Recently, Patrick Ness came to a bookstore in Seattle. I read and loved A Monster Calls (here's my review) but I already own a signed copy due to the loveliness of Jo over at Wear the Old Coat. What other Ness books have I read? Well, now that you bring that up....none. But that wasn't going to stop me from getting some books signed while he was in town, especially considering how much some of my blogger and reader friends love his Chaos Walking series. I couldn't physically be at the event because of work but I had an employee who was working the event get books signed for me and I cracked up at what he wrote in one of them:
I wish! Speaking of author events, though I won't be recapping ones I went to during my "lost time," I hope to be doing more of that. I recently got books signed by Lish McBride and Victoria Schwab and I am concurrently realizing that I flew to San Diego that night and my books have been sitting at work in a bag for about two weeks now. (Oops!) I bought copies of Vicious, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and Necromancing the Stone...and maybe The Archived, I can't remember. While I was in San Diego, I spent a day with one of my favorite people, Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous. It has pretty much become commonplace for us to spend a day or two together every time I go down to California and one of our favorite places to go is BookOff. We have gone to *cough*a few other San Diego and Los Angeles bookstores but they were mostly letdowns. I didn't buy too much this time around but I did pick up:
Though there is really nothing on the blog to reflect it, I became addicted to short stories in 2013. I think, and they can correct me if I'm wrong but I'm 99% sure I'm right, all three of us did. We read, discussed, suggested, listened to, hated, and loved hundreds of stories last year and that also got me really into buying short story collections. Honestly, I went a bit overboard with it and I think I have every one of those famous-author-edited "Best American Short Stories of [enter year here]" from the past ten or twenty years. No kidding. Here's some of them to the left, along with another series that I seriously cannot resist buying: "The Year's Best Science Fiction." Those ones are chunksters and they usually put some sort of irresistible (to me) space-related images on the front. The extra bonus in this pic is a bunch of DVDs I found at Target for less than $10 each. In case you can't see in the picture, they are Silver Linings Playbook, Sherlock Holmes, Mean Girls (my old copy has scratches!), Gatsby, and The 10th Kingdom. Have any of you ever seen The 10th Kingdom? I was $5 worth of curious so I just went for it, though I've yet to watch it. Also, it has an 8.4 on IMDB! Speaking of television and movies, though, two recent recommendations from me, which I will probably mention in another post: The Bletchley Circle and Populaire. The former is a Netflix Instant-available miniseries about a group of female code breakers from WWII who help solve a serial murder crime a few years after the war and the latter is an adorable French movie about a businessman who enters his secretary in speed typing competitions. (also on Netflix Instant) Oh, and I also recommend Senna, a documentary about a Brazilian Formula One racer who is often considered the best racer of all time. I had close to zero interest in F1 racing and I still don't care too much about it, but I was super interested in the story of his career.
The books to the right are all from Half Price Books. I read Green Rider by Kristen Britain as part of She Made Me Do It this past fall. My friend Alexis dared me to read it and I'd been meaning to for ages. It was a lot of fun and I didn't have as many problems with it as some of my reader friends did in terms of originality. (or lack thereof) I liked it enough to buy two more installments when I was at Half Price. Coincidentally, I also went to the Half Price Outlet in Olympia with Alexis when she was last home and picked up a few of the books pictured then. Listening to Pat Conroy's My Reading Life has been one of my favorite audio experiences to date and I wanted to own a book copy of it. Daggerspell was mentioned by Kate Elliott at an event I went to as being the beginning of her favorite series. (I think I might've bought another copy then but I didn't see it in my shelves immediately so who knows?) I also bought a Marillier book, Cybele's Secret, The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier, Shopgirl by Steve Martin, and four more unnecessary but exciting short story collections.
Last of the bunch of random-books-that-are-only-about-half-of-what-I-recently-acquired-but-that-I-saw-at-first-glance-and-took-pictures-of are these two books I picked up at the University Bookstore semiannual book sale. All the books on a few long tables were 50% of their lowest price so I ended up paying about $5 for both of these. I think that cover for Alif the Unseen is ridiculous. The color and outline are lovely and the wall of text just completely ruins it. I am going to see how well I like the book because I'm not sure I can have that eyesore on my shelves. I have Eclipse One and Eclipse Four now so we all know what that means...
Anyway, I am sneaking this post in near midnight on the weekend so I am counting this as my weekly post. I didn't let myself down yet! Have any of you read any of these books? I am specifically interested to know if you've read any of the shorts in any of these collections. Happy Monday, everyone!
Oh hey, remember me? I used to regularly post here with my two partners in crime, Tatiana and Catie. No? Not ringing any bells? Well, regardless of whether or not you've missed our regular updates, I have missed them. I still email with Catie and Tatiana but I want to know every minute detail of what they think about every single thing they consume in the book, television, or movie worlds. Here are a few other things I miss when I'm not blogging:
Anyway, I miss my online reading buddies, I miss recapping book events, I miss reviewing things, and I miss being a book blogger. So I'm going to try to be a book blogger again. Check back every once in awhile; this ought to be good.
Bookish friends are among the best kinds of friends, don't you think? I met one of my favorite friends when we were both in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps together. Honestly, I have no recollection of what brought us together but from my end, what keeps me obsessed with Alexis is the fact that she is one of, if not THE most caring person I have ever met. She is someone who actually listens to people and remembers details about their lives. I have a million and one other reasons to love her but one of the most glaring is that she is amazing at talking about books. I consider her to be a very well-read person and our tastes often overlap so I think it's also safe to say that she has impeccable taste. (I'm sure one of the traits Alexis loves about me is my AMAZING sense of humor) Even though we've been having great success with our recommendations, I knew Tatiana, Catie, and I needed a break from challenging each other in She Made Me Do It, so I decided to enlist this real-life reader bud of mine for the job of recommendation-maker. Plus, it has the added bonus of keeping us in touch since Alexis is finishing up her PhD on the east coast and I am just sitting here soaking up the fall Seattle rain. So, here we go...
Alexis Recommends to Flannery:
Green Rider by Kristen Britain
What it's about: A young woman on the way home stumbles into a dying man and takes up his mission, delivering a message to the king. The simple delivery turns into a major adventure.
Why I think she'll like it: I read A LOT of fantasy books with strong female leads thrust into world saving adventures. Green Rider doesn't break the mold, but instead fits the mold really really well. This is a satisfying fantasy adventure romp with a great female lead that keeps you wanting more. I recommend this to Flannery because sometimes a person is just looking for a comfort read--a classic, well written, fantasy epic.
Maus by Art Speigelman
What it's about: A graphic novel that depicts one man's survival during the Holocaust and his son's efforts to remember and understand his father's journey.
Why I think she'll like it: This book was assigned to me in one of my first college classes. I remember going to the university book store to buy all of my assigned books and picking up Maus and feeling so liberated. No more textbooks! Maus is a powerful, complex story enhanced by the visual imagery. Since Flannery is on a graphic novel kick, I want her to read the book that started my obsession with graphic novels and remains my absolute favorite.
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
What it's about: A rookie in the Provost Guard tries to make it as a crime fighter in the roughest part of town.
Why I think she'll like it: I am always recommending Tamora Pierce books to Flan and she seems to enjoy them (although perhaps not with as much devotion as me). I think she will like this latest installment because it is the same fun, easy reading as Pierce's other Tortall books but focuses on the seedy underbelly which makes for some unique, entertaining characters and adventures.
On Green Rider: This is probably the one I am most excited about because it has been a priority read for me for a year or two. I need the push and I hope this is the one that will get me over the finish line because I could do with a good fantasy novel at the moment, especially a female-driven one.
On Maus: This is such a classic graphic novel and I'm really ashamed I haven't read it yet. My family has had a copy of it on our bookshelves for decades and I'm fairly sure that every one of my siblings has already read it. *sigh* This is absolutely first on my list. I already checked out both volumes from the library and I am waiting until after work tomorrow to read them in case they make me cry, which I have a feeling they might.
On Terrier: Tamora Pierce is such a comfort read for me, and Alexis knows this. She's read many more of Pierce's books, maybe even all of them, but I still have many more to go. True confession: I even have two of Alexis's Tamora Pierce books sitting in a pile of books in my bedroom. Anyway, Pierce writes awesome young confident female characters and I am certain I will love this book.
Flannery Recommends to Alexis:
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
What It's About: A jury of men deliberating about the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of murder.
Why I think she'll like it: Alexis is smart. She is also interested in politics and I think that interest will translate to the same kind of interest I had in this play from the 1950s. Alexis keeps up with the news and I found Twelve Angry Men to be scary--it reminded me just who makes up juries and how much trust we put in everyday people. I bet she'll find it just as compelling as I did.
Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer
What it's about: A pastry chef. Romance. You know the rest.
Why I think she'll like it: Alexis is like me in that she loves reading random contemporary romances to decompress. This book isn't earth-shattering or anything but I think she'll like it and it's very low on the attention requirement scale. I'm certain she could read this very fast but I'm also sure that she won't have any trouble dropping and picking the story back up later.
Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
What It's about: A pair of star-crossed lovers (well, spouses) in space.
Why I think she'll like it: Well, I'm not positive she'll will, but I have high hopes. After she included Maus as one of her recommendations for me, I thought about what graphic novels she might like since I have read so, so many this year so far. I picked Saga because Alexis loves space stories (when they are well done), and I think Saga is the best graphic novel in that area.
On Seeing Me Naked: I haven't heard of this book but it does sound right up my alley and I am definitely in need of some fluffy romance to decompress. I also happen to love books that involve cooking or baking which is an added bonus. Flannery says I will read this quickly which is probably a good thing because I suspect I will be craving baked goods throughout.
On Twelve Angry Men: Flannery does know me well. Back when I wanted to go to law school as a kid, this was one of my favorite movies. At the time, it never occurred to me to read the original source material. I will be interested to read this and go back to the movie as well for comparison.
On Saga, Vol. 1: The short blurb for this series sounds fantastic. I am intrigued that the main characters are married--so many of the books I read these days are "will they or won't they?" romance plotlines. My only worry with this graphic novel is that it will take awhile to identify with the main characters when one has moth wings and the other one has ram horns. I am up for the challenge though, haha.
What do you think we should read? Are any of these favorites of yours? Are you sick of me recommending Saga to everyone and their dog?
I'm not usually a fan of angel books but I kept hearing from blogger and Goodreads friends of mine that I should give the Rephaim series by Paula Weston a try, and they were right. This series, if the first book serves as a basis, is the exception rather than the rule. I found myself totally entertained for the entirety and it has that uniquely Aussie feel to it. So when Weston's US/Canadian publisher, Tundra Books, asked if we might participate in the blog tour for Shadows, I had no hesitation in saying yes. I mean, take a look at these reviews by some of my buddies: Nomes from Inkcrush, Mandee from Vegan YA Nerds, Trinity from Trin in the Wind, and Keertana from Ivy Book Bindings. (there are many, many more!) I am very happy that the lovely author agreed to answer some questions for me today on the blog. After listening to a few podcasts on which she was a guest, reading tons of Google links about her, and, of course, reading the book, I had tons of questions. It was pretty hard to narrow them down so I didn't--and she answered them all! I hope you all will enjoy her answers as much as I did. And go get the book! Here are the links to Amazon, B & N, and Book Depository.
1. I listened to a podcast interview in which you talked a bit about the changes that were made for the UK version of Shadows. Has anything changed for the US/Canada edition? Was it mostly (or only) word choice changes or has anything plot-related changed?
First up – thanks for having me. :-)
Tundra Books has taken a very light approach with the US/Canadian edition, with all changes being minor and relating to individual words. There are some basic changes, like ‘carpark’ becoming ‘parking lot’ and ‘takeaway’ becoming ‘takeout’, and then others where the Australian terms would have had no meaning to those unfamiliar with them – ‘loo’ (washroom), ‘jumper’ (sweater) and ‘doona’ (blanket). And, of course, ‘stubbies’ have become ‘shorts’. Stubbies are a brand of shorts that are quite iconic for working class guys in Australia (or, in the case of the Butler brothers, farmers of illegal crops).
Happily, nothing has changed relating to characters, plot, structure etc.
2. One aspect of Shadows I particularly enjoyed was the balance of supernatural and human characters. So often, the human characters in paranormal stories can come off as helpless or totally one-dimensional but some of my favorite moments involved Maggie, the Butler Brothers, or other fully human characters. Do you have as much fun writing those characters as you do those with more fantastical abilities?
Absolutely. The Butler brothers are among my favourite characters to write, particularly Mick as he says exactly what he’s thinking, without finesse. I don’t share his attitudes, but I like the idea of having meat-head guys like the Butlers getting caught up in this epic battle involving demons, angels and half-angels. I enjoy writing Maggie too. It took me a little while to flesh out her character because I definitely wanted her to be more than a one-dimensional best friend. The light bulb moment for me came when my editor challenged me to think more about why Maggie and Gaby had become friends. Once I worked that out, their relationship became more organic and real, and is now one of my favourites in the series.
3. Without getting too spoilery, memory loss plays a part in the plot of Shadows. While I’ve read in other interviews that you knew the overall story arcs for the series, when you worked on Shadows, did you know everything that had happened during that “missing time”? (e.g. Did you have an outline of prior events that took place before the novel?)
Mostly. :-) From the start, I’ve known what happened between Gaby and Rafa, and what Gaby and Jude did that left everyone thinking they were dead. I’m still refining the detail as I work my way through the series and the critical moments take more solid shape (particularly the events leading up to them). The more time I spend with the characters, the better I understand them, which helps flesh out the detail in a way that feels ‘real’. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say readers will know the details of those critical past events by the end of the series – with a few other reveals along the way as well.
4. Think there’s any chance we might ever get to see those two plays and five manuscripts you finished before Shadows?
Hmm, not sure about the plays, and three of those earlier manuscripts will definitely never see the light of day. But I still think the fantasy series I was working on before Shadows has some promise, so I’d like to return to it some time in the future. (One of the rejections I received was on the basis it was YA, so I guess it’s a YA fantasy series – which I’m comfortable with.) I’ve learned so much as a writer since working with a professional editor and I’d like to apply that knowledge to the series – but not just yet. I have too many other ideas to explore first.
5. I have to be honest, I don’t usually like angel books. Shadows is one of the only exceptions I’ve found and I read it because so many bloggers and Goodreads friends of mine recommended it to me. What do you think of the role social media sites play in book publicity these days? Do you think word-of-mouth recommendations like the ones I received have affected you as an author?
Great question! For a genre-writer (especially a genre YA writer), social media and word-of-mouth is invaluable. In Australia, it can be tough to get genre YA novels reviewed in mainstream media, so bloggers, social media and word-of-mouth has been really important. This probably sounds naïve, but I had no idea how many angel books were out there when I wrote Shadows, and had no clue of the love/hate relationship readers have with them. So the very kind word-of-mouth provided by book bloggers and on Goodreads has been a huge bonus. You’re right, it’s enticed readers to give my series a go – not just in Australia, but in other parts of the world. Of course Shadows is not for everyone, I get that, but it’s nice not to be dismissed straight out of hand for being ‘another angel story’. And I have a lot of wonderful bloggers to thank for that.
6. You’ve said that you feel Shadows is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance and that you agree with idea that UF might be described as a story in which the romance could easily be removed and the story wouldn’t fall apart. (or the story wouldn’t lose its biggest element) Do you read much in the UF genre? Do you have any recommendations?
Tags for books are such tricky things, and they can’t help but shape reader expectations. I tend to describe the Rephaim series as urban fantasy over paranormal romance because, while the relationship between Gaby and Rafa is a core part of the story, theirs is not a sweet, epic romance. I worry that readers looking for a more traditional romance (as the paranormal romance tag might suggest) will be disappointed/frustrated when it doesn’t deliver. But if they like an antagonistic relationship and are interested in the broader world building within the story, then the Rephaim series could still work for them.
But to answer your question, I do enjoy urban fantasy. I’ve recently discovered Marjorie Liu’s Hunter Kiss series, which is wonderfully complex with intricate world building and a well-rounded female narrative character. Other favourites are Deadtown by Nancy Holzner and Hounded by Kevin Hearne (both first novels in their respective adult series). In the YA sphere, I’d recommend a witty and clever Australian novel called The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks, and Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden urban fantasy/dystopian series (starting with The Immortal Rules).
As for other recommendations that could (very) loosely be tagged urban fantasy: Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series. (Okay, so this is just an excuse to talk about two series I particularly love.)
7. What’s next after you finish the Rephaim series? Any stories itching to be written?
As a matter of fact, I’ve had an idea percolating away for a few months now, again starting with two characters and an interesting situation. It’s YA, has an urban fantasy twist, but is nothing to do with angels. I’ve written some preliminary notes, but won’t be developing the idea until I’ve submitted a draft of Book 4 of the Rephaim series.
8. You’ve managed to do something extremely notable with the two main characters in Shadows—you wrote a female character who is very capable and a male love interest who treats her as an equal. (I wish this wasn’t notable in YA world) Who are your favorite couples in literature? (Yes, I realize that Rafa and Gaby aren’t technically a couple but let’s be real here, everyone who reads the book is rooting for them.)
Thank you. That’s a huge compliment.
This question turned out to be deceptively tricky! I love so many books and characters, but when I thought about favourite couples it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So, after mulling it over, I realise that two of my all-time favourite couples are in Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles: Finnikin and Evangeline and Froi and Quintana. In both relationships, the people involved have to see beyond each other’s flaws and address their own. Love and trust is hard-earned – on both sides – which makes it all the more sweet and rewarding when they finally sort themselves out. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice rank up there too. I’m actually really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this one.
9. Even though the first book in the Rephaim series is only just being released in the US/Canada, the second has already been released in Australia. Now that you’ve spent so much time with your characters, do you have any actors/actresses in mind when you write, in terms of either looks or personality?
Not when I’m writing them, but I do occasionally see an actor in a particular role and think they’re the right ‘type’ for one of my characters. For example, in Friends with Benefits, there’s that moment when Mila Kunis’ character runs into the doctor she’s just spent the night with when he’s trying to sneak away. To me, the send off she gives him is vintage Gaby (and her look is very close to how I imagine Gaby – except Gaby would be a bit taller). Fellow Aussie author Vikki Wakefield told me she pictures Taylor Kitsch when she thinks of Jude, which totally works for me. :-) As for Rafa, I really haven’t seen anyone that captures the image I have of him in my head. But of course that’s the beauty of characters on the page – we can imagine them in ways that work for each of us.
10. What are your favorite types of scenes to write? The action ones? The witty dialogue?
I love writing dialogue. I learn so much more about my characters when they’re interacting. The witty stuff is fun (glad you found it witty!), but so are the arguments – especially between Gaby and Rafa. I also enjoy a good action scene, especially one that gets my heart racing when I’m writing it (like the cage scene at the Sanctuary). And those moments when Gaby and Rafa are doing things other than arguing…they’re fun too. :-)
Paula, thank you so much for visiting today and for thoughtfully answering all of my questions. I hope readers in the US and Canada will enjoy the Rephaim series as much as those in Australia have. And if you are a reader, check out Shadows to see if you'll like it as much as me! If you liked this interview and/or you love the series or are intrigued enough to find out more, you should check out the rest of the stops on Weston's US/Canada blog tour.
Have you read Shadows or any more of the books in the Rephaim series? What did you think? What'd you think of Paula's answers to my questions?
A few months ago, I signed up for a crazy ambitious challenge that a bunch of bloggers organized called Classics Retold. The aim of the event? For bloggers to select a classic work and then evaluate the retellings, sequels, and adaptations of it. Since the scope of source material is so vast, there are several organizers, each in charge of a different section of source material. Here they are:
I thought for a while about what book I would like to tackle but finally decided on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. How many adaptations could there be, right? BAHAHAHA, WRONG. There are so, so many. Today, since it is already halfway through September, I just wanted to finally put a post up acknowledging that I am working on this project--though it will probably take me further into October--and to start talking a bit about what's out there in terms of retellings. Let's look at the movie and television adaptations...
Movies & Television
I'm very excited to tell you that, DRUMROLL PLEASE, there is a Lifetime movie about the March sisters and it only came out last year! The March Sisters at Christmas (2012) centers on the four sisters in modern times trying to keep hold of their family's dilapidated estate. It doesn't sound from the blurb on IMDB like it will be anything other than a very loose adaptation but it does have something that I love watching movies about: home renovations. I spent a few bucks and bought this version on iTunes so it will be the second retelling I'll tackle. Have I mentioned I'm far more excited to watch retellings than read them? I don't have a lot of free time these days and he time investment is much lower with movies. I can just lay around on the couch like a slug instead of doing all that hard work of turning pages or hitting 'next page' on my Kindle.
There are a few more versions that I don't think I'll be able to find access to, especially not in the next month. These include the 1918 version and the 1970 TV miniseries. Sigh, there just is never enough time.
What movie/TV version of Little Women is your favorite? Have you heard of any/all of these ones before? Do you know of any others? Which ones do you think I should definitely watch?
Hey, look! We made it through another round of recommendations! In this dry spell of a summer that we all seem to be having, I call this a victory, even if all the recommendations are short works of fiction. The fantastic thing about these short challenges is that we have a much higher completion percentage. This time, each of us read at least two of the challenge recs. We're hoping to ease our way back into the blogging world in the next few weeks. Here's to hoping we have as much success at that as we did in this challenge. Be sure to let us know if you have any recommendations for short fiction in the comments.
Previously, on She Made Me Do It...
Flannery challenged Tatiana to read:
Tatiana read: EVERYTHING!
Verdict: Coincidentally, I liked Flannery's recommendations in the order the appear above - from the best to less... best.
Iphegenia in Aulis was the best for me. It was such interesting twist on a familiar trope! I won't mention which trope, not to spoil things, but this paranormal story was awesome (much better than the Sookie short that was in the same collection) and probably the best work of fiction about this particular type of creature.
I enjoyed Y as well. One day all male species die out and the MC is the only surviving man. How will this women-filled world function? I didn't agree with all the extrapolations Vaughan came up with in this comic, and yet it was entertaining. I will eventually read the rest of this series.
Finally, Address Unknown. I definitely wasn't as impressed by it as Catie and Flannery had been, but to be fair, it's hard for me to be impressed by a Nazi story (I had been raised on WWII books and movies), but I appreciated the clever twist.
Great picks again!
Tatiana challenged Catie to read:
Catie read: Hell is the Absence of God and Wenlock Edge...plus a few others from Ted Chiang and the entire volume of stories from Alice Munro.
Verdict: I can credit Tatiana with introducing me to two new favorite authors this month, as I adored both of these collections. I haven't read the entire Ted Chiang yet but I'm working my way through steadily (and out of order, for some reason). Hell is the Absence of God is the absolutely frightening story of a man who lives in a world where visitations from terrifying and destructive angels are an everyday occurrence. Heaven is populated by those who believe in God; whereas, hell is quite a bit like Earth – only without all the hindrances of corporeality. When the main character loses his beloved wife, a believer, he as a non-believer struggles to reconcile his desire to see her again with his complete lack of faith. The ending is a bleak punch to the face look at the darker side of absolute faith that left me feeling sick and cold. In other words, I absolutely loved it. Chiang’s other stories (the ones I’ve read so far) are likewise brilliant – he writes hard science fiction with an emphasis on the hard. I would recommend his writing to those who love Ursula K. Le Guin or Bernard Beckett.
Too Much Happiness was just genius from start to finish; although, I must say that Wenlock Edge wasn’t my favorite in the collection. Munro has a very quiet, understated way of writing that seeps into you and makes you feel more and more uneasy. It’s that feeling of standing in a completely bland, normal looking room and just knowing that somewhere, something is terribly off. She is an expert in building quiet tension and although her stories don’t often end with fireworks, they leave a definite mark. My favorites in the collection were Dimensions, about a woman who can’t seem to separate herself from her abusive husband and Deep-Holes, about a mother who constantly undermines herself for her husband and children.
In conclusion, my main verdict is this: Tatiana has impeccable taste. Thanks for another great round!
Catie challenged Flannery to read:
Flannery read: Fade to White and Black Step.
Verdict: Fade to White is the first of Valente's work I've read and it certainly won't be the last. I've already recommended this story to several more readers. I could absolutely picture every part of it as a movie. I WISH IT WAS A MOVIE. My heart broke for one of the characters and in such a short piece, that is a feat. I liked Valente's style, particularly the way she describes things and how her characters interact. Black Step I didn't like as much, but I think part of that could be that I wanted it to be a story by Ron Rash, one of my new loves. There were several images in the story that I loved and I am still thinking about it a few hours after completing it, which is always a good sign. Catie is right that this author and collection are good recommendations to people who enjoyed Rash's Nothing Gold Can Stay. I definitely plan on reading the rest of this collection, though I think I might enjoy Woodrell's work even more in audio format. There's something about these dark, depressing tales that lend themselves to audio performance. I suppose it is the way each of them feel like a character telling a short story--it feels like oral history. I wanted to read Squirrel Meets Chipmunk but just didn't make the time this month. I will eventually, though! Thanks for the recommendations, Catie!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Books I've Recently Acquired! I'm your host, Flannery, so let's get things started with random science fiction and fantasy books that caught my eye at Half Price Books the other day. I picked up Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr based on Kate Elliott's recommendation of the series at an event I went to two weeks ago. She said it was her favorite fantasy series of all time and that was obviously enough to sell me on it. I also grabbed a copy of A Horsewoman in Godsland by Claudia J. Edwards because I loved her book Taming the Forest King. Even though I already own a copy of Horsewoman, I never see copies of her out-of-print books anywhere and buy them when I find them. I kind of feel like the protagonist from The Shadow of the Wind trying to find all the existing copies of her work, especially considering there is basically ZERO information about the author out there on the net. [at this point in typing the blog post I went to ebay and bought two more of her books so I would have a complete set] Are there any mysterious authors of depressingly small fame that you wish more people would read? Do you have any authors whose works you automatically buy when you find those old used copies hidden in the shelves?
The other paperbacks I picked up--all were $1, I believe--were Groundties by Jane Fancher, One On Me by Tim Huntley, and Grasp the Stars by Jennifer Wingert.
Speaking of Half Price Books, every few months they have a warehouse sale over in Greenwood. This go-round, all the books were under $3. I went early in the morning but it was absolutely bonkers with people so I made one quick perusal of the area and peaced out of there...after waiting for over half an hour in line. I picked up the seven books to the right for around $18. I was especially psyched about this because all but one are hardcover and all are in great condition. I haven't read any of them yet but some of them are definitely permanent collection pieces. I am particularly happy I found a copy of Skin Hunger since Catie and Tatiana really loved (love?) that series, and The Highest Frontier since it is about young adults in school in space. I tried to start it once before but my reaction was something like this: "Oh cool! A girl going to college in space! This is going to be so FUN! Wait, what about botany?...there certainly seems to be a lot of talking about plants in this bookzzzzzzzzzzz." I'm hoping my second attempt will be more successful.
Happy birthday to me! Well, it was last month, but these books were given to me as gifts, which is beyond exciting for a bookaholic. Maja sent me Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Naomi sent me Six Impossible Things (signed!) and Wildlife by Fiona Wood. And Tatiana sent me The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson. All three of us Readventurers really enjoy Wilkinson's books and how she is able to keep them fun without crossing into the land of unbearable cheese. Thanks, buddies! (for the record, the equally awesome Catie gave me an Amazon gift card which I should've used on books but instead I used to buy a new cover for my phone.)
If you are a fan of graphic novels, you are probably already addicted to Saga by Brian K. Vaughn (of Y: The Last Man and Runaways fame) and Fiona Staples. If you haven't read it yet, please get on it. I preordered the second compiled edition and read it the day it arrived. It was just as weird as the first one, though it had a few more really awkward sexual inclusions that had Tatiana and I scratching our heads. Have you read it? What do you think the point of including the huge ogre balls and blowjob pics was? I thought they were just distracting and frankly, they made me kind of angry because they lower the number of people I would feel comfortable recommending the series to. The other graphic novel I bought recently is Empire Lanes by Peter Gross. I bought this one after I really enjoyed Gross' artwork in the Unwritten series by Mike Carey, and I read THAT because I basically loved Mike Carey's short story, "Iphegenia in Aulis". That story is included in An Apple for the Creature, a collection of school-related short stories from about twelve different authors. I recommended that particular story to Tatiana in our ongoing edition of She Made Me Do It and she enjoyed it as well. (spoiler alert!) If you get the chance, you should listen to it. The Ilona Andrews short in that book is also worth a listen. Anyway, Empire Lanes is about a group of people who come through a magical portal from medieval times into the back of a bowling alley. I haven't finished it yet but I kind of love stories about people working at bowling alleys, water parks, golf courses, etc. so I'm looking forward to it.
Hooray for friends! I wasn't able to make it to a recent conference, but some of my bookish buddies were there and they mailed me a few of the galleys they knew I was on the lookout for. My college roommate was also there but she is not as efficient as Arlene and Rachel, so I might have to include whatever she got signed for me in another edition...some other time...when she gets around to mailing it. The books are The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Eye of Minds by James Dashner, The 100 by Kass Morgan, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, The Vow by Jessica Martinez, and Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce. Thank you, thank you!
I haven't gone to a ton of author events recently but I did go see Neil Gaiman, Kate Elliott, and Margo Lanagan. I bought one or two books at each event to be signed so here is an amazing picture I took of them in my majestic wood-walled bathroom. I'm joking about the picture being amazing, obviously it is my usual point and click crapfest, but it is actually in my bathroom. True confession: On the other side of that wall is a book of Far Side cartoons that I look at every time I go to the bathroom. They make me laugh every.single.time. The problem with these books is that once books are signed, I never want to crack them open and change the quality. Library, here I come.
The other day I was at work and the store was having a 50% clearance event. I have never read any books by Anne Bishop but I am physically incapable of passing up mint condition, signed hardcovers for $7 by authors I think I might enjoy trying out. In addition to the two random books in the Black Jewels series that I picked up (I know the reviews are mixed!), I also grabbed an installment in the Chicagoland Vamps series that I was missing and Circus Galacticus, which I remember I requested and was denied on Netgalley when it was coming out. Isn't it funny how we remember exactly which books we were rejected for? I know how lucky reviewers are to even be given the chance to read prerelease books, but the rejection still hurts a bit. At least it does for me.
I drove down to Eugene two days ago to help one of my siblings move. On the way down and back up, I continued my alternation between the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. I enjoy both series in audio format and I am almost finished with #2 in the CD series, after which I'll move onto #3 in KD. Two or three people have told me that Magic Strikes is where the true magic of the Kate Daniels series picks up so I am pumped to start that one tomorrow. When I was in Eugene, my sister and I stopped to get burritos for lunch and the place happened to be next door to Black Sun Books. What an interesting find! The store has a lot of lit, both used and new, and large sections of poetry, native peoples, and books in translation, among other sections. It isn't much for genre fiction, but the store is well kept and the owner seems to truly care for his books. I found a like new hardcover of War Dances and the Nobel Prize-winning book, The Passport by Herta Müller. I didn't look at the Goodreads reviews for that one before I bought it, and they seem very polarized. I have no idea what I'm in for, but I guess it will be interesting either way.
The last few books I recently acquired include Shadows by Paula Weston and two of The Edge books by Ilona Andrews. We are going to be part of the US/Can blog tour for Weston's book and I am pumped to read that one because it is very popular with my reader friends. Have you read it? What did you think?
I received the two Ilona Andrews books (and a handmade stuffed animal) from the amazing Olivia, one of my oldest friends from Goodreads. No matter how many times I try to tell her NOT to send me things, she always manages to sneak me back a package. Considering how much I am enjoying the Kate Daniels books, I am hoping that The Edge works for me as well. Thanks, Olivia!
So, these are most of the books that I have recently added to my collection. I know many bloggers do weekly posts to talk about what they buy/request/check out from the library but I don't have the discipline to do that. Random posts every once in awhile is the way I have to go. I also added an entire bookshelf to the house recently, and it is already filled with backlog. One of these days I will have a place with a room I can make into a library!
Maja from The Nocturnal Library Throws Down the Gauntlet for Flannery (aka Tackling Recommendations from Friends)
One of the most challenging parts of book blogging, and really to having any friendships with bookish people is managing your to-be-read pile. There are quite literally thousands of books I hope to read in my lifetime and the list gets longer every day after discussions with friends, coworkers, reading reviews, seeing tweets, and reading blog posts. Maja from The Nocturnal Library has been a great friend of mine for a few years now and she has recommended so many books to me, but have I read most of them yet? No. She is certainly not the only friend who probably wants to shake some sense into me but she IS the only I am attempting to appease at the moment. How? Well, I had her compile a list of 50 books she would like me to give a go and we'll see how many I finish in the next few weeks. My personal goal is at least 5 but I am being kind of beastly in how fast I am plowing through audios lately so we'll see if I can do more.
Maja is posting her list at the same time as this post so you can read her challenge post here. She has broken down her recommendations into genres with an emphasis on urban fantasy because I asked her to include a lot of them since I am woefully under-read in that area and she is an expert. She has no idea what my plan of attack is, but she does know that I got a head start.
One of Maja's favorite authors is Ann Aguirre and I get embarrassed every time we have a conversation about Aguirre and I have to pretend I know what is going on, since I have only ever read Grimspace, the first in her Sirantha Jax series. I want to finish that series but they aren't on my list, so I am keen to read both Bronze Gods (which the lovely Maja sent me a copy of) and Perdition, which sounds AMAZING. Seriously, go read the blurb. Actually, here it is:
WELCOME TO HELL
The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.
Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.
Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…
I know, right?
Obviously I am not sure what I will actually get through, but I have to admit that I am most curious about the books that Maja gave 5 stars to. I am notoriously stingy with my 5-star ratings and I am always peeking through people's shelves to see what they've deemed worthy of that top spot. What did they see as basically flawless or have such an emotional attachment to as to rate it so highly? Maja 5-starred 12 of her 50 recommendations, but the ones I am most interested in checking out are The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, As If I Am Not There by Slavenka Drakulić, Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree by Santo Montefiore, and Betty Blue by Philippe Djian. A few of these are on her "made-me-cry" shelf and I am morbidly always interested in books that made people cry since it is such a rare occurrence for me. Will I have the same reaction?
All this could change, but for now, this is where my brain thinks I am going to go. Did you go check out Maja's list? What do you think I should go with? Even just the two I've already knocked out already make me feel better about our friendship. I want to read everything my friends think is amazing and/or that they think I might like. It makes me happy that Maja took the time to compile a group of recommendations so I could read a bunch of them and then pat myself on the back. Hooray for bookish friendships and the amazing book recommendations that result from them!
It's no secret that Phoebe has been one of our, The Readventurers', closest reading, blogging, reviewing and science fiction-loving friends for a long, long time. This is why we are thrilled that her debut novel, a futuristic, outer space thriller Starglass, is finally going to meet its readers. Today Phoebe is answering our questions about her novel, her writing process and a few other (random) things.
1. We’ve always appreciated your commentary on the complicated balance between honesty, reviewing, and being a writer. How does it feel to read your first reviews? Have any of your views changed? And what do you think about a catchy line "Jews in Space" that we've seen people use to describe Starglass?
It's been fascinating! While I don't agree with all the reviews (though honestly, who agrees with every perspective of any work of art?), I have found them, generally, to be insightful, hilarious, and incisive. My readers are just SO smart--it's what's kept me reading my reviews.
As for "Jews in Space"? Hilarious. I've long been a Mel Brooks fan, and my own Jewish mother made a "Jews in Space" crack LONG ago. Of course, the Asherah isn't shaped like a star of David; it's important that new readers don't take it too literally. But I'm glad to contribute to cultural diversity in YA sci-fi, and if the promise of Jews in Space gets people reading? Sounds good to me!
2. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of a Bashert? Where does the word originate, and does the meaning differ from what we think of as a soul mate?
"Bashert" is a Yiddish word that means "destiny." The idea is that God selected your spouse for you before you were ever born, someone who will complement you perfectly in every way. Since your spouse is considered selected for you by God, any husband or wife is considered a bashert--whether the relationship is ultimately successful or not. I find that aspect of the concept fascinating, and was eager to explore it in a setting where one's matrimonial choices are severely limited.
The traditional view is perhaps both more overtly religious than our own concept of a soul mate and more marriage-focused. Of course, belief in soul mates depends on some sort of belief in a soul, doesn't it? They're very similar concepts, and if readers understand them as equivalent terms, I don't particularly think they're missing much.
3. We love that you showed how easy it was aboard the ship for the people to become complacent to their basic rights and liberties disappearing in favor of the greater "good." Do you draw any parallels between the society aboard the ship and the world we live in now?
I think to a certain degree any society depends upon consensus between citizens that a certain degree of compromise in liberty is necessary for us to get along. Not every society is as strict as that of the Asherah, but there exist contemporary societies on Earth where one's choice of spouse or vocation is limited due to factors beyond an individual's control. What distinguishes one society from another is where we draw those lines. Life on the Asherah must, by definition, be more controlled than it would be in many real societies but it doesn't mean that the choices the Council makes are necessarily right for all its citizens. Instead, those choices arise out of a motley quilt of quasi-religious values, necessity, the ruling party's desire for power, and a need to avoid chaos. Which is, I believe, how many real societies are structured. Ours, too, for better or for worse.
4. Is it weird that the character we found ourselves relating to the most was Terra's best friend Rachel?
Not at all! I love Rachel, and think she's a fascinating girl. In many ways, she's more sympathetic than Terra. And I've certainly had that reaction to characters before. When I read Uglies, for example, I LOVED Shay, but was not really all that into Tally.
Terra's been through a unique and uniquely traumatizing experience, and so I understand if it's a bit odd for some readers to get inside her head. It was certainly a difficult place for me to be, sometimes. But I also think that stories about girls like Terra--who have been through trauma and abuse--remain worth telling. For one thing, empathy is important. Terra might be difficult and sometimes unlikeable, but I hope she remains understandable. For another, I truly believe that kids who have grown up in the shadow of alcoholism and grief desperately need narratives about heroism and healing. They deserve to see heroes like them, too.
5. During the editing process, was there anything you cut out that you were sad to see go? Outtakes?
This might sound silly, but at various points in its gestation, Starglass opened with a glossary. We decided to get rid of it (as most of the Yiddish and Hebrew used can be divined by context clues), but I've seen a few readers stumble over these phrases and sometimes, I wish I'd kept it.
Otherwise, the novel mostly grew--over 25,000 words during the editing process. Nothing was removed that wasn't replaced with something better.
6. Once the Starglass duology is complete and the second book is published in 2014, will you continue writing YA science fiction or you are ready to explore other genres (maybe even adult fiction, though we know you’ve said probably no to that particular question in other interviews?) Are you working on any projects right now?
I can't imagine writing something that wasn't speculative--whether science fiction or fantasy. I'm such a sucker for magic and aliens and dragons and unicorns and especially space unicorns.
Perhaps one day I'll write an adult novel, but my mind just doesn't bend that way, naturally. I find narratives about childhood and adolescence much more interesting. My current itch is to write and publish some middle grade. Twelve is such a fascinating age.
7. Have you ever thought about how we are all essentially hurtling through space on a very large-scale mostly closed system? We are all trapped here, with our limited resources and space, and we have to survive with each other and what we have. Did we just blow your mind? No?
Thank you, Phoebe!
Starglass will be available on July 23, 2013
Don't forget to visit all the other stops on the Starglass blog tour!
Not a Drop to Drink
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: 9/24/13
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Paper ARC, from Epic Reads
[Goodreads | Amazon | B & N]
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
In Not A Drop To Drink, Mindy McGinnis has envisioned a futuristic United States in which access to water is strictly controlled. The population has been decimated by diseases including (but not limited to) cholera due to overcrowding in cities, the aforementioned water situation, and the strain on resources. In terms of YA dystopian “explanations,” I found McGinnis’ world to be very real and very possible, especially the lack of antibiotics once people were forced to move into organized cities and the demand for medication relentlessly skyrocketed. Access to water and medications in this future is controlled and everything is expensive, so a majority of people cannot afford very much of either. I was actually reminded of the Japanese tsunami a few years back, when news outlets were speculating that radiation could affect people on the west coast of the US and they advised people to take potassium iodine tablets. After (no joke) a day, you couldn’t find them anywhere in the whole Seattle area and Amazon suppliers had shipping estimates of months. The plausibility of the water shortage was scarily real to me, and that is one aspect that lends to the overall success of this novel--it doesn't depend on the fantastical to wow the reader, and it doesn't need to.
From the very first few pages, I was completely interested in this story. Lynn, a teenage girl, and her mother live alone in a house by a pond, from which they gather water to purify daily. Both Lynn and her mother are hard workers and absolutely capable of living in isolation, and when the occasional person shows up to steal water from their pond, they have no hesitation in shooting them down to protect their claim. They don't mess around, and neither does McGinnis with her sparse, frank text, which feels very intentional and totally works for the story. The scope of the setting is small but the containment made the narrative more exciting because it honestly feels like you are sitting on that roof with Lynn or hauling that water bucket up the hill with her. It was refreshing to read about a girl surviving instead of a girl who needs to bring down a widespread government conspiracy, a girl who must save the entire human race, or a girl with two (or more) different love interests. While reading, I tried to think of other experiences that give me the same feeling as reading this book, or ways to describe it to potential readers. Here are a few:
1. You might like this book if you like The Walking Dead and think you'd enjoy reading about living on Season Two's farm setting.
2. You read and enjoyed Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors series, but wished one or more of the characters were more useful and logical.
3. When you started reading Blood Red Road by Moira Young, you were excited about Saba and what might happen before she ever left home.
4. You love reading books that involve surviving in the wild and don't mind reading more about the day-to-day rather than tons of movement and epic action sequences.
About two-thirds of the way through the novel, I found myself wondering where the plot was going. It kind of meanders around, not that I minded, but I was worried the author would try to throw it all at the reader at once: a romance develops, a few additional (and intriguing) characters show up, and there is a lot of back-loaded action. Though the pacing was a bit off, when all was said and done, I was satisfied with the ending point and the amount of resolution and I think most readers will feel the same way. There were a few surprises that I (perhaps embarrassingly) didn't see coming and a somewhat cheesy epilogue but overall there was very little about this novel that I didn't enjoy. If I could make one wish, it would be that the city in the novel would've been left as a current and real American city. "Entargo" makes the entire book less serious to me as it reminds me of all the dystopian YA with fictional names for everything, and I really did not understand the point of doing this since nearly everything else in the book is so recognizable. I wish Not a Drop to Drink could just own its realism and call Cincinnati or Cleveland or Pittsburgh or wherever by its name. Regardless, it is really exciting to me to read such a successful debut work. I hope McGinnis will come through with more adventures in years to come.
The Book Geek: "I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes survival stories, strong female characters, and realism."
Jenna Does Books: "At the end of the day, NOT A DROP TO DRINK is one of the most realistic and believable speculative future stories I have ever read. "
Chick Loves Lit: "This is a MUST. BUY. for dystopian fans, fans of true gritty worlds, fans of fast page turners."