Almost two years ago I started this blog with absolutely no expectation of where it would bring me.
I thought that it would be just another dusty corner of the internet where I could ramble about books and talk about words, my love for them, and their construction. Almost two years later I've met some of the most fabulous people who understand me in such an intrinsic way because at our cores we love the same thing.
Having this blog would not have been the same without you in it. Attending BEA with you made the experience worth it more than I could have ever dreamed. Attending ComicCon and being able to meet authors of all sorts and mediums and being surrounded by people who made my mouth hurt with smiling due to their enthusiasm and creativity.
Your love of reading and words and characters has inspired me to complete my own manuscript and, when done, edit it to the best of my perfection. You inspire me to never give up. Ten minutes here, a scribble of a character note there - they all add up to a story brimming with potential. And it doesn't matter when I finish, but the fact that I actually will. (And that you will, too.)
I can say for the first time that I know what I want to do; that perhaps I've always known somewhere but you all were the impetus for me bringing it to the light. I am forever grateful.
And so, a happy happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, but also a heartfelt thank you to everyone reading this. You are why I do this.
Also, as an example of an author I adore for both her incredible talent with words and also because she's just a truly kind human being, please check out Victoria Schwab's post on giving back. (And if you haven't read THE NEAR WITCH or THE ARCHIVED, please do. The former is out, the latter is out in January and, trust me, you do not want to miss it.)
Almost two years ago I started this blog with absolutely no expectation of where it would bring me.
The title is a true statement: my favorite book of all time, Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD, is a banned book. It has consistently stayed in the ALA's top ten of books that people across America have tried to keep out of libraries, schools, and the hands of people nationwide.
The ALA cites the complaints as being: insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit. (For the record, I'm not sure as how a story can be accused of nudity.) BRAVE NEW WORLD, for those who haven't read it, is a story centered around a character named Bernard Marx who lives in perfect society constructed by World Controllers. Separated into genetically created societal levels, people are raised and trained to love their level's role in society. Bernard questions this dystopic utopia, and Huxley lets the reader see the world through Bernard's eyes.
There is an irony in banning a book about controlling society.
And though my favorite book just happens to be a book that people try again and again to keep out of people's hands and heads, my favorite book would preferably be one that was never banned.
As someone who writes (I'd hesitate to call myself a writer just yet), I know how much heart and blood and soul is poured into every choice of word, punctuation, and sentence structure that a book comprises. Of the elation that is the feeling of sharing it with others and maybe, just maybe, it will make someone smile. It will make them think and hold a meaning to them and a different meaning for someone else. The beauty of words is that they are fluid: a book doesn't contain a message, but how people read between the lines can leave the option of there being something for everyone.
I was a reader long before I read this book. Aldous Huxley didn't give me books. But he just may have given me something greater. BRAVE NEW WORLD helped me to question and think and wonder why. To the courses I study at university, to my preferred genre of fiction (dystopian), to my love of words and wanting - and hoping - to share them with you all. The belief that I can and the knowledge that it is okay to.
I thank Aldous Huxley.
And I am deeply saddened by the idea that there are other people out there that might be able to connect so well with a book but who no longer have the chance. These individuals might never meet their Aldous Huxley. They might never experience the wonder of their BRAVE NEW WORLD.
R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.
But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publication Date: 09/25/2012
Even before the EMPs brought down the world, Alex was on the run from the demons of her past and the monster living in her head. After the world was gone, she thought Rule was a sanctuary for her and those she'd come to love.
But she was wrong.
Now she's in the fight of her life against the adults who would use her, the survivors who don't trust her, and the Changed who would eat her alive.
Welcome to Shadows, the second book in the haunting apocalyptic Ashes Trilogy: where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters.
The review for Shadows will have to be structured somewhat differently due to the massive cliffhanger that we were left with in Ashes and the differences that the subsequent book takes. Previously, a series of large electromagnetic pulses (EMP) of unknown source rendered all modern technology useless, killing millions and leaving the remaining population locked in a battle between surviving the elements and surviving each other. A mainly middle-aged population remains as most over 50 perished, and most under 20 have changed into feral beings that cannibalise corpses and hunt the rest for food.
Like a lot of people I loved Ashes, but was left grasping for connection upon reading the second half of the book. The first half was fast-paced and action packed, but there were few moments in the latter that hinted in a change at all, and as a reader you could almost see it as a plot transfer to a that of a tightly knit religious society. Though I can understand where people might be frustrated with that, the circumstances that Alex found herself in completely set up everything that happens in Shadows. We meet a handful of people in Rule that we see back in Shadows, a few of them having their own POV chapters. The switching of character voice is done smoothly and the transition is necessary in order to get a full sense of just what is happening in this new world. A limited perspective from Alex wouldn't properly be able to move the plot forward; some characters would inevitably be left behind due to the inability to tell their story.
It took me about a hundred pages before I got used to where the plot was going and the alternating views, but once I was there the rest of the book was an incredibly fast read. With every page we got to learn something more about another person in the book that helped to explain a past action, or about something that is happening simultaneously elsewhere with another POV character. And like Ashes, Shadows is ripe with gory descriptions and blood (including mentions of animal death); I often found myself wincing at the precision in which situations are described, though it really does help to put into perspective a world where anything goes and that every day is a fight for the right to live until the next.
Though chock full of completely unexpected twists and turns - Bick does an astounding job of keeping you on your toes, always guessing - it's an adventure that as a reader you continually want to take. Just as one chapter ends, something crazy happens making it easy to read another five more just to see where they'll take you (and Alex). There's not as much of a cliffhanger here as there was in Ashes, but that's actually almost worse because the ending of Shadows allows your mind to ruminate, speculating on the meanings of conversations and words that Alex and other POV characters had as the pages wind down. If you haven't read Ashes, you'll definitely want to read these two back to back because once you turn a page into this world it will be hard to pull yourself from it. Bick has created a grim and realistic vision of survival and perseverance, and I can't wait to see how it all comes together in book three.
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.
I've heard such amazing things about this book already. I love the title and how it paired with the cover lend itself to such an impression about the story. Nisha lives on an abandoned estates with other orphan girls, and the titular reference here to a thousand dolls is powerful. This is a book I can build up and imagine in my head from just the information given, and I'm looking forward to rearranging that with the actual story. A definite pre-order.
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publication Date: 09/04/2012
Source: Publisher (ARC)
Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.Pia, perfect Pia, is a geneticist in the making deep in the Amazon. She's never read a book that wasn't science-related, has never listened to music with lyrics. Growing up having known she was the result of a successful experiment, Pia has been moulded perfectly for her future: to head a team to create more immortals like her. But Pia is a teenager, and when she discovers a means of going on the other side of the fence she takes it. So how far does the rabbit hole go? There's more than jungle waiting for her on the other end.
Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
When I saw this was available at BEA I was a couple shades of giddy. I love books that have to deal with science - mainly with the hope that it'll be pulled off - and knowing that it was set in the rainforest my interest in this book was a no-brainer. The cover design pops in person, with the title being letter-pressed on. I'm hoping the finished copy will be a bit shimmery, because I think it'd make it really stand out on a shelf. It's taken me a while to read it, though, because I was nervous about how the story would pan out. There's a huge mental disparity at times when you set a book up so much before you actually read it.
The descriptions of the rainforest were gorgeous, and it was pleasantly clear that Khoury had done her research when writing this book. When Pia spoke or looked at a flower it was all I could do but not sniff hopefully at the air to see if the scent would float off the page from such beautiful descriptions of the blooms. Mentions of bioluminescence and the inclusion of flora and fauna native to the Amazon rounded out the stunning cast member of setting. The jungle was as much a character in the book as anything, and was perhaps my favorite.
Origin tells the story of Pia and how she deals with being immortal. Taking into account a few things such as her age, her isolation, and living with the fact that she is the only one of her kind, there was a certain measure of uncertainty from her that I expected to be translated as pride and self-awareness. That said, Pia made it difficult to like Pia. She was never someone I could really empathise with. I can't put this fully on Pia, however - though I liked many of the characters (Will, Ami), none of them really stood out enough to say that I could love them. Rather than the character being the voice of the story, it seemed that they were its vessels instead.
Two things stayed with me: one was the inclusion of instashipping between Pia and Eio as well as how Pia views herself, and the second is the role of animals in the book. I liked Pia and I liked Eio, but considering the book plays out over the span of a week, perhaps two at the most, the fact that they are harboring such intense feelings for each other kept me from believing in their interactions. If the book had ended with them perhaps on the beginning of something then everything would have been much more tightly knit for me. There were moments where Pia also defined herself as a female through the confirmation of Eio's thinking of her as a woman - I had to put the book down for a while then before coming back to it. Pia is strong on her own, she doesn't need to be seen through the lens of someone else. I would also like to mention to people considering reading this book that there may be some trigger warnings concerning animals, so please keep that in mind.
Origin is a captivating book that explores the human penchant for never-ending life as well as the consequences our actions can have. Khoury wove together a pretty compelling tale, and though I had some minor issues, she's a writer that I can only see improving with leaps and bounds as she continues.
Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.
Author: David Levithan
Publication Date: 08/28/2012
Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.As a baby, A woke up with different parents, siblings, and in the happy, careless way of children, thought nothing of it. A was always taken care of and that's all that mattered - until the rotating cast of family started mentioning a concept A couldn't grasp: tomorrow. "See you tomorrow!" "Good night!" For A, these things could never exist. Good night was good bye. There was a painful transition period where A had to come to terms with existence. A's rotating life never posed much of a problem after that. Until Rhiannon.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
I absolutely loved this book. Some writers have a way of speaking so easily to the humanity within everyone that their books have a way of touching people on an individual level even if there is no one situation described that you as a person can identify with. David Levithan made that humanistic connection so easily that there were moments that I had to read passages over and over, in awe of how much I felt I could relate to the words or circumstance that A was going through. Though the premise is implausible, his ability to do so made it one of the most realistic books that I've ever read. Every Day is realistic, believable, and strikes you in your core. A is no one and everyone and that is why A is so genuine.
One of my favorite things about this book is that gender is completely unimportant. A is not male nor female; A is a person, human. A was able to relate to all of the bodies inhabited on such an instinctual level because A has lived by proxy hundreds of different lives in varying situations. And so it was interesting to see Rhiannon's reaction to A's ever changing landscape - A is the epitome of the ability to love someone for who they are, not their aesthetics. In this manner Levithan is able to make the story universal; everyone wants to be loved, to be able to live as themselves, and everyone has some sort of obstacle in their way. In this way, A is sort of the every-person, able to showcase the different issues people have in interacting with others. This is the beauty of Levithan's craftsmanship.
Though Every Day is about A and the way A experiences the world, there's a fascinating cast of background characters that A meets along the way in different lives that help to flesh out the different experiences and help A create a unique way through which the world can be viewed. And though A has sworn not to interfere in the lives of the bodies that A wakes in, there are a few times where I was inordinately pleased at the way tricky situations were handled without changing too much, and in a respectful manner.
Reading David Levithan is like swimming in a sea of poetry. I kept on wanting to write quotes down, but then I realised I'd be quoting the entire thing. Every Day is no different, which makes it easily one of the favorite books that I've read this year. Its ability to be universally applied, with poignant and realistic descriptions, makes it a book that I would recommend to anyone. Regardless of the fact that Every Day is published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, this is a book for any person simply by virtue of being human.
I really enjoyed writing my post touching on trends in reading and all of the discussion that came with it. I have to admit that when I first started this blog over a year ago that those were the types of things that I had in mind to write about. I want to be able to think critically about what I'm reading, share it with others, and receive feedback and new thoughts.
And so, inspired by Anita Sarkeesian's fabulous Tropes vs. Women series I'd like to try and address some topics that come up with females in young adult fiction. Though I doubt I'll be able to do it with anywhere near the aplomb that she has in discussing these concepts, I'm going to try my best to do it with as much equanimity as possible.
This is something that I've been thinking about doing for a while, and though I'm not quite sure what this is going to look like overall yet, I hope it ends up being useful to you in some way or otherwise adds meaningful discussions to an important topic.
The first idea I'd like to put out there for discussion is:
the idea of a female character as defined through a male lens.
For example, let's create the fictional character of Kate. Kate is your average seventeen year old girl. She may or may not have graduated high school yet. She may, due to plot circumstances, not be in a setting that does traditional schooling (perhaps futuristic Kate is in a dystopian political school for girls). Kate is fairly content with everything that's happening around her, but sometimes she wonders why everyone seemingly does the same job. In any case, Kate will be done soon and then she'll get to work for the government too. Right?
But then there's been a transfer from some distant government branch and a new guy is brought in. Kate and new guy work together on occasion through a cooperative program between the boys and girl schools.
At this point it's incredibly formulaic, but nothing is inherently wrong with the gender interaction.
Until Kate starts to realise that through talking with new guy that perhaps changes need to be made. She doesn't know as much as she thinks she did and new guy sees her in a way that makes her feel alive.
This - this is where the problem begins. Kate was questioning things on her own before new guy came, and his presence doesn't or shouldn't overshadow that in any way. She doesn't need to be affirmed by anyone else that what she is doing is right or wrong, and the fact that new guy helps her see herself in a 'new light' only illuminates the idea that a woman needs a man to help her make decisions about herself. This could not be any less true.
The better scenario would be where new guy offers new information for her to formulate her own hypothesis. Kate thinks and comes to conclusion on her own and acts on it. Kate gets to think independently to determine her own sense of self, while new guy is less of a plot device and more of a character I'd like to get to know.
There are endless permutations to this idea, and this is probably the number one reason I'll put a book down. As far as character romance goes, there is nothing appealing about a girl changing the way she thinks about herself for someone else. What do you think about this trope and/or Kate's situation? And if there are any other ideas or situations that you'd like to bring forward, please do in the comments! This is meant to be a series so I welcome your ideas.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Top Ten Book Romances That You Think Would Make It In The Real World
01. Anna and Étienne (Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)
Is this cheating? I mean, they live in contemporary society. And they're adorable.
02. Puck and Sean (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater)
Though this is also contemporary, an experience like theirs can make our break you. It worked for them.
03. Aria and Perry (Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi)
I'm pretty sure there are a few parallel situations you could put these two in in the real world. Hot and cold, these two, but lasting.
04. Anna and Bennett (Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone)
Also a contemp, but with a unique situation. Still, the way Tamara wrote them made their friendship and intrigue work so well that it would stay true just about anywhere.
05. Kate and Vincent (Die For Me by Amy Plum)
Despite the paranormal themes, I just love these two together, and one of my favorite aspects of the book is getting to read them in normal, everyday situations such as going to a café. Their chemistry leads me to believe that they'd do well without their crazy backstory.
06. Augustus and Hazel (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)
No commentary necessary.
07. Brontë and Brewster (Bruiser by Neal Shusterman)
I don't know how Neal does it, but every single book that I've read has wrenched my heart. There's so much happening in this book on so many levels, but there was a lovely moment between both of them that made me smile big. I believed it.
08. Blue and ? (The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater)
I...can't tell you. But I loved it. A lot. Why, yes, there are two entries by Maggie on this list. Because I love her heaps and it's my blog and I'll Maggie if I want to.
I'm going to stop at eight rather than name names for listings' sake. To make it is something difficult and long and though there are a lot of YA love stories that I've enjoyed, I'm not sure how many of them could exist out of their situation.
Who's on your list?
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publication Date: 08/07/2012
Source: Publisher (ARC)
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.<br>Note: The third paragraph was removed from the Goodreads summary, as I think it's unnecessary to know before reading and drags the synopsis down.
Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.<br>
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
Celaena Sardothien has many names: she is Adarlan's Assassin, Queen of the Underworld, but in the end Celaena is really a young girl who's made do in an otherwise lethal set of situations. Having been trained as an assassin from the age of eight, Celaena did what she had to in order to survive. The law caught up with her at seventeen, and she was tossed into the prisoner camp of Endovier where people are placed to die. A year later she's given an offer she can't refuse - freedom in exchange for a series of tests and the next four years of her life. Never one to pass up a good opportunity, Celaena jumps straight into the lion's den where things even she can't expect await her.
Somehow I hadn't heard of Throne of Glass before I snagged a copy at BEA, but when it was described to me as a mashup of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones I was immediately sold. I don't really care for book marketing that relies on the success of other books, but I can see where there are definitely some elements of each in this book. In any case, it was enough for me to pick one up and want to read it fairly immediately. And I'm really glad that I did - I absolutely adore a good fantasy, and Throne of Glass is just that, a good fantasy.
The worldbuilding was complete enough to have a working grasp of why things are happening in Erilea without being bogged down as is want to happen in many fantasy series. In fact, there's just enough there to make me really interested in what happens outside the capital city of Rifthold. (Maas is releasing backstory e-novellas to flesh things out leading up to the book's release.) The juxtaposition of the beauty of a glass castle with the horrific concept upon which it had been built was weaved in nicely. This is also done with the characters of the king, and Prince Dorian's brother (a real meance), who were absent for the most part, but felt like haunting spectres throughout the majority of the story. I was able to imagine every step of this book from the moments in Endovier to the tests Celaena had to undergo, to the multiplicity of characters.
One issue that presented itself, although occasionally, was with Celaena herself. While I know that she was raised as an assassin, the extent to which she believes the world revolves around her was slightly bothersome. I believed in her strength, and in her intelligence (she loves to read!), and I really enjoyed reading about a woman who could take care of herself. But every so often there was peppered in a statement where Celaena conflated lack of interest in her aesthetic to be a lack of interest in her as a person. She was similarly offended when people didn't think that she was the best. For the majority of the story I enjoyed her as a character, but a woman doesn't need to be superhuman in order to be interesting. I hope this gets toned down somewhat over the rest of the series. In any case, I loved how there was a vast cast of characters who each had their own developed personality and didn't exist solely as someone for the main character to interact with. Choal, Nox, and Nehemia were some of the most interesting for me, and I hope we get to see more of them over the course of the plot.
Though I'm not sure how the finished copy will be, the back of the ARC says: "Two men lover her. The whole land fears her. Only she can save them all." Many of you are interested in whether or not there is instashipping or love triangles in a book, so I'll say here that I don't really feel that there is a love triangle, though I was slightly disappointed in the way the romance developed, perhaps because I would have chosen the other guy. Neither is there instashipping, though I wish the relationship would have been better expounded upon on the male's part (not mentioning names due to spoilers).
I won't be surprised if this book gets optioned for film, or if it has been already. It's a fantastic fantasy that is well-developed and easily imagined as you read featuring strong female characters and mysterious palace intrigue that will keep you turning the page well beyond the chapter you promised you'd put it down. I think it's important to say that though there is more to the story than just this one book, it would work fine as a stand-alone.
Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her first novel, The Dragonslayer's Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was published last December, Book 3 was published in May, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication in November. Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended." Resa lives in Massachusetts.