Published Authors are Not Scary

I went to Lindsay Cummings’ launch party for The Death Code last night along with my friend (who’s blog is amazing, by the way) and we discovered two very important things:

One, if you ask, authors will answer.

Two, if someone ever asks you for a pen, you give it to them. There is a possibility that you’re in the middle of an Author Sighting and they need that pen to sign their book.

It was a great night just in general. Lindsay gave a lot of cool commentary during her Q&A before the signing, including but not limited to:

“Read and write as much as you possibly can. It’s like working out. You don’t walk in and pick up the giant thing that’s gonna break your back. You start with the little two pound weights.”

and

“I think stories make boring life a lot more fun.”

She told us how she rewrote Death Code five times, and ended up finding an old version of a book that had a hundred and twenty rejections and turned into Death Code. And in answer to my standard “what atmosphere is your favorite to write in” question informed us that winter writing is the best.

Also, all her cousins showed up, ninja-like.

She was also the sweetest person ever and signed my friends’ bookmarks since they didn’t have her books.

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All in all — coolest ever. Going to author events are some of the neatest things on the planet, and you get a chance to really interact with them on an even different way than social media allows.

And then: a Victoria Scott sighting. Yes, she signed her books with my pen. And we talked about books. And then capped off the night by meeting LizzieLovesBooks which was just as incredible even though I’m super bad at booktube.

I’m ridiculously excited to read Death Code and do a double-feature review for it and Murder Complex. And keep your eyes peeled for some other neat review things coming…*hint hint*

And GO TO AUTHOR EVENTS. Okay? Okay.

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The Space Between

In the continued adventures of reading Stiefvater and Co., I discovered that my library branch still had the book I asked for five weeks ago and never picked up.

I picked it up this time. And then I devoured it like I only can when a book is exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

the-space-between-brenna-yovanoffThe Space Between

  • Author: Brenna Yovanoff
  • Publisher: RazorBill
  • Year: 2011
  • Genre vibe: Supernatural with religious themes, paranormal, romance
  • At a glance: Daphne is a demon. Her brother is half angel. Her brother disappears. She goes to find him. Instead she meets another half angel: Truman. The rest is history.

This book blew me away. Please, can I write like Brenna Yovanoff yet? Her relationships are amazing, her settings are even better, her stories flow like no other. She is a goddess amongst authors and I am in awe of her prowess.

But seriously, this book was good. I finished it at the beginning of the month and still it hangs around with me.

I’m not sure if anyone remembers when I reviewed The Replacement, but I sure do. One of the things that stuck with me (and ended up inspiring my latest novel) was a couple of the settings in that book. The same can be said for Space Between.

The Space Between takes place in grimy alleys, dim hotels, and horrifyingly inky black nightmares. The thing about Yovanoff is that her writing is so gosh darned engaging that you’re practically injected with her settings. It’s not so much that you’re there (at least in my case, since I never put myself mentally “in” the story) as much as it is that it is. Yovanoff’s places are as alive as her people, and that is easily one of my favorite things about every single one of her books, and it’s definitely the thing that makes them stick with me. They find the cracks in my bones where the mildew sets in, and they hang there.

The characters, though. They tangle their mangled selves up right in your heart strings. These two were some of my favorites in a strange, slightly detached way. I remember pictures of them, I think of their essence. But I couldn’t talk about them for hours on end like I could others. Which I think is what makes my favorite thing about this book so…well, favorite.

This book is a cohesive unit. The characters, the setting, the plot, the genre, the atmosphere all work together to turn it into one whole entire thing. If one piece of it were off, it wouldn’t work. But all of it works together seamlessly, makes you laugh and cry, scares the heck out of you. It pulls you in, lets you breathe, knocks the wind out of you, and shows you something. It tells a story, better than any one thing could have on its own.

Put simply: Yovanoff is a master puppeteer. She has my undying devotion.

Overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: If you like paranormal, this is it. If you like messed up, seriously hurting characters, this is also it. If you like the dark: this is definitely it.
  • Lasting impression: Forehead against cold, rough brick. Hand between shoulders. Urgent whispers and laughter that carries and a neon sign and the way your face feels when you wake up from a nightmare.

Vanishing Girls

Most of my library visits recently seem to go a little like this:

Me: *walks into library*

Library: *has NEW teen books from late 2014/early 2015 that I actually want to read*

Me: *SNATCHES (against my better judgement)*

And that, folks, is how I ended up with Vanishing Girls two days ago, with no prior intention of reading it for a good while.

It’s just so pretty

22535536Vanishing Girls

Author: Lauren Oliver

Publisher: Harper teen

Year: 2015

Genre vibe: Contemporary, realistic.

At a glance: For Nick and Dara, being sisters means more than just being family. But when a car accident estranges them, and Nick suffers memory loss and is sent to live with her father following her family’s collapse. But when she comes home, things start coming back, just as a young girl named Madeline goes missing.

A warning I don’t usually give: This blog post deals heavily with spoilers. A lot of the things I have to say about the book pertain directly to the hugest plot twist, so if you don’t want to have anything about the reading experience spoiled (and I suggest that you heed that advice) skip down to the overview, kay?


Now that that’s been said…

There’s a bit of a theme or trope that’s been going around in contemporary, lately. It’s what I like to call the “they’re-actually-dead:-the-MC-is-just-crazy” trope. So eloquent, I know. But that tells you exactly, doesn’t it? This trope was the case in Belzhar, We Were Liars, and to a point in The Vanishing Season, and I know I’ve come across a couple other synopses lately that display the same characteristics.

And honestly, it kind of ticks me off.

One of the main rules of fiction, one of the only rules that’s actually important, is that we’re not writing to dupe our readers. We’re not supposed to say “And then, it was all a dream,” because that jerks the proverbial rug out from under the people we’ve coerced into going on this journey with us and leaves them with a goose egg and a grudge against us. That’s not very nice, now is it?

Suspense is one thing, misleading a reader is one thing, confusing them deliberately is one thing. But lying to them about what’s real? Well honestly, that’s just kind of cruel.

So when this book took that turn, when we realized that Dara has been dead this whole time and Nick has adopted her psyche, I got mad. I loved Dara. I didn’t want to be confused. I didn’t want to have to fit Nick’s experiences into the places where Dara’s should have been.

But I kept reading, because I only had sixty or so pages left. And I’m really glad that I did.

Vanishing Girls does what We Were Liars didn’t and Belzhar definitely didn’t: It showed me what Nick had actually, physically been doing when she thought she was Dara. The reveal of her insanity was more like a reveal in a mystery novel than just the book screaming “PLOT TWIST!” and leaving me lost in the dark. The little clues that you think back to–her interaction with the police, a couple of conversations she had with people over the course of the book–show you how other people reacted to her quest to find her sister. It leaves it so that if you take the revelation and look back over the book, things fit together.

You don’t end up lost. You don’t end up hurting, or mad at Lauren Oliver for lying to you this whole time.

Instead you end up crying. Because heck, Dara is dead. That just about ripped my heart out. I ached for Nick, so badly, and for Parker, and for their parents and the whole entire situation. Instead of feeling upset for not actually having her this whole time, I felt the loss of her like a blow to the gut. It hurt. A lot.

And so what came next solidified my love for this book: Nick got better. In the other books I’ve read with this theme (note that I’m excepting Vanishing Season in all of these because it was a ghost story and kind of different along these lines, just to clarify.) we get left off pretty soon after the plot twist. And it looked like things were going to stay that way with this book. I mean, I only had a few pages left. What could Oliver possibly do to save me?

I don’t know how she did what she did, but she fixed everything.

Over the course of the book, I fell in love with Parker. Parker is a Super Mega Ridiculously Real person that leaped off of every page he inhabited and wormed his endearing little way into your heart. And then in those last few pages, I basically sold him my soul.

Nick and Parker both did something not a lot of characters in this situation ever do (on screen, that is): they worked it out. They spent time apart. Nick got better. Parker did things. Then he left a red flag in the tree, and Nick answered. And they fixed things. He accepted her. They hurt together for Dara. Then they shared that perfect little kiss.

“I’m not sure what we are now. But…it’s good.”

We have time. That’s what Parker said to me last night before I went home, taking my face in his hands, planting a single kiss, lightly, on my lips. We have time to figure this out.

That was real. That was genuine. That was intimate and close and spoke to all their years of friendship, and I loved it. I’d loved them together the whole time, and I couldn’t have been given any better closure to their relationship.

Which brings me to my last point in this rambling stream of love: Lauren Oliver’s characters stole my heart. I didn’t really attach myself to any of them like I normally do with characters I adore, but instead watching them I hurt for them, and I loved them from the outside. Scared and messed-up and horribly, brokenly human. I fell for them all. I loved watching their lives. Even down to the most background of characters (namely: Aunt Jackie) they jumped out in front of me like real people.

There’s not much I love more than that.


So, overall:

  • Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who seriously love good characters, but aren’t afraid of the dark. This book gets real and I had a hard time with it at some points.
  • Lasting impression: Imperceptibly shaky fingers, half of a face in a blurry photograph. Hot, clear summer nights, and that one perfect kiss.

Why I read YA

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This morning I woke up to thisisteen informing me that it’s “I read YA” week.

Quite possibly, this is one of the best things I could ever have woken up to. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll know that YA is the main attraction. I love teen lit. And for very, very good reasons.

YA has one of the baddest reps around. People lie, cheat, and in general attack it on a day to day basis: something that hasn’t changed and isn’t setting up to anytime soon. But YA is the best of the best of the best. There’s infinite reasons to read it, infinite reasons to advocate it, and then a few more reasons to love it with all your heart and soul.

I read YA for a couple main reasons, though. The biggest is that I read YA because I believe in youth, whatever form it may take. I read YA because encapsulated in it is the spirit of generations, tied up in stories of people’s times. In YA, people break barriers, they grow and change and evolve, they try new things. In YA, from author to character to even reader, things are happening. People are genre-bending! People are foregoing genre entirely! People are

writing

things

like

this!

In YA there’s no right way to do things, and there are so many, many reasons to try new things. People often criticize teenagers for only wanting what’s new, what’s shiny. YA caters to the new and the shiny, and it polishes up parts of the old and wise as well. In any given YA story, the youth run amok. They’re loud and glorious, quiet and horrid, scared and out there. They do things that are all that we can do and then more, and that’s important.

The spirit of youth is one that, if it’s going to last, has to be cultivated and fed again and again. YA feeds it on heart and soul, love and loss, and the often-present desire for something more. (prime example: Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle.) Youth is important. Teenagers are important. Growing up and coming of age are important. The journey of turning into a human being is so, so important.

Which makes YA one of the most important things, and brings me to the other primary reason that I read YA.

Friendship.

I read YA because books are always written for a lot of different reasons, but YA in general carries a constant theme, or at least a secondary idea: when you read this book, you will not be alone. Whether you picked it up because it dealt with a subject that was important to you, or you picked it up because you liked the genre. Whether the character’s situation attracted you, or the character itself. While you’re reading a YA book in particular, you are not the only person in the room. You share a common interest with someone in the story, and even if you only went into it because you thought alternate Russia featuring a giant rift full of shadow monsters sounded cool, chances are you’ll come out of it with a new best friend.

That’s what’s in YA. Someone to care about, and someone to care about you. YA is so important to me because of what it’s done for me, and I write it for the purpose of giving that to someone else eventually. I read YA because without it, millions of people would be lost, would never find the precise kind of inspiration they needed to follow their dreams or hear the exact encouragement they needed to get their willpower back.

People think YA is about fads. About trends, about what sells. About flat romances and uninteresting plots. They’re wrong, though. YA is about too many things to quantify, and it’s always becoming more than even that. That’s why I read YA.

If you want to join in on all the #IreadYA week fun, hop on over here to check out the info!

Beware the Wild

This book has been on my mind recently, so I was pleased when this review happened over at Snifferblog and reminded me that plot is just as important as character.

Sniffer Blog

by Natalie C. Parker

Beware the Wild in One Sentence
A story unique enough to thrill, but bumpy enough to bore.

Rating
• • • • · ·
4/6

Genre: Southern Gothic Fantasy

Why Beware the Wild?
Forget the wild. Beware of impulse purchases.
It started in an innocent way. The day was coming to a close at the North Texas Teen Book Festival and I was making my final rounds—getting books signed, going over notes from the panels, and finishing my inner battle of, “WHAT DO I BUY?” I found my friend, Linnea of REACH, at Natalie C. Parker’s table. So I hung out there for a while. We talked. Her book sounded incredible. A giant cover art poster stared down at me.
It ended with the muttered words, “I’ll be right back,” and then a frantic dash to the closing bookstore. Twenty dollars and fourteen hundred steps…

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Empire of Night

My second anticipated read of the spring came out–the sequel to Sea of Shadows, one of my favorite new reads from last year.

I tried to forget, because there was no possible way I’d be able to read it for a while. Then I remembered that, oh, libraries get new books pretty quickly around here. So I got myself first on the holding list (I know, I know, amazing right) and waited with baited breath. . .

Only to be disappointed.

22754669Empire of Night

  • Author: Kelley Armstrong
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre vibe: While the first book was very much supernatural fantasy, this one lost quite a bit of that supernatural aspect, and most of the fantasy aspect, and boiled down to “boring”.
  • At a glance: Moria decides to go out on…some quest that I’ve forgotten about. Moria and Ashyn get separated. Moria is more interested in Tyrus and romance and feminist statements than she is with the fact that her sister could be who knows where. Tyrus saves the day–and the book.

So I can sum up my feelings about this book pretty fast: wet cardboard.

That’s right, that’s all. What started out as a decent sequel to a book I really enjoyed just fell to little, soggy, easily dismantled pieces in my hands, and it felt kind of gross.

The first seventy pages or so were really good. I was excited to be back in the world, ready to dig my hands into some high fantasy for a while, happy to finally meet my beautiful bastard prince from the end of the last book, and things went well.

Then they all left for this quest of theirs and, well…wet cardboard.

The writing took a dive, the characters absolutely plummeted. Moria and Ashyn are the sisters to end all sisters, Keeper and Seeker, bound together. But upon being separated–neither girl ever really spares a thought for her counterpart. Moria is too preoccupied with being captured and romantically confused, and Ashyn becomes literally nothing but a pair of eyes through which to see. Guin’s story was much more important than Ashyn’s and that made me angry. Because I liked Ashyn. She deserved better.

I felt like a lot of Guin was unnecessary. Her story didn’t really make me sad; it just disappointed me further. There seemed to be a lot of statements, so to speak, in this book, that really didn’t need to be there. Women shouldn’t be mistreated–I got it. Can we move on? And maybe get to some character development?

Unfortunately, neither of those things happened. Even Tyrus, who was the one redeeming factor, didn’t seem to have any discernible arc. Nobody did, really. No one changed. Moria came to terms with her feelings for Tyrus (finally), but that was the long and short of it. There was no point A to point B. There was barely even a point A to begin with.

All in all, I was really disappointed, because I was super excited for this book and it just…let me down.

I don’t think I’ll be anticipating the last book in this particular trilogy. I can’t say that I’m too interested to see how it ends.

Overall

  • Rating: 2/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Nobody really.
  • Lasting impression: Still can’t get over that wet cardboard thing…