Jonathan Arnston & Liviania
Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
~The Book Pixie & Jenna
You have all been emailed. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone for participating!
Posted by Steph at 11:06 PM
Ahh, so my boyfriend, proving as always to be a world-class Steph expert is getting me a Kindle for our one-year anniversary. Which, for those of you who know, happened two months ago but he wanted to get me the new generation so he asked for an extension. We're not big gifts people so I didn't feel like I missed much... And then I found out he was getting me a KINDLE. AH!
BUT. Since there's the white option, and the graphite option, I have no idea which one to choose. He also knows this. He says graphite. My brother says white.
I'm so indecisive that I'm going to defer this to you. Help! There's a poll below so feed readers, please join in!
It’s epic in the way that makes you feel different, like you’ve aged, and tired, like you’ve trekked down a single road with no end in sight, and accomplished, like it’s made a ripple in you, affected you in some way. It makes you feel.
I came out of it not exactly crying, but kind of heaving a bit. The urge to cry was there, though. I just couldn’t make any tears come about. It hit me in a way that’s never happened before, like a huge emotional blow but not hugely emotional.
In The Hunger Games, Mrs. Collins creates a world we’re all captivated by, populated with characters we either love or hate, it doesn’t matter, so long as it’s clear that we clearly care.
In Catching Fire, she keeps us on our toes, pulls the rug from under us, and ends in a high note.
In Mockingjay, she recreates that world. She gives us more access to it. She spares no gruesome detail, makes not one thing neat, cuts no corners. She reshapes the characters, making them deeper and messier and more human. She breaks our heart, tugs at the strings of our imagination, makes it impossible for this world to not come alive.
She’s pushed the boundaries yet again here, and I am sure this will be hailed as one of the best series YA has to offer.
Mockingjay feels different from the other two. I’m immensely pleased with it, and yet it was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting something a little more…straightforward. Not that the previous two are straightforward in a linear way (not so), but they’re usually more earnest. This one’s careful, calculating. More mature in a way. Nothing’s light, nothing is inconsequential.
It also demanded my attention in a different way. I wasn’t reading for the action in and of itself, although that’s always a great motivator and there was plenty of that; I was reading because it was impossible not to. As I said on my Twitter, I love this, but not in a squealy and fangirly way. In a deeper way.
I’m not sure if I’ve said anything here, anything that entices anyone to read, as if there are many people at least in the blogging community who haven’t read it yet, but…there’s really not much to say. It’s useless trying to sell someone this book with an enticing summary because if you’ve come this far in the series, you’ll want to know what happens, and if you haven’t, you really should.
It is a GREAT read. It is a MONUMENTAL read. This is an example of how a novel can have a great ending without selling out, or making things too bright, or being stale to not cause waves. It’s an incredible example of an author whose imagination and whose work exceed her grasp. Who creates something so…wondrous.
Really, I’m in awe. This is a fucking powerful piece of work. Unexpected, breathtaking, hilarious, heart-wrenching, all the while graceful. Sometimes you get lucky to come across something like this.
Well, well, VERY well done, Mrs. Collins. And thank you, for a time well-spent, in a world I will be sure to revisit and, as much as I want to keep it to myself, will end up giving one-way tickets to, to anyone I can get to. Once in...never out. ;)
A. Easy. Five stars. 10 out of 10.
Scholastic | 400 pages | August 24th, 2010 | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon
I got a Kindle app on my boyfriend's iPhone and I was all excited about getting to read books for relatively cheap (compared to the prices we get here, it's a godsend) and I search for "young adult romance" with the results sorted with price: low to high in the Kindle portion of Amazon and you know what I get?
I wouldn't pay a cent to read that first novel. No, I would not.
Back to searching. Also, reading Mockingjay (also with the Kindle app -- ahh, don't have to wait up to six weeks to get it! Got it this morning!
A brief history of my cell phones:
First one was icky but cheap & I was a satisfied 11-year-old with a phone. Text messaging! AH!
Second one was when we moved to Brazil. Also icky, but hey, I didn't much care. It crashed and burned a year later.
Third phone lasted six months because I knocked it off the bathroom sink and into the toilet while blow drying my hair. I melted it trying to blow dry it. I BROKE A NOKIA. HOW?
Fourth phone was a gift from my brother-in-law (married to my sister), a phone he tried to give my sister but she declared it "too complicated" for her to use. It was a nicer-than-I-was-used-to Nokia, but it doesn't do much of anything.
I really want a nice phone. I'm 17, have my own savings, so I figured I might as well get what I want. Now...I don't know what I want! Which is where bloggers come in.
Since I'm international, I have to buy the iPhone at much different rates than US users. Here are the prices:
32gb 3GS = USD $420
16gb 4G = USD $750
I can afford either (been saving for a looong time), but I figured I should ask people who actually have one. Is the 4G so good it justifies the price? I have read the comparisons online but also "so and so tech spec is better by 40%" doesn't mean much to me. I'm talking about user experience. Which do you guys recommend?
Tell me a secret, and I'll tell you one...
In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.
Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.
Yesterday, you read Holly Cupala's Pub Story. Today, you get to throw your name in to win her book. I've got two copies available.
How to Enter
Simply comment with your email address. One entry per person.
+ 1 if you link to this contest
++ 1 if you also link to Holly's Pub Story when you link to the contest
US only. You have until the 27th to enter. Go go go!
Contest over. Winners announced here.
Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's an awesome thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.
About Holly: Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn't writing and contributing to readergirlz, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Ten percent of the author's proceeds go toward World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls.
The Pub Story:
I pretty much did everything you’re supposed to do when you want to be published—joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), took classes, formed writing groups, went to conferences and timidly offered up my pages for critique…
That is, until life dealt my writing path a fatal blow.
Up until that point, I’d been writing picture book manuscripts (horrid ones), craft articles, short stories, and had started a half-decent middle grade novel. I had a story in a Chicken Soup book and more stories on the way. And yet, I couldn’t write another word.
One devastating loss changed everything. Suddenly my writing seemed meaningless. I never
picked that novel back up, and I might not have ever written again if it hadn’t been for several key events.
A few months after, I attended an SCBWI conference, surrounded by encouraging friends.
We went to hear Libba Bray speak on shutting off your brain and getting to the heart of your writing…and suddenly there it was. The entire story raced through my mind like a movie trailer.
I knew I had to write it.
But I had no idea how. Delving into Miranda’s story of secrets and sister loss meant exposing sadness and difficult relationships, to break through to hope and even healing. I tackled it…one sentence at a time.
When I won an SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant from Judy Blume, it was a signpost—I wasn’t totally wasting my time and babysitting money! (By then we had a second daughter, happy and healthy.) Not only that, it was an open doorway…but one with an expiration date. So I doubled my efforts to finish the novel in time for a NY conference.
I didn’t quite make it, but I did make a lot of excellent contacts, and people were buzzing about the book. So I finished as fast as I could! I’d met a few agents up to that point and had come to the conclusion I should find one, so I started my search in earnest—the grant opened a lot of doors (or at least emails!), and at one point I had five or six agents looking at the full.
That’s when I met my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at another SCBWI event. I read my first 500 words, and he said, “W-w-w-wow.” (Which totally wowed me!) A few weeks later, both he and another agent made offers. But Edward and I had completely hit it off—plus he was really passionate about the story (which didn’t stop him from telling me it needed revision).
We spent three months getting it ready to go, and immediately he sold it in a pre-empt to our top choice!
It’s really surreal, for people to be reading a story so close to my heart, but the response has been kind of amazing. Over and over, readers tell me how emotionally invested they are in Miranda’s story (that, and they stay up into the wee hours reading it!). I’m pretty grateful, actually—that something so hard could become so hopeful. I’m thankful for all of you.
And thank you, Steph, for inviting me to Reviewer X!
Are you kidding me? Thanks to Holly for this great guest blog!
I used to live in Texas and while I adored my time there, this doesn't make me want to go back. Not at all. $*(^Y*& censorship.
Posted by Steph at 7:27 PM
This book has been listed as “currently-reading” on my GoodReads for well over a year, but I assure you it’s not because it’s so sinfully atrocious it can only be digested between well spaced intervals.
Rather, it’s because I’m a freak who can’t smell the awesome sitting on her nightstand for a whole freaking year. But--whatever, I could go on about this forever.
In Cassaforte, this little, medieval piece of the world unlike any other, magic abounds. The hierarchical society is divided into a king; seven royal craftsmen families who’re each specialized in a trade (ship building, glass making, book making, to name a few) and able to manipulate magic to enhance their creations; thirty socialite families who standby to become a member of the Seven should one of them fail to perform the rite of fealty; and the common folk. The rite of fealty is a daily tradition that pledges the Seven’s loyalty to the king and to the binding powers of Cassaforte, thereby keeping each family’s magic intact.
Our third-person journey with main character Risa Divetri, the youngest daughter of the glass makers, begins just as she’s about to participate in the Scrutiny, an event in which the children between the ages of eleven and sixteen of the noble families are picked by one of the two gods of Cassaforte to be interned at their respective insulas (universities). There, they learn to practice their family’s magic.
Just as it’s Risa’s turn to be chosen, both the god and the goddess tell her she’s not needed at either insula. And just like that, the unprecedented happens: Risa is left unchosen and, in her eyes and in the eyes of society, worthless. Her glass making is too different from her family’s and without the ability to enchant it, she might as well be an invalid. She resigns to cursing the gods and not knowing quite what to make of herself…until the old king dies and whispers of corruption emergent from the prince threaten the royal families and the integrity of Cassaforte. Then Risa realizes the gods may have had something else planned for her, and goes on to kick some serious ass.
Ah, where to begin, where to begin! This one is not without its faults, to be sure, but there’s just so much to love. I guess I should begin with the structure of the society and the world created herein. I thought the lay of the society was très interesting: the Seven and the Thirty are regarded as snobby, socialite families who look down upon everyone else. But as Risa explains the guards who come to safeguard her during times of peril, the Seven are craftsmen and too busy perfecting their art to be occupying themselves with the crap the Thirty do. I thought that was genius, creating a place where the royals actually do something.
Also, the concept of magic! I can’t really explain without spoiling it, but let’s just say it’s unique. The families each use enchantments to make their products cutting edge--the Divetri’s glass windows can’t be destroyed; the Catarre’s books need only be read once and you’ll know them by heart. As you get deeper into the novel, you learn about its secondary uses and the logic behind it all--well, it's nothing short of creative.
Risa is (really) hard to swallow at times, what with her whining and failing to see the big picture, but I came out appreciating what all she did. Like I said, she kicks some serious ass and she’s a strong heroine for all she withstood and all she accomplished not long after her world collapsed. What's interesting is, I didn’t connect with her, or with the supporting characters, at first, and I was already picturing my review: "The novel starts with the ball already rolling, but the characters are to be looked at, observed, but not felt or sympathized with." But as the novel progressed and the plot began moving… Let’s just say I learned to appreciate the many endearing members of the cast that, while not deep enough to classify this as a character study, could carry the plot and do it with flair. Oh, and Milo, a guard sent to protect Risa. He’d fill up a review all by himself--I just loved him.
And the plot had so many HEART moments. Some have called it predictable, and while I could see some things coming, there were just as many I couldn’t. I thought it was quite well thought out and, aside from being action packed and taking you places you didn’t quite expect, it also had this HUGE end twist at the end that changed my opinion of the novel from “liking” to “great”.
Two remarkable plot things: at one time, Risa is saved by Milo and his sister, another guard, when they use sword-fighting techniques they read about in a Catarre book. We should memo this to the #waysreadingsaveslives committee.
ALSO. There’s a subplot of romance between Risa and Milo and it culminates in a library. JUST SAYING.
So! I did come out with some minor questions, but this novel is just, to me, uninitiated fantasy reader and medieval kingdom enthusiast, great. I feel like I struck gold, actually. What a gem of a novel! There’s just enough fantasy, just enough plot, just enough spirit--in short, more than enough to make you fall in love.
ETA: It is part of a series! The second book is out! I AM SO GONNA FIND OUT HOW TO GET THAT.
Flux | April 1st, 2009 | 320 pages | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon | Author Website / Blog | Excerpt
Oh, but this is awesome.
It started on 10th, and I'm only posting about this now because my email out-black-holes every other black hole in outer space. Here's what the ever patient Heather Zundel, from www.
Something is going down. Something big.
How would you like to see Edward duke it out against Hermione? Or Katniss and Katsa? Well, guess what? You can, in the first ever YA Fantasy Showdown. In celebration of Suzanne Collin’s final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, a group of bloggers are pitting some of the best-known characters in YA in the ultimate showdown. And you get to pick the winner.
That’s right. You read the battles, evaluate the characters, and vote for who has the honor of moving on to the next round. It’s a tournament like you’ve never seen before (because there’s more). The authors have been asked to participate and advocate their character in writing their own version of the battle. It’s going to be truly epic. Or at least a good way to pass the time until Mockingjay comes out. It all goes down August 10th.
And it seems that the first phase is out of the way and there are a bunch of sparkly winners, so...go!
Posted by Steph at 9:12 PM
ETA 08/25/2010: since this still seems to be getting traffic: book review over here.
I guess this is to be expected with a release this big, but it still comes out as a big controversy. For those who don't know, Andrew Sims of MuggleNet.com somehow got his hands on a copy of Mockingjay this past week. He tweeted about it. He posted a picture of it (the one you see above). How did his get it? Scholastic has no idea.
Response to this has been varied. The general consensus is something like "he will/should get in a lot of trouble for this". Of course, just reading comments in this article shows the wide range of feelings people are having:
by Mel C. in August 11 - 5:29 pm
I’m not mad at all. He of all people should be the one to get it. Andrew seems trustworthy enough not to spoil us! I’m just a tad jealous, though!to
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I HATE HIM I WANT THAT BOOK!
by MikeMagpuyo in August 11 - 5:10 pm
Luck beyond measure. Wow. Hope the end is grand and fulfilling.
by darcy in August 11 - 4:59 pm
why would he tell every onne i dot think that was smartSims comment (on the Examiner link I gave above): Sims responded to a request for a comment, saying "I don't really have any comment and honestly I'm just hoping for it to pass. I didn't expect it to get such a reaction!"
Annnd now for the second part of the Pub Stories ritual, we have a contest! If you didn't read Steve Brezenoff's pub story, you should. And if you want his book, here's a chance to get it.
Good stuff over at The Story Siren's LGBT Lit Days.
This, from a guest post by John from Dreaming in Books:
"Every day I walk through the school hallways, I think at least once that I don’t belong. I contemplate pretending to be straight. Running away. Ending my life. Questioning every little part of me one more time in the hopes that maybe – maybe – I’m not really gay.
I know that it won’t change anything, but living in the hetero-centric world that we do, it’s not like I can help it.
A coming out story. Depression. Angst. Anxiety. A protagonist that starts out hating him/herself. That has other people hating him/her. Tough times, a rough patch with the parental units and friends. It’s what coming out entails. And I get that. But I’m sick of having that be the only thing I read in YA."
You can have a look at some of Steve’s work for younger readers, including the popular Field Trip Mysteries series, here.---
Wow, three entries short of 200 -- VERY cool. Thank you all for participating.
Posted by Steph at 3:00 PM
Not many people know this--actually, thinking about it now, NO ONE knows about this--but after I first read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, I got into this habit of writing letters between Ella and the prince about the widest range of (sometimes strange) topics. What made it so fun that I spent whole afternoons writing them was that I tried my hardest to make them sound as royal-ly and posh as possible. The result? Possibly the epitome of stunted prose, if there ever was any. I was parodying myself, so I guess I learned early on to enjoy the art of making fun of thyself. At least I did something right.
Anyway, I had actually forgotten all about that until I read this book… See, our main hunk, Lucius Vladescu, is in America on a mission. When he and Antanasia, a vampire roughly his age but from his rival clan, the Dragomirs, were born in Romania, they were pledged to each other. Meaning they would marry once they came of age in an attempt to join the power and reign all the vampires together peacefully. But then, when the worst happened and their vampire village was attacked and their parents killed, Lucius was sent to live with his family’s Elders and Antanasia was entrusted to an American couple on the scene who were there to study the Romanian subcultures until she became eighteen. The couple took Antanasia Dragomir, vampire princess, back to the States and renamed her Jessica Parkwoord.
So, Lucius came around right before Jessica’s 18th birthday. And when he shows up, her whole world comes crashing down. Jessica’s a self-professed logical person, and the idea of marriage pacts and the very existence of eternal creatures like vampires really set her off. But eventually, she can’t deny them anymore and she has to face the situation head-on. They say she has a choice about the marriage…but does she really?
So, anyway, what made me think about my old writer-doodles was Lucius’s letters to his Uncle Vasile, who practically his (very cruel) father. The letters, albeit containing very funny tidbits, had this sort of forced charm to them… I don’t know, it’s Lucius’s only first-person narrative in the book (the rest is all told by Jessica’s POV), so maybe there was some urgency to make sure we understood he was regal. But…
That was the first thing that annoyed me.
Now, what’s funny is the beginning of this novel as a whole didn’t work for me. I’ve never had a more serious reason to call it quits on the grounds of “been there, done that” (because of the letters), and yet I kept going…and going…and going until it got better, somewhere past page 60. That’s where this novel’s--Ms Fantaskey’s--good writing began writing in the tune of the actual story and things began moving.
That’s when I got sucked in. And this is where I tell you this won’t be an easy review to write.
First, the packaging is so, so wrong for this book. It BELLOWS “FLUFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!” when this novel is anything but. Sure, the beginning was pretty fluffy, but as far as I’m concerned, that beginning Never Happened. The rest of the novel took a very, very unexpected turn for the dark side of things, full of angst and all things gloriously worth reading about.
This was a most welcome change of pace. A beautiful, very touching scene of Jessica getting an old portrait of her mother, the queen, and almost having a conversation with her as she tried to figure out how to incorporate her mother’s royal spirit while also being Jessica. Several emotionally-driven scenes with Lucius who keeps her on her toes.
I really liked the Jessica we saw toward the middle of the novel. After months of going on and on about the pact, Lucius suddenly stops and has it in for another girl, one Jessica hates. (And it’s not designed to make her jealous. He just becomes interested in her.) She confronts him about it and when he’s dismissive, where other main characters would have just backed down in order to protect their already hurt feelings, she presses him about it. When he’s hurtful to her, she slaps him hard across his face. She doesn’t take his shit. I loved the spunk, LOVED.
And Lucius…he’s one volatile character. Brought up with strong morals, strong manners, and strong sense of loyalty towards his family. The same family who’s ruthless, never hesitating to pound the message home. He’s got two physical scars to show it and a god knows how many emotional bruises. He’s quick-tempered, but he’s also mesmerizing and charismatic and charming. But most of all he’s an arrogant prick whose snobbish outlook bothered me to no end at first and made him quite unsympathetic. Then I kind of just accepted it into his character and it became funny and sometimes endearing. He’s not my type, but he sure seemed Jess’s… :)
I also liked quite a bit about the marriage-pact plotting that I can’t talk about as it’s spoiler-y.
Anyway! This is a hard review to write because up to this point, save from a comment here or there, this sounds all positive, right? But there’s also a lot of negative.
I hate to be the one to be comparing yet ANOTHER vampire book to
, but some of the plotting evokes just that. When I finished the novel, I thought, “This is a pretty good idea of the direction Twilight should’ve gone.” It’s not a book without its faults, but at least the vampire mythology is creative and includes no sparkling. The main character takes way too long to get over her vampire incredulity, especially since she was brought up in a house of believers of all things weird and the fact Lucius is walking proof of it, but other than that she’s got a backbone and isn’t willing to face her man. And said man is not NEARLY as stalkerish as Edward. He can be a bit overbearing in his chivalry, but no “I watch you while you sleep”.
It’s not a retold version of Twilight. It has its own creativity, I think. It stands on its own.
What didn’t stand on its own were nearly every character aside from Jessica and Lucius. That was the second thing that annoyed me big time. Jessica’s best friend since she was four was oddly always off to the periphery, awaiting her cue that Jessica needed someone to fill a scene with or some help getting her hair ready. The parents…what parents? Same deal as the best friend: only pop in when the plot makes them help Jessica. She could probably send them off and host a huge-ass party at her house and they probably would never mention it. Jessica’s love interest? I liked him in the breakup scene. Wish he’d gotten more screen time. And I don’t get the bully. It seems Jessica is the only one targeted and it’s just…never explained.
Then some spoiler-y plot stuff toward the end felt messy in hindsight.
And although I liked the (admittedly hurried ending), I have to say, it reminded me a bit of New Moon. (Don’t kill me for bring up the comparisons again!)
And now for my closing arguments… I didn’t sleep at all last night and instead read this. It took my mind off the fact I needed to sleep but couldn’t. It got me into its story. It’s a flawed book, yes, very much more so than I would usually care for. But sometimes this happens--sometimes a book I can admit has a lot of problems turns out to be really, really enjoyable and worth the read. This one was one of those. If you’ve had that happen to you, and none of the review stuff sets you off, maybe give it a try?
As it is, I have to give it a 6.5. I do recommend, but not to everyone.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | February 1st, 2009 | 351 pages | Beth Fantaskey's site | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon
*If you've read the book & haven't seen the extras (which contain spoilers!) on Ms Fantaskey's website, here it is.
Nowadays, if you ask me what I want to be you’ll get one of two answers:
Children’s book editor
It’s tearing me apart, trying to choose. I’d take Mr. Frost’s advice and pick the road less traveled by, but just which one fit’s the bill?
On the one hand, medical school is tough and long and arduous and did I mention tough? Also, I don’t know (m)any 17-year-olds keen on specializing in something that will lead to watching many innocent children be forced to fight for their lives and, sometimes, despite their remarkable strength, lose said (and sad) fight. It really is depressing.
Then again, being that I live in BRAZIL, somehow migrating over to NYC to pursue a career in book publishing isn’t exactly easy either. Lots of immigration stuff to be dealt with, never mind I have no family in the vicinity. Also: Great Amazing Boyfriend has no plans of living in the States.
But, how did I land myself with these two choices?
Well, it all started with a bright-eyed, tiny two-year-old who loved bedtime stories her mother told her so much that she began somewhat reading at that age (2 or 3) and then progressed to reading fairy tales and then to Harry Potter in Portuguese. Then she moved to the US. As she was learning English at age 9, she began with easy books: Junie B. Jones, Pee Wee Scouts, Cam Jansen, Scooby Doo mysteries, A-to-Z Mysteries, and yes, eventually Harry Potter in English.
Then, when she hit middle school, she began reading Lurlene McDaniel and was introduced to the world of tear-jerkers and books about dying cancer kids who had uplifting endings but nevertheless reduced her to outright crying by their last pages. And that’s when she began getting so attuned to All Things Cancer and began studying a lot and then some more and then some MORE of that to the point where she could go on and on about many different forms of cancer and its treatments.
Her brother told her to consider becoming an oncologist. It had never occurred to her before.
She liked the idea. She especially liked that by doing medicine, she’d be able to do volunteer work in Africa and help the sick there, too. She loved that she’d be able to work with children with cancer. She wanted so badly to be a part of that world. This was at age 11 or 12 or so.
THEN this girl began reading a popular chick lit author. Eventually she read two bestsellers of said author and was inspired to began writing a third book in the series, as fan fiction, when she went to the writer’s forums and saw other people did that. So she did! And her fanfic somehow attracted many readers and built up her confidence to where she wanted to write her own stuff. So she moved over to the writing forum and began several stories, ended none, but that was fine because soon she became the an avid user of the writing forum, where she stayed for…three years. The writers there were all about her age and many had very interesting stories, so…
This made her do a LOT of reading and give a LOT of constructive-criticism. Just like that, a passion was born. This girl loved critiquing. She loved correcting people’s grammar, analyzing character motives and arcs, pointing out plot inconsistencies, all with the intention of seeing a more polished text. And the other writers did the same to her stories! It was a huge community thing. This started when she was 13 or so.
She began evolving in reading and growing into straight YA, starting with some Ro-Coms and then browsing around more the YA section at her local B&Ns. She moved to Brazil but she still loved reading in English.
Her interests as a writer also evolved and she began reading agent and editor blogs, especially those who represented YA, and learned what she could about the industry. She began learning about who represented whom, publishing terms, how book deals come to be…and she went to serious writer forums (both YA and general) to see what she could learn.
This goes on ’til today. She has a blog now and she studies YA more intensely because of it and also keeps herself up-to-date on all that’s happening in the industry. She’s made tons of contacts. This girl even managed to convince her mother to fly from Brazil to NYC and attend BEA in 2009. There met some agents and one editor and countless authors and loved every minute of it.
So, you see, books are what made her the person she is today. She loves books--not just the final product, but also the journey they took in order to get their behinds in stores. She loves the idea of working with authors who have the potential to change lives. She loves the idea of helping improve books that touch many. She wants to be a part of it.
Then again, she loves children. She also wants to be a part of helping these kids she admires so much. She wants to dress in bright colors and carry little gifts for them and try to help them maintain a positive attitude through what is so obviously a scary chapter in their lives. She wants to be a caring doctor, not a jaded one. She wants to do volunteer work and be able to offer medical help sick people in underprivileged parts of the world.
Damn you, books. See what you did to me? You make me want to do two things that I can't possibly do at the same time and I have no idea where to even begin choosing which is right for me.
But also... I thank you. I thank you for, firstly, teaching me English better than any ESL teacher could. I thank you for inspiring me. I know that in whichever path I choose I’ll be a passionate professional, and that’s one of my biggest goals: be in LOVE with my job. You made it possible for me, a completely directionless girl, to feel some sort of calling.
Two years ago, Kristi correctly predicted her father was about to walk out on she and her mom. Just weeks later, he does, going to Africa to start over fresh and escape his humiliation in the face of yet another medical malpractice suit. Kristi blames her mother for constantly putting him down and pressuring him about his career ambitions, so the two of them, who were never exactly buddies to begin with, are even further apart. And to make things even better, Kristi’s best friend, Hildie, decides the popularity afforded to her by her supernaturally good-looks is worthy of trading Kristi in for at the exact moment Kristi needs her the most. But like Kristi says, can you really blame Hildie for never looking back at her ugly ex-best friend when she could have the glamour of being in the In Crowd?
(I certainly can! But we’ll save Unabashed Judgment of Characters for later.)
Oh, and remember that little prediction about her father’s impending abandonment? That’s how Kristi found out she’s psychic. Kind of. She begins reading people’s minds after that. Of course, given she isn’t exactly popular and her un-stellar temperament after all the Shit Went Down, what people are thinking proves to be hard to swallow. Fortunately, the tough skin she developed helps her get through the day.
But nothing will help her face the father who abandoned her way back and who’s suddenly back in town, and with some not-so-pleasant news. It turns out Kristi may have been premature in blaming her mother, unjustifiably mean in the past two years to anyone she’s had contact with, and a little too self-absorbed.
Well, if nothing else, Kristi is a fantastically funny and witty narrator. She’s got wonderful, unique traits, like the fact she makes her clothes out of the most absurd materials--such as umbrellas!--and is great at it. Or how she’s obsessed with opera to block out people’s thoughts. Reading her account of what happens is oftentimes hilarious and I stopped MANY times to mark down quotes I like. Just so you have an idea:
*Jacob’s parents are English, but that’s not the reason they’re weird. They’re so pale that when you first see them, you think they’re dead, and when you get to know them, you wish they were.
*“Oh?” Brian asks, raising one eyebrow in delight. I guess he isn’t delighted enough to raise both eyebrows.
*David leans over Hildie and looks at her work. I’m pretty sure he’s smelling her work.
He’s a teacher? Mallory asks. [in a note]
He seems to think so, I write back.
*“You have a nice house,” Gusty says.
I shrug. “It keeps the rain off my head.”
That’s really, really great voice.
And yet…this novel was rather weak. It felt half-done, uncooked, not left out to marinate enough--whichever sounds best.
Right off the top of my head, the thing that most bothered me was that everything had this stereotypical feel to it, and in a really unpleasant way, to boot. It honestly felt like the school and some of the main characters were pre-made for cutting corners on creativity so as not to dig too deeply and thus complicate an otherwise very neat story. Like Jacob, one of the only students who was friends with Kristi. He’s so categorically nerdy: annoyingly overeager, spits too much, uses too big words to be cool and is naïve-bordering-stupid. Or the principal of the New Age-y high school, who’s a total hippie caricature and only seems to pop up to get students to “express themselves” or do some other--again with this term--New Age-y exercise. Or Hildie, the ex-BFF, who is evil and slightly slutty and whose motives for being evil are…never explained. Or The Father, who apparently suffers from Peter Pan Syndrome. This wouldn’t be such a problem if they weren’t defined by only those listed traits.
Bottom line is, almost no character is given nearly significant screen time so as to come to life.
And then the other very, VERY tiring thing in this novel is the amount of times we hear about guys staring at Kristi’s huge-ass boobs. And when I say huge-ass, I mean what I gather to be C-cups. Like I said, everything is so stereotypical that there doesn’t seem to be not even ONE guy who doesn’t drool over them. Of course, there is also not a chapter that goes by in which we don’t hear about how huge they are.
She seems to get more success with her C-cups than I get with my D-cups. What I’m saying is, that’s not exactly how it goes down. Not every single guy on the face of the planet--especially not your good friends whom see you every day--will be thinking very explicit thoughts about you 24/7.
Aaaaaand… there’s a lot more I could list that bothered me. How all of Kristi’s thoughts seemed to be about how ugly so-and-so is and how beautiful (and therefore stupid) so-and-so is and how this guy who happens to really like her is so ugly she can’t stand looking at him and how it’s okay for her to think like this but the moment one of the popular girls brings up his skin it’s “shallow” and how her father’s big revelation isn’t treated carefully enough and he comes out looking like a total ditz and that really cannot be how he is and it’s just another example of the stereotypes/too-simple-characterizations here.
Or I could bitch about how Kristi’s remorse progresses unevenly and culminates in a very lame and not meaningful enough way to be a hallmark of this novel, or how the Bad Skin Dude develops a sort of bond with one of the popular girls that is never fully explained, or how disgustingly Kristi’s ignorance of the seriousness of anorexia is excused when she admits she didn’t know “it could kill you”.
And then there’s the issue with the hearing voices thing. The idea of WHY is only very briefly presented and it’s quite interesting, but the author just kinds of leaves you hanging at the end in a very un-cool and frankly too-lazy-to-tie-this-up way.
All in all¾ loved the voice, but the execution could have been done MUCH better. I did finish the book, and since I did say it felt half-cooked, I will give it 5 out of 10 stars, which is what, like, a C-? D+? Hmm. I'd read more by this author for the voice alone, though. Like I said: funny.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 250 pages | October 6th, 2008 | Author Website | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon
My boyfriend and I went to the mall to browse today and we went into its TINY TINY TINY SHAME OF A BOOKSTORE and much to my delight and surprise and overall squeee-ness, I found MANY blogger favorites, in Portuguese.
For anyone who doesn't know, yes, I am Brazilian.
So, anyway, I got his iPhone and I began snapping pictures of all of the ones I could find. He's used to my antics so he didn't even ask. The saleslady, however, was looking at us with some contempt. To avoid staying conspicuous, I gave him the phone and asked him to get pictures of the House of Night series and he did, just like that, when the saleslady went to ring up someone else's items.
And that is the ultimate testament of how awesome my boyfriend, J, is.
The end result:
Who're your favorite male and female characters of all time & why?
And I mean, if you could only pick ONE of each.
Wish I had $50 to give out, but I'm pretty broke so we'll go with $25! Oh well!
Helllooooo, authors! I'm hoping to continue my Pub Stories feature and I need more to post! If you're interested in seeing the format, you can find that out here. It's basically a guest blog in which you write your journey to publication - from your time as an amateur, to when you got your agent, to how you landed your book deal. They got a lot of traffic when I did them back last year.
So, if you're interested, email me! This is one of the few things I do with authors without necessarily having reviewed their book. What I used to do was also host a giveaway the day after for the author's latest release, which we can arrange with your publisher.
I cannot do Rachel Cohn anymore. I just--I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve read most of her books, I even enjoyed one or two, but the latest ones were torturous to get through and just--ARGH, I’m on the edge, BIG TIME.
So, the book’s about Very LeFreak*, a girl with a technology addiction. She’s in heaps of trouble with the dean and the RA due to her negligence of her Columbia schoolwork, her wild parties, and the flash mobs she’s always organizing for her Jay Something fellow dorm residents. Not that she really cares, because the only thing she seems to give a rat’s ugly ass about is her cryptic cyber boyfriend, El Virus.
So anyway, her addiction gets to the point where it’s overbearing even her closest friends (one of which she alienated when she slept with him, then he wanted a relationship, and she didn’t), so they stage an intervention sanctioned by the dean and Very’s RA to get her to detox: live with very, very limited access to electronics until the remainder of the semester. Since El Virus is MIA…she gives into it.
But then, when she’s checking her messages one day during her allowed time, he’s back and so’s her need for the machine and so she falls off the wagon and goes all berserk when she finds out that her friend destroyed her confiscated laptop by being nosy trying to open an encrypted file and, upon failure, launching a deadly virus onto said laptop rendering it useless and oh my god, the friend threw it away and Very’s so angry she--
Tries to kill him. But then she’s quickly overpowered and lands in rehab for her OBVIOUS problems.
Quick assessment: the first part is kind of really jumbled up and sometimes boring and if you're anything like me, you'll have no desire to go on but only do so because you must finish the book to be fair in your review. Nothing really happens; the characters are just...there...and they're not there to entertain or intrigue or compel, they're just there to exist and only sheer force of will moved that portion of the book forward for me.
But then, the second part is much, much better. At first. Then it's just--oh, we'll get there when we get there.
So, in the second part, Very's in rehab and she decides to commit this time, even though El Virus may be out there. Now, this is something I didn't really understand: Why, if he was such an obsession before, was she so readily able to let go of him and of her hopes of finding him over the summer? You have to understand that in the first part, this girl didn't so much as breathe without imagining him doing dirty things to her and then, when he's finally back on her turf, she just goes...click! What???
Moving on: she works on her addiction, reluctantly at first, in this place that has absolutely NO electricity. In the rehab, she talks to a much-needed shrink and those scenes are the best parts of the entire book. Rachel Cohn did a BEAUTIFUL job with Very's character. That is the one huge highlight in the book. Her motivations are complicated but well-founded, her character arc is great, and her voice is natural and for the most part consistent. I didn't really LIKE her as a person, but at least I, the reader, viewed her as one.
And then it went bad again.
HUGE SPOILER ALERT
Very meets El Virus at the camp. They're all soul-mate-y but she's become less promiscuous so she holds back on putting out and then, when she gets her one night out near the end of the program, she sees her college roommate who's going to a nearby camp at the same joint she goes to and somehow they kiss and she realizes she's in love with HER and--GAH.
I mean, it's implied that the roommate is lesbian before all this happens and Very is an open bisexual who's been with other girls, so at least it's not all that ~OUT THERE~, but WHY, GOD, WHY?
WHY did El Virus need to show up? And why did he need to be, quite frankly, a little bit...creepy?
And WHY did there need to be a cheeseball conclusion to an otherwise down-to-Earth book about a cynical girl who DOES NOT DO CORNY?
This is where this book becomes a train wreck. God.
Without mentioning that from the depiction in the book, it's really hard to make up your mind about whether you believe in technology addiction or not.
And beyond this, I didn't like this book because I didn't like its tone. I mean, Ms. Cohn is very adept at world-building and YES, she's definitely got a huge talent for voice. But...there's something intangible that just sets of me off. There's the fact I didn't like the structure of the book or how it dealt with sex, but this goes much deeper than that. It just--
This is why I can't read Rachel Cohn anymore. I think her books are all wrong for me in terms of essence, never mind the other stuff that goes into books (characters, plot, etc) and I can't explain why. It's unsettling.
But anyway--D+. Very, at least, was well-done.
Hey guys -- just wanted to let everyone know I'm kinda back. I went MIA because I got overwhelmed and burned out and ... I dunno. I even stopped reading for a year, if you can believe that. I certainly can't.
Anyway, I missed this a lot, and I was still receiving books even now, a year later, so I just picked one up (Very LeFreak--already reviewed) and decided to give it--this--another shot. We'll see how it goes.
It'll be way less intense than it was the last time I was full-time blogging. I'm reaaally busy with school, my adorable boyfriend (oh yeah, I got me one of those!!), and a lot of other real life things. Plus, I also don't want to be in that stressful situation again.
This is just on a trial basis. I need to see if I can handle it.
But, anyway, just wanted to say I was back and I hope I still have some of my old readers here! You guys were wonderful. :)