Waiting on Wednesday (1)

waitingonwednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating!

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Expected publication: October 22nd, 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.

Why I’m excited: Because it’s A.S. King!  She gets a huge amount of praise from bloggers, and for good reason – I haven’t read all her books, but Ask the Passengers was absolutely fantastic and the rest of her novels sound just as good.  I’m fascinated by the idea of what it must be like to have your every move filmed, especially as a child, and have always wondered how much of what you see on reality television is true vs. how much is scripted, so books about reality stars or ex-ones are automatic adds to my TBR list.  It’s just an incredibly interesting subject, and Reality Boy sounds like an emotional rollercoaster of a look into this pop culture phenomenon.

Question for my readers: Do you think you would be able to handle being on a reality show?  Why or why not?

Personally, I wouldn’t, because thanks to social anxiety I already feel like everybody is watching and judging me anyway.  I don’t need to have those (generally irrational) feelings confirmed!  Plus, the idea of becoming a meme due to one stupid phrase or action is really, really frightening.  I’ve always felt kind of bad for reality stars who are mercilessly mocked on the Internet, especially younger ones.  Being a teenager is hard enough already without the entire world using something you said as an ironic catchphrase or proof that THE YOUTH OF AMERICA TODAY, THEY’RE SO STUPID WITH THEIR INSTANT GRAMS AND EYE PHONES BLAH BLAH BLAH.

What are you looking forward to this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten (Um, Five) Books I Wish Had Sequels

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week: Top Ten Books I Wish Could Have Had Sequels!

This was really, really tough!  I think that, honestly, there are too many sequels today – it feels like every book needs to be part of a series, and they often suffer for it when it comes to pacing or unnecessarily open endings.  Due to this, I could only think of a Top Five books for the week – I’m sorry, I’m sorry!  I’m just not the biggest fan of sequels, and a bad one can sometimes ruin what could have been an excellent standalone.  However, I could think of five I wouldn’t immediately frown at a sequel for…

1. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills: This is one of two books that has made me cry over fictional characters in public.  (Both times have been on Greyhound buses, and both have freaked out the poor soul stuck sitting next to me for five hours.  Sorry…)  It wrapped everything up sufficiently for the ending, but I would still love a sequel about Gabe finding his own place in the world post-high school.

2. Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray: I would honestly read sequels to this series even without the supernatural element involved.  I know, that’s like… the whole main plot, but think about this: spinoff novels featuring Ann trying to make her way as a singer and actress – no magical trickery involved this time – or Felicity’s adventures in France… Okay, not gonna lie, I mostly just want more about Felicity, since she’s far and away my favorite character of the trilogy, and I need a book from her POV like I need air.

3. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist: There are juuuust enough creepy implications that Eli’s “father” started out just like Oskar, as a boy who was in love with her – even more heavily implied by the movie adaptations – to make a great jumping-off point for a sequel.  What happens when the vampire (oops, spoiler warning?) who you love and owe your life to stays young forever while you grow up?

4. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: Come on, Ms. Lockhart, if you can write, like, ten Ruby Oliver sequels you can write me one for Frankie.  (After you finish We Were Liars, I mean.  I’M SO EXCITED.)

5. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke: This was one of my favorite books as a kid.  But really, what kid wouldn’t be enticed by the idea of running away to Venice (which I’ve always wanted to visit) and living in an old movie theater?  (Inkheart was better, of course, but – Venice!)  I’ve been putting off re-reading it in case it doesn’t measure up to my memories of how magical I thought this book was, but a sequel might be just the thing to get me to do it.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Review

7896527 Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

Published: August 7, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 404

Received: From library

Summary (from Goodreads): 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. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s 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.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

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.

I had SO. MANY. PROBLEMS with Throne of Glass. If you follow my updates on Goodreads, it probably seems like not ten pages went by without me griping about some figure of speech, easily guessed “twist,” or mischaracterization. I had problems with the character development, the writing, the “mystery”… and somehow, despite all this, I really, really enjoyed the book as a whole despite my nitpicking.

I have to admit, I was skeptical when I opened the book and saw that the author had dedicated it to her FictionPress readers. I mean, FictionPress? I remember my friend posting her (amateur and trope-filled) stories on there when we were both, like, twelve. (Dear friend: no hard feelings if you read this, okay? Like I said. We were twelve. At least you weren’t the one writing self-insert anime fanfic back then.) And there is definitely a feel to most of Throne of Glass reminiscent of a young fantasy fan taking elements from works they’ve enjoyed and sprinkling in a good-sized dose of fanfiction tropes, but instead of feeling ripped off, I had to grin a little. You do it for the preteen girls who dream of writing their own fantasy epic, Sarah J. Maas. I am 110% supportive of this, no sarcasm.

Despite its predictability, I liked the main plot. I like stories about competitions, especially of the deadly sort. The Tests to decide the king’s champion were nothing new or innovative, but I can see how anything particularly complicated or over-the-top could feel out of place in the world of the book. They were just what they needed to be, although I wish a little more time had been spent on them and less on the love triangle! The big reveal of who had been murdering the contestants was pretty obvious, but certain others after, though not huge shocks, were interesting and set things up nicely for the rest of the series, as well as introducing some neat elements to the fantasy portion of the story.

The writing is where the book’s online origins really start to become clear. If you’ve ever been a fanfiction reader, you’ll recognize a characteristic of those stories in the writing here: referring to a character by a trait instead of name, as in “the brunette” or “the knight.” Maas uses this a lot in regards to Celaena. Not a page goes by without her being referred to as “the assassin.” It’s an amateur mistake that shouldn’t be cropping up this often in a published work, in my opinion. Once or twice is alright. Often enough that you notice it and groan inwardly every time it’s used? Not alright. Some of the dialogue tags are… interesting, as well. One that made me grit my teeth out of annoyance both times I caught it: “he/she said softly, but not weakly.” There are a thousand ways to convey that without sounding that, well, stupid. “He said under his breath,” for example. “She said, in a low voice.” Heck, even “they said softly,” because I know I, at least, don’t see that and automatically think WOW, THEY SURE SOUND LIKE A WIMP, HA HA. And I think the castle healers should take a look at Celaena’s heart, because it is always doing weird shit. Screeching and diving behind her spine, for example. Or: “… feeling her heart grow, and grow, and grow.” The repetition of “grow” three times honestly made me let out a giggle, because… is Celaena the Grinch? Because it sounds like her heart grew three sizes that day! Har har har.

The character development is… shaky, to say the least. Relationships jump all over the place within pages – ooh, they distrust this other person! Now they feel like this person has their back! Now they resent them! Seriously, Chaol needs to get his mood swings checked out. I know that the relationships between the love triangle are complicated – Celaena has good reason to hate anyone involved with Adarlan’s royalty, and Chaol and Dorian’s apprehensions about her because of her profession make sense – but these feelings don’t grow organically, but progress and regress depending on whatever makes the current POV character seem angstiest. And Celaena herself… whoo boy. Her morals are ALL OVER THE PLACE. This girl who’s hyped up to the reader as a heartless killer actually stops to think “What was ‘Champion’ but a dressed-up name for murderer?” You know what’s a dressed-up name for murderer, Celaena? ASSASSIN.

Despite that, I really love her as a protagonist – I like that her tongue is as sharp as her killer instincts, I like that despite her background as an assassin she cares for others, and I like that she isn’t totally fearless. She may be a stone-cold badass, but not one with a stone heart. And she loves pretty dresses and puppies! You know what, even if it was just a chance to describe her beautiful gowns, I’ll let it slide, because Celaena’s the perfect example that you can love feminine things and not be fragile or shallow.

As for the romance, I found it… actually, pretty decent. I much prefer Chaol to Dorian, although the first book seems to put things on a very pro-Dorian path, but neither romance of the love triangle made me roll my eyes or want to slap any of the participants for their sheer stupidity, which is… refreshing, I guess. Neither of the romantic interests is a “bad boy” type or creepy and coercive in the least, and I can see how fans could find both swoon-worthy. Although the romance does take up a good portion of the middle of the book, it never figures directly into the main plot – Celaena deals with all of that on her own (or with a little help from a friend who shall remain a spoiler!) and her feelings for her love interests never drive her decisions.

Throne of Glass is anything but perfect, and has some major, obvious flaws – but it did exactly what a fantasy story should do: immersed me in its world and kept me turning the pages. I have high hopes for this series and where it’s going – Crown of Midnight cannot come out fast enough for me.

Rating:

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Stacking the Shelves (1)

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews where we show off all the sweet stuff we’ve picked up, been sent, or otherwise got our hands on during the week!

shelves0803-1FROM THE LIBRARY:

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (Born of Illusion, #1)

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

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Adaptation by Malinda Lo (Adaptation, #1)

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (Fairytale Retellings, #1)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #1)

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (Cahill Witch Chronicles, #1)

Dust Lands: Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Dust Lands #1)

PURCHASED: 

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Have you read any of these?  Your thoughts?  Best books you got this week?  Let’s chat!

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – Review

12875258 Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

Published: June 19, 2012 by Random House

Genre: Contemporary, literary fiction

Pages: 335

Received: From library

Summary (from Goodreads): 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

It’s easy for me to write about books I hate. There’s a sort of gleeful joy in pulling a story apart to show all its flaws, in finding the most dramatic language to convey just how terrible a plot point, characterization, or the implications from either is. Writing about books I enjoyed, but had issues with certain elements of, is also simple – state what about the book worked for me, what didn’t, and how it could be improved upon.

But it’s very, very difficult for me to talk about books I love without feeling self-conscious. What can I say about them that doesn’t fall into the realm of cliche, or read like a publisher-selected cover blurb? As bloggers and others who talk about books online, it’s part of the job description to be critical, so when I find virtually nothing to criticize in a book, I end up questioning myself: am I not thinking hard enough about this? Am I letting my enjoyment of this book, and how it affected me, cloud my judgement and keep me from assessing its quality? And what is there to say about a book that leaves you speechless?

I don’t know. Glowing reviews are just not something that comes naturally to me. But even if they were, I still doubt I’d be able to eloquently write about how I feel about this particular book. I’ve tried, in the hours since I finished it. I’ve tried to capture what exactly made it perfect to me in words – and it’s come out cringe-inducing every time. Maybe later, when I have a chance to buy my own copy and re-read it, I’ll be able to untangle the jumbled mess of feelings in my head and write a coherent review explaining exactly why this book is as beautiful as it is. For now, that’s just not something I can do. Plenty of others, judging by the Goodreads and Amazon reviews, already have; if you’re curious about the book and exactly what people liked about it, those would be a far better place to look. But right now, that’s just not something I can do. The most I can say, and the best praise, I think, that I can give to this book or any other, is that even if just in a small way, I feel like Tell the Wolves I’m Home changed the way I look at myself and my relationships to those around me.

(What I said about feeling self-conscious talking about books I love? Yeah, every time I look back over that last sentence, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It just reads so… overblown, true as it is. I feel like I need to write like ten snarky reviews of subpar YA just to make up for that sentence and regain my Cool Blogger Cred.)

My own feelings aside, I do think Tell the Wolves I’m Home is an incredible novel, and I meant it one hundred percent when I called it beautiful. Move it to the top of your TBR pile. Request it at your library. Please read this book. I can’t promise it will blow away your expectations like it did mine, but I can’t imagine you’ll regret picking it up.

Rating:

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And a bucket of tears.

Orchards by Holly Thompson – Review

orchardscoverGoodreads | Amazon | Author’s website

Published: Feb. 22, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Genre: Contemporary, verse novel

Pages: 336

Received: From library

Summary (from Goodreads): After a classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg—a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American—wonders who is responsible. She and her cliquey friends said some thoughtless things to the girl. Hoping that Kana will reflect on her behavior, her parents pack her off to her mother’s ancestral home in Japan for the summer. There Kana spends hours under the hot sun tending to her family’s mikan orange groves.
Kana’s mixed heritage makes it hard to fit in at first, especially under the critical eye of her traditional grandmother, who has never accepted Kana’s father. But as the summer unfolds, Kana gets to know her relatives, Japan, and village culture, and she begins to process the pain and guilt she feels about the tragedy back home. Then news about a friend sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again.

I feel like I would have enjoyed Orchards a lot more if I’d read it when I was younger – middle school, maybe. This isn’t a negative thing; it just feels more like a novel that a tween or early teen would like and relate to than something I would. Besides the use of “bitch” and the topic of suicide, there’s not much in here that would be inappropriate for, say, a twelve year old, and most twelve year olds I know have heard all of that before. And, seeing as the character whose suicide kicks off the plot is an eighth grader, I’d say suicide is a subject relevant to readers that age. I personally had trouble identifying with Kana, very likely due to her age, but also because I just… didn’t get a good grasp on her as a character, I guess, which is hugely important when your novel is narrated in first-person voice and everything we’re reading is your narrator’s personal thoughts. The story, although definitely intriguing with the culture clash between Kana’s American upbringing and her family’s very Japanese values, didn’t really pick up until 260 or so pages out of 325 (the numbers on my page count differ from the ones Goodreads gives, for some reason) which in my opinion is far too long, and the sudden spike in pace and intensity felt very jarring.

The verse didn’t really grab me, either – it didn’t read like poetry, but like chopped-up sentences. I found myself mentally moving around the line breaks throughout the book, adding commas or periods to the end of sentences in my head – which, while it may be just my personal preference, was seriously distracting.

(Another personal gripe – all these YA novels about suicide from an outsider’s perspective, and I can only think of a few – much less successful – written from the point of view of someone who is suicidal themselves. I realize that it’s probably more easy to relate to, for readers who haven’t had any first-hand experience with being suicidal. But to me, it just feels… really, really patronizing. Very rarely do we get to tell our own stories, or have them told from our own perspectives; it’s always the story of the grieving friend, the bully who takes things too far, the bystander who let it happen, and how someone else’s actions effect them, and isn’t suicide terrible because of that? Well, yes. I don’t mean to invaldiate the experiences who’s lost someone they cared about to suicide or had to deal with a loved one’s attempt, because obviously, that’s a horrible thing to go through. But the fact that someone feels there’s no choice but to end their life, that someone has a little voice in their head telling them it would be better for everyone if they just died, that someone feels so tired and worn down by the world that they can see no other way – that’s terrible, too, and terrifying to notice those thoughts in your head. So, yeah. More first-person stories about this subject, please, I beg of you. Rant over now.)

The reason I picked up this novel, the fact that it takes place in Japan, does not disappoint. Kana’s mother’s relatives are very traditional, as most of Japan is, and if you’re new to Japanese culture and traditions Orchards is a good place to start learning about it through fiction. One of my favorite parts of the book was the scenes during Obon, a Japanese Buddhist holiday where families come together to perform a ceremony to guide home the spirits of their ancestors. It’s one of the sections that didn’t distract me with my own personal annoyances about the verse, and quite honestly, it’s beautiful. (It also put a pretty big smile on my face when Kana said that “it would just be easier to give the spirits GPS-activated cell phones.” This sounds exactly like something my cousin, around Kana’s age, would say.)

Although I’m not in the target audience for Orchards, and I feel like my enjoyment of it suffered for that, I actually found myself quite fond of it by the time I turned the last page. Issues with the verse format and its choppiness aside, this is a very sweet story despite some of the subject matter and one that I think middle-grade readers could learn a lot from, about not only Japanese culture but also grief, family, and moving forwards.

Rating:

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(Also, the cover!  It would be absolutely gorgeous if only the font for the author’s name and “a novel” fit better with the rest of it – they do, however, help to tip the reader off that this is aimed just a little below YA.  But those colors, my god, they are fantastic.  I want my room painted that shade of blue!)

 

Mind Games by Kiersten White – Review

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Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s website

Published: Feb. 19, 2013 by HarperTeen

Genre: Paranormal, dystopia

Pages: 237

Received: From library

Sisters Fia and Annie are… talented. That’s how the boarding school they attend puts it, anyway. Perhaps a better term would be psychic. Annie, although blind, can see visions of the future – beginning with the one that killed their parents. Fia, on the other hand, has perfect instincts – the ability to know in less than a fraction of a second which is the right choice to make, an ability only she possesses. Due to its uniqueness, Fia’s power is very valuable, and the school doesn’t intend to waste it. Since she arrived, she’s been put through incredibly intense training to test her abilities, her instincts put to use picking stocks, committing espionage… and now killing. If she doesn’t follow her orders, she knows Annie – held hostage by the school’s owner, Mr. Keane, to ensure her cooperation – will be killed. But she can’t bring herself to murder her target, putting herself and Annie in danger that, even with both their abilities, they may not be able to get out of…

The best word to describe Mind Games is probably propulsive.There really isn’t time to wander off on side plots or take a break for some comic relief – it’s a straight, crazy shot from beginning to end, over the book’s short 237-page running time. This isn’t a bad thing; there’s no slack to the story and no pacing issues or unnecessary time spent in introspection by the narrators (something a lot of female YA protagonists fall prey to, at the expense of the story.) However, perhaps a tiny bit of the extremely fast pace could have been sacrificed for a little more world building and explanation. I never got very much of a feel for Annie’s character, for example, and knowing more about Keane’s plans and why we should be against him would have raised the stakes a lot higher and given the plot more of a sense of urgency. Hopefully some of these things, as well as the full extent of the psychic powers that give the series their basis, will be fleshed out in the sequel.

While a lot of readers may find Fia’s narrative, with its repetition and stream-of-consciousness style, annoying bordering on unreadable, I personally found it one of the book’s strong points. Fia is completely mentally broken, both from her training and what she’s had to do to protect her sister, and it shows in her chapters. She reads like someone who’s gone insane, instead of the “oh, by the way, have I mentioned I’m crazy?” with nothing to back it up that plagues many books with similar types of protagonist.

Annie was much less compelling to me, unfortunately, but I did find the relationship between her and Fia very interesting, especially the way the two girls blamed themselves for the other’s situation. If only they’d shared more screentime, and the reader got more of a sense of their bond instead of just being told how much they cared for each other, it could have been one of the strongest points of the book.

From what reviews I’ve seen of the sequel, Perfect Lies, it improves on the major problems I had with Mind Games, and I’m very much looking forward to its 2014 release. (Even if that title sounds like something that would be found on a New Adult romance cover, instead of YA dystopian. I mean… really?) Mind Games definitely isn’t perfect, or even close to it, but it was an enjoyable, exciting read for sure.

Rating:

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