Thursday, November 29, 2012

book spine poetry

I have decided to do some book spine poetry, which you may or may not have seen if you follow me on Twitter. I've tried to do this type of poetry before and it never worked out so well, but today I actually managed to come up with some book spine poems I sort of like.

#1: a falling in love poem with books by Heather Duffy Stone, Lauren Oliver, Nina LaCour, and Deb Caletti

This is what I want to tell you
before I fall:
hold still,

#2: a poem of unsureness with books by Tara Altebrando, Gayle Forman, Susane Colasanti, John Corey Whaley, and Arlaina Tibensky.

What happens here
if I stay?
Waiting for you,
where things come back,
and then things fall apart?

#3: a poem about one of my own characters, with books by Courtney Summers, Robin Palmer, Laurie Halse Anderson, Hannah Moskowitz, Tahereh Mafi, Marsha Qualey, and Arlaina Tibensky.

Some girls are 
wicked jealous.
Shatter me,
just like that.
And then things fall apart.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

on reading books a second time (shatter me)

I'm nearly 200 pages into my reread of Shatter Me and reading this book a second time is making me realize a few very important things about books and rereads. I'm realizing that first reads -- that is, reading a book for the first time -- is primarily an emotional experience. You're experiencing everything in the book for the first time, latching on to the things you love or the things you hate. I've reviewed dozens of books and read hundreds and hundreds, and I still do this to some degree, despite my best attempts at objectivity.

Sometimes reading a book a second time is so completely different than the first time and so it is with Shatter Me. I've talked a lot about how much I love love love this book. Tahereh Mafi's writing is completely amazing and totally blows me away. The romance between Juliette and Adam is oh-so-romantic and the characters themselves are some of the best I've found on their own merits, regardless of the romance between them. But even in my first reading of Shatter Me there were things that bothered me. I was surprised at how dark the book was in certain scenes and this is standing out even more to me in a second reading.

This book is so dark. The setting is barren and desolate and scary. The villain is horrifyingly awful and certain events are shudder-inducing. In a book with lesser characters, lesser writing, I probably wouldn't have picked up the book for a second read and it's possible I wouldn't have even finished the first reading. 

The truth is that Juliette is an amazing character. She's strong and good and solid and so, so wants to be a better person. To be kind and loving. And the love story between her and Adam is so beautiful and great. But the events in the book -- many of the events -- are so awful. It's hard to read them. I've heard bits and pieces about the second book in the series (Unravel Me) and one of the things I keep hearing is that Warner -- Warner the villain, Warner the horrible awful evil -- isn't quite as bad. That he's humanized. And what I've realized, the more I hear about this book and Warner's role in it in particular, is that I might....

I might be okay not reading it.

What I've realized is that Shatter Me and its subsequent books might be, as much as I love the writing and the (good) characters, and the hope Juliette refuses to let go of, just too dark for me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

review: dear teen me

Edited by E. Kristin Anderson
Zest Books
(ARC from ALA Annual)
I'll admit that I rarely read every entry in anthologies; I'm much more likely to skip around, reading the stories that catch my interest and skipping over the others.

I made an exception for Dear Teen Me, a collection of letters from YA authors to their teenage selves. And while I love (love!) the idea behind this book, the actual product didn't blow me away. While there were some letters that were more powerful, interesting, or inspiring than others (I definitely have a few favorites), the book itself has an odd sort of feeling and after thinking about it I've decided that the book itself is just a little bit... off. The letters are personal letters from the authors to their past selves, but they're also writing for an audience, which makes everything a little different. For one thing you have to explain things to an audience that you never have to explain to yourself. For another thing I often felt that the letters were, in some cases, less honest and unguarded because of being written for an audience. (I mean, I don't know if they actually are less honest, but that's how I felt reading some of them.)

But, like I said, there were definitely some stand-outs and also a good amount of diversity in the letters. And when I say diversity I mean that while some letters are full of advice from the future, others are a telling of a memorable event that happened in their teen years. And while many of the letters blended together for me, there are some that really stand out. Jessica Burkhardt. Sarah Ockler. Hannah Moskowitz. Robin Benway. Sara Zarr. Ellen Hopkins. So while I didn't love the book, it's worth checking out just to see which essays will end up being stand-outs to you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

a book history since working

My reading habits have changed a bit since I started working regularly; I still read a lot, but it's mostly relegated to nights and lunch breaks now. I thought it might be interesting, in light of this, to take a look at my book history since starting my new job.

Books Read Since Oct. 5th: 6
This is not a ton. But I'd say that six books in about a month and a half is still pretty good - averages to a book a week. 3 of these were YA (2 contemporary & 1 sci-fi); 1 was middle grade; 1 was adult/mainstream fiction; and 1 was nonfiction/memoir.

Books Abandoned since Oct. 5th: 4
This is actually not as big a number as it seems; all of these were purchased from the used bookstore and as great as used is for finding rare gems, I end up abandoning a fair number of the books I purchase secondhand. 1 historical fiction; 1 steampunk YA; 1 middle grade; and 1 nonfiction.

The Best Book I Read: This one's a tie. The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. I'm not really a cycling fan (though watching the cycling during the Olympics this year was amazing), but this book was still brilliant for so many reasons. Also For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund, which made me wish I'd read Persuasion, by Jane Austen, before reading this futuristic sci-fi take on it. As with The Secret Race, it was utterly brilliant. And I'm so glad to find a great sci-fi that isn't the start of a trilogy.

Books Bought: 5 new & 5 used
The 5 new books were 3 YA; 1 nonfiction; and 1 adult/mainstream. The 5 used were 2 YA; 1 nonfiction; 1 middle grade; and 1 historical fiction.

Up Next: 
Either a reread of Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi (now that I finally have the paperback!) or I'll read Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday 10: Desert Island Books

Oh hey there. Long time no see. This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten books you'd want with you on a deserted island. I've a feeling this is going to be a pretty hefty list.

1. The Bible
There is no mucking around when it comes to desert island books (after all, these are the only books you'd ever read again!!) and if I had to choose only one book, this would be it. I'm going to get a bit more specific here actually and say that I'd take my own copy of the Bible because on a desert island I'd probably want my own highlighted passages and margin-notes with me.

2. Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
Like I said, there's no mucking around with desert island books. Aside from being my favorite-ever novel, it's also a hefty read that takes some time to get through. I'm guessing I'd have lots of time on this island, right?

3. Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
On the one hand this seems like completely ridiculous reading for a deserted island as I always imagine reading Little Women on a cold winter day with hot chocolate and a cozy blanket. But it's a classic and it's a classic I love, so here it is.

4. Tuesdays With Morrie
Mitch Albom
It occurs to me that much of what's in this book is advice on dealing with relationships/society/other people, but are there actually other people on this desert island? Or is it just me and my ten books? I really need more specifics. Still, I'm sure it'd be a good book to have.

5. Survival Wisdom & Know How
The Editors of Stackpole Books
I've never actually read this book. But I did a search for books on how to survive in the wilderness and this was the best-looking one that came up. There's maybe (probably) a better book out there, but I don't know. I'm not an expert on survival books.

6.  Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins
Alright, from here on out these are going to be fun reading books instead of hefty classics (great though they may be), life advice books, or survival guides. And as for fun, happy, heartwarming books this one absolutely takes the cake. I think Anna is something I could read over and over and over again.

7. serafina67 *urgently requires life*
Susie Day
And I know I can read this one over and over again, because I have. 

8. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America
Leslie Knope (who is a fictional character)
I'm going to need the funny if I'm all alone (am I alone?) on a deserted island.

I now have two spots left on the list and am going to leave them blank. I just can't decide which two books I love enough to read again and again for the rest of my life. I'm impressed I even made it to eight, actually. (And because I can't pass up the opportunity, Dwight Schrute's desert island books.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Miss Fortune Cookie

Lauren Bjorkman
Henry Holt and Co.
ARC received from publisher
Senior year for Erin, the anonymous blogger behind the wildly popular Miss Fortune Cookie advice column blog means college acceptance (or rejection) letters; finally fixing the messy past she has with her ex-best-friend-turned-current-best-friend, Mei; and stumbling into a possible romance of her own after so long being the only single girl in her trio of best friends.

This book is just as adorable as the cover leads you to believe (I mean, Erin answers the letters on her advice blog with fortune cookies), but there's a lot going on. From college decisions (Erin made a pact with Bestie #1, Linny, that they'd both attend UC Berkeley before college letters even went out, only to later question if that's the right decision) to the history between Erin and Bestie #2, Mei, who dropped her as a friend years ago and even since rekindling their friendship (thanks in large part to Linny), they've never been as close as they once were. When Mei finds herself stuck between the boyfriend she's head-over-heels for and her mother who insists she attend Harvard (instead of Stanford), even though it's on the other side of the country, Miss Fortune Cookie gets a letter that sounds like it could be from Mei herself. In addition to these plotlines, Erin also worries over leaving her mother alone when she goes away to college, and struggles with her deep love for Chinese culture despite being white. So yeah, there's a lot happening and though it's all wrapped around Erin and her alter-ego as Miss Fortune Cookie, I did have a few problems with various storylines (more on that later).

I'm tempted to cover this book in the vague, often-annoying adjective of cute, but that doesn't quite do it justice. The truth is, Miss Fortune Cookie is cute in the best sort of way -- in the way that Tweet Heart or Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings. It's the sort of cute that's full of heart and a sort of "feel-good" book that I can see myself reading again in the future. Erin is a smart, sweet, good-natured protagonist you can't help but root for and her two best friends are equally likable, despite their missteps along the way. That said, there were so many storylines here that were emotional and important but that ended up being wrapped up neatly, and too quickly for my liking. For instance, the heavy history between Erin and Mei is a subplot I wanted more from, especially as it was weighted down with race, culture, and the pain of being rejected by a best friend. Instead, this was solved quickly and much of the book was devoted to a counterprotest Linny was setting up at the girls' high school, which was a subplot I kept expecting to go somewhere and when it didn't I was disappointed mainly because without a payoff it felt so completely out-of-place with the rest of the book.

Still, despite the book's imperfect plots and subplots, this story is so easy to fall into for the simple fact that Erin herself is such an inviting character. I was easily swept up in the book because Erin is the best kind of "adorable YA" character -- the kind that pulls you alongside her, right into the story. It helped, of course, that the Chinatown setting is written so, so well and gives the characters and story more depth. If you're looking for a beyond-cute realistic YA read with just a hint of romance, give this one a try. Miss Fortune Cookie is set to hit shelves November 13, 2012.