longer please! Not that I don’t love Jon and Arya, but when I am stuck with Sansa and Catelyn and Eddard for too long I get bored. A summer of Young Adult novels has warped my brain. And I just bought ten more (YA novels). But not to worry! I have not given up! I know that there is so much greatness to come that I would never dare. 

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The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare

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For a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to adequately express to others how this is the best YA series that I’ve read in a very long time. This is what I’ve come up with:

“This is the best YA series that I’ve read in a very long time.”

Cassandra Clare quickly grabbed my interested within the first hundred pages of New York Times bestselling novel City of Bones, the first book in her Mortal Instruments series (more to come on this later). So when I finished the first five of those six books, and before the sixth book was released in late May, I decided to take up The Infernal Devices.

For a week and a half, I didn’t prep for my new job, I justified to myself why I had to stay up until ridiculous hours when only me and my Nook were awake, and I avoided making plans, just so that I wouldn’t have to stop reading. Pathetic? Well, that’s a different story for a different day. But the bottom line is this: Infernal Devices is addicting.

The three-book series incepts as Tessa Gray arrives in England from her home in 19th century America while her soon-to-be Shadowhunter (demon-slaying and peace-keeping) friends battle demons on the streets of London. Tessa is supposed to be meeting her brother, her only living relation; whom she meets is actually the Dark Sisters…and that’s where all the drama begins. Tessa discovers she has powers at the hands of the Dark Sisters, who, despite cultivating her powers, are horrible people. Tessa then must escape and find refuge in London’s Institute. And this is all in the first fifty pages.

What follows is a search to and from the Magister (who plots to capture Tessa), a dysfunctional family dynamic revealed, and, of course, a love story.

The love story begins in typical YA fashion: Tessa meets Will, an obvious romantic interest; then Jem, another great guy (or, in this case, Shadowhunter) appears on the scene, and a love triangle ensues. But this triangle, for sure, is unique in its approach, development, and conclusion (definitely conclusion!); in this matter of Tessa’s heart, I can assure you, there is no obvious choice. And, looking ahead to the series’ finale, there is no disappointment. I promise.

Did I mention I am obsessed with Cassandra Clare?

She doesn’t assume ignorance of her readers, which is perhaps her strongest quality as a writer. She imagines and develops complex plots, characters, other-worldly powers, and intriguing creatures, and does not assume, as YA readers, that we need to be re-capped to, or dumbed-down for. She gets that her readers are actual YAs alongside some As who wish they were still Ys too. It’s a delicate balance, but she strikes it.

In terms of logistics, here’s what I suggest: read the first three books of The Mortal Instruments series. (While The Infernal Devices is a “prequel” in time, you’ll want to have The Mortal Instruments background first, and the first three of these books come to a decent stopping point.) Then, break Mortal Instruments for Infernal, and read all three. Give a good sad cry, good cry, everything cry, and then read the last three Mortal Instruments books. This is probably the best bet for absorbing the interlocking plots of the two series. I would also advise against reading five Mortal Instruments, three Infernal, and then the final Mortal Instrument book. Because, as was aforementioned, there is no ending better than the ending of Infernal Devices. And after that ending – well, everything, even the sixth Mortal Instrument – inevitably paled in comparison.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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I’m a sucker for books-turned-movies. So when I saw the trailer for this one, I downloaded it as soon as my nook had charged up.

In this short novel, Mia watches through an outer-body experience the events of her unconscious hospital stay after she’s involved in a car crash that instantaneously kills both her parents.

For starters, first lines always do it for me. When I am about to purchase a book, I always read it’s opening line, and it’s always seemed to work for me for so long, to either suck me in or push me away. And If I Stay has a great first line, one that instantaneously hooked me on the protagonist’s voice. The line was sharp and dismissive, exactly what you would want from a seemingly tragic novel about life and death: an avoidance of a cliche.

But in the end, I think my first-line theory failed me.

At the novel’s close, I was wholeheartedly underwhelmed by what the protagonist, Mia, was able to capture about her surroundings as a silent, invisible third party. She saw characters, their emotions; but she didn’t see through them. I was hoping for a YA coming of age story, in which the surreal helped give way for growth as a symbol of rebirth and getting to know things about her fellow characters that she hadn’t known before. But the characters were all two dimensional stereotypical grievances: her grandfather, seemingly unemotional, was a crier; her parents’ friend, a nurse, the crutch that somehow manages to run the hospital for which she does not work; and her best friend, the mother to her own mother, the glue that stays whole while Mia’s boyfriend breaks down. It was all very surface; there were so many characters whom I feel like I – and for that matter, Mia – did not truly know.

Of course, it had it’s bright moments. The part at which Mia’s grandmother rambles to the unconscious Mia is a beautiful portrayal of stream of consciousness writing that managed to move me to tears. There is also decent use of backstory to detail Mia’s key moments with the many characters of the book; however, the way in which these back stories were developed somehow warped each and every one of them into a routine that proved to be more repetitive than developmental; if I didn’t know by page 50 that Mia was into classical music while her parents and boyfriend were into rock, I would have been, quite simply, a moron.