Thank you, Books. Love, Me

Last night I was on Twitter. When am I not on Twitter, or Tumblr, or adding books to my TBR? Only when I’m writing or caring for my son, or the occasional date night/ GOT marathon. Even then…Tweets happen.

Back to the story…last night I was on Twitter and I came across this by author and fellow Twitter fiend, Leigh Bardugo:

The link featured above takes you to Leigh’s tumblr page and the rest of the heart-wrenching ask. Visit it before reading on. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back? Crying? I was, and am threatening tears now, so don’t judge me. This little girl who lost her father, who is standing in the midst of chaos, chose to reach out to the author of a book with her grief because somehow Leigh’s books made her feel ok. Even if it can’t last. Even if when she closed the book there was all the loss and sadness staring right back at her. She had a few hours reprieve thanks to the Grisha world, and now she’ll always have Leigh’s words of encouragement to lean on when she forgets she’s going to make it.

This is the power of books. Why it’s never just telling a story for writers, and it’s never just a book for readers. More than any other creative medium, books have a way of adhering themselves to us, of living inside us and forcing everything else to quiet, of becoming part of us and never leaving.

Books are friends in the loneliness of youth. They are confidants. They are the transformative power of the imagination. The knowledge of being part of something more than you and your life. The certainty that somewhere out there someone else is reading the same words and feeling the same things, and that means you’re not alone. And when you are ready to face the world, books can help you start that conversation.

I remember when I first read Harry Potter. I was sixteen, skinny, wild-eyed, moving too fast, and somehow, briefly, Harry slowed me down. Harry took me outside myself and let me see others. Harry made me passionately, unashamedly fight for my friends, my dreams, and all that I believed in because he gave me a place to start. He gave me an open door.

What this moment between an author and her reader reminds me of is the absolute necessity for books — wherever you can get them, whatever genre, age group, subject — and the further power of them as a tool for healing. How many times have you been talking about a character and realized you’re talking about yourself, your pain, your needs? And what’s better, you’re being understood. You’re able to speak because it’s not just you. You’re able to let go because you’ve seen them do it. You’re able to talk when you feel awkward because they’re reading that same book too.

I know for me the answer is always, constantly, forever.

Top Five YA Crushes

card

I’m borrowing this idea from another YA writers blog earlier this week. You can check out her post here.

We all read YA for different reasons. For me, a big draw to this genre is the feels. I love how romance plays into the plots of YA novels. I largely read fantasy and paranormal (and all off shoots of that, though I do occasionally throw in a Contemporary or Suspense for variety and intrigue), which means the romance is integral but not always focal to the story. That’s what I like.

Plus, boys. Boy, boys, boys.

Here are my boys I will never get enough of:

5. Connor Lassiter 

Connor fan art by just-one-more-freak.deviantart.com

Connor fan art by just-one-more-freak.deviantart.com

The evolution of Connor’s character from UnWind through UnWholly is remarkable, but what I love about Connor is how unwavering he is in the pursuit to bring an end to unwinding. He’s a character that never wanted to be a leader, but was actually born to be one, and when he’s forced to, he handles himself admirably.  I love how tender he is with Risa, especially after her injury, even if all she wants him to do is take her by force. Plus, he’s kind of a loose canon, which I find very appealing in concept, if not in execution.

4. The Darkling

The Darkling, Deviantart

The Darkling, Deviantart

If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone, then shame on you, and I hope I don’t spoil anything here. The Darkling is alluring in the way a den of lions or chasing a storm is alluring. His danger is not a mystery, it’s clear from the beginning, and yet pulling away from him is impossible. For me and Alina. I have a case of the I can fix hims with the Darkling, as well as the, But do I really want to’s. He’s the kind of guy that you would loose yourself in, forget friends, and goals, and follow behind hoping to be touched. I am not advocating this behavior in females, in fact, I strongly disagree with it. That doesn’t mean we don’t all have a guy in our past, or our imaginations, that we wouldn’t do that for.

3. Four (Tobias Eaton)

Four by cassandrajp

Four by cassandrajp

Four is the guy we all really should be with. He’s intelligent and strong, but he doesn’t take anything from you by being the full version of himself. He knows who he is, and what he believes, and because of that, you figure yourself out so you’re not a drain on him. Plus, the guy is hot. He’s powerful and vulnerable at the same time, without making you feel inadequate for not always having your shit together. He’s a good kisser with a bit of darkness in his past. What I love about Four is the way he encourages Tris to be her, not someone else, even if Tris doesn’t realize he’s doing that. That’s her problem. (In case you can’t tell, Tris is not my favorite chick. I tolerate her because of Four.)

2. Richard “Gansey” Campbell Gansey, III

Gansey, and the whole gang, fan art by tea-cigarette-go.tumblr.com

Gansey, and the whole gang, fan art by tea-cigarette-go.tumblr.com

Right off the bat, I loved Gansey. Maybe it’s because I know he’s gonna die. Maybe it’s because Maggie Stiefvater can write guys almost better than any other female author out there. I don’t know, but from the beginning, I was into Gansey. Hell, all the boys in The Raven Boys have something to offer, but Gansey is the leader.

(I am noticing a bit of a trend in the guys I pick. Apparently, I am attracted to power. Hmm…)

Gansey is a character I believe. He’s a guy I could really know, and spend a long time getting to know, and that’s what makes him so appealing to me. He’s the long-game. On the surface he’s clean-cut, classically handsome, and a little preppy. He’s wealthy, like old-money, oil tycoon type wealthy, which doesn’t usually attract me, but on Gansey I like it. But underneath, Gansey has a passion that’s unerring, and if turned on you, would probably take your breath away. Or your life, depending on what else is going on, because Gansey gets himself into some scrapes. I like this description of Gansey, from The Raven Boys:

There were two Gansey’s: the one who lived inside his skin, and the one Gansey put on in the morning when he slid his wallet into the back pocket of his chinos. The former was troubled and passionate, with no discernible accent to Adam’s ears, and the latter bristled with latent power as he greeted people with the slippery, handsome accent of old Virginia money. It was a mystery to Adam how he could not seem to see both versions of Gansey at the same time.

1. Jace Lightwood

It should be said that I think the casting of Jace is spot on.

It should be said that I think the casting of Jace is spot on.

The first description of Jace in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, made my knees feel like jello. Something about his beauty and roughness, the scars all over his body, the sharpness in his cheekbones, his cunning, golden eyes made me fiercely interested in learning more about him. As the story progressed, and things happen that are seriously messed up, it only got worse for me. And Clary. Clary was really struggling there for a while.

Jace is powerful, he’s imposing, he takes up the whole room when he enters. Everything he does in purposeful, and everything he does is a little reckless. He’s not a saint, in fact, I got the distinct impression Jace had gotten around. Somehow, that doesn’t matter. Because when he falls in love with Clary, she’s like air to him, and the world had better get out of his way so he can be with her. Jace is flawed in ways that make him nearly fall apart, and that sort of brokenness is always sexy because it’s real and vulnerable.

Jace is also really witty and sly, with a devilish, mischievous side that makes him like a prowling cat. He’d be hard to keep up with, but then, that’s also what’s so appealing about him. His endurance. (That could be taken really, way wrong, sorry.) But, beyond all those features, the reason Jace is my number one has to do with his choices. He was abused, taught about darkness not light, and yet the choices he makes fall on the side of goodness. He strives to stay in the light, and that makes it possible for him to be saved.

Thank heaven, for boys in YA!

The Top Five YA Books I Read in 2012

I have ambitiously decided to narrow down the thirty books I read this year, consisting of mostly YA, to my Top Five.

Yes. I’m going to try. *Cracks Knuckles*

I read a few non-YA books this year, but as I am a Young Adult writer, I think it’s most appropriate to limit the Top Five list to just YA. No offense meant for the amazing “Adult” books I read.

There is a certain gut reaction I can’t ever seem to escape, but I am really going to try and be conscious of reason. I write fantasy, so I read a heck-of-a lot of it this year. I will make sure to include a smattering of the brilliance happening all over YA, not just in fantasy, because there is a lot of amazing stuff to be seen. Try to keep in mind, I am still playing catch up, so some of my favorite reads may not have been published this year at all. In fact, I am sure at least two will not.

OK, so, enough chatter. Onto the list, starting with number 5.

5) The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

fios

I loved this book for so many reasons. It was my first John Green, which is sad, so I added all of his books to my TBR list. I actually picked this book up because Veronica Roth recommended it at the reading for Insurgent I attended earlier this year.

I am so glad she did. From the moment we are introduced to Hazel, and then Gus, they capture the reality of people living (and dying) with a disease and the sentiment of trying to make sense of an otherwise confusing world. They are children becoming adults. The tragedy is tempered skillfully by wit and humor, so it’s never too much. Until it finally is. Then it crushes you.

This book is a good read for a girl or boy. It also has the added bonus of creating a love story for the dying that anyone will root for. Check it out, even if you don’t like Contemporary.

4) The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson (Bonus: Its sequel The Crown of Embers)

goftcoe

I found this book through a YA Highway suggestion, and again, I am so thankful I did. This is true high fantasy with a twist. Rae Carson set her book in a world influenced in dress and environment by an area in northern Africa between Algeria, Morocco, and Spain.

What’s even more compelling about these books than the landscape and food, is Elisa, the protagonist princess and fated bearer of a mystical stone of power. I really fell for Elisa, her transformation from weak, overweight princess to freedom-fighter and Queen is wonderful. Rae Carson draws on the classic Tropes of Fantasy literature and spins them around until their heads pop off. **Bonus** The Crown of Embers has a super steamy romance.

If you aren’t sure about high fantasy, this is a great pick for you. It’s nerve racking, tragic, inspiring, and based in a compelling world.

3.  UnWind, by Neal Shusterman (Unwholly is the sequel)

unwindunwhollyThese books will not be for everyone. UnWind was published in 2009, and it’s sequel, UnWholly was just released in the fall of 2012. UnWind is one of the most difficult books I have ever read in terms of theme.

It takes place after the Second Civil War in America, which was over the issue of Abortion. The solution is that life is inviolable from birth to thirteen, but from the ages of thirteen to eighteen a parent has the option to UnWind their child. UnWinding is a process where each piece of the body is separated and redistributed. The story follows three fated UnWinds and how they battle to stay alive, or in some cases, die.

This is a gut-wrenching subject and Neal Shusterman doesn’t shy away from it in the slightest. If you are a parent, especially of a teen, I think it is an important book to read. It is a brilliant commentary, as well as a non-stop roller coaster of a read. If you can get through it, it just might change you. If you can’t tell, I feel very strongly about these books. I think you will too.

2) Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

sbAnother high fantasy flipped on its backside. This is Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, and it speaks volumes about her potential as an author. She’s been around the Hollywood scene as a make-up artist for a while, and her eye for the dramatic is definitely felt in the pages of Shadow and Bone.

This awesome slice of fantasy takes place in a Czarist Russian inspired world called Ravka. A magical force has created the dangerous fog known as the Shadow Fold, which slowly grows around the country, cutting it off from resources and endangering the lives of the citizens. The First Army of the King is aided by a magical army called Grisha, led by the mysterious Darkling. The story centers around an orphan girl named Alina who possesses a dormant power much needed in this desperate nation. A power she never knew she had. This power changes her world forever.

Alina is a vibrant narrator, with a certain snark and sharpness to her that is refreshing, and the plot vibrates along at a comfortably quick pace. This book isn’t my number one only because I am a little jealous of the Fabulous Leigh for writing it and not me. I think anyone, even those who generally loathe high fantasy, can get into this book. If you haven’t already picked it up, do it…now!

**Bonus** Sexy boy love interests are exponential!

And…my favorite read this year…

1) When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead 

wyrmThis was a hard choice for me. When You Reach Me is actually Middle Grade, which I don’t usually read in, but I had heard non-stop raves for this book, so I had to. I am tickled pink that I did. Every time I think about this book, I smile, which is why it is number one on my list. It touched the child in me while giving me food for thought and stroking the science fiction nerd deep down.

When You Reach Me was the Newbery Winner for 2010, among other prestigious awards, but it’s really a very gentle, simple slice of life tale with a truly golden heart. It takes place in 1979 New York City, and is told by Miranda, a twelve year old girl who’s best friend doesn’t want to be friends anymore. When Miranda begins to receive mysterious notes with eerily accurate information in them, her world turns upside down.

I don’t want to tell you anything else. Just, seriously, read this book. Like, tonight. It’s short and sweet. It will reaffirm the goodness of humanity, the mystery of the universe, and the joy of true friendship. Be warned, you will probably cry, so keep tissues by your side. Anyone, anywhere, can read this and appreciate it. I would even read it aloud to younger children.

Phew, I feel better now. A few Honorable Mentions that I must now mention are:

Hope you enjoy the list, and get a few great reads out of it. Feel free, or largely compelled, to share your own list, especially if it differs greatly from mine. I am ALWAYS looking for more books to pile on my TBR list.

Road Trip Wednesday: #153 Book-to-Film

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic: It isn’t surprising that this month’s Bookmobile selection, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bonehas sold film rights; the darkly magical world of the Shadow Fold begs for an on-screen translation! But that got us wondering. We’d like to know, in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

I am inspired by this topic for a couple of reasons:

1) Like most readers, great world-building and character development are the food for my imagination. Envisioning the world, and “casting” a book I love is one of my favorite parts of reading.

2) With my screenwriting background, editing a book for movie translation is something I never seem to be able to avoid. Some books are easy (like when I read The Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins used to be a screenwriter) some are hard (like Pure, with it’s multiple plot lines and sensory overload), all are fun.

I agree with the author of this topic, Shadow and Bone will lend itself well to film. It’s ripe with vivid images and told in a straight line by the narrator. Finding the visual narrative thread, and knowing what perspective to shoot in, should not prove too complicated for the writer tasked with adapting the screenplay. And that, in essence, is my answer. Book to film translation is so tricky for those very reasons: narrative voice and scope. When you read a book, the author has pages and pages of time to build and fill and maneuver the characters into the heart of the reader.

When writing a screenplay, every page (which is made up of minimally described scene, action and dialogue) has to do a lot of work. Each page of a screenplay is the equivalent to one minute of screen time. Most screenplays are 120 pages, (2 hour films) with some being much shorter and some being much longer. The Hunger Games screenplay, for instance, would have been roughly 142 pages for its 142 run-time. The book was 382 pages, a 140 page gap. This is not even taking into account the difference in word count per page.

My point? A book to screen adaptation is reliant largely on how easy the information given in the longer novel is to translate into action. Screen time is action driven, even if its a character piece. This is where the breakdown happens, I think, with a lot of books turned to film. For a book to work as a film there needs to be a strong action thread (By action I do not just mean running, fighting, or killing. Action is just anything that pushes the plot forward.) and one that is easy to show on film.

To drive this point home: the seventh Harry Potter book made a horrible movie. The last half of the book, as well as the second film, was easier to interpret because it was pretty purpose driven. The first part of the book, and the first film, was plodding and pushed forward by sheer will. We got through both because we were all fully vested in the characters. This will not happen for every book-to-film adaptation.

Divergent should make a pretty compelling film, as long as they remember Tris’ energy and don’t get too bound up in being overly-clever with storytelling. With first person POV translations, the trick is finding a new narrative voice (why I think Twilight was such a massive failure) to help the audience into the story.

All of this to say…book to film is always difficult because as a medium they are completely different. The best adaptations are ones with clear purpose, clean storytelling, and images that lend themselves well to screen.

One of the best book-to-film interpretations ever.

Road Trip Wednesday #141

For this weeks Road Trip Wednesday the question is: What was the best book you read in July?

I read two books this last month, excluding my own manuscript twice, one was Literary Fiction and the other YA Fantasy. The first, Bridget Asher’s (one of the pen names Julianna Baggott prints under) The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, and the second was Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. For me there was no better, but only completely and utterly different. How do you quantify the value of two things that in no way relate to one another? Let’s see if I can.

Time it took to read:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted was a slower ride. It wasn’t something to consume quickly. It was like chocolate — or one of the French pastries she talks about in the book. I had to savor my time with it.

Shadow and Bone took me two days. It was rich and full, but the pace was active and the story filled with intrigue.

Narrator:

Both books were written in first person, past tense. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is composed in the frazzled voice of Heidi Bartolozzi, a young widow. Shadow and Bone is told from the perspective of Alina, an orphan girl living in a magical offshoot of Russia. Both are strong, flawed, funny women with a lot going on in their lives. Both made me smile. Only one made me cry.

Plot:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted follows Heidi to France with her son and niece, on a mission to salvage the families home there and rediscover herself separate from the loss of her husband. Heidi wars with these tasks, often times unwilling to let go of the loss and equally feeling to pull to be renewed.

Shadow and Bone is about the country of Ravka, and how Alina may be the key to saving it from the magical darkness that surrounds it. Her awkward rise to the top, and her sexy though foolish romance with the man who discovered her gift, is captivating.

Character:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is cast beautifully. From Heidi, a ruffled woman in her mid 30s, to Charlotte, the sixteen year old niece with a secret. Her young son, the neurotic and curious Abbott, is deeply compelling. (I am a sucker for sweet, wounded children.) Her romantic, though cold, mother — the matriarch that forces Heidi to confront her loss— is alive on the page. But for me, a woman who really loves her husband, Heidi’s long-dead husband really hit home for me. He’s beautiful, strong, and slightly nerdy. Their romance was genuinely heartbreaking to experience in the context of knowing he was dead.

Shadow and Bone is filled with characters that immediately feel fantastical but human. Alina, as a heroine, is incredibly compelling. Her perspective is sort of cynical, and I kind of love that. Mal, her best friend, is a cunning and genuinely selfless boy she has loved for years in secret. I was drawn the most though to The Darkling, the most powerful man in the kingdom next to the King, and also the most dangerous. Everything about him is sensual and mysterious. There’s also the funny, beautiful friend and the boy she loves. A crazy old woman, beautifully illustrated, as well as a combat teacher modeled — it would seem — after Jackie Chan.

So, overall, which is the best? I’m still undecided. They serve very different purposes and create totally different emotions in me. It’s an example of why it’s so important to read in different genres. Each genre has something brilliant to offer.

You might also like: