Libba Bray’s newest novel opens at a 1920s New York City party that, despite the presence of illicit booze, is not going well. The hostess, in an effort to liven things up, pulls out a Ouija board, which begins spewing terrifying messages: “I stand at the door and knock. I am the beast.” With that, Bray effectively sets a mood of terrifying foreboding that creeps around the edges of her character’s bright jazz age lives, occasionally rushing in to plunge them all into darkness.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
“...a senior boy and freshman girl doing furtive nastiness in some far-flung corner, his arm jammed up her shirt, over her baby-fat girl belly, her eyes wide with panic and excitement, already, in her head, practicing the telling of the moment even as the moment slips from her.”
I was partly sad because Omar Epps and Tyra Banks loved each other, dammit, and now their love would never be. But mostly I was sad because Tyra was a promising young athlete who had worked very hard to get to college and now she would never go the Olympics and set world track records. She would have to be a model instead. So sad.
But seriously, I think it’s because in movies where the lady lead is an athlete, she is necessarily shown coming up against brutal physical and emotional barricades and doggedly bursting through them. She is allowed to be tough in a way that women rarely are in movies but often are in real life. Watching lady athletes in movies inspires me to be just as tough as they are (even if I’m just being tough about jogging for 20 minutes instead of sitting on my couch). Here is a list of movies about ladies doing sports that are much better than Higher Learning and made me cry even harder.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Literary Inspiration: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
Like its forebear, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is a complete delight, chock full of some of the most delicious language I have ever read. For example:
"Iago yawned so wide his eyes bulged and his white teeth shoed sharp. He licked his dark muzzle. “Cats don’t have dark sides. That’s all a shadow is—and though you might be prejudiced against the dark, you ought to remember that that’s where stars live, and the moon and raccoons and owls and fireflies and mushrooms and cats and enchantments and a rather lot of good, necessary things. Thieving, too, and conspiracies, sneaking, secrets, and desire so strong you might faint dead away with the punch of it. But your light side isn’t a perfectly pretty picture, either, I promise you. You couldn’t dream without the dark. You couldn’t rest. You couldn’t even meet a lover on a balcony by moonlight. And what would the world be worth without that?"
-Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (2012. Feiwell and Friends: New York. p. 202)
Mmmmm. Scrumptious. And there are gems like that on every page. Practically every sentence. It’s a book so dripping with beauty and imagination that it should be read only in small chunks, nibbled on and savored like the fanciest dark chocolate. This is literature designed to stimulate and grown the spirit, to nourish as well as to entertain.
I believe I have made it clear that I love Natalie from Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker. So when I discovered that Milford had written The Kairos Mechanism, a companion novella to The Boneshaker, I knew that above all, this meant one important thing: I would get to spend more time with Natalie.
The Kairos Mechanism finds Natalie struggling to understand the things she learned in The Boneshaker about her town, her mother’s role in the town, and her mother’s illness. But before she gets a chance to do much wondering, trouble arrives in the form of two soldiers returning the dead body of the town saloon-keeper’s younger brother. His younger brother who died in the Civil War several decades previous. His younger brother whose perfectly preserved body is that of a young man.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
"...they talked, too, of their futures, as if they could shape the glittering course of their destinies with secret confessions offered like prayers to the room's benevolent hush. They talked until their words grew sparse with their drowsiness."
-Libba Bray, The Diviners (2012. Little, Brown and Company: New York. page 125)
-Libba Bray, The Diviners (2012. Little, Brown and Company: New York. page 125)
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Ever since I finished Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the sequel, Days of Blood & Starlight, to the point where now, when it is coming out TODAY, I almost can’t believe that it is actually happening. I’m so excited to read it that I don’t even want to read a summary; I just want to go into it completely fresh. So in lieu of a summary here, I will present a brief story.
This year I went to NYC Comic Con. In addition to all the comics publishers, artists, writers, collectors, figurine-sellers, etc., several book publishers had tables set up. And on one, I spied, next to some copies of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, a pile of thin volumes with similar looking but slightly more fiery cover art. “Is that…the sequel?” I gasped.
Monday, November 5, 2012
A few weeks ago, I finished Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and, after I finished crying, I started panicking about how long I was going to have to wait to read the next installment in her Lynburn Legacy series. In tribute, I have put together a list of seven series installments (four novels, three graphic novels) whose endings made me howl with rage because I wanted more, More, MORE!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
If the words nineteenth century New York City, Crossroads, Good Versus Evil, Orphans, and Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge excite you, then hello and welcome! You are my soul sister! If not, then you are probably not as excited as I am to read The Broken Lands by Kate Milford.
I loved the companion novel, The Boneshaker, particularly the main character, Natalie. But even without Natalie, I have faith in Milford’s ability to weave a complex and deeply moving story resonating with fantastical historic nostalgia.
Also, the summary mentions Coney Island, which, judging by how Milford handled the Nostrum Fair in The Boneshaker, can only mean good things.
Celebrating female characters, fictional and non-, that inspire us to be brave, be strong, and generally be the best selves we can because they are so awesome.
Who is she?
Natalie Minks, heroine of The Boneshaker by Kate Milford.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
That's why we have to care about each other."
- David Levithan, Every Day (2012. Alfred A. Knopf: New York. page 320)
Friday, September 14, 2012
The Tiny Cooper Award for Best Supporting Character (TCABSC, pronounced Tuh-Cab-Skuh) was created to honor those special guys and gals who, while not the main focus of the book, are still extraordinary. TheTiny Coopers (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), Anitas (West Side Story), and Robins (Batman) of the fictional world may not always get the girl (or guy), but sometimes they fulfill their role of supporting or obstructing the lead character in such a phenomenal way that it deserves special notice. This attention now comes in the form of an imaginary award made up by me. Hey, they’re not the main characters, so they have to take what they can get.
This Tiny Cooper Award for Best Supporting Character goes to: Ladies and gentleman, this is unprecedented! For the first time in YA Department history, IT’S A TIE! Two of the supporting characters from The Girl WhoCircumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente are so awesome that they are sharing the award! A-through-L (nickname Ell) and Saturday, come on down and claim your prize!
What happens when all your favorite awesome kick-ass lady characters (and Bella) move into a house together, Bad Girl's Club style? Hermione is generally upbeat and dorky, Lisbeth freaks everyone out with her hacking and lack of social skills, Katniss moves into a tree, Buffy talks a lot about "Mr. Pointy," Michonne brandishes her sword and worries about walkers, and Bella moons around over Edward.
Check out episodes 2 and 3 at http://www.comediva.com/.
Check out episodes 2 and 3 at http://www.comediva.com/.
Friday, August 10, 2012
At the start of Holly Black’s White Cat, 17-year-old Cassel is anxious to let us know that he is not a good guy. He comes from a family of curse workers and has grown up learning how to con everyone he encounters. And, most chillingly, he killed the one girl he ever loved.
He can’t remember much about it. His brothers won’t talk to him about it, and his mother, who is in prison for working a wealthy man, tells him to do what his brothers say. For some time that has meant attending a boarding school and trying to stay out of trouble, which, since Cassel is the only member of his family without worker abilities, isn’t difficult. But when Cassel wakes up at the top of a school building’s tower with no idea how he got there, his safe life begins to crumble. As he tries to solve the mystery of his sleepwalking, dreams of a white cat intersect with his memories of Lila, the girl he killed, the mobsters that his brothers work for, and a knot of family secrets and lies.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Catherynn M. Valente’s The GirlWho Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making for so long.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Before you get all huffy, I’m talking about the UK Skins, not that thing that was on MTV and shall never be spoken of again.
For those who are not familiar, Skins is a UK show about a group of sixth-form (essentially the last two years of high school in the British education system, where students are prepared for A-level exams, which are used in university admissions) friends who party, fall in and out of love with one another, and try to figure out the meaning of it all. Each episode focuses on one of the core characters (and sometimes one of the fringe characters), presenting the world from their point of view, so that individual episodes can be stylistically distinct.
The show takes huge artistic risks, which sometimes pay off beautifully and other times fail spectacularly, but it always manages to capture the desperate intangible yearning of being an almost adult.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
In which I reread every Sweet Vally High book and provide thoughtful insight into and analysis of the various anecdotes of the Wakefields, Patmans, Fowlers, and other famed denizens of Sweet Valley, California. (This post originally appeared on my previous blog, I Love/ Hate Celebrities, which is no longer active.)
Episode #2: Secrets
Sweet Valley High book 2 starts exactly the same way book 1 did: with drop-dead gorgeous Wakefield twin Jessica complaining about how hideous she is. But Jessica is not actually worried about her appearance; she's just fishing for compliments, which her "best friend" Cara Walker obligingly provides. I say "best friend" because we are told that the reasons Jessica likes Cara are that 1) Cara loves gossip even more than Jessica does, and 2) Cara is really pretty, but not quite as pretty as Jessica Wakefield. Well duh, I mean, she's a brunette. It's weird to read this early caricature of Cara Walker in light of who she becomes later in the series, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. For now, Cara is the girl who loves gossip. Period. But Caroline Pierce is also the girl who loves gossip, period. At this early stage, the only detectable difference between Cara Walker and Caroline Pierce is the fact that neither Jessica nor Elizabeth like Caroline Pierce.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
After Iron Man 2 came out back in 2010, I was surprised to hear so many people talking smack about Scarlett Johansson’s performance as the Black Widow. “It was lame,” one friend said. “She sucked so hard,” another said. “I thought she was fine,” I replied, and they gave me pitying looks. This year, when I read the DC new 52 title Winter Soldier, I understood why they were so upset: Black Widow is awesome. She is a tough confident woman with deadly skills and moral complexity. And Iron Man 2 had reduced her to a hot babe in a skintight jumpsuit.
But I wasn’t sure that was completely Johansson’s fault.
When The Avengers came out a few weeks ago, those same friends were pleased to report that she was “fine” and even “surprisingly good” as the Black Widow. When I finally got around to seeing it myself, I was thrilled with the character.
SPOILERS AHEAD! (Although box office returns suggest that many of you have seen this movie.)
Friday, June 1, 2012
Sometimes I feel like books and comics have to be filled with unhappy characters with depressing problems in order to be considered serious adult literature by whoever decides these things. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Yes, friends, it is possible for comics to have a buoyant tone, a happy ending, and cute animals and still be excellent works of art and literature. And two books I recently read, Castle Waiting by Linda Medley and Beasts of Burden written by Evan Dorkin, art by Jill Thompson, are excellent examples.
The Vampire Diaries season 1, episode 22, "Founder’s Day"
My decision to watch The Vampire Diaries was primarily based on nostalgia. Having read and loved L.J. Smith's books when I was in junior high, I was thrilled to see them having a rebirth both on the NY Times bestseller list and on the small screen. And only partially because it gave me many opportunities to exorcise my nerd rage in a health way by informing people who called TVD a Twilight ripoff, “Actually, these books were originally published in 1991, well before Twilight.”
The first episode was fine. Nothing I was too excited about, but good enough to keep me watching. But then it happened; sometime during the middle of the first season, I stopped telling people I watched TVD because I used to love the books and started telling them that this was THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION and if they thought they were too cool to watch it then they were MISSING OUT. All of this came to a head in the season 1 finale, when the show became so awesome, that even satirically self-described bastion of “critics/hipsters/snobs/douchebags,” the AV Club (aka, one of my favorite web sites) had to sit up and take notice.
Major spoilers ahead! (Although if you haven’t watched this yet, what are you doing? It’s on Netflix Instant and in case you didn’t hear me before, it’s SO good.)
Thursday, May 31, 2012
My love of prep school novels (PSNs) has been well documented (by me). So well documented, in fact, that Jennifer Miller herself found my blog post about this topic, friended me on Goodreads, and suggested that I try her PSN when it came out. The short note she sent me was humble, witty, and charming enough that I actually bought this book, braving the Kindle new release prices instead of picking it up from the library.
Hey, I figured, what can it hurt?
Turns out, this is one of my favorite books of the year so far.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I have been reading a LOT of comics lately (both in comic book and graphic novel form) so I wanted to share a few links of some cool stuff around the web.
-Forever Young Adult did this cool post about YA graphic novels. This article suggests only three books, so if you read those and get hooked (or if you are already hooked), GraphicNovelReporter has collected the Young Adult Library ServicesAssociation’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists from 2007 through 2012.
-I have been loving Kelly Thompson’s pieces for Comic Book Resources. Her column, which is called She Has No Head!, deals thoughtfully with comics from a feminist perspective, but it is also just a really fun column from a woman who loves her some comic books. She also has a podcast called Three Chicks Review Comics.
-My awesome co-worker introduced me to the most wonderful web comic that I am completely in love with. Little League by Yale Stewart follows the exploits of the young DC heroes as they attend elementary school, facing down bullies in the schoolyard, avoiding cooties, and saving old ladies from muggers. It’s insanely charming, the art is wonderful, and tiny angry Batman is so adorable I can’t stand it.
(Image from http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Doc_Strange)
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
As someone who gets her history from the novels she reads, I was paying close attention while reading Betty Smith’s wonderful A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so that I could pick up some juicy historical tidbits. (OK, that’s an exaggeration; I read history books too, just not nearly as many as novels. History just makes more sense to me when it’s in story form! Me and most other people in the country, I guess, which explains why Devil in the White City, a non-fiction book that reads like a novel, is so popular.)
1) People in Olden Times Had Sex
I know this shouldn’t be shocking, considering the continued presence of man on earth, but there is a tendency in the popular narrative to view earlier times as much more innocent, where there was no crime and everyone frolicked naked in the garden without shame. Literature from earlier eras often bears out this view, essentially cutting to the fireplace in lieu of the good stuff, leaving blank empty space in its wake which, nine months later, is filled by a delightful and clean infant.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Janet Varney, SF Sketchfest co-founder and voice of Korra on The Legend of Korra has a podcast, and I couldn’t be more excited. I first heard Janet Varney on The Nerdist podcast, where she captured my heart with her unabashed love of Doctor Who, and my love grew on Twitter where she provided me with daily doses of charming hilarity. (Recent sample tweet: “Hello, Austin Texas! Or “Tejas,” as I like to say, when looking to be slapped.” – Janet Varney) On Varney’s podcast, The JV Club, she talks to various comedian and actress friends (all ladies so far, which feels like a warm shelter in the vast male podcast wilderness) about their high school years.
We’ve all been there: sitting up in bed at three in the morning, novel clutched in our hand, the words shivering through us as our heart beats faster and faster, unable to stop reading, partly because the book is so good that we have to find out what happens and partly because we are too afraid to turn out the light. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just try reading one of the books on this list. Each one of these Truly Terrifying YA books inspired me to pull the blanket just a little bit tighter around me and wonder: Could there be something out there in the darkness?
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I Kill Giants, written by Joe Kelly and drawn by JM Ken Niimura, tells the story of Barbara, a fifth-grader who wears rabbit ears and carries a heart-shaped purse named Coveleski. She lives with her brother and an older sister who takes care of them both. And she kills giants.
Barbara doesn’t have many friends, and the school psychologist takes a special interest in her. But not just because of her avowed giant killing. Something has happened to Barbara, something so upsetting that she refuses to talk about it.
Rather than drawing excitement from the question of whether Barbara’s giants are real, the true tension comes from the slow revelation of the devastating real-life tragedy that Barbara is escaping by subsuming herself in fantasy. And the reader doesn’t get to find out what it is until Barbara is ready to admit it to herself.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Today, I am celebrating the end of the preface in The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein (Bantam, 2003).
Friday, April 6, 2012
Part of the reason I didn’t date in high school is that I wanted the kind of 17-year-old boy who appears in YA books: sensitive, kind, and desiring of a committed adult relationship. But even teenage me knew the truth: no 17-year-old boy is ready for an adult relationship. (Or 17-year-old girl, for that matter. I certainly wouldn’t have known what to actually do with one if I came across it at that age.) However, Augustus Waters, the love interest in JohnGreen’s The Fault in Our Stars, is ready for that kind of love because he has to be. He’s a 17 year old with cancer; if not now, there may be no when.
Friday, March 30, 2012
opening lines of a novel establish tone, mood, voice, and a whole mess of other things, as well as being responsible for pulling the reader into the story. The closing lines of a novel have the job of summing up the story, providing closure, and making readers feel a simultaneous joy at the ending and sorrow that their reading experience is over. But what pulls the reader through their journey from the excitement of a beginning to the bitter sweetness of an ending?
As each chapter ends, the desire to put the book down in order to go to the bathroom, go to sleep, or get going to work may come over the reader. Smart authors avoid this by making the ends of their chapters so fantastic that the reader has no choice but to continue on their literary journey, uninterrupted. Some do this with thrilling cliffhangers, others with painful emotional reveals. Regardless of the technique, the end of the chapter has a certain feel to it, a teasing look that says, “Sure, this part of the story’s over. But don’t you want to find out what happens next?
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
My library queue has been a little wonky lately. A few books I put on hold have lots of people ahead of me with holds of their own. And some (I’m looking at you, Left Hand of Darkness!!!) have not progressed at all in their long journey to my hands (when the hold list says 3 of 3 holds for four straight months, it’s time to give up and admit that the book is lost). What I just said may be gibberish to non-library users, but that’s because you need to start using the library. (Seriously, it is awesome. Free books! They deliver them to you!) Let me sum it up by saying that I had a few books clogging up my holds list and, as a result, was not getting as many books as I need. But now I have a healthy pile waiting for me again, and I can’t wait to dig in!
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I have been listening to Heart nonstop for the past two weeks, and it is all thanks to The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. I have always liked Heart, but I have been on a serious love binge, which has helped introduce me to some songs I never knew I loved and reintroduce me to songs I had forgotten I loved. But The Disenchantments is about much more than Heart (even though it does feature a loving tribute in the form of a road trip sing-along that gives this one and this one a run for their money). The Disenchantments is about friends, music, and finally graduating high school only to realize just how terrifying the freedom you longed for actually is.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
True story: my senior year of high school, I did a presentation about the history of
Coney Island, and how it used to be
now it’s everything it ever was AND MORE!
we’re gonna rock, ROCK
we’re gonna roll, ROLL
we’re gonna bop, BOP
and lose control
(That was where we stopped because we couldn't remember the rest.)
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
After reading AmongOthers by Jo Walton, I was inspired by Mor’s prodigious reading list to dig into some classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy. First on the docket: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey, and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I enjoyed these books, but boy oh boy did reading them make me glad that I never had to be a woman in the 60s and 70s.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
I put I’ll Be There on my library queue because Tee at YACrush said it was “perfect in every way”. It seemed like it was just going to be a regular book where a boy and girl meet each other, and I generally prefer books with fantastical elements, so it sat in my book pile unread for a couple of weeks. When I finally got to it, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. Tee was right; I’ll Be There is extraordinary.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The first glimpse we get of
is a seemingly typical school scene. A female student is caught passing a note. As a punishment, her teacher has her tell the class about her forthcoming science fair project, an advanced-sounding Chemistry experiment. We start to realize that Morning Glory has a pretty good science program. The teacher’s dismissal of the project is a clue that the school's curriculum is even more rigorous than we originally thought. And then the student goes on to say that her Chemistry project can actually be made into an explosive, and that’s when the blackboard blows up. Morning Glory Academy
Friday, February 17, 2012
Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Mysteries, I give you the YA Department Super Special #1: Angel Blood, Demon Blood, in which Jace from the Mortal Instruments series teams up with Nick from the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. Check out the synopsis below.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Before I even start, let me just say: read this book. If you like reading, you need to do it. Among Others by Jo Walton is wonderful. I loved it so much. OK, insane gushing out of the way, here is the synopsis (from the Amazon book description):
Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.
Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…
Monday, February 6, 2012
Ever since I read a New York Times article a few years ago proclaiming that angels were the new vampires in YA (an article which I cannot seem to locate and may very well have made up), I avoided angel books. However, as someone who is suspicious of articles proclaiming any sub-genre either “the next big thing” or “so over,” I should have known better. And if I had, I might have read and enjoyed Unearthly by Cynthia Hand that much sooner.
Here’s the synopsis (from the author's web site):Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The Tiny Cooper Award for Best Supporting Character (TCABSC, pronounced Tuh-Cab-Skuh) was created to honor those special guys and gals who, while not the main focus of the book, are still extraordinary. The Tiny Coopers (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), Anitas (West Side Story), and Robins (Batman) of the fictional world may not always get the girl (or guy), but sometimes they fulfill their role of supporting or obstructing the lead character in such a phenomenal way that it deserves special notice. This attention now comes in the form of an imaginary award made up by me. Hey, they’re not the main characters, so they have to take what they can get.