Booking Through Thursday: Blogs

Yvonne asks:

What do you look for when reading a book blog? Does the blogger have to read the same genre? Do you like reviews? Personal posts? Memes? Giveaways? What attracts you to a book blog?

I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of book blogs. I think book blogs are great, but I have trouble keeping up with them, so I don’t usually follow book blogs the way I follow writing blogs. That said, I think book blogs are GREAT. The book blogs I run across without actually following them (and that’s a lot of them) keep me pretty well-informed about what’s happening in the publishing world. I do usually read YA-focused blogs, since it’s what I write, though.

What really brings me back to a blog are things like dissections of trends going on in the Young Adult publishing world, and posts that talk about the issues in books. Posts that try to be aware of not just how good a book is, but also the effect of popular books on teens, as well as on the genre and the publishing industry. I feel like book bloggers get such a great view of this—they’re not nearly as pinholed as I am in my reading usually, so they get a wider view of how the Young Adult genre is growing and maturing. I like the extra perspective.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Think unicorns are white and fluffy and gentle creatures? Well, think again. In Diana Peterfreund’s Rampant, unicorns are vicious killer monsters that can only be taken down by virginal maiden descendents of Alexander the Great. Mmmhmm.

This book is a lot of fun. Okay, killer unicorns sound a little ridiculous at first—okay, a lot ridiculous—but Peterfreund finds threads of legends throughout history and weaves them together with a lot of imagination and thoroughness and makes a formidable mythology that stands on its own.

The main character, Astrid, took some time getting there, but by the end of the book she was a seriously formidable character. And isn’t that what a coming-of-age story is all about, the journey?

Things I love about this book:

1) Phil. Astrid’s cousin is awesome from the very beginning. She knows what she wants and speaks up about it, even after something potentially soul-crushing happens to her.

2) Bonegrinder. Bonegrinder is a zhi (pronounced “g”), a little goat-like unicorn—she’s vicious of her own account, but she grows on you.

3) The Boy. He’s pitter-pat worthy. And I do mean worthy.

4) Astrid. It took me a while, like I said, but I honestly loved her by the end of the book and was cheering her every step of the way.

5) Cory. I love her development throughout the book.

What I didn’t like was that a couple of the other hunters were a little hard to distinguish from one another. They were introduced well, but got lost in the hussle. This was forgivable, however, in that overall they were seriously awesome.

All in all, though, I thought the book was wonderful. It really earned its ending and I’m looking forward to reading the second book, Ascendant.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I was looking forward to this book because of all the hype, and the fact that I think Beth Revis (whose blog/twitter/tumblr I followed before I was able to get my hands on the book itself) is completely kindred-spirit-worthy. I was drawn in immediately by Amy’s voice—so much so that I worried I wouldn’t like her as much when she was awake and interacting with the ship, but I was wrong on that one.

Elder’s voice wasn’t as enticing to me… I liked him better through Amy’s POV also. I have to say I knew who the killer was early on… there was a little too much foreshadowing done there, I think it could have been dealt with a lighter hand. Another red herring would have served better, I think. It would have been great if Amy really had been unsure about either Elder or Harley.

So, for me the reveal of the murderer wasn’t that shocking. THAT SAID, the twist after it certainly was.

Amy is a GREAT character. Smart and strong and not about to take crap from anybody, but still vulnerable and alone in a lot of ways. I’m hoping Elder steps up his game a bit in A Million Suns. And I’m looking forward to finding out more about the history of Godspeed. I have a feeling a lot more secrets are left to be uncovered.

If you’ve read the book, I have a more spoilery review on goodreads, here.

Here’s to You, Judy Blume.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

The book that did me in was Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume. Yes, I’m a Blume-r. I started a deep love of reading before I really could read—somewhere there is a VHS of me reciting the picture book Who’s a Pest? from memory when I was four years old, before I knew more than how to spell my name. I raced through book after book after book, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, it all had me enthralled. I gobbled up classics like The Secret Garden and Little Women and The Hobbit.

And then, when I was eleven years old, a friend made me read Just as Long as We’re Together. I’d read Judy Blume before, though I didn’t realize that what I was holding now was the same author as the Fudge books—which I loved for a totally different reason—but when I read Just as Long as We’re Together, I knew I’d found the thing I really and truly loved. Teen fiction. Young Adult fiction.

I was too young to even be considered a Young Adult, but Blume’s stories struck such a deep chord with me—maybe because I was on shaky footing with the friends I thought would last forever, maybe because I was an “early bloomer” puberty-wise and Blume dealt with those sensitive subjects so deftly. I couldn’t get attached to the Babysitters’ Club or Sweet Valley High books that friends were reading and loving so much. They seemed so paltry—Blume’s characters seemed real. Three-dimensional people with souls and pasts and lives of their own.

And I wanted to be able to create that. I wanted to write books that people could walk away from feeling like they had new friends, new loves, new people dear to their hearts. Stephanie Hirsh and Rachel Robinson (with her own book as a sequel) are still a part of me today. Insecure teenagers fighting to define themselves and their beliefs and motivations—that feeling, that fight, is what made me want to be a writer. What made me want to examine the struggles of the heart and the complications of loving people but needing to be true to yourself, no matter what.

I drank those books down, every Blume I could get. Deenie. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Then Again Maybe I Won’t. It’s Not the End of the World. And then I haunted the YA shelves in my local bookstores—you know, back when it really was just a couple of shelves, usually hidden in the kids’ section?—looking every single time for something more. I was starving for young adult books. And there were a few out there… but mostly I was running across things like Lurlene McDaniels‘ books—where somebody always dies and everybody else is left tortured and ruined for it—and that kind of melodrama was not what I was looking for.

I just wanted good characters. Great characters. Characters that I wanted to stay up late at night on the phone with. That’s what I found in Blume’s books, and it took me a long time to find characters as great in YA again—though it’s certainly not hard now. And maybe it’s not because there were other kids out there like me… who heard that voice in the vast wilderness of literature and finally recognized something that was their own.

My writing has taken a different turn than the contemporary Young Adult that I started making stories up for when I was ten or twelve, but the heart behind the writing has been the same—has strengthened, really. I’m trying my best to capture the kind of power that goes behind emotions when you’re a teenager, and I love the way that fantasy highlights that, and I enjoy putting (hopefully) believable people into impossible situations and see how they deal with them. What’s most important to me is the honesty of the emotion.

So here’s to you, Judy Blume. Thanks for giving me my spark. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Review: Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

I really, really enjoyed this book. The editing is far from perfect in some spots, but the adventure is really, REALLY fun. I mean, it gets Indiana Jones-y. At times it’s also quite creepy in a very fun way. The Indian backdrop is amazing the culture, food, and temples so richly described that this is a fabulous get-away book. Really feels like a vacation. Kelsey is a bit silly (she exclaims way too much, at least at the beginning) and you want to slap her upside the head for refusing Ren so much, but she makes up for it with her last goodbye to him, which shows surprising wisdom…. surprising because she’s acted like such a GIRL about it the whole time. Ren’s pretty dreamy. Though he gets a little ridiculous too, when Kelsey’s being pouty.

What I love about this, though, is that Kelsey doesn’t just fall into Ren’s arms—even if they are muscular and attached to a very, very pretty face. She wants to be chosen… not just the only option. And again, I really loved the adventure aspect of this book. It was more fun than any YA book I’d read in a long time—no angsty dystopia or mooning, but well-paced action through a well-researched (really well-researched!) exotic setting. Fantastic. I have never wanted to go to India more, and that’s something great fiction should do, entice you outside of your comfort zone. Brava.

Really looking forward to where Houck is going with this. I don’t know that I would have had the courage (or the foolhardiness, depending on how you look at it) to go the indie route, but it’s obviously paid off for her! I’d like to read more about her story, and I can’t wait to read Tiger’s Quest. Especially if it has more Kishan in it… what? I love an underdog. Er… cat.

Independence Day Flash Fiction Blogfest

The rules are deliciously simple. Sign up below, and on July 15th, post an original piece of flash fiction, 250 words or less along this theme (and, FYI, “independence day” can mean anything you’d like it to mean–don’t feel you have to be restricted to the July 4th holiday!):

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I snap my suitcase shut. It’s a classy vintage number—maybe I should have thought about how much space it’d take up in my dorm room when I saw it at the thrift shop, but I couldn’t help myself. It was so pretty.

I couldn’t be more excited about getting out of this town. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad town. It’s just suffocatingly small. And the only person who made living here worth it left three years ago. Not that Kyle Landry ever really saw me that way, anyhow. I got into a good college on the coast and other than holidays, I’ll never have to look back.

A knock comes at the door and my mom pokes her head in. “Just about ready? It’s a long drive, you know.”

An unexpected tear pricks my eyes, but it’s gone in a second. It’s just because Mom is trying so hard to be strong. If she was really so nonchalant, I would be too.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll be there in a sec.”

Most of the car is packed. Pillows, comforter, a box of books and another of knickknacks I didn’t think I could live without. The truth is, I’m not taking too much. This is little girl stuff, a lot of it. Time for something new. A whole new life, far away from here. Then again, my best friend Sheila is coming with me, so that takes up some space.

I lug my suitcase downstairs, and there’s a knock at the front door. Has to be Sheila.

I flick my messy strands of hair out of my face and throw the door open—and Kyle Landry is standing there, his eyes lighting up until he sees my suitcase. My suitcase drops. So does my heart.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Check out the other participants here:

“It’s Independence Day and something unexpected happens . . .”

This is a Blog Hop30 entries so far… you’re next!


Booking Through Thursday – Series vs. Stand-alone

Series? Or Stand-alone books?

I have to say, I love a good stand-alone book. I really do. I like getting to the end of a book and having that nice feeling that the story is finished and the ending is real. A good, satisfying ending is something that I yearn for a lot of times, something that doesn’t always happen, so when it does it’s extra nice. I yearn for that nice closure, the kind that just doesn’t happen in real life.

Then again, I’m also a big fan of anticipation. Angst, too, but really anticipation. I like the wondering of what is going to happen. I have to admit, too, that I love characters I’m already cozy and familiar with. I like companion books for this reason, too… familiar faces in a group, even if it’s just a few.

But to pick one or the other? I don’t know that I could. I do know that I’m more likely to buy a series. Partially because I just don’t have a lot of cash around to spare at the moment, so if a new book comes out in a series I already know that I love, well, I’ll snatch that before trying a new author. Still… there really is something satisfying about closing a book and knowing that you’ve finished it—and its whole little world—for good.

So I can’t decide between the two. What matters to me is the writing, and the story. I’m a great lover of Story, as I’ve said many a time before. If a story can carry over three or four (or seven! Or ten!) books, then sure, I’d love to read it. If a series is being extended just because it’s a well-selling series… no thanks. I’m not a James Patterson reader, for example. And I never will be. Give me a good YA trilogy any day, though. Any day.

Book Review: Zerah’s Chosen by Isabelle Santiago

I managed to finish my first book of the year just about 45 minutes before February started. I was determined to have finished at least one book in January, so I spent as much time as I could today reading, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My first book for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge (which at this point is already looking very questionable!) was Zerah’s Chosen by my good friend, Isabelle Santiago. It’s an ebook from Drollerie Press. I’m very lucky in that I’ve seen this story from very early stages, and I’ve had the privilege of fangirling about the characters directly with the author, but this was my first chance to sit and read through the book from beginning to end, and it was a definite treat.

Zerah is a rustic world, a world of common men, fishers, and prophets, ruled by Beings both mysterious and fearful. This story isn’t about common men or fishers or prophets, though. Every generation, six people are branded by the Beings and made Guardians over the elements—Water and Fire, Earth and Air, Life and Death. Those born with the brand are sent to the temple to train, to learn how to control the power they have over their elements in order to maintain the balance that makes up life.

The story begins with a woman who has been brought to trial. She has borne a child branded as a Guardian, but instead of sending him to the temple, she has hidden him away, kept him to herself. He is, after all, her child. Kieran has been marked for Death, though, and his power is too much for him to conquer on his own. When he is finally found, his mother hands him over without argument. She knows her time with her son is over. The elders sentence her to life in a solitary cell, fair payment for treason.

Kieran then is thrust into a life he neither wants nor understands. Most of the other Guardians—one is still missing—fear and dislike him. Only Amaya, the Guardian of Water and an empath to boot, accepts him without question from the beginning. Over the years Kieran begins to find his place among his fellow Guardians, and even learns to feel that the temple is his home, but he cannot forget what the “righteous” elders have done to his mother. More than that, he can’t forget to love the way that she taught him to. Guardians are supposed to live without tie, without emotion. Without love. A passionate person to begin with, Kieran simply cannot live under the conditions set for him, and the story comes to a head as Kieran and Amaya’s friendship turns into something much more—something the Code of the Guardians forbids.

Zerah’s Chosen is the first in what is to be a trilogy. The world-building is rich and absolutely superb—you know the minute you set foot into the story that this is a society that existed before you started reading. The characters are also fantastic. The story is mostly told from Amaya and Kieran’s POV’s, but all five Guardians we get to know are so fantastically diverse from each other that every time one of the other three are in the scene it’s a delight.

My personal favorite (as Isabelle well knows) is Phoenix, the Guardian of Fire, who has his own unrequited love for Amaya—something which I know is brought much more in to play in the second novel of the Guardian Circle Series, Zerah’s Offering, which isn’t quite available just yet, but I’ll let you know when it is. I’m lucky to have an advance copy, which I’ll be starting my read-through of… Oh, about now.