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Friday, October 14, 2011


(First off, apologies. I've been busy -- I was just elected to my 4-H board, and as I get back into the swing of things life gets busier. So I decided to reward you by posting a review of an online ARC I got.)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So I have never been a fan of science fiction. I don't know why; just never been partial.

And then I found an online ARC of Cinder. It had gotten great reviews, and the premise is amazing. Cyborg Cinderella? Now that sounds impressive to me.

And so I read it.

And what is my response?

Let's start with the first sentence:

The screw through Cinder's arm had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.

That, in a nutshell, tells you how amazing the book is. The writing is goregous, constantly full of lyricsm and beauty. Meyer had a tendency to make her characters too formal, however. Their language seemed more attached to the past than the future, though -- full of long sentences and no contractions at all. It drove me batty for a while, but I got used to it eventually.

I was unsure about the fairytale retelling aspect. When I read these kinds of books, I'll admit that one of the first things I do is try and figure out what characters are what in the fairy tale (etc, who's Cinderella, Prince Charming, stepsisters).

While some were obvious, most of the characters defied roles. The stepsisters were kinder, more bossy than mean; there was no true stepmother, and the prince was an all around good guy.

The characters were all adorable and cute, and at times the story seemed more mature than a middle grade -- more of a young adult novel. I'd say that the book is more young adult, with harder words and more complex reasoning.

The world-building is elegant, carefully drawn through names of buisnesses and more. There is never much of an info dump, more of a quick description through dialogue and more (though it never became an info dump either). The streets are filled with robotics; the booth next to Cinder's sells computers that can float in midair.

I've read several ARCs lately, and one of the questions I have asked is "Would I buy this?"

And the answer for Cinder:


I plan to buy this book when it comes out. I might have read it already, but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't read it again (and I won't before it's published; my ARC expires online in a week :P).

So if you want a fun, cute, funny, adorable, sci-fi retelling that defies retellings, read Cinder.

If you don', well then.

(Shorter review than usual, but I promise to get back to posting more often. Thanks a ton.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pretty Crooked

I have not done a review in a while (at least it seems), so I've decided to review the second ARC I recieved: Elisa Ludwig's Pretty Crooked.

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

Pretty Crooked was the second ARC I recieved. I love mysteries and retellings, but was less eager to read this one. I'm not quite sure why, and I think after reading that there was one reason. I don't really like romance, and the paragraph about Aidan threw me off. The romance aspect wasn't the greatest, and I had some nitpicks, but Pretty Crooked was pretty cute (haha, bad pun).

The basic story reads like a Cinderella story: Willa's struggling artist mother's paintings sell for a large sum of money, and Willa and her mother move to Paradise Valley, Ariz. so that Willa can attend the posh Valley Prep (nicknamed VP) high school. Right away, Willa attracts the attention of the Glitterati, the most popular girls in school. Aidan Murphy, Mr. Hottie Pants, also finds some interest in her.

So yes. The story is cliche in some aspects. And to be truthful, I'd regard this more as MG than YA. It's marketed as YA, but I think a lot of the aspects would work better with younger readers. The only true YA aspect is the high school; everything else seems like it would be more MG, and some of the aspects (BFFs who shop a lot, fancy school) are used more in MG to me.

Onto the characters. Willa's character is bubbly, cute, funny, and smart. She's nice, but a little naive. (Her mom specifically mentions that Willa is attending VP to get into a good college, a fact that Willa doesn't realize until later.) Willa is a sweet character, with enough development and backstory to be realistic. She could be annoying sometimes -- hello? Dump your popular girl friends? Duh. But overall she was sweet, but a tad naive.

Cherise was the best of the mean girls. She actually seemed realistic, annoyed with her friends often and disliking the gossip blog that they ran. She constantly was trying to get the girls to stop their petty ways, and had a great background, dreaming of becoming a doctor like her parents. Sometimes she was more interesting/realistic than Willa, and more likable. Sometimes I also wished the story was in her POV; she seemed more likely to do the "Robin Hood" thing than Willa. Willa had known the girls for such a short time before BAM! the idea appeared; Cherise had known them longer and I think that it would have been more realistic for her to go Robin Hood on them (especially with her constant frusturation over Kelly and Nikki's antics).

Kelly and Nikki....ugh. They were basically every element of popular mean girls mixed together. Rich, loved by everyone, cruel, taunting everyone they meet, and (unsurprisingly) doing cruel things to scholarship girls. They had almost no dimension, just the classic rich and mean girls, and no backstory. The story ends on a cliffhanger, so I assume they'll be more developed in the sequel....I hope. They were my least favorite characters, and their big surprise (the fact that they taunted the scholarship girls online) was predictable and lame. They had almost no difference as characters, not distinguishable as characters in any way. They were just the same walking cliches.

The scholarship girls I liked. Mary, Alicia, and Savannah were good. They broke down usual "scholarship" girl cliches, and had understandable pasts. (Savannah's father was out of a job; Alicia's mother was pregnant and searching for a job; and Mary's father couldn't make enough money to support his family.) They also had understandable emotions, surprised but not greedy when they recieved their items, and angry sometimes over their disappointing lives. They also responded well to their teasing, after being called "Busteds" and racist names, responding nicely but still with anger.

The online bullying was a huge aspect. I appluad Ludwig for bringing that in -- it was a very interesting examination of that, which is huge now. The blog was realistic: a gossip blog where people posted awful pictures and posts anyonomusly, just like anyone can do now on popular gossip blogs or trash websites. But there was another issue I had: the name-dropping. Gosh, they name dropped everywhere. It would be fine if it was just clothes, but nope it was everywhere. Look at that Wii and that Pizza John's pizza, that show about Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa is amazing, and this schoool is for the future Steve Jobs and I want the new iPhone and god, why can't I have that new iPad?

It. Was. Annoying. Ludwig, I think was trying to make her story "current", but it was ridicolous how much name dropping there was. Like, every three pages some character would remark on something current.

And now onto the plot. The Robin Hood aspect could have been developed more, I think. It could have been really interesting, seeing the parallels between Willa and Robin Hood. But it was hardly developed, with Willa absentmindely remarking once that "[I] was kind of like Robin Hood, just better dressed".

And Aidan. Okay, Ludwig pulled out every stop on the "cute hot guy" here. He's mega rich, snobby, dashing, and everyone adores him. Willa thinks he's HOTTTT the second she sees him, but hates him (of course) since he's so snobby (of course). But wait! Now I understand his true emotions and we're in love and kissing in Porsches. :P He was just annoying at the beginning, but I grew to like him more as the story continued. He still kind of fit the hot rich boy, even though he was nicer (big shocker) but still portrayed well (there are too many parentheses in this paragraph).

The ending isn't a big surprise, but it was cute and fun to read. The book is set up for a sequel, with a cliffhanger at the end. I found out that Pretty Crooked was first in a trilogy as well.

And the truth is, even with all of my nitpicks, I liked it. It was a fun, cute romp with quite a few problems but still a fun read. The book was far from perfect but a good escape from reality. I might read it again, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It was cute, fun, and charming, and a good way to spend my time.

It wasn't brilliant or awe-inspiring, but it was cute and that's all that matters. So if you're looking for a fun, cute mystery, this is for you.

3 stars.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Big, Huge, Fantastic, Amazing New Books Hype

So I was browsing GoodReads. GoodReads is a great website where users can review, rate, recommend, and talk about books they're reading. Most of my friends on that website have similar tastes to mine, so I was eager when one of my friends posted about Gayle Forman's new duology.

Gayle Forman wrote the amazing If I Stay:


Where She Went

Both are amazing books -- I read them this past summer and enjoyed both. One of my friends on GoodReads posted about Forman's new books, a duology. On GoodReads, books are often released onto the website as soon as they are announced (usually without a pitch or cover).

However, Forman's new books already had pitches, despite being released 2(!) years from now. Here are the summaries:

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)
JUST ONE DAY is in Allyson's (also known as Lulu) POV. The companion is JUST ONE YEAR.

"Can you fall in love in just one day? Can you become a new person? How about in just one year? In JUST ONE DAY and its companion novel JUST ONE YEAR, sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey and easygoing actor Willem De Ruiter are about to find out against a guidebook-worthy array of foreign backdrops. Equal parts romance, coming-of-age-tale, mystery and travel romp (with settings that span from England’s Stratford upon Avon to Paris to Amsterdam to India’s Bollywood) JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR show how in looking for someone else, you just might wind up finding yourself."

Expected publication: 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
as well as

Just One Year (Just One Day #2)
Companion to JUST ONE DAY. It will be in Willem's POV.

"Can you fall in love in just one day? Can you become a new person? How about in just one year? In JUST ONE DAY and its companion novel JUST ONE YEAR, sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey and easygoing actor Willem De Ruiter are about to find out against a guidebook-worthy array of foreign backdrops. Equal parts romance, coming-of-age-tale, mystery and travel romp (with settings that span from England’s Stratford upon Avon to Paris to Amsterdam to India’s Bollywood) JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR show how in looking for someone else, you just might wind up finding yourself."

Expected publication: 2014 by Dutton Juvenile
Both the books sound great, and two years from now I will be picking up the books. But there was something else that amazes me about these books. Already people have rated the book four stars (this isn't a surprise on GoodReads; books are usually high ranked before they're published since readers are eager), and 30 people put the book on their shelf.
30 people.
It's been two days since Dutton announced the books.
30 people have already chosen the book to read, and there are several gushing reviews. Here's one (name omitted):
Loved If I Stay and Where She Went, this one sounds even more adorable and charming. Oh my god, Gayle Forman!!!
Too bad we have to wait two years for it :(
Despite the amount of exclamation marks in that comment, this user had a good point. They got excited about the book, but for one reason. Gayle Forman wrote it.
And I like Gayle Forman, I do.
But that brings me to my point. Hype.
This user only wants to read it because Gayle Forman wrote it. S/he has read Forman's previous other books, and knows that her newest should be just as amazing and remarkable.
And hype isn't bad; it can help authors and publishers and make everyone excited for the books. But it can be bad, too.
Authors don't always churn out amazing books. They can write a stellar novel and fail in their next. Some people can be uneasy about hype, especially when they're nervous about the book. It can lead to disappointment instead.
So really there are two sides to hype. Sometimes hype becomes dramatic, with the publisher plunging it everywhere and readers getting more and more excited. I've seen good and bad hype, especially at confrences like BookExpo America.
I read an article about one of the most hyped books at the show,
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
People were eagerly waiting for the novel at BEA. The author's signing line was long, and bloggers were excited like crazy, reviewers fought for a copy.  The book was featured at a panel for new YA, and there was a massive line. But then the reviews started to pour in. Quite a few people were disappointed, and many people said that they preferred other YA debuts to Hodkin's. This is a quote from a blogger:
It just didn't live up to the hype. People were parading it everywhere as the next great YA, and it fell short of every expectation I had. I wanted to love this book, but I just couldn't. Disappointed.
See what I mean about disappointment? I haven't read the book, but it fell short of all the hype people had.
Another issue with hype is the big-name author. The author everyone knows. James Patterson. Lauren Oliver. Stephenie Meyer.
People jump on everything they write, just like that commenter did with Gayle Forman. And why? Because the author's well known. And often times, they'll buy and read the book just because of the author. And they might like it, even though it's terrible, for one reason only.
__________ (Big Name Author) wrote it.
So hype can go any which way.
GoodReads, blogs, and reviewers are good ways to know about the hype. There are really only certain authors I get hyped about, but the truth is we all get hyped.
The thing to remember is that you never know which way it'll go, plain and simple.
Because who knows about hype?
That's the big question.
You never know.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Upcoming YA Books


So, I decided to add a special post. This one is mostly just pictures and words, though. I was browsing GoodReads, and through their amazing Listopia feature I found some interesting books I plan to read in 2012. The following are the covers and pitches, along with some small commentary.

The Disenchantments-Nina LaCour

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev’s band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she’s abandoning their plans—and Colby—to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie-Colby struggles to deal with Bev’s already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what’s next?

Morris Award–finalist Nina LaCour draws together the beauty and influences of music and art to brilliantly capture a group of friends on the brink of the rest of their lives.

Why I Want to Read It: LaCour's first novel, Hold Still, was amazing, and ARC readers have said that this is great. I loved Hold Still and it seems like LaCour is a promising author. Also? Bad girl band? Wandering around Europe? I'm so in.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

This one only has a cover (that isn't final, mind you)

Why I Want to Read It:  All of John Green's books are amazing, and he's a wonderful vlogger as well. I respect him both as a person and a writer, and I'm excited to see what he comes up with next (having enjoyed all of his books). Also, female narrator=JG first? I'm in.

Wanderlove - Kirsten Hubbard

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

Why I Wanna Read It: Parts of it sound cliche, but it still seems fun. I have an ARC of this I need to read, and it sounds like an interesting read. Hubbard's first novel was well recieved and she is an elegant writer.

Second Chance Summer - Morgan Matson

Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

Why I Want to Read It: Matson's first book, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour was a detour of amazingness, and this one sounds like Matson: beautiful, touching, and tinged with first love. I adored her first novel and will be looking for this one.

Irises-Francisco X. Stork

Two sisters discover what's truly worth living for in the new novel by the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.
TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. -- if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.
THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.
ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good -- the question of *if* she lives, and what's worth living for.
IRISES is Francisco X. Stork's most provocative and courageous novel yet.

Why I Want To Read It: Loved all of Stork's other novels (recongizing a pattern?) and he always has interesting, thought provoking books. Should be an interesting read.

Boy21-Matthew Quick

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He's always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won't pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, "Boy21" may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.

Why I Wanna Read It: Matthew Quick had an azming first novel...okay, fine, that's what I've said for every one. :P Great plot, sounds like a tearjerker.

Insurgent-Veronica Roth
One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Why I Wanna Read It: Divergent took me by surprise, and while it had it flaws, it was just a fun romp of a dystopia. I'm interested to find what will happen next, and Roth is a promising new author. (Again: I've called everyone that, but they all are. :P)

Slide-Jill Hathaway

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

"Jill Hathaway provides a fresh, vibrant voice to young adult literature. Skillfully filled with drama and tension, SLIDE is part mystery, part romance, and wholly engaging with its strong heroine and tornado-worthy twists. I simply could not put this book down." ~Laurie Stolarz, DEADLY LITTLE SECRET

"Heartbreaking and heart-pounding at the same time! A wonderful, intense story, SLIDE had me hooked from the first moment Vee slid into someone else's mind. I stayed up way too late because I had to see how it ended." ~Cynthia Hand, UNEARTHLY(less)

Why I Wanna Read It: I know nothing about Hathaway, but this is a really interesting and unique concept and I'm curious where the author will take it.
Above-Leah Bobet
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee's wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above--like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.
But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe's history and the shadows' attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home--not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.
ABOVE is the debut of an amazing new voice.

Why I Wanna Read This: Amazing concept 101, anyone? This sounds very unique and different, and the MCs don't usually posess bee's wings.

Winterling-Sarah Prineas

"What a wonderful, imaginative alternate world Prineas has created for this book!" --Kristin Cashore, author of the New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.

"Filled with wonder and with characters both devious and charming, Winterling is a mischievous delight!" --Ingrid Law, New York Times bestselling author of Scumble and the Newbery honor book Savvy.

With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.

Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mor rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.

Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.

Why I Wanna Read It: This kinda violates the YA genre, but Prineas is one of my favorite MG fantasy novelists. She's succeeded over and over again and I think Winterling will be no exception.

The Gathering Storm - Robin Bridges
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

Why I Wanna read It: Historical romance/fantasy? Sounds interesting! Plus, Russian history always sounds good. Getting an ARC of this soon, so we'll see.

The Drowned Cities - Paolo Bacigalupi

Again, no pitch, just this:

Why I Wanna Read This: SQUEE! A sequel to Ship Breaker, one of my favorite sci-fi novels? SO. IN. Bacigalupi is one of my favorite authors, for his goregous prose and characters, and I cannot wait to enter Nailer's world again in May 2012 (such a long time D:).
May B - Caroline Starr Rose
Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, or May B. as she is known, is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead, “Just until Christmas,” says her Pa. Twelve-year-old May wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by fifteen long, unfamiliar miles.

Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned to the oncoming winter, trapped all alone in a tiny snow-covered sod house without any way to let her family know and no neighbors to turn to. In her solitude, she wavers between relishing her freedom and succumbing to utter despair, while trying to survive in the harshest conditions. Her physical struggle to first withstand and then to escape her prison is matched by tormenting memories of her failures at school. Only a very strong girl will be able to stand up to both and emerge alive and well.

In this debut novel written in gripping verse, Caroline Starr Rose has given readers a new heroine to root for, one who never, ever gives up.

Why I Want to Read This: Ooh, historical fiction MG is always one of my favorites. Slightly predictable, maybe, but sounds interesting nontheless.


The Vanishing Game - Kate Kae Myers

Jocelyn's twin brother Jack was the only family she had growing up in a world of foster homes-and now he's dead, and she has nothing. Then she gets a cryptic letter from "Jason December"-the code name her brother used to use when they were children at Seale House, a terrifying foster home that they believed had dark powers. Only one other person knows about Jason December: Noah, Jocelyn's childhood crush and their only real friend among the troubled children at Seale House.

But when Jocelyn returns to Seale House and the city where she last saw Noah, she gets more than she bargained for. Turns out the house's powers weren't just a figment of a childish imagination. And someone is following Jocelyn. Is Jack still alive? And if he is, what kind of trouble is he in? The answer is revealed in a shocking twist that turns this story on its head and will send readers straight back to page 1 to read the book in a whole new light.
Why I Wanna Read It: It sounds interesting and cryptic, and the cover is spooky but so amazing O_O

So there you have it, the 14 books I found and instantly wanted to read. I'll probably do another post like this soon, since there are so many books I want to read. 2012 sure has a heck of a lot of a good books coming.

New Ideas

This is basically a more "writing" related post. So for the last few weeks I've been attempting to write. Over and over. The setting changed from a boarding school to the girl returning from a boarding school; a tornado was added (geez, that sounds intense) and most of the characters changed. I recently finally came up with a pitch for the new version that I ACTUALLY LIKE.

(The cover, BTW, is not final -- I'm making a better cover, and yes, the title is different I changed it later.)
Building Houses
Rebuilding a town is never easy.
Jaycee’s house is gone. Destroyed in a tornado. To save money, Jaycee’s parents send her away to a boarding school while the house is rebuilt. But the school year is ending, and like everyone else Jaycee must return home. She feels nervous and unsure: the town is still devastated, and most people have no homes and are missing family members.
The town of Deer Valley is just as she remembers: bustling, friendly, and helpful.
Jaycee soon feels oppressed, though, and remembers why she didn’t mind leaving.  Feeling trapped, she gets herself into trouble, needing something to do. Assigned to community service, Jaycee must start to rebuild destroyed houses – including her own.
As she works one day, though, a girl is found. The girl, named Lily, long presumed to be missing, sends the town into media frenzy. Parades fill the town, with celebrations and memorials everywhere. Jaycee watches it all cautiously, wishing that the girl was her own brother, still missing from the tornado rubble.
But soon Lily is assigned to do community service as well, and Jaycee finds herself getting to know the girl better. As they spend long hours rebuilding, though, Jaycee begins to suspect that Lily is a fraud. Working together with her friends, she decides to solve the mystery by interviewing people from Deer Valley.
But in order to solve the mystery, Jaycee will have to rediscover her town.
We may leave our towns,  but our towns never leave us.

So, yeah, that's the pitch (which has also been revised multiple times). I've been working on the story for about a month and I have 1,000 words. Now, for me that's slow. I've managed to write 3k in days before. But this story is just giving me trouble.
I want to make it the best I can, and I'm working really hard so that it is. But it's annoying. I want to write more, but for the first time I have to plan. Truth? I've never planned. I've written out a few plans and defined the setting, characters, and plot a bit. So far there have been at least six different versions, all scratched for different reasons.
But I finally think I have a good draft, and here's a snippet from the first chapter (copyright me):
“Mom.” I kept my voice strong, solid. “I’m going to be okay.”
She responded with a slight sniffle. “I hope so, Jaycee baby. I hope so.” And with that, she turned and we fell silent.
The song on the radio was a soft one, a quiet ballad. I didn’t know who sang it, but it calmed me nonetheless. The singer seemed to be a country one, with a deep booming voice and a talent for the high notes. She sang in a low, sweet voice, almost in a lullaby tone. The song would easily have put babies to sleep. I leaned back, resting my words against the leather.
The chorus was only two words, repeated over and over, and quickly the words pattered in my mind.
Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, oh baby
“Oh, baby, oh baby, oh baby,” I said, singing softly. The choir teachers had never regarded me as a good singer, but I felt like it. Now seemed like the time to belt out a song, as if my life was a movie. I listened carefully, humming during the verses. But every time the chorus came, I sang. “Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby.”
I sang over and over, until my tongue tired and my lips parched. Leaning back, I breathed in a sigh of relief. The song had made me feel better, for some reason I didn’t understand. It was helpful, caring, comfortable. Silently, I sent a thank you to the singer. Leaning back more, I sighed and drifted into a sleep.
So there you have it. I've gone through plenty of covers:

And it has been a lot of work. More work than was needed, probably, but it doesn't matter. Because I love this story. I really do. It's one of my favorite stories I've ever written and I'm willing to work hard to get it to be perfect as it can be.

And I think that goes back to another theme I've blared everywhere: authors love their stories too. They wouldn't work for months and years writing and editing if they didn't love their plots and novels and characters.

So that ends this post -- so I can go write.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Big Six

Ever heard of the "Big Six"?

"Big Six" isn't a publishing company or a pen name; instead, it is a term used to describe a group of major publishers. A lot of times, articles will refer to things like "the big six publishers are all in the black" or "the big six publishers had less floor space at the convention." The Big Six, basically, is a group of publishers that are the largest. Usually they are the largest in terms of authors, money, or books published.

So what publishers are in the Big Six? (All descriptions from this article: Who Are the Big Six?

Hatchette Book Group
Formerly Warner Books (of Time Warner), Hachette was acquired by Hachette Livre, itself a subsidiary of the French media conglomerate Lagard̬re Group. The publisher is known for a few of its larger imprints РLittle, Brown & Company and Grand Central.


Owned by Ruper Murdoch’s News Corp, HarperCollins is the combination of two other publishing companies (William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd and Harper & Row). Both Harper and Collins were founded in the early 19th century. Today, HarperCollins has around fifty imprints, covering just about every imaginable publishing niche from all over the world.


Founded in 1843 by Daniel and Alexander MacMillan, the company is now currently owned by the German Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. Residing in the New York City’s Flatiron building, the MacMillan imprints run the gamut from commerical fiction (St. Martin’s Press) through speculative fiction (Tor) and strong literary fiction (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).


Owned by the British conglomerate Pearson PLC, Penguin is the second largest trade publisher in the world. Penguin got its start producing high quality paperbacks to be sold through Woolworths and other department stores. Even today, Penguin is still known largely for its classic paperbacks.

Random House

Random House is the largest English-language trade publisher in the world and is a full subsidiary of the German conglomerate Bertelsmann. The Random House American Division is divided into several publishing groups including the Random House Publishing Group, the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, and the Crown Publishing Group. Each group has their own set of unique and specialized imprints.

Simon & Schuster

Owned by the CBS Corporation, Simon & Schuster can trace its publishing history back to the 1920s and the dawn of the crossword puzzle. Today, Simon & Schuster publishes around two thousand titles each year through dozens of imprints including Pocket, Free Press, and Scribner.

Obviously, each of these publishers have plenty of imprints and long and storied histories. They've published award-winners, bestellers, classics (both old and cult) and launched long and storied careers in publishing and made authors famous.

But there are differences.

Of course, they all publish different kinds of books -- depending on what imprints they have. For instance, Macmillan has Tor, a speculative fiction imprint, while HarperCollins has Avon, a romance imprint. And they all have different authors, editors, publishers, and on and on. They're different.


Macmillan is less known, for example. There are hundreds of thousands of books they've published, and they've had plenty of huge authors (Judy Blume, anyone? Yes, she was published by Macmillan first). But now, when I have discussions with people about what publishers they like, I rarely hear it mentioned.

I always hear, though:

Those are three of the largest publishers in the world. But they're not the largest -- Penguin is the second largest trade publisher in the world, and yet people never mention those books. Macmillan, Penguin, and Hatchette (publisher of imprints such as Little, Brown and Grand Central) are rarely mentioned. And I think there's only one reason why.


HarperCollins totes their books everywhere; as one of the largest publishers in the world, they have plenty of money for ads. Their ads are featured in magazines, online, TV even. Their authors have huge presence online, with popular blogs and such. For instance, the name "Lauren Oliver" and "Veronica Roth" etc, are famous in the YA world. They're bestellers; they're featured all over the interwebtz (Roth's books even have ads on YouTube now) and on and on.

Simon and Schuster, I believe, has a smaller budget, but that doesn't stop them. They have huge authors, like Becca Fizpatrick and Karen Katz. They're known for the quality of their books, as well as their authors. Their ads are smaller, but the books seem more critically well recieved and recommended. People like their many imprints and variety, and S & S is more of a reader-driven imprint. They have less commercialization, focusing more on websites like GoodReads. Still, reader commercialization is another kind of commercialization: getting readers to know about the book and then having them recommend the story.

Random House has quite a few ads, and they're known for bestsellers: Lauren Kate, Laura Hillenbrand, etc. They have more commercial books, too: Dora, Barney, on and on it goes. They seem to have fewer ads, yet their commercialzation reigns with huge authors, and they can spend millions on online advertising when a besteller comes out.

And then there are the smaller companies.

Macmillan, Penguin, and Hatchette.

Penguin is huge, and their books have won awards. But their advertising budget is smaller, and people don't know about them as much. They're one of the largest trade groups, but with smaller commercialzation people are unsure about them.

Macmillan was huge in the 1940s and 1950s, that era, but it's decreased now. They are a smaller company, and have less money to spend on ads. People don't know about them as much, as they have fewer well-known authors and books. They're critically well recieved, but the strategy seems to work less for them  than S & S.

Hatchette is almost completely unknown; people know about Little & Brown and Grand Central, but they don't know much about the major company. Besides Twilight, the company is almost an unknown. It seems only recongizable by its imprints, not the company, which can be dangerous. Many readers think that the company is Little Brown instead.

All of the companies have commercialization in order to survive, but as this shows, even in major publishing companies there is still a divide.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Awards and Generalizations

We've been talking about awards a lot lately -- at least I think we have -- and so I thought I would talk about how people describe award winners.

Usually people say one of three  things:




Occasionally they say two of them, but most of the time it is one of them with either a bright grin or a grumpy face. But most of the time, it seems that they say one or the other. So I tried to do research for this topic, and found well, no articles that say that people express the same feelings as me.

So instead, it is story time.

In sixth grade, we read quite a few Newbery books and Newbery Honor books. Our teacher seemed to like them for some reason, so we read them. On Newbery books, the seal is imprinted onto the cover. You can run your hand against the seal and feel the bumps, as well as the imprint on the back of the front cover. And of course, the main purpose is to tell you, Hey! You're reading a Newbery Book!

I sat with one boy all year. For privacy purposes, we'll just call him P. P was awfully smart, and a really nice kid. He loved to read, and our teachers would always get mad at him for reading during class. We would do novel units, and so I expected P to get excited.

But this happened instead:

When we read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park:

P looked right at me and said, "There's a medal on the cover." (He also occasionally was very obvious.)
I rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah, there is."
P nodded and said, "That means someone's going to die and it's going to suck."
"No way," I said. "Newbery books are always really good."
"Nope," P said, "someone always dies."

I thought it was weird, since I've always liked Newbery books and have quite a few of them. I've never really cried at one of the books, but they're always very interesting and usually very good books. The the conversation disappeared from my mind until a few months later.

This time we were reading my personal favorite book of the year, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli:

I grabbed my copy of the book and said, "This should be good."
P nodded, and I was surprised.
"I thought you hated the books in LA," I said.
P nodded again. "Yeah, but this one doesn't have a sticker on it."
"So it won't suck and nobody dies."

So that made me wonder. I moved away at the end of sixth grade, and I asked P just before I left if he liked Stargirl (we had just about finished the book when I moved). He paused and told me, slightly confused, that it didn't suck. I asked him why and he told me it was because nobody died.

And that got me wondering. (The following section is a spoiler for all of these books,  so don't read the descriptions if you prefer not to
but I think the message doesn't work otherwise.)

In A Single Shard, Crane-man dies.

In Moon Over ManifestJ inx nearly dies (I count this because the reader believes that he has died for a substantial amount of time)

In When You Reach Me, the laughing man dies 

But through my small amount of research, I discovered that this rule can apply to other award-winning books as well. For the YA angle, I went with the Printz Award (which I discussed recently).

In How I Live Now, Aunt Penn dies, along with a hoard of animals

In Looking for Alaska, Alaska dies and death becomes the central scene of the novel

Death is also important in Jellicoe Road, which has the biggest wammy of deaths I found: Fitz, Tate, Webb, and Jonah's father, all sadly pass away. Jessa and Chloe P. also almost die as well.

So what does that show? I don't know if it really proves P's point, but the truth is there are a lot of deaths in Newbery and other award-winning novels. Sometimes the death even becomes the central point of the novel.

And the truth is, people say "Newbery winners will make you cry". It's a broad generalization that most people know, and when the award winners are announced in January people always comment that the books seem depressing. But the truth is, a lot of books now focus on "depressing" themes, whether it's death or tragedy or a broken family or relationship.

So really, I'm just going back to the original point I made a few days ago: books win awards because the people who read them love them. And the truth is, a LOT of them involve deaths. But that's just how it goes.

It's really just a broad generalization, and most of the kids in my sixth grade LA class hated reading novels because of that. Our teacher was always a bit confused, since she'd always praise the books and say that we would adore them and the rest of us would roll our eyes (admittedly, myself included).

So there are a lot of generalizations for awards. And I think really that is what this post turned into: people believe in the generlizations for award-winning books, like this book will suck or someone will die or it will be amazing. Because that's what they've heard, based on experience, even if they have never bothered to read the books.

So everyone has different opinions, and we all have different generlizations about books, both good and bad.

To end the post, I'll give you something P told me when we read Stargirl:

"What do you think the literary definition of 'stargirls'  should be? I think it should be NOBODY CARES GIVE UP TEACHERS."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dystopia, Dystopia, Dystopia

Dystopias seem to be everwhere.The Hunger Games movie comes out next March, and pre-buzz is sending the books even higher then they once were.At least four books on the New York Times Besteller list for children and YA lists are dystopias. And more books are being sold every day -- for huge sums of money -- for hit new dystopias.

But what's so enticing about dystopians? These are three pitches from upcoming dystopian novels released in 2012.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Exiled from her comfortable home in the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. In Reverie, she spent time with her friends roaming virtual environments called Realms. But in The Death Shop, even the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage. He’s also her only hope for survival.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry sees Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he also needs Aria’s help; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, they come together reluctantly, and embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by cannibals and wolves. Their unlikely alliance will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.


Pure by Juliana Baggott

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

and finally,

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.

Now, personally, I don't know if I would read those books. I've never been a huge fan of crazes, and all the dystopias are becoming similar. But today I'm going to read the pitches with an open mind --and decide, just what makes these books so succesful and become bestsellers. All three of the books are published by different companies (Never Sky will be published by HarperCollins; Pure St. Martin's Griffin; and Sleep by Candelwick) and all of them have been agressively promoted.

But there are some things that I noticed pop up in most dystopian novels published now, including these, just from the pitches. Some of them might be more "obvious" then others, but they usually are at the core of the story.

1. Heroine/Hero Escapes This is the catalyst for the story. They awake from a long sleep; are released into a new world; and escape the dome. This can happen at different parts in the novel -- sometimes it happens at the beginning, other times it takes our main character longer to become free. Usually the main character escapes from a cruel or oppresive society, although sometimes the fact is obvious and the character doesn't know. It's a common trope, and usually dystopias focus on what horror the character must escape from.

2. They Discover New Information The horrors of the society are revealed, usually by a mentor or a friend (someone who knows the secrets of the town and the main character trusts them). This can occasionally lead to info-dumping, and this part of the plot is usually when the author attempts to develop their society. Sometimes the information is good, if they've escaped a hatred world and entered a new one (though often times they escape a dystopia for another dystopia) but more often than not they are horrified. A lot of times it is by the deeds of their government, or what the citizens have comformed to.

3. They Start A Quest This trope is different. If the book is a series, usually this is the cliffhanger of the first novel. However, if it's a standalone, the "quest" aspect may be more crucial to the story. If it's a series, usually "war begins to brew" and if it's a stand-alone the main characters more often than not seem to have to fight against time to save the day (superheroes, anyone?). Usually this happens at the end of the novel, when everything is resolved or the story is set for sequel(s).

So that's usually the main plot of most dystopian novels. The main character escapes; they discover new (hated) information; and they begin a quest and either complete it or begin the quest to be continued in later novels. I'm not saying that all dystopias fit that guideline, but the majority of YA dystopian novels seem to.

Search "YA dystopia novels" and check out the hits on Amazon, GoodReads, or ARC sites like Netgalley. Read the pitches: they're all eerily similar. And there are hundreds of other books like them that I could have used for examples, but those were the first three I found.

Readers like adventure. Panoramal was huge until a few months ago, though its readers are slowly dying, and action and fantasy have also been huge the last few years. Realistic seems to be declining; I read a comment on an article about dystopias that said "When are the realistic fiction books coming back"?

My answer: when the readers are ready. Readers shift through phases, at least in the YA market. Fantasy is huge; realistic is huge for a while; panoramal and then dystopia. As more books in each genre come out, readers become hungry for more and catapult the books onto bestseller lists and send the authors into fame.

Publishers also aggresively promote the books because, let's face it, they need money. With print books starting to disenegrate, they need money in any way they can (e-books so far aren't huge sellers). They're willing to do whatever the readers long as it pays. There's a reason that so many people are starting to dislike the new trends: the publishers push them out until no one ever wants to see them again. Even agents, who submit to publishers, are accepting fewer and fewer "trend" novels excepting dystopias.

So who knows? In a year, a month, decades from now, the readership might change. Publishers listen to the readers, in a unique (and let's admit it: twisted) way, and what we read means that it's what they want us to read.

So read.


-End of Article; Footnote-

This is an interesting dystopia I found on GoodReads. It's already been released and is supposed to be amazing, getting a lot of five star reviews and starred reviews from publishers. I'm a bit wary of dystopias, but since there are a few good ones if I find the time I'll check this one out.  I didn't use it in the post because I am interested in it. Not all dystopias are bad. :P

Ashes by Illsa J. Blick

Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed... Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the zombies that are on the hunt, Alex meets up with Tom - an Army veteran who escaped one war only to find something worse at home - and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to find food, shelter, while fighting off the 'Changed' and those desperate to stay alive. A tense and involving adventure with shocks and sudden plot twists that will keep teen and adult readers gripped
It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone— and her future full of peril.