Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bookmark Binge: April 29, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

Check out Elizabeth Norris' inspiration board for Unraveling.
Listen to her official playlist on her blog.
Two Chicks on Books made a photo tour of San Diego landmarks featured in the book.
The Nocturnal Library features Norris' top 5 highs of her debut novel publication process.

Getting Somewhere?
Beth Neff also has some thoughts on anticipating the publication of her debut novel.
Neff guest posts on Eve's Fan Garden about a person's capacity to change.

And Then Things Fall Apart?
Arlaina Tibensky reveals her top 4 influential YA books.
Nova Ren Suma chats with Tibensky about character voice, to MFA or not MFA, the revision process, rejection and more: "I think most of publishing is an endurance test. The last one standing gets a book deal."
Tibensky makes a list of Keek's favorite books.
Tibensky's "Make Arlaina disappear and Keek take over" playlist.

Oh look at all these links lying around...
Don't miss Flannery's fun and comprehensive recap of YA or Bust.
We're still spazzing about the latest Chaos Walking movie news.
A really cool video of how book covers are made (starring Gail Carriger's Blameless)
File this under things I wish I had read 10 years ago: How to Get a Publishing Internship in 3 Steps.
How to make a bad situation worse: Victim blaming and blind retaliation.
Have any of you ever participated in the 48 Hour Book Challenge? Count me out this year (I'll be bridesmaiding), but I'm sure Maggie will represent YAA.  Right, Magsby?

Coming Soon -- What We're Reading and Reviewing...In Theory
Um, other than the books I have posted for the last two weeks I haven't read yet? (THE SHAME!)


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky
Review updated by Noelle: April 27, 2012 
Published July 26, 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Reviewers note: Thanks to a sinus infection and bridesmaid duties my reading and reviewing time has been seriously neglected this week.  In the meantime, I  expanded my Goodreads review for one of my favorite books from 2011: And Then Things Fall Apart. This post is figuratively sponsored by confetti and Sudafed.  

Talk about horrible timing: Keek's parents are divorcing, her mom is on the other side of the country tending to her premature baby cousin, her best friend has betrayed the crap out of her and she's just gotten in her first massive, possibly relationship-ending fight with her boyfriend...You know what would just make Keek's life sofa-king perfect?  Chicken pox! Come on down!

Next thing she knows, Keek is banished to her grandmother's house with The Bell Jar, no internet, a typewriter and a whooooole lot of feelings.  Luckily it's like a general rule the higher the fever the better the manifesto and Keek's journal is no exception.

First off, I need to express my undying love for the heroine of this book. Keek is just fantastic. (And with a name like that she'd have to be, right?)  Keek's voice is so strong. She is real, funny and overall so damn INTERESTING.  I felt such a strong connection with her that several times it seemed like she was speaking directly to me, cracking me up with inside jokes and telling me stories I'd specifically appreciate.  I loved her from her first feverish sentence. I'd even go as far as to call her one of my favorite heroines ever. She'd definitely make the short-list.

Sometimes though, it seemed Keek was closer to a sophomore in college than a sophomore in high school, some older version of Keek looking back on a fateful summer. That could also be a result/fault of the format, which while genius in some ways, screwed with the overall feeling of the book in others.  
Keek is basically typing her thoughts while she's held hostage by the chicken pox and everything else in her life is going to crap. Originally it is absolutely hysterical because of her feverish rants and musings but as the fever subsides Keek's writing veers from absolute candor toward more contemplative observations. 

This became especially obvious when it was time to wrap up the plot lines. The format made the endings seem so much tidier than they actually were because Keek was telling us her end evaluations after she had thought about it, not her unreserved reactions while things were actually happening. It contrasts to the emotional outbursts and inner monologue train of thought feeling of the feverish entries and ends up more like overly tidy summaries by a fifteen year old with enviable amounts of perspective and self-awareness. 

BUT that introspection is also what makes Keek such a great character in the first place. I was ultimately charmed at all of the thought she put into everything (even when it bordered on becoming a The Bell Jar book report). This isn’t just some superficial stressing Keek is doing, this is analysis! She’s a deep thinker! She is looking for the deeper meaning of things!  She’s trying to understand! And I absolutely freaking loved that about her. I think you will too. 

Rating: 4/5 stars. I'd definitely recommend this book.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Getting Somewhere by Beth Neff

Getting Somewhere by Beth Neff
Reviewed by Maggie: April 27, 2012
Published January 19, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

Every once in a while, to prove that Goodreads isn't the boss of me, I'll read a book that none of my friends have read or reviewed. (Meanwhile, Goodreads is all, Step back three paces. Turn around.) I can't remember how I first came across Getting Somewhere, but I remember that cover. I mean, just look at it! And the simple tagline: "Four girls. A million secrets." Count me in.

Getting Somewhere is about four strangers picked to live on a farm and have their lives monitored. To find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real...
The Real World: Rural Michigan!

Lauren, Sarah, Jenna, and Cassie are average teenage girls, except that they are all in juvenile detention for various crimes. They get picked for a new rehabilitation program where they will be sent to a farm in the middle of nowhere to live, work, and get counseling. The book begins with Jenna getting off the bus in Hicksville, where she is greeted by Ellie, Grace, and Donna, the three women who run the farm.

Listen, I have no problem reading a book with seven characters of the same race and gender. But, unless their names are Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Doc, I'm going to have a tough time remembering them and telling them apart. This is both a positive and negative attribute of the book -- I loved that Neff refused to make her characters easily identifiable stereotypes for simplicity's sake, but it lessens the impact of the story when I can't remember why a detail is important to a certain character, or even who the character is at first. Donna? Sorry, girl. I kept forgetting who you were. For the record, she's the cook at the farm.

Another issue that I had, that also contributed to some disconnect with the characters, was that the story is told in the 3rd person present tense.
"Sarah thinks Ellie had better watch out for poisoned apples."

I'm making it sound like I didn't like this novel, and that's not true at all. In fact, I ended up buying the Kindle edition after a few chapters because I had so many notes scrawled on various scraps of paper. This book is gorgeously written. Neff draws pictures in my mind with her words. Take this line:
"Sarah shakes her head hard to dislodge the image, tries to listen to Donna's story, but her mind is like a cracked plate, too damaged to hold the contents."
I also liked the idea behind the prison farm and the book itself -- going back to basics and working the land, then working on yourself. At first we see the girls struggling to adapt as they learn basic farm skills. Then we gradually start to see the different reasons the girls ended up where they are, and the various issues holding them back. This isn't an action packed story, but rather a slow burn. The heat turns up slowly as we learn more about the characters until it erupts and the girls learn not everything can be undone. This is an ambitious, challenging, and ultimately rewarding book by debut author Beth Neff.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
Reviewed by Maggie: April 26, 2012
Published April 24, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleBook Depository

Some buzzwords that will automatically make me read a book are: Heathers. Veronica Mars. Tim Riggins. Black singlet. You get the picture. Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris had Veronica Mars potential. The main character, Janelle Tenner, is 17 years old, from San Diego, and the daughter of a law enforcement agent (FBI). These are just superficial similarities though. Some other similarities include memories of blacking out at a party and waking up with ripped clothes, a popular and handsome boyfriend who bores her, and her own Wallace Fennel in her best friend, Alex. Janelle, or J or J-baby, is also investigating a mysterious death, except unlike Veronica, the death J is investigating is her own. DUN DUN DUN! Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. J's death, and the handsome stoner who mysteriously brings her back to life, occurs within the first few pages. It's also early on that you realize Unraveling is one part Veronica Mars, more parts everything else you see on TV.

There's a lot to like about J. She's independent, smart, snarky (or at least she tries to be). There's just one little thing -- she annoyed the shit out of me. She says the words that make me roll my eyes harder than anything else:
"But I'm not most girls."
You know who says that? MOST GIRLS. It's one thing to say that when you're dealing with some guy who, while dragging his knuckles on the ground, grunts, "You're not like most girls I know." Then, okay, "I'm not most girls" is a decent answer. A better answer is, "It is dismaying that your expectations are based on the performance of a lesser primate."* The best answer is, of course, "Fuck you!"** J, however, makes her declaration apropos of nothing and revisits this special view of herself throughout the book. Norris even gets the other characters in on it.
"Any girl on this campus would forgive you, but--"
Nick looks away. "But you're not any girl, are you?"
I sigh. "No, I'm not, and I just don't think this is working for me."
Oh. Le sigh of the only girl in the world. J's otherwise likable character was undermined by her constant comparisons to what "most girls" would do, but not her.

So that's J. When you think Veronica Mars, the next thought is Logan Echols, right? WRONG. Mysterious, handsome stoner boy Ben Michaels is more Piz and Duncan than Logan. He's also, and I hate to say this, a bit Edward Cullen. No, no vampires saw the light of day and sparkled in this story, but there were a few scenes and lines of dialogue that reminded me a bit of Twilight.

Still, despite these usual signs telling me to ABANDON SHIP, the story moved briskly along. Not only is J investigating the mystery of her death, but dead bodies with inexplicable burns are also turning up around the city and a device is found counting down to... something. X-Files is referenced a lot by the characters and the story itself takes a sci-fi turn. I have little to no interest in sci-fi and it usually goes way over my head, but I didn't have any problems understanding these elements of the story. I found myself unexpectedly enjoying that part, like I unexpectedly enjoyed Star Trek (the Chris Pine/Zachary Quinto version).

I felt about Unraveling the way I felt about Divergent -- not particularly original but enjoyable enough.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

*Quote from Party Girl with Parker Posey.
**Also from Party Girl. You should really watch it. Make sure you have a falafel with hot sauce handy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adventures in the Bargain Book Bin: April 24, 2012

By Noelle
I admit it: I spend at least a couple hours a month in the Amazon Bargain Book section.  I generally look for hardcovers under $8,  paperbacks under $5 and e-books under $4.  Just in case clicking through 100 pages of book links isn't your thing, here is what caught my eye this time around.

Warning: Some of these have extremely limited available quantities.

Not really any crazy prices this time but there are a lot and I mean a lot of hardcovers in the $7 range.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick • GoodreadsNoelle's Review
Hardcover - $6.80

The Treasure Map of Boys (Ruby Oliver #3) by E. Lockhart • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.40

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

More bargain hardcovers including titles by Juliet Marillier, David Levithan and more after the jump!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bookmark Binge: April 22, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl?
"Teen do not suffer pretense." Jesse Andrews on how YA changed his life.
That Cover Girl's hilarious interview with Andrews about his thoughts on the amazing cover.
Visit Jesse Andrews blog where he reveals he's actually a corgi who can type.

Harmonic Feedback?
Tara Kelly interviews Drea, Justin and Naomi (including character photos).
Kelly's writing rituals include making a playlist for each character.

Chasing Brooklyn?
Lisa Schroeder's Joy Not Sorrow playlist from the book.
Schroeder discusses why she is drawn to write verse novels.

Oh look at these links lying around...
I think we can all agree: Teens Deserve Good Cover Design, Too.
YA Highway compiles a list of YA authors on Pinterest.
Chachic and the New Adult niche.
Raggedy Ann and Andy horseback riding on the beach killed me: Book People Unite.
ICYMI: Read the first two chapters of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys.

What We're Reading...


Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
Reviewed by Noelle: April 20, 2012
Published January 5, 2010 by Simon and Schuster
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindleBook Depository

It’s the year anniversary of the death of Lucca, boyfriend of Brooklyn, brother of Nico. The lone survivor of the car crash that killed Lucca, his friend Gabe, has just died of a drug overdose and just like that, all the grief comes rushing back to the surface for Brooklyn and Nico.  This time though, Lucca has decided to haunt his brother, leaving him messages that urge him to help Brooklyn. When Gabe starts sinisterly showing up in Brooklyn’s dreams, it seems like she could desperately use the assistance.  Can Nico and Brooklyn work through this together? 

Ah, verse novels.  They give with one hand and take with the other.
In the pro column: Lisa Schroeder pulls off some pretty impressive characterization within the spare confines of verse. I thought the dual narrative was a success and had two distinct voices and personalities. There are several lovely passages and more than a few emotional gut punches as Nico and Brooklyn go through the healing process together. 
In the con column: as the ending of the novel grew near, I felt it deteriorated into endless, simplistic metaphors, practically written in a list.  With regular prose the metaphors may not have been so obvious, but in verse the repetitiveness yanked me right out of the story. And that's not even mentioning Brooklyn’s dreams. First of all, isn't it funny how people in fiction dream extremely relevant meaningful things? The last meaningful dream I had was about getting pissed at Ryan Gosling in a Barnes and Noble when I thought he was just teasing me when he asked if I wanted to make out. I still can't believe the last words I ever said to him were "shut up."


But back to Brooklyn's dreams--they were not only all, "here's a metaphor!" but "here's a metaphor with directions and a map!"  At one point she had to choose between the literal light path and dark path, you guys.  

The figurative language got so heavy-handed I felt like Schroeder was telling me how to feel instead of trusting me to react naturally to characters I was already emotionally invested in.  Rather than build on that investment, the ending only served to emotionally distance me from the outcome of the story.

Despite my disappointment in the execution of the ending there were definite bright spots along the way and I'd still recommend checking it out if you are interested in verse novels or intrigued by the blurb. Rating: 3/5 stars.

Some random notes: I absolutely loved when Nico wrote the "dude, be specific" note to Lucca after all of his vague ghostly messages. Being haunted equivocally would be such a pain in the ass. Also, if I were Brooklyn I'd have tried to float "I keep having horrible dreams of Gabe, do you have any thoughts on that?" in the first lull in conversation. But that's just me and I guess if ghosts (and teens) were good communicators I wouldn't even be writing this review, huh?

Bonus points: Italian boys. Always relevant to my interests.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

YAA Confessions: My Friends Are Enablers

By: Maggie

And they're spectacular!

If you ever want to see me shrieking "Are you serious? Are you serious?!" over and over again in front of Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, this is how you do it:
  1. Get me an autographed Melina Marchetta book.
  2. That's pretty much all it takes.

My friend Anna, who has just been given Most Favored Enabler status, came for a visit and surprised me with Looking for Alibrandi. The book itself was shriek-worthy because it's the one Marchetta I don't own.  If you've seen the US edition, you know why. It's also the one Marchetta I haven't read. I wanted to save it for after Quintana, when I'd be desperate for my next Marchetta fix. As I was oohing over the cover, Anna told me to open the book.

Initiate full fangirl mode. As I explained to the people looking at me with a mixture of curiosity and fear, Melina Marchetta signed this book! Melina Marchetta signed this book... to me!! It's now nestled on my Marchetta shelf. Now the question is whether to wait for Quintana or not. Hmm...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
Reviewed by Noelle: April 18, 2012
Published May 25, 2010 by Henry Holt and Co.
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindleBook Depository

Tara Kelly has a knack for writing engaging stories.  In fact, this is the second book by her that I have read in nearly one sitting.  But while her writing can certainly grab a hold of me, it doesn't have a particularly strong grip.  I was engaged while I was reading but didn't spend much time thinking about it when I put it down. Still, Harmonic Feedback is an interesting novel with a unique voice.

Said unique voice is a result of heroine Drea's "touch of Asperger's".   In this case, "touch of Asperger's" means the inability to recognize social cues or sarcasm and difficulty censoring her spoken thoughts.  She also dresses like Courtney Love back when she was the girl with the most cake.  As you can imagine Drea is a real hit on the first day at a new school. 

Despite her social awkwardness, Drea attracts the attention of wild child, vivacious Naomi who appreciates her blunt honesty and seemingly good little rich boy Justin who turns out to understand both Drea and Naomi a lot better than they think. The trio connect through their love of music and the story grows from there, primarily focusing on Drea's evolving relationship with the world around her.

As you all know (Stockholm Syndrome has set in by now, right?) I am a music lover. Although I have my favorites, my love isn't restricted by genre.  Yet, when I think soul-gripping, speak-directly-to-my-heart music, "let me adjust the stabilizers on the distortion" doesn't come to mind.  So while it was intriguing to think of how someone like Drea might react to music in different ways than I do, Drea's passion for producing music didn't sweep me off my feet, you know what I mean?  When I think of the power of music, I expect something more like this:

Let's just say one of these things had me sniffling in my cubicle and Harmonic Feedback wasn't it.  The book is about a lot more than music of course--would it be hypocritical of me to say I kind of wish it had focused more on music?--and while the middle of the story grew a little repetitive,  I remained invested in Drea, Naomi and Justin's story the entire way through.  In the end it just didn't resonate with me as deeply as I had hoped.
Rating 3/5 stars.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Reviewed by Maggie: April 17, 2012
Published March 1, 2012 by Amulet Books
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindle • Book Depository

If I had to describe Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in 22 words, they would be: Adaptation meets the teen version of Larry and Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm with a dash of Troy and Abed from Community. Basically, I loved the hell out of this book. Jo, the girl with the old coat and saucy new dress, promised me a snort-laugh. I snort-laughed. In fact, I went through the book in one snort-filled sitting, which I haven't done in a while.

The premise... actually, forget about the premise. Just read the book!


Did that actually work with anyone?
If not --> Please continue reading.

I'm hesitant to include a summary of the book because it includes the c-word. The other c-word, potty mouths. Cancer. I saw this book on NetGalley for weeks and passed on it in favor of a book I haven't even read yet. The reason I passed, despite the jaunty cover, was cancer. Fuck that shit. Cancer, especially in a book, makes me think of something even worse: Nicholas Sparks. I am not a fan of cheap emotional ploys.

Cheap laughs though? I'm all in! I was into this story from the beginning, when "surprise Jew" Greg Gaines is describing the different factions vying for power in his suburban Pittsburgh high school. He gets to the church kids and their use of cookies, board games, and a Nintendo Wii to try to get fellow students to their church. Greg thinks,
"Something about it always seems a little off. Eventually, you realize: These same exact sentences are also said by child predators."
To clarify, Greg doesn't have any problems with the church kids or their religious affiliation -- he's just making an observation on their methodology. Greg doesn't have a problem with any group because he works hard at being just friendly enough with all but close to none. The only person Greg is close to is his windmill-kicking partner in filmmaking crime, Earl. Greg's had a few brushes with girls, like the time a girl in Hebrew school thought they were dating because he was flirting madly with her in an attempt to catch the eye of her hotter friend. This girl, Rachel, aka Dying Girl, gets leukemia. Greg's mother berates him into going over to her house. Cancer and hijinks, but mainly hijinks, ensue. A cat named Cat Stevens, star of such films at Cat-ablana and The Manchurian Cat-idate, plays a prominent role.

If you're the easily offended type, get some pho then read this book. It's bawdy and profane. But it's also great. Parents and family are present, more so than I've come to expect in YA books. I loved Greg, even as he tried to modestly resist. I would compare him to Adrian Mole, expect I read Adrian Mole ages ago and can't remember if the comparison is apt. (Do you like how I'm throwing it out there anyway?)

Jesse Andrews punches you in the face with his hilarious, assured debut. Highly recommended. HARF!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bookmark Binge: April 15, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of....

Check out Lili Wilkinson's blog for the story behind the book and how she researched love-shyness.

Shadows on the Moon?
Take a moment to watch the book trailer!
You can also read the first chapter for free.

Oh look at these links lying around...
Already frothing at the mouth to read Night Beach? Just wait 'til you read Trinity's review.
Stacked breaks down  Cover Trends and The Female Body.
Two new covers for The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
You know you want to watch The Lizzie Bennett Diaries!
Hunger Games vs. Draw Something = We all win.

Upcoming Reviews on YAA

Friday, April 13, 2012

National Library Week: April 8-14

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.
-Keith Richards

Noelle: My library spoils me rotten.  The Orange County (Florida) library system not only has a billion e-books you can check out (up to 20 at a time!) but they also have a home delivery system for your hard copy checkouts.  That's right, home delivery to your doorstep:

It's like Christmas morning every time.

Maggie: I'm lucky that LA has two fantastic library systems: the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and the County of Los Angeles Library (COLA). COLA opened two branches recently, one in West Hollywood and one in Topanga Canyon. The West Hollywood branch is absolutely stunning -- there's even a tennis court on the roof! -- but I love the smaller Topanga branch tucked in the canyons. The fact that Jason Momoa has been spotted around there also helps. Egged on by my librarian friend, I have also shamelessly abused the "Suggest a Purchase" feature. After my 10th, okay 15th, suggestion in as many days, I finally got an email telling me to calm the f@$k down, but in a very polite way. Between LAPL's 30 checkout limit and COLA's 50 checkout limit, my car is basically a bookmobile.  I also have a Beverly Hills Library card because I'm fancy.

As a reader, there is no greater resource than the library. In honor of National Library Week, go ahead and hug your librarian. Tell them YAA sent you.
Disclaimer: YAA is not responsible for any lawsuits or acts of retribution, bodily harm, or pepper spray that result from any hugs.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dance Party: Open Mic

No theme this week---that's right it's open mic.  You know what that means---you can submit ANY song for ANY book you want and we'll update the post.  We'll get you started!

Maggie: So Noelle finally got me to try Faking Faith after some light harasking (not a typo) and the two magic, automatic-read words: Almanzo Wilder. It did not disappoint. Like Dylan, I went old school for my song choice:
"We'll crucify the insincere tonight / We'll make things right / We'll feel it all tonight."

Noelle: After Maggie's review of Love-Shy, I just knew I had to borrow it ASAP.  I loved it!  At first I was tempted to use the most emo song of all time for good ol' Nick but this is a dance party after all so....
I went with Close to Me by the Cure.  Here's the cover by The Get Up Kids as well.

Your Requests:

Book: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares Requested by: Tortiak
Song: Hospitality by Eight Avenue  Because: "Been listening to this for the last 2 days. Can't get enough of it. Haven't got the foggiest what it's about, but when I hear it I think of New York and therefore think of this book :)"

The request line is open!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Early Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
Reviewed by Noelle: April 10, 2012
Published April 24, 2012 by Candlewick Press
(Noelle received an ARC of this book via the publishers on Netgalley)
GoodreadsPreorder on Amazon

Shadows on the Moon is a lovely retelling of Cinderella set in a magical version of feudal Japan.  The Cinderella of this story, Suzume, witnesses the murder of her beloved father and cousin and barely avoids death herself.   The traumatic event shatters Suzume and she compartmentalizes the broken pieces to survive.

Marriott does an excellent job portraying Suzume's post traumatic stress disorder and the effects of suppressing emotions out of fear (or other reasons).  The circumstances of the attack on her family aren't immediately clear and Suzume and her mother must assume new identities and a life in the protection of a close friend of her father.  As Suzume begins to suspect their new protector of more sinister motives, it is even more important for Suzume to hide her true self and the fight for her life begins anew.

During the initial attack on her family, Suzume was able to escape because of the manifestation of her shadow-weaving powers: the ability to manipulate her appearance to those around her.  These abilities were fascinating to explore but I was frustrated at their lack of rules.  It seemed to me that Suzume's skill level would increase exponentially whenever it was needed for the plot.  Yet Shadows on the Moon is a fairy tale and so successful a one at that, I was able to make certain allowances I might not normally accept so easily.

There are some truly special supporting characters in Youta and Akira, doing double duty as Suzume's fairy godmothers, and Otieno, Suzume's love interest and opposite in emotional honesty.

At first the reader experiences the vivid terror, rage and grief with Suzume but as the story goes on, Suzume doesn't just suppress her feelings to others, she does to the readers as well.  As a result, her narration has a serene, placid tone no matter what she is recounting to the reader.  As Suzume's sole focus becomes vengeance it is both vindicating and heartbreaking.  After enduring so many hardships, you want her to avenge her loved ones but you also want better things for her.  When Suzume finally begins to unpack the feelings she's hidden away for so long and starts to heal it is a beautiful thing.

Shadows on the Moon is a solid, if long, fairy tale retelling with moments of pure magic.  Rating 3.5/5.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Love-Shy by Lili Wilkinson

Love-Shy by Lili Wilkinson
Reviewed by Maggie: April 9, 2012
Published April 1, 2012 by Allen & Unwin
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond • Book Depository

Reading an author, who all your friends have already read, for the first time is like going on a blind date. You already kind of go in with an impression because you've heard how funny or charming so-and-so is, and "I swear, you'll love him!" There's also some trepidation because what if you don't like this person all your friends love? Maybe it really is you.*

Lili Wilkinson is an author whose name I've heard from many people, mostly due to her book Pink. I always meant to read that book, but it ended up getting lost amongst all my other meant-to-reads. When I saw the premise (and cover) of Love-Shy, I was finally ready for my date with Ms. Wilkinson.

Love-Shy is about Penny Drummond, girl reporter. She's the school superstar and looking for her next challenge, which she will naturally crush of course. In particular, she wants to write a standout article that will set her on her future path to the Pulitzer. She finds her story on a library computer -- namely, on a forum that the previous user hadn't logged out of. The forum is and according to the actual website, it's about,

DATELESSNESS! Romantic inexperience! Extreme difficulty forming romantic relationships!

Penny sets out to discover and conquer -- discover the hapless love-shy and conquer his love-shyness. Hijinks ensue. Vomit is, well, vomited. Pocky sticks are given. iPhones prove once and for all to be a stalker's best friend.

What initially struck me were the names of the students at East Glendale Secondary College. Rory Singh, Con Stingas, Perry Chau, Youssef Saad, Rin Tamaki. Of course, those names are interspersed with names like Amy Butler, Olivia Fischer, and Sarah Parsons, but that's how it should be! It shouldn't be Smith, Jones, Miller and then ASIAN STUDENT Perry Chau. I hate that. Why should the default assumption be white? Why should there only be one minority? If this were a real blind date, this is the point where I'd take things from just drinks to dinner.

Penny. When I first saw Mandee's status update comparing Penny to Bindy Mackenzie, I immediately started convulsing in my chair. Then I remembered Bindy and I made peace after our two week standoff. When I read Penny, instead of my new BFF Bindy, I pictured Paris Geller, namely Season 3 Paris. If your Gilmore Girls memory isn't up to date, a) FOR SHAME! and b) this is the Paris that begins the season rooming with Rory in DC and ends with her giving a very memorable speech about sex and Harvard. What I like about both Penny and Paris is that they are goal-oriented, driven students. They are smart and they know it, so they're pretty cocky, but so what! As Muhammad Ali once said, It ain't bragging if you can back it up! Of course, there's another adage about pride coming before the fall, and does it ever. However, it's about getting up and getting better. I love characters like this, who work hard and have to work harder for your affection because it doesn't come naturally. At this point in the date, I'm ordering dessert.

The boys. This is where Lili Wilkinson really shines. She takes the handsome, brooding, quiet guy, the guy every girl is in love with, and gives him not a genius IQ but SEVERE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS. Take that, trope! This is such a needed reality check -- for me too! I always project hidden depths onto the brooding loners when more often than not, there are reasons for them being alone. I like how Wilkinson glides between serious and light when addressing these issues.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the quirky characters.

Verdict: 4/5 stars, and I'm so ready for my second date!

I'd like to give a special thanks to Mandee of VeganYANerds for sharing this book with me. She's not only introduced me to a ton of new Australian YA authors (check out her reviews for the Australian Women Writers Challenge), she's also taught me some slang. You can read her review of Love-Shy here

*I was once set up with a guy because "He's Asian! And he likes sports! You're Asian! And you like sports!" I later found out his nickname was "Man Boobs" and my woman boobs didn't hold a candle to his. It isn't you.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bookmark Binge: April 8, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

Check out the Wanderlove tumblr and submit the place that sticks in your heart.
Give a listen to Kirsten Hubbard's official Wanderlove playlist.
Sloppy Firsts?
Don't miss Forever Young Adults interview with Megan McCafferty.
Take in the cinematic excellence of this YouTube 10th anniversary tribute. (spoilers!)

Oh look at these links just lying around...
ICYMI: The US paperback cover for The Piper Son was revealed. Preorder for $5.99!
If you can overcome your jealousy of Jo, listen to her Marchetta-produced Mackee mix CD!
The Rejectionist officially introduces herself (and her  upcoming book!)
Ever wonder how your favorite YA heroine would handle the every day crap you do?
New Aussie YA author (!) blurbed by Melina Marchetta (!!) and reviewed by VeganYANerds.
In a book club? Jessi Kirby is doing a Book Club In A Bag giveaway for In Honor.

Upcoming reviews on YAA:

Basically...every book at the library.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Adventures in the Bargain Book Bin: April 6, 2012

By Noelle

I admit it: I spend at least a couple hours a month in the Amazon Bargain Book section.  I generally look for hardcovers under $8,  paperbacks under $5 and e-books under $4.  Just in case clicking through 100 pages of book links isn't your thing, here is what caught my eye this time around.

Warning: Some of these have extremely limited available quantities.

Stray (Touchstone #1) by Andrea K. Höst • Goodreads
E-book: FREE 
(Thanks for the heads up, Wendy!)


Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80 $1.22 (thanks Flannery!)

The Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante • Goodreads
Hardcover - $2.36

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

More bargain priced hard covers and paperbacks after the jump!