Book Activism: January/February

Though these be reviews in nature, I prefer to think of them as raising awareness.

Book activism, if you will.

There will be links to further check out these titles should my enjoyment make you curious.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

hating

If you follow me on any social media platforms, you will have already seen me gush over this book. What a joy to read. The whip-smart dialog and super sexy, steamy romance set this book apart for me from other rom-com’s.

Description from the internet:

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I read it in two days. I carried it around with me like a security blanket. I sniggered in the parking lot to pick up my son at school when I came to a sexy scene and realized only I knew what I was reading. Loved the characters, the pacing, the setting, and the sexy times.

I would 1000% like to see this made in a movie. Some fan casting to wet your whistle.

The Hating Game on Goodreads

Follow Sally Thorne on Twitter because she is adorbs

And/or on Instagram 


The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

wing

Shifting gears to a YA debut by London-based, American author, Katherine Webber. From the first time I read the description of this book, I knew I wanted to read it.

Description from the internet:

Wing Jones, like everyone else in her town, has worshipped her older brother, Marcus, for as long as she can remember. Good-looking, popular, and the star of the football team, Marcus is everything his sister is not.

Until the night everything changes when Marcus, drunk at the wheel after a party, kills two people and barely survives himself. With Marcus now in a coma, Wing is crushed, confused, and angry. She is tormented at school for Marcus’s mistake, haunted at home by her mother and grandmothers’ grief. In addition to all this, Wing is scared that the bank is going to repossess her home because her family can’t afford Marcus’s mounting medical bills.

Every night, unable to sleep, Wing finds herself sneaking out to go to the school’s empty track. When Aaron, Marcus’s best friend, sees her running one night, he recognizes that her speed, skill, and agility could get her spot on the track team. And better still, an opportunity at a coveted sponsorship from a major athletic gear company. Wing can’t pass up the opportunity to train with her longtime crush and to help her struggling family, but can she handle being thrust out of Marcus’s shadow and into the spotlight?

The prose blew me away. Voice and passion pulsed from every page. I loved the setting, which is 1995 Atlanta, and loved the characters even more. Katherine’s descriptions of everything from the track field to Wing’s LaoLao’s dumplings were absolutely delicious. I immediately felt I was back in time experiencing a taste of a world I have never seen, and thankful for the chance to see it through Wing’s compassionate eyes.

What a completely satisfying and rewarding read.

This book is already out in the UK, but will not be out in America until March 14th.

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones on Goodreads

Follow Katherine on Instagram and also live in London vicariously through her

And vicarious living can also be done through her Twitter

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


Girl out of Water by Laura Silverman

girl

Another YA, by the super rad Laura Silverman. I was so intrigued by this book, which is such a departure from what I normally read, that I simply could not wait to get my hands on it.

Description from the internet:

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

Oh how I FELT for Anise! Such a compelling character. Her voice just leaps off the page at you. She is complicated without being angsty, and her journey is relatable and real, and a little swoony. I did find myself wishing for the ocean right along with Anise, but was so wrapped up in the plot that it didn’t deter me. Definitely a great early summer read.

This book comes out May 2017, so keep it in mind for those lazy, hazy days.

Girl out of Water on Goodreads

Follow Laura on Twitter 

And Instagram for bookish and social awareness news. 

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

follow

I decided to read this book for two reasons:

  1. My trusted friend, Kayla Olson (author of The Sandcastle Empire, which I will have a post for next week!!! STAY TUNED), insisted. Intensely. Maybe she hovered over me while I requested it from NetGalley.
  2. It is relevant to my fangirl interests.

It SLAYED me.

Description from the internet:

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

*flails all over the room* *Tweets @ author in panic* *emoji face explosion*

This book was not what I expected. Every time I felt I had gotten my footing, had figured something out, it changed. And I loved every second. I was completely sucked in to the mystery and romance. Loved how the author used Transcripts and Tweets, as well as traditional prose narration to weave the story.

This book is out in June and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list.

Follow Me Back on Goodreads

Follow A.V. Geiger on Instagram

and Twitter and use the #EricThornObsessed hashtag to express your feelings 

(I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for honest feedback.)


I’ll just go bury myself in books now.

xo,

Rebekah

Gender Roles & Young Adults: Little Game

ben

As a Young Adult writer, and even more as a writer of diverse fantasy, I consider myself a fairly open-minded human. Creating a world where teens are able to break down barriers, conquer adversaries, and challenge the status quo, is an important part of my writing life. The question of gender roles is one I must examine without prejudice, and even more, I must be alert to what teenagers are saying on the subject.

Listening, writers are always listening. We have to hear in order to tell the story accurately.

So when my nephew, Benny (Ben J. Pierce) a 15-year-old actor with his own YouTube channel and ever-growing following on Twitter and Instagram, debuted his first single Little Game, I paid attention. *Note: I am always paying attention to what my nephew produces. I cast him in his first stage play, I knew when he was nine he was going to be something fabulous. 

A few weeks ago, on his show KidPOV, he tackled a touchy subject for a teenage boy (for anyone, really, because hot button issues tend to make people stupid and use nasty emoticons): sexism in the media. It was thoughtful. It was generous. It was nicer than I would have been.

Ben is not your typical boy. He never has been. So it came as no surprise to me that for his first single he chose to address the pressure placed on young men and women, boys and girls, to conform to societal norms regardless of desire or proclivity.

As a female who always liked dresses and dolls and boys, who was a princess who sipped tea from china, I wasn’t picked on as a kid. But the sweet-faced blonde girl with red patent leather shoes also liked to give bullies bloody noses, and bullies learned to stay away. They learned to stay away from friends and siblings, too.

But it’s cute to be a curly haired tomboy with a crush on Christian Bale in Newsies…when you’re a girl. Reverse this quirk to a boy who would rather tap dance than play football, and regardless of open-mindedness, no matter the change in times, certain names are used. With the pervasiveness of online bullying, these names become a permanent fixture in social media.

As we get older, we are expected to exchange childhood whims for more decidedly adult ones. We are expected to get in line with everyone else, and if we don’t, we are labeled. These labels are damaging. As a teenager, still very much forming who you are and what you want, still trying to wade through all your desires and curiosities, putting a word to a way of feeling or thinking can alter self-image and create self-hatred in a way that becomes irreversible. But not always factual. Not necessarily a true representation of who you are.

Say you are a thirteen-year-old girl who has always played sports, never wears make-up, doesn’t talk about boys you like because all the boys you know are either your friends, or gross. Say someone calls you a dyke. Tells you, you must like girls because of how you look, because you don’t talk about boys. Say you question yourself, and you discover no, you aren’t gay, but no matter what you say everyone still wants to label you that way. And because you are labeled that way, you are treated differently. You are side-eyed.

Or maybe you discover you are. And maybe you don’t want to talk about it yet.

Another person’s label cannot dictate who we are. There is no way to silence voices against you when voices want to be heard. There is no way to make everyone see you for who you truly are without bringing their own preconceived ideas into the mix. The need for acceptance is basic. It is human. Only a few opinions really matter. Ignore the rest.

Getting to that point, though, not so easy. Videos like Little Game, Young Adult literature written for and about teens, talking about these things honestly, helps.

I am not the only one that thinks Ben’s single is worth discussing. This week Buzzfeed picked up the story, and linked to the video. That, combined with others popular in the YouTube world speaking out in favor of his video, the views have jumped to (as of posting) 292,000 views. Ben is not the first to speak this message, as the article notes, and he won’t be the last.

Ben is a teen, speaking to teens, about what it means to be a teen. I am an adult who is listening.

It’s a Reading thing, not a Girl or Boy thing.

During my normal rounds this AM of the interweb I discovered this post, by author  D.S. Cahr, about publishers marketing YA books largely to girls. This is not new news, but I thought I’d add my (brief) two-cents. Make sure to check out the link above, and learn more about the author’s book The Secret Root. (I am an admitted book whore, but this one sounds pretty dad-gum awesome.)

So, my thoughts, in a possibly random order. Books do not have gender. They are not Boy or Girl. (I believe Libba Bray said that, and she is a brilliant example of not writing for gender.) Some will inherently appeal more to one gender, but that shouldn’t stop the other from reading it.

As the author states, Divergent and The Hunger Games, both featuring female protagonists, have been universally loved by boy readers. Why? Katniss and Tris are both pretty kick ass. They are more plot driven (which is YA in general, not just YA for boys), and they do not shy away from violence and/or action. The romance is solid, but not the focus of the story.

Other books, with similar components, are being marketed as Girl books, even if boys would probably dig them. (I think any book written by Maggie Stiefvater will appeal to boys. Her boys rock.)

I am writing a YA book that is told in first person POV by a seventeen year old girl.  It is plot-driven. It has violence and action. The romance is important to the plot, but not the only thing in the plot. The Boy has an arc with super-high stakes and tons of drama, making him a very strong, conflicted masculine counterpart.

My book will likely be marketed to girls.

This irritates me. Girls are already more likely to read a book featuring a male protagonist than boys will for a female. The pressure to be masculine is greater than the pressure to be feminine. Girls who dress in baseball caps and cut-offs, or like sports and the outdoors, are considered cool and cute. Boys who pay attention to their clothes, like art or aren’t into sports, are considered pansies.

This may not be true everywhere. I remember in New York, one of my mom-friends said she got her son a make-up kit and let him play dress up in princess gear. Sam has never been inclined to wear make-up (although, he has quite literally painted his face), and dress up is reserved for superhero costumes, but if he were, I’d let him. Self-expression is important in developing identity. New York City is not the norm, and in many parts of the country, this double-standard is still an issue.

To say a romantic book cannot be for boys, or a violent book cannot target girls, is bullshit. Boys can like romance. They can be hopeless romantics as much as girls. I have a brother who fits into the category wholeheartedly. However, he is not a reader. Why? Because early on he wasn’t connecting with the books he was being told he should connect with.

I guess, what I’m trying to say (not so elegantly) is publishers shouldn’t decide a book is Boy or Girl, but should market it as a book. Teens are smart. They can decide if they like something without you telling them to like it. To pander to the lowest common denominator is just selling your audience short. Teens do not like to be talked down to.

Publishers are about making the most money. This is fact because books are also a business. Wouldn’t they make more money if girls and boys could feel comfortable reading whatever book they want?

Top Five YA Crushes

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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!

POISON Blog Tour

For my first blog tour, I am happy to be supporting a book as effervescently full of fun as Poison. When I heard about Bridget Zinn’s book — and the untimely passing of the author — I was moved by the groundswell support from the blogging and writing community. I did not know Bridget personally, as some of the other bloggers and authors on the tour did, but from what I can tell from her writing, she was someone I would have loved to grab coffee with. Or Pie. Kyra, the sixteen year old heroine of Poison, really seems to like pie.

As I began reading Poison, I was immediately transported by Bridget’s words and engaged by the thrilling concept of her story. There was a playfulness and zest in her storytelling that reminds me of the earlier Harry Potter books. In fact, that thought actually upset me a bit. As a fairly stingy reader, who can’t consume books fast enough to satisfy my appetite, I was throughly miffed that I won’t get to read more Bridget Zinn books.

Readers, we have been shorted.

It is a huge complement to a writer when readers want more of you. I would have wanted more books from Bridget. Many, many more. I would have bought them and shared them emphatically.

I’m glad we have Poison to enjoy, and I am sure you will enjoy it, but still…

Here is a bit about the book:

poison

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Pick up a copy using one of the handy links below, or by visiting your local bookstore/library.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

iTunes

Powell’s Books 

If you are on Goodreads, add it to your To Be Read list pronto, friends. Here’s a link for that: Poison on Goodreads

Now, a bit of Bridget’s personal story:

bridget_zinn_photoBridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the “summer of love” and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers’ copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads. 

I actually, to be incredibly personal with you all and at the risk of TMI, read this in my bath. There are happy dried drops of sudsy water on a handful of the pages.

To Bridget! To first books, first blog tours, and pie!

Road Trip Wednesday: #171 Quarterly Check-up…I mean IN.

rtwRoad 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: Quarterly check-ins! We’re already 1/4 of the way through the year–where are you on your reading and writing goals?

Ok, first of all — No way! I am bumfuzzled that we are already a quarter through the year. Holy time warp, Batman! The first couple months of this year have been largely consumed with the process of moving from the Big City back to the sprawling lands of Texas.

I have read four books this year, with a few pages of progress on a fifth.

bones

crewel
ravendeerskin

 

According to my Goodreads tracker, I’m 12% behind. If I intend to meet my goal of 70 books, I best get my sweet little behind in gear. However, I’m nonplussed. I’ll make up the time. Insert Tortoise and the Hare analogy here.

As far as writing goals are concerned. I have but one, and I think I’m doing pretty well with it. What is my goal you ask? (Go on, ask.) Get my MS to the point where it’s ready for submission. Now, here’s the thing. That’s not totally on me. When working with an agent, a big part of the process and the relationship is about trusting them to tell you when it is ready. Or at least, trust that you can come to the agreement about its readiness.

Part of my struggle is this: I am obsessive. Someday I plan of finding another outlet for this energy that doesn’t involve making other people nervous. I sent her an email Monday about a particular revision I was going to try. She probably just shrugged and let me do it because, well, see above. So, for my writing goal, I think I am on track. And at some point in the next few months, I hope to have confirmation.

So, I need to get back to work now. I should probably read? Happy Wednesday! To goals!

funny-gif-simon-cat-tree

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: #161 What’s in a name?

rtwRoad 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: The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?

I have always loved the meaning of names. Not because my name has the most awesome meaning. Rebekah means, almost everywhere you look, “to bind“, although the link I’ve included does try to improve the connotation a little bit. I’ve accepted this over the years. When I was pregnant with my son, there was never another name option other than Samuel. Samuel means “God heard”. He did hear when he gave me Sam, so it fits.

Naming characters in my writing is a different process, for me. The name of a character isn’t always a choice, or something I plot out. I tend to get a name stuck in my head in the early incarnation of the idea, and getting it unstuck is nearly impossible later on.

As the character develops, the name begins to feel like a part of their identity. Sometimes the name meaning turns out to be  ordained, connected to who that character is or what they represent in the story. I love when this happens organically. I also love when I begin to understand the character more because of their name. When you meet people in life, they introduce themselves to you with a handshake. You see shades of who they are, you know pieces of what their life has been, and you know their name. Over time, you get to know a person better and their name becomes synonymous with who they are to you. My relationship with my characters is very much this way.

In the case of my novel, some of my characters names are not actual names at all. This is always a fun thing to have happen because it feels like you’ve discovered something no one else could, and you’ve gone to a place truly separate from the framework of your own world.

There are different kinds of writers out there, this is true of every art form. I’m the kind who doesn’t plan much, at least not in the first draft. I don’t always know who a character is, or is going to become. I don’t always expect the character to turn out the way they do. I think this makes my discovery of the movements in my work a lot more exciting for me. It also means I have to do a lot of  revisions. That’s fine, I’ve accepted this is my writing personality and it will never change. Just like I’ve accepted I don’t really have any power over how my characters are named.

Road Trip Wednesday: #160

rtw
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: About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?

I find the answering of this question a little maddening. In years past I read…some. Some is to say, I made time for reading when I stumbled across a good book. I didn’t seek out books so much as occasionally find them. In fact, I relied largely on friends recommendations and I didn’t ask friends for many recommendations.

Then I started reading young adult. I can read adult literature, don’t get me wrong, and occasionally I still do. (Like when a friend wants to have a book discussion at a fancy restaurant with cocktails.) But now that I’m reading YA, I read as much as my life allows. I read in the morning. I read in the bathroom. I read on the train. I read with coffee, and wine, and nap time.

This brings up another reason I have read more this year than any year before. Writing. When you are writing, you read more. Or, at least, I do. It encourages you to hone your craft. It fills you with confidence and understanding. It also makes you hungry for the art form you’ve chosen to express yourself in. Writing YA just means I have an excuse to read more YA.

I tell people it’s for my job.

So, not every year, but this year I have so far read 30 books. Could that number be improved? Absolutely! I hope it keeps on climbing. There is so much out there to read, so much of quality, and interest, and relevance. So much, in fact, for anyone to ever complain they are bored, or have nothing to read, or have nothing to do, is just laziness.

FYI if you follow this blog, you may think I’ve been complaining of boredom. That is not the case. I’ve been complaining of missing my son. There is always something to read, but in life you must have variety. Once I’ve written for six hours, and read for a few more, my eyes start to ache and I have to find something else to do. When my son is around, this is not a problem.

donnie darko

I’ve read 30 books this year, and next year, I hope to read more.

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.