Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wannabee Book Hipster

A few weeks ago I attempted to start my own meme. But then I found out that someone else had already started it years ago. Oops! I've decided to take the plunge again, but this time it's more of a discussion/feature post than a meme. 

Wannabee Book Hipster is a weekly Saturday post by The Zealous Reader. Every Saturday I will feature two novels I loved with under 200 reviews on Goodreads. Hopefully this will give underrated authors more publicity and diversify "to-read" piles.

The Prince and the Snowgirl
Simon Cherise
February 13, 2006
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Everyone thinks Tom Miller is lucky. For starters, Tom looks so much like England's Prince George that he makes money impersonating him. Unfortunately, that usually involves signing autographs at the latest supermarket opening. Still, Tom is one of the most popular guys at Emerson High, the finest school in the area. And best of all, nearly every girl falls for his princely good looks—every girl, that is, except Louise. 

Tom wishes he could find the way to Louise's heart, and the school skiing trip seems like the perfect opportunity to impress her with his royal charm. But when the real Prince George arrives at their hotel, it's time for Tom to shed his public persona and start living up to his own potential. 

The Heart is Not a Size
Beth Kephart
March 30, 2010

Georgia knows what it means to keep secrets. She knows how to ignore things. She knows that some things are better left unsaid. ...Or are they?

When Georgia and her best friend, Riley, travel along with nine other suburban Pennsylvania kids to Anapra, a squatters' village in the heat-flattened border city of Juarez, Mexico, secrets seem to percolate and threaten both a friendship and a life. Certainties unravel. Reality changes. And Georgia is left to figure out who she is outside the world she's always known.

If you'd like to post your own Wannabee Book Hipster, leave a link in the comments.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Title: Other Words for Love
Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Date Read: April 16 - 17, 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.

When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

Wow. My first 5-star novel of 2011! My review originally was just a list of all my favourite things. It's been so hard to condense it into a few paragraphs.

First off, I don't think I've read a novel in a while that authentically covers so many different topics: postpartum depression, relationships with older men, Native people, teen sexuality, and visual arts. Phew! I particularly enjoyed Rosenthal's portrayal of New York in the 1980s when HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed.

I also praise Rosenthal for her originality. Few YA authors choose to write teenage girl romances with older men and those who do usually write the man as a manipulative jerk. I've never read a novel where the man, Blake, was actually an awesome boyfriend. Ari's relationship with Blake was completely realistic for how they dated and their sexual life. I appreciated how Ari didn't regret her relationship and acknowledged that she still thought about it from time to time, rather than "growing up" and carrying on as if nothing happened. Rosenthal's insistence to have Ari learn from her mistakes but still yearn to make them again was heartbreaking. I also loved her accurate account of teen sexuality, how there's more than "just sex" to experience both emotionally and physically, and that there can be serious repercussions. 

I loved the financial and social comparison between the five family dynamics featured in the novel: Ari and her parents, Evelyn and her parents/children/husband, Leigh and her mother, Summer and her mother, and Blake and his Dad/brother. The three girls each started with similar backgrounds and interests but by the end had each become people the other girls wouldn't recognize. The importance placed on ensuring each of the adult characters had their own subplot and weren't just written as "Dad-because-someone-needs-to-say-'curfew'" made each family dynamic more realistic and heartbreaking, especially in scenes between Ari and her mother. 

The only thing I didn't like about Other Words for Love was the title and it's lack of significance to the plot. While I love the phrase I wish it had been incorporated in some way into dialogue or something. 

Favourite Quote: "I thought about when colors had been outrageously bright and the air had smelled incredibly good and when I had forgotten how it felt to be sad. Now I remembered, and I thought Blake was no better than some street-thug heroin dealer. He had gotten me hooked on him and then he'd cut off my supply. I'd heard that addicts would do anything, would degrade themselves in every way to get another fix, and now I understood how that could happen, because it was happening to me."

Recommended: Crash Test Love (Ted Michael), Leftovers (Laura Weiss), I Know It's Over (C.K. Kelly Martin), After the Moment (Garret Freymann-Weyr)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So You Wanna Read YA Lit? (2)

YA novels are the booming genre in today's world of literature. From #1 national bestsellers to feature films, teen reads are taking the world my storm. Everyone wants to write them. Everyone wants to read them. 

Many people want to jump in to the world of YA lit but don't know where to start. Should I just read Harry Potter and call myself an addict? If I read Twilight am I a cop out? Should I only read the paperbacks that haven't been checked out in years?

Welcome to my new series: 

So You Wanna Read YA Lit?

Now, for the people reading this who already enjoy YA lit, you might be wondering "There's rules to this?" 

Absolutely not!

This is just a simple weekly blog series to introduce people to other YA titles, authors, and genres they otherwise wouldn't have thought to read. There's a world of lit beyond The Hunger Games and I aim to prove it!

Step #2 - Books Made Into Movies

An easy way to be invested in reading a novel is knowing you can go watch the movie version afterwards. Not only is it a great way to find new books to read but you can read the book with friends and then see the movie together. The more, the merrier! Many people have turned to the books after seeing Harry Potter, Twilight, or Eragon but it's just as fun to read the book first.

Here's 15 of my favourite YA "Books-Made-Into-Movies":

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Beastly by Alex Flinn

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (16)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.

Title: Notes from the Blender
Author: Tricia Cook & Brendan Halpin
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Egmont USA

Declan loves death metal--particularly from Finland. And video games--violent ones. And internet porn--any kind, really. He goes to school with Neilly Foster and spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even to graze against her sweater in the hallway. Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and a constant presence at all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). She's the queen of cool, the princess of poker face, and her rule is uncontested-- or it was until today, when she's dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and then informed she's getting a new brother--of the freaky fellow classmate variety. Declan's dad is marrying Neilly's mom. Soon. Which means they'll be moving in together.

This looks so good! Can't wait to read it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (14)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly Tuesday meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading where participants feature a teaser sentence/paragraph from a novel they're reading.

"Love isn't always what you want or where you want it. It's burnt sienna when you want magenta."
- pg. 47, Not Like You by Deborah Davis

Just started this book this morning and love it so far! Expect the review early next week. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Other Half of Me by Emily Franklin

Title: The Other Half of Me
Author: Emily Franklin
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Date Read: April 13 - 15, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars

Jenny Fitzgerald has been outside the huddle, trying to fit in to her sports-obsessed family. The only time she knows the score is when she's holding an egg-carton palette and painting on a canvas, but even then she feels as though something is missing.

Unlike her three younger siblings, Jenny knows her biological father only as Donor #142.

As Jenny's 16th summer draws to a close, she feels more alienated than ever. But then a chance meeting with gorgeous über-jock Tate leads Jenny to reach out to someone else who might know exactly how she feels. With Tate by her side, Jenny searches for a genetic relative in the Donor Sibling Registry and discovers that she has a half sister, Alexa. Jenny hopes their budding relationship will fill the gaps in her life, but when Alexa shows up on her doorstep for a surprise visit, the changes in Jenny's world are much bigger than she could ever have imagined.

I found an old ARC of this on my bookshelf a couple weeks ago and decided to finally read it. I was pleasantly surprised! I've been yearning for realism in my novels lately and this one of one The Other Half of Me's strongest points.

Jenny and Alexa were wonderful characters to play opposite each other. Jenny, the self-concious forgotten sister vs Alexa, the outgoing loved only child. I appreciated how Alexa filled a void and was able to see missed moments in Jenny's family life that Jenny had neglected to see. If Jenny had visited Alexa instead I'm sure the same would've happened.

Jenny and Tate's romance was particuarily realistic. Since the novel was told on a day-by-day basis with no missed time we were able to see their relationship play out over the first few days, a plot point many authors choose to skip over. I also liked how their romance wasn't full of declarations or angst, just simply two people who liked each other over summer holidays.

A few years ago I read a novel about donor siblings but I forget most of the details, so I'll consider this my first plunge into the topic. What an awesome story idea! Identity crisis is a common theme in YA literature but pairing it with sperm donation and the "unknown other family" takes it to a whole new level. It seemed so appropriate for Jenny to not really acknowledge it publically that much until Tate coaxes it out of her. The family reactions to Alexa were especially heart wrenching as I totally sympathized with Jenny's father when he felt out of place and "not enough" for his daughter. 

There were a few things I didn't like though. The ending seemed to come together too perfectly and sentimentally for my taste. I would've liked a bit more angst or sadness, something to counter all the happiness throughout the novel. I also would've liked a stronger comparison between athleticism and arts, not only during Jenny's identity crisis and Jenny v.s. Alexa, but as a social commentary for how teens today are judged depending on which they choose to pursue. 

Favourite Quote: "That's what the best part of life is, those days or minutes you can't ever frame or paint beforehand." 

Recommended: Finding Cassidy (Laura Langston), Donorboy (Brendan Halpin), Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Sunday!

As mentioned last week, there will be no In My Mailbox post today. I'm taking a break from borrowing new books until I've read a larger chunk of the huge pile sitting beside my bed. Hopefully we'll have a new one next week!

I wanted to take this opportunity to point out some new features on my blog!

I decided to take the plunge and make a Twitter account. It's synchronized with my Goodreads account to post updates about the books I'm reading and I'll use it to let you all know when I have a new post up. What an awesome social networking idea! See the "Follow Me" button in the side bar.

So You Wanna Read YA Lit?
I've started a new discussion feature for Thursdays, a "how-to" guide for people new to the world of YA literature. I wanted to branch out from my weekly schedule of memes and reviews to bring some new content to the blog. I've scheduled the feature to last a month but if it continues to be well received I'll probably extend it. Find the original post farther down on this page.

YA Canadian 2011 Releases
After discovering the Pages feature I decided to make a directory of all YA Canadian literature being published in 2011. The list is small so far, only about 20 titles, but hopefully it'll grow as more publishers announce their summer/fall/winter catalogues. I want Canadian authors to be as popular and influential in the world of YA lit as American and UK authors, but the only way to do that is to introduce you to those authors.

Spring Blog Carnival
From May 1st to 8th I will be participating in my first carnival! Hosted by Pure Imagination, the Spring Blog Carnival is a series of giveaways and challenges for participating blogs. I'll be posting a giveaway of a few ARCs I have on May 1st, so be sure to check back and enter the giveaway once it's up!

Many of these updates and new features came from your suggestions from my advice post back in March. Thank you to those who replied, I love your ideas! If you have any more, feel free to post them in the comments or send me a tweet/email. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman

Title: Breathing
Author: Cheryl Renee Herbsman

Publisher: Speak
Release Date: April 16, 2009
Date Read: April 11 - 13, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars

Savannah would be happy to spend the summer in her coastal Carolina town working at the library and lying in a hammock reading her beloved romance novels. But then she meets Jackson. Once they lock eyes, she’s convinced he’s the one—her true love, her soul mate, a boy different from all the rest. And at first it looks like Savannah is right. Jackson abides by her mama’s strict rules, and stays by her side during a hospitalization for severe asthma, which Savannah becomes convinced is only improving because Jackson is there. But when he’s called away to help his family—and seems uncertain about returning—Savannah has to learn to breathe on her own, both literally and figuratively

A perfect summer beach read! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. I've missed reading a plain ol' romance and this was just what I needed. Breathing is one of the most realistic teen romance stories I've read in a long time. 

What made me love Breathing the most was how simple the story was. Of course there was angst, but it was so appropriate and realistic, not only for the characters but for teenagers in general. There wasn't even really an antagonist, just the circumstances of their lives tearing them apart. 

I loved Savannah from the start. A hard-working loving Southern teen who loves to read and can't wait to get out of her small town. Heard it all before, right? Wrong. She didn't adore her friends, she just enjoyed their company. She wasn't a perfect daughter, she often judged and argued with her mother. A lot of teen readers will empathize with Savannah and be rooting for her to achieve her goals. 

But most importantly she suffered from asthma. I've never read a story about asthma before and this definitely made my heart go out to all those who suffer from it. At times I found her attacks very melodramatic and angsty until I realized how realistic and terrifying they would be to experience. I also thought that it would be quite juvenile for Savannah to think she couldn't "breathe" without Jackson and when she had an attack shortly after he left I was fully prepared to give up on reading it. Cheryl totally turned it around though, showing how Savannah learning to "breathe" on her own was more of a metaphor for her independence and growth. Very well done!

I have also never read a novel with such an interesting twist on Southern culture. Rather than just having the characters speak with an accent, Cheryl wrote it into the narration. It worked perfectly!  I often found myself thinking in an accent when writing this review even. 

Favourite Quote: "I ain't never been a big churchgoer. And I don't mean  to be blasphemous or nothing, but right now in this moment, I find myself feeling like a devout member of the church of Love. I reckon Mama would say I'm just a hopeless romantic. Maybe them folks from Jane Eyre's Victorian era would think I'm immoral. But I swear, there ain't nothing else in the world this pure."

Recommended: Sing Me to Sleep (Angela Morrison), Till Death Do Us Part (Lurlene McDaniel), The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

So You Wanna Read YA Lit?

YA novels are the booming genre in today's world of literature. From #1 national bestsellers to feature films, teen reads are taking the world my storm. Everyone wants to write them. Everyone wants to read them. 

Many people want to jump in to the world of YA lit but don't know where to start. Should I just read Harry Potter and call myself an addict? If I read Twilight am I a cop out? Should I only read the paperbacks that haven't been checked out in years?

Welcome to my new series: 

So You Wanna Read YA Lit?

Now, for the people reading this who already enjoy YA lit, you might be wondering "There's rules to this?" 

Absolutely not!

This is just a simple weekly blog series to introduce people to other YA titles, authors, and genres they otherwise wouldn't have thought to read. There's a world of lit beyond The Hunger Games and I aim to prove it!

Step #1 - Popular contemporary stand-alones

For people new to the YA genre, not knowing whether or not you'll like it, it's always easiest to start with things you're familiar with. Start off by choosing a book you've heard other people recommend or seen on the shelves before. Try something contemporary, something set in the 2000s so you might recognize some of the lingo or plot scenarios. For Step 1, I also advise to avoid series. While they're a great way to get you hooked on characters, they can be especially long and tedious for people who don't read very often.

To get you started I've selected 15 of my favourite popular contemporary stand-alone novels.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Before I Die by Jenny Downham

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Happy Reading! Check back next Thursday for the next installment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.

Title: 20 Years Later
Author: Emma Newman
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Publisher: Dystopia Press


LONDON, 2012: IT arrives and with that the world is changed into an unending graveyard littered with the bones, wreckage, and memories of a dead past, gone forever.

LONDON, 2032: Twenty years later, out of the ashes, a new world begins to rise, a place ruled by both loyalty and fear, and where the quest to be the first to regain lost knowledge is an ongoing battle for power. A place where laws are made and enforced by roving gangs—the Bloomsbury Boys, the Gardners, the Red Lady’s Gang—who rule the streets and will do anything to protect their own.

THE FOUR: Zane, Titus, Erin, Eve. Living in this new world, they discover that they have abilities never before seen. And little do they know that as they search post-apocalyptic London for Titus’ kidnapped sister that they’ll uncover the secret of It, and bring about a reckoning with the forces that almost destroyed all of humanity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (13)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly Tuesday meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading where participants feature a teaser sentence/paragraph from a novel they're reading.

"Mom was pregnant with him when we started to lost Asta. We didn't know that then. She was disappearing from the inside out."
- pg. 36, The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

Just started this book this morning and am totally pumped to read it! Expect the review next Friday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux

Title: A Time of Miracles
Author: Anne-Laure Bondoux

Publisher: Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Date Read: April 7 - 11, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars

Blaise Fortune, also known as Koumaïl, loves hearing the story of how he came to live with Gloria in the Republic of Georgia: Gloria was picking peaches in her father’s orchard when she heard a train derail. After running to the site of the accident, she found an injured woman who asked Gloria to take her baby. The woman, Gloria claims, was French, and the baby was Blaise.

When Blaise turns seven years old, the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides that she and Blaise must flee the political troubles and civil unrest in Georgia. The two make their way westward on foot, heading toward France, where Gloria says they will find safe haven. But what exactly is the truth about Blaise’s past?

Bits and pieces are revealed as he and Gloria endure a five-year journey across the Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life. During this time Blaise grows from a boy into an adolescent; but only later, as a young man, can he finally attempt to untangle his identity.

Bondoux’s heartbreaking tale of exile, sacrifice, hope, and survival is a story of ultimate love

I'm struggling with how to review and rate this novel for several reasons, mainly because I feel that I should never have read it. Don't get me wrong, it was a good read, it was just very hard to get through. I'm going to give it 3 stars as a middle-grade read for it's simplicity, age-appropriate language, and good plot description/execution, but as a young adult read it wouldn't have passed at all.

First off, this is definitely a middle-grade/young-YA novel which is a genre I don't particularily enjoy reading. If I had known this in the first place I probably wouldn't have read it. I found it to be very childish and juvenile at first, though in the end it made a lot of sense for Blaise to be so young a narrator in such terrifying conditions.I also felt unequipped to read this because I struggled with the history and non-fiction aspects of the novel. I know absolutely nothing about Georgia or the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot of the politics and cultural norms were lost on me (and probably many other YA readers). I wish Anne-Laure Bondoux had given a brief history at the start, though the maps definitely helped me keep track of where they were going.

As a novel, A Time of Miracles was structured well. Very few details were given at the start when Blaise's memories would have been blurry and grew into larger chapters as he aged. I liked how realistic his recollections were: some chapters were just for one day, while others covered several years as time slipped by. Since I had no idea that this was supposed to be about Blaise's childhood rather than adolescence I spent the first half of the story frustrated with the pace, wishing it would speed up to present. In the end everything made sense and I was appreciative of how many details were given about each stage in Blaise's life.

Favourite Quote: "In life nothing goes the way you want. That's the pure and simple truth. You're separated from the ones you want to love forever. You want peace, but there are only rebellions."

Recommended: The Breadwinner (Deborah Ellis), Girl of Kosovo (Alice Mead), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)