Thursday, September 30, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Jumping the Shark





Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme hosted here. This week's question:

Suggested by Jennifer:
If you read series, do you ever find a series “jumping the shark?” How do you feel about that?
And, do you keep reading anyway?

I love series...I think it started as a kid when I devoured every Baby Sitter's Club and Sweet Valley book ever. Getting so devoted to characters and invested in their lives is why I love to read, so series are perfect for me.

But, of course, I've had to stop a few midway through. I gave up on the Wicked Lovely series, but not because I disliked it. I just started to feel like there was a fairy overload. In between the books, this fairy trend just picked up and by then I just...had enough. (I fully acknowledge how geeky this sounds.)

That's not to say that I won't pick it up again down the line. That's the beautiful thing about a series! You can always come back to it and, for the most part, pick back up where you left off.

What do you guys think?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Stork
By Wendy Delsol
Candlewick, released October 12, 2010 (soon!!!)

Oh baby! A hip heroine discovers that she has the ability to decide who gets pregnant in this witty YA blend of romance and the supernatural.

Sixteen-year-old Katla has just moved from Los Angeles to the sticks of Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, she learns to her horror that she’s a member of an ancient order of women who decide to whom certain babies will be born. Add to that Wade, the arrogant football star whom Katla regrettably fooled around with, and Jack, a gorgeous farm boy who initially seems to hate her. Soon Katla is having freaky dreams about a crying infant and learns that, as children, she and Jack shared a near-fatal, possibly mystical experience. Can Katla survive this major life makeover and find a dress for the homecoming dance? Drawing from Norse mythology and inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, debut author Wendy Delsol conceives an irreverent, highly entertaining novel about embracing change and the (baby) bumps along the way.


— Amazon.com description

First time novelist? Gorgeous farm boy? Freaky dreams and an ancient order of women? Nice! This book sounds like it's right up my alley, and I am a huge sucker for books based on fairy tales and old mythology (See: Princess of the Midnight Ball, etc.). Can't wait for it!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Banned English Education

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Ulysses, by James Joyce
1984, by George Orwell
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
Howards End, by E.M. Forster
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

I went to public school from K-12 and then to a public university. I signed up for every English class they'd let me take. One semester in high school, administrators let me take four at a time. Can you imagine the amount of information that exposed me to? At some point in my public education, I studied all of the books listed above and then some. Classics and contemporary works by brilliant authors from every time period, race, social class and gender.

All of these books have been banned or challenged somewhere in America. Some kid like me is beyond thirsty for knowledge, for more books, for more English classes. She isn't being offered the opportunities I was. It breaks my heart. I know I'm a successful editor today because I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. What would have been left of my English education if all of these books were withheld from me?

Do parents have the right to control which books their kids read? Sure do. But I'm glad my parents didn't. And parents sure as hell don't have the right to control what books other people's children read by banning books.

Upset about it? Add one of these books to your "to-read" list. Check out the ALA's Banned Book Week site. Share a banned book with a young adult in your life. And, above all, keep talking about it.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Friday, September 24, 2010

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

I feel like a stronger, freer woman now. I just broke up with a book.

I tried to make it work. I really did. I saw the book's good qualities. It was beautifully written. Funny. Feminist, even! And I saw that it could be a beneficial book for some people. Just not for me. I wasn't the right audience, nor was I in the right mind-set to read it.

It wasn't the book—it was me.

But I plowed on. "Maybe I just need to get to know the book a little better," I thought. With other books, I found it really paid off to keep reading. Maybe this book would be the same.

Yet I found myself watching How I Met Your Mother repeats instead of reading. I NEVER choose TV over books!

I was obsessing over it. Then I remembered something my husband said that (I know this sounds lame!) was actually a total aha! moment: "You know, you don't have to finish a book. Your time is too valuable to be wasted on something you aren't enjoying."

As a committed reader, that was hard to embrace. It feels like giving up. Isn't part of reading to learn more about the world around you...and about yourself? Sometimes part of the experience and learning process of reading is to try things you normally wouldn't. And to challenge yourself with books that aren't really "you." But maybe at some point you have to step back and realize: This is a hobby.

Isn't a hobby supposed to be fun? And if you're making yourself miserable about trying to finish a book, at what point are you wasting your precious time? The answers are probably different for everyone.

But for me it was clear. It was time to move on. Sorry, book, I'm just not that into you. And, damn, it feels SO GOOD to move on!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe Road
By Melina Marchetta
2006, HarperTeen, 432 pages




In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions.
At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor's the reluctant leader of her school's underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can't avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.


— Amazon.com description

First things first: I didn't know much about this book going in except that multiple sources said that if anyone was going to eclipse my love of Marcus Flutie, it would be Melina Marchetta's Jonah Griggs. So...did he? No! Marcus Flutie 4-eva!

That being said, did I love Jonah Griggs? Yes. Did I love this book? YES!

Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful book. Given that it was the 2008 Printz Award winner, I shouldn't be surprised. But I really am. This book is difficult to get into. It's confusing and told in pieces...but that's the point. As Taylor puts together pieces of information to finally get the full story about her life, the reader is just as confused and clueless and angry and scared as she is. And if you have the patience to sift through things with Taylor, the overall end result will be so worth it.

Plus side: Another Australian book! And this time I'm putting that on the plus side, because honestly once you figure out that "pashing" means "kissing," you've got the most important information you need, in my opinion.

Also on the plus side...Jonah Griggs! I totally see him as Bug from Life, Unexpected. Yes? No? Thoughts?

Down side: I'm not exaggerating when I say that this book requires patience. But the joy of this book is about going along for the journey. It's a well-crafted mystery that's beautifully thought out. Stick with it!

Moral of the story: Twofold...first, this line from the book: "But there's a joy and an abundance of everything, like information and laughter and summer weather and so many stories." Sure, information can be painful, but in Taylor's case, what stands out to me is how much relief information and stories and knowing your own background can bring.

Second: War, what is it good for? The Townies vs. Jellicoe students vs. Cadets war is ruthless and continues year after year without question. But when you learn about how the war first started years ago and the "enemies" start to get to know each other, you start to realize...what is it exactly they're fighting over? Again, information = power!

You might also like:
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (Marcus, I love you!!!)*

Anna Reads young adult book blog

* When I picture you without dreadlocks.

PS: A reliable source says Marcus' next competition is in Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund, so I'll keep you updated!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Shade
By Jeri Smith-Ready
2010, Simon Pulse, 320 pages



Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.
Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.
Well, sort of.
Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.
It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.
As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.


— Amazon.com description

How to I explain how I felt about this book without totally spoiling it? Because there were twists and turns and mysteries and an ending that just left me feeling...aghhhh! But I will say this at least: I was starting to get bored with the YA urban fantasy genre. Yeah, werewolves, vampires, all that, I get it...book after book. And then this book came along, about ghosts of all things, and I was sincerely interested and, for the first time in a while with an urban fantasy book, emotionally invested. And that pleasantly surprised me. Toward the end, there's a crucial scene where all the attention is focused on Logan, and I actually CRIED. I can't remember that last time I cried at a book that wasn't totally contemporary.

Plus side: GHOST SEX. No, really. Listen, I was Team Zachary from the get-go because, I mean, a) hot accent and b) Logan's dead, so he's not really much of a viable option, right? But still hot...even if it was with Logan and it totally got them in trouble later. I'm just saying! It was also clear that this book was very well thought out. The details of this alternative universe and its back story were impeccable.

Also on the plus side? Deep analysis of a Death Cab for Cutie song. Nice!

Down side: I was scared the whole time that Zachary was going to be her secret twin brother. Even Aura thought it might be true! I was so torn the whole book. Stop playing with my emotions, Jeri Smith-Ready! Also, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who for some of the peripheral characters, but not really a big deal.

Moral of the story (well, not really): Go listen to some Irish rock!



You might also like:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

PS: Shade's sequel, Shift, will be released in May 2011.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly

In a few days, it's Banned Book Week and all the crazies who want to prevent young adults from reading literature that could save their lives will once again come out of the woodwork. To start, a man who refers to the rape scenes in the BRILLIANT book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson as "pornography" and is fighting to have the book banned...this attitude is sick, disturbing and dangerous.

Books were a lifeline to me as a young adult (and still are) and I was blessed to be able to read whatever I wanted...I will speak loudly for others to have that RIGHT. As Twitter user @Miss_Tammy put it so well: "Don't want your kid to read a particular book? Fine. Don't want any other kids to read it either? Not fine."

Join the hashtag started on Twitter at #speakloudly. It's been an invigorating and inspiring conversation so far!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grown-Up Book Time

Well, I can officially say this is the next book I need to read for work. DEFINITELY far, far away from the type of book I normally read. We'll see how that goes...wish me luck!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer
By Sarah Ockler
2009, Little, Brown, 304 pages



According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie—she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.


— Amazon.com description

Oh my, more books on death. Again, I feel I was able to appreciate this book because I knew that was its premise going in. No real shockers after reading the back of the book.

The story starts out with Anna's (what a great name!) remembrances of falling in love with Matt. Cake fights, sneaking away at night, whispered promises...I really, truly feel for their growing romance and now would like to please, Sarah Ockler, read a version of this book in which he lives. Mmmkay? Thanks. Because Matt = adorable.

Well, but then he died. Which was just shocking even though I knew it was coming and sad sad sad. Frankie and Anna are sent into a funk—but how can Anna grieve for her lost, secret boyfriend when she's got Frankie to support? Ockler did a beautiful job of letting the readers in on all of the characters' emotions. She doesn't just tell you what Anna's going through...she makes you feel it yourself.

Gut-wrenching to read, but beautifully done.

Plus side: Grief and death are very real issues that everyone has to deal with. The main question here, "What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?" Anna writes in her journal to Matt. It's a version of a question anyone who's going through a loss has asked themselves. Again, this book just felt very sincere and honest. A good read.

Down side: The entire virginity plotline. I didn't care for how callous the girls were about it. And then when someone DOES lose her V-card, it's kinda swept over. I get that, in comparison to Matt's death, maybe it's not going to seem like a huge deal. But it IS a huge deal, especially when the girl is 16. It was hardly discussed or thought about or anything after it happened, and that deeply bothered me. NOT for the 12+ crowd that the publisher suggests.

Moral of the story: At the end of grief, once you've been truthful with yourself and others about how you feel, perhaps you'll experience what Anna does: "Calm, I guess. And love. And forgiveness. And closure. A beginning, an ending, and a new beginning."

Side note: GORGEOUS cover, and the sea glass fits into the story perfectly. Kudos, cover designer!

You might also like:
Oh, I don't know anything ever by Nicholas Sparks? For your weepy types? I don't know, I don't read that...someone ALWAYS dies.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Year of Secret Assignments
By Jaclyn Moriarty
2004, Arthur A. Levine Books, 352 pages



The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program was designed to bring together the "lowlife Brooker kids" (as they're known to the Ashburyites) and the "rich Ashbury snobs" (as they're called by the Brookfielders) in a spirit of harmony and the Joy of the Envelope. But things don't go quite as planned. Lydia and Sebastian trade challenges, like setting off the fire alarm at Brookfield. Emily tutors Charlie in How to Go On a Date with a Girl. But it's Cassie and Matthew who both reveal and conceal the most about themselves—and it's their secrets and lies that set off a war between the two schools.

— Amazon.com description

Husband, reading the back of the book: "Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools. This could get messy."
Me: "Shut up, you don't even KNOWWWWWWW!"

Listen, don't judge this book by its cover/back cover. It looks super lame, but I haven't laughed out loud this much while reading a book in AGES! Jaclyn Moriarty now = most hilarious person ever. I hate the smiley face on the cover and would never have picked this up if I hadn't read all the amazing reviews of it online.

The Australian version of this book has a MUCH better cover, though I prefer the English title. "Secret assignments? Oh, mysterious!" Totally makes you want to read, right? As opposed to book about crazy Cassie, which is so not even the point of the book.

On the plus side: An Amazon review compares the book to a modern Jane Austen, and I can see it in the same way Clueless is based on Emma. Miscommunications, revenge, kissing. All the basics are still there, but with a twist. Three best friends, the daughters of lawyers, get an assignment in English class to write to pen pals at the rival school on "the other side of the tracks," Brookfield. Oh gosh, where could it go wrong?

Downsides: None. Unless you feel like reading something serious, but underneath all the silliness this book does have a lot of meat (grief, communication, how to stand up for yourself, children's rights to privacy...I could go on). Oh, and it's based in Australia, so sometimes it's like, "What's a breakfast pyramid?" But you figure it out. Kind of. What IS a breakfast pyramid?

Moral of the story: As Cora says in the book: "And maybe that's the trick to getting through it, through life: realizing that everybody, including ourselves, is lugging around some kind of screwed-up baggage. Maybe we are put here to help each other carry the loads."

You might also like:
Emma by Her Highness Who I Worship Jane Austen...you can't truly appreciate the modern stuff till you've read the BEST OF THE BEST.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

A Map of the Known World
By Lisa Ann Sandell
2009, Scholastic, 272 pages



Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

— Amazon.com description

Oh, hello, Amazon.com description. You had me at the word "brooding."

I refuse to read books about death. There is nothing I hate more than getting really invested in a character only to have them die halfway through a book. I read to experience different things through the eyes of characters, but why would I want to put myself through that turmoil in my free time? That being said, if I can read a book description and know in advance that a character dies, or perhaps that the character died just before the plot of the book begins, then I can deal.

Which is exactly why I was able to love, love, love this book, which is, on the surface, all about death. Cora's big brother died suddenly in a car crash, and she's left to deal with entering high school as "the dead kid's little sister." She turns to drawing "maps of the known world" as an escape from her small town. But when she starts getting to know Damian, her brother's best friend, she realizes there's plenty of unknowns to uncover right at home and that it's okay to turn to others for help.

MAJOR plus side: In the end, this isn't a book all about death—it's about life and moving on. It's the type of contemporary realism + love story I've been wanting since I devoured all the Sarah Dessen stories ever written. Damian and Cora's romance is very nicely and subtly written, and Cora's introspections make for a thoughtful read.

Downsides: Well, OBVIOUSLY it's sad. But it's sooooo good, who cares?

Moral of the story: As Cora says in the book: "And maybe that's the trick to getting through it, through life: realizing that everybody, including ourselves, is lugging around some kind of screwed-up baggage. Maybe we are put here to help each other carry the loads."

You might also like:
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley (LOVE!)

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

The Daughters
By Joanna Philbin
2010, Poppy, 288 pages



The only daughter of supermodel Katia Summers, witty and thoughtful Lizzie Summers likes to stick to the sidelines. The sole heir to Metronome Media and daughter of billionaire Karl Jurgensen, outspoken Carina Jurgensen would rather climb mountains than social ladders. Daughter of chart-topping pop icon Holla Jones, stylish and sensitive Hudson Jones is on the brink of her own music breakthrough.

By the time freshman year begins, unconventional-looking Lizzie Summers has come to expect fawning photographers and adoring fans to surround her gorgeous supermodel mother. But when Lizzie is approached by a fashion photographer that believes she's "the new face of beauty," Lizzie surprises herself and her family by becoming the newest Summers woman to capture the media's spotlight.


— Amazon.com description

First things first: Let's discuss how much I love Regis Philbin. I used to watch the show every day every summer with my mom as a kid. So, of course, I totally feel like Joanna Philbin = my long lost family friend.

Moving on...

On the plus side: I love how you can tell that Philbin put a lot of herself into this story. Not just the fact that the three main characters are daughters of celebs and so is she. But you can also tell that Philbin was a girl just like Lizzie once who loved to write and had to learn, perhaps the hard way, that you have to a) write what you know and b) stay true to yourself in your writing in order to succeed. And that's just what Philbin did in this book, and I can just tell through the writing that she's so excited to tell this story and share these lessons with young girls. OKAY that was really kumbaya of me, but that's totally all I could think while reading this book.

Well, that and about Regis.

On the down side, a lil bit: So, though the girls are super rich and spoiled, this wasn't a dirty sexytimes Gossip Girl book, which is nice and age appropriate. But I can't get over how the girls in the book are supposed to be 14 years old. Whoa, whoa, whoa you can't even get a learner's permit to drive yet! You shouldn't be hanging out alone with fashion photographers! You are acting way too mature! Be a kid while you still can! But, in the end, they all did learn to stay true to themselves, talk things out with their parents, and all that good stuff...so the overall lessons are still good for a younger audience.

And I did love the little peek into celeb kid life. Juicy, right?

Moral of the story:



You might also like:
L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad for another sweet peek into celeb life!

Anna Reads young adult book blog
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