11.05.2011

now on indefinite hiatus

This is just to say I am hereby officially on indefinite hiatus.

Which you've probably figured out already since I don't post anything ever,  am generally more elusive than nargles, and because this blog is more hiatus-filled than post-filled.

I'm sorry.

I'm now in college, and it's not as if I don't have free time--I do. I've just found that I can't read right now or talk about books in an interesting way.

It's hard to explain. I think I'm going through one of those periods where the way I think is changing. And this time, this feeling of WHAT DO I THINK? WHY DO I THINK IT? WHO AM IIIII? includes the reading and writing portions of my brain.

Hence, the hiatus.

Readers, thank you so much for looking at my posts and resisting the urge to gouge your eyes out while doing so. And for those of you who have left me comments-- I don't even know how to express my gratitude. I've gotten some comments on this blog that are really, seriously, the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. No one would say such things to me IRL, so it's encouraging that some of you have occasionally enjoyed what I have to say/ think my blog is worthwhile enough to read.

And some of you think I'm funny! (occasionally). No one in IRL thinks I'm funny!

Anywho.

I really can't say when I'll start posting here again, it could be soon-ish or a long time from now. In the meanwhile, I don't check my email for this blog or twitter or goodreads very often, though I do on occasion. I reblog things on tumblr, but it has very little to do with YA and basically no original material other than my incessant whining about life. If you'd like my url or just want to talk (though I'm a slow replier, I'll warn you!) you can email me at inwhichagirlreads@gmail.com.

In the meanwhile, I hope your life is considerably more chocolate-filled and book-filled and puppy-filled than mine.

Innumerable thanks,
choco

10.10.2011

what to do with YA ingnoramuses?

 Y·A·L ig·no·ra·mus
(Young Adult Literature Ingnoramus)
Noun:
1) a person who has read little to no YA books but still insists on discussing them in a authoritative way. (ie: "I've read Twilight and the whole YA genre is terrible.")
2) Often can be found spewing the following: "YA is badly written," "YA is not seriously written," "Everything in YA is lacking in complexity," "Adult fiction is so much better than YA," etc.
3) someone who complains about YA's content, usually for the purpose of saying (hysterically) that innocent young children are being corrupted by YA authors.
4) a person who can somehow make the phrase, "Oh, you read YA?" equivalent to, "You are an unintelligent and immature human being, and also I don't like you."
5) someone who finishes off a negative review of a YA book with  "But what can you expect? It's YA."

I think we've all encountered a YA ignoramus, in real life, on the interwebs, or both. Unfortunately, they are not one whit like nargles, as they're quite real, quite common and seem to crop up everywhere. Also, they are generally unpleasant individuals, quite vocal in their complete disdain for YA, and usually argumentative when you jump in to protest that YA is not at all as terrible as they think.

My response to YA ignoramuses has always been to chirp in with something along the lines of  "But YA is really a very diverse genre that is not easily dismissed and categorized. Of course there are some bad books, just as there are bad books in every genre. YA doesn't make much sense as a genre anyhow, there's mystery books rubbing shoulder with romances and literary books and everything you could possibly find in one contained area in a bookstore. People who write YA aren't always in agreement with what it is, other than it should (mostly) have coming of age themes. Don't you see how silly it is to say all YA is bad?"

I might as well be speaking in another language when I say the above.

Lately, if I encounter a YA ignoramus on the internet, I try to point them to this article (Are You Reading YA Lit? You Should Be), since it is far more articulate than I am. I don't know if it's working, not because the article isn't great, but because it seems like YA ignoramuses are content to be willfully ignorant.

I find the whole cycle baffling:

Most of these people haven't read any YA. Or very, very little of it. They read Twilight (or even hear of it, secondhand, the information regarding YA blurred and distorted as it would be in the game Telephone) and suddenly they're educated enough, experts even, and feel the intense need to discuss YA and make broad, often misinformed generalizations about the whole genre. They're qualified to write ridiculous posts on the internet. Or worse yet, articles (and yes, this did happen a while ago, but I have a feeling it will happen again due to YA's increased popularity) in places like the Wall Street Journal or Slate.

It's not that I'm against discussing YA in a critical manner. I've written some discussion posts that do point out things I wish there were more of/ less of in YA (ie one on YA romance, YA high school dynamics, and older YA protagonists), but I don't mean those posts as a definitive statement on all of YA, and I certainly believe that YA harbors some of the most wonderfully written and communicative and fully emotional books being published today. Of course there are duds. YA is a genre, not a gurantee of quality.

So I wanted to ask you all, what do you do when you encounter a YA ignoramus?

The YA community, when united, is capable of responding in a vociferous and wonderful manner via tweets and blog posts, as in the "YA too dark" debacle. But when you encounter a YA ignoramus individually, how should you respond?

In  an ideal world, I would get every YA ignoramus to read some of the best YA books out there, such as Jellicoe Road or Looking for Alaska. I would like them to come back to me after reading maybe a hundred YA books currently being published (not just the ones published 5-10 years ago) and say that they still believe all YA is inferior to adult literature [insert other silly comments here].

But this doesn't happen often, as far as I've experienced. I link articles or suggest books, and I don't really see any evidence of change.

Would it be more productive to simply ignore them?

I've considered this, but not getting involved is a hard thing to do when you witness a YA ignoramus facilitating a discussion in YA on an online forum and disseminating their silly ideas to other people.

I guess there are several options:
a) ignore them completely
b) jump in and argue with them
c) jump in and smother them with book recommendations and/or informative articles

I feel like c) is the most positive response.

Actually, I think I'll ramp it up more. I'll troll the next "YA is awful" online discussion and post a flurry of moving passages/quotes from great YA books, positive reviews, and shout I LOVE YA on top of my lungs.

Yes, I'll try that next.

In the meanwhile:

What are your thoughts? What do you do when you come across a YA ignoramus? Please share.

10.03.2011

things I currently love


I am writing solely out a desire to post something, anything. But mind has been too scattered lately to write a post that focuses on one thing only. Actually, to write at all, but the topic of frozen/vanishing words I think I should save for another post entirely.

To be honest, I haven't been reading much at all for the last few weeks, not because I'm a college kid and don't have time, but because I feel somehow disconnected from books. So I can't really talk about YA and yes I'm a sad excuse for a reader/reading blogger and really I don't blame you if you don't very much care for this blog anymore and I am surprised and deeply grateful that anyone at all still reads this blog (I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU WOULD) but I appreciate it <3

I've been wanting to keep track of things that I'm currently inspired by or things on which my thoughts are turning round and round, sort of in a loop (restlessly) and share it with whoever deems it worth their time to stop by.

IN TERMS OF MUSIC:

Chopin is currently my favorite person in all of time and space. I think it's pretty accurate that he's been termed the "poet of piano." You listen to him and it's just lovely complex heartfelt melancholiness, profound snippets of meaning and intense emotion sounding in your ear and guh I can not even explain to you how beautiful his compositions are I can't even--



LET ME LOVE YOU, OH POET OF PIANISTS

Anyhow. I've always, for years, loved Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, and I especially like Yundi Li's interpretation of it, I swear I had tears in my eyes half way through. Also, recently, I've been quite captured by "Aeolian Harp" Op. 25 No.1, the inner melodies do sound very much like a sweet harp, and I'm somewhat lamely currently trying to learn to play it but my hands are sort of limpid and don't stretch far enough quickly or lightly enough (I lack a certain airiness of touch). Which makes me sad.

But. What I'm currently in love with? RUBINSTEIN, RUBINSTEIN.

I don't think even peanut butter and jelly beats the combination of Chopin & Rubinstein.


aasf;dsjg;dlsgkfs;lgf <3 I think I've listened to this the whole day today, I'm addicted.

Also, CELLO. Until very recently I liked the violin the best out of all the string instruments (always have) but I guess my brain did one of those funny reordering of tastes and preferences it's been doing a lot lately and I like the cello's deep somber voice better now.

I like Yo-Yo Ma in this, listen to all four movements while you're doing the laundry or something :D

So yes, I've been sort of obsessed with classical music lately.

TV:

Um.

Can I just say Downton Abbey?
If you haven't heard of it, it's this magnificent British period drama set in the 1910's and the set and the costumes are just so GORGEOUS. Season two has just started.


SYBIL IS MY HERO CAN I JUST BE HER.

Also. I've always loved HORRIBLE HISTORIES. I read those books when I was a kid, that and Roald Dahl and Diana Wynne Jones is what I mostly remember reading when I was young.

And I recently just discovered there's a BBC show dedicated to it.

When I have the time I'm going on a binge. I mean, just to give you a sampling: rapping King James.

I can't even handle the awesomeness.

READING:

Err. I haven't been doing very much of that, as I said. 

But I do still have lines stuck in my head that I can't just GET OUT (seriously words, leave me alone).

Such as:

"I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary."

-Atwood, Variations on the Word Love

"All colors made me happy: even gray.
My eyes were such that literally they
Took photographs."

-Nabokov, Pale Fire

"Love set you going like a fat gold watch."

-Plath, Morning Song

And bits of dislocated Yeats:

“disheveled wandering stars.”

&

“Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea. ”

Also.

 I'm particularly struck by the ideas behind this paragraph from Zusak's I am the Messenger.

Sometimes I have related thoughts; wouldn't it be sort of awesome to know who you are and what you're doing at such a young age, like the people listed by Ed? And if you don't, what does that mean? When do you stop being lost in who or what you are,  or is this a continual state, this uncertainty dogging you throughout your life? Why do some people have such a strong sense of purpose and others just don't? Do you need a purpose or is it enough to just go about breathing and eating?



WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What are some things you're currently in love with/obsessed with/ newly acquainted with?

9.23.2011

books, you've failed me

Remember when I posted about how I'd like 18+ protagonists, books with old-enough birdies who have flown from their warm nice homes and are off adventuring in the big scary world?

That was what I asked for when I was still nestled in my nice warm home, thinking I'd like to live that sort of adventure through fictional people and yearning for such a book wistfully, in the same way you yearn for Harry Potter 8 or fictional foods like Butter-pies* or a new Hayao Miyazaki film.

It's not necessary to your existence but it'd be interesting and cool and make you'd feel entertained and happy if those yearnings suddenly materialized.

Well, I feel 18+ books are kind of necessary, now, not just a nice addition to maybe have someday.

Since I last posted here, I've started college. And while it's COLLEGE and everything what I really wish I had--as I walk around adrift on campus confused by everything and everyone and a bit lost and lonely and basically a choco-tumbleweed of a girl---is a book or a fictional character I could relate to.

And I don't have that, not really. Boarding school YA-ers? They're never homesick. They're too busy playing pranks or chasing after manic pixie dream girls or learning magic.

High school I understood. There are a thousand high schoolers within the pages of books I can talk to, and these shared experiences I had with these YA high schoolers made it more bearable and doable back then.

But college? Not just college, but this living on my own, living far away from everything familiar and normal, this complete sudden shock of EVERYTHING BEING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

This, I don't understand. And this is definitely a harder and more dynamic and interesting and new and strange and weird part of my life than high school was.

I think you readers will understand what I'm trying to say more than anyone else possibly could. We book bloggers and book readers are so invested in characters and paper-word-worlds that we sort of live our lives in conjunction with the stories that we love and the characters that have melded themselves into us and sometimes we find comfort in characters who are going through the same scary and untested and quite strange situations we're also going through. We become them and they become us in some small but beautiful way and things are just better, having a chance to learn about life through others' eyes.

YA has books that are like friends you can lean shoulders on or maybe older siblings that tell you what to expect.

And you know what?

There's nothing of that sort for college. Or more precisely, that aching feeling you get of not being home anymore and of being a semi-adult and figuring out how to take care of yourself.

I get that there are more pressing things to read and write about other than college students shellshocked by this sudden appearance of a newfangled life.

But there is also room for these types of books, somewhere. If there's room for sparkly vampires, there better be room for "WAIT...WHAT... I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING. I AM EIGHTEEN BUT NOT IN ANYWAY IMMUNE TO COMING OF AGE." books.

I guess what I'm getting at is I would like to know things, and this college thing is something I feel utterly unprepared for by books.
I would like to read about teenagers out in the world struggling to transition because I find it laughable and weird that anyone would think transitioning into an adult would be easy or uninteresting or not meaningful material for a book.

This was a ramble.

I hope you are all doing well and reading lovely books.

I would like to post here more often again.
*oh Diana Wynne Jones your Tale of Time City is lovely


8.20.2011

Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff


SUMMARY:

It would be much easier to tell this story if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against the World at an Extreme Time in History. But let's face it, that would be crap.

Daisy is sent from New York to England to spend a summer with cousins she has never met. They are Isaac, Edmond, Osbert and Piper. And two dogs and a goat. She's never met anyone quite like them before - and, as a dreamy English summer progresses, Daisy finds herself caught in a timeless bubble. It seems like the perfect summer. But their lives are about to explode.

Falling in love is just the start of it. War breaks out - a war none of them understands, or really cares about, until it lands on their doorstep. The family is separated. The perfect summer is blown apart. Daisy's life is changed forever - and the world is too.


-from puffin


REVIEW:

First, I hope that this was intentional, as the phrasing is quite distinctive:

"Early the next morning I was strolling around as usual in my unpleasantly populated subconscious..."
-HOW I LIVE NOW (Ch 5, p. 17)

"I was wandering around as usual, in my unpleasantly populated subconscious..."
— Dodie Smith (I CAPTURE THE CASTLE)

I do hope Rosoff is paying homage to Smith's brilliant I CAPTURE THE CASTLE here. I'd like to think so, because HOW I LIVE NOW otherwise possesses a thoroughly original voice. If I really tried, I could summon up the similarities between these two novels: I CAPTURE THE CASTLE and HOW I LIVE NOW both have main characters whose voice renders them completely real as people, perhaps more than real. Both novels bring the English countryside (a la run down castle/manor) to life with glorious, ecstatic prose and touch on first love, albiet with rather unconventional love interests (bearded older man in love with sister/ cousin).

I first read HOW I LIVE NOW more than a year ago, when it was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Vee!). I don't know what I was doing at the time, but for some reason, I didn't connect with the book. I barely remember reading it, though I do remember vaguely thinking "this is pretty good."

When I reread it yesterday, the aliveness and the vividness and the connection was there. As if this book had waited for me, patiently, resting in my bookshelf until the day I could pick it up in the right frame of mind and really appreciate it.

I appreciate it now.

HOW I LIVE NOW is one of the voice-iest YA novels I've ever read. The main character Daisy is humorous and LOUD and uninhibited and insightful. She narrates with run on sentences breathless with wit and CAPITALIZED WORDS to emphasize a point. There's not much dialogue, and the book is mostly her telling us what happened and what she thinks, but it works. It more than works.

At first, HOW I LIVE NOW has this sense of peacefulness (although mediated with Daisy's loudness) emanating through the pages. Her cousins, who she comes to live with in England, possess gifts that are related to us in a matter-of-fact tone but are actually quietly magical: Isaac and little Piper talk to animals, and Edmond can feel Daisy's thoughts. There's this light touch of magical realism when it comes to Daisy's interactions with her family, making everything feel sort of strange, but lovelily strange.

Later, Daisy falls in love with cousin Edmond, and though she acknowledges it's wrong, she talks of it as if it's inevitable and natural and effortless. I don't know if I really understood the Edmond/Daisy relationship. Was it just two alone souls reaching across to each other, yearning for love during a time of war? Was it lust? If Daisy is to be believed, this is love, though of an unorthodox kind.

Daisy and cousins spend a few golden months living without parental supervision (thanks to her Dear Aunt being stranded in Norway). They fish and swim and play and it's generally a bit like The Garden of Eden. War interrupts eventually, as it has a habit of doing. Daisy has hinted at it since the beginning. The enemy is unnamed, the public is confused, cites are bombed, people are dying. When war finally catches up, Daisy and her cousins are separated. There's death and violence, without sense or cause, graphic and mindless and sickening to read about. Daisy and her cousin Piper stick together, attempt to survive it all. It's here that Daisy comes into her own, and when I wanted to stand up and APPLAUD because she's so damn strong.

Really, the only problem I had with this book was the ending, and then the six-year jump that acted as an epilogue. The precursor to the time jump was abrupt and Rosoff, for whatever reason, had Daisy tell us about it only after it happened, which was disorienting to me. The six year-jump was interesting, especially since Rosoff matured Daisy's voice beautifully. But the ending almost felt almost like Rosoff laughing at us and saying "hey, these really cool and fascinating things happened, and sorry that you missed it, but here's this situation and ending that will hopefully tie things up for you."

Still, I really liked HOW I LOVE NOW. It's one of those books that's left an impression on me, one that I'll return to reread. Most notably, its narrator managed to escape its pages and become a part of me. I think that's when you know you've read a good book; when you can feel the edges of a character and the dimensions of his/her voice, and they've set up shop in your brain and they're as complete and solid to you as a person you might've talked to in real life.

Yes, I'm glad I reread HOW I LIVE NOW.

RECOMMENDATION: Highly recommended. It's a Printz winner, so I'm not the only one who thinks it's great.

8.12.2011

I'm kind of tired of series.

I've noticed something lately: when it comes to series, I'm feeling reading fatigued.

When I browse through upcoming reads on goodreads, I kind of internally flinch away when I see MARVELOUS INTRIGUING TITLE (#1). More often then not, I'm noticing, this (#1) intrudes subtly but insistently upon my subconscious, radiating do-not-read vibes. I guess that (#1) scares me away.

It's not that I'm against series, particularly. How can you be against books? So that's not it, it can't be it. I love the Harry Potter series. I love Garth Nix's Seventh Tower Series. I can do it, I can read through seven books about one character that take years and years to come out. I can stick by a series.

I can.

It's just, I sort of resent the occasions where, by picking up one book, you've signed yourself unknowingly over to having to pick up the next one or two or five, in order to get a satisfying conclusion.

I sort of resent reading a very strong first book that would be pretty much great if it didn't have a cop-out, scrambled together ending that inserts a ready-made conflict solely so the BRAVE MAIN CHARACTER can embark on another adventure.

I sort of resent reading a filler second book that only leads to a third book that's not even as good as the first one.

I guess I can deal with the series trend when the first book has a satisfying, fulfilling conclusion, when it can be read as a standalone. And yet, I'm human, I'm a reader. I'm far from invulnerable to that pang that hits you when you see the next book out in the bookstore, or it's shiny new cover of shininess, or that main character you loved gracing the next new book with her visage of awesome.

Much too often, in the same manner I'm drawn inevitably to a box of unwrapped and tantalizing chocolate*, I can't resist. I pick up the next book, shelling over that $18, and float home wrapped up in a cocoon of excited expectancy. But more often than not, I'm in for a few hours of frustration.

I'm not inherently opposed to spending another book's time with the same character. I don't have problems with the idea of a continuing story. It's just, too often, that next book isn't worth it. It sort of ruins the memory of that first book in my mind, colliding and enmeshing with it, until I can't separate the two reading experiences.

I guess I get too attached. From the HUNGER GAMES trilogy to WHERE SHE WENT (sequel to IF I STAY) to THE WAKE TRILOGY I've felt that disappointment. And then I wonder, why?

Why can't I just leave it at one? Why can't the author just leave it at one?

So now, I'm very hesitant to pick up any book that has (#1) tacked on to its title. I know it's judgmental and horrible of me in a way, but I feel like it's the only way I can save myself from disappointment. I dislike feeling disappointed, after being left to wait a year or two before the cliffhanger ending is resolved. I dislike feeling like the characters have morphed into unpleasant caricatures of themselves, dislike feeling like the true ending (the last book in the series) didn't quite live up to the beginning, the first book.

I understand the logistics behind the abundance of YA series, the money behind it and why publishers love it so much. And some stories are legitimate in that they're too big to tell in one book, like LORD OF THE RINGS. This series epidemic is by no means a YA-only occurrence; I feel torn to shreds by George R.R. Martin's devilish, scheming mind as he cavorts away from any sort of resolution, leaving countless cliffhangers in his A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series.**

It's just, this feeling as a reader--that you can't trust books because of that fateful (#1); that you have to be cautious; that you must not pick up the second or the third unless you want you reading soul to be crushed into let-down smithereens--isn't a nice one to have. It makes me a little sad, and most of all, so weary.

*Or cookies. I can't resist those either.
**Don't get me wrong. I love A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, but those last two books? A bit of a let down. However, it's definitely a case of a story too big for one book.




8.10.2011

my past reviews are mostly void + title vibes+ notes

Concerning reviews:
I think about 70% of my past reviews are either overexcited, too verbose, or misrepresent my current views on those books.

My reading tastes have altered. I don't agree with a lot of what I say in those reviews anymore. I don't agree with my ratings anymore.

And I don't understand why I felt the need to write such long reviews that SUMMARIZED the book in the first two paragraphs when the book summary is RIGHT THERE. *facepalm*

Therefore, I will probably be taking down a few on goodreads and editing some of the others.

On another note:

No more ratings on this blog. Just four categories of recommendation:
1. HIGHLY RECCOMENDED: Read this book--it's worth your time.
2. RECOMMENDED: Not bad, but proceed with some caution.
3. NOT RECOMMENDED: Not a good read.
4. SAVE YOURSELVES! : Terrible.

Another another note (title vibes):

I have recently noticed something terribly obvious but still feel enlightened. Have you ever noticed how some authors always have similarly worded titles? NO I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT HARRY POTTER and other series titles. (I'm not that thick.). I mean, books that aren't even related to each other, other than by author.

Take Courtney Summers:

CRACKED UP TO BE
SOME GIRLS ARE
FALL FOR ANYTHING

It's all :drumroll: common expressions that almost feel like they're begging to have a sentence filled in around them.

OR

Sarah Dessen:
WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE
ALONG FOR THE RIDE
THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER
JUST LISTEN
etc etc (this lady has written too many books)
They sort of have the same feel, these titles. Like they were all born from the same title mother.

OR

Laurie Halse Anderson
SPEAK
WINTERGIRLS
CHAINS
TWISTED
CATALYST
PROM

It seems the gods of publishing has forbidden this lady-authoress multi-word titles. She gets to be the queen of enigmatic one word titles instead.

I mean, it's hard to explain, but don't a lot of books with the same author give off similar title vibes? Think about it for a minute. They just feel connected, don't they? There's probably some clever explanation--similar number of syllables, corresponding vowels, but I don't know what it is.

Or possibly I'm crazy and a few choice examples don't mean anything and I'm wasting my breath.

But still.

Even if my enlightenment is false, I feel happy. However, this is a rather sad revelation for debut authors that secretly hate their first titles, I'm thinking. They're dooooomed.

on another another another note:

I'm not officially out of hiatus mode. Just lately, I've felt like writing conversational things about books, and instead of talking to myself in my head I thought, why not talk to myself on the internet?

So no, I am not officially back because if I say that what happens when I have to disappear for college (which I'm starting soonish, ahhhh!)

But I am not averse to occasionally littering the odd thought/review/nothing-babble/ramble here.

another another another another note to anyone who still knows who I am:
HELLO AND I LOVE YOU.

another another another another another note:

I quite like goodreads now. My profile's here, if you'd like to friend me. It's a lovely place and I've taken to checking it around once a day.


8.07.2011

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma


I am leaving this here solely because I would like this beautiful cover on my blog first-thing, not some depressing post about a hiatus.

Also, hello (:

SUMMARY:

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about


REVIEW:

I just finished IMAGINARY GIRLS. Literally--I turned the last page a moment ago. It's normally a bad idea for me to write reviews without a breathing period, where my thoughts can take shape, my reaction stabilize. And I haven't written a review for a long time, have purposefully not written reviews for months. But I want to write this so I can think about this book more. I'm not sure what I feel about this book and why. I need this space to decide.

In some ways, this book was everything I could ever want out of a novel. In glittering, shining moments of the narrative, when a particular line uncurled itself from the page, came alive, just stood there and said hello to me, I felt it. When an arresting image appeared in front of my eyes, vivid and real enough to touch or breathe or live briefly in, I felt it. It's that thrilling feeling you get sometimes, when you're reading something that will become important to you. It's like a tickle in the gut. This was THE BOOK, I thought. My newest soul-book.

But for some reason, as the last page lies read on my nightstand, I realize IMAGINARY GIRLS never quite arrived there. What I'm left with is more a fleeting impression of a novel; several alive scenes, restless segments of language stuck in my head, a recollection of dialogue. At this moment, at least, IMAGINARY GIRLS is not quite substantial enough for me. Not quite enough.

It's not because of the prose, because the writing is beautiful. Suma writes with such grace. Her sentences flow ceaselessly on the page, undulating into and out of themselves, connecting with each other in moments of wonderful rhythm. Her imagery is precise--the details, small actions and appearances of characters focused on with microscopic intensity render sometimes surreal, sometimes poignant scenes.

It's not the premise. Magical realism or surrealism are currently my favorite things to read. I want more of it in YA; I'm hungry for it. And I want more stories like this in YA, that leave questions in your mind,
that are perhaps a bit strange but singularly unique, that make you think. Though the slow-moving events and the sometimes lack of a plot won't win as many teen readers over, I didn't mind too much, although I'll admit my attention sometimes waned during long paragraphs of internal monologue. Or perhaps it is the plot--how do I explain? It doesn't feel entirely like a linked story, this book. More a collection of compelling, surreal images. There's more atmosphere than happening, more prose than character.

And it's the characters, I've begun to think, that makes this book one star less for me. They're not quite enough. It's the fact that I can't sense them. They didn't come alive, in the way the setting and the descriptions did. I can't think of a character trait for the main character Chloe other than her obsessive love for her sister Ruby, her yearning. Ruby is easier, I suppose. She's cruel and beautiful and powerful. But Chloe? She's an empty vessel for the story. She narrates. She tells of enigmatic, wonderful Ruby, and that is all. But do I have a right to complain about her, when I love THE GREAT GATSBY so? Shouldn't I think something more reasonable, like Chloe's lack of substance is a reflection of Ruby's power to ensorcell, to captivate everyone and everything, so even a book about her younger sister focuses on her while her "echo" of a sister dissipates?

I don't know. I am left feeling strange by this book. It's not the more unusual turn of events, which I found refreshing and lovely. It's the feeling of having missed something, lost something. Maybe if I'd read this earlier in my life (or later--I'm not sure which) it would have meant more to me. It's the fact that it doesn't--for whatever reason--the characters, I suppose--that makes me feel unsettled, more than the threatening, oil black surface of Chloe's reservoir ever did.

RECOMMENDATION: Highly Recommended. One of the better YA books I've read, though the mystery of why I don't strongly love it (only really like it) is why I wrote this review.

SOME CHOICE QUOTES:

"I was an echo of her."

"In reality I was a pencil drawing of a photocopy of a Polaroid of my sister--you could see the resemblance in a certain light, if you were seeking it out because I told you first, if you were being nice."

"my boots miss your feet
my head misses your hairbrush"

"She locked her eyes on mine. (The whites of her eyes staring up at the half moon.)

She cracked a smile. (Her lips drained of color.)"

4.12.2011

on hiatus

I write this because there is an air of unfinished business emanating from this blog. I can feel it at its peak when on the internet, a sense of expectation waiting in the folds of the blogosphere. I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, but haven't. Putting things off is my forte.

For anyone who's followed in which a girl reads from the very beginning, or at least a time where I was actually blogging regularly, it's pretty obvious that my blog currently lacks luster. New posts are rare. My comments and reading of other blogs is almost nonexistent. I'm just--to put in plainly--not here anymore.

I've expressed a certain sadness at this withdrawal from the blogosphere before, and at this realization, also expressed a desire to revitalize a blog quickly disintegrating. I tried--and I think we can conclude, as of now, I've failed. Miserably.

I could blog if I wanted to. But that want just isn't there any more.

The thing is, I'm different from the starry-eyed fifteen year old that accidentally began blogging almost two years ago. I read different books. I think different thoughts. I have different priorities.

This is reflected in my blog. I don't know what to post anymore; I'm deeply unsatisfied with my reviews of late, and feel that they've lost a lot of their meaning. I think my impressions when reading have lost a lot of their weight with the general reading audience. And I rarely read YA anymore. What books I do read, I read differently; slowlyslowlyslowly, ponderously, with a different purpose.

Last year, I went on a month-long hiatus to study for AP tests. As I look into my future months, I see the best thing to do is to go on hiatus at the present time.

In April I have:
1) AP death studying
2) the biggest decision of my life yet: I have to decide (oh no, oh no) where I'll attend college, and this decision is literally occupying my mind day and night.
In May I have
1) AP testing
2) Finals
3) Graduation.

This isn't too much, but throughout summer I'll have limited internet access. In fall, I'll be starting college. Throughout this all I have scholarships to do, family and friends to spend time with, a book to write, new worlds to explore.

I've concluded I'd like to spend my time in the next three months (at least) in venues other than blogging. And really, I think dragging things out--pretending unfairly to myself and to readers that I can dedicate myself to blogging at this present time--isn't the right thing to do.

I don't want to call this a goodbye post--it's definitely not that--but a hiatus post. I will be taking a break from blogging, at least for a few months. I hope to come back one day.

If you'd still like to contact me in the next few months, please email me at inwhichagirlreads@gmail.com
I'd love to hear from you. Any of you: lovely commenters, lurkers, people that would like to chat about books or chocolate or want college advice or anything. Hopefully I won't be as awful at corresponding as I usually am.

And lastly, thank you for reading in which a girl reads, and for making my blogging experience thus far so much more wonderful.

3.26.2011

Diana Wynne Jones

I want to write something beautiful or magical in memory of this wonderful lady. But I really just can't. I feel horribly inarticulate, like I can't express anything correctly. I feel like whatever I say is going to come out warped, not quite coming across as it should. I'm too sad--so incredibly sad.

Diana Wynne Jones is and always will be my favorite author. She's the reason I read. Her books are what made me believe in fantasy, in writing, in reading, in the world.

I want to write so many things about DWJ; paragraphs about every book I loved by her, sentences about the sense of wonder she instilled in me, lines about those countless hours I spent re-reading every word she ever published. I want to somehow capture what she means to me as an author. I'd like to express how much the news devastated me.

I wept when I heard. I haven't ever met her, but her books--oh, they're just everything to me.

Diana Wynne Jones is prolific and wonderful. She needs to be known and read. The best way to honor her is to love her works.

I hope I am honoring her. I wish I had more words in me for this post, but today, they've failed me. I know I can say with certainty that my life would not have been the same without her books--it would not have quite as much magic in it, quite as much hope.

Thank you for that, Diana Wynne Jones. I will never stop reading your books, and I will never stop loving them.

RIP.

3.13.2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

I woke up today thinking, holy smoley, I need to write a blog post. What happened to my New Year's Resolution to post nearly daily? What a blogging fail.

I think life is moving too quickly for me (whaaa? I'm going to graduate from high school soon? I'm going to college?!), but also horrifically slowly (why do the days drag by slower than snails?).

I really should blog to fill that time up.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I was hyperventilating over Anna and the French Kiss. Reviews were uniformly glorious. I hopped to Book Depository, ordered, and it soon showed up on my door step, wrapped and bundled up. I read it last week.

Which brings me to this present day. Lately I've been feeling a bit deflated because, *drum roll* I gave up chocolate for lent. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF HOW COULD I GIVE UP MY TITULAR LOVE? NOOO000oooo!!!. So far, this has NOT been going well. *is in chocolate withdrawal*

*rolls around in pain and heartache*

*soul cries out*

Ahem.

Review time.

Book Summary:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

My Opinion:

Anna and the French Kiss starts out slow. In particular, the first three chapters drag by at a glacial pace, as the narrator busies herself with filling in backstory. However, the novel soon picks up speed, and by the end manages to overcome most of its flaws and standout as one of YA's funnest romance reads of the year.

I am jealous of Anna. Oh, how I wish that my parents had packed me off to boarding school in history-soaked Paris, bakery goods and beautiful architecture everywhere, the ambiance of another country to fill my days. An experience like that would have quite honestly made my life, so at first I could not relate to the homesickness and resentful moping Anna felt as she acclimated to her new environment. Of course, many teenage girls would feel the same way as her and all in all, Anna is a pretty realistic character, which is the most important thing. I appreciated that she had a real passion--film--in her life, and ambitions to become something when she was older. I appreciated that her dialogue wasn't stilted or forced, that she thought like a teenage girl, that she had insecurities and flaws that added to her characterization. Above all, I found her relatable and likable, if a bit humdrum.

I'm not so sure about the other characters though. I know that Etienne is supposed to the ultimate love interest, but I didn't really care for him. He seemed a little too, I don't know, perfect. How many teenage boys exist like him? I really think they're a rare, if not extinct, breed. But I guess a suspension of belief on my part is needed, and the fact that he seems like a relatively caring, sweet person really negates a lot of the realism problems. The thing is, though, that as the story progressed, and Anna fell more and more in love with him, to the point of blind devotion, I couldn't help but wonder how unreliable Anna is with her observations of him. We're presented with this perfect semblance of a teenage guy: nice hair, an English accent, extremely intelligent, caring. Yet, his actions are anything but. If you pause and really think about him objectively-- fuzzy descriptions aside-- he's actually quite a jerk. He strings Anna along (a later explanation of continuous misunderstandings didn't really convince me) for much of the book. He flirts with other girls. He basically is leading Anna on, while he has a serious girlfriend that he won't break up with. I have to ask, isn't that cheating? Isn't breaking up with the girl you're not in love with anymore the decent thing to do before you start gallivanting around town?

I don't know, that just strikes me as a horrid thing to do, whatever Anna tells me.

This book posed a few interesting questions for me as a reader. Am I just not a romance reader, since I often find such issues with the idealized guy? Am I just cynical? Is the devotion Anna has in anyway similar to the devotion paranormal main characters have for their immortal boyfriends that I find so troubling? How do you differentiate between love and obsession?

I think I mostly got the impression of love out of Anna and the French Kiss. What really saved the book was the gradual development of the relationship, the fact that they were friends first, that Anna helps Etienne through a hard time because she cares about him, not because he's got a pretty face. I think what separates this book from most YA romance is the fact that the relationship is mostly based on the two's actions for each other, not how hot or physically attracted they are to each other.

And that makes all the difference.

The one thing I thought was unrealistic: the college application process described. The timing was way off for when Anna got her acceptances, unless she got early notification, and it really wasn't explained at all, or explained vaguely. I found it strange that Anna kinda underhandedly decided about the whole thing without telling the reader about it. I mean, if you're going to move from Paris across to the other side of the country that you're normally from, I think that'd factor into your thoughts during senior year. At least a little bit, I'd hope.

Ultimately, as much as a I complain, I can't deny that I had a wonderful time reading the book, and was caught up in the romance and most of all, her experience in Paris. Perkins has a gift for making her main character really develop, though many of the secondary characters did not come to life and were not as well-formed as Anna. I loved that Anna grew out of her hermitly ways and really blossomed. It was quite a nice thing to read about, and the relationship portrayed was endlessly complicated and interesting.

My Rating: 8.25/10. A good book, overall. I appreciated the many barbs against Nicholas Sparks types (ie Anna's Dad), too.
ETA: I think most readers will enjoy it more than I did, so yes, I do recommend it :)

3.04.2011

life as a book sniffer

I have a confession to make.

I sniff books.

Please, don't judge. Don't look askance. Stop raising your internet eyebrows in judgmental ridges, I say!

I can't help it. And may I ask:

HAS BOOK SNIFFING EVER HURT A SOUL?

I say no. (Unless of course, someone was allergic to a ink printed on a page and died tragically as they inhaled. )

It's an innocent enough act, once explained.

THE MECHANICS OF BOOK-SNIFFING

1. IN THE MIDST OF READING

I will be sprawled on the couch or perhaps lying on bed, with a good book in hand, scanning the lines, letting them wash over me in waves of language.


2. ONE OR TWO FATES WILL INEVITABLY THEN OCCUR:


a) My eyes will close, my arms crumple, and the weighty tome falls haphazardly comes to rest on my nose, whereupon I breathe in the musty scent of an inky-splashed book sniff delicately at the spine.

b) I come to the end of the chapter, and feel the need to spring nimble as a lame deer (i.e. fall) to my bookshelf, and sniff, just to see if the area surrounding my bookshelf is yet acquiring that bookstore-eque SMELL. That of thousands of pages nesting close together with stories winding through them.

My disappointed verdict, as always: Nope, doesn't smell bookish yet.





3. SMELLING EUPHORIA

I think a particularly good book tends to smell better than others. But all books smell--beyond their material scent, of their contents. Move beyond the mundane ink and paper descriptions and transcend your nasal limitations!

Doesn't Harry Potter smell a bit like, uhhh, MAGICAL WONDER?

Doesn't Hunger Games smell a bit like FRENZIED ACTION?

Doesn't I am the Messenger smell a bit like, uhh,COMING-OF-AGE?

Doesn't The Road smell a bit desperate and dusty (oh, wait, that might just be because of the two-feet dust layer over my room...)

I say thus to you naysayers: smells absolutely should be nonsensically conflated with feelings and ideas. Yes.


*A CONCLUSION IN WHICH THIS POST BRIEFLY MAKES SENSE*

In some strange way the scent of books is comforting. (:

I do really love that new book smell of bookstores, though. Always makes me pause when I step through the threshold of Barnes & Noble. *sigh*

Do you too enjoy the scent of books?

2.28.2011

Review: Across the Universe


Oh dear, I feel terrible for not updating the blog regularly. It's been pure forgetfulness on my part. I'm once again in the bad habit of reading but not reviewing. Hopefully I'm not too rusty. :)

Book Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My Opinion:

So I knew this book was going to be big the moment I saw Hunger Game references abound (it's the Hunger Games of space books! analysts shouted) and it's impeccably designed cover appeared in Costco. (Only the heavy hitters sell in non-bookstores.)

And Across the Universe certainly opens to a marvelous first chapter--the haunting description of Amy and her parents being frozen into a mummy-esque state for the next 300 years is completely engrossing. I had only to read the first page before I decided to buy Across the Universe. I think this:

"Mom wanted me to go first. I think it was because she was afraid that after they were constrained and frozen, I'd walk away, return to life rather than consign myself to that cold, clear box. But Daddy insisted."

Is perhaps one of the best YA paragraphs I've ever read--something to do with the rhythm, Amy's voice slicing clear through it.

Unfortunately, the book failed to live up to it's glorious first chapter.

Here's why:

1. The characters (not enough depth). POV consequently suffers because of this.

Across the Universe is narrated by a duo: Amy, the Earth girl, the one who opens and closes the book, the one who's the reader's friend, the one we can relate to. And then, Elder: oh, he's such a darling boy. I liked him as a character a lot, but seventeen years living in a screwed up, totalitarian society certainly leaves its mark.

At first, I liked Amy. She was relatable. But as the chapters progressed, I quickly grew bored with her narration. I began to question why she was even a POV in this book, other than to form a bridge with the reader, with her unlikely tales of a futuristic Earth (Yearbook staffer, check. Cross country runner, check. Boyfriend left behind? Check) that we can relate to oddly out of place and unrealistic*. And then, there's the very problem that Elder idolizes her so much--makes her seem more like an object, less human, by the very dint of this lionizing. Soon, I got the impression that Amy was only special because she's from Earth. This is her defining characteristic--she's an Earthling amongst a ship filled with crazed and confused people. Somehow, I want more out of a main character other than an ability to chirp about Earth-related activities and recognize that things are way weird on this ship--I can do that myself, thanks. Although, her determination to continue on without her parents is a show of strength.

Elder is sweet, for all his tendencies to back down (he's only been conditioned to do this from the day he was born! I want to shout at all his naysayers). And moving past his overwhelming tendency to view Amy as something he has control over, he's got good intentions. I really wish that the entirety of the book had been narrated from Elder's POV--I think it would have led to a much stronger novel, overall. But as such, I can only say I much preferred his chapters to Amy's--his relationship with the ship's leader Eldest is particularly intriguing, his knowledge of the ship, and struggle to understand betrayal and shake himself from an upbringing built on lies is the core of the book and where the themes are rooted.

Like I said, I felt Amy's POV to be unnecessary. Also, there's the problem that the voices were too similar--I'd read a few pages of Amy's narrative without realizing that it was actually Elder's. I suppose I shouldn't complain too much, because ranging from Shiver to Smack, I've always, always had issues with multi-POV books in that the voice is just too darn similar between each first-person narrator.

Ultimately, I felt that in Across the Universe, there are two halfway-there main characters (Elder & Amy) instead of one fully-fleshed out main character.

2. The hodgepodge genre-hopping, veering plot that is both it's downfall and defining characteristic.

At first, I think the promise of a combination of genres is what drew me to this book. Sci-fi (aboard a spaceship, no less) with a sharp dystopian hook, romance to boot, and a strong murder mystery underlying it all?

Definitely sounds like a must-read.

However, I think this confusion of elements is hard to navigate at the best of times, and Across the Universe quickly falls into some problematic areas. It starts off as a murder-mystery, but as Revis begins to describe the inner workings of the ship, the dystopian elements take over, once it's clear that this is a basically a functioning society, not a space opera. I think this is some of the reason I prefer Elder's narrative--it dealt with the dystopian elements in a way that Amy's couldn't--from the viewpoint of a character brought up in such a society and only now beginning to become disillusioned.

The dystopian elements are a bit predictable: throw in a 2-dimensional dictator with unsympathetic motives (I myself began to wonder if Eldest was truly as bad as the author wanted us to believe), a Giver-esque bag of goodies for the old people and control over occupations, and a Brave New World influenced spin on sex (here, dubbed the Season.)

The dynamics of such a small society (worry about incest and the like) was fascinating, though the Season was overwrought--much to much attention and pages focused on it, to the point where the plot suffered--and ultimately smacked of "mindlessness is bad" preaching.

3. The ending. It just plain threw me for a loop.

I felt cheated. Like, explain to me please how a character could keep something so inherently important to the plot such a secret from the reader for the whole space of the book? ELDER, WHY?

Overall:

I thought the quiet despair of the book was just beautifully done. These people are trapped on a spaceship, in the middle of nowhere, and there is just no escaping the situation.

Basically, I loved that they were all hopelessly doomed, tehehe.

I thought the book was pretty well-written overall in terms of prose and there are some very lovely descriptions that have stayed with even after the last page--Amy's sunset hair, the stars, the mechanics of cyrogenics.

I think the plot was just difficult to execute and the characters could have been stronger. But I was content enough with Across the Universe--I fair sped through the book, read it all in one sitting. Though I don't know if it'll be the next Hunger Games, I think many a reader will be entertained, and I do hope it will do something for expanding the currently barren sci-fi genre (not counting dystopian books) in YA.

In short, a fairly decent book, and I will most likely be reading whatever Beth Revis writes next.

Rating: 7.5/10. Be aware that the first chapter is especially enticing. Across the Universe is definitely a library must-read, though I don't know about shelling out $18. However, its very popularity might merit a "read" label--don't want to miss out if everyone's talking about it. But like almost all bestsellers, its over-hyped.

Also, the cover over-emphasizes the romance element. Beautiful, but not an accurate representation of the book.


*If Earth is far enough in the future to have built a full-functioning spaceship and developed this much technology, I very much doubt the culture would be even remotely similar to what we're living today. I mean, that's like the difference between the 1800's and now. Hardly similar. Thus, my problem with Amy's tales of Earth that could have been describing early 21st century Earth. This was something that continually bothered me throughout the book and made me question the validity of the world-building. Oh, well--I guess it could be argued that the information given was vague enough to be interpreted any which way.

2.11.2011

You Know You're a Book Blogger When...

  • You have significantly more friends on Goodreads than you do on Facebook.
  • Your preferred medium of communication is the written word.
  • You unashamedly stalk your favorite authors online.
  • The acronym ARC makes you salivate
  • Your TBR list is several miles high
  • 5-star ratings become applicable to everything in life, not just books
  • You have an uncontrollable urge to buy everything you see in a bookstore
  • Packages on your doorstep mean one thing only to you: books
  • You're in desperate need of more bookshelves
  • You spend more hours online than is healthy
  • Getting comments on your posts make your day
  • HTML is both your best friend and your nebulous, confusing enemy
  • When people ask you for book recommendations, you can't just stop at one.
  • You know about books coming out years ahead of time, and consequently have to endure a rather agonizing wait.
  • New gadgets on blogger are the best thing since sliced bread
  • You can't stop tinkering with your template
  • You can hold an intelligent debate on the merits of a 2-column versus 3-column template for a book blog.
  • You've perfected the art of reading while eating/walking/talking for years.
  • You're pretty darn awesome.
What have I missed, dear readers? Add to the list in the comments :)

2.05.2011

Dear YA

A short summation of what I've been wondering/hoping about for YA:


DEAR YA:

If your protagonist is described as an honors student (as most seem to be), they'll more likely be kissing a textbook than a sparkly supernatural creature.

Sincerley,
Choco, currently-kissing-a-textbook

DEAR YA:

Where do your main characters find the time to save the world and everything?

Sincerely,
Choco, swamped.

DEAR YA:

It'd be cool if maybe some more of your characters were over 18.

Sincerely,
Choco, who likes this New Adult thing.

DEAR YA:

I wish there were more minority main characters. And more socioeconmically diverse characters.

Sincerly,
Choco, who would like wider representation.

What are some of your Dear YAs?

*okay so I fail at updating the blog but currently I am buried, BURIED under schoolwork. Sorry :)

1.19.2011

Underappreciated books

I think we all have one-- or maybe a few-- of those books that we love and cherish but that no one else has ever heard of. Books that are absolutely wonderful, but somehow managed to slip by nearly unnoticed by the reading world after publication. They're the books that are the NYT bestsellers and Printz medalists of our hearts, while in reality, they're a bit unloved as they sit dusty and lonesome upon book store shelves.

It's a bit sad, really, because a lot of the time, the NYT bestsellers aren't even the most quality books. Sometimes, the books that have have the least hullabaloo surrounding them are the best.

I started off this post intending to only showcase one, but I'm weak and I can't do it.

Take three instead:

1. Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge (my review). I really think this is a modern children's classic. It's not at all as popular as it should be.

2. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris. I love Gerald Morris, but I don't think many people know about his books. But what's not to like about King Arthur retellings full of swashbuckling humor to boot?

3. The Last of the Really Great Whangoodles by Julie Andrews Edward: I hold my love for this book in the same compartment of my heart that's reserved for the Chronicles of Narnia. It's a childhood favorite of mine.

I wanted to add on I Capture the Castle as well, but I think people have heard about it since it has a movie and all. NOT ENOUGH, THOUGH.

Also, I still hold that Diana Wynne Jones is the most underappreciated writer ever. Seriously, she's like the queen of children's fantasy, yet she doesn't get half the love she deserves for her brilliance.

Ahem. If I don't stop naming books now, I won't ever.

What's your favorite "unknown" book? Let's give our underappreciated books some love!

1.17.2011

Review: Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak


I haven't posted much in the last week, sigh. But it's about time I did a book review.

Book Summary:

Cameron and Ruben Wolfe, are brothers from a family clinging to the ragged edge of the working class. Initially to make some money, the boys hook up with a sleazy fight promoter who sees something marketable, audience-pleasing in the untrained brothers’ vulnerability.

So they hide the boxing from their long-suffering mother. And Cameron hides what's going on in his head from the girls who come to the matches, the girls he wishes he could reach.

But the Wolfes soon find that they’re fighting for more than tips and pay-off money. It becomes for them a fight for identity, for dignity, and for each other.

The question is, in a fight like that, who makes it out of the ring intact?

My Opinion:

"She smiles pretty, and in that split second, I forget. I forget about Perry Cole and all those future punches. It makes me wonder, Do we spend most of our days trying to remember or forget things? Do we spend most of our time running toward or away from our lives? I don't know."

So wonders Cameron Wolfe, the big-hearted, tender protagonist of Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Passages like the one above--full of a quiet sort of wisdom, almost a ache to it--aren't uncommon in this book. They're plentiful, since in only 200 pages or so, Markus Zusak crafts a heartwarming, coming-of-age story full of beauty and uncanny insight. It' not surprising, given that this is the same author who wrote the magnificent The Book Thief and contemporary must-read I am The Messenger.

Yeah, that Zusak.

I haven't gone on a fangirl spiel about Zusak on this blog for a while, so some of you might not know that I'm, well, an obsessive fangirl about his works, to put it lightly. I've been trying to track down a reasonably priced Fighting Ruben Wolfe for the longest time, and last week, I finally managed to snatch up a cheap copy on Amazon.

It arrived yesterday.

I devoured it instead of breakfast.

This is the second book I've read about Cameron Wolfe, having caved and read Getting the Girl, the sequel, a while back. It doesn't really matter though, since even though this novel is part of a 3-book series, each book is standalone.

I loved it.

I love it because it's like an early sneak-peak of Zusak. If you start with the Cam books, move to I am the Messenger, and finish at The Book Thief, you can see a clear progression. The prose becomes more refined. The subject topic, more serious. The books, longer.

Still, you get the trademark Zusak: the swaggering sentence fragments, the standalone single-sentence paragraphs falling in quick succession down a page, the wonderful writing that steals your breath away, the characters that are so real that you can almost hear their hearts beating in between the pages.

I'm quite convinced that the Wolfe family are real people. Cameron, the main character, has a voice that's memorable. He's the boy who cares too much about everybody, who's scrawny and a little bit like a loser, who yearns for a girl to notice him, who's afraid, but who'll fight for anything, his heart is so big. Ruben is his brother--hungry, wolfish, trying to prove something. Then there's his tired mother, his out-of-work father, older siblings Sarah and Steve, and a house full of unpaid bills and encroaching despair.

When the brothers get their chance at money and a bit of glory by fighting in underground boxing ring, they seize the day. But really, this book isn't just about throwing punches, since all the action is secondary to the character growth. The brothers earn themselves a bit of self-respect, they mature, and their sibling relationship--it just expands, till you can feel the love the two brothers have for each other, till you can feel the love the whole Wolfe family has for each other. The Wolfe brothers' relationship really comes out in the passages at the end of every chapter--short conversations the brothers have before they fall asleep.

Then, there's the prose. When it's Zusak, you can expect to be blown away. Here's one of the many passages that made me stop reading so I could just sit and take in:

"We run together in track pants and old football jerseys and the city is awake and smoky-cold and our heartbeats jangle through the streets. We're alive. Our footsteps are folded neatly, one after the other. Rube's curly hair collides with sunlight. The light steps at us between the buildings. The train line is fresh and sweet and the grass in Belmore Park has the echoes of dew still on it. Our hands are cold. Our veins are warm. Our throats suck in the winter breath of the city, and I imagine people still in bed, dreaming. To me it, feels good. Good city. Good world, with two wolves running through it, looking of the fresh meat of their lives. Chasing it. Chasing hard even though they fear it. They run anyway."

The hair colliding with sunlight part...that just killed me. It really did.

So, what I've been meaning to say as I've bumbled around in this review, throwing words out left and right, is that I wish this book was readily available in every bookstore. It's beautifully written, and it's one of those books that YA readers need more of. It's a contemporary book with an original plot (nope, no dead characters here) with characters and conflicts that are real.

I just plain wish this book was easier to get a hold of.

If you're a dedicated Zusak fan, I'd definitely recommend that you do the best you can to get a hold of this, short of murder. If you're just a reader who is hungering for a lovely contemporary read, take a look around and see if you can't snatch up a copy somehow.

Rating: 9/10. Don't be scared off by the whole boxing premise. I have zero interest in boxing but I still loved this book.

1.12.2011

Waiting on Wednesday

This week's pick: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

It's been three years since the devastating accident ... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I thought If I Stay (review) was an absolutely beautiful book--bittersweet and thoughtful, and full of lovely characters and well-written prose. It was definitely one of my favorites from 2009 releases.

So of course, I'm extremely excited about Where She Went. This is one of the rare occasions I've come across where a contemporary book that fits into this YA niche of walking the line between commercial and literary has come out with a sequel. I'm particularly curious to see what Adam's voice will be like.

The only thing I don't like is the cover. Sure, it's pretty, but I much prefer the original If I Stay design--this book looks like it's trying to attract the readers of something like Gossip Girl, when really it should be aiming for the readers of Looking for Alaska or Jellicoe Road.

Release Date: April 5th 2011
Goodreads page

1.08.2011

I'm okay with YA protagonists that are over 18 years old. Actually, I'd like to have more of that, please.

What's got me thinking:*

Lately, I've been encountering a lot of discussions on whether college age protagonists in young adult books are allowed, or if you can even call it a young adult book if the main character doesn't fall into the Holy YA Age Range of 12-18 years old. Among the publishing community, the general consensus seems to be that protagonists out of high school are a tough sell. The comments of "but college students don't read, so there's no market for it" and "teens don't relate to protagonists that are are college aged" are always thrown in there somewhere during the discussion, which generally results in everyone agreeing and deciding to lower their main character's age to 18 or under.

As a teen reader, I'm going, what? STOP THAT.

On Age & Reading Habits

I'm sixteen, in case you're wondering.

That doesn't stop me from wanting to read about characters older than 18. I'd sure as heck love to go into the Young Adult section and pick up a book about a college freshman adjusting to their new life of freedom, stumbling around a huge campus, fighting with their roomate, and groaning about cafeteria food and being a poor student. I'd sure as heck love to read a book about a protagonist that sets off on an adventure after they graduate from high school, or who's just taken up training as a cop or joined the army or taken a job you can't do while still in school. I'd love it to bits if anyone wrote a book about a college junior's experience as a study abroad student.

I'd lap that stuff right up. Mostly importantly, I'd buy it if I saw it in the Young Adult section.

I'm an older teen. For the most part, in real life, I have no stomach for the heartaches of a 12-year-old, and I don't think I can completely grasp (I can empathize with, sure) the troubles a 50-year-old might be facing, since I haven't experienced it myself. But that doesn't stop me from relating to and being interested in fiction featuring 12-year-old protagonists, 16-year-old protagonists, and 50-year-old protagonists. It explains why the odd teen (me) or adult can't be wrenched away from the middle grade section, while boys my age have been reading fiction about 30-year-old fantasy heroes since they were 13.

Age doesn't matter as much as you'd think.

Maybe it does in real life, but it doesn't in fiction.

This is especially true since 99.9% of young adult books are being written by adults. There's a certain distance there, so that for the most part, I couldn't differentiate between a YA 15-year-old and a 18-year-old protagonist in terms of maturity and the conflicts they face if my life depended upon it. It's all pretty flexible in YA, when it comes to a few years. **

From what I've observed, children and teen readers tend to read up. As a 5th grader, I was curious to find out what middle school was like, and I sated some of that curiosity by reading a bunch of books where the protagonists were 13. I didn't have a problem at all relating to these older main characters. By middle school, I was reading books with high school protagonists, wondering if that's what it'd really be like once I got there.

Now that I'm a high school senior, I'm left either with older teen characters or adult characters. There's no bridge in between though. Just a huge gorge, and publishers saying, "JUMP ALREADY." I rarely find a book featuring a college freshman or a 20-year-old. In fact, I can't even think of one I've read lately off the top of my head.

But I'm still curious. I'd like to know what I'm in for. I think most people my age would like to know. What college is like, what renting your first apartment is like, what starting your career is like.

Most importantly, I think they'd read about it. Perhaps even prefer it over the tales of a high school freshman, or maybe even over the tales of characters their current age. It's a possibility. Maybe that explains why the college students I do know tend to read adult fiction. They're looking out for what's next for them.

New Adult

I feel like I can't talk about older protagonists without mentioning New Adult. I first heard of New Adult when St. Martin put on it's "New Adult" Submissions Contest in November 2009, and the resulting buzz crackled through the internet until it even reached me. For those of you who haven't heard of New Adult, I think of it as a more sharply defined categorization for books that have crossover appeal (books that can be sold and marketed as both YA and adult fiction) and it seems to have become viable in the last few years due to the fact that YA has become such a popular genre.

St Martin's described it as this:

"...[n]ew, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.”
And from reading Kristan Hoffman's article in Guide to Literary Agents, New Adult will likely feature protagonists from 18-26 years old. As she says:

"But the transition from teen to adult doesn’t happen overnight either. There’s a period of time where adulthood feels like a new pair of shoes. The expectations of independence and self-sufficiency are still new, still being broken in. New Adults are the people who have just begun to walk in those shoes; New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches."


New Adult is supposed to be geared towards older teens, college kids, and adults who are well, new to adulthood.

And I'm going: YES YES YES.

I'd like some of that.

Where's the barricade?

But I'm wondering, why aren't there any books out there already where protagonists are older than 18? Why does this have to be a new thing? Why can't I just stroll into the bookstore right now and pick up Minnie's College Adventures, Book One?

I'm not saying there aren't books like that out there. There are crossovers and college books, scattered around somewhere, I'm sure, but I don't think there's a sizable amount.

The problem is that they're not easily accessible in the young adult section. I think they should be. At least part of it, I think , is due to this misconception that I admit I'm having trouble wrapping my head around as I skim through all the blogs and threads and articles I've been reading about this age dilemma. But this is what I've gathered: YA writers who are worried about writing about older protagonists seem to point the fingers at publishers and agents who either call for a protagonist's age to be lowered or term a book with a older main character a "tough sell." Then publishers and bookstores just go on and point the fingers at readers, saying there isn't a market.

I think there is one. I think of the defining characteristic of young adult fiction as coming-of-age. I think a lot of people are coming-of-age during college or even when they're 25, and therefore it can still be YA, if an author decides that's what the character is going to be going through. What's more, I want those books in YA.

Fellow teens and young adult readers, would you be interested in fiction about college aged protagonists? Would you buy books featuring main characters in the so-called dead zone of 18-26 years old? Do you think there's a need for more of it, or are you content with what's already out there?

Maybe I'm just weird in craving older protagonists appearing on Young Adult shelves, but I'm hoping not.

*I'm hoping a post of this nature hasn't been written already, as I've been out of the loop for a bit.
**In real life, no. Those little freshman squirts are confused and lost and hopeless. Seniors know what they're doing, at least to some extent. Actually... on second thought, perhaps yes. I think I'm pretty much the same as I was a few years ago. I guess it's a bit of both.

1.06.2011

Reorganizing my bookshelves (a tale told gif-style)

So today I finally gathered up my courage and set about trying to tidy my SO HORRENDOUSLY MESSY EVEN A TROLL WOULD BE GROSSED OUT BY IT slightly messy bedroom.

At first I was like:

No, why am I doing this? Please don't make me.
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And then I became resigned to it. I had to buckle down and woman up and today was the day I was going to pick up my clothes, just like a mature person of sixteen should.
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About an hour in, I was exhausted. Yep, you heard me right, moving featherweight papers about is exhausting.

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I felt like giving up, collapsing on the couch, and nibbling on some chocolate.

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But I didn't. Tree-fulls of paper were disposed off. Candy wrappers went kapoof. Dirty mugs were returned to the kitchen sink.

My room is now gloriously beautiful. There's light. There's air. There's room.

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I CAN FIND EVERYTHING.

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That's right.

But anyways, gif* spamming aside, I just really wanted to share the results I got, book-wise, since I managed to do some reorganizing while cleaning.

I still have my main three bookshelves in my closet, but I'm donating a huge stack of books ( learn how to write cursive! & star wars, the novels! types), which freed up some prime real estate space.**

Here's what it looks like:



The right side of the shelf is full of my "favorite books/ books I need at a fingertips' reach." Since I'm such a changeable person, I intend it to be a rotating sort of thing. For instance, I'm about to chuck Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's butt right outta there. I wish I could find my copy of I Capture the Castle--the shelf looks wrong without it. But anyhow, close up:


I doubt you guys can read the titles, so here they are from left to right:

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison
2. Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge (placeholder until I can find Fly By Night for this spot.)
3. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
4. Howl's Moving Castle By Diana Wynne Jones
5. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
6. 3 Volumes of the literary magazine, Poetry.
7. White Shroud by Allen Ginsberg
8. Grimm's Fairy Tales
7. Good Poems Edited by Garrison Kellior
8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
11. Looking for Alaska by John Green
12. Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
14. Atonement by Ian McEwan
15. Cracked Up to Be Courtney Summers
16. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
17. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
18. Hold Still by Nina LaCour
19. Paper Towns by John Green
20. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
21. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
22. The Journals of Sylvia Plath
23. Margaret Atwood Selected Poems
24. The Blind Assasain by Margaret Atwood
25. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
26. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Now for the ones stacked on top
27. The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
28. Making Your Own Days Kenneth Koch
29. Poem a Day
30. Margaret Atwood Selected Poems II
31. The Magic Thief
32. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews
33. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
34. Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
35. Harry Potter
36. My Poetry Journal

Oh dear god, I didn't realize there were quite that many books in that shelf. I bothered typing it out though, because I'd basically recommend each book I listed, for different reasons. Some are childhood favorites, some are new favorites, some are YA books with a particular voice or style that I want to look at more closely, and some are just the best books I've ever read in my life.

Anyways, the left side consists of books that are on my TBR pile, books that I've been meaning to re-read or go back to and ponder for a great length of time, and books that I need to review. Basically, my "get started on it" pile.



There's far too many books on there for me to list, but towards the right, there's a whole lot of Hemingway, Woolf, Atwood, Morrison, and Faulkner. To the left is more of Young Adult reads.

Anyhow, hope you enjoyed!

What's the state of your bookshelves and to be read piles at the moment?

Edited to add: Of course, AFTER I publish the post and write out all those titles, I realize you can click on the picture and see all the titles perfectly well. LOL.

Anyhow, I'll leave you guys with this. I swear it's the most adorable thing I've seen in my whole existence.

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*I would credit the gifs, but I plucked all of these out of tumblr where they weren't credited, so I don't know who made them. BUT THANK YOU for making livening up this post, nameless gif-makers!
**I call it prime space because it's the shelf near to my computer, so if I really wanted to, I could just not get up from my chair ever and lean over with no effort whatsover to *** pick up a book to read anytime.
***Boy, you really get a sense of how hopelessly lazy and messy I can be in this post, don't you? hahahahahaha.