In December, we started a She Made Me Do It challenge
with Maja from The Nocturnal Library
. Life got in the way for all three of us, as it does, but as of last week we were all able to read at least one of the challenge books. We are happy to finally close out the challenge and concentrate on the laundry list of other reading goals each of us has. We'll probably start another challenge in the next few weeks, and hopefully it won't take us over five months to complete it next time. Here's a recap of who read what and how we felt about the experience this time around...
Maja Challenged Flannery to Read...
Flannery read: Lucid and Virtuosity, and tried Discount Armageddon. Verdict:
I was so sure I was going to love Lucid
. At the onset of the book and through probably about the first third or so, I was insanely curious what was going on. If anyone is unfamiliar, the book switches back and forth between Maggie, a budding young actress in Manhattan and Sloane, a typical teenage girl in Mystic, Connecticut. Each night, when they go to sleep, they dream of each other's lives, but which one is real? Both? Neither? I think the book just dragged on too long before getting to its point, but I did like the narrative style, the sense of humor and random references, and the idea behind the book. It was a 3-3.5/5 for me. I attempted to read Discount Armageddon
but could not get into it on my initial try. There was nothing specifically off-putting to me besides the cheesy outfit on the cover (which actually makes sense in the book), so I will definitely try it again. Virtuosity
I read in one sitting. I loved reading about Carmen and her mad violin skillz. It was also a 3.5-star read for me. Thanks for the challenges, Maja! I definitely needed the shove to read these ones.
Flannery Challenged Maja to Read...
Maja read: Holier Than Thou
I had a bit more difficulty with the books Flannery recommended, but not because she doesn’t know me well (trust me, she does, she even knows how to pronounce my name and doesn’t hesitate to spread that knowledge to unsuspecting mutual acquaintances), but due to a series of unfortunate events. My sudden love for fantasy made me decide to read Alanna first, so I went ahead and downloaded the audio, only to realize that I loathe the narrator. The poor book didn’t stand a chance. I then picked up Never Let Me Go
from my library, but my sister was visiting at the time and she convinced me I wouldn’t like it. We rarely agree about books and I don’t usually take her advice or recommendations, but in this case, her lack of enthusiasm was contagious. In the end, Holier than Thou
couldn’t be avoided any longer. I finished it just last night and liked it enough to give it 4.5 stars, although it accomplished exactly what I’ve been trying to avoid: it left me feeling melancholic, restless and a little bit sad. I will eventually read Alanna
too because I’m certain I’ll like it, but I won’t be going back to that audio.
Thank you, Flann! Please don’t hit me anymore.
Maja Challenged Catie to Read...
Catie read: The Stranger.Verdict: I’ve had The Stranger on my shelf unread for an embarrassing number of years. It’s one of those books that I have because I picked it up at some library book sale with every intention of reading it and then of course didn’t…possibly because of the intimidating “snooty intelligent book” waves which emanate from it or possibly because when it comes to books, I just get sidetracked easily, like a toddler at a petting zoo. Regardless, I was thrilled when Maja finally gave me a real excuse to force myself to read this book. Back when we started this challenge, I pulled it off my shelf and promptly started it, fully intending to finish within a week or two. And then I chronically found an excuse not to read it for the next five months. I’m sure you all know how that goes. BUT, I am happy to report that I finally found my way back to good old Camus and finished this thing a couple of weeks ago. And I loved it! I mean, I always knew that I would. Back in college I practically handed around my copy of The Plague to every friend I had (I was a really exciting person back then, obviously). What got to me the most about The Stranger was that, despite its cool and disconnected tone, the simmering waves of grief and loneliness and rage were so palpable to me. Actually, in that way it really reminds me a bit of Holier Than Thou (which I’m so happy that Maja enjoyed). It’s also completely depressing to consider how quickly we humans will judge one of our own for acting in any way "abnormal", but you all know how I love depressing books. So thank you, Maja for finally making me revisit Camus. Now, which member of my playgroup wants to borrow it first? Anyone? Bueller?
Catie Challenged Maja to Read...
Maja read: Eon
I should start by saying that I fell madly in love with fantasy just a few months back. It started with Seraphina
by Rachel Hartman, continued with Kristin Cashore’s books, and I haven’t been able to stop myself since. I should also say that, when it comes to fantasy recommendations, there is no one in this world I trust more than Catie. Out of the three books she chose for me, I picked up Eon
first simply because I already owned a copy. To say that it wasn’t what I expected would be an understatement. For some reason, I assumed it would be more middle grade than young adult, and I assumed Eon(a) would be an admirable character, but neither was correct. While I didn’t adore the book like I adored Seraphina
, I ordered the second one as soon as I finished reading, and it’s been taunting me from my shelf ever since. However, every time I look at it with its 600 intimidating pages, my reading schedule starts growling at me. I guess I’ll just have to wait for another challenge.
I will definitely read the other two books as well as soon as I find the time. Thanks, Catie!
Have you read any of these books? Did any of us pick the wrong ones to read?
Last month, we were very happy to swap recommendations with two of our favorite bloggers (and definitely some of the most hilarious), Maggie and Noelle from Young Adult Anonymous
. All the recommendations were successful (more or less) and some people kicked ass at the challenge by reading more than one of the recommendations. After recapping the results of the last edition of She Made Me Do It, we will embark on another installment, this time with the lovely Maja of The Nocturnal Library
Previously, on She Made Me Do It...
Catie recced Noelle:
Noelle read: The Hollow Kingdom
and Night BeachNoelle's verdict:
Basically my TBR list can be seen from space so I really enjoy it when someone decides for me what I will be reading next. Left to my own devices I'd make a spreadsheet within a list within a plan and never get around to actually, you know, choosing something other than the newest e-book available at my library. What I'm saying is, I had a grand ol' time with Catie's picks. Two were books I'd never have come across on my own and the other was one I had been dying to read but neglecting on my shelf for far too long. She Made Me Do It to the rescue!
I really enjoyed both The Hollow Kingdom
!) and Night Beach
and I still have No and Me
to go (not only did November open up wide and eat up all my reading time but yes, I'm that girl: I started re-reading my recommendations to Catie as she went through them) BUT I will definitely be reading it sooner rather than later. My average rating was 4 stars so I'd call this one quite the success, ladies. Thanks for having us and feel free to recommend me a book any time.
Noelle recced Catie:
Catie read: Sorta Like a Rock Star, Heart of Steel, the first book in Cynthia Voigt's The Kingdom Trilogy (Jackaroo), and the beginning of On Fortune's Wheel.
Catie's verdict: Look at me this month - I'm quite the over-achiever. Noelle pretty much gave me three books that all completely suited my mood so that worked out perfectly. November/December are very busy times for me and I have to admit that for the past few weeks I've barely been able to read at all. However, when I do pick something up, I want comfort reads and that is exactly what I got here.
Sorta Like a Rock Star was light and quirky with an ending that almost but not quite made me roll my eyes. Heart of Steel was one of the very rare romance novels that didn't make me groan in disgust. And Jackaroo was completely the sort of thing that I love to read when I'm stressed: cross-dressing girl hero adventures with a little romance. I actually can't wait to continue that series, because I keep hearing that the second one is even better. Great picks Noelle!
Flannery recced Maggie:
Maggie read: All three!
Maggie's verdict: I don't think there's anyone who enjoys a challenge with absolutely zero real world rewards/ramifications as much as I do. Case in point: What have I been doing since kicking ass in Flannery's challenge? Battling my mother, my cousin, and various Koreans in Ani Pang, a Korean smartphone game that's similar to Bejeweled.
What -- how did this get in there?
Basically, I had a blast reading Flann's books. My Most Excellent Year? I just bought the hardcover. After totally falling for Augie, TC, TC's father, and Alé, I needed to add it to my permanent collection -- and not the giant, head-eating umbrella paperback edition. I want these characters to be real as much as Hucky wants Mary Poppins to be real. This book was practically perfect in every way. Onto MacGregor Grooms and my first Nora Roberts. If grandfather kennels existed, like in JD's imagination on Scrubs, I'd totally adopt Daniel MacGregor. He's a sassy old man with hot, educated grandsons. What's not to love? I thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse I got into his family and I'm definitely going to read more, starting with the MacGregor Brides. White Cat? MEH CAT. Urban fantasy is always hit or miss with me. Jesse Eisenberg as the narrator was a definite miss. Still, I enjoyed imagining Armie Hammer reading to me instead. :)
Seriously, it was so much fun reading these recommendations. If you ever need something to read, who you gonna call? READVENTURERS! Thanks for having us.
Maggie recced Flannery:
Flannery read: Me and Earl and the Dying GirlFlannery's verdict:
I had big, big plans to read all three of Maggie's picks but as usual, I failed miserably. I did manage to read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
and it was exactly what I wanted to read at that particular moment. (4-4.5/5) In my review
, I spoke a bit about growing up in Pittsburgh and how much I enjoyed this book as a result. It quickly transported me back to my high school years and all the places I miss. Maggie's other two picks are still in the top half of my to-be-read pile and I really hope to get to them in the next few months. I did start reading Rescue Me
and I was totally into it, but I had to switch gears to try to read as many Cybils nominees in my category as possible before the shortlist is due at the end of the month.
I had a blast in this edition of SMMDI and I hope we can do another challenge with these lovely ladies in the future. Maggie knows me pretty well now and I truly look forward to going down to southern California to visit my sister because it means that I will hopefully get to chill with Maggie as well. Of course I trust many of my favorite readers and reviewers to recommend books to me but I think Maggie and I are definitely kindred spirits. She knows what I'm looking for in books (and movies and TV!) Thanks for the recommendations, Maggie! I'll finish the other two eventually.
And now, some new challenges...
On this edition of She Made Me Do It
, Catie and I (Flannery) will be swapping recommendations with Maja from The Nocturnal Library
. To me, Maja is like some sort of urban fantasy goddess. She seems to know everything there is to know about that genre. But, like us, she reads all over the board, so hopefully we've found something she'll be interested in reading this month. And vice versa, naturally.
Flannery's Recommendations for Maja
Alanna: Song of the Lioness by Tamora PierceWhat it's about:
Twins switching places. Alanna, a young girl in the world of Tortall, goes to learn the skills for knighthood while her twin, Thom, goes to a convent to learn magic. Why I think she'll like it:
I know Maja is on the prowl for some good fantasy after recently enjoying Seraphina
by Rachel Hartman and a few other fantasy books. She has yet to try out Tamora Pierce, who I definitely consider one of the repeat hit-makers in the YA fantasy realm. I've loved most everything I've read by her and Alanna
is one of her highest rated and the most popular. Though there are several series I believe Maja could try to see if she enjoys Pierce's writing, I think this is a good litmus test.
Holier Than Thou by Laura BuzoWhat it's about:
I think Tatiana would describe this book as being about wangst, that is if Tatiana ever used words like wangst. Otherwise, it is about Holly, a twenty-something gal who is unsure about several facets of her life at once. Why I think she'll like it:
Honestly, I really want Maja to love this book. Though contemporary is definitely not Maja's favorite genre, I definitely know that she loves a well-written Aussie contemporary book (e.g. Raw Blue, A Straight Line to My Heart
) and the fact that she has this one sitting unread on her shelf makes me simultaneously excited at the awesomeness she might experience and nervous that she won't love it as much as Catie and I did. However, Maja is a kindred spirit and I think this book is a good recommendation for someone like her who thinks about life and existence and also for someone who likes funny dialogue. Half of my Goodreads friends didn't like this at all and the other half loved it. I'd like to see where Maja falls on the spectrum.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroWhat it's about:
A young woman recalls her childhood spent at an isolated boarding school. Through her discussions about friendship, love, and realities, we find out that Kathy's life isn't quite ordinary. Why I think she'll like it:
Maja likes darker, well-written books. She also likes evocative writing and she isn't afraid of the creep factor. This book is intriguing and contemplative, but it also has a science fiction element to it that adds an extra layer of mystery to the whole situation. (but not so much sci-fi that it would alienate her). Though I listened to this one, I hope Maja reads it in book form. I know it is also one of Catie's favorites and Maja often agrees with both of us, so I'm doubly hopeful she'll like this one.
Maja's verdict: I’ve been meaning to read one of Tamora Pierce’s books for the longest time, and now I finally have the excuse to do it. I love that this one is about twins. I really want to read Holier Than Thou too, and I own Never Let Me Go both on audio and in e-format, so it’s good to know which one to choose. In short, I want to read all of these. *sigh* These ladies know me too well.
Maja's Recommendations for Flannery
Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass What it’s about:
Two girls that have never met and have nothing in common have been dreaming about each other for as long as they can remember. Each time one of them goes to sleep, she becomes the other one and sees the world through her eyes, all the while conscious of her own identity. But when they try to look for each other in the real world, it’s as if neither of them exists. Why I think she’ll like it: Lucid
has such an interesting premise! A lot of people compared this book to Inception
, but I don’t like thinking of it like that. The first part is just a contemporary story about two girls and their everyday problems, but underneath it is the question of their existence. Are they both real? Or if not, which one is a product or the other’s imagination? I had no idea, and I think Flannery would really enjoy that.
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuireWhat it's about:
Verity Price comes from a long line of cryptozoologists, people dedicated to keeping the peace between humans and monsters. Verity has just moved to Manhattan, away from her numerous family, to pursue a career in ballroom dancing. One night, she (literally) runs into an enemy agent and they end up joining forces to solve a string of supernatural murders. Why I think she’ll like it:
Did I mention the talking mice? No? Well, there you go. Discount Armageddon
is non-stop action and adventure, very funny, and the world is extremely colorful. Although she doesn’t read urban fantasy often, I have a feeling Flannery would really enjoy it.
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez What it’s about:
Carmen is a Grammy Award winning violinist and she has just been admitted to Julliard with a full scholarship. She and Jeremy King are the most likely finalists in the Guarneri contest. They are both just one step away from that huge, life-altering victory. Falling in love under the circumstances really shouldn’t be an option... but it is. Why I think she’ll like it:
Well, for one, she really liked Gayle Forman’s books! Virtuosity is perfect for fans of If I Stay
and Where She Went
. This is one of those books I really enjoyed despite my reluctance to read contemporary, and I think… in fact, I’m pretty sure Flann would, too. What’s more, Martinez managed to surprise me twice, and that doesn’t happen often.
I think I've checked Virtuosity
out from the library twice now and I've seen the author at a book event and she definitely impressed me. However, I just haven't crossed the finish line on that one so I'm happy Maja added it as a recommendation. When we were working on this post together last night, Maja talked a bit about Lucid
to me and basically convinced me that I must
read it, so that is the direction I'm leaning, though I am actually excited to read all three of these books. As for Discount Armageddon
, I am not sure what to think about that cover. It makes me feel like the book is campy and I'd much prefer to read it with a different cover because I'm not sure I could get the mental image of a woman wearing that outfit out of my head as the main character. But I did really enjoy Feed
, which is by the same author (different pen name), I do enjoy urban fantasy every once in a while, and triple whammy, Maja knows me so well. If she thinks I'll like it, she's probably right.
Catie's Recommendations for Maja
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances HardingeWhat it's about:
Hathin is a young girl who belongs to a small native tribe of Gullstruck Island. She is quiet and lives in the shadows, caring for her "supernaturally gifted" sister Arilou and keeping up a vast conspiracy that protects her tribe from the intruders who are slowly taking over the island piece by piece. When Hathin loses nearly everything, she's forced to flee and fight and come into her own - and possibly discover that Arilou is more than she appears to be.Why I think she'll like it:
As soon as Flannery told me that Maja was looking for some more great fantasy, I knew I'd be recommending this to her. I know that Maja loves beautiful/descriptive writing, deeper themes about war, and strong female heroines. Plus, I'll recommend Frances Hardinge to just about anyone if given half a chance.
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
What it's about:
I don't think I'm spoiling this for anyone when I say that this book contains a cross-dressing girl (it's in the blurb on goodreads!). Eon, a young dragoneye candidate, is secretly Eona. Since girls are not allowed to commune with the elemental dragons and practice dragon magic, Eona hides her identity and trains as a boy. However, after the ceremony in which the new dragoneye masters are selected, Eona's whole life begins to change.Why I think she'll like it:
I honestly can't believe that she hasn't read this yet! I have to admit that after reading the second book in this series, I didn't end up loving it as much as some of my friends. But I have this feeling that if/when Maja reads this, she will be a fan. Call it what you will (creepy friend intuition), my book reviewer mojo is telling me that this is a Maja book.
Skin Hunger by Kathleen DueyWhat it's about:
Two timelines weave together as expendable youngest son Hahp enters a frightening and brutal school of magic and naive Sadima follows a magician and his controlling friend to the city.Why I think she'll like it:
This book is impossible to put down, and it's sequel even more so. I think Maja will get just as caught up as I did in the slowly unfolding mystery and the very twisted magical training.
(P.S. I feel like Tatiana is actually here in spirit because I know she'd heartily endorse my last two recommendations.)
Maja's verdict: It’s true that I’ve been looking for more good fantasy. After reading Seraphina and all three of Kristin Cashore’s books in less than a month, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been neglecting the genre altogether. I knew Catie was the right person to turn to for recommendations. These are all safe bets so I’ll be reading them all. If I don’t make it this month, I will as soon as I can. I think I’ll read Skin Hunger first, though.
Maja's Recommendations for Catie
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
What it's about:
A smart fifteen-year old girl becomes the apprentice of one Mr. Sherlock Holmes and in her, the now retired detective recognizes an equal.Why I think she'll like it: Is that a trick question? Everyone likes Sherlock! And although I don’t normally read books about Sherlock that weren’t written by Arthur Conan Doyle, I think Laurie R. King is doing an amazing job both with him and with Mary Russell. (And Mycroft, I just adore Mycroft.) I know Catie’s been meaning to read this so I thought I’d give her the excuse to push aside an arc or two and read it sooner than she planned.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
What it's about:
It’s about a man whose mother just died and he has no idea how to cope. He is completely detached and ends up doing things that are completely unlike him.Why I think she'll like it: Well, to be honest, I don’t know that she will, but I really want her to read it. (That’s not as horrible as it sounds.) When I first read it (admittedly, I was fourteen at the time), I absolutely hated it. It made me miserable, which was kind of the point, but I fought against it for the longest time. However, truly powerful books shape you even when you don’t want them to, and this is certainly one of the books that influenced me the most. With our Euro-centric educational system, it’s almost unimaginable to reach adulthood and not read it at least twice. (Which is why I have holes the size of Arkansas when it comes to African, South American or Asian lit.)
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
What it's about:
It’s about two very different boys, one a missionary in Africa and the other an awkward high school senior with a missing brother. It’s also about a (nearly) extinct woodpecker.Why I think she'll like it: I just finished this one myself and I’m finding it very hard to let go. It’s one of those modest, unassuming books that take you completely by surprise. Besides, there’s been a lot of talk lately about male voices in YA and I know that, unlike me, Catie’s been reading those articles and posts. This book has some really interesting, realistic young male characters and I think she’ll appreciate that.
Catie's verdict: Maja is one of the most intelligent people I know and I knew that I could count on her to give me some surprising recommendations. I've actually had The Stranger sitting on my bookshelf for years but haven't had the courage to pick it up (and it's such a tiny, unassuming little volume). I read The Plague back in college and it definitely became one of the books that shaped me the most so I'm sure that, based on Maja's description, The Stranger will be the same. I'm already a Camus fan and I'm pretty sure that this book is also on my 110+ books list so I think I'll read it this month for sure.
I added Laurie R. King's book to my TBR over a year ago (I think) and promptly forgot all about it. However, I LOVE Sherlock Holmes and I love precocious little girls even more so I'm so happy to be reminded about it. (Also, I love that Maja thinks I'm all dedicated to my ARCs and would need an excuse to set them aside. If only she knew how much I've been slacking lately...). And the John Corey Whaley book has been on my radar for a while but most recently because Maja's been reading it! We don't always agree on everything, but I think our tastes in YA contemporary are very similar so when she likes a YA contemporary, I pretty much immediately add it to my TBR.
Overall, these are wonderful recommendations! Thanks Maja!
What do you think of this round's picks? Do you have any recommendations to any of the participants? Think any of us are delusional?
When confronted with over a hundred books, it can be really helpful to have expert recommendations – sort of like reader’s advisory about the reader’s advisory, if that’s not too meta for you all. While we were putting together yesterday's wall - 140+ Books for the Boys of YA – we thought we might branch out a little bit and ask some of the authors featured in the wall itself for recommendations. Surprisingly (but very excitingly!), we got more responses than we bargained for so today we have an entire post devoted to the recommendations for teenage guys from these experts in the field. We asked them to recommend anything they thought teenage guys might like, whether that meant adult books, children's books, books they loved as teenagers, or anything else. We hope you enjoy the recommendations from Adam Rex, Bill Condon, Ned Vizzini, Cliff McNish, Nick James, Sean Beaudoin, Tim Pegler, and Phil Earle as much as we did. Take it away!
1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Incredible science fiction story about boys in battle school in the near future. Won every award in the book. The novel I've gone back to more than any other. It's brilliant.
2. The Long Walk by Stephen King
King is the best-known horror writer in the world. What are much less well-known than his blockbuster novels are the shorter books he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The Long Walk
is the best of these and in my opinion the most moving single novel he's ever written. In a near-future world a group of teenage boys are walking across America. Their prize is untold riches and celebrity. But only the last one left walking wins. The rest, as they falter, are shot like dogs. This novel is a great slice of real horror. And by that, first and foremost, I mean characters you really care about - because if you didn't what does it matter what happens to them? But I also mean the set-up is perfect. Horror is all about uncertainty. In The Long Walk
nothing is certain except death, there is nothing you can take comfort from, and the only rules you can understand are ones controlled by your enemy.
3. Legion by Dan Abnett
Dan Abnett is probably the best writer of dark military SF in the world. Set in the distant future, this volume in the Horus Heresy Warhammer 40,000 series
is about genetically-enhanced men fighting frequently inglorious wars for dubious reasons. What lifts the series into true pathos and makes the story so frightening is the dark heart of the series' premise. You think you're going to be reading about gladiatorial contests in some far-flung future, and Abnett delivers on that in spades for you action-fans, but what you get on top of that is a tragedy which ultimately assumes Shakespearean proportions.
4. Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess
I've left my favourite scary story of all time to last. Bloodtide
is an urban fantasy set in a near-future where rival gang lords vie for power in a London watched over by capricious Norse gods. It's a retelling of the ancient Volsunga Saga
, but carried off with such power, originality and vision that it is quite simply one of the most eloquently dark books ever written for a young adult audience. When the novel came out in 2000 critic Wendy Cooling said that 'it will leave teen readers with shredded emotions that will last forever.' That's a perfectly accurate description of this book. Dystopian fiction abounds these days in the YA field, but Bloodtide
ranks in its savage brilliance alongside any of the adult twentieth-century classics. You need a strong stomach, but if you can handle it this is not a book you'll ever forget.
| || |The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith"Definitely for the older teen, but this book really freaked me out." To the Vanishing Point by Alan Dean Foster"Not one of his more notable books, but the utter craziness of it really appealed to me as a teen" | || | Feed by M.T. Anderson "One of my favorite sci-fi/coming-of-age hybrids" The Magicians by Lev Grossman"More adult, but very teen friendly. Touted as the 'grown-up' Harry Potter" Holes by Louis Sachar"For the younger teen, this is an incredible boy book"
| |Ned Vizzini's Top 5 Books for Teenage Guys
1. William Sleator - Singularity
I didn't discover this book until my friend & writing partner Nick Antosca recommended it. I was a fan of Sleator's Interstellar Pig
and I'd have to re-read that to determine which is better -- but this is a great example of a book that only works as a book. A large portion of it takes place in one room, over one whole year,
and it's still riveting. Sleator passed away in 2011.2. Michael Crichton - Jurassic Park
I don't understand why people say Moby-Dick
is the Great American Novel. It's Jurassic Park,
which tackles the same themes as Moby-Dick
but with a precise, mechanical occupation of your brain that prevents you from doing anything other than reading it. Everyone I knew growing up read this book.3. Gary Paulsen - Hatchet
If somebody took away your cell phone, laptop, and tablet and gave you a hatchet and dumped you in the woods, how long would you
is strangely relevant to today's technocracy. 4. George Orwell - A Collection of Essays
Appearing one year after Catcher In the Rye,
George Orwell's essay "Such, Such Were the Joys," which opens this book, is a better exploration of teen angst. Orwell was already dead when it was published, so he never had to take the flack for writing about the beating, bed-wetting, and class hierarchies that dominated his time at Eton (his high school), but for anybody who's ever felt like an outsider, this essay is a revelation. The book gets better from there. 5. Brian Jacques - Redwall
Sure, Narnia and Middle-Earth are great, but give me Mossflower Wood any day, where there's a sense of humor! Brian Jacques (pronounced "Jakes") created something very special in his 22-book Redwall series and this is the place to start. Chapter Two, which introduces Cluny the Scourge, is the best introduction of any villain ever. ("Cluny was coming!") Jacques passed away in 2011.
I am most happy to make recommendations on great books for teenage guys; it's a topic I speak about in schools fairly regularly. I also tag books on my LibraryThing site with 'books for boys'
if I think a title will work well for young male readers.
Some particular favourites follow:
Tim Pegler is an Australian author and journalist. He has written two books for young adults: Game as Ned, which was a Children's Book Council of Australia notable book in 2008, and Five Parts Dead. He can be found at his blog, over at goodreads, and on twitter.
Fighting Ruben Wolfe: Markus Zusak. Markus is best known, of course, for his amazing novel, The Book Thief. While I love that, and highly recommend it, I feel that perhaps teens might like to taste a smaller portion of his work, before tackling The Book Thief. Fighting Ruben Wolfe was Markus' second book. It's quirky and funny and tough and honest - all the best things - and all done in the unique style that has made Markus famous. And it's about brothers and boxing. What's not to like?
Nobody's Boy: Dianne Bates. I'll put my cards on the table and say that this was written by my wife, Di. However, I'm recommending it chiefly because it's a book that I think would have great appeal to teens, especially boys. It's a verse novel, which makes it very accessible for reluctant readers. It tells the story of a boy who is shuffled around from one foster family to another. All he wants is to live with his dad, but for a long time that just isn't possible. Touching and poignant and ultimately uplifting.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian: Sherman Alexie. Funny and warm, vibrant characters, and a gutsy story. This is a winner and I think teenage boys will eat it up, exactly the same as I did.
Into That Forest: Louis Nowra. Highly original and a page-turner, it's about two girls who find themselves stranded in a forest. Eventually they are 'adopted' by a family of Tasmania Tigers, a breed of wild dogs which are now extinct. Even though the main characters are girls, I'm sure the straight-forward narrative, action-packed scenes and rich language, will make it a favourite with boys. Louis Nowra is one of Australia's leading novelists and playwrights. This is his first venture into young adult books. It's an awesome debut.
The Dead I Know: Scot Gardner. This book won Australia's coveted Children's Book Council Book of the Year Award in 2012. Scot has written many terrific books, but in my opinion, this is his best. It's about Aaron Rowe, who goes to work for a funeral director. Aaron's a sleepwalker, and has other problems to cope with, but in John Barton, the funeral director, he finds a caring man who befriends him. Some of the scenes may be a little grisly and tough to take at times, but they are handled honestly and with great compassion. A brave and memorable book by one of Australia's best writers.
Daredevils: Bill Condon. I thought I'd sneak one of my own in when no one was looking. This is about a boy who knows he's going to die, so he makes a list of things he wants to do while he still can. Daredevils came out before the Bucket List and it's a lot different. For one thing, it hasn't got Morgan Freeman in it. It's got humour and sadness, and there's even a little sprinkling of sex.
Deadly Unna: Phillip Gwynne. This won the Australian CBCA Book of the Year in 1999. It's about friendship between a white boy, known as Blacky, and an Aboriginal boy, Dumby Red. They play in the local football team and live in a remote country town where racism thrives. It's funny at times and sad, which makes it all very real.
The Road: Cormac McCarthy. This is for adults and may be too tough for teens to attempt, but it's worth a mention as it is such a brilliant , mesmerising book. There aren't a lot of jokes, because it's set after an apocalyptic event, which is always a downer. But the writing is incredible. I felt so much for this father and son battling to stay alive in a world gone mad. I think it's a classic.
Holes: Louis Sachar. This is brilliant story-telling. Easy to read and gripping.
The Old Man and the Sea: Ernest Hemingway. For teens who feel daunted by huge tomes, I suggest this.The Old Man and the Sea is in the middle ground between short novel and long short story. Hemingway didn't give himself much to work with here. It's about an old man alone on a boat. But Hem turns on all his best writing and it becomes an epic struggle as the old man fights a huge and beautiful fish. When Hemingway wrote well, no one could touch him.
Phil Earle is the author of Being Billy, about a boy in the care system, and the 2012 release Saving Daisy, which our blogging buddy Jo over at Wear the Old Coat loved to bits and which I've been hankering to read ever since. Earle lives in London and is available for school visits. Visit him at www.philearle.com, on facebook, and twitter.
Our very heartfelt thanks go out to each of these authors for taking the time to share their recommendations. What do you all think? Anything new to add to your to-read pile?
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publication Date: 3/1/12
[Goodreads | Amazon]
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.Review:
Okay, if I would've known that this book was set in Pittsburgh, I would've read it on release day. As it turns out, while this author was in high school, presumably being hilarious, I was just down the street, playing badminton in my Catholic school uniform during free period. I had to investigate a bit further, so I checked my facebook and found that my friend Jake (who now has a luscious ponytail and who I once learned to waltz with) is facebook friends with Jesse Andrews. (like that even means anything in this day and age. I think I'm facebook friends with some people I'd be more than happy never to see again in my lifetime) Here's what went down:
It's too bad you can't see the ponytail in question but if there really was a section of the bar exam on ponytail maintenance, I'm sure Jake would ace it. I digress. This book was recommended to me by Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous
as part of our She Made Me Do It
feature, and I am so grateful it was because it made me ridiculously happy. There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks/months about why adults read YA literature and I've always been a detractor to the "going back to high school and high school problems" argument, but I will readily admit that my favorite part of this book was that Andrews just put Pittsburgh on the page and I felt like I was in MY high school again. The people, the neighborhoods, even the slang was spot on, though I think if anyone actually tried to legitimately incorporate Pittsburghese into a book readers would wonder if there mightn't be a colony of aliens living among us. ("Yinz all gawn dahntawn ta watch the Stillers n'at?") Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
is about Greg Gaines, a self-depracting, chubby teenage "surprise Jew" (because his name doesn't give it away) who is fringe friends with everybody but true friends with nobody, except for maybe Earl, with whom he makes movies that only the two of them watch. Told in first person, Greg's story begins when his mother informs him that Rachel, a girl he's known for years and once "dated" has been diagnosed with leukemia and he must
go over to hang out with her. What follows is awkwardness, funny jokes, and eventually actual friendship. The characters of Greg and Earl kept me entertained the entire time, and if the sense of humor in the book clicks with yours, you'll plow through it in two hours and love the experience. I'd love to see this book adapted as a film but the one thing holding it back a bit for me is Greg's self-deprecation. In the latter portion of the book, I started to get sick of Greg's constant whining about how lame and unfunny he is and his tryhard overcompensating drama got old as well, but
I was ecstatic to see Earl and Rachel there to temper him out. In movie form, it might be too much for me to watch Greg try to saturate everything with humor.
The ending made my heart break a bit, especially just the realistic nature of friendships and growing up. It is so easy to form friendships in high school when most of us don't have a lot to worry about and we are forced to spend a large amount of time together. Especially when you go to high school in a city, surrounded by tons of other schools but also all sorts of things to do. When I saw Sherman Alexie at a book event the other day, he spoke about the sequel he is writing to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
. The "sequel" is actually going to be roughly the same time period, as told from the perspective of Junior's friend Rowdy, whom Alexie gets asked about all the time. The point of bringing this up is that Alexie said that the first line of the book is something like, "Everyone always talks about the ones who leave. No one ever talks about the ones who get left behind." I basically read Me and Earl
right after I went to the event and I couldn't/can't stop thinking about how much I'd love to hear from Earl's point of view. Greg mentions Earl's intelligence and there are several points during the novel where I saw glimpses of just how astute and clever Earl truly is, and it was a bit soul crushing to me to see how he was living his life, however realistic it is. (I think this is especially so considering I know of people like him and and could absolutely visualize all the settings, houses, personalities that Andrews describes so well) So Jesse Andrews, start working on Me and Someone and the Something Else from Earl's POV, mmmkay?
Random notes: This cover kicks ass; I want to go to Pittsburgh right now.
That circle at the point is a huge water fountain during the summer months. (my sister took this when it was cold outside)
4.5/5 stars (It's a 4. I added the .5 because it's Pittsburgh.)
I know what you're all thinking: really? So soon after posting about our absolute failure in completing this feature last time? Well. We are nothing if not resilient (either that or we're just stupidly determined) and we figured we'd better just get right back on that horse.Also, this weekend Flannery and Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous got to hang out for multiple hours in real life, watching amazing films and t.v. shows and by all accounts, having a fantastic time. Meanwhile, the rest of us tried and failed not to be incredibly jealous. Not to be outdone, Catie roped Maggie's co-blogger Noelle into an email chain of playlists, classic fantasy, and fluffy fluff reads. The following post is the result. Hopefully we'll be back next month to discuss which of these we all picked, and look out for some reviews over at Young Adult Anonymous through the month as well!
Flannery's Recommendations For Maggie
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
What it's about: Two best friends growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mary Poppins. Baseball. A school project. A deaf orphan. First love. Friendship. Lots of things I can make into short phrases and then add periods to the end of.
Why I think she'll like it: Maggie and I both lived in New England for a few years. (She was in Boston, I was in Providence, then later in Boston) Perhaps I was just very nostalgic when I read this book but it made me miss Boston and a lot of the little things that make it such a lovely place to live--certain architectural details, the weather in the fall, neighborhoods, food, etc. This book definitely has a lot of almost laughably diverse characters and it is high on the cheese scale but I know Maggie can handle that when she's in the right mood. She'll know if she's in that kind of mood this month.
The MacGregor Grooms by Nora RobertsWhat it's about:
What is any romance about? Hot guys and their future ladyloves. In this case, four grandsons to Daniel MacGregor, a wily, undercover matchmaking billionaire. He sets his family members up like pawns and then pretends he had nothing to do with it. Every young relative of his is positive they will be able to find someone on their own and every one of them, SURPRISE! is totally wrong. Why I think she'll like it:
Everyone knows that Nora Roberts
is the queen of contemporary romance. Maggie and I have pretty similar tastes in romance books, mostly in one of our favorites, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
but she's never read any Nora Roberts. I know, right? Get real, Maggie. She says she, "doesn't know where to start." I lose sleep wracking my mind to figure out which Nora is the best to start with. My first Nora Roberts book was The Villa
during my freshman year of college and it certainly got me hooked. However, this one is one of my all-time favorites. I'm curious whether the four shorter-length stories will appeal to someone who has not read lots of Roberts romances before. One of the stories is a particular favorite of mine: A formerly dowdy girl gives herself a makeover and takes over her family's bookstore. She is thrown together with a hotshot JFK Jr. type when he asks her to help him design his new library. Sa-woon.
White Cat (Curse Workers, #1) by Holly Black, narrated by Jesse EisenbergWhat it's about: White Cat
is the first in a series that is basically YA urban fantasy. Some people are able to work magic with their hands in various ways so everyone is required to wear gloves. Cassel, the protagonist, comes from a mafia-like family of curse workers, though he himself is a normal human--or is he? His relatives can change memories, kill people, or play on the emotions of others with just a touch. A few years back, Cassel killed his best friend Lila and now he is sleepwalking and having all sorts of weird dreams. Why I think she'll like it:
Maggie recently has become addicted to audiobooks and this series is one of the best in that format. Jesse Eisenberg
narrates and is absolutely perfect as Cassel. I read the last book in the series and really regretted not finishing it off as an audiobook. I am positive Maggie will enjoy this series if she gives it a chance. Neither one of us has read anything else by Holly Black
. (I don't really like fairies. I just asked Maggie if she liked fairies and she said, "You mean in stories?" (You know, because there are tons of fairies around in regular life.) We are both fans of male-narrated YA stories and Cassel is clever and the friendships and relationships in this series are realistic. Nothing about this series annoys me and that is reason enough to recommend it to Maggie. Listen to it. Do it.
Clap if you believe in fairies, MUGGLE. Urban fantasy has been hit-or-miss for me, but White Cat
sounds a bit like Misfits
, which I LOVE, so I'm definitely interested. Also, yay for audiobooks. Read to me, Zuckerberg.
I want to start The MacGregor Grooms
right now! The matchmaking grandpa already sounds like he'd be in my "old people can be so sweet" hall of fame. And a JFK Jr type? Be still my heart. Someone tell Taylor Swift about this book.My Most Excellent Year
is the only one I'm slightly nervous about because I loathe baseball with a passion usually reserved for telemarketers and child molesters. What kind of sport has athletes that are out of shape? And lasts indefinitely
?? (Answer: Not basketball.) However, I do love Mary Poppins. I'm curious to see if my Disney love can overpower my baseball hate.
I love that Flann picked books that weren't already on my to read list. Can't wait to start! No, seriously. Give me your Kindle with MacGregor Grooms
. NOW! :)
Maggie's Recommendations For Flannery
The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain by Cath CrowleyWhat it's about:
Soccer superstar Gracie Faltrain is the only girl on the boys team. She's as unapologetic off the field as she is on, though not quite as skilled. She's trying to navigate high school without her best friend (who's moving to London) and her father (who's traveling on business). Just as she thinks she's about to get the boy and everything else, her tongue gets her into trouble. Literally. Can she learn from mistakes? One thing is for sure, Gracie won't be staying on the sidelines.Why I think she'll like it:
It's Cath Crowley's debut -- from whence she came! This is my favorite non-dystopian YA series (sorry, Ruby Oliver
!) and cemented Cath Crowley as my spirit author. I would love for this to become a TV show a la Friday Night Lights
(oh yes, I'm dropping an FNL comparison) because there's so much heart. Correction: full hearts. I loved the characters and seeing how they developed throughout the series. Since Flann loves both Graffiti Moon
and A Little Wanting Song
, I think she would love Gracie Faltrain. (Note: I would also recommend this to fans of Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsWhat it's about: Adaptation
meets the teen version of Larry and Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm
with a dash of Troy and Abed from Community
. Plus cancer!Why I think she'll like it:
There aren't many people who would crack up at cancer. I think Flann is totally my kindred spirit
in this. We've had two Netflix marathons and based on the 1:4 ratio of appropriate to inappropriate laughter and sheer number of Arrested Development
mentions, Flann is the target audience for this book. I absolutely loved this one and snort-laughed my way through it, as Jo and her old cat promised
Rescue Me by Rachel GibsonWhat it's about:
Sexy Sadie meets a SEAL. Hooyah.Why I think she'll like it:
Flannery and Maureen
were directly responsible for my summer of SEP. I read 6 in a row and 11 altogether -- and only disliked 1
. Once I get on a roll with an author, it's hard to switch styles. I tried reading a few romances after my SEP-a-thon, including an old favorite
, but I just couldn't get into them. Until I read this Rachel Gibson book. Mother of God. Former Navy SEAL Vince Haven is as manly as Dan Calebow
and as swoonworthy as Alexi Markov
. It's also laugh out loud funny, which is a key element in SEP books. I think this is a romance Flannery's SEP-lovin' heart will be able to enjoy.
The Verdict: I want to read all these books and I think I can knock them all out rather quickly. (whether I will actually do that remains to be seen) I am certain I will love Gracie Faltrain because Cath Crowley's writing is such a happy place for me. I'd love to say that I've been saving that series for a rainy day or a low point in my life but the honest truth is that I just have too many books that I am excited about. Two other reasons I think I will like/love it are that I played soccer for most of my life and I also love stories about girls breaking boundaries. As for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I trust Maggie to know my sense of humor. If she thinks it is funny, I'm almost positive I will feel the same. I am not above laughing about illness. You have to have a sense of humor about most things, or life would overwhelm you with sadness at points. That book also has one of my favorite covers from the past year or two. I've been meaning to give Rachel Gibson's books a try for a long time, mostly because I've seen her books recommended for fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and oo-eee, I love me some SEP. I've about finished her ouevre so I'm always looking for readalikes in the fun, sassy, contemporary romance genre. I can't figure out which one I want to start with but thanks for the wonderful picks, Maggie!
Catie's Recommendations For Noelle
Here are two things you may or may not know about Noelle:
a) She has excellent taste in music and
b) She likes to create playlists for her favorite books.
So naturally, being a fellow music/book nerd hybrid, I asked Noelle to do something a little bit different with me for this version of She Made Me Do It
. We both love to ponder our favorite stories and then pair them up with songs, but could we do the opposite? I’ve always wanted to try it, so I asked Noelle to give me a list of songs that she’d like book recommendations for. She sent me an awesome playlist (which I’ve been listening to non-stop for the past two days) and from that list I selected the following three songs:
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This one is my favorite off the list, so come hell or high water I was going to find a book to pair with it for Noelle. I think this song could be young adult or adult, but for me it’s about recovery, growth, and starting over. The lyrics, which are partially based on Rudyard Kipling’s If
, are just stunning. Noelle was particularly taken with these lines: Take all that you have,
And turn it into something you were missing.
Somebody threw that brick, shattered all your plans.
But I got completely sucked into this passage:
Is it in you now,
To bear to hear the truth that you have spoken,
Twisted up by knaves
To make a trap for fools?
Is it in you now,
To watch the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools?
Which is why I picked this book as my first recommendation:
No and Me by Delphine de ViganWhat it's about:
Lou is a thirteen year old prodigy who doesn’t fit in with her classmates, who are all two years older, or at home where her parents are both held by grief. When she meets eighteen year old No, homeless and broken, she decides to interview her for a school project. Lou comes to care for No, and despite all the objections of society, she wants to swoop in and rescue her. No likewise wants to let Lou be her rescuer – but can simple wanting stand up to years of trauma and abandonment?
Why I think she'll like it:
Honestly, the strongest reason I have for why Noelle might like this book is that Maggie liked it. This pick is much more about the song. Both of the lyric passages above remind me of this book, which may be because I just
finished it and can’t get it out of my head. But still. The first passage reminds me of Lou, throwing off her doubts and taking a chance. And the second passage is basically what I’d like to ask No. It’s an amazing book. It’s a quiet, understated read that’s more about emotion and great writing than plot, which I’m not sure if Noelle appreciates but I had to add it to my list!
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I think this song is definitely a young adult pick. It feels like the big improbable dreams that we have when we’re young:
“When I grow up, I want to be a forester
Run through the moss on high heels
That’s what I’ll do, throwing out a boomerang
Waiting for it to come back to me"
There were a couple of books that I thought about for this one but I ultimately settled on:
Night Beach by Kirsty EagarWhat it's about:
This is a very surreal but visually stunning story about Abbie, who uses art to process her feelings and Kane, the bad boy surfer she’s obsessed with. This book isn’t perfect, but it had a huge impact on me nonetheless.
Why I think she'll like it:
Can it be true that my dear Noelle has not read a single book by Kirsty Eagar? It is time to remedy that one. I thought about picking the fantastic Raw Blue
for this song, but I ultimately decided on this one. Here is another thing you might not know about Noelle: she’s a brilliant artist. I think she’ll really appreciate all of the surreal imagery and Abbie’s artistic journey.
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So. I really wanted to pick a fluffy fluff disco chicken read (as Noelle would call it) – something that she could just disappear into for a while and not have to think about too much. Really, this is the most feeble of my song/book pairings, and it all hinges on this little line:
“Maybe there's no harm,
there's no harm,
there's no harm in you
So watch what you see
There's a beast, that's in me”
The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
What it's about:
Feisty girl Kate is kidnapped by the Goblin King Marak – which turns out to be the traditional Goblin method of finding a suitable spouse. She’s understandably reticent about the whole idea (and seriously pissed off) but she finds more than she bargained for in the Hollow Hill.
Why I think she'll like it:
I know that Noelle loves fantasy and this book is sweet and comforting and so much fun. I’m not sure if she’ll be into the whole Beauty and the Beast/kidnapping/Stockholm syndrome thing but we shall see!
First off, I'm blushing because Catie is the nicest person in the world and secondly, leave it to the wonderful Catie to point out new amazing layers in one of my favorite songs. The Kipling poem connection is just genius and I never realized that before! That might be a d'oh on my part but I like to think it's more because she's so awesome. I had so much fun picking out songs and wondering which books Catie would choose and these selections definitely don't disappoint. I'm excited and intrigued about all three recommendations. I can't wait to start reading.
Noelle's Recommendations For Catie
I was beyond excited when Catie mentioned her idea for a Song-Inspired She Made Me Do It
. (Like I even need an excuse to bombard people with a playlist, right?) Whenever I listen to my iPod, I mentally assign songs to certain books but I'd never tried to do it from the other way around. When I saw Catie's list of songs she was looking to match with a book recommendation, one song stood out immediately.
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First of all, what a great song. It's hopeful, inspiring uplifting and wait a minute....I know a book character like that! After a few listens, I was sure. My book recommendation for "Hold On" by the Alabama Shakes
Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew QuickWhat it's about:
Amber Appleton has it pretty rough but she's not one to let things get her down. Even though she's currently living with her mom on a school bus, Amber remains an irrepressible source of hope to every0ne around her--whether they want her to or not. But then, something happens that threatens even Amber's unyielding optimism. With her belief system shaken to its core, can Amber find a way to regain what makes her so special?Why I matched it up with the song (and why I think she'll like it):
Just listen to Brittany's voice. That's the voice of someone who has been through some shit, you know? And ooh boy, Amber Appleton has too. At first, I was this close to going with All I Ever Wanted
by Vikki Wakefield for this song (like how I sneak in two book recs for the price of one?) but upon further listening, this song is pure Amber. The optimistic perseverance and the mention of a higher power made it a lock. I think Catie will be another convert to the Amber Appleton Adoration Society. Amber is like the Borg of Hope: resistance is futile. (And yes, Maggie I just made a Star Trek joke--but you share a blog with me so hahahaha.)
I just chose one song-based recommendation for Catie (this time around!) but decided to go with two other She Made Me Do It
Jeopardy categories with a Back to the Future and a Disco Chicken recommendation for my other choices. Back to the Future is a feature
Maggie and I do on our blog that involves either a) reading a YA book that was before our time or b) one that we missed the first time around or c) wanted to reread as an adult and compare notes. For Catie's Back to the Future rec I picked:
On Fortune's Wheel by Cynthia VoigtWhat it's about
: An innkeeper's daughter happens across a thief in the night stealing her father's boat and finds herself at an impasse. You see, Birle is betrothed to a grade A asshole and her main prospects in life are subservience and soul sucking monotony. What first is an instinct to reclaim her father's property becomes a chance to escape her unpromising future. When the thief turns out to have a secret identity (but of course) and a pair of oh so pretty eyes, Birle decides she wants to see this adventure through but on fortune's wheel adventures are followed by unimaginable hardships and you never know which one will come up next.Why I think she'll like it:
Honestly, this rec is based on my vague recollection of LOVING THE SHIT out of this when I was a barely-teen. As soon as we started the Back to the Future feature on YAA, I knew I wanted to revisit this book with someone who had never read it before and I think Catie is the perfect person to give it a go. I know Catie loves her fantasy and epic girl quests (as do I!) and if I remember right, Birle's transformation from innkeeper's daughter to a survivor
(basically your choice of Destiny's Child songs) was a great coming of age story. Disclaimer: I haven't read this in...like, 18 years? BUT. That's all part of the fun.
And now, for my Disco Chicken book recommendation! What, you may ask, is a Disco Chicken? Well...click here
. A Disco Chicken book is one of pure fun, no regrets. Disco Chicken doesn't want to get into deep thoughts, he just wants to dance! Sure, you might not remember the details a year from now but you'll remember you had fun. And that's why my third book recommendation for Catie is:
Heart of Steel by Meljean BrookWhat it's about:
Oh yeah. Drink that cover in. Why yes, he took the precaution of protecting his forearms but thought it best to go shirtless in a sword fight. It all makes perfect sense if you stare at his abs long enough. (I guess we're just lucky that he wasn't wearing one of his beloved waistcoats and nothing else?) Basically: Ever since airship captain Yasmeen threw adventurer Archimedes Fox overboard, he's been smitten. Why waste time plotting revenge when he can be plotting for her affection? When fate and some stolen documents throw them together again, he gets his chance all while searching for treasure, avoiding assassination attempts and inciting a rebellion. You know, the usual.Why I think she'll like it:
Because it's straight up FUN. Ignore the ridiculous cover! Heart of Steel
is like a swashbuckling, steampunk Nick and Nora Charles
action-adventure. The two leads' relationship dynamic is so delightful. This is the second book in the Iron Seas series but with the help of the author's guide
(and a summary of the protagonists' brief history in book one from me), Catie should be able to jump right in. Humor, action and adventure, some swoon for good measure and oh so much fun. Catie...Disco Chicken is playing your song! Don't you wanna dance? (Nanoagents optional!)
I basically want to read all of these books, and I think I just might. I've wanted to pick up Sorta Like a Rockstar for a very long time. I'm pretty sure that I've even checked it out of the library multiple times without reading it. The main character sounds like a present day version of Sarah Crewe from A Little Princess, which is like one of my favorite books in the entire world, ever. I'm psyched to have a reason to finally commit to reading it. Noelle actually sent me On Fortune's Wheel for my birthday last year (which was so kind of her) but it's just been languishing on my shelf ever since. Her description makes me so excited to read it - I've read a few heavy books recently and I think I could definitely do with some romance and adventure. And of course I always love girl quests. As for her third pick, I got temporarily hypnotized by the cover and so I sort of blanked out on everything else about it. Good enough for me!
What do you think of everyone's picks? Which ones should we read? And how much do we all miss Tatiana?
If you'd like to follow Noelle and Maggie, you can find them in their natural habitat at their blog, Young Adult Anonymous
, on Goodreads (Maggie
), and on Twitter. (Maggie
, and YAA
This post reads like some sort of Anonymous meeting: "Hi, we're the bloggers at The Readventurer, and we are utter failures at reading challenges." Catie would be the person who smugly shows up to lead the group meeting, going on about how she has enough self-discipline to complete her goals. Flannery would be the person who sits in the circle, silent, hoping no one calls her name and finds out she is not doing what she's supposed to be doing, and Tatiana would be the realistic one to suggest we just scrap this month's meeting and watch a marathon of a TV show. But we recognize the problem and that's the first step to growth, right?This edition of She Made Me Do It
has been running for months now and we can't seem to finish it in our current reading moods, so we have to wrap it up. We would like it to be said, though, that Karen is some sort of a reading goddess. Her Goodreads Reader's Advisory group
can help ANYONE find what they are looking for in a book and she still rules Goodreads from atop her well-deserved throne. Karen, thanks for the amazing book recommendations!
Our Picks for Karen
i was very excited about all four books, and i am so glad to have been a part of this challenge!
some girls are
i liked this book a lot. catie knew i liked teen survival books, and she decided to throw me a curveball and twist my inclinations a little by giving me a book that was about survival, yes, but survival in the brutal social-caste systems of high school instead of a forest filled with zombies. although i still prefer the more traditional life-and-death situations that arise in actual survival stories, so i can pick up pointers just in case, i really enjoyed this story. "enjoyed" is a strange word to use for a book so filled with cruelty and horrific behavior, but it was a book i quickly became immersed in, and i probably wouldn't have read it without the push, so i am grateful.i have now read two books by this author, and am excited to read more.
the wednesday wars/okay for now
flannery seems to have wanted to find the warm gooey emotional center of me. both of these books are middle-grade real-life stories that focus on characters struggling with growing-up problems that in the hands of a less-talented writer, could have been very schmaltzy. but they were just good, wholesome stories that were satisfying and showed that it doesn't have to be all date-rape and love triangles and bullying to be compelling and tense. i liked okay for now a scootch more, but only because i think he was able to take the story and broaden it a little; it seemed to be a more mature work in both content and writing. again - i was aware of these books before, but i probably wouldn't have read them without the firm hand of flannery on my back!
like water for chocolate
tatiana knew i liked magical realism and food, and this book has both! i definitely loved the recipes included in here - yum- and i loved the structure of the novel, and it turns out it is a sweeping tragic romance, which is right up my alley! so a big score for this one. i am still not sure why this is considered a landmark of magical realism - it has more of a folktale/family chronicle feeling to it. magical things occur, yes, but not in the way that i typically think of them occurring in more traditional magical realism. but no matter, because i liked it, and i had never really considered reading it before, even though i knew it was well-regarded. i felt i had missed the boat on it, but tatiana shoved me aboard!
thank goodness for these ladies, really. call me anytime.
Tatiana:I have never been as embarrassed and ashamed to
write a post for The Readventurer as I am at this moment. The truth is, I've tried reading two of Karen's recommendations and ended up finishing none. I don't know if it would make her feel any better, but I've been in a wonky reading mood for months now. Barely anything appeals to me these days besides an occasional new release from a very familiar author or a comforting re-read. It's unfair of me to expect anyone to save me from this reading limbo, so, sorry, Karen, for putting in you this position. It's a tragic it's-not-you-karen-it's-me kind of reading situation. The first book I tried was A Drama in Muslin.
The comparison to Jane Austen's novels made me sure this
would be the winning choice for me, but alas, George Moore is much less entertaining than Austen, in my opinion. However, it is possible I simply didn't read enough of this novel to appreciate it.The second attempt I can't even say I disliked. Lullabies for Little Criminals
just a few months ago would have been a perfect fit for me, I am sure of it. Karen recommended this book to me as a response to my claim that I liked shocking and disturbing reads, which I do (or, rather, did). It's a dark, very dark novel, and, unfortunately, my body and mind currently reject dark books. If they didn't, I'd be reading J.K. Rowling's new filth-filled book right now and telling you all about it instead of listening to Entertainment Geekly
and BBC's Great Lives
podcasts and watching Fringe. So, here was a story of my failure.
I hope soon enough I will be able to escape my reading slump and finally get back to enjoying books. I miss it...Catie:Karen chose three spectacular picks for me and I ultimately want to read all of them. So far, I've finished Serena by Ron Rash and it was a great choice for me - a very sinister and dark setting with an utterly ruthless heroine, who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Karen doesn't know this but I also picked up Winesburg, Ohio and read the first few pages. I know that it will be something that I love, but I just wasn't in the right space for it then. This is why I'm so horrible at book clubs/readalongs/challenges/scheduled reading of any sort. It's like there are about twelve readers in my head at any given moment and I don't know who's going to show up when I start a book. It could be Frank, who loves pirate adventures or Sally, who loves to cry or Ned who secretly loves romance. It's a mixed bag. And when I picked up Winesburg, Ohio it was like...oh, sorry Bob who loves subdued and depressing stories...but Sally just showed up and she's demanding that I read a frothy coming of age story right now. You'll have to take a back seat. But anyway, never fear! Bob (and Winesburg, Ohio) will have their day. For now, me and my twelve personalities would like to thank Karen so much for participating in this feature with us!Flannery:I think there was a fatal flaw in our design of this feature, so hear me out: Tatiana, Catie, and I speak through email pretty much daily. We talk about the books we start and give up on, which is probably three or four times as many as we finish. We talk about what's going on in our regular lives and what kind of moods we're in. Probably most importantly in this instance, we talk about what we've felt like reading. When Karen picked books for us, she did an amazing job. Honestly, there are very few people I know of who are more knowledgeable than her when it comes to books and right now, no one at all is coming to mind so maybe I should just say she is the most knowledgeable of all human beings with whom I am acquainted. Anyway, I was and am excited to read Karen's picks but I have only read three-fourths of one: The Sea Came In At Midnight by Steve Erickson. I was into it but at that point in time, I was mostly just listening to memoirs and couldn't concentrate on the loveliness of his writing. And it is lovely, for sure. Erickson wove together a few elements in even the beginning that had me wondering how he would sew it all together. A memory hotel where prostitutes can receive people's shared memories? The sole survivor of a mass cult suicide? A lonely man who hires a live-in girl to sleep with him but never speak to him? I have to admit that the last part felt a bit self-indulgent but not altogether unbelievable. Even while I write this, I am kicking myself for never finishing this book before it was due at the library. I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. Also, I think I might just buy a hard copy because there were several passages I wanted to underline, as I love reading about loneliness and existential crises. Karen was spot-on with that choice, and my fickle reading mood is the only thing that prevented me from finishing it. As for the other two books, Karen got me so pumped that I bought George & Rue right away. I think my dreams want it to be an enthralling Shawshank-era mysterious crime thriller, even though I know it is factual. (or, rather, it is an imagining of a factual crime) Also, I think it might be the best choice for me of the three picks because it is 1. crime; 2. brutal; 3. written in dialect. The last one is the reason I didn't get into it straight off and also the reason I know I will like it when I do. Just read the reviews on Goodreads. The author is also a poet and there are reviews one after the next about how beautiful the writing is and how successful the dialect is. (and how raw the violence, is which I tend to love in a book) But when I look back at when the original post was published and what I'd been reading at the moment, I should've known I was doomed for failure. It is just all audiobooks and E.L. Konigsburg children's books for a few weeks and then a few new releases in series I follow and tons of YA. Karen has the amazing ability to read like a charging army, it seems. She can and does plow through everything with seeming ease and I can only aspire to do so. I hope she can forgive me for being a complete failure in this instance, as she was unsurprisingly amazing at the challenge by reading EVERY ONE of our picks for her and reviewing them. I can only throw in the towel on this one and go back to my YA sci fi/fantasy Cybils nominees. I know when I've been beat.
Author: Ron Rash
Publication Date: 10/7/08
Publisher: Ecco Press
The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains--but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.Review:
I promised a review of this book this week and it looks like I just
made it! Phew. Sunday totally counts, right? I finished this book quite a while ago but as always, life intervened and there was much internet-free gallivanting and acres of sand between my toes and billions of hours of driving last week, all of which conspired to prevent me from writing this review. Here’s a picture of where I was:
(That's not even a random photo that I found on the internet - my brother in law took that. That's what it looks like. All the time.) Can you really blame me for procrastinating? Can you?
Alright, well all excuses aside I really loved this book. This was one of Karen’s picks for me a few weeks ago on She Made Me Do It
and I’m so glad she put it in front of my eyes because I might never have found it otherwise. My favorite part of this book, without a doubt, is its titular character Serena.
Some people, after suffering years of adversity, will become twisted and damaged and unable to function. Maybe even most
people. And then there are people like Serena – who go up against adversity and seem to become honed by it. They walk through tragedy and all of their softer layers seem to get sloughed off, leaving them hardened and sharp. Serena is a girl who survived a deadly flu epidemic, burned her childhood home to the ground, braved the wildernesses of Colorado, found herself a suitably powerful lumber baron to marry, and set her sights on expansion. Any challenge that nature lays before her feet, she seems ready to take on - whether it be a deadly virus, the rattlesnake population, or the acres of virginal Brazilian rainforest she longs to mow down. And it isn’t as if she triumphs over nature; she’s far too much a part of it herself to be set apart in that way. Rather, she is the smartest, deadliest predator in the natural world she inhabits. In this wild place where several men die each week in the pursuit of lumber, Serena – a young, petite woman – seems the most fit to survive. She is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure her place, including murder anyone who gets in her way, or anyone who may or may not get in her way at some unspecified future date. With her deadly pet eagle on one arm and her dedicated assassin on the other, Serena blazes off the page.
Which is interesting, because the narration never hovers over her thoughts. Instead, it moves between Pemberton, Serena’s formidable husband, and Rachel, Pemberton’s teenage plaything from his life before Serena – neither of whom are even a tiny bit as interesting as Serena herself. Rachel’s story really leads the narrative, and she’s no doubt a very sympathetic character, but every time the narration switched over to her I felt a bit bored. Rachel struggles to survive on her own with an unwanted pregnancy and almost no support from anyone in the town. She scrimps and works her fingers to the bone and gets by on very little and raises her son well. It’s all very inspiring…but honestly, I just wanted to get back to Serena murdering people. That was much more interesting to me.
However, as Serena’s sights turn to Rachel, the mother of what it turns out will be Pemberton's only
child, Rachel is forced to become craftier, harder, and more violent…and then I started to like her a great deal more. I also just love that, by tormenting Rachel, Serena essentially becomes the instrument that hones her into a worthy adversary. That’s just good old fashioned poetic justice right there.
This book is like a brutal fairy tale set in the 1920's wilderness of America and starring the wicked witch. I really enjoyed every sinister minute. And I will never doubt Karen's taste. It is impeccable!4/5 Stars
Last month, on She Made Me Do It...
Flannery challenged Catie to read:
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Catie challenged Tatiana to read:
Feed by M.T. Anderson
As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
True Grit by Charles Portis
Tatiana challenged Flannery to read:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Flannery read A Northern Light and rated it: 3.5/5 stars (review forthcoming)
Somewhat middling reviews all around last month... although we all ended up at least liking our picks. However, this month we are going to try something a little bit different. We've called in an expert! Karen is a seasoned veteran bookseller, the most popular reviewer on goodreads (where she also runs a reader's advisory group
), and she recently presented at ALA about reader's advisory in the digital age
. She is one of our favorite reviewers and is incredibly knowledgeable about books in just about every genre and age range you could name. If anyone can find us a great read, it's her! We're more nervous about finding books for her.
Is there anything she hasn't read yet?
Tatiana's Recommendation for Karen
Like Water For Chocolate by Laura EsquivelWhat it's about:
Set in early 20th century Mexico, it's a story of Tita who is prohibited by her mother to marry the man she passionately loves. As Tita's lover decides to marry her sister to be closer to his beloved, Tita has nothing left but to suffer in silence. And cook delicious food that she infuses with magic of her explosive feelings. Why I think she'll like it:
The fact that Karen will read, literally, anything
(from picture books to monsterporn to obscure fiction that maybe a hundred people ever read) makes recommending books to her both very easy and very challenging. I mean, I am sure whatever I suggest she will finish, but will she like it? That is the question. At first I was going to get her to read Darkferver
, for completely selfish reasons, obviously, and see with anticipation what happens. But then I decided to make an effort to find something that had higher odds of being enjoyed by her. And if I know one thing that Karen loves, it's FOOD (have you read her weekly Adventures of Food and Fun
yet?) Even if she doesn't like the story of Like Water For Chocolate
, she will at least appreciate the recipes.
Catie's Recommendation for Karen
Some Girls Are by Courtney SummersWhat it's about:
A very realistic portrayal of twisted female friendship in high school. Regina Afton is a former member of the in-crowd who is now shut out and forced to face the ugliness of her own actions, as well as daily bullying from her former best friends.Why I think she'll like it:
I'm surprised that Karen hasn't read anything from Courtney Summers yet, because I think she'd really like her books. They're gritty, often disturbing, and never simple. This one is particularly scary. I know that Karen loves survival stories - and what's more extreme than surviving suburban high school...particularly when it's populated by evil, violent psychopathic girls? Karen enjoyed Before I Fall,
(which - full disclosure - I haven't read) and this gets a lot of comparisons to that book. But I think this one is darker, and I know the ending is a lot more unresolved.
Flannery's Recommendation for Karen
The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtWhat they're about: The Wednesday Wars
is about a Long Island Jewish seventh-grader who has to stay and spend time with his teacher while the rest of the kids in his class go to religious instruction. Okay for Now
is about a side character from TWW who moves with his family from Long Island to a small town a few hours away. His home life leaves much to be desired but he is very much affected by several members of the town. Why I think she'll like them:
Technically, I've picked two books for Karen, but I'll only hold her to one. The reason I've included both is because they are middle grade books and both absolutely lovely. Also, I know how quickly she reads so I am confident she could knock both out in one day if she felt like it. Karen reads pretty much any genre but I specifically picked The Wednesday Wars
and Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt for her because of one review she wrote. She gave When You Reach Me
, the 2010 Newbery winner by Rebecca Stead five stars
and said, " Sure... it is intended for children but it is a sweet, sad book about friendship and family and sacrifice that most adults could really appreciate." I had very similar feelings about When You Reach Me and these two books. They are intended for middle readers but I absolutely loved both of them because they carried so much weight despite their intended audience. I also know that two of Karen's good friends, Greg and Ariel, have both read this and 4-star or higher enjoyed it. To quote Karen on Greg's review thread, "Someday I will read this maybe." Muahahaha, that time has come, Karen. Knock knock.
Karen's Verdict on The Readventurers' picks:
like water for chocolate
i know, how have i never read this one? it is supposed to be one of the great examples of magical realism, and i love me some magical realism, so it is high time i read it.. thank you for the kick in the pants.
and i do love food. love it. it keeps me alive.
wednesday wars and okay for now
ariel has been talking up w-wars to me for aaaaages. i guess my only excuse for not having read it before is because i just don't read a lot of middle grade stuff, even though there are some that i have read as an adult that i have enjoyed. they are so short! i always look at the middle-grade stuff i have here, and i am like, "if i take that to work, i am going to finish it on the subway, and then i will have to take a second book, and that means i will have to sign TWO books in at work..." and it just exhausts me, having to choose a secondary book. but - ah - now i have two, and this makes the decision for me! awesome!
some girls are
i know i have read reviews of this before, but it never really called out to me. however, in a flash of synchronicity, i had planned to start this is not a test today, so - weird. and i just got burn for burn at ALA, which is another "mean girls" book, so it looks like it is time for me to branch out and read more realistic YA instead of the dystopian stuff that is my bread and butter.
Karen's Recommendations for Catie
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
Serena by Ron Rash
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
What They're About:the go-between
is about a young boy's exposure into the world of adult entanglements, and the effect one summer has on his adult life.serena
is basically macbeth
set in a logging community in north carolina in the 1920s. winesburg, ohio
is a series of interconnected stories that take place in a small town whose inhabitants have larger dreams than their circumstances. Why I Think She'll Like Them:
i am mostly responding to the heavy-on-the-thomas-hardy love we share. i think our reading tastes are the most compatible of the three of y'all, and these three books are among my favorites. the go-between
is full of the situational complications of which hardy is so fond, and my memory of the book is that hartley describes the english countryside in a similarly glorious way as hardy; with nature itself mirroring and enhancing the action. i could be projecting, but i am pretty sure. however, i am entirely
sure that the book itself is wonderful, and it is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story of that first love, and the chasm between dreams and social position. in a lot of ways, it is like, "what if proust could have edited himself down to just the basics?"serena
is just gorgeous. do i need to say more? i will! this also has great descriptions of nature but they are not the nostalgic remembrances of a summer of promise, this nature will mess you up. it is very dark, and there will be violence, but it also has one of the best female leads in any book ever. it is at once about the evils of ambition and the danger of trees. trees!winesburg
draws on the frustration of circumstances as well, and it has a very steinbeckian feel. this also feels hardy-like to me, but like jude
, where characters want to rise above what they have been dealt, and if they can't, at least they can tell their stories to the one that does have the chance to get out, so that a part of them will exist outside of their small-town existences.
I had not previously heard of any of these selections except Winesburg, Ohio
(and even that one was only vaguely), and that makes me very happy. Of course, the first thing I did after reading the above paragraphs was head right over to goodreads to read karen's reviews and oh my god - her review of Winesburg, Ohio
completely hooked me. "this book is life - it is tender and gentle and melancholy and real. not everything works out according to plan here, but what ever does? that's not necessarily depressing, it's just a reality that can either be moped over and dwelled upon, or accepted and moved on from." That sounds like something I would love and also reminds me of how I feel whenever I read Thomas Hardy. And Serena sounds so incredible too - really brutal and I love that it has an eeeeevvil female MC. Plus, Macbeth in the woods? With scary trees? Sounds amazing! I am very sad that karen has not reviewed The Go-Between but it also sounds really interesting - tense and evocative and I'm intrigued by the child POV. I am going to have a really hard time choosing one of these...plus...I put this post together and I'm seriously interested in a few of the picks for Flannery and Tatiana. I'm very excited!
Karen's Recommendations for Tatiana
A Drama in Muslin by George Augustus Moore
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
What They're About: drama in muslin
takes place in ireland in the 1880's and revolves around a group of women trying to make the most socially and financially advantageous matches for their eligible daughters. lullabies
is about a young girl in montreal, growing up on the wrong side of the canadian tracks with a junkie father and hooligan friends.book of night women
is about a slave rebellion on a plantation in jamaica in the 18th century.Why I Think She'll Like Them: drama in muslin
is an easy sell. tatiana loves jane austen, and this is very much like austen, in a lot of ways. marriage is the ultimate goal, but these mothers treat it like a battle, and there are machinations and plotting and moore really brings the situation to life with his writing. the social and sexual politics of the smaller story work well into the larger political situation in ireland, and these poor girls are just little chess pieces to their scheming mothers, and there are ever so many balls.
the other two are more responses to tatiana's claim in her profile page that she likes book "that shock, delight, scare, make me uncomfortable, tickle my imagination, make me think or cry (but not in a Nicholas Sparks way), intense, but non-exploitative books."
i think both of these books are shocking, in their own way. lullabies
is the gentler of the two, but it is apples and oranges. it is only gentler because the narrator is so young, she doesn't recognize a lot of what is going on around her for what it is. that is the strength of this book, we as readers see what is happening, but it is being interpreted by her innocent eyes, and everything is like a game to her. but the consequences are real. night women
is rough. really rough. the violence is horrific, and nothing is spared. but lilith... she is an incredible character. a very complicated character, definitely, but a true original. this is in dialect, which i am not sure about, for you, if that is something that turns you off. but if you really want something intense that is going to make you uncomfortable in a true-feeling, non-exploitative way, this is your book. intense doesn't begin to cover it.
The only thing I can say is that I have never heard of any of these books before (the three of us seem to be in the same boat), and yet, the way Karen puts it, they all sounds right up my alley, particularly A Drama in Muslin. I also suspect she might have read my mind, because I've been craving books set in foreign countries for a while. So, yeah, I look forward to checking them all out, especially because I am not familiar with the novels and therefore had no opportunity to have a pre-emptive opinion (read: prejudices) about them, which hinders many of my reading experiences. Off to check which books my library has...
Karen's Recommendations for Flannery
flannery was the most difficult. there were several i had planned to suggest, but they were already on her to-read shelf!! and i am no cheater. and this morning, i have changed my mind at least three different times and had to delete all of my suggestions and start over from scratch.
but these are my offerings.Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff
The Sea Came in at Midnight by Steve Erickson
George & Rue by George Elliot Clarke
What They're About: set this house in order
is about what happens when two characters with mpd meet and try to get to the bottom of a long-buried family secret.sea
takes place in san francisco, mainly, in the pre-millennial days. it is about many many things, and is hard to describe using plot alone. this one is a risky recommendation, because it is so much one of my favorites, but it is so hard to say why. george and rue
is a fictionalized account of the author's ancestors and their crimes and punishments against the backdrop of racial inequality in canada in the 40s.Why I Think She'll Like Them:set this house
could go on your "seattle" shelf, and i know you have read a few books about mental illness, and enjoyed them. this one has a less-than-gentle start, just in terms of situating the reader, but i think once it gets going, it is not difficult to understand. also, you know more about it going into it than i did, because i never read the back cover before i started reading it. oops.sea came in
. this book is a little tricksy, but incredibly rewarding if you let yourself go in it. i think you have a solid enough background in sci-fi/fantasy stuff that the structure of this, and the little magical/metaphysical flourishes will not turn you off, and since you have read a bunch of post-apoc stuff, this is a nice balance, because it deals with that impending sense of unidentifiable, but certain, doom. and it is mind-blowing. george and rue
. you like mystery books, what about crime fiction? what about beautifully-written crime fiction that is both violent and jarring, and emotional and sympathetic? i know you can handle the violence of it, based on some of your readings, and it is a fantastic book that more people should read. so i am throwing it to you.
Verdict: I am beyond excited about this. Sometimes we use this feature to force our cobloggers to choose (or have a 33.33% of choosing) a book that's lingered on her to-read shelf for months or even years. When I scrolled down to Karen's recommendations and the bit where she said that I had some of her recommendations on my to-read shelf so she picked different ones? It made me ecstatic. (I think the three of us chat so much that we've shared many if not all of our favorites with each other. It's a little incestuous blog we run here. It's nice to get some new blood. Okay, now I sound like a vampire. ) I've never even heard of all three of these books. I will acquire all of them and then do my mood, cover, jacket copy, and friend review analysis and get going. I am glad she picked across three genres as well because I have been really fickle lately--I do love mental illness books, crime fiction, and I have a soft spot for any book that a reader I trust calls "one of their favorites." I truly have no clue which one excites me most but I'm raring to go on this. Thanks, Karen!
We are so grateful that Karen volunteered to use her amazing reader's advisory skills and love of books for a great cause. All three of us have been feeling some fatigue about reading and I (F) think that a large part of it might be that we often talk about the same
books--the ones we love most, the ones our mutual friends/bloggers recently reviewed, the ones everyone knows that we intend to read, and the ones we are writing about soon. We are excited to get moving on these fresh recommendations. Thanks for joining us, Karen! We'll report back on how our reading experiences unfold.
If you'd like to ask Karen for more recommendations, join her reader's advisory group on Goodreads
. You can follow her reviews or friend her here
Five Flavors of DumbAuthor: Antony JohnPublication Date: 11/11/10Publisher: Dial[Amazon|Goodreads]
Blurb(GR): The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.
The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.
The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?
Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.Review:
I don’t often read or enjoy “feel-good” books and that’s most certainly what this is, although; I will grant that it does take a while to find its way into corn-country. However, sometimes I do get bogged down by all the darkness and depression. Sometimes I just need a little refresher. Luckily for me, there are a few things that can help circumvent my “corn-free” policy. A few of these things are:
Nerdery/Geekery in all its forms
A unique voice
Soft rock anthems
Awkwardly hot Asian love interests
And guess what? This book has all of those things. This book was exactly what I needed, and I'm really glad that Flannery challenged me to read it
. I think I inhaled it in less than a day, and in my world of chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, and crisis-mediation that’s quite extraordinary! I really couldn’t put this book down.
This is a very sweet story with more depth than your average sweet story. Piper feels completely alone in her school, ever since the only other deaf person (and her best friend) moved to a new state. At home, things aren’t much better. Her baby sister, who was born severely deaf, has recently been fitted with a cochlear implant and is starting to hear – meaning that Piper is now the only person in her family who can’t. To make matters worse, Piper realizes that her parents have raided her college fund – the one she was going to use to pay for tuition at a prestigious university for the deaf – to pay for the implant.
Desperate for money, Piper sees opportunity in the somewhat lame but nonetheless enthusiastic high school band quite appropriately named “Dumb.” After witnessing a performance in front of the school, Piper ends up giving the band a not so small piece of her mind and their arrogant (but hot, natch) leader challenges her to become their manager. If she can get them a paying gig in one month, she will not only get a share of the money; she will get to keep the job. So Piper accepts. Even though she has little to no interest in music.
The first three quarters of this book had me grinning and laughing and swooning. I loved almost every minute – from Piper’s realization that her dorky Chess club partner is secretly a master percussionist with the soul of a rock star, to the band’s various (and mostly failing) attempts to succeed and get paid, to the very sweet dynamic between Piper and her younger brother Finn. I loved that Piper is a no-nonsense shark of a manager, perfectly willing to lie to get her foot in the door. And I really loved that each and every member of Piper’s family is both present and
feels like a real, three-dimensional character. No absentee parents here!
Where this story lost me was, of course, in the ending. Oh, how I wish that I could just beam myself in to these quirky, fun reads and tell everyone to step away from the corn-ledge! Just don’t do it, fictional people! Don’t reach for the corn!!
Alas, I have no such powers. Because I have to admit that I really
loved that Dumb was such a big hot mess of a band. And this story, for me, was about Piper reconnecting with the world – both at home and with her peers – and finding her own identity. I just don’t think it was necessary or realistic for the band to fall into such perfect alignment and become a success. Also, the way that they eventually came together was very predictable, in my opinion. Her family’s progress also verged into unrealistic territory. Some of her parent’s decisions and actions later in the book felt out of character and yes, corny.
However, I did have a lot of fun reading this. Will I remember this book in a year or two? I’m not sure. I am writing this review only a week after reading it and already had to look up the main character’s name.Perfect Musical Pairing
Evelyn Glennie – How To Listen To Music With Your Whole Body
Okay, so this is actually mostly a lecture, but I wanted to include it here because I was kind of bummed that this book never addressed the myth that deaf people do not enjoy music. Even though I thought it was hilarious that Piper was very much not a music lover, I think it would have been awesome if the author had found a way to dispel this myth. However, I completely respect his decision and I would much rather it not be present than for him to have artificially shoe-horned it in. That doesn’t stop me from including it in my review though! This video is really amazing – a fascinating demonstration from deaf percussionist (she probably plays the marimba!) Evelynn Glennie.
Author: M.T. Anderson
Narrated by: David Aaron Baker Published: 2008 (book: 2002)
Publisher: Listening Library[Goodreads | Amazon | Audible]
Blurb: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
So says Titus, whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his “feed,” a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone’s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what’s happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.
Following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut, M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world–and a smart, savage satire about the nature of consumerism and what it means to be a teenager in America.Review:I might feel uncertain if I actually liked Feed or not, but one thing I know for sure - the audio version of it is excellent.
The book itself is unique because of its narrator - a teen in a future with a device in his head that directly connects him to the internet. Titus, who is constantly fed a cocktail of advertising, entertainment and targeted info, has an almost atrophied brain, he lacks in basic knowledge of speech or reading, because why bother if all communication can be done through the Feed? His "voice" is highly stylized and peppered with "likes," "dudes," "fucks" and "dadadas." This voice can be annoying at times, but the audio truly brings it, as well as the Feed - a constant stream of information - ads, news, chats, whathaveyou, to live.But other than the high quality of the audio production, Feed didn't really impress me. For one, I guess Feed
failed to properly scare me. You see, even though I am not a particularly tech savvy person, I am sooo far from lamenting the advancement of technology and the "loss of humanity" that comes with it. Yes, yes, Feed
draws from present day culture of teens and tweens tweeting and texting in never ending OMGs and LOLs, but I am still not concerned. Somehow, these ignorant pubescents manage to grow up and become functioning members of society and in fact are often at an advantage in our Twitter and Facebook-driven world.People have been predicting the end of the world due to technological or cultural changes since the dawn of days. Burn those astronomers and scientists! Don't let them women go to school and vote! Nobody writes letters a la Jane Eyre any more! Those telephones are EVIL! EBOOKS will ruin literature the way we know it! Every time there is a change in technology or culture, someone is crying apocalypse. You know what? I am not scared of the changes. People evolve,
communications evolve, and life goes on. Will there be time when internet is directly plugged into our brains? When we communicate mostly electronically? Maybe. So what? I am already plugged into my iPod/laptop/cable a significant amount of time. Would I be better off spending more time outside planting potatoes, picking cotton, turning over hay, grinding flour? You tell me. In addition to the Feed concerns,
there is another layer of the novel where human population seems to be decaying, literally, physically, with people developing lesions on their skin and the planet being destroyed, but that's a completely different story. All of that doesn't seem to be attributed to the evils of the Feed. Just carelessness of people. I am not even sure why Anderson put it into the story, without significantly connecting it to the rest. Was it all supposed to be a treatise against American over-consumerized culture, the cause of everything bad in the world? This side dish of social commentary wasn't flavored enough for my taste.To me, Feed read a bit dated and a bit young. In spite of massive cursing and sexual content, the book's message is delivered in a simple and obvious way. But that's a normal thing. After all, this YA novel is over 10 years old and lost some of its bite.I enjoyed the novel's "voice" (thanks to the fabulous audio), but did it provoke any thoughts or emotions in me? Not really.
The highly satirized and stylized style of narrative might be at fault here. Satire doesn't work for me usually. Making a joke out of serious issues doesn't compel me to cheer for the cause, no matter how legit it is.3/5 stars (mostly given for the quality of the audio)